Are you on a tight budget, so you’re looking for ways to save money on food and where to buy them?
In 2021, the US Department of Agriculture reported that households with high income spent $12,245 on food. But you don’t need to spend such an amount of money on groceries alone. There are cheap and healthy foods that you can buy if you know where to find them.
We've gathered the list of cheap food to buy and their latest prices from stores. Make sure to read until the end so you can make a grocery list on a budget and avoid spending more than necessary.
Why Are the Benefits of Buying Cheap Groceries?
Most people assume that cheap means unhealthy food. But that’s not the case because you can buy nutrient-rich food without emptying your wallet.
Here are some of the benefits of buying healthy, inexpensive food:
- Provides health benefits while allowing you to save extra money
- Trains you to budget your food expenses before going to the grocery
- Encourages you to eat in moderation so you can avoid health issues
- Helps you to discover the best places to shop for cheap yet nutritious food
So what is considered low-cost food?
Usually, cheap food will not cost more than $10, even if it requires several ingredients. However, if you buy a particular food item per pound or ounce, it must not go over the $5 mark to be considered inexpensive.
What Cheap Foods Can You Buy on a Budget?
Check out this list for the cheapest foods to buy when you’re broke. Here, you’ll find meat, protein sources, fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and pantry staples. It includes snacks because you also need to treat yourself.
All of the food items in the following list will help you cut costs on expenses.
Meat and proteins
Include eggs on your next grocery list if you want an easy-to-cook meal. Brown free-range eggs are packed with nutrients that support weight management.
Plus, it’s a cheap food that lasts long. Remember to store eggs in your refrigerator to extend shelf life.
Cost: 1.55 per dozen
Aside from being an excellent protein source, beans are also high in fiber. Choose between dried or canned beans for your next grocery shopping.
More importantly, it helps reduce cholesterol, decrease blood sugar, and increase healthy gut bacteria.
Pair them with soups, mashed potatoes, hummus, tacos, and chili.
Cost: $1.79 per pound
Cook bologna on days when you’re looking for fulfilling meals. It’s not as healthy as the other food items on this list, but it will surely add irresistible flavor to your dishes.
Incorporate a small amount of bologna into pasta, grains, and vegetables for a sumptuous meal.
Cost: $1.49 per pound
4. Canned fish
Grocery stores offer a lot of options when it comes to canned fish. The most widely available is canned mackerel, tuna, or salmon. You can have sandwiches and salads with these staples.
They’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduces the likelihood of heart diseases. Also, it’s low in fat, making it suitable for individuals who want to lose weight.
Cost: $0.75 per 5-ounce can
Chicken is another option for a fulfilling meal. If you’re looking for the cheapest food to survive on, remember to pick up a chicken on your next trip to the grocery.
If you plan your meals right, a whole chicken can even last you for a week! What’s more, it has been linked to higher levels of the “feel good” hormone or serotonin.
You can enjoy fried chicken, roasted chicken, tacos, salads, soups, and casseroles without breaking the bank.
Cost: $1.58 per pound for a whole chicken, $3.24 per pound for boneless chicken, $1.55 per pound for chicken legs
6. Ground beef
It’s good to stock ground beef in your freezer since it provides a healthy and budget-friendly base for your daily meals. The possibilities are endless—meatballs, beef taco skillet, beef and beans, cheeseburger pasta, and homemade meatloaf.
It’s even loaded with vitamins B3 and B12. Also, it helps build muscle mass and prevent iron deficiency anemia.
Cost: $3.98 per pound
Lentils offer a great alternative to beans and are cheaper, too. They also come in different colors, like green, red, yellow, and brown. Lentils are high in protein and rich in iron to keep you energized while boosting the immune system.
What dishes can you make with lentils? Try vegetable soup, salad, tacos, and burgers.
Cost: $1.34 per pound
Although sausage isn’t the healthiest meat in the market, you can still add it to your dishes sometimes for a savory lunch or dinner. You can cook pasta, meatballs, or casserole with an inexpensive sausage.
