Since back in February when we brainstormed on good nutrition for farmworkers, it feels like we still haven’t climbed out of the long winter. Still – lucky for us – farmworkers all over the country are back to full swing as preparation and planting seasons roll into the warmer weather.

Here in Washington D.C. a long winter means some serious chill, and the heating costs to go along with it. Heat is one of so many daily costs that can rise over the winter – which is also the season where work (and income) can be scarce for those who work outdoor jobs.

There is no off-season for eating nutritiously; is it really possible to eat well and eat cheap?


  1. Everyone’s pantry has certain food staples: those essential things we don’t go a day without using. Do your go-tos include cheap and healthy options? For example …


4-16-18 Nutrition Tips pt. 2 CD (1)
Chiles dry in New Mexico, 2010.

Spices (costs vary widely – spice/salt blends cheaper, pure spices costlier)Fresh home-grown herbs or dried spices: they last a long time for a modest price, and transform plain-rice-only days into distinct and delicious meals. Cinnamon, cayenne pepper, oregano, and cumin are just a few spices that pack in extra vitamins while they provide a natural source of flavor to your food.


4-16-18 Nutrition Tips pt. 2 CD (2)
Black beans ready for harvest from the pod. Photo: Nantahala Farm, black turtle beans bush seeds.

Dry Beans (black bean avg. $50/lb.*)Much more versatile than meat and a tiny fraction of the cost (buy dried, not canned), beans are full of protein and provide a complete protein source together with whole grains and veggies. Also packing lots of fiber plus minimal saturated fat and sodium beans make a filling, shelf-stable, and cheap staple. If you’re tired of one bean or legume, there are plenty more to try: garbanzo, pinto, black, kidney, great northern, cowpeas, or (our favorites) lentils.


4-16-18 Nutrition Tips pt. 2 CD (3)
Ever wonder how peanuts look straight out of the ground? Photo: The Tree Center, “Do Peanuts Grow On Trees?”

Peanuts (unshelled avg. $2.00/lb.) or Peanut Butter (avg. $2.50/lb) Peanuts are generally the cheapest of nut varieties (not actually nuts, but legumes!) and a perfect portable snack plain just as they are great in cereal breakfasts, salad lunches, or chicken dinners. Peanut butter is a healthy and filling snack spread on bread, apples, or veggies.


4-16-18 Nutrition Tips pt. 2 CD (4)
Oats in their natural habitat. Photo: Producer, “Oat Buyer Says No Glyphosate Pre-Harvest”

Oats (avg. $1.00/lb.)Rich in minerals and fiber, oats are the cheapest way to a healthy breakfast. Add milk or peanut butter to oatmeal to pack in protein, fruits for a perfect sweetener, or just heat with plain water for a satisfying small meal. Traditional oatmeal takes about 5 minutes to make (even for a large batch) or, if you have more time, roast oats for a granola snack.



  1. Whole foods (real foods) are what comes out of dirt, plants, air, and water. Many of us would be amazed how much money and health we sacrifice buying processed foods instead of whole foods.
4-16-18 Nutrition Tips pt. 2 CD (5)
Pretty packages don’t always bring good things. Photo: Daily Burn, EWG Food Scores Food Calculator.

We know packaged foods can be convenient and tempting. Instead of giving in to the unhealthy and expensive temptations, limit them by keep longer-lasting whole foods handy instead of quickly perishable ones (think root vegetables and tree fruits), cooking in large batches to save time, and enlisting your family to help cook.



  1. Maybe most important of all, cut food waste. Don’t buy an excess of perishables that will go bad before they’re eaten: especially if you lack refrigeration. Use all parts of foods you can – no tossing broccoli stems or organ meats into the trash. Invent or look up new recipes which include often-unwanted food parts, and get creative! When you do have leftovers, compost plant-based scraps to enrich the soil of your own garden.
4-16-18 Nutrition Tips pt. 2 CD (6)
Stop! Are you going to eat that? Photo: NPR, The Salt: “Grocery Stores Get Mostly Mediocre Scores on Their Food Waste Efforts.”



While AFOP trainers work overtime to ensure farmworkers have safe and healthy work environments, food choices at home are still the foundation of overall wellbeing. Nothing is more important than good health; it’s worth the investment. But, when every cent of that paycheck counts, it’s good to know the small ways that you can eat healthy for cheap – even if lacking good storage or a nearby grocery store.


What are some ways YOU or a farmworker family you know eat healthy for less? Share them with us, and we’ll see you in an upcoming blog all about eating well on the move.



*All prices listed are United States city averages, quoted in U.S. dollars.