Ultimate Low Cost Healthy Food Guide – 44 Micro Nutrients Per Dollar – Data’s Best Foods

Any Biology Experts think they can understand the biological implications of this data? Email me

Quick Tips To Save Money On Food

Despite Marketing Companies ability to control your perception- Fresh Food is lower cost than Canned, Frozen, Prepared/boxed, Fast Food.

After a half of a decade studying this problem, the math has changed my life.

Consume More-
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Beans
  • Peanuts
  • Spinach
  • (Flour?)
  • Butternut Squash
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Lentils
  • Canned Tomatoes
Consume Less-

  • Out of Season/Location Fresh Foods
  • Energy Drinks
  • Alcoholic Drinks(sorry not a ton of nutrition in beer + wine)
  • Brand Name Apples
General Results

Best Values- The Math

There are two types of data presented. Nutrition Per Dollar and Nutrition Ratio Total(Sum).

A straight addition of nutrients would yield an unimportant number due to a wildly high amount of Vitamin A in carrots.

The solution was to remove the dimensions of each to find a Nutrient Ratio:

(Ingredient’s Nutrient mg/dollar) / Max Nutrient mg/dollar

This creates a scale from 0 to 1, where 1 is the best value for that Nutrient/$. By removing the dimensions, we can now add these up. If we decided we wanted to weight one nutrient over others, we could use multiplication.

The numbers below are an addition of 37 micronutrients I considered beneficial.

On Data Collection- I nearly always picked the lowest cost option, and obtained nutrition data from here.

Lowest Cost Nutrition

Understanding and implementing top 50 ranked foods is valuable.

Nutrition Ratio Total = Sum of 37 (Nutrient/$ / Highest Nutrient/$). The original Nutrient/$ can be found below.

The Nutrition Ratio Total is good for understanding scale of value. IE: Oranges(1.57) are 3x more Nutritious Per Dollar than Lemons(0.51).

If you havent eaten a specific vegetable before, I’d toss the veggie into something you already enjoy. We started adding Spinach or Kale to our friend rice. After 10 minutes of cooking, it still tastes like my favorite fried rice in the world, but it has Kale.

Frozen food doesnt show up until #19, where Frozen Carrots are 2x more expensive than Fresh Carrots. The lesson here is to reduce/eliminate canned and frozen food. Fresh/Raw foods are typically cheaper.

One more cost saving tip- Replace a $1.69 Red Pepper with Carrots. Just as sweet.

Flour + Cereal- Apparently low fiber and enriched with vitamins help you score pretty well. Monster took a note from them. We sometimes use flour to thicken our soups/stews, but that’s about it.

Here is the Excel Data:

Download the raw data here

Complete Nutrition Per Dollar- 44 More Charts

Hungry? Get Infinity Data Per Dollar, Download the raw data here.

Bio/Med/Health people- I’d like to learn more about this data and implications of it. Please contact me.

How To Eat For 1,000$/year

A half decade of studying this topic and having to cook for my ‘used to be picky’ wife, here is my ultimate guide to eating the most nutritious, healthy, low cost food ever. We aim to eat around 700 Calories Per Dollar and my ‘used to be picky’ wife now prefers our menu over restaurants.

Foods to remember

Protein– Beans, Lentils, Chicken, Eggs, Milk, and potentially discounted meats(turkey,pork/ground beef).
Veggies– Leafy greens, Carrots, and in-season veggies
Carbs– Pick Bread, Rice, Noodles- Don’t buy premade boxed rice/noodles.
Spices– Reward yourself. By eating at home you can borderline go wild on spices, sauces, etc… I’ll stay within ~1$ on things like, cream of chicken, a variety of spices, dressing, BBQ sauces, etc…

Make The Food Taste Good

80% of the taste is Easy

Salt, Lemon/Lime/Vinegar, Sugar, Butter/Oil/Fats, and umami taste good.

Add each slowly and taste like you would testing saltiness.

The challenging 20%

Play around with texture, how you cook each type of food. Mess around with timing when you add spices/sauces.

