We tend to talk about wants and needs on financial blogs such as this. Food certainly falls into the needs category. It can be hard to keep our grocery bills down and our stomachs full.
There is plenty to choose from that is still healthy when it comes to cheap food. Below are over 50 examples of cheap food that will keep you full and your wallet!
Rice is used in cultures worldwide for a good reason. It’s cheap, easy to cook, and goes with just about anything. In addition, Brown rice specifically is a good source of carbs, protein, and vitamin B6.
Like rice, beans are another part of recipes from around the globe due to their price, ease of cooking, and ability to go with any dish. In addition, beans are a good source of iron, protein, and fiber.
Typically costing about $1, pasta is another great example of cheap food that is super popular worldwide. Cook up some penne, spaghetti, linguine, or whatever your favorite kind is in just a few minutes. Pasta makes a great side or main dish.
Add some flavor to your pasta with some tomato sauce. There are plenty of excellent options available that won’t break your budget at the grocery store.
Lettuce isn’t a food that most people get excited about. Although not a good meal on its own, you can use it as a filler for some meals or even replace bread, tortillas, or just your plate in general for other meals. It’s incredibly cheap and a good source of potassium and Vitamin C.
Many people will lump cabbage and lettuce together. They might look similar, but their tastes are very different. Like lettuce, cabbage is cheap food, though. Packed with protein, fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K, cabbage is a cheap food worth adding to your meals.
Another versatile, cheap food is potatoes. They are an excellent addition to any diet full of simple starches and carbohydrates. Potatoes are very cheap to buy and can be added to virtually any meal. Mash em’, smash ’em, bake them or boil them; any way you make a potato is bound to be delicious.
Ground beef has been a staple in diets for decades. Full of protein and relatively cheap, ground beef can be used to make all sorts of meals. So when looking for cheap food with lots of uses, you can’t go wrong with ground beef.
Chuck roast tends to be cheap food compared to ground beef. However, it’s basically a fattier, more filling version of ground beef, so a little goes a long way. Chuck roast will also give you the protein you need in your diet.
Over the past decade, chicken has become more popular than beef as the central part of a meal. It’s high in protein and typically cheaper than ground beef. Chicken can be cooked up in countless ways to keep the variety of your meals going.
Oats are another cheap food that can be a meal on their own or added to other dishes. Full of fiber and protein, you can eat them on their own, make oatmeal, or add them to yogurt to add some crunch.
Eggs have all sorts of healthy goodness in them. Having fats, carbs, protein, and minerals, they are an excellent cheap food to add to your diet. They are definitely a cheap food that, again, can be cooked up in dozens of ways to keep your meals varied.
Most veggies make it onto the cheap food list if you haven’t noticed yet. Carrots are no exception. Carrots contain Vitamin A, Vitamin K1, and potassium (which can help control blood pressure). So eat them raw or cooked. Either way, you win!
Onions are not only cheap food but a great way to add flavor to any meal. Low in calories, you won’t have to feel guilty about adding them to every meal you can.
Also in the legume family, lentils are high in protein and have a lot of antioxidants. It is most notably known for being in soup, but you can add them to anything. Lentils are certainly a cheap food worth considering adding to your diet.
Chickpeas are another cheap food that is a good source of protein. Also known as garbanzo beans, they are the main ingredient of hummus but can be added to salads or roasted to eat as a snack on their own.
Tofu is another healthy, cheap food. It’s gained popularity as a meat substitute and its ability to take on the flavor of whatever you are cooking it with. Tofu is also an excellent source of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant phytochemicals making it a great addition to an anti-inflammatory diet.
Peanuts are an insanely cheap food that is a healthy snack. Filled with plant-based protein and unsaturated fats, they are a heart-healthy snack for sure.
This classic nut butter is also a traditional money-saving cheap food. You can typically buy large jars of peanut butter at warehouse stores at a low price. Peanut butter lasts a long time, is a good source of protein, and is filling. Peanut butter is full of good fats and oils, too. Just be sure to avoid ones loaded with sugar.
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. Although nuts aren’t always the cheapest groceries you can find, you can afford them if you can find them on sale or buy them in bulk.
Canned fish is another healthy, cheap food readily available at most supermarkets. Fish, in general, are high in iron, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to improved brain health. More than likely, you’ll be able to find canned tuna or salmon in the aisles of your grocery store.
Yogurt is a great cheap food with a lot of uses. For one, you can find it in all sorts of flavors, so there is something for everyone. There are also different kinds, such as greek yogurt, that are still very affordable. You can add yogurt to a shake or add oats, berries, and other goodies to it for a filling snack.
Who doesn’t love a nice tall glass of milk? Full of calcium and vitamin D to help us grow, we’ve all been told to have three glasses a day since childhood. With the cost of milk, go ahead. It will help you and your wallet stay healthy!
Being part of the dairy family, cottage cheese is another excellent source of calcium, and it’s packed with belly-filling proteins. Like yogurt, you can add fruits and other cheap food to create a tasty snack.
Store Brand Cereal
Name brand cereal can be pretty expensive, but many times, the store brand version is an excellent cheap food alternative. Many times, they are nearly identical to the name brand. Beware of any that could be jammed full of sugar, and you’ll be just fine.
I’d doubt I need to go into the different uses of bread. It can be part of any meal. Bread will give you the carbs and fibers in your diet you need to get you moving. Not all bread is created equal, though. Avoid white bread, potato bread, and other breads packed with sugar. Instead, find bread with whole grains and other healthy ingredients.
Ground turkey is a cheap food similar to ground chicken. It is typically less expensive than ground beef. It can be an excellent alternative for those looking to lower their grocery bill and cholesterol. Ground turkey is also high in protein, filling you up and keeping you full.