Cost: $1.5 per pound
Even if you don’t have a strict diet regimen, you can still try making tofu dishes. This plant-based protein is low in calories and has zero cholesterol. Aside from being a great source of protein, tofu is also rich in iron and calcium.
Try tofu stir fry, noodle bowls, lettuce cups, salads, and barbecue burgers.
Cost: $2.5 per pound
Who says you can only eat turkey during the holidays? It’s actually advisable to buy frozen turkey during the holiday season, so you can cook turkey dishes even after prices have gone up.
You can make turkey stir fry, tortilla wraps, Mediterranean burgers, meatballs, and salad.
Cost: $1.36 per pound
Top 3 cheapest protein sources
|Canned fish||$0.75 per 5-ounce can|
|Lentils||$1.34 per pound|
|Turkey||$1.36 per pound|
Did you know that a medium apple contains approximately 3 grams of fiber? If you’re aiming to lose weight, include apples in your list of cheap food in grocery stores.
You can either eat an apple on its own or add it to your salad. If you want an indulgent breakfast, try making apple pancakes.
Cost: $2 per pound
Bananas are cheaper than apples, but they’re both full of vitamins and nutrients. This tropical sweet fruit is a good source of vitamin C, which is necessary for repairing body tissues. It also supports digestive health and aids in weight loss.
You can make pancakes, muffins, smoothies, and puddings using bananas.
Cost: $0.62 per pound
Are you craving a fresh cantaloupe smoothie or shake? No need to deprive yourself of fruits, even when you’re on a budget.
For less than $2, you can already enjoy a low-carb and healthy fruit rich in phytonutrients for anti-inflammatory properties.
Cost: $1.48 per piece
4. Frozen berries
Fresh berries are generally more expensive than frozen ones, but it doesn’t mean that the cheaper alternative has no nutritional value at all.
Frozen berries still contain antioxidants, nutrients, and fiber. Include these in your diet as a smoothie, salad, dessert, or snack.
Cost: $2.76 per pound
Kiwis provide a multitude of health benefits since they’re rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber. This tart fruit also boosts immunity and supports heart health.
You can combine it with other frozen fruits to enjoy a delicious smoothie. You can also top your budget-friendly desserts with kiwis for that refreshing treat.
Cost: $1.38 per pound
Orange’s sweet-tart taste is a great addition to your cheap grocery list. You can add it to salads and desserts for a revitalizing snack. You can either eat it fresh or squeeze for the juice.
Did you know that one orange provides 116% of your daily vitamin C requirement? Plus, it’s rich in fiber, antioxidants, and potassium.
Cost: $1.45 per pound
Top 3 cheapest fruits
|Banana||$0.62 per pound|
|Kiwi||$1.38 per pound|
|Orange||$1.45 per pound|
Did you know that cabbage can last from 3 weeks up to 2 months if stored properly? Wrap in paper towels, place in a ziplock bag and put in your refrigerator.
You can try stuffed cabbage for a satisfying dish loaded with vitamins C and K. You can also stir fry cabbage, soup, salad, egg dish, and pasta without spending too much.
Cost: $1.06 per pound
2. Canned tomatoes
Canned tomatoes, despite being preserved, are also rich in lycopene. Plus, it offers a convenient way to prepare meals, like chili, salsa, beans and cheese, mac and cheese, and soups.
Cost: $0.98 per 1 pound can
Like most green leafy vegetables, celery contains a high amount of antioxidants, which reduce the risk of diseases. It also aids in healthy digestion.
You can add celery to your soups, casseroles, and stews for healthy meals. You can also use celery to make smoothies or salads.
Cost: $1.23 per pound
Carrots have vitamin A and beta carotene, which promote eye health. Also, they contain vitamin K and calcium for strong bones.
So what meals can you cook with carrots? You can make roasted dishes, soups, casseroles, and salads. You can even bake a mini carrot bar without spending a lot of money.
