We all know that eating out is expensive. And we've been told that cooking at home will save us lots of money. But more often than not, a trip to the grocery store is a rude awakening; the total is twice what you planned to spend and you got half the amount of food you wanted. Making food at home can be pricey.
And while planning your meals and making lists can help save you some money, a smart way to shop is to purchase inexpensive foods that are packed with nutrition. It's the most bang for your buck. It might mean that you have to readjust your menu a bit, but you'll be happy you did when you see how much money you'll start saving. Click through the slideshow below to see which foods won't put a dent in your wallet -- and great recipes to cook them with.
Dried Beans And Lentils
Dried lentils and beans are the most bang for your buck when it comes to getting healthy food for cheap. In most grocery stores, you can get a 16 oz. bag for under $2.00. Lentils and beans are packed with protein and fiber -- a great substitute or accompaniment for the more expensive meat options -- and a low calorie one too. Lentils are an especially great option because they don't require any soaking time, and can be ready in just 20 minutes. <strong>Recipes: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/lentil-burgers_n_1062535.html" target="_hplink">Lentil Burgers</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/soup-beans_n_1049636.html" target="_hplink">Soup Beans</a></strong>
Whole Wheat Pasta
We all know that pasta is an economical option. It doesn't cost much, and yet is the main ingredient in many dishes. But most of us tend to avoid it because it's been labeled as having no nutritional value (and many diets claim that it causes weight gain). But whole wheat pasta is a healthy option. It's made with whole wheat flour which hasn't been <a href="http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=66" target="_hplink">stripped of the nutritional germ</a>. Whole wheat pasta is just as affordable as white pasta, but offers a good amount of protein and fiber. <strong>Recipes: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/shrimp--pesto-pasta_n_1056289.html" target="_hplink">Shrimp & Pesto Pasta</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/eggplant--chickpea-baked_n_1062341.html" target="_hplink">Eggplant & Chickpea Baked Pasta</a></strong>
Many people think that potatoes are not a healthy option, but that's just because they're usually loaded with butter, sour cream and bacon bits. But potatoes, when cooked simply, make a healthy, tasty and economical option. And they offer fiber, protein, iron and potassium. <strong>Recipes: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/lebanese-potato-salad_n_1056456.html" target="_hplink">Lebanese Potato Salad</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/homemade-potato-gnocchi_n_1062064.html" target="_hplink">Homemade Potato Gnocchi</a></strong>
Canned tuna has always been a reliable and cheap option for protein. You can get a 3 oz. serving of tuna for less than a dollar and that serving will provide you <a href="http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/cheap-healthy-15-nutritious-foods-about-2-dollars?page=3" target="_hplink">with 13 g of protein</a>. You'll want to watch your intake of this protein however, because it has been reported to have <a href="http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2011/january/food/mercury-in-tuna/overview/index.htm" target="_hplink">high levels of mercury</a>. <strong>Recipes: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/oregon-tuna-melts_n_1058587.html" target="_hplink">Oregon Tuna Melts</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/tuna-pomodoro_n_1049179.html" target="_hplink">Tuna Pomodoro</a></strong>
Bulgur is a whole grain that doesn't get enough attention in many home cooks kitchen. It's often times used in taboulleh salad, though works in many other recipes. It has more protein, fiber and vitamins than white rice, and makes a satisfying side dish. <strong>Recipes: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/bulgur--lentils_n_1062560.html" target="_hplink">Bulgur & Lentils</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/bulgur-with-ginger--oran_n_1049384.html" target="_hplink">Bulgur with Ginger & Orange</a></strong>
Eggs have been coming back recently after suffering from an unfair reputation. Contrary to popular belief, eggs are not dangerous shells housing bad cholesterol. While they should be eaten in moderation, they are loaded with good proteins. <a href="http://fitbie.msn.com/slideshow/8-ridiculously-cheap-healthy-foods/slide/4" target="_hplink">Nearly 100 percent of the egg's protein</a> is usable by your body. You can find eggs for just $2.00 a dozen (though many organic and cage-free options are more expensive). <strong>Recipes: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/grilled-escarole-and-frie_n_1056837.html" target="_hplink">Grilled Escarole and Fried Egg on Grilled Bread</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/asparagus-salad-topped-wi_n_1062420.html" target="_hplink">Asparagus Salad Topped with Poached Eggs</a></strong>
While not as inexpensive as rice, quinoa is still an affordable option for a healthy side. It also works well in salads -- and is a filling ingredient. It's such a great source of protein (it is a complete protein) and is a good source of calcium, iron and fiber. <strong>Recipes: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/santa-fe-quinoa-salad_n_1058665.html" target="_hplink">Santa Fe Quinoa Salad</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/quinoa-pilaf_n_1059838.html" target="_hplink">Quinoa Pilaf</a></strong>
Tofu has wrongly been labeled a vegetarian food. And while it is a great protein option for those who don't eat meat, it's an affordable option for meat eaters too.Tofu is a quarter of the price of meat in most areas, and is a versatile cooking ingredient. <strong>Recipes: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/caesar-salad-with-peppere_n_1057192.html" target="_hplink">Caesar Salad with Peppered Tofu</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/sesame-maple-roasted-tofu_n_1061594.html" target="_hplink">Sesame-Maple Roasted Tofu</a></strong>
Brown rice is a whole grain and it's just as affordable as white rice, which has been stripped of its original nutrients. With a serving of brown rice you get fiber, protein and essential minerals such as magnesium and zinc. And when a one pound bag costs a little under $2.00, with 10 servings per bag, it's an economical option for healthy eating. <strong>Recipes: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/brown-rice-pecan-pilaf_n_1057012.html" target="_hplink">Brown Rice Pecan Pilaf</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/sweet-amp-sour-chicken-_n_1049661.html" target="_hplink">Sweet & Sour Chicken with Brown Rice</a></strong>
WATCH: How To Stock Your Kitchen With Healthy Foods