How to Eat a Healthy Breakfast on a Low Income Budget

Updated on May 24, 2016
Simple, cheap ingredients can make for a healthy breakfast.
Simple, cheap ingredients can make for a healthy breakfast. | Source

It's more important than ever, as well as more challenging, to find ways of eating well without spending too much money. With some planning and thought, you can find all sorts of delicious ways to stick to your budget during the morning meal!

For a healthy breakfast with staying power, you'll want to include sources of protein, carbohydrates and dairy. You'll get a variety of vitamins and minerals, giving your body a satisfying start to the day.

The first thing to do is stock your shelves with some low-cost staples. Take some extra time at the store to compare prices and ingredients - you may find your local store brand costs less while delivering pretty much the same nutrition.

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Homemade peanut buttersharp cheddar cheeseHoney jar
Homemade peanut butter
Homemade peanut butter | Source
sharp cheddar cheese
sharp cheddar cheese | Source
Honey jar
Honey jar | Source

Some Low-Cost Breakfast Ingredients To Mix and Match

  1. Peanut Butter (around $2.75 per jar) - It's an old standby for convenient protein. Just be aware of the fat content and stick to only 2 Tablespoons for each serving to avoid extra calories.
  2. Breakfast Bars (around $2 for an 8-bar box) - Look for bars with at least 4 grams of Dietary fiber, and for flavors with dried fruit (raisins, cherries, apricots) for an extra vitamin boost.
  3. Cheese (around $2 per container or block) - Mix mild cottage cheese with fruit, or melt grated sharp cheddar onto your eggs. Either way you'll get protein - and you can find low-fat versions of each type.
  4. Cereals (ranges from $2-$3 depending on the box size)- Some of the simplest and least expensive kinds, like Cheerios, Chex and Raisin Bran (and store brand equivalents), have always included grains in their recipes. Now, makers are offering all sorts of fortified varieties. Check the label - the first ingredients should be grains, preferably whole.
  5. Honey (around $2.75 per jar)- Long recognized as a healthy addition to any recipe, honey has become more affordable in the local grocery store. Invest in a small jar, and add a drizzle - a little goes a long way!
  6. Salsa (around $2.50 per jar) - You might think of salsa going along with tortilla chips instead of eggs. But salsa adds both the nutrition of tomatoes, green peppers and onions, and a spiciness that will wake up your taste buds!

Oatmeal is a warm and filling start to the day!
Oatmeal is a warm and filling start to the day! | Source

Combo #1

  • Oatmeal with Applesauce, walnuts and cinnamon
  • Milk

Cost = about $1.01 per serving

Cost per serving
Serving Size
1/2 cup
1/2 cup
2 Tbsp
1 tsp
1 cup


Apples contain fiber, vitamin C and antioxidant nutrients. It's often on sale and keeps a long time, so buy a large jar and store it in the fridge. Choose unsweetened to avoid a lot of extra unnecessary sugar.


One serving offers 16% of the daily fiber recommendation, except for the Instant variety. Opt for "quick" oats, which only take a minute to cook.


Nuts are a great source of omega-3 acids that are good for your heart, and Vitamin B3 for your digestive system. A 2-tablespoon serving size will bring you the benefits without adding too many calories.


Skim has the lowest calorie count, but if that's too thin for you, try 1% lowfat.

Homemade almond butter
Homemade almond butter | Source

Combo #2

  • Wheat Bagel with Almond Butter and Banana slices
  • Milk

Cost = about $1.05

Cost Per Serving
Serving Size
Wheat bagel
1 small bagel
Almond Butter
2 tbsp
1 piece
1 cup


You'll find the best buy in the grocery store's freezer case: smaller-sized bagels keep your portion size down. The whole wheat variety gives you more grain than plain or cinnamon ones.

Almond Butter

For just a bit more than buying a jar of pre-made, you can make your own healthy nut butters. For Almond, just buy a small bag of whole or sliced nuts. Put them into your food processor or blender and run until the nuts are chopped, about 2 minutes. Then, stir in canola oil by the teaspoon until you have the desired consistency. Add a small pinch of salt and sugar if desired.


