They cost less than a dollar per pound on average and boast some impressive nutritional and culinary benefits.

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where associate nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life. 

We all could stand to save a little money right now (looking at you, gas prices). But following a budget doesn't mean you need to sacrifice a healthy eating pattern. There are several fruits and vegetables that are affordable and nutritious options to add to your plate, whether they are canned, frozen or fresh. In my opinion, bananas are the No. 1 fruit you should be eating when you're on a budget, and I'll tell you a few reasons why. 

Bananas are inexpensive 

The average price of 1 pound of bananas was $0.62 in the U.S. in 2021. This could give you a week's worth of fruit to eat as a snack or as a side to a meal for less than $1. Compared to $1.45 for a pound of navel oranges or $4.44 for a pint of fresh blueberries, bananas are an incredibly budget-friendly fruit. 

It is important to note that you should aim to buy fair-trade bananas if they are available at the store where you shop. Though they might be slightly more expensive, they are still much more affordable than other types of fruit. Buying fair-trade bananas helps ensure that farmers are fairly compensated and have safe working conditions, which is well worth the minimal extra expense. 

Bananas are nutritious 

Along with being easy on your wallet, bananas are a really healthy food. One medium banana contains 105 calories, 1 gram of protein, 27 grams of carbs (including 14 grams of naturally occurring sugar), 3 grams of fiber and 422 milligrams of potassium (about 16% of our daily needs). Bananas contain resistant starch, which can help improve gut health, help with blood sugar control and even promote healthy weight management. This flavorful fruit can also help lower your risk of heart disease, decrease blood pressure, improve mood, reduce risk of anxiety and more. 

A hand placing a bunch of bananas in a paper grocery bag
Credit: Getty Images / tenkende / Javier Zayas Photography

Bananas are versatile

Another reason to love bananas is that they are incredibly versatile. On their own, they make an easily portable snack that is delicious as is, but also can be made extra filling when paired with nut butter or yogurt. Bananas also make a great topping for toast, an excellent addition to smoothies and can even be mashed into baked goods like our Healthy Banana Bread or Baked Banana-Nut Oatmeal Cups

Bananas can be stored on the counter or in your pantry for several days. It's easy to tell when they're past their prime, as their skin will start to bruise and turn black. If you have some bananas that are on their way out, put them to use in baked goods (they will be extra sweet) or toss them in the freezer until further notice. You can actually even eat banana peels, fresh or frozen, to help you cut down on food waste even further (just make sure to wash them well).