It’s hard to stick to a grocery budget, especially when you don’t know how to start. You might be tempted to buy the most expensive items at the store, but that’s not always the smartest decision.
We’ve done the research for you and put together a list of 49 affordable food items that will help you save money on your grocery bill. Check out these simple food staples and start planning your meals for the week ahead.
There are a few things to keep in mind when picking the cheapest groceries to buy.
First, cheap foods do not always mean unhealthy. Food prices fluctuate, but nutrition is a solid reason for picking fruits and vegetables that aren’t too expensive.
Second, it’s important to compare prices to help you save money on groceries. Look for sales before grocery shopping and think about where it will cost you less for most of your groceries.
This list includes affordable, nutritious cheap foods that will help you meal plan and stay on a budget without sacrificing flavor. But first things first- you need a budget!
Making A Food Budget
Creating a food budget is one of the best ways to save money, but being on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to skip out on healthy and delicious foods.
Here are some quick steps to make your successful budget:
- Decide how much you can afford to spend on food each month. Make sure to factor in other household expenses before deciding on a number.
- Look through our list of the cheapest groceries you can buy and pick out your favorite food staple, and research meal ideas to use that cheap food.
- Use a weekly meal planner like the Savvy Meal Planner to create a manageable plan for your family.
- Lastly, create a grocery list based on your cheap meal ideas and stick to it when grocery shopping at your local grocery stores.
Don’t forget to consider easy freezer meals to make meals easier at your house and save you time on busy school nights!
Cheapest Pantry Staples
Some of the cheapest groceries have a long shelf life and can be used in multiple recipes.
If you’re looking for some ideas for cheap meals to prep, plenty of recipes use these 19 pantry staples as their main ingredients.
Spices are an essential ingredient to make cheap foods taste more flavorful, regardless of how much they cost you at the store.
Many fresh vegetables can taste bland, but a sprinkle of garlic powder or chili powder can transform them into a delicious healthy meal.
In addition, spices can be a great way to stretch your grocery budget. A little bit goes a long way, so you can generally get more value by buying spices than other seasonings.
2. Favorite Condiments
Just like spices, condiments can make any meal taste gourmet! They’re cheap, easy to find, and can make cheap foods taste great.
My go-to’s are Korean BBQ sauce, hot sauce, and tahini, but your options are endless for condiments to improve any meal. You’re bound to find something for even the pickiest eater!
Sauces from the local grocery store are great for quick meals on crazy nights. For example, if you buy a $5 rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, you can add barbecue sauce to make pulled chicken sandwiches.
3. Cooking Oil
Cooking oil is a staple in any kitchen to cook properly. Oils can add flavor to the cheapest food without breaking the bank.
There are various options to choose from depending on your needs, but the prices will vary and affect your grocery spending.
Some oils like olive or avocado oil can be pretty expensive, while others like canola or vegetable oil are more affordable.
White or brown rice can stretch your budget and is used in a variety of meal-planning ideas.
It is a versatile ingredient in meal planning because it makes dishes go further and fill you up. Buying in bulk makes it very cheap, and then you have plenty to last you for a month or more.
If you’re looking for something more substantial, try adding ground beef or chicken to your brown rice. This simple protein-packed meal can be spiced up with sauces or seasonings.
Pasta is cheap food to buy when broke, as a couple of bucks isn’t bad for your grocery bill. It’s filling and easily dressed up or down with other cheap foods like sauce and peppers.
Consider buying frozen vegetables to add to your pasta dishes. Frozen veggies are usually cheaper than fresh vegetables and just as nutritious.
To save even more money, make a big batch of pasta at the beginning of the week and reheat leftovers for quick meals later in the week.
Whether you’re on a strict grocery budget or trying to eat healthily, popcorn is a great option to help you reach your goals.
Popcorn is a great snack and a family favorite for us! A single bag of popcorn is usually less than a dollar, making it an affordable option for a tight budget.
It’s also a very healthy, cheap food with essential nutrients like fiber and protein. Plus, popcorn is low in calories and fat, making it an excellent choice for losing weight or maintaining weight.
7. Generic Cereal
Regarding food spending, generic cereal is better for saving money. Generic is typically cheaper than name-brand cereal and can still provide good nutritional value with good taste.
Generic cereals are often made with the same grains and other ingredients as name-brand cereals to be just as healthy. It’s one of the cheapest foods to buy with a lot of variety, so you can change things up and find a good snack or breakfast for your mood.
8. Canned Beans/Lentils
If you’re looking for ways to eat healthy on a budget, don’t forget about canned beans!
They’re packed with protein, fiber, and more, and they can be used in a wide variety of recipes.
A can of beans typically costs less than $1, making for cheap healthy meals like soups or delicious side dishes.
9. Ramen Noodles
Ramen noodles are instant noodles made from wheat flour, salt, and water and typically feature a flavoring packet. They’re a staple of college students and budget-minded eaters everywhere.
In addition to being cheap and easy to make, ramen noodles are also highly versatile. They can be used in soups, stir-fries, salads, and desserts. You can add vegetables or meat for a more hearty, well-balanced meal.
And with so many different flavor packets available, this pretty cheap food can be a great way to add variety to your diet on a budget.
Flour is one of the most versatile ingredients you can buy when broke. Add it to your cheapest groceries list to help you stretch your budget further.
Four is perfect for making your own bread, pizza dough, pastries, etc. It’s one of the easiest ingredients to find on sale, and save money by making other staples yourself!
Buying a package of yeast may not seem like cheap food at first, but it’s a great way to save some money in the long run by making other kitchen staples at home.
A package of yeast can last for several months, and it’s a key ingredient in making homemade bread and more.
Sugar is another one of those ingredients essential for baking but can also be used in plenty of ways. It’s a great way to sweeten your coffee or tea and can be used in homemade sauces and marinades.
A bag of sugar is typically very inexpensive and has a long shelf life, making it an excellent option for those on a tight budget.
Whether you’re feeding a family or trying to make every dollar count for more, bread is a must-buy when broke.
A loaf of bread provides dozens of servings and can be used for everything from sandwiches and croutons to bread pudding and french toast.
Best of all, bread is good cheap food – in many cases, you can get a loaf for $1 or so, meaning you have the basis of dozens of meals for a small cost.
Tortillas are an excellent way to stretch your grocery budget. With a bit of creativity, they can be used to create delicious and healthy meals that won’t break the bank.
They can be served as a main entree with many types of meat, used as a wrap for sandwiches, or even made into chips.
Oats are one of the cheapest food additions to any diet. They’re packed with tons of nutritional value with fiber, protein, and antioxidants and have been shown to help lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar control, and promote healthy gut bacteria.
They are also very versatile: you can enjoy oatmeal or porridge for breakfast, add them to baked goods like muffins or cookies, or even use them as a topping for savory dishes like chicken or fish.
If you want an inexpensive way to add variety to your cheap groceries list, consider picking up a few tea boxes in different flavors.
From Earl Grey to chamomile, there is a tea flavor for everyone. And a box of tea bags can be as cheap as $2, and it will last you a long time.
Tea is not only a great way to relax at the end of the day, but it can also help you stay hydrated and save some money on expensive sodas and coffees.
17. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter should be on everyone’s cheapest groceries list! It’s an easy way to add protein, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals to your diet.
When buying peanut butter, look for natural brands that contain only peanuts and salt as the main ingredients. Avoid brands that contain added sugar, oils, or other unhealthy additives.
18. Canned Fruits
Next time you’re at the local grocery store buying cheap foods, pick up some canned fruit. Your taste buds—and your wallet—will thank you.
Canned fruit is a necessity if you’ve got kids who love fruit, but don’t want to pay for off-season prices. They are an affordable way to enjoy out-of-season produce that can also be used to make great sweets.
19. Canned Tomatoes
Canned tomatoes are one of the best-canned items to buy when broke. They can be used to make homemade tomato soup, chili, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, and salsa.
