Best Cheap Food to Buy When You’re on a Budget
Cheapest Food to Buy to Save Money
Buying food for your family can get expensive!
Since it’s a necessity, it’s a good idea to constantly look for ways to cut back on your grocery bill.
Whether you’re broke or just on a strict budget, one of the best ways to save money on groceries is to buy cheap food that you can stretch throughout the week.
The phrase “cheap food on a budget” may be a turn-off for some people.
But just because the food on this list is cheap doesn’t mean your family won’t love eating it!
On top of being inexpensive, most of the food on this list is very versatile.
Here are 27 delicious foods that are easy on the wallet and help you stretch your food budget just a little bit further.
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Cheap Food to Buy When You’re Broke
If you’re broke right now or struggling to make it to pay day, finding cheap food to buy is essential.
But not just any cheap food will do when you’re trying to stretch your dollar!
You also need food that’s going to last until you get paid.
These cheap foods will give you the most bang for your buck, which means they’re perfect when you’re broke.
One of the best cheap foods you can buy when you’re broke is beans e.g. black beans, kidney beans.
I would also include garbanzo beans (chickpeas) as they’re technically in the same legume family and often used similarly in recipes and meals.
Beans provide plenty of protein, so they’re sure to fill you up.
And they last a long time without going bad, which means you can save even more by buying in bulk.
Dry beans are often your best bet when searching for the cheapest food to buy, but canned beans can also be a budget-friendly option.
In addition to being cheap, rice is also a versatile option when you’re broke.
It’s cheap to buy and a little bit goes a long way in most recipes, which makes it a must-have cheap food.
While white rice is often cheaper, brown rice is a healthier choice that is more filling.
Like rice, pasta is another budget-friendly food option when you’re broke.
You can serve it as a meal on its own or add meat and cheese to dress it up.
Choose dried pasta to get the biggest bang for your buck.
Like beans, lentils can add some protein to your meals without spending a ton of money.
They’re a great protein option when you’re broke.
Oatmeal is a great investment.
It’s a budget-friendly breakfast food that will last your family a while.
And on top of being cheap, it’s also a healthy choice for your family because it’s packed with fiber.
From toast to sandwiches, there are a variety of ways to use a loaf of bread when you’re broke.
7. Canned tomatoes
While purchasing fresh tomatoes may be out of the question when you’re broke, canned tomatoes are a great option.
Any variety of tomatoes are a good choice – from diced tomatoes to tomato sauces.
Add some flavor to your cheap food by purchasing some onions.
Onions are a pantry staple that last a long time and can be used in a variety of dishes.
Another budget-friendly way to add flavor to your meals is with fresh garlic.
You don’t need much to pack a punch, which means this produce will last a while in your pantry.
While most fresh fruit may be out of the question when you’re broke, bananas are always a budget-friendly choice since they’re in season year-round.
To make the most of your banana purchase, buy smaller bananas in the bunch.
11. Peanut butter
High in protein and delicious, peanut butter is a great choice when you’re broke.
Make your own baked goods at home to save money by adding flour to your cheap grocery list.
Purchasing broth can sometimes get expensive, but bouillon is a great alternative.
It can add flavor to tons of dishes – especially rice and beans – making it a great choice for your grocery list when you’re broke.
With so many different ways to prepare them – from baking them to frying them – potatoes are a great item to add to your grocery list when you’re on a budget.
15. Sweet potatoes
You can also get great deals on sweet potatoes at the grocery store, allowing you to add something sweet and filling to your grocery list.
Finding cheap fresh vegetables when you’re on a budget can be difficult, but carrots are often the exception.
You can usually find great deals on carrots in the produce section of your grocery store.
Making a salad is a great choice when you’re broke because lettuce is a cheap produce option that usually fits in any budget.
This versatile protein is another wonderful choice when you’re on a budget.
Eggs can be used on their own or mixed with other ingredients to create a variety of delicious meals.
Salsa isn’t just for dipping!
When you’re short on fresh produce but need to add some flavor to a dish, salsa is a great substitution for fresh tomatoes.
20. Frozen vegetables
If you’re on a budget, fresh produce may be out of the question.
But you can often get frozen vegetables for a good price – and most varieties of frozen veggies taste almost as good as fresh ones.
Fresh fruits are a great way to add some vitamins to your diet, but they may not be affordable when you’re on a budget.
Apples are usually a good bet when you’re trying to save money on your groceries because they’re in season most of the year.
Choose cheaper varieties, like gala, to save even more.
22. Frozen fruit
When your favorite fruits aren’t in season, purchasing them fresh may be out of your budget.
But you can usually find good deals on cheap frozen fruit.
While most meat can increase your grocery spending, you can typically buy tuna for a cheap price, making it a great choice for your budget.
Make sure your family gets their daily dairy intake with milk.
It’s the cheapest dairy product you’ll find at the store, making it a great choice when you’re on a budget.
