What is the food with the highest calorie per unit price that you can buy and eat regularly? The food cannot give you any undesirable health effect due to the sole reason that you eat it regularly.

2 Answers 2


For 1 US Dollar you can get:

Foods with mainly carbohydrates:

  • Polenta/cornmeal, raw, 847 g = 2,930 Cal
  • Potatoes, white, raw, 2,400 g = 1,844 Cal
  • Bread, black, 680 g = 1,536 Cal
  • Oatmeal, raw, 340 g = 1,244 Cal
  • Rice, white, raw, 320 g = 1,117 Cal-
  • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), canned, (also contain protein), 340 g = 558 Cal

Foods with mainly protein/fat:

  • Chicken, raw, 405 g = 640 Cal
  • Sardines, canned, 142 g = 354 Cal

These are examples of cheap high-calorie foods you can eat regularly as part of a healthy diet.

Cal = 1 kilocalorie

Prices, as available in Slovenia/Europe at 6th January 2017

Calculations and sources:

  • Bread, black, 1kg = 1,39 € = 1.47 $; for $1 you get 680 g = 1,536 Cal (226 Cal/100 g) (source)
  • Rice, white, 1 kg = 2.98 € = 3.15 $; for $1 you get 320 g = 1,117 Cal (349 Cal/100 g) (source)
  • Polenta (cornmeal), 500 g = 0.56 € = 0.59 $; for $1 you get 847 g = 2.930 Cal (346 Cal/100 g) (price, Calories)
  • Oatmeal, 500 g = 1.39 € = 1.47 $; for $1 you get 340 g = 1,244 Cal (366 Cal/100 g) (source)
  • Potatoes, white, 5 kg = 2 € = 2.1 $; for $1 you get 2,400 g = 1,844 Cal (77 Cal/100 g) (price, Calories)
  • Chickpeas, canned, for $1 you get 340 g = 558 Cal (price), (Calories)
  • Canned fish, sardines, 105 g = 0.7 € = 0.74 $; for $1 you get 142 g = 354 Cal (249 Cal/100 g) (source)
  • Chicken, whole, 1.5 kg = 3.5 € = 3.7 $; for $1 you get 405 g = 640 Cal (160 (Cal/100 g) (source)
  • This is simply wrong. Fats contain 37 kJ/g while carbs and proteins contain only 17. So you need to replace carbs, cereals, and those lean meats with the fattiest meats available.
    – Carey Gregory
    Jan 4, 2017 at 22:02
  • @CareyGregory, the question was "highest calorie per unit price that you can buy and eat regularly." I provided a practical answer. For 2 dollars, I can get 1 kg of bread and only 100 g of chicken and I will get more calories from that bread than from chicken. In general, carbohydrate foods have the best calorie/price value. From protein/fat foods, I found canned fish and chicken most affordable.
    – Jan
    Jan 5, 2017 at 7:58
  • You would have to show some numbers to prove it because I believe you'd still get more calories per dollar from cheap, fatty meats than from bread, chicken or fish. Consider lard, for example. Hard to beat the calories/$ with that one.
    – Carey Gregory
    Jan 5, 2017 at 14:55
  • @CareyGregory, you would eat lard regularly for few months? I have provided a short list of high-calorie foods a decent person on low budget could be actually prepared to eat regularly (as the OP asked), let's say for few months. The prices mentioned above are from the store I buy food (converted from Euros).
    – Jan
    Jan 5, 2017 at 16:12
  • Of course not, but there was a time that people used lard the way we use butter today, spreading it on other foods, cooking with it, etc, so it's certainly possible to consume a lot of it. Anyway, I'll reverse my downvote, but I'd really like to see some numbers to prove your point. (In fact, you will have to edit your question in order for me to upvote.)
    – Carey Gregory
    Jan 5, 2017 at 21:05

For millennia, "Rice and Beans" have been a staple worldwide for good reason: they are cheap crops that together provide a "compete protien", that is, every type of amino acid that we cannot synthesize ourselves.

Though they're slightly more time consuming to cook, go with dried beans instead of canned if it'll be a regular thing. Eating canned beans for a large part of your diet will have effects similar to eating canned anything for a large part of your diet, that is, way too much sodium.

  • This doesn't answer the question. The question is which food has the highest calorie content, not which foods are cheap sources of protein.
    – Carey Gregory
    Jan 4, 2017 at 21:56
  • 1
    Carey Gregory, the OP asked for foods with the highest calorie count that can be eaten regularly. People may interpret "regularly" differently, as a snack or as a primary source of calories. To regularly eat something as a primary source of calories, enough of those calories must come from protein otherwise consumers will experience an "undesirable health effect due to the sole reason that they eat it regularly". For evidence I cite common knowledge and the fact that a large portion of the world uses these as their primary calorie source due to its cost-effectiveness. Jan 5, 2017 at 18:44
  • You and the other answer both focused more on price than I think the question asked for, but that's a matter of interpretation. I still believe cheap, fatty meats are more calories for the money and neither you nor the other answer have shown otherwise.
    – Carey Gregory
    Jan 5, 2017 at 21:08
  • @CareyGregory It is not up the the question to dis-prove what you think is otherwise.
    – paparazzo
    Jan 28, 2017 at 18:43
  • @Paparazzi Who said it was? I have no idea what your complaint is.
    – Carey Gregory
    Jan 28, 2017 at 20:59

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