Good Food on a Tight Budget? Yes, It's Possible

The Environmental Working Group has a cool new guide to 100 healthy, cheap, and eco-friendly foods.
Counting pennies at the grocery store? A new guide tells you which foods give you the most bang for your buck. (Photo: Piotr Powietrzynski/Getty Images)
Aug 21, 2012· 1 MIN READ
Jason Best is a regular contributor to TakePart who has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Eco-conscious. Health-conscious. Cost-conscious. Which foods hit the sweet spot of all three?

If there’s one seemingly simple task that all the competing “consciousnesses” of our modern era have almost rendered an exercise in existential paralysis it’s this: shopping for groceries.

Our parents and grandparents may have breezed through the aisles of the supermarket blissfully unburdened by notions of pesticide residues and carbon footprints, but today if you want to eat healthy, stick to a budget and minimize the environmental impact of your food choices, it seems you practically need a PhD — or a really good website.

For anyone who’s ever found themselves flummoxed by the tangle of health/environmental/budget implications of today’s plethora of food choices (grapes vs. apples, salmon vs. shrimp, canola vs. vegetable oil, and on and on), the folks at the Environmental Working Group have come up with a godsend: Good Food on Tight Budget (geez, even the name is blessedly straightforward).

Yes, the same group that brought us the oft-cited list of pesticides in produce has now combed through reams of nutritional and cost data to come up with the top 100 foods that are healthy, inexpensive and eco-friendly.

MORE: Apples Top the "Dirty Dozen" List of Most Pesticide-Contaminated Produce

“When shoppers fill their grocery carts with the foods on EWG’s lists, they’ll be doing something good for their health and the environment, meanwhile lowering their grocery bills and exposures to the worst chemicals,” says Dawn Undurraga, a nutritionist and registered dietitian with the organization.

True, if you’re of a wonky bent and demand to know why grapefruit made EWG’s list of fruits that yield the most nutritional benefit for the least cost while oranges remain conspicuously absent, then this website isn’t for you.

But for the rest of us who don’t have time to sift through thousands of pages of fine print just to figure out what to make for dinner, it’s user-friendly design and easy navigation make it super helpful.

And full of surprises, too. For example, it turns out “pears have even more fiber, potassium and folate — and fewer pesticide residues — than apples,” while parsley (yes, parsley) is more nutritious than kale.

That may take care of groceries, but for now, you're on your own in the toothpaste aisle.