You can even blend them and make tomato sauce rather than buying jarred sauces, saving you more even money at many grocery stores.
Fruits and vegetables are the best cheap foods to buy, especially in season and from your local farms. We’ve saved a lot by sticking to local farmer’s markets!
With a little bit of meal planning, you can save some money on your grocery budget without sacrificing nutrition or taste.
When it comes to putting together a cheap grocery list, you want to add apples to it! They are one of the most affordable and cheap groceries when in season.
Fresh apples can be eaten as a fresh fruit snack or added to a fruit salad, while cooked apples make a delicious and budget-friendly dessert like apple crisp.
They can also be cooked down into homemade applesauce, which our girls love.
When it comes to eating healthy foods on a tight budget, bananas are one of the best cheap foods to buy. They are packed with nutrients, including potassium, vitamin C, and dietary fiber, and they have a relatively low-calorie count.
Best of all, bananas are very inexpensive, especially when compared to other types of fruit!
Oranges are one of the cheapest foods to buy for your grocery list, and you can eat them fresh, juice them, or even use them in recipes.
They’re inexpensive and available year-round and are a fan favorite for our kids to grab and snack on something quickly.
Broccoli is one of the best picks for fresh vegetables, and I love them with pasta dishes and just as a simple side when roasted in the oven.
I know it’s one of the so-so foods for kids, which I think is crazy, but if you put a little bit of cheese on them or add them to mac and cheese, they’ll woof it down for sure!
Spinach is an excellent cheap food that is a source of vitamins and minerals, including iron and calcium.
Many people avoid it because they don’t know all it can be used for! Here are some meal ideas for incorporating spinach:
- Add it to your berry smoothie or ham and cheese omelet for a nutrient boost- it hides beneath other flavors, I promise.
- Sauté it with garlic and olive oil as a simple side dish.
- Toss it into pasta or rice dishes for extra flavor and nutrition.
25. Iceberg Lettuce
Iceberg lettuce is one of the cheapest groceries that you can buy. It’s super cheap and is an excellent source of nutrients, and it even has vitamin C.
Lettuce is a great way to get your daily dose of vegetables and is very versatile. You can also use it to make wraps more healthy.
Carrots are versatile root vegetables that can be used in various dishes and have a slightly sweet taste that goes with so many things. They are an excellent source of vitamin c for the kiddos too.
Carrots are often used in a stir-fry with peppers, as it helps to retain their nutrients while also giving them a slightly crispy texture. I like to cut them up small and roast them for an easy side dish.
Peppers are a cheap food to buy and go into many different meals.
One of the most popular meal ideas for using peppers is stir fry, but you can add them to your pasta sauce or tacos or make stuffed peppers
You can get them in a pack of frozen vegetables to get a little bit of everything for a bunch of different meal ideas or buy them fresh on their own.
Onions are a staple in many dishes, and they’re also a cheap and easy way to add flavor to meals. Onions are so cheap and healthy because they’re low in calories and high in nutrients. They’re also a good source of antioxidants, which can help protect your body against disease.
Onions are a great addition to any diet, but they’re especially beneficial for people who are trying to lose weight or manage their blood sugar levels. They’re also a good choice for anyone who wants to boost their overall health.
Here are a few meal ideas for how to use onions:
- Saute diced onions and add them to omelets or scrambled eggs.
- Caramelize onions by slow-cooking them in oil until they’re golden brown. Add them to grilled cheese sandwiches or top a burger for an extra special treat.
Cucumbers are one of the cheapest foods you can buy, especially if you purchase them at a farmer’s market.
One cucumber typically costs less than $1, and they’re an easy way to add more flavor and veggies to your salad or snack on them with some good dips.
Celery is also one of the most healthy cheap foods to buy – a great option for budget-minded shoppers. So next time you’re at the grocery store, don’t pass up the celery!
This crunchy, low-calorie vegetable contains nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. You can add them to salads (don’t forget chicken salad), homemade soups, and even omelets for some extra crunch.