A source of potassium, magnesium and vitamin B6, bananas are also some of the cheapest fresh fruits around. Unless you like them under-ripe, don't buy them green. Keep them on your counter in a plastic bag, using them right away for snacks and meals.

Smoothies are an easy and smart breakfast choice.
Smoothies are an easy and smart breakfast choice. | Source

Combo #3

  • Yogurt & Fruit Smoothie with Toast

Cost = $1.49

Cost Per Serving
Serving Size
1 container (6 oz)
Canned Fruit
1/2 cup
1 slice


Store brands are often the best bargain, whether for regular or Greek-style. Get plain - you can add the flavors you like and regulate the sugar and fat.

Canned Fruit

Peaches, pears, mangoes, pineapples and so many more fruits are available now on store shelves. Look for the label to say "packed in light syrup" which has less sugar than the heavy kind, or even better, buy packed in fruit juice.


Whole-grain is much healthier - unfortunately it can be pricier by at least $1. Instead, look for fortified whole wheat, white, or Italian loaves.

Questions & Answers


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      • Maria Cecilia profile image

        Maria Cecilia 3 months ago from Philippines

        how mouthwatering, this is not just for breakfast for me, I think they are good for desserts too..

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        Hi Careermommy! Thank you for checking out my hub - I love how any of the ideas can be given your own unique spin. So enjoy!

      • Careermommy profile image

        Tirralan Watkins 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

        Heather63, I'm always looking for healthier breakfast ideas, especially for my kids. This was very useful and informative. I like the oatmeal with applesauce idea. Great hub!

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        Hey carol! It is surprisingly quick to make almond or whatever kind of nut butter might like. And it's nice to know exactly what amount of sugar, salt or fat you have in it, too (or none at all, if you want).

      • carol7777 profile image

        carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

        You have some great ideas here. We eat almond butter maybe I will try making almond butter. Thanks for sharing all this.

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        greenpharmacy: Hi, and thanks! I have fun experimenting with different combinations of smoothies, but my favorite is still strawberry/banana/peach. Yum!

        praseti030: Thank you for your vote and comments! I'm glad you found some helpful ideas - good luck with them.

      • prasetio30 profile image

        prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

        Very inspiring hub and I am glad to follow your tips. I'll bookmark this one. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!


      • greenpharmacy profile image

        Anandita 5 years ago from Korea

        Yogurt & fruit smoothie with toast is my most favorite recipe! Great hub! Thanks for sharing...

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        filipinofoods: Hi - thanks for the comment, and welcome!

      • filipinofoods profile image

        filipinofoods 5 years ago from Philippines

        nice hub! Following you now. :)

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        tipstoretireearly: Hey, thanks for stopping by! I always try to find the balance between eating well and staying on track with the budget. You're right, it isn't always easy - but it's worthwhile challenge!

      • tipstoretireearly profile image

        tipstoretireearly 5 years ago from New York

        Great ideas! Inexpensive and nutritious is a tough combination, but you nailed it for breakfast ideas.

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        hisandhers: Hi! I know what you mean about being busy and I've found that having some ideas for combinations ready helps me stay on track. Good luck and I hope this hub helps!

        Night Magic: I love smoothies too - I have quite a sweet tooth! Great idea about the whey - I have added wheat germ or ground flax meal on occasion, too.

        Suzie HQ: Thanks for the comments! I didn't used to pay much attention to what I ate for breakfast, then wondered why I was so hungry or sleepy mid-morning. Even if you start small with just a few bites of something, you'll feel the difference - I'm rooting for you!

      • Suzie HQ profile image

        Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

        Hi Heather,

        Congrats on HOTD! So well deserved. I love this article as one who struggles to eat breakfast but loves healthy options such as your ideas!!

        Loved the Combo #1 and #2 particularly. Great info on the ingredients which made really interesting reading.

        VU, more and shared, well done!

      • Night Magic profile image

        Night Magic 5 years ago from Canada

        I'm all for healthy breakfasts. Your Combo #3 is my favorite. I usually put some whey protein powder in mine.

      • hisandhers profile image

        hisandhers 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

        I liked how you've set up your Hub with menus! I find one of the worst things about being on a strict budget is you tend to start skipping meals and with my busy schedule, it's easy to get up and go without having the most important meal of the day! I'll have to incorporate some of your suggestions into my daily routine. Thanks!

