Your grocery bills can amount to a sizable portion of your monthly budget.
But it doesn't always have to be that way. There are many healthy and affordable foods you can purchase that will also save you money on each trip to the grocery.
With grocery costs rising dramatically over the past year, finding cheap foods is a great way to keep your family fed without breaking the bank.
In this post, I'll explore the cheapest foods you can buy, some cheap meals ideas, and other ways you can save money at the grocery. Let's get started!
Cheapest Foods to Stock Up On
Below are some of my favorite cheap foods you can buy to keep more money in your wallet each month! There are plenty of options to help you save money, so there's sure to be something for everyone.
But before we go through some of these foods, there's another amazing hack you can use to save money on your grocery bill.
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Rice is a staple for over half the word and for good reason.
It is one of the cheapest foods with solid nutrition aspects. Brown rice is a good source of carbs, protein, and vitamin B6. Also, rice is very easy to cook and goes with practically anything. It is also gluten-free and incredibly cheap. You can buy a pound of rice for an average of 70 cents – talk about a cheap food!
Like rice, beans are another staple dish enjoyed by most of the world.
Beans are a legume and are a good source of iron and protein. They are also a good source of dietary fiber. Like rice, canned beans are also versatile and can be made with almost any dish. Traditional pinto beans are also very cheap at just 50 cents per can. Kidney beans are also a great cheap food to purchase on your next grocery trip.
Another classic staple dish, pasta is popular because it keeps very well and is easy to cook.
Pasta al dente can be cooked up in just a few minutes and can be made with cream cheese, butter, sauce, or more. Pasta can serve as your main dish or it can be more of a side dish and it's one of the cheapest groceries you can buy typically costing less than $1 for a box.
Lettuce is one of the cheapest foods to buy at the grocery store and is a decent source of potassium and Vitamin C. I know, lettuce is not that exciting on it’s own, but it pairs well with most dishes and adds some much-needed roughage to your diet. Lettuce can be used for hundreds of cheap meal ideas to give it an extra crunch. Plus, it is dirt cheap to buy so you can buy a couple of heads to last you weeks for practically nothing.
Spices are probably the most useful culinary thing you can have in your kitchen. The blend of right spices can make even the simplest dish taste complex and exquisite. Even if you are just eating buttered noodles, some oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, and maybe some rosemary can add some great flavor for virtually no extra cost. Spices can make cheap foods to buy much more appetizing than they would be otherwise.
Like rice, potatoes are a crop that feeds a substantial portion of the world. These tuberous vegetables are packed full of simple starches and carbohydrates, so they are an excellent staple for any diet. Potatoes are very cheap to buy, and they are also super versatile in the kitchen. You can boil them, fry them, mash them, make baked potatoes, whatever you want. A baked potato takes around 30 minutes to make and is among the cheapest food to buy.
Sweet potatoes are also a good alternative to regular potatoes. Sweet potatoes contains fewer carbohydrates and also feature antioxidants. Sweet potatoes can be used in a variety of dishes, cuisines, and casseroles, making them an awesome food to buy.
7. Frozen Chicken
No diet is complete without protein, and chicken might just be the perfect source of protein. It is lean meat, contains less sodium than ground beef, and is cheaper to buy than ground beef. Grab some fresh chicken breasts and toss them in the freezer and you have protein for your meal planning A pound of frozen chicken costs an average of $2.50 in the US. Cook frozen chicken in a pan with frozen vegetables for cheap meals. frozen veggies are similarly cheap.
Is chicken the cheapest food? Not quite. But it is extremely nutritious and versatile for many meal ideas.
Oats are a versatile member of the cheap foods club. Oats are good for fiber and protein and are not just for breakfast. You can add oats to most dishes to give them a satisfying crunch. Oats are incredibly cheap to buy and can be made into oatmeal or eaten raw with canned fruit and yogurt. Oats are also a decent source of iron and a great cheap food to add to your grocery list.
If you're looking to cut costs on your grocery bill, oats are a perfect option.
Flour is one of the most useful staples to have in your kitchen and can be used to make doughs, crusts, homemade bread, and more. Four can be made into a dough but it is also just a good filler agent used to give things texture and body. It is also ridiculously cheap to buy. With some flour, sugar, and yeast on hand, you can basically make any kind of dessert treat you can think of.
Sugar gets a bad rep, but it is actually very important for the body. The human body can’t run without some sugars, so you need to get some in your diet. Sugar and flour in your pantry can be combined to make cakes, bread, cookies, desserts, and other snacks when you don’t have much else in your kitchen.
While this isn't one of the healthiest foods, it is one of the cheaper foods on the list.
Yeast is the thing in bread and other flour products that make it rise in the oven. Without yeast, you would get flat cakes. The fluffy texture bread and cakes have are due to yeast. So keep some in your pantry along with the flour and sugar. You can make your own bread with yeast.
Eggs might possibly be the healthiest food there is. It contains fats, carbs, protein, and minerals. You can eat eggs for pretty much every meal, and they are easy to cook in a lot of different ways. So make sure to keep your fridge stocked with a dozen.
Eggs are a great way to lower your grocery bill because of how affordable they are. If you're on a tight budget and need to save money add this cheap food to the list.
Generally speaking, all fresh vegetables are cheap. Cabbage is a good food that sells for less than 50 cents per pound. Cabbage can be eaten raw but also cooks up nicely for all kinds of dishes. Cabbage does give you gas though, so watch out for that. Cabbage is a good part of healthy meals and is one of the best fresh veggies to have.
Carrots are always a favorite of cheap eaters because they are tasty and abundant. Carrots are around during every season of the year and they are chock full of Vitamin C. They can also be used as a dessert option and could be considered one of the cheapest groceries to save money.
They might make you cry when you cut them, but onions are super useful to have in the kitchen. Onions form a great base for stir-fry and can add a nice subtle earthy flavor to whatever you are eating. Cooked onions add a sweet flavor to your dish and are among the cheapest groceries available.
These legumes are a lot like beans in that they are high in protein and have a lot of antioxidants. Put them in soups or curries for a nice rich flavor. Lentils cost less than $2 per pound and are sold in bulk, so you can buy a ton to last you for months.
Like lentils, chickpeas are a great source of protein and add a nice bitter savory flavor to your dishes. You can make hummus out of chickpeas or roast them with olive oil and your favorite spice. They also make a good replacement for croutons in a salad and are one of the cheapest groceries to buy.
Tofu is a great cheap food that is also healthy. It is made from bean curd and is often used as a meat substitute, but it has a life and body of its own. Tofu is versatile and picks up the flavor of whatever you cook it with. You can use it for stir fry dishes, grilling, pan frying, and more. Tofu can cost less than $3 per pound.
Related Reading: Truebill vs Mint: Which is Better?
Peanuts are a staple nut and in their natural form are a healthy snack packed full of protein. Peanut butter can be high in sugars but the nut itself is good for you. Peanuts provide a healthy dose of unsaturated fats that might reduce the risk of heart disease. Just be careful if you get high sugar peanut butter. Peanut butter has good fats and oils though.
20. Canned Fish
Fish is fairly expensive on its own but canned fish is cheap and has all the good nutrients that regular fish has. Canned fish is chock full or iron, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your brain development and more. Canned tuna – and salmon in particular – are easy to find in canned form and have excellent nutrient profiles compared to other fish. This cheap food can be used in a variety of methods to make salads, casseroles, and more.
Yogurt is a favorite among bargain shoppers because you can buy huge cups for relatively little. You may have to shell out for the fancy yogurt but cheap yogurt costs as little as $1 per 6 ounces. Plain yogurt goes with frozen berries, oats, and plat cereal for a tasty breakfast snack. Yogurt is also full of healthy beneficial fats and vitamin D.
Milk is good for your bones and also is a useful staple to have in the kitchen. A dash of milk can improve a smoothie, or thicken up a bowl of macaroni and cheese. Milk is also high in calcium and vitamin D which means it is good for your bones and skeletal development. A gallon of milk comes out to about $4 per gallon or about $0.25 per cup.
23. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is an acquired taste for some, but this tangy and soft cheese has good protein content and can be used for desserts and more savory dishes. Cottage cheese and fresh fruit slices make a good snack in a pinch but you can also use it to make a creamy white pasta sauce. A 16-ounce container of cottage cheese should run you around $1 per ½ cup making it one of the cheapest groceries available.
24. Plain Cereal
Plain cereal like Cheerios or the knock-off brand from your local supermarket is great for buying when you are broke but want some healthy cheap foods. Most breakfast cereals have a good mixture of vitamins and minerals, but you should be cautious with the ones that have a lot of sugar in them. Try to stick to varieties that you can buy for less than 10 cents a pound.
While cereal in general can be super cheap – some more healthy options will cost you.
This glorious staple has been feeding humans for thousands of years. Bread is one of the most versatile items to have in your kitchen. You can make toast for a filling breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, or just grab a slice for a quick snack. Bread is also fairly filling so it will moderate your appetite and you won’t eat all of it all in one go.
Bread is one of the best cheap groceries that can be used for many cheap meal ideas making it a staple for many households.
26. Ground Turkey
Turkey is a common and inexpensive kind of poultry that is easy to find. A pound of ground turkey costs less than a pound of ground beef and can do pretty much anything that ground meat can and has less fat. Turkey also tends to freeze better than beef so it will last longer in the freezer. In terms of health, turkey is one of the best foods to buy because of its strong protein makeup.
Bananas are high in sugar, but it is a good kind of natural sugar. They also contain vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6 and potassium. They are also a good source of antioxidants and a healthy source of fiber. Bananas also are very cheap and cost less than 50 cents per pound. They are usually the best deal in the produce department.
High in iron and fiber, spinach is a great addition to practically any dish as it is healthy and provides roughage. Spinach is also high in vitamin k, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, manganese, and riboflavin. It is one of the healthier leafy vegetables that you can find in the produce aisle. Moreover, spinach costs less than $4 per pound. It can also be added to a stir fry for some veggies.
29. Ramen Noodles
If you were a college student, odds are you have had to survive on ramen before. Ramen noodles are an insanely cheap food and you can pick them up for less than 79 cents a pack. The noodles have a nice salty taste and you can make a simple instant ramen bowl fancy by adding an egg or some cooked meat and spices to the top. This is one of the best cheap foods to buy when grocery shopping next.
This fruit (yes, tomatoes are a fruit) is one of the best things to have in the kitchen because it is versatile and delicious. You can boil them, slice them, dice them, and more. They can be used as a simple snack, condiment, or garnish for a meal. Canned tomatoes have vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin K, folate and more.
Cucumbers are a refreshing and inexpensive vegetable that can serve as a quick snack or a garnish for a fancy meal. Individual stalks cost just around 10 cents. They go especially well cooked in a pan with some salt and pepper.
32. Baking Soda
You shouldn’t eat baking soda on its own, but you can bake with it. So baking soda in your pantry gives you the tools to make a lot of things. If you are strapped for cash on your grocery budget then you need to invest in basic ingredients to make a lot of things.
A little bit of pepper can spice up a boring meal. Whether it's sweet bell peppers or spicy jalapeno peppers, peppers can provide a fresh crisp and some spiciness to a meal. Peppers are very cheap too and you can buy them for less than $1 per pound of produce. There are also a lot of varieties of peppers to buy too so you have a lot of options.
Apples are part of any tight budget diet as they are sweet, delicious, and nutritious. You can eat an apple by itself as a snack or slice and cook it into a dish. Apples with peanut butter is a healthy snack full of fiber and good fats that you can eat on a tight budget. Apples also contain vitamin C like all good fruits do so they contribute to healthy immune functioning. An apple a day does keep the doctor away and it's one of the best foods to buy for your wallet.
Related: Best Ways to Live Below Your Means
35. Green Tea
Green tea is a very inexpensive and healthy drink that is full of natural energy-boosting nutrients. Green tea has about half the amount of caffeine as a normal coffee but also has l-theanine, an important neurotransmitter that creates serotonin and dopamine. Green tea also has an appetite suppressant effect so you can drink it when you are having cravings outside of mealtime.
Quinoa is sometimes called a superfood due to its nutritional value. There is nothing really special about quinoa though, other than the fact that it's a grain that has a lot of protein per serving. Quinoa can provide a nice grainy texture to things and can serve as a substitute for things like brown rice or beans. It also makes a great substitute for pasta if you are trying to cut carbs.
Grapes cost up to $1.50 a pound, which is one of the cheapest foods as far as fruit goes. Grapes provide a healthy source of natural sugars and they have a sweet and tart flavor that goes great with salads, cheese, and other fruits. Toss some grapes and watermelon in a fruit salad and you have a delicious way to start your days.
Watermelon costs around 30 cents per cup up to about $4-$5 per melon. The food thing about watermelon is that a single fruit is so large. One watermelon provides enough fruit for a week straight. You can also mix watermelon with other fruits like grapes, apples, cantaloupe, and more to make a tasty fruit salad. Also, you can mix watermelon juice with water to make a boring drink exciting.
Like the other citrus fruits listed here, oranges are a great source of vitamin C and also provide good folate, potassium, and more. You can eat oranges or you can squeeze them to drink the juice. The fruit body contains healthy dietary fiber though so we recommend eating the body.
Garlic is one of those things you may not notice until it is gone. Garlic can provide a savory flavor to practically any dish. Add it to some sautéed vegetables or roast it in the oven whole and add to a dish. You can also mince garlic to make sauces and glazes. Garlic contains vitamins and minerals that might boost immune system functioning. Just remember to eat a mint afterward.
41. Canned Pumpkin
Pumpkin gets its characteristic orange flavor from carotenoids, the same things that make carrot orange. Pumpkin is chock full of folate, fiber, and other good nutrients. Whole pumpkins can be a bit expensive as you have to wait until they are really in season. But you can buy canned pumpkins in the grocery store. Canned pumpkin can be mixed to make smoothies, muffins, curries, and more.
Broccoli has very high levels of vitamin C and folate. Regular servings of broccoli are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease. This fibrous green vegetable is also versatile. You can steam it, boil it, bake it in the oven, or sauté it on the stove in a pan.
Broccoli is a great option if you're looking for the healthiest and cheapest food to buy.
Hot dogs are not healthy per se, but they can provide a tasty snack when you need a quick meal or for meal planning. Hot dogs have protein and if you get ground turkey ones, you can reduce your fat intake by a lot. Hot dogs can be garnished with tomatoes, pickles, onions, ketchup, mustard, and more. Turkey dogs with wheat buns are a decently healthy lunch.
44. Frozen Fruit
If you have a blender, then buying a pound or two of frozen fruit and frozen vegetables can give you a huge source of fruit for smoothies. You can buy bags of frozen melons, berries, mangos, and more. Mix them in a blender, add some greens, milk, or a banana for consistency, and you have a delicious and nutritious fruit snack to start your day. Canned fruit also works well for smoothies and other meal ideas.
While frozen fruit isn't necessarily the cheapest food, it provides enough nutrition to make it worth the cost.
If you need a cheap snack, then buy a big jar of popcorn kernels. Microwave popcorn in the bags can get expensive but you can buy a ton of raw popcorn kernels on their own and cook them on the stovetop with some butter and salt to make homemade stovetop popcorn. Popcorn with a little salt or butter is a fun snack that won't break your grocery budget.
Cheese is expensive when you buy the fancy gourmet blocks, but you can buy sliced cheese or cheese sticks for snacks and sandwiches. Some cheese on a sandwich can add a nice sharp flavor or can be used to make gooey grilled cheese with bread and butter. You can also just eat slices of cheese for a quick snack if you are hungry. Many cheap meal ideas will use cheese because of how filling it can be.
Squash has the same consistency as zucchini and cooks up similarly. You can cut a squash in half and bake them in the oven or you can spiralize it to make squash-getti, a low-carb alternative to pasta. Squash costs just under $1 per pound when in season and about $1.18 when not in season. You can use it to make casseroles, soups, pan dinners, and more.
Celery is a great broke-person food because it helps keep your blood sugar stable so you are less susceptible to hunger pangs and cravings. Celery makes a good snack to chew on and it's super cheap. You can cook it in a soup to add an earthy flavor. Celery and peanut butter is a great combination that gives you fat, fiber, and protein. This fat free food is perfect for any cheap grocery list.
