Two major obstacles prevent people from eating healthy: it’s expensive and it’s time-consuming. While it’s true that our food system is structured in such a way that makes burgers and chicken nuggets cheaper than anything from the earth, there actually are quite a few products at the grocery store that are both cheap and don’t require any effort in the kitchen.
The topic actually sparked quite the conversation on Reddit, generating over 1,000 comments. Rounded up here are some of the most useful—and some surprising wildcards—including ones healthy food experts stock up on. Keep reading for a list that will save you both time and money.
While canned garbanzo beans are only about $1, one Reddit user points out that a jar of tahini is typically more expensive than just buying hummus already made. Another user echoed this saying that Costco’s single-serve hummus packs are particularly cost-effective.
Several Reddit users called out yogurt as being particularly tedious and time-consuming to make—and not any cheaper than buying it ready-to-eat. Fage Greek yogurt, for example, costs $1.19, definitely more cost-effective than buying milk and the necessary bacteria culture.
This is one condiment registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, RD says is worth buying versus making yourself. “With the cost of avocados constantly on the rise, you just may be better off purchasing pre-made guacamole,” she says. “Plus, with the added preservatives you can get a few more days out of your guacamole rather than a few hours should you make homemade.”
Rifkin says she finds that it’s also cheaper to buy salad dressing rather than spending the time and money whipping it up. “Most salad dressings are olive oil based, which can be a pricey item to purchase, let alone the herbs and any additions the dressing may require,” she says. “Often times it’s more cost effective to purchase already made dressings and they last longer.”
In Simple Healthy Delish blogger and meal prep expert Leanne Miyasaki’s fridge, you’ll often find tzatziki, but she says it’s definitely store-bought, not homemade. “It is absolutely one of my favorite protein packed add-ons, however, purchasing store-bought tzatziki can save almost double the cost than homemade,” she says. “Greek yogurt, English cucumber, fresh dill, garlic, and lemon purchased separately can add up to between $5.50 and $6.50 whereas most ready-made is between $2.50 and $4.”
All you need to make your own almond milk is almonds and water, but almonds are pricey! While a bag of raw almonds can cost anywhere from $9 to $18, Elmhurst almond milk—which only contains almonds and water, a pure ingredients list void of additives—retails for $7. “I made almond milk a couple of times and it was just okay,” one Reddit user said on the thread. “Way too much work to be worth it though. Also it separated after a day or two and started looking off, so I couldn’t even finish it. Now we find almond milk for the same price as lactose free milk so I don’t bother.”
Similarly, peanut or almond butter is often cheaper to buy than to make. (Just make sure you aren’t buying a jar loaded with sugar as it won’t be nearly as healthy as making it yourself.) “Any type of nut butter is so much cheaper,” one Reddit user says. “I have Sam’s Club near me and can get a 16 ounce jar of almond butter for $9. Granted, almond butter at any other grocery store is very pricey. To make the same amount with almonds you buy and process yourself would easily cost double that amount.”
Several users also highlighted pho—full of nourishing, collagen-rich broth and fiber-rich veggies—as cheaper to buy ready-made. Pho made with bone broth can also take hours to make. “Going to a Vietnamese restaurant for a $7 bowl of pho is way less of a pain than trying to make your own broth,” one user says pointedly.
“Sun dried tomatoes are a great flavor addition for recipes but can be a lengthy process,” registered dietitian Cara Harbstreet, RD says. “Not only that, but if tomatoes aren’t in season you may be paying a premium price for a lower-quality ingredient. I recommend stocking up on this shelf stable version and enjoying them year round in salads, grain dishes, sandwiches, and more.”
Speaking of eating on a budget, here’s how a thrifty dietitian would spend $30 at Trader Joe’s: