"There's actually an economical reason and a health reason, so you can't beat it," said Chef James Overbaugh, executive chef at the Peninsula Hotel.
Overbaugh is talking about beans.
"We use them in a variety of places," said Overbaugh. "We use garbanzos for different items, salads. I love lentils. Sometimes we do soups, for example."
A bag of dried beans is super cheap but requires a bit of work in the kitchen, yet open a can of beans and you'll spend a mere 50 cents per half-cup serving.
The chef makes a Mediterranean bean dish with olive oil, shallots, garlic, basil and tomato for an inexpensive side.
Or for a cheap way to get often-pricey hummus on the table, blend a can of garbanzos or chickpeas with olive oil, lemon juice, red peppers, garlic and seasoning.
Then consider the tuber. Or sweet potatoes. One averages just 99 cents, yet offers a tasty way to get 4 grams of fiber, along with a hefty dose of vitamins A and C. Whip them with orange juice or try microwaving, slicing with a bit of olive oil and a quick bake, then slather with hummus.
Frozen spinach is a freezer find at about 28 cents per half-cup, the standard serving size. After microwaving and draining, spinach is wonderful tossed in pasta or egg dishes. You'll get a bit of iron, vitamin K and the eye-health booster lutein to your meal as well.
And beyond oatmeal and baked goods, cholesterol-lowering oats are also a great way to stretch meat dishes at about 9 cents per half-cup for the standard cooking kind.
"It's one of the most versatile things you can bake with it, you can make breakfast with it, you can make dessert with it," said Boulevard 16 Chef Simon Dolinky. "A dollar goes a long way with eggs."
Dolinky suggests using them hard-boiled and sliced in a salad or sandwich, or a quick scramble for an anytime meal. They're also one of the best sources of protein you can buy. And did you know there are 13 vitamins and minerals in the yolk alone? All of this for just about 25 cents apiece.
Other foods that provide inexpensive eats are peanut butter, about 20 cents per 2 tablespoons; apples at 60 cents each; canned tuna for sandwiches, casseroles and salads. Three ounces average about 75 cents, which works well with another super saver, brown rice, at about 37 cents per half-cup cooked.