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8 cheap and healthy breakfast foods to stock up on

From quinoa and yogurt to black beans, a nutritionist shares her favorite inexpensive foods and how to use them to liven up your morning meals.
Healthy vegetarian breakfast or brunch, favorite meal
Meal prep is a money-saving tactic, and studies suggest it can help you make more conscious choices, rather than reaching for overpriced, sugar-bomb foods, like granola bars or cereals. Getty Images

There are so many reasons to prioritize eating a healthy morning meal. By having a well-balanced mix of protein, healthy fat and fiber, you’re setting yourself up for a better day by laying a good foundation of nutrients. Plus, this will help make you less likely to overeat and more likely to make healthier choices throughout the day.

It can be easy to skip breakfast, but planning it out with fun recipes will have you actually looking forward to it. Meal prep is a money-saving tactic, and studies suggest it can help you make more conscious choices, rather than reaching for overpriced, sugar-bomb foods, like granola bars or cereals. We have eight foods for you to try this week, from savory to sweet, with recipe ideas to make your morning meals more exciting. The best part, you can use each of these items in many ways — less wasting and more saving!

Wake up and enjoy something tasty — your mind, body and wallet will thank you.

Add these breakfast foods to your shopping list:

  • Eggs
  • Barley
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Black beans
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Tomatoes

1. Eggs

Eggs — I know, they seem obvious. But there’s a reason they come up all the time: they’re truly a powerhouse superfood. Not only are they affordable, a great source of protein and contain choline, which we need for healthy brain function, they’re also one of the most versatile foods. You can make them in so many ways — hard boiled, over easy or — my favorite — a simple scramble. You can also add plenty of flavor and variety to eggs by using different leftover roasted vegetables, meats, cheeses and herbs. Plus, when you add them you get your protein and veggies filled with lots of antioxidants all in one satisfying dish. Want to try something a little different? Top a portobello mushroom with a dollop of ricotta, tomato and a sunny side up egg for a healthy twist on eggs Benedict.

2. Barley

Barley may not come to mind (maybe ever), but this nutty, chewy, delicious grain is an unexpected, easy and inexpensive way to add more fiber to your diet in the morning. Studies suggest it may improve blood sugar levels. It also contains beta-glucan fiber that may help improve digestion and protein, which will help keep you full for longer. You can make it just like you would oatmeal. You can also try a delicious breakfast salad bowl with ricotta cheese, oranges and cinnamon or a sweet and savory breakfast bowl with raspberries and avocado. Who says salad is only for lunch or dinner? Buh-bye, processed cereal.

3. Oatmeal

Want to get an extra 10 to 15 minutes added to your morning? It’s as easy as O-A-T. Oatmeal may seem boring, but it’s another staple you can make in dozens of ways — sweet, savory or spicy. If you haven’t tried overnight oats yet, now’s the time. You’ll have breakfast ready and waiting when you wake up (giving you that extra time in the AM). You can mix in berries, flax seeds, nut butter, coconut flakes or even chia for an added boost. Or make a batch in advance, add an egg, avocado and spinach for a savory bowl. No matter what way you mix it up, oatmeal is an energizing, filling breakfast (thanks to the fiber and protein) and an inexpensive buy when you purchase it in bulk.

4. Quinoa

So many things you’d typically serve for dinner are great in the morning too. A parfait is a delicious (and pretty) breakfast, but can have some sneaky sugar. To make it healthier, swap out your usual granola for quinoa. Compared to other grains (although technically a seed), quinoa is significantly higher in fiber. It also contains all 9 essential amino acids making it a great way to sneak in some protein. Make some extra quinoa at dinner and save some leftovers. In the morning, simply mix the quinoa with Greek yogurt, vanilla and cinnamon, then layer with antioxidant-rich acai or blueberries. Top it off with brain-boosting walnuts for some healthy fats.

5. Black beans

Turn your Taco Tuesday into a Wednesday breakfast fiesta. Black beans are packed with protein and B vitamins, not to mention they’re one of the most versatile ingredients out there. Try this freezer-friendly breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, antioxidant-rich sweet potatoes and healthy fat-filled avocado or make black beans into a vegetarian “sausage.”

6. Cottage cheese

Switch up your typical Greek yogurt brekkie for some cottage cheese. Choose a brand that uses organic milk from grass-fed cows if possible, and go for plain to avoid excess sugar. You’ll get all the benefits — protein for muscles, calcium for bones and vitamin B12 for nerve and blood vessel support — plus, you can add it to your meals in fun, unexpected ways. Avoid crazy bagel shop lines (and prices) and make a lox breakfast sandwich at home with sprouted grain bread. Add omega-3 packed smoked salmon and top with cottage cheese.

7. Yogurt

Tired of your morning yogurt? Reinvent it. Layer some Greek yogurt with berries and fiber-rich brown rice for a simple, healthy breakfast that’s tasty enough for dessert later on in the day. Yes, rice and yogurt do go together. Yogurt can also help boost immunity. It contains lactobacillus (a type of bacteria), which studies suggest may help prevent cancer, infections, gastrointestinal diseases and asthma. Buy a large tub of plain Greek yogurt and use it in dozens of ways. It’s great in sauces and salad dressings too.

8. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are loaded with vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin K. I love putting slices on a breakfast sandwich or sauteing in a scramble, but for something new try a shakshuka. The Mediterrean-style meal has all kinds of phytonutrients thanks to a wide variety of vegetables and spices and you make it in a one skillet (easy cleanup). Want to pump it up a little more? Try adding salmon for a dish full of heart-healthy omega-3s. This meal seems indulgent, but is really cost effective. Use canned tomatoes, eggs and spices you have at home for a filling, fun dish.