25. Cottage cheese
Another budget-friendly option in the dairy section is cottage cheese.
It’s a filling snack that’s also healthy and cheap.
Although most snack food isn’t a great option when you’re broke, popcorn kernels are a great way to enjoy a snack while on a budget.
Just use a little bit of oil to pop it on the stove for an easy (and cheap) snack.
When you’re on a budget, the last thing you want to do is eat bland food.
Look for budget friendly spices that pep up dishes to add flavor to your meals without overspending.
Pantry staples, like salt and pepper, are essential.
And all-in-one spice mixes, like all purpose seasoning, can spice up a variety of dishes without the need to purchase several spices at a time.
How to Find Cheap Food
While the items listed above are some of the best cheap food to buy when you’re broke, they’re not the only options!
Sometimes, you can find great deals on food that may otherwise be out of your budget.
Finding deals on groceries takes a little bit of extra work, but it’s worth it in the end.
These simple tips can help you find cheap food:
1. Shop around
If you have a variet of grocery stores to choose from, take the time to shop around before making your purchases.
The easiest way to find deals on groceries is to check each store’s weekly ad.
Most grocery store circulars can be found on the store’s website.
Scan each circular to find the best deals on the items you’ll need, then buy only what’s on sale at each store. The best deals are often on the first and last page.
You may have to visit a few different stores to complete your list, but you’ll save money as you’re shopping.
To save time, you can use Flipp, which is an app that gives you access to all of the weekly flyers and helps you quickly search for the best deals that week.
For example, if you’re looking for bananas, you can type it into the search box and within seconds, view which supermarket has the best price!
This app is especially helpful if you’re going to a price matching retailer like Walmart! Flipp also has coupons!
2. Compare prices
As you’re shopping make a note of the store’s prices on various items.
To make comparing prices easier, consider creating a price comparison sheet for items you commonly buy for your family.
You can use this sheet as a reference to help you find great deals as you’re shopping and while you’re planning your weekly grocery list.
Just make sure you’re using unit prices so you’re comparing apples to apples.
If you’re looking for a simple price comparison sheet:
3. Shop in-season
Fresh produce can quickly get expensive.
But if you purchase items during the season they grow, you can find great deals on cheap fruits and vegetables.
That means you’ll be able to add fresh produce to your shopping list when you’re on a budget!
Follow this seasonal cycle to save money on produce:
- Spring: mushrooms, pineapple, artichokes, lettuce, peas, asparagus, cherries, mangoes, and okra
- Summer: summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash), peppers, tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapes, berries, apricots, corn, peaches, cucumbers, green beans, kiwi, eggplant, and plums
- Fall: squash (acorn, butternut, and spaghetti), apples, pomegranates, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, beets, cabbage, cranberries, grapes, mushrooms, spinach, oranges, and tangerines
- Winter: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, lemons, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, and turnips
4. Purchase meat on sale
Meat can often be the biggest expense when you’re grocery shopping.
That means you’ll have to pay extra attention to the sales cycles when buying your meat.
Take an inventory of the cost of different meat varieties and cuts when it’s not on sale so you’ll know when you’ll be getting a great deal.
5. Purchase cheaper cuts of meat
Another great way to save money on meat when you’re shopping is to look for cheaper cuts of meat.
These meat cuts are often much cheaper than their expensive counterparts:
- Chicken thighs and legs
- Whole chickens
- Ground beef or turkey
- Flat or chuck steaks
- Pork shoulder
6. Check the clearance section
In most grocery stores, you’ll find a dedicated section of clearance items.
Before you check out, be sure to check the clearance area to find deals on cheap food.
It’s also a good idea to scan the aisles as you shop – especially in the dairy, meat, and freezer sections – to find items marked down on the shelves, too.
Buying those 30-50% off stickered products are some of the best deals you can get at the grocery store!
More Tips for Saving Money on Groceries
On top of seeking out the cheapest foods when you’re on a budget, there are tons of other great ways to save money on groceries!
Consider these simple tips while you’re shopping to help stretch your food budget when you’re broke.
7. Don’t let those clearance items go bad
Don’t work hard to save money on your groceries only to let them go bad.
Many grocery items are on clearance because they’re about to expire.
Make sure to check the expiration dates and freeze any food that you won’t be able to use right away.
8. Cut back on packaged foods
Packaged and prepared foods are great for getting food on the table quickly, but they usually aren’t the most budget-friendly option when you’re broke.
Purchasing the ingredients to prepare meals from scratch can help you stretch your budget and make the food you buy last longer.
9. Save money by baking from scratch
Purchasing basic baking staples, like flour and sugar, is a great investment when you’re on a budget.
You can make your own bread and sweets from scratch, allowing you to save even more money on your grocery bill each week.
