Here where I am, the most expensive foods are seafood, followed by meat. Vegetables are usually relatively cheap.
You need to look out for food that is the most filling, such as pasta, or rice ( main staple here in asia ) or potatoes.
You also need to plan ahead for what you are going to make.
In the case that you are going to buy lots of fresh produce, make sure that you don't overbuy, lest you waste them when they rot away because you can't finish them in time.
include more vegetables, and have less meat in your diet, but don't skip out completely. You can try to make meals that can last for a few days, such as stew, or curry.
In the case of if you need a chicken, you can opt to buy a whole chicken and cut up parts as needed, opposed to getting them ready cut. Its cheaper here where I am at least.
And if you have one of those local markets, do your shopping there instead of supermarkets. Or one of those uhh... cultural places idk like chinatown? I know indian grocery stores sell things like long beans, onions and potatoes cheaper and nearly by the sack.
1) You need to learn how to cook recipes yourself! Not every night, but it helps to cook instead of eating packaged, prepared foods.
2) Buy bulk legumes & grains (stock up on different kinds like barley, lentils, split peas, brown rice, etc), they tend to be cheaper per ounce. It's not that difficult to prepare legumes, a lot of them just require soaking in water 24 hours and draining the water if you're afraid of gas, or simply bringing them to a boil for 1-2 minutes then simmering for a few hours)
3) Cook in large quantities legumes, meat, veggies & grains. If you have tupperware you can often reheat different combinations of foods very quickly.
4) Now this is hard for some people because it seems so ridiculous at first from the expense, but starting buying various spices & sauces (Asian sauces, sesame oil, curry spices, etc) if you want to eat healthier and on a budget. Homemade stir-frys & curries can be very inexpensive once you already havve the spices/sauces that will stretch out for many meals to come. The easy part is just buying a variety of vegsmeat on sale,
I had to go high carb low everything else to make sure I got enough calories AND nutrients. If it's really bad, enter what you eat over at cronometer.com just in case to see your daily values.
I really had to sit down and decide what I liked eating with potatoes and how I liked to serve them. (I went with oven fries served with fresh chopped pico de gallo on top) and steamed potatoes in summer served like potato salad but with rice vinegar dressing instead of mayo based dressing. Also I love corn tortillas and cornmeal -- so I make zucchini tamales and black bean enchiladas.
For breakfast I eat bananas mixed with brown rice steamed in my rice cooker. These are very basic, cheap, healthy things. Eventually your body loves it and rejects the other stuff.
Obviously this is not a complete list, just a few that come to mind.
Because I live in a ... crappy ... apartment, my freezer is absolute garbage and so is the temperature of my apartment. Making things ahead of time or stocking up just ensures ruined food and wasted money. Using these very simple ingredients lets me buy foods as I need them and not freak out about sales (which would be a helpful way to stock up if you have access to a good freezer and good heating/AC.)
I do not eat any convenience food -- except some sherbet or fruit bars here and there and some nutrition bars for when I'm excessively on the go. I'm guessing that's what you meant by "poison" because it really does feel like that sometimes to taste that high sodium fried ramen or greasy, bland mac and cheese. Or whatever weird meat paste thing comes in a can.
I feel your pain on that. I've had the trouble trying to find healthy foods that are cheap here, too. I try to get produce, but it either rots before I can eat it, looks bad in the produce section anyway so I don't buy it, or it's outrageously expensive. Recently, I found a solution that helped, and I'm not sure if you'll agree with it or not, but it is worth looking into. I found found that it's cheaper to order from the Schwan's people. You may find that their prices for some things may be a lot better and the food quality I have tried and found to be excellent. Just go to www.schwans.com to try it out and compare prices and the food labels.
Don't be fooled by all of those "healthy foods" out there that are prepackaged and frozen or whatever. They are more expensive because the companies know they can over-charge for something if its supposed to be this magical healthy food.
Try your best to purchase nothing but fresh, quality ingredients. Shopping at local farmer's markets can really help this as its usually cheaper and you will be buying seasonal ingredients, rather than things that were shipping from half way across the globe (which, obviously, is going to be costing you more too).
Figuring out your meals ahead of time will help you not over-buy. When visiting your local market or the grocery store, only pick up the produce that you need for that night (or maybe the next night if you've got that planned too). Instead of buying one load of groceries a week (and risking a lot of that going bad before you eat it cause you never had plans for it) visit the market or grocery store a few times a week, making smaller purchases as you go, and only buying what you need.
EDIT: p.s. I also suggest when making meals for yourself make a little extra so you know you can eat the leftovers for lunch. Eating a lot of your meals with rice can really help the bank too, as its really cheap, can fill you up really well, and can still be healthy if you pair it with a well balanced meal (like lots of good veggies!).
Basically, if you want to be the healthiest you can but still eat enough (aka get enough nutrients) search for the most nutrient dense foods and try to incorporate them into your meals. The most nutrient dense foods are typically leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, etc). They can be eaten cooked or raw which gives you a lot of options for how to eat these with your meals.
If you eat meat you can typically get a lot of nutrients from these as well, but meat can get quite expensive. I always recommend fish and it is a very healthy choice for meat, and not as expensive as that nice lean piece of steak. Always buy your fish fresh from the market or grocery store. If you live on the coast, you are SO LUCKY and you should be taking advantage of all of that lovely fresh fish. smile