49. Cooking Oil
Like yeast and baking soda, you don’t eat cooking oil but it’s necessary if you want a pantry that can make several things. Cooking oil adds a nice crispiness to things you cook. It brings out the flavor of veggies and ensures that they brown properly and get slightly crispy around the edges.
Frozen pizza can be a lifesaver when you are on a tight budget. Just buy a bunch of frozen cheese pizzas and add a portion of cooked veggies to each when you put them in the oven. Frozen pizza is not that healthy but the veggies will add nutritional value to the base of bread, sauce, and cheeses. Many college students have survived off frozen pizzas and other cheap foods.
When searching for cheap foods to buy, pizza should certainly be on the grocery shopping list. You can oftentimes purchase a frozen pizza for less than $7 or $8 which will feed a whole family.
Related: Frugal vs Cheap: What Are You?
Kiwi is a tasty and tart fruit that makes a nice alternative to melons for people who need something a bit more sour. A good kiwi has more vitamin C than an orange and they can be sliced up for fruit salads or eaten raw. Kiwis are a seasonal fruit so you can pick them up for cheap then the season is nigh.
52. Canned Soup
Canned soup in the soup aisle can cost as little as 90 cents a can, so you can stock up on lunch for less than $6 making it a perfect food to buy. Soup is really basic and you can add all kinds of things to it to make it a bit more interesting. You can add veggies, more protein, or more spices.
As far as leafy vegetables go, kale is one of the best ones that you can get. Kale is very high in vitamin K and iron. It is also a good source of dietary fiber and iron. Kale can be eaten raw like in salads or you can puree it to add some green to your smoothies and juices. You can also get frozen vegetables to mix with kale in a smoothie.
Chocolate is a great item to have in your pantry as it can add a bit of sweetness to whatever you make. Chocolate can be used for pancakes in the morning or you can just eat it raw. Pick some chocolate chips or chocolate bars to keep in your pantry.
Like quinoa, blueberries are sometimes called a superfood because they contain a very high level of antioxidants. A pound of blueberries costs about 60 cents per pound. Blueberries can be eaten whole, added to pancakes, or they can be blended into a delicious smoothie base.
No kitchen is complete without vinegar. You can use vinegar to add a savory slightly bitter flavor to any dish. Use it to make vinaigrettes for salads or pan sauce. Vinegar is especially useful for making a glaze for vegetables. It even has its use in baking and desserts. You can also use vinegar and baking soda to clear blocked sink drains.
57. Saltine Crackers
Saltine crackers are a great snack because they are super cheap and they are filling. You can eat saltines with meats and cheeses to make a small dinner plate or you can put peanut butter on them to get some oils and fats. Crackers of any sort are one of the cheapest grocery items you can pickup.
Like peanuts, almonds are a great source of iron and protein per pound. Almonds also contain good amounts of fats and fiber for healthy digestion. While nuts aren't always the cheapest groceries you can find, if you can find them on sale, they can be more affordable.
59. Canned Corn
Buying corn on the cob can be expensive when it is not in season but canned corn is always ready to go. Canned corn can be added to most dishes to add a slightly sweet source of fiber and protein. Corn is also a good source of energy so its a good cheap food to buy to keep your grocery budget intact.
Like green tea, coffee and espresso is a good stimulant that can help reduce your food cravings so you don’t eat too much. There is also some evidence that a cup of coffee a day may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s’. So add this one to you cheap foods list to save money. Want to make better coffee to save money instead of visiting your local cafe? Check out HeavenlyEspresso to learn all things about making affordable coffee from home.
61. Frozen Brussels Sprouts
Fresh brussel sprouts are one of the cheap foods but can be slightly expensive in grocery stores but you can often find frozen varieties on sale for cheap. Brussel sprouts are a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. They are also a great source of iron and vitamin B-6. You can cook brussels sprouts in the oven or you can sauté them in a pan with other fresh vegetables or frozen vegetables.
62. Hot Sauce
While hot sauce isn't necessarily a food, it can add flavor to many cheaper foods to make them more appetizing. A bottle of these flavorful sauces can cost less than $2 making it a good food to buy.
