Cheapest Groceries List: 31 Cheap Foods To Buy When Broke

Best Cheap Groceries To Buy On A Tight Budget

Having hungry little mouths to feed at home while your family is on a tight budget can add a lot of pressure on you as a parent. Or maybe you’re a college student and simply need to find cheaper meal solutions?

When times are hard, making sacrifices and cutting back on name brand products or your favorite foods may be something you’re not looking forward to, but it is necessary. 

What you need is a way to stretch out every last penny and add more bang to your buck. One way of doing this is knowing the right foods to stock up on that will fill your pantry with more meal solutions, while at the same time, at a much lower cost.

Even if you’re not struggling financially, there are still several ways you could be saving yourself some money. Below I go over the cheapest groceries list of food to buy when broke.

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white kitchen with cheap healthy groceries in brown paper bags spilling out on counter

Inexpensive Grocery Categories:

The cheapest groceries are going to fall under the following categories:

  • Dried goods
  • Canned goods
  • Seasonal produce
  • Pantry staples
  • Seasoning/Flavorings

To save money on dried goods, its best to buy them from bulk bins or warehouse stores such as Costco. Canned goods can also be purchased in larger quantities at a wholesale price.

With produce, it’s important to buy what’s in season and avoid the more exotic fruits and vegetables. Frozen vegetables are a great option since they’re flash-frozen soon after being picked but the cost is less than that of fresh.

Pantry staples are the items that do well being stored over time. Generally, this includes a lot of groceries used for baking. Seasonings and other flavorings can be found inexpensively and completely change the taste of a meal.

✅ To save even more money on groceries, use the apps Ibotta and Rakuten (formerly Ebates) to upload your grocery receipts and earn cash back.


Cheap Groceries List:

Below are my picks for the best groceries to buy when you’re broke. By focusing on these food items, your budget can stretch the farthest.

1) Lentils

Not only are lentils cheap, but they also stretch out meals and leave you feeling full quicker. Lentils are packed with nutrition and are a great protein substitute for meat in soups or chili.   

2) Boxed Pasta 

Boxed pasta isn’t necessarily the healthiest item on our list.  If you stock up on ones that contain whole grain, it’s actually a healthy meal. One box of pasta will be enough for your entire family, just don’t forget the sauce.  

3) Brown & White Rice

Rice is another food that can stretch your meals while costing you very little. It can also be added to countless dishes so that you never become bored with it. 

Brown rice is your healthier option while helping you maintain lower cholesterol levels and aiding your indigestion. If buying a 25 or 50lb bag, white rice may be better since it stores longer before going rancid like brown rice.

4) Rolled Oats

One cheap food that’s certainly healthy for your family is rolled oats. It contains fiber and other important vitamins. You can enjoy them for breakfast with a little milk and some sliced fruit, or use it to make an oat bar or oatmeal cookies.  

5) Popcorn 

Popcorn is a fairly healthy snack high in fiber that tastes great popped over the stove. Buying dried popcorn kernels is much less expensive than bags of microwave popcorn.

6) Dry Beans

Dried beans are another super cheap way to get your family the protein that they need. They’re filling. Plus, there are so many types of beans out there to choose from. No matter which dried beans are your favorite, you can expect plenty of vitamins and minerals in them.  

7) Tomato Sauce 

Tomato sauce can be used in so many different meal solutions and is very affordable. Of course, you could always add it to tortellini or risotto, but maybe instead of using it for chili or on top of eggplant instead? 

8) Tofu 

If meat is not an option in your home, tofu is a cheap route to go for your family’s protein. You can put tofu in a salad, tacos, quiche, stir fry and use it in several other ways.  Many warehouse stores sell large packs of tofu.

9) Lettuce

Lettuce is also affordable, and seeing your children eating anything green is a good thing. Even cheap iceberg lettuce is high in vitamin C and other vitamins.

fresh produce piled with lettuce, carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes

10) Carrots

A small bag of carrots is a healthy snack for well under $2. You can easily add carrots to soups and stews to add bulk and nutrients.

11) Onions 

It’s nice to have a bunch of onions on hand to add more flavor to your meals. Onions have a decent shelf life, so there’s little to worry about using them up right away. 

12) Garlic

A little bit of garlic will amplify your meals a lot. Just like onions, garlic has a long shelf life so you can have it on hand and use it when needed.

