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Everything we found costs $3 or less.
If you think you can’t buy healthy foods at the dollar store, guess again. I’m here to show you that, if you know where to look, there are actually dirt-cheap grocery staples you can find for under $3 a pop—and they’ve all been vetted by our nutritionist.
Dollar General has been on our radar since they announced their plan to bring fresh produce, veggies and other grocery staples into nearly 200 stores throughout 2018. While the new produce-heavy grocery aisles aren't in every Dollar General location just yet, I wanted to see firsthand how their private food brands (namely Clover Valley) stacked up in the health department.
Eating healthy should still be delicious.
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If you’ve recently shopped at a dollar store, you probably already know they have recognizable food brands lining the shelves—like Terra chips and Kashi cereals—at a much lower price than what you'd pay in a supermarket.
While there are definitely lots of calorie-filled snack bombs and sugary desserts you should avoid, there are also some healthy staple items to be found at a fraction of their normal cost.
Dollar General stocks an impressive spice and seasoning selection, all of which are just $1 or less. You can also find items like baby food, fresh milk, coffee pods, a burgeoning selection of vegan products, and other affordable home items (hello, $1 paper towel rolls!).
Cooking Light's assistant nutrition editor, Jamie Vespa MS, RD, helped me deep dive into the grocery aisles of Dollar General for healthy snacks and meal staples that are all less than $3.
1) Clover Valley Chewy Granola Bars, $2.15
If you're looking for an on-the-go breakfast option, this pack of 10 chocolate chip granola bars is a much healthier (and cheaper) choice than swinging through the drive-through. Each bar has just 90 calories and 7g of sugar.
2) Heartland Harvest Veggie Chips, $1
We know you might be wary of veggie chips in the supermarket aisle, but this option from Dollar General is actually a pretty nutritious ready-to-eat snack. One serving—about 40 chips—clocks in at 130 calories and 250mg of sodium, and the largest portion of fat in this snack is 3g of monounsaturated fat. The entire bag holds three servings, so it's great to share with your family or break into snack-size portions for the week.
3) Clover Valley Dozen Large Eggs, $1.35
I couldn't help but do a double take when I spotted Dollar General's dairy section—there was a variety of cheese, milk, and fresh eggs. The crazy part? A dozen eggs costs just $1.35—about half of what you’d pay in a chain grocery store.
4) Clover Valley Corn Flakes Cereal, $1.50
If you're stressed for time in the morning, turning to cereal can be a healthy choice—but only if you check the label first for sugar. Dollar General's Clover Valley Corn Flakes are a great option at just 100 calories and 2 g of sugar per cup.
5) Clover Valley Quick Oats, $1.65
Oatmeal is a weekday breakfast that healthy home cooks swear by. These Dollar General oats have just 150 calories and pack 5g of protein in each serving—and because they’re ready in a flash, you'll have time to play with the toppings in your oatmeal each morning.
6) Clover Valley Entertainment Crackers, $1
We’re always looking for creative ways to entertain guests without stressing over a fussy spread. These hearty crackers pair well with nearly any cheese plate or dip, and the price is definitely right. Each serving has just 70 calories and 150mg of sodium.
7) Clover Valley Whole Wheat Bread, $1.35
If there's one thing that I'm always running out of in my kitchen, it's bread—but running to the grocery store and standing in line for a loaf always seems like more trouble than it's worth. Dollar General's Clover Valley brand offers multiple kinds of sliced bread, and this whole wheat loaf is a healthy choice—each slice packs just 110mg of sodium, 60 calories, and 11g of carbohydrates.
8) Clover Valley Sweet Peas, $0.65
Dollar General is a great place to stock up canned items, like Clover Valley’s selection of canned veggies. These cans of sweet peas are an unbeatable steal at two cans for $1, and they’re the perfect shelf-stable option for busy weeknights.
9) Clover Valley Mixed Peppers & Onions, $1.95
If frozen vegetables are more your style, you'll be happy to hear there's a slew of frozen veggies available for purchase at Dollar General. These mixed peppers and onions are a great addition to nearly any meal—like your morning omelette or a veggie-heavy sauteé. Skip the prep work and enjoy a whole cup of these pre-chopped veggies for just 25 calories and a mere 25mg of sodium.
10) Clover Valley Mixed 4-Way Vegetables, $1.65
This blend of green beans, carrots, peas, and corn is a weeknight workhorse—simply steam it in the microwave and serve it when you're ready to sit down. A cup of these veggies makes a great side at 60 calories and 25mg of sodium. We're also giving an honorable mention to Clover Valley's frozen Brussels sprouts, which are equally as healthy and delicious.
12 Superfoods to Help You Eat Healthy for $1 or Less
A superfoods food list that won't break the bank, these easy-to-find cheap healthy foods clock in at under a dollar per serving.
Every few months, it seems, there&aposs hype about the latest, hottest superfood. And while I&aposm always interested in trying new foods (especially ones that are healthy for me), I have to remember that LOTS of foods, many of which are stocked in nearly every grocery store in America, are "superfoods." The added bonus to eating more of these easy-to-find cheap healthy foods? They won&apost break the bank. In fact, I&aposve rounded up 12 of my favorite healthy superfoods that each clock in at under a dollar per serving.