63. Canned Fruits
Outside of fresh fruit, canned fruits will usually be among the cheapest groceries you can find costing less than $1 per can.
Honey is a great alternative to sugar when you're looking to sweeten a dish. It also comes with many health benefits and can help to suppress seasonal allergies. Honey isn't always on the list of the cheapest groceries because local honey can actually be somewhat costly. But it is nutritional enough to be worth the cost.
You already know that tomatoes are a cheap food to buy hence the reason salsa can also be one of the cheapest foods to buy. Salsa pairs perfectly with the next cheap food on my list – chips.
If you're not worried about your overall health – chips makes the list of the cheapest groceries. Chips can go on the cheapest groceries list for many families but unfortunately they are extremely unhealthy.
67. Tomato Sauce
Tomato sauce is a perfect cheap food that is used in many dishes. You can pay less than a couple of dollars per jar of tomato sauce that should feed your entire family. The next time you grab pasta to prepare meals, be sure to include a few jars of cheap tomato sauces with it.
68. Frozen Meals
While not every frozen meal is considered “cheap”, there are plenty of cheaper options to can fill you up. Because these products are meant to be entire meals, it can help to save you money by avoiding other items.
Candy is one of the cheapest foods you can find, although it's certainly not on the list of healthiest foods. These sugar packed foods can serve as a cheap dessert alternative to help save you money on your next trip to the grocery.
There's nothing better on a cold day than a warm bologna sandwich. Best of all, it's a cheap food so your bank account won't be bothered.
Bologna can be very affordable and a tasty option for lunches and dinners.
Did you know there are tons of cheap smoothie recipes you can find that are both nutritious and affordable? While it's probably a little more expensive than Ramen noodles, they're much healthier and worth the money.
Cheapest Meals to Save Money
Some cheap meal ideas include:
- Grilled cheese
- Egg sandwiches
- Teriyaki chicken thighs and rice
- French toast
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How to Save Money at the Grocery Store
Your grocery budget is likely one of the larger items on your monthly budget. By using some of the methods below you can lower your grocery bill and save money.
Shop After Eating
When grocery shopping it's best to go on a full stomach to avoid purchasing foods you do not need.
Use Coupons for Cheap Groceries
Grocery shopping has changed over the years. Gone are the days of needing to clip coupons before your weekly trip. Now you can use digital coupons when grocery shopping to save you time and money.
If visiting a local grocery store you might still need to break out the scissors but it can be a good way to save cash each week.
Take Advantage of Sales
Many grocery stores will offer weekly sales that can save you money. When putting together a cheap grocery list, be sure to consult the weekly ad first.
Use Shopping Apps to Save Money
If you're looking to buy cheap groceries, why not use an app to cut some of the costs out?
With Ibotta, you can save cash each trip to the grocery when you scan your receipt. Need another reason to register? You'll get $20 for free with your first trip!
The cheapest groceries are often the generic brands. Most of the time they take extremely similar to their more expensive counterparts. If you're looking for cheap food to buy – go generic to save money.
Shop at Cheaper Stores
When shopping for groceries, you have many options. There are some grocers that are more expensive than others.
For example, shopping at an organic or whole foods store is going to cost you more money than cheaper alternatives like Walmart or a Dollar Tree.
Organize Your List Beforehand
Just as you shouldn't visit the grocery on an empty stomach, you'll also want to have a list prepared to avoid unnecessary purchases.
Shop Bargain Bins
Some stores will have bargain bins for items that are expiring soon or they need to get rid of. You can often find some meats (both white and dark meat) on sale with a drastically reduced price tag.
Final Thoughts on the Cheapest Foods
A lot of people look for ways to cut down on grocery spending and food spending when your food budget is low. So when you are broke, any of these 61 cheapest foods can be a lifesaver for your food budget. You can outfit your kitchen and pantry for weeks for relatively little money at the grocery store stick to buying cheap foods. And these cheapest foods are often pretty healthy too. Food prices don't need to get you down.
You can eat well and make delicious food with the cheapest foods ingredients if you are willing to get a bit creative in the kitchen. So save money in the grocery store by buying these cheap foods. Cheap foods don't have to be bad for you and you can eat well on a tight budget.
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