My preferred texture, usually uses this method to cooking anything- Cook chicken on medium-high ~4 minutes, flip, 4 minutes, (optional deglaze), throw in veggies, cook everything for ~8 minutes. Serve on top of the carb. Change around timing when you add spices and sauces, the order will slightly change the finished product.

Everything tastes good. There are almost 0 foul flavors. Just make sure you Salt, Add an Acid, Add sweetness, Fats, and Umami (the 5 things up top).

Grocery Shop

I go to the lowest cost store in my area with a printed out grocery list of what we are eating for the week(we cycle through 28 recipes).

Writing the list was a solid 1 hour job to type everything out and plan it. We even sorted by isle. However after 5 years of using it, grocery shopping takes less than 15 minutes including checkout.

Pick fresh veggies, chicken, eggs, milk. Our list is more specific but we often will grab low cost, in-season foods. When in doubt- You are still saving money not eating out, and all food will taste good.

Buy fresh instead of canned, frozen. Avoid processed rice/noodles.

Need Ideas?

  1. Go on Google
  2. type in a protein a veggie and a carb, IE:

    Chicken Rice Peas

There will be a recipe for it. And since all food tastes good, it probably will too.


Avoid Fast Food, Restaurants, Boxed Food, Canned Food, Frozen Food, Processed Food. (sorry, I just really want to save you money.)

Even Clif Bars on sale for 1$ off were less than 20g Protein Per Dollar.

Marketing is Crooked

You were told, McDonalds was the cheapest, most nutritious food. How did that 440 Calorie Per Dollar propaganda spread? Today its 2-3x more expensive than anything we eat.

How much did McDonald’s pay The Telegraph to write the article “McDouble is ‘cheapest and most nutritious food in human history'” ?

You were told Prepared Foods are cheaper than fresh food.

Nice move Marketing Companies. You got away with it for, ~20 years?

After years of studying cost effective eating- Healthy, fresh foods are almost always cheaper than anything a company prepares and re-sells.

We understand the convenience factor of having food prepared for us. That has value.

However, Marketing Companies pushed the idea their foods are low cost. I thought I was saving money by eating canned veggies.

We finally have data that can shut those rumors down.

Next Efficiency

This project took months, planning the project, getting reliable data formatted well, and 2 weekends at the grocery store buying literally every veggie and fruit, excel fun, and trying to wrap my head around explaining 40+ data sets.

Next up- I am bumping up to weekly articles. Fluids Per Dollar, Caffeine Per Second, Should You Shop For Gas, Dog Food Per Dollar, an update to Paper Products Per Dollar, Best College Degrees, Caffeine Per Second, Caffeine Per Second, and more. 😛

I’ve really enjoyed studying time and will focus on a major Protein Per Second article. Protein is weird since it often needs to be prepared. There are obvious things like Whey protein that would top the list, but I think it would be fascinating to compare cooking eggs and McDonalds.

And… Don’t worry, I’ve already started thinking about the linear algebra to calculate The Most Efficient Meal and Efficient Daily Diet.

If you want to support Efficiency, Share with your friends. If you do, send me an email and I’ll send you my cookbook free!
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24 thoughts on “Ultimate Low Cost Healthy Food Guide – 44 Micro Nutrients Per Dollar – Data’s Best Foods

  • June 7, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Special Thanks to Jill K. , Brooke R. , and Dylan S. , for reviewing this article in draft and providing feedback!

    • June 26, 2017 at 2:31 am

      I am very impressed with all your hard work.The care and time you’ve put in are remarkable.
      I would love a copy of your cookbook! I also believed canned, packaged and frozen food was cheaper than fresh. I’ve told my frugal friend about you and he agrees – you are great.

  • June 7, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Love this post Michael! I think “good” nutrition is a very personalized thing and what is good for someone is not always good for the next person, but this data can let people work out for themselves which nutrients they want to optimize. I appreciate the work you did by putting this together.

  • June 7, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Love this post!

    But one glaring issue – this article is about calculating the most nutritious foods, and you repeatedly use the term micronutrients. However, fats/protein/carbs/fiber/sugar are macronutrients – not micronutrients. When determining whether a food is nutritious, I think the proper focus includes micronutrients and excludes macros. Also, your inclusion of calories seems inappropriate. Calorie dense foods don’t seem to be nutritious. If anything, the most nutritious foods are usually not calorie dense (e.g. any non-starchy vegetable).