As long as you're picking up plain spices—not the salty varieties of seasonings right next to 'em—then these jars are great choices to grab. Spices are packed with antioxidants and compounds that often target belly fat. Take cayenne pepper, for example the capsaicin in it actually suppresses your appetite while torching belly fat, all while making your dishes even tastier.
Tuesday begins with my typical morning ritual of checking social media while still under the covers in bed. As I habitually click on the Food Network Snapchat, I realize I've made a big mistake. On the screen, Bobby Flay looks back at me enthusiastically presenting avocado toast three ways. Three different types of avocado toast. My stomach yearns for fresh produce.
Here is my breakfast, inspired by Bobby Flay rudely tempting me with avocado toast so early in the morning. I thawed out some frozen strawberries in the microwave to make peanut butter strawberry toast, drizzled with a little honey. The warmed berries are especially sweet, making this toast taste exactly like PB&J without the added sugar in jelly.
I paired it with a packet of fruit puree, which claims to hold 1 1/2 servings of fruit. The taste was underwhelming, but I liked telling myself I was starting the morning with real(ish) fruit.
For lunch, I needed something portable that I could prepare at work, so I went with Campbell's Organic Soup and a Nature Valley Bar. For dinner, I planned to cook. Instead, I stress ate Whales cheese crackers while watching the election.
Not only is gardening good exercise, it's a great way to enjoy fresh produce right from your own backyard. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs are easy to grow and a great way to start. Pick up gloves, a shovel, and a hoe at the discount store. Then all you need are a few packets of seeds and you're ready to garden.
5 Healthy Foods You Can Buy At A Dollar Store, According To Nutritionists
If you have a big income and access to the world of goji berries and flax seeds at Whole Foods, eating healthy isn’t particularly difficult. But when the conversation turns to eating healthy on a low income, you’ll often hear the term “food deserts” thrown around. Food deserts are defined as neighborhoods (or sometimes entire regions) that lack access to affordable, healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, and they’re often cited as an impediment to eating a healthy diet on a low income.
But many nutritionists will tell you that if you strategize wisely, it’s possible to find healthy options in a place as unlikely as a dollar store.
Yes, many dollar stores do sell food. And it isn’t all random bags of potato chips ― you can find aisles with canned and dry goods and some even have a freezer section. Just because everything costs a dollar doesn’t mean the food is questionable, expired or lacking in nutrition. And depending on where you live, a dollar store might be closer to home than an actual grocery market.
HuffPost asked registered dietitians which foods they’d reach for when shopping at dollar stores.
The obvious (but not-so-obvious) one: fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are usually associated with grocery stores or farmers markets, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find fresh produce at a dollar store. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get your daily dose of vitamins, because there are often plenty of canned or frozen options available.
“Overall, canned or frozen, they’re still vegetables,” Indianapolis-based registered dietitian Chrissy Arsenault told HuffPost . She does prefer the nutritional benefits of frozen veggies over canned varieties, which can include salt or preservatives.
Rebecca Cameron , a trained chef and dietitian, also prefers frozen vegetables for a particular reason: the options. “There is often a greater variety of frozen than canned vegetables,” Cameron told HuffPost. “Dollar stores often have onions and peppers, broccoli, cauliflower rice, asparagus and mixed vegetables.”
If a dollar store doesn’t have a freezer section, Arsenault advises to look for canned options marked “lower sodium.” “You can also rinse out your veggies over a colander several times to try to remove the salt content,” she suggested.
The same goes for fruit. Cameron notes the freezer section has a selection that can range from pineapples to mango chunks to a tropical blend. Not only can these be served up in a smoothie or açai bowl, but they’re not swimming in the added sugar of canned fruit that comes in heavy syrup.
“I’m a huge fan of canned beans,” said Alex Caspero, registered dietitian and co-author of “ The Plant-Based Baby and Toddler .” She loves beans for their fiber and protein, and many dollar stores have a few options ― usually black or pinto beans and sometimes even garbanzo (chickpeas).
Caspero also loves beans in tacos or burritos when paired with a few other items. “For an easy meal, grab a bag of tortillas, a bag of shredded lettuce, canned tomatoes and canned black beans for burritos,” she added.
She acknowledges that dried beans are sometimes available at dollar stores, and they can give you more bang for your buck, but “you’ll also need to prepare them, which can be a barrier for some individuals.”
Atlanta-based dietitian and consultant Marisa Moore appreciates both dried and canned beans because they’re also rich in magnesium. For those who do have time to cook dried beans, she suggests making the entire bag all at once and just freezing the remainder for leftover meals.
And for the canned beans? “Rinse [them] under cool running water to get rid of some of the sodium,” suggested Moore, who likes to add her own seasonings to give major flavor without the sodium.
“The best protein choice you’ll find is canned tuna or tuna pouches,” said Arsenault, who teaches cooking classes for families on SNAP, a federally funded assistance program for lower-income Americans. “[Tuna has] a great price point and lots of healthy omega-3 fatty acids that support your heart and brain health.”