Cost: $0.98 per pound for baby carrots
5. Frozen veggies
Frozen veggies are definitely more affordable than fresh ones, but you can still get nutrients from them. It depends on the freezing process used by manufacturers to retain vitamins and minerals.
You can pair them with grains, pasta, pies, soups, stews, and dips to make fulfilling meals every day.
Cost: $0.84 per 12-ounce bag
This green leafy vegetable provides hydration since water makes up almost 95% of fresh lettuce. It also contains vitamin A, which helps improve eye health.
It’s good to add it to an egg sandwich for breakfast, pasta for lunch, and bean salad for dinner. You can also make a tuna salad together with a budget-friendly canned fish.
Cost: $1.47 for little green lettuce and $2.44 for regular-sized lettuce
Onions instantly give a flavorful addition to your dishes. Also, onions are one of the cheapest foods to buy in bulk. This way, you can save more. But, it’s equally alright to buy them per pound.
Make sure to store onions in a cool, dry place and away from potatoes to extend shelf life.
Cost: $0.64 per pound for yellow onions
Often called a superfood, spinach helps regulate heart rate, cell functions, and blood pressure. It’s also a versatile ingredient that you can use in various recipes.
You can incorporate it into pasta dishes, soups, stews, wraps, and sandwiches.
Cost: $2.18 per 10-ounce bag
Squash contains vitamin C and beta-carotene to boost the immune system and maintain eye health.
Make a vegetable salad, sautéed veggies, tuna pasta, or even simple roasted squash for your lunch or dinner.
- $1.18 per pound for acorn squash
- $1.42 per pound for butternut squash
- $1.48 per pound for yellow squash
There’s a reason why potatoes are used in hundreds of dishes. Aside from having a subtly sweet taste that compliments different recipes, they’re also inexpensive.
Prepare baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, salad, soup, and stews with this cheap vegetable.
Cost: $1.31 per pound
Top 3 cheapest vegetables
|Yellow onions||$0.64 per pound|
|Frozen veggies||$0.84 per 12-ounce bag|
|Canned tomatoes and baby carrots||$0.98 per pound|
Compared to other biscuits, crackers have lower calories. Most crackers contain vitamin B-complex, which aids in a healthy appetite. Also, they’re rich in dietary fiber for normalizing bowel movement.
You can use crackers to substitute for bread crumbs, filler in meatloaf, topping for casseroles, or combine with your favorite cheese.
Cost: $0.89 per 16-ounce pack
Instant ramen noodles may not be the healthiest option, but eating it occasionally shouldn’t be a problem. It’s one of the cheapest foods to survive on when you’re broke.
Consider adding egg and some vegetables for added nutrients.
Cost: $0.42 per pack
Oats provide a cheaper alternative to oats without sacrificing nutritional content. It’s gluten-free and filled with fiber and antioxidants.
You can use oats as a filler in ground meats to stretch your budget. For breakfast, add banana or frozen berries.
Cost: $2.73 per 18-ounce pack
Almost everybody loves pasta and for good reasons. It’s an excellent source of energy while providing your body with the fiber it needs. If it’s possible, choose whole grain pasta.
What can you make with pasta? You can try spaghetti, mac and cheese, lasagna, casserole, tuna veggie pasta, and summer vegetable salad.
Cost: $1 per 1-pound pack
Generally, quinoa offers a more affordable alternative to rice. It has a similar fluffy texture that’s loved by many.
Pair with beans and canned fish for fiber-rich and energizing meals. You can also make a quick quinoa salad with inexpensive ingredients.
Cost: $1.57 per pound
Rice helps maintain a healthy weight while restoring energy and glycogen levels after intense exercise. Whenever possible, choose brown rather than white rice for more nutrients.
You can use rice in casseroles, pair with beans, and eat with eggs or chicken for heavy yet affordable meals.
