When the conversation turns to healthier eating, it seems like someone always brings up the idea that it’s impossible to eat healthy on a budget. While it’s true that a package of ramen noodles is cheaper than a box of whole wheat pasta, that’s only part of the story. If you don’t invest in the food you put in your body, you will pay ten-fold in medical expenses throughout your life.

Just about everyone is looking to save money these days, but many frugal foods can also improve your health. Whether you are saving money by comparing insurance rates or making your own household cleaning products, add eating healthy to the list of ways to save a buck. Plus, health insurance rates go down if more people are healthy and requiring less money to maintain their health.

Fruits and Vegetables Are Cheap. No, really, they are. Compare the cost of an apple to that of, say, a doughnut. They’re about the same price. But you can’t deny that the apple is a healthier choice with more real vitamins and minerals the body needs to stay strong. Not only will it give your body the vitamins and minerals you need, it’s loaded with fiber and will keep you satisfied longer than the doughnut. If veggies seem more expensive during the winter months, head to the freezer aisle. Frozen vegetables are just as good for you as fresh.

Making changes to your dinner menu to include more vegetables will also save you money on your grocery bill. Cutting back on meat and focusing more on stir fries, chili and soups that rely primarily on veggies and less on meat are better for you and much cheaper. While protein is still important, you don’t need to cut meats out completely, but learn to use them sparingly. Boneless skinless chicken thighs are a great budget buy or even better, bone-in and skin-on chicken pieces help cut costs too. Watch for sales, especially on whole chickens and you can usually get all-natural options for $1.99 per pound. Now, consider that you can stretch one chicken breast to feed a family of four by making it an accent in the meal instead of the main course. Now that’s a good deal.

Packaged food is cheap, but think about what you are really paying for. Food that comes in boxes is usually loaded with sodium, fat and calories, not to mention preservatives and other chemicals. Try these inexpensive and healthy choices from the canned and boxed food aisle that are cheap, healthy and have a long shelf life even without preservatives:

  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Tuna
  • Kidney beans
  • Diced or stewed tomatoes
  • Chunky pasta sauces
  • Whole grain tortillas
  • Salsa
  • Low-sodium broth based soups

Plan your meals and try these tips on your next shopping trip, and see how much you can save.