    I was initially shocked to see flour ranked as most nutritious when flour is subjectively seen as lacking a nutritious reputation by many. Likewise, flour is not in the top 10 for most micronutrients.

  • June 14, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    sent it to 5 friends, 10 biz consulting clients. a real eye opener. thanks for all your hard work.
    if we are eating an- anti inflammatory food plan, ( gluten, dairy, citrus, peanut free) what would that look like? or for hearth health like the DASH diet. again thanks for your insight and all your hard work!

    Looking forward to your cookbook!

  • June 14, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    Holy moly, guacamole. Wait, guacamole is not on the list. Anyhow, this is amazing! The work you put into this is astounding. Thank you for your hard work. I just had to go on disability so money is very tight and this will come in very handy. I am going to share this with everyone I know. Thank you again.

    Would love to get a copy of your cookbook if you have any left!

    • June 15, 2017 at 2:28 am

      Thanks for the kind words! I just sent an email, keep an eye out for it.

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  • July 31, 2017 at 3:06 am

    Great work.
    I am Interested to see if your math apply to Singapore where all food is imported and most people eat out 1-2x a day.
    Add me to your mailing list pls, it’s fascinating reading.

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  • September 15, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    Great work! One complaint I have is that Cholesterol is included as a nutrient when it is in fact harmful for human health. Please consider either removing it or subtracting the high value foods from their respective total points.
    This value gives a harmful point advantage to eggs/milk at the expense of plant foods. It would be like including Mercury as a nutrient and encouraging more fish consumption.

    • September 16, 2017 at 3:37 pm

      Thank you for pointing that out! I will be sure to update this shortly.

      • October 30, 2017 at 12:07 pm

        Hey Michael!

        Wanted to check back on whether cholesterol was removed or not. It looks like it hasn’t yet. 🙁

        Looking forward to seeing future articles! Love the concept of the site.


        • November 1, 2017 at 1:46 pm

          Hey Manny,

          Work in progress, in version 1.7 of the Nutrition Per Dollar table, I’ve eliminated it from Nutrient Per Calorie equation.


          I’m preparing for one last major food study for the year, and a major update to this chart. Stay tuned, I didn’t forget about it 🙂

        • February 9, 2018 at 6:49 pm

          Cholesterol is an essential component of cell membranes and thus a vital dietary nutrient! Some people have too much, which can have a deleterious impact on their health. That is not a reason to eliminate it from the tables. Cholesterol should stay!
          Fantastic data showing what I always secretly believed, that is is cheaper to cook from scratch.
          The way it’s presented makes it simple to target specific nutrients.
          Thanks – just what I needed.

          • February 9, 2018 at 9:26 pm

            Kate, thanks for this comment.

            Its been left in the overall calculation for this article, and I’ll be sure to include it as a piece of data in future calculations. It seems that only eggs would drop 5 spots to the #6 food with its removal.

            Hope you can target some of the more difficult vitamins and minerals with this 🙂

  • October 6, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    I want to see this augmented with nutrient/gram or nutrient/calorie data.

    • October 7, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      Fantastic recommendation! Ill have it written for October 18th release.

      It would be very useful to know, especially for busy days when eating a fewer foods is more convenient.

  • January 6, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    I think you may have meant “Choline” instead of “Chlorine” mentioned after carbohydrates under nutrition per dollar.

    • January 16, 2018 at 6:33 pm

      Ugh, will have to be fixed on the next revision. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • January 9, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Fiance is allergic to eggs, flaxseed is a replacement and becoming more available with time. Would love to see it on your list.

    Kind regards,

    • January 16, 2018 at 6:32 pm

      Good recommendation on seeds. Thinking of releasing a study comparing seeds/nuts.

      Thanks Ben

  • February 9, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    Raw Sunflower Seeds! At 2 dollars a pound at kroger, they will be number 1 on vitamin e and B6

    • February 10, 2018 at 4:31 am

      Good call on low cost seeds. I don’t think you can get cheaper than sunflower, but if you have ideas, I’ll be sure to include it on the next revision.


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