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        Hey tipoaugue! Making your own bread is a great idea. I love a slice of banana bread or a small muffin for breakfast - the hard part is stopping at one serving!! When I first discovered how much cheaper it is to make a lot of things I used to buy packaged, I was amazed. Plus, as I'm sure you know, you get to decide how much sugar and salt you add!

      • profile image

        Heather63 5 years ago

        Hi torrilynn! I'm glad you got some encouragement from this hub. I try to make eating healthy as easy as possible - that's how I need it, and I'm sure others do too! And once you start, and get some healthy things in your fridge, it gets easier to grab something better!

      • tlpoague profile image

        Tammy 5 years ago from USA

        Congrats on your hub of the day! Just reading this is making me hungry. To curb my family's sweet tooth, I started making healthy quick breads instead of cakes, pies, or candy. This way they could satisfy their cravings at the same time as eating healthy. I love the graph that you used here. Very helpful! I will have to try to make my own peanut butter one of these days. Thanks!

      • torrilynn profile image

        torrilynn 5 years ago

        thank you for the hub. I really enjoyed reading. Ive been trying to find a healthier way of eating breakfast in the morning but found that sometimes it was too expensive to constantly eat out. I love fruit and yogurt. I appreciate the fact that you listed the serving size, the prices, and the various amounts of foods I could possibly eat. Voted up.

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        Healthyboomernurse: Hi and thanks for your comments and votes! I like using the tables, because it really lays out info in a clear way. I need all the organization I can get!!

        Nettlemere: Hey! I never thought of sunflower seeds on cereal - that's a great idea for extra protein and yummy flavor!

        lmlynde: thank you for well wishes, and I hope you get a chance to try one of the ideas - I'd love to know how it goes for you.

        followthestray: Hi - I'm really glad to hear you are wanting to try some of the ideas. I'm always "tweaking" my way to eating better, usually small bits at a time. But at least I'm moving!

        Natashalh: Hi! I didn't used to like salsa, but it's grown on me. It's a great way to enjoy a little bit of veggies, and the spices are good for digestion. I'm with you, always trying to eat as well as I can without breaking the bank. Good luck!

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

        I love salsa with eggs!

        Great advice for those of us who struggle to eat healthily on a tight budget.

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        RTalloni: Hi and thanks! One of my goals is to pass along info that anyone can use right away, to make it practical.

        ignugent17: Welcome - thanks for stopping by and reading!

        Monica K 215: I'm glad to hear your comment - I hope there's something here for you to try!

        Rastamermaid: Thank you for the very nice comments!

        El Ray: Great thought about looking at labels - it's amazing what you find there! I agree completely with your suggestion about limiting processed foods. Sometimes it's hard in a busy schedule, but part of my mission is to find ways to make healthy meals more simple.

      • followthestray profile image

        Samantha Harris 5 years ago from New York

        Great Hub! I'll definitely be using these tips.

      • lmlynde profile image

        lmlynde 5 years ago from Nevada

        Thank you for this great Hub sharing some new options to try! Congrats on the Hub of the Day Award!

      • Nettlemere profile image

        Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

        Congratulations on HOTD - I'm a big fan of oatmeal with raisins and sunflower seeds. Haven't thought to try it with applesauce, but might give it a go.

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        divacratus: Thanks for the comments!

        cyndi10: you're right about a lot of us needing quick b-fasts. The easier the better in my house! Thanks for adding the apple & pnut butter idea.

        ComfortB: I'm always looking for cheaper ways to make healthy things. It can be challenging, but worth the effort. Thanks for reading!

        Tonipet: Good for you at working to stay in the "healthy zone"! Sometimes it seems like everything healthy costs more, but it sounds like you're finding ways to make breakfast work.

      • Happyboomernurse profile image

        Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

        Congratulations on earning HOTD accolade for this well written article filled with lots of useful information about nutritional value and cost of breakfast foods.

        I particularly liked the way you entered the info into tables.

        Voted up across the board except for funny.

      • profile image

        El Ray 5 years ago

        Heather you've provided some good information on eating a healthy low cost breakfast and I've voted your Hub Up + Useful.