31. Frozen Vegetables
If you’re on a budget, frozen vegetables are a great cheap food to buy and just as healthy as fresh veggies.
They’re typically cheaper than fresh, they last longer, and you can easily bake them on a sheet pan with some seasonings to eat with any meal.
Some of our favorites include sweet potato fries, green beans, and carrots. Plus, you should grab a stir-fry mix for some variety.
32. Frozen Berries
You can also save some money by buying frozen fruit instead of fresh fruit. Since they’re already frozen, you don’t have to worry about them going bad before you can use them.
Just check the label to make sure you’re getting 100% fruit. Some brands add sugar or other ingredients to their frozen fruit, so be sure to read the label before you buy.
A few items will always be super cheap, no matter when you buy them. Potatoes fit the bill perfectly for an item to buy when broke and looking for cheaper foods with several meal ideas.
You can do many things with potatoes. One meal idea is a baked potato with whatever you want on top of it, like cheese, broccoli, and chicken.
When it comes to stocking your pantry on a budget, proteins are often one of the most expensive items on your grocery list.
But there are plenty of ways to get your protein fix without breaking the bank.
Eggs can be used in a variety of dishes or by themselves. They are one of the cheapest foods to buy, especially when compared to other protein sources like meat or tofu.
A dozen eggs typically cost less than $3, making them a budget-friendly option with plenty of uses.
Eggs can be boiled, scrambled, or made into an omelet, and they go well with various other ingredients. Add an egg to brown rice and vegetables to make a quick and healthy stir fry.
35. Ground Beef
Ground meat is a cheap source of protein that can be used in a variety of dishes, from tacos to meatloaves, and it is typically very budget-friendly.
When grocery shopping for ground beef, look for marked-down products close to their expiration date. These products will be discounted and still fresh and safe to eat.
In addition, ground beef can be frozen, so don’t hesitate to stock up if you find a good deal.
36. Ground Turkey
One of the cheapest foods to buy is ground turkey. It’s leaner than ground beef, so overall, it’s a healthier option to avoid more fats and calories.
Like beef, you can tacos, stir fry, and meatloaf- it’s all the same meal ideas with a little bit of a healthier twist.
Plus, freeze ground turkey when you find good sales. It’s an excellent option to keep on hand for those nights when you need a quick and easy cheap dinner.
Sausage is an affordable and delicious option for your cheap grocery list that can be used in everything from breakfast dishes to dinner casseroles.
If you are looking for meal ideas, consider using sausage in a frittata, omelet, or quiche. You can also add it to pasta, rice, or soups.
38. Chuck Roast
Chuck roast is a cut of beef that is typically less expensive than other cuts of beef, making it great if you’re on a budget and looking for different meal ideas.
For example, you could slowly cook it in a crockpot or Instant Pot for pulled beef sandwiches or tacos or simply dice it for beef stew. No matter how you prepare it, chuck roast is delicious and affordable meat to add to your meal-planning ideas!
39. Chicken Thighs or Drumsticks
Chicken thighs are another great source of protein and are usually one of the cheapest foods to buy- even cheaper than chicken breasts.
They’re also more flavorful and juicier, making them an excellent option for various recipes. You can cook them almost the same as you would chicken breasts, including cutting the meat from the bone to add it to soups or casseroles.
Bologna is one of the cheapest foods to buy. You can put it in sandwiches, dice it up and add it to salads, or even fry it up as a main dish.
Bologna is also made in different ways, so you can try various brands to suit your taste. Check the nutrition label before you buy, as some varieties can be high in fat and sodium.
41. Hot Dogs
Hot dogs are one of the cheapest foods to buy that your kids will love, and you can cook them quickly for nights on the go.
You can enjoy hot dogs plain or dress them up with your favorite toppings. They’re a great source of protein to add to mac and cheese, fried rice, and omelets for something different!
42. Canned Fish
Canned fish, like tuna or salmon, is a cheap but nutritious option for your grocery list. It’s a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Canned fish is better to buy when broke, and you can make cheap meals like tuna salad or casserole in a flash.