13) Cabbage 

Cabbage also contains several vitamins and minerals and costs very little to buy. It can be enjoyed in stir fry, coleslaw, or roasting them.  

14) Spinach

Spinach has become so popular as a fresh green that the prices are super low. It can be added to almost anything to add healthy greens. Blend spinach in a smoothie with an overripe banana and you won’t even notice the taste.

15) Potatoes 

Buying potatoes in bulk is extremely cost-effective, and they last for a long time as well. They can be used in a number of recipes, or simply mashed, baked or fried. 

16) Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are nutritional powerhouses and only cost slightly more than regular potatoes. To keep them healthy, bake them and add toppings of vegetables.

17) Apples

It’s convenient to buy a bag of apples that can last in the refrigerator longer than most other fruits out there. They have a long shelf life. Some apples can be quite pricey per pound, but if you hunt around, there should be a bag of apples for a pretty reasonable price. 

18) Bananas 

As far as fruit goes, it doesn’t get much cheaper than a bunch of bananas. They are packed with potassium and vitamin C. They also taste great in a pudding or made into a yummy banana nut bread.  

19) Watermelon

Watermelon prices tend to drop when they are in peak season, making a sweet and satisfying, tasty snack. 

cut watermelon in bowls with gingham and burlap cloth with blue slat background flat lay

20) Frozen Vegetables

When you’re worried about not using up fresh vegetables fast enough, go with frozen vegetables that are just as nutritious. You can find a bag of frozen vegetables for as little as $1-1.50. They can be steamed or put in soups, stir fry and even a delicious pot pie. 

21) Frozen Fruit 

Frozen fruit is also reasonably priced and can be used at your discretion. They can be enjoyed in a smoothie, with cereal, or mix them in plain yogurt for more flavor. 

22) Bread

Sticking to store brand whole grain or whole wheat varieties will give you the most bang for your buck. By eating whole grains, you’ll get more nutrition and stay full longer when compared to the white versions.

23) Cornmeal 

Cornmeal is one of those staple ingredients that should be in everyone’s food pantry. People use it to make biscuits, cakes, cookies and much more. 

24) Flour

It’s all about giving yourself more options when you’re on a tight budget. Flour is a versatile ingredient that will do just that, helping you create several different meals and desserts with it. 

25) Cream of Wheat

If you get sick of oats for breakfast, then cream of wheat is a good inexpensive option. It can be made savory or sweet depending on what you add to it.

26) Baking Soda 

Baking soda has more than just cooking purposes that come along with it. Many people even use baking soda because of its cost-effectiveness for cleaning tough stains and eliminating odors. 

27) Peanut Butter 

If you have children living under your roof, running out of peanut butter isn’t a smart move on your part. It’s full of protein and never gets old alongside jelly and fluffy white bread.  

chunky peanut butter in jar with spoon and wooden bowl with whole peanuts on wooden slat background flat lay

28) Salsa

It’s usually less expensive to buy jars of already made salsa than to purchase all the ingredients to make your own. You can eat salsa as a snack or toss it with some potatoes, rice, and beans for a flavorful meal.

29) Vinegar

One great way to add enhanced flavor to several of your homemade dishes is by adding vinegar to the mix. A gallon will cost you around $2, and you’ll be able to add flavoring to a salad or create your own marinades.   

30) Bouillon Powder 

Bouillon powder may seem expensive, but it can add flavor to several meals down the road. There’s even vegetable flavoring for those of you that don’t enjoy eating meat. 

31) Spices 

It’s boring to eat food that has very little flavor. Fortunately, Spice Supreme and several other cheaper brands can make stocking up on your favorite spices much more affordable.  


Conclusion

I hope this cheapest groceries list helps you stretch your family’s monthly food budget. Being frugal at the grocery store and stocking up on cheaper foods doesn’t mean that you have to prepare meals that forfeit your family’s healthy eating habits.

In fact, you’ll be cutting out more visits to the drive-thru each week, which wasn’t doing your family any favors anyway. What are some other cheap foods that you stock up on for your family that help to create healthy meals?     

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Steffa Mantilla

Budgeting & Debt Payoff Expert

Steffa is the founder behind Money Tamer. After paying off over $80,000 in debt through budgeting, she now teaches families how to get their own finances in order. Steffa’s background in operant conditioning and behavioral husbandry has given her an understanding of motivation and motivators. She uses this training to help people understand the reasons “why” behind their money behaviors and how to successfully change them. You can learn more about her here.

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