I can buy a box of spaghetti for $1, and Ramen noodles are less than a penny cheaper per pound. What can I get for the same amount (or less) that is better for us?
Many people struggle on a very tight food budget. The food stamps budget is difficult, you must be thrifty and economical. It has been proven that highly processed foods cost less than nutritionally dense, fresh foods. It is very tempting to grab that $1 package of noodles and chow down on those calories. However, when you buy foods like this you’re not getting as much nutritional value.
Here is a listing of foods, mostly produce, that you can often get for $1 or less per pound. Some of these foods are only available in my area at this price when on sale, and sometimes rarely. Prices vary so widely that any post online can only be a guideline for readers.
These foods are listed by the Nuval™ score. Nuval™ is a nutritional scoring system. There is some controversy with this system. For example whole milk only scores 50. White potatoes score 92, but women on WIC cannot purchase white potatoes with their vouchers. However as a guideline the numbers seem to make sense.
I am not a dietitian, you need to be responsible for your own diet. These are just suggestions.
100 Asparagus On sale around Easter
100 Broccoli On sale
100 Cabbage Green and red
100 Green beans Frozen, fresh on sale in season
100 Napa/Chinese cabbage
100 Oranges On sale in season
100 Spinach Frozen
099 Carrots High in carotenes
099 Daikon radish
099 Greens Kale, mustard, turnip, and collard greens High in vitamins and a good source of fiber
096 Split peas
096 Tomatoes On sale in season
096 Yams/sweet potatoes
093 Beans Canned or dried. Kidney, pinto, navy, black, red, and many more
093 Bulgur wheat
093 Mangoes High in fiber and vitamins A, B6, and C
093 Potatoes White and red
091 Bananas High on potassium
091 Grapes On sale.
091 Oatmeal 39-91 Instant vs Old Fashioned
082 Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans
081 Bok choy
075 Milk 50-100 Whole vs Skim
067 Sweet corn 67-91 Canned vs fresh On sale in season
040 Yogurt 40-81 Flavored vs plain
039 Chicken Whole or various parts, on sale
039 Rice White
033 Eggs High quality protein
031 Turkey On sale especially around holidays including Thanksgiving
030 Pork 25-35 Inexpensive cuts or on sale around Easter
026 Sour cream On sale
022 Peanut butter On sale
I used the Nuval™ scores from the Nuval™ and PriceChopper sites. If there wasn’t a score I wanted on one of those sites I just did a Google search.
I used the prices from my own price book. Prices vary widely based on multiple factors.
*Also see our Frugal, Flexible Monthly Menu Planning OR
Great Depression Era Real Food Recipes
We hope you enjoyed Get More Nutritional Bang For Your One Buck – 46 foods that cost as much as Ramen but are better for you
CSA produce Matt Hannon on Flikr
ChuckARama Food Art Woody Thrower on Flikr
Miniature fruit plate PeitiPlat food art Stephanie Kilgast on Flikr
I certainly agree that those foods are healthy and affordable. But where I live (Pittsburgh) only organic or imported ramen costs $1 per package; Top Ramen and Maruchan are normally 25c and often go on sale for 7/$1 which is 14c per package. Furthermore, that package makes enough foodlike substance to make an adult feel like she’s eaten a full meal. I know it’s not a balanced meal. But a grapefruit, a cucumber, or a pint of milk is not a balanced meal either, and none of those will make you feel full for long.
A more useful list would be “easy meals under $1 a serving” and I can see some of those coming together from the ingredients on your list. For example, for $3 you could buy a can of garbanzo beans, a pound of rice, and a cucumber; 1/3 of the beans, 1/3 of the cucumber, and some rice will make a balanced meal, and after 3 meals you’ll still have some rice left.
There are lots of foods you can buy to stretch your meals, like rice. This list is an effort to help choose better ingredients with the money you do have. I’ll take wheat pasta over a “foodlike substance” any day!
I love the taste of ramen, but I love whole-wheat pasta with tomato sauce even more, and it is a healthier meal. However, ramen does contain some protein and other nutrients, notably a high level of magnesium which can be helpful in preventing headaches and heart trouble–it’s not quite as bad as it seems. Unless you need low sodium (I personally have low blood pressure and need to get ENOUGH sodium), ramen is not much worse than white flour pasta (which is usually cheaper than whole-wheat) without sauce.
My point was that comparing a pack of ramen to $1 worth of other cheap foods is not quite accurate. Compared to 14c or even 25c worth of other foods, ramen is more like a meal, and that’s a big reason people eat it when they have a really tight budget.