Moore echoed, “I like to add canned tuna to salads for an easy meal that takes five minutes.”
Snack time needs some attention, too. Those of you who didn't know popcorn was considered a "health food" have been missing out! Microwave popcorn does not qualify, unfortunately. Plain popcorn kernels are a whole grain food high in fiber and antioxidants. When air-popped, the classic snack only contains about 30 calories per cup. You can also pop kernels on the stove in coconut or olive oil for a more indulgent flavor. Sea salt, cinnamon, Parmesan cheese, or herbs and spices are a healthy way to kick the flavor up a notch.
All the Healthy Foods You Can Buy with SNAP Benefits
Make these benefits work harder for you by shopping the grocery store with these tips.
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Stock Up on Healthy Staples
The government-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) supports American&rsquos food budgets and helps families afford groceries. Those who are eligible for SNAP can use these monthly dispersed funds to purchase fresh and healthy staples. Here are 10 healthy foods you can buy with SNAP.
Calcium- and vitamin D-rich milk is a staple in many households for a reason. This bone-building beverage also offers protein, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and potassium, and it can easily be enjoyed in cereal, oatmeal and smoothies. Lactose-free milk and soy milk are also SNAP-eligible.
Meat and Poultry
Protein- and iron-filled meats and poultry items are readily available for SNAP participants. Some of the most affordable and healthy options include 90% lean ground beef, pork tenderloin and boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
Perfect for breakfast (with fruit and granola), as a snack or for a protein boost in a smoothie, yogurt of all types are included with SNAP benefits. Eating yogurt regularly is a convenient way to consume tummy-pleasing probiotics, plus get a boost of nutrients like calcium, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamin B12.
Shop all aisles of the store to find SNAP-friendly fruits. Fresh, canned and frozen are all included in SNAP benefits. Choose canned fruits with little or no added sugar (like in its own juice or light or extra-light syrup). And it&rsquos a little-known fact that frozen fruits are just as nutritious (and often more affordable) than their fresh counterparts.
Along with milk and yogurt, cheese is also a healthy staple and yet another way to get in the recommended three servings of dairy every day. For lower-calorie options, opt for low-fat and part-skim varieties.
Meat and poultry aren&rsquot the only SNAP-eligible proteins on the list. Everything from canned tuna to fresh salmon at the seafood counter are covered. Because seafood is highly perishable, consider frozen pieces of fish for a longer shelf life.
Bread and Baked Goods
Bread is a sandwich must-have and a staple on SNAP. Even though most prepared and ready-to-eat foods cannot be purchased with SNAP funds, bakery items like cakes and muffins are allowable.
Seeds and Plants
SNAP also supports efforts to help grow your own foods by making seeds and plants an approved SNAP expense. No matter whether you choose a basil plant for the windowsill or a tomato plant for the backyard garden, these SNAP options can help provide a more longstanding supply of fresh foods.
Much like fruit, all types of vegetables can be purchased with SNAP funds. To get the most for your money, buy veggies that are in season and stock up on versatile staples like potatoes, onions and greens.
Pour yourself breakfast using the combo of SNAP-approved milk and cereal. Whole-grain cereals with lower amounts of added sugar offer the most nutrition for your SNAP dollar.
What are some benefits of bread?
To further prove the point that you don't need to toss bread to the side forever, you'll want to keep in mind some of the basic reasons why it can (and should be) a healthy diet staple, according to Eat This, Not That! medical board expert, Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN.
- Bread provides a source of fiber and B vitamins.
- It's portioned controlled. (They are in slices, after all!)
- There's no prep, making it a versatile food.
- It's low-cost.
- Serves as an easy way to get in healthy carbs.
This one takes some labor, I recommend putting on a podcast/audiobook and making them in bulk. Freezing for later.
- 4 potatoes
- 1 Egg
- 1.5 cups flour
- teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
Boil and mash potatoes. Add flour, eggs, pepper, and salt and mix together. We used a stand mixer, the fancy professionals online do this by hand.
Flour a cutting board, and flour your palms of your hand. Put a small lump of the potato/flour mixture on the cutting board, and roll this until you get a
1cm diameter(tootsie roll size) log. Take a knife a cut every inch. After cutting, roll these into gnocchi shapes. You could use a fork, but they are going to taste pretty similar either way. Now you are ready to either freeze on a baking sheet, or throw into boiling water for
2 minutes. They will float to the surface of the water when ready.
If you freeze, after an hour, take off the pan and put into tupperware or a freezer bag.
I would love to be able to grow my own fruit and vegetables, but my yard is very small and gets almost no sun, and the soil is less than rich. I try to go to a local farmer’s market at least once a week, but when I can’t, I hit up my friends who have gardens. They are usually more than willing to give me what I want, and they never charge me. The more I explore these tips and tricks, the easier it is for me to get my five servings and keep up with my savings.
How do you get your produce? How do you keep your spending down and make your purchases last? I’d love to get your insights on this topic, so please share in the comments below.