10. Purchase dried goods in bulk
Budget-friendly dried goods, like beans and rice, are great options when you’re broke because they are shelf-stable for a long time.
That means you can easily save more money on these purchases by buying in bulk.
Just make sure you have room to store your big purchases!
11. Cut back on meat
I’ve already talked about how expensive meat can get, which means you can save money on groceries by cutting back on the amount of meat you consume.
While protein is an essential element of a healthy diet, there are a variety of meatless options for protein that fit in your budget, like lentils and beans.
12. Freeze what you don’t use
If you have leftover food/ingredients or buy in bulk and can’t eat everything before it expires, take the time to freeze the extra food for later.
The next time you’re short on cash and out of food, you can reheat those frozen extras to stretch your grocery budget a little bit further.
One tool that helps with having extra food is a separate freezer.
Getting an extra freezer is a topic my husband and I debated about for a while.
With our growing family and fridges not lasting as long as they used to, we decided to get one. It’s been incredibly handy!
Naturally, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of an extra freezer.
A separate freezer means more electricity consumption, but it also provides more space for stocking up (and less food waste if your fridge breaks down, which happened to us a few times!).
When shopping for freezers, I highly recommend going with an upright freezer as opposed to a chest freezer as it’s easier to organize and see what you have.
You won’t have to dig through piles of food to get to the bottom of the freezer.
13. Save money with coupons
While most coupons offer a few cents off a purchase, if you use them wisely, those savings can really add up.
Pair your coupons with sales to save even more money each time you shop.
14. Sign up for the loyalty card
If your grocery store has a loyalty program, make sure to sign up.
Most grocery stores require a loyalty card to get the best deals, so having that card is essential if you’re hoping to save money on your purchase.
15. Purchase whole items instead of ones prepared for you
While buying pre-shredded cheese and sliced vegetables may be more convenient, you often pay the price for that convenience.
Instead, save money by purchasing the whole item and doing the work for yourself.
For example, block cheese and full produce is often much cheaper than their prepared counterparts.
16. Use what you have
Before you head out to the grocery store, consider shopping your pantry for your next meal.
By taking a look at the food you already have at home, you may be able to push back your grocery trip another day.
17. Get cash back
To earn cash back, simply go shopping as you normally would.
When you get home, pull out your phone and scan the qualifying items you purchased. Finish by scanning your receipt and submitting everything in the app to earn your rewards.
Related: If you’re looking for more ideas, here are the best ways to save money on groceries.
Final Thoughts on Cheap Food When You’re on a Budget
Purchasing cheap food at the grocery store can be a great way to save your money for something better.
Whether you’re working on paying down your debt or just want to save up for something special, slashing your grocery budget by buying cheap food is an easy way to budget your money.
Recap of Cheapest Foods on a Budget
- Canned tomatoes
- Peanut butter
- Sweet potatoes
- Frozen vegetables
- Frozen fruit
- Cottage cheese
Resources for Saving Money
Looking for other ideas to save money?
Here are my favorite money saving resources:
Rakuten (formerly Ebates) allows you to get cash back for shopping online at over 2500 stores – many of which you would normally shop at like Amazon, eBay, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Target etc. It’s FREE to sign up.
To top it off, for U.S. residents, Rakuten will give you a welcome bonus of $10 after making your first online purchase of $25 or more.
For Canadians, it’s a $5 welcome bonus for signing up.
Honey is an application that looks at the items in your cart and helps you search for coupon codes. If it finds relevant codes, it enters them AUTOMATICALLY! You never have to search for coupon codes online again!
It also has other money saving features like cash back, price drop notifications, and a price history. It’s also FREE to use.
Here’s my detailed review on Honey here.
3. $5 meal plan
If you spend hours meal planning every week only to stress out some days and eat out, you might be interested in the $5 meal plan.
For $5/month, they send you a weekly meal plan where every meal will cost approximately $2/person! They save you time and money so that you can focus on doing things you enjoy like hanging with your kid!
They offer a 14 day FREE trial (approximately 40 recipes) – regular or gluten-free – that you can cancel at any time with no questions asked.
4. Amazon Prime
This membership has 2 great benefits: free 2 day shipping and free access to movies, TV shows, music and books.
You no longer have to worry about last minute items. You can cancel your other movie, music and book subscription services. You can also get 20% off diapers and baby food when you have more than 5 subscriptions.
Get the Amazon 30 day FREE trial here. You can cancel at anytime. No questions asked.
Related Ideas for Food on a Budget
- No Spend Challenge: How to Not Spend Money for 30 days or More
- Honey Review: How to get the Best Prices Available
- Ebates Review: How to Make and Save Money Fast
- Best Money Saving Tips to Save You $1000’s
- 18 Things to Stop Buying to Save Money Every Day
- 11 Ridiculously Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries
- EyeBuyDirect Review: How to Get Glasses for Cheap Prices
- Easy Budgeting Tips for Beginners
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