Cost: $1.81 per pound
7. Flour tortillas
Known for their soft pillowy texture, flour tortillas feature a mild flavor that compliments most recipes.
You can make almost anything with flour tortillas—budget-friendly wraps, burritos, small pizzas, or even use them as toppings for soups.
Cost: $1.78 per pound
8. Wheat bread
Between white and wheat bread, wheat bread offers more health benefits. Plus, it’s cheaper, too.
You can serve it with soup or even make a bread pudding. Of course, don’t forget the inexpensive sandwiches you can enjoy with your wheat bread.
Cost: $0.93 per 22-count pack
Top 3 cheapest grains
|Noodles||$0.42 per pack|
|Crackers||$0.89 per 16-ounce pack|
|Wheat bread||$0.93 per 22-count pack|
Butter is generally healthy since it contains vitamin D that’s essential for bone development. It’s also low in lactose, but make sure to monitor your use of butter. Although healthy, butter can contribute to weight gain when eaten in excess.
You can use butter on mashed potatoes, baked goods, and toppings for pancakes or other bread.
Cost: $2.87 per 15-ounce container
2. Block cheese
Cheese provides that umami effect that your tastebuds yearn for. Aside from its irresistible taste, it's also an excellent source of calcium and protein.
It’s better to choose block cheese over pre-sliced ones to stretch your budget. You can put cheese on every dish—pasta, burger, salad, and bread.
Cost: $1.86 per 8-ounce block
3. Whole milk
Whole milk is packed with calcium, potassium, and vitamin D to support bone health. What’s more, drinking milk can prevent bone diseases while helping maintain an average weight.
You can add milk to your oats for a quick breakfast or combine with frozen fruits for smoothies and drinks.
Cost: $3.39 per gallon
You can save on grocery expenses if you choose the large tubs of plain yogurt over the small pre-flavored containers.
Combine yogurt with oranges, apples, and other fruits for a healthy snack.
Cost: $1.92 per 32-ounce container
1. Canola oil
Canola oil offers a convenient way to prepare various dishes. Just pour it on a pan, then place what you’re cooking for the day.
You can also use it to fry seafood, meat, and vegetables. When baking, you can also use it to prevent the batter from sticking to the pan.
Cost: $2.54 per 33.8-ounce bottle
Did you know that you can make various dishes from scratch when you have flour in your pantry?
You can prepare homemade pasta, bread, crackers, mini cakes, gravy, and sauces without emptying your wallet. If you can buy in bulk, it will help stretch your budget and have more savings.
Cost: $3 per 10-pound bag
You can actually choose any fat that remains solid at room temperature. There’s no need to buy the ones that have “shortening” in the product name. This way, you can compare prices at the grocery store without being limited to a few options.
You can use shortening to make crumbly, flaky, and tender baked goods.
Cost: $3.18 per 1-pound can
Good news: you can find spices at the dollar store. Choose the seasonings packed in a simple plastic than those in a fancy bottle.
Here are the most commonly used spices to elevate your recipes.
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
Cost: $0.98 per 3.5-ounce container
Sugar is another staple that needs to be on everyone’s cheap grocery list for a month. With its sweet taste, you can use it as a sweetener, flavoring agent, bulking agent, and preservative.
Cost: $2.12 per 4-pound bag
Where Can You Buy Cheap Groceries?
Some might find it difficult to discover grocery stores that offer the most affordable yet healthy food products. But if you know where to buy inexpensive food, you can save more money without the hassle.
Since traditional grocery stores have busy aisles and almost hundreds of advertising materials, it’s challenging to spot worthy deals.
But if you use online shops to buy groceries, you can quickly know which discounts apply to your purchases. For example, if you type “quinoa” on the search bar, the app shows the cheapest option among their products. It also displays the coupons compatible with the items on your bag.
Also, online grocery stores show the current number and amount of the food items you want to buy. This way, you can review them conveniently and remove the products you included on a whim.
So what are some of the grocery stores that allow you to shop online?