43. Canned Chicken
Canned chicken is an excellent option for those looking for the cheapest groceries that are also healthy. This protein-rich food can be used in various ways, from chicken salad sandwiches to casseroles.
While the quality and taste of canned chicken can vary, some brands offer a good product at a reasonable price.
Anyone who has ever gone grocery shopping knows that dairy products are not some of the cheapest groceries to buy.
But there are ways to save some money on dairy without sacrificing quality or taste.
Milk is a staple in many households, but it can be expensive. There are a few ways to save on milk for the budget-conscious shopper.
One option is to buy generic brands, which usually don’t taste all that different!
Another way to save some money is to buy milk in larger containers and plan to use it all rather than waste it. A gallon of milk costs less per ounce than a half-gallon, so buying more saves you more.
45. Butter Or Margarine
When it comes to a cheap grocery list, there are a few essential items that you can permanently save some money on by opting for the cheaper option—for example, butter or margarine.
If you’re on a tight budget, consider using margarine instead of butter to save cash without sacrificing taste or quality. Margarine is typically cheaper than butter, though butter does have a richer taste.
Use butter for some dishes that need that buttery flavor, but use margarine on others that have a lot of other seasonings to provide flavor.
46. Plain Yogurt
Plain yogurt is relatively inexpensive, making it one of the cheapest foods and an excellent option for budget-conscious shoppers.
Plain yogurt can be used in place of sour cream or mayonnaise in recipes or enjoyed as a healthy snack by adding honey and canned fruit to it. You can buy it in bulk to save money and have it on hand for other cheap meals on your list.
47. Cottage Cheese
What makes cottage cheese one of the best cheap foods to buy? It’s rich in protein and calcium and can be a good source of vitamins A and B12.
It can be used in dishes like dips, salads, sauces, and baked goods, such as muffins and pancakes.
Try pairing cottage cheese with whole-grain bread or crackers or adding it to your favorite soup or chili recipe for a budget-friendly meal.
48. Sour Cream
Sour cream is a versatile dairy product that can be used in various dishes. While it is often used as a topping for baked potatoes, it can also be used in soups, stews, and casseroles.
In addition, sour cream can be mixed with other cheap foods (even frozen vegetables) to make a dip or spread.
49. Block Cheese
Block cheese is another top pick for cheap foods because it’s more adaptable and cost-effective than pre-shredded or grated food. You pay for convenience with shredded and sliced cheeses, and you can do the same stuff with block cheese for a lower cost!
It is an excellent method to give taste and protein to any meal, whether you’re slicing it for a sandwich or grating it over a bowl of pasta.
Tips To Save Money On Groceries (& More!)
Food prices always seem to be rising, so it’s essential to be mindful of your spending, especially when you buy when broke.
When it comes to saving more money on groceries, we’ve got a few apps to help you find the cheapest groceries:
Capital One Shopping
Who doesn’t love a good deal?
With Capital One Shopping, you can save on your grocery list when you buy online.
Simply install the extension and start grocery shopping as usual. Capital One Shopping will search for coupons and deals on the items you’re buying and apply them at checkout.
One helpful tool to help you save more money is Honey, a free app that you add to your browser.
It helps you save money on your groceries by looking for price drops and coupons for your food orders. You can even set up price alerts, so you’ll always know when an item goes on sale for a lower price.
Ibotta is another app to save money when you need to buy food. It offers cashback rewards on certain items, which can help you save money on your overall grocery bill.
Ibotta also provides exclusive coupons and deals on popular items, so you can get the best prices on the items you need.
By signing up for Rakuten, you can instantly start receiving coupons and discounts on your groceries.
Just like our other programs, Rakuten also offers a cashback program to earn money while you shop.
Hopefully, our list of the cheapest food has given you some options for your next grocery trip. By being mindful of your spending, you can further your budget and stock your pantry with some cheap foods.
And don’t forget, even when things still seem expensive, there are ways to save!
Take advantage of apps and websites that offer cash back, coupons, and discounts on cheap groceries to save even more money.