        When shopping for food, I find it very helpful to scan food labels of items before I put them in the shopping cart. That way I know the nutritional value and can make better choices. I would like to add the following: if you really want to eat healthier, you should limit or cut out eating highly processed foods from your diet. The more processed food is, the more it has been stripped of its nutritional value. For example, oatmeal is good for you, but you should avoid eating instant oats (most highly processed form) and opt for steel cut (least processed) or rolled oats (processed a little more than steel cut) instead. I hope this tip will help your readers and add value to your article.

        Btw, congratulations on the Hub of the Day award!

      • Rastamermaid profile image

        Rastamermaid 5 years ago from Universe

        Awesome,great content,very informative!


      • Monica Kay 215 profile image

        Monica Kay 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

        Very useful.

      • profile image

        ignugent17 5 years ago

        Congratulations Hub of the Day!

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

        Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for a hub covering a topic that everyone can benefit from--it's helpful and generating interesting comments.

      • Tonipet profile image

        Tonette Fornillos 5 years ago from The City of Generals

        Great hub! I've been trying to incorporate smoothies, fruit shakes and fresh juices in my daily diet and I can't deny it allots some money. Though I have discovered some ways to making all these from scratch, your list is really very helpful, we all needed this. Thank you Heather and congratulations for being chosen, hub of the day. More power and healthiness!

      • ComfortB profile image

        Comfort Babatola 5 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

        Great frugal tips on making healthy breakfast. Voted up and useful, and , congrats on the HOTD award.

      • Cyndi10 profile image

        Cynthia B Turner 5 years ago from Georgia

        Congrats on Hub of the Day. Great suggestions here. Peanut butter on apples is another good addition to breakfast. Most of the foods you have included are not only nutritious and budget friendly, they are also fast to make, something most people look for in the morning. Even though I love almond butter I rarely think of buying it. Thanks for the reminder. Take care.

      • divacratus profile image

        Kalpana Iyer 5 years ago from India

        Interesting. Congrats for the "hub of the day". Well deserved!

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        nancynurse: Hi! I just discovered the ease of making my own nut butters, but it's nice to know there are good pre-made choices out there, too!

        lhchan: Thanks for checking out the hub - I hope it gave you some helpful ideas!

      • starbright profile image

        Lucy Jones 5 years ago from Scandinavia

        Very helpful hub. Thanks for sharing these invaluable tips. Voted up.

      • nina64 profile image

        nina64 5 years ago from chicago, Illinois

        That picture of the fruit and yougurt breakfast looks delicious!!!! I like the way you've broken down the cost per item; doing this makes it extremely affordable. Voted up!!!

      • CZCZCZ profile image

        CZCZCZ 5 years ago from Oregon

        Yogurt and fruit is a favorite budget breakfast of mine. Enjoyed looking at the tables you put together on cost per servings for the various recommendations. Congrats on being hub of the day for this awesome hubpage.

      • lhchan profile image

        lhchan 5 years ago

        Very useful hub. Thanks for sharing.

      • nancynurse profile image

        Nancy McClintock 5 years ago from Southeast USA

        Awesome hub. Thanks for sharing. Now I also know to buy Smuckers peanut butter. I like Almond butter also.

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        Hi Claudia - thank you for sharing your experiences. You're right about the unhealthiness of a lot of jarred peanut butter, which is why I often make my own. It takes about 5 minutes, and I can control how much salt or sugar that goes in. I'm glad you've found one you like so much!

      • Claudia Tello profile image

        Claudia Tello 5 years ago from Mexico

        I am a big "healthy on a low budget" eater and I love peanut butter on wholegrain toast. I eat the chunky Smucker´s brand, which is absolutely delicious, and the healthiest one. It is much more than $2.75, around $6 point something dollars, but it is absolutely worth it.

        Many peanut butters have hydrogenated vegetable fats (terribly unhealthy) in them and lots of sugar, which besides turning peanut butter into an unhealthy breakfast option, make it taste far less tasty (I actually don´t even like them). This isn´t intended as an Smucker´s advertisement but: Smucker´s peanut butter is delicious and 100% healthy, as it is made with peanuts and salt only.

        Hope this is a good contribution to the subject.

        Kind regards,