- Community-supported agriculture co-op
Take note of the delivery charges that these stores may collect. You can shop online then pick up the items to avoid the extra fee.
Asian grocery stores
If you’re looking for fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, or fish, consider buying at a nearby Asian grocery store. You can expect to discover fresh food products without paying a high price.
Also, you’ll find several options to choose from, but don’t be intimidated by a lot of product varieties. Make sure to compare prices as you shop since costs vary from season to season and according to your location.
What are some of the cheap ingredients you’ll find at Asian supermarkets?
- Premade sauces
- Canned fruits
- Dry noodles
- Cooking oil
American grocery stores
Aldi offers food items at a low price, suitable for people who want to stretch their budget. Visit its Store Locator page to find the nearest branch to you. You can take advantage of its pick-up and delivery options to be more practical.
Take note that Aldi’s prices for food products vary per location, so you need to enter your zip code to know how much an item costs.
Food 4 Less
Food 4 Less also provides low-cost ingredients for your recipes. It also has a dedicated Store Locator page for you to find a nearby branch. You can use the online shopping option, then pick up the items so you can save on the delivery fee.
In Walmart, you can find food items priced at less than a dollar. With over 4,743 stores in the US as of January 31, 2021, you can surely find a Walmart branch around your neighborhood.
The US Department of Agriculture’s study showed that there are over 8,000 farmer markets across the US. Many local farmers sell their products directly to the customers in neighborhood markets, so you can find inexpensive fresh food items.
It’s better to buy the following products from a farmers’ market:
Tips for Budget Grocery Shopping
Now that you're aware of the what and where of budget grocery shopping, it’s time to discover how to allocate your money effectively.
Use budgeting apps
Budgeting apps offer an easy way to manage your money in one place. You only need one app for expenses, savings, and other categories. Also, there’s no need to worry about where you placed your written budget since all details are in the app.
So what are the top budgeting apps that you can use for free?
These are the general instructions on how to use these apps.
- Download the iOS or Android version.
- Sign up using your email address.
- Choose the expenses category.
- Input your daily expenses.
- Link your bank accounts if you want to.
- Turn on notifications to be reminded of your daily, weekly, or monthly limit.
Plan before buying groceries
The number one enemy of saving money is impulsive buying. If you want to save money while shopping for healthy food, plan before going to the grocery store. This way, you won’t be tempted to purchase items not primarily on your list. It also helps you to allocate portions of your money to different food categories.
Aside from saving money, it saves time because you already know the aisles you need to go to. Since you won't forget some items, there’s no need to return to the store. As a result, you can save on gas or transportation fees.
Look out for sale
There are two ways to save using discounts.
First, shop in-store and pick products that are currently on sale. If you can, choose items offered in bulk for more deductions. You can also use a grocery rewards card or sign up for the loyalty program, especially if you buy from well-known stores.
Second, shop online to conveniently compare the prices. You can search for the food you want to buy, then filter the products according to the price. Regularly check your email for the latest deals and use the provided codes during check out. Lastly, choose the pick-up option to avoid the delivery fee.
Save free condiments
Do you often throw away those tiny packets of condiments in your take-out food? The next time you buy meals at a restaurant, keep the free condiments and store them in your refrigerator to extend their shelf life. You can use them for additional marinades and sauces for your recipes.
Through meal planning, you can better manage portion sizes and prevent wasting food and money. Before going to the grocery, have a list of dishes you want for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner based on the cheapest food you can buy from grocery stores or farmers’ markets.
Can I Buy Cheap But Quality Food?
You can definitely buy cheap but quality food if you know where to purchase inexpensive products. It also helps if you have a pre-made list of low-cost ingredients, which we provided in this article.
Always include protein sources, fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and pantry staples. Remember: you can eat healthy without sacrificing too much of your hard-earned money. Indeed, it depends on how you plan for the next trip to the grocery store.
Good luck with your next grocery shopping!