Bananas have all sorts of health benefits since they contain vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6 and potassium. They are also a good source of antioxidants and a healthy source of fiber. As far as cheap food goes, bananas are one of the cheapest.
Surprise! Another vegetable on the cheap food list. Spinach is a very healthy addition to any meal high in iron, fiber, vitamin k, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, manganese, and riboflavin.
Maybe not your healthiest of cheap foods, but Ramen Noodles certainly are cheap. A staple in many college dorm rooms, Ramen Noodles are certainly a cheap food most of us have had at one point or another.
Tomatoes are a versatile fruit that can be added to almost any meal. Sliced, diced, minced, raw, or cooked will add additional flavor and health benefits to any meal. In this cheap food, you’ll find vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin K, and folate, among other vitamins and minerals.
If tomatoes are a cheap food, there is no reason salsa shouldn’t follow suit. Most will have chips and salsa, but chips aren’t always the healthiest choice. Salsa can be good on various more nutritious options like crackers or veggies.
Cucumbers are yet another veggie on the cheap food list. There’s not much to this veggie, but they are a good source of vitamin K. They are a staple in almost any salad and can be paired with a healthy dip to have a cheap snack.
You might like a traditional bell pepper, or maybe you want to spice up a meal with a nice jalapeno pepper. No matter what kind of pepper you’re adding to a meal, you’ll be keeping the cost down as they are another cheap food you can find in the produce section.
Talk about a cheap food with health benefits. Avocados have been described at times as a “superfood.” High in healthy fats, fiber, and protein, you can’t go wrong with a good avocado.
Some apples, like Honeycrisp, are relatively expensive. However, most are cheap food that is also healthy. They are good as a stand-alone snack or can be added to other snacks to give some crunch and\or sweetness.
Green tea is a very inexpensive and healthy drink full of natural energy-boosting nutrients. Green tea has about half the amount of caffeine as a regular coffee and has l-theanine. Green tea also has an appetite suppressant effect, so it can help you skip an unnecessary snack in a pinch.
Quinoa is an up-and-coming cheap food you can now find in most stores. Quinoa is a grain that has a lot of protein per serving and can act as a substitute for things rice, beans, or even pasta, depending on your dietary needs.
One of the best parts of watermelon being a cheap food is that you can buy just one to last you all week! Sure, you can buy them pre-cut, but that typically costs a bit more. Watermelons make a great addition to any fruit salad or just as a snack on their own.
Feeling under the weather, have an orange! Oranges are a great source of vitamin C and provide good folate, potassium, and more. If you prefer, drink some OJ instead to get the same health benefits.
There isn’t much to garlic, but it’s a cheap food that can spice up any meal.
Like garlic, there’s not much to say about hot sauce. And while not a snack on its own, it can add some heat to any of the cheap food on this list.
Like carrots, pumpkins get their orange color from carotenoids. Pumpkins are a cheap food that is a good source of folate, fiber, and other good nutrients. Whole pumpkins can be expensive and only come around once a year, but the canned version can be found all year round.
Most kids start out disliking broccoli, but we should grow to love it as adults. Broccoli should be a welcome addition to the cheap food list and your diet with many health benefits and various cooking options.
Frozen fruit isn’t always a cheap food at your traditional grocery store, but you can generally find some good deals at bulk stores like Costco. No matter what frozen fruit you buy, you’ll be getting a healthy snack or meal addition.
Not the most filling snack on the cheap food list, but popcorn certainly has its place. A fan favorite for movie watching or just sitting around the house, you can buy large amounts of popcorn kernels at a low price.
Cheese can be another great snack or meal addition from the cheap food list. You don’t need to buy any expensive fancy cheese to reap all the health benefits. Good old fashion cheddar will give you tons of calcium, protein, and fats to keep you full for a long time.
Yet another versatile, healthy vegetable on the cheap food list. Like most other veggies here, you can cook them up and add some salt and pepper for a quick snack or side dish.
Celery is not a filling snack on its own but certainly needs to be on the cheap food list due to its low-calorie content and ability to be part of almost any meal or snack. In addition, celery can add some crunch to any snack and be a part of a healthy vegetable soup.
Not the healthiest option on the cheap food list, but pizza, especially of the frozen variety, can be a super cheap food to help our budgets. Another staple of the college dorm room diet, frozen pizza is quick and easy to make and won’t break your budget.
Frozen meals aren’t the cardboard TV diners we remember growing up. Today, they can be much tastier and healthier. Moreover, many can be found at a reasonable price, especially when on sale.
When they are in season, kiwis can be an excellent cheap food pick-up. With more vitamin C than oranges, you can help keep that immune system going by adding a few kiwis to your diet.
Some soups have gotten a bit out of control lately, but the classics remain an excellent cheap food option. You can buy plenty of healthy canned soups at your store for $1 a can. You can try making your own too. Just buy some broth, add your favorite ingredients and let simmer for a few hours.
Kale is a vegetable that has grown in popularity as of late. Very high in vitamin K, iron, and dietary fiber, it can be an excellent substitute for those who don’t like spinach.
Chocolate can get a bad rap for being unhealthy, but it can be okay when eaten in moderation. Dark chocolate is an approved food if you are on the Keto diet, so have at it.
Blueberries are another addition to the cheap food list that is sometimes called a superfood due to their high level of antioxidants.
Saltine crackers are very cheap and, like other cheap food, can make a good snack on their own or add to other snacks. Acting as mini plates for cheese, meats, or other snack items, crackers are good to get on any budget.
Buying an ear of corn can be cheap when it’s in season, but canned corn can be a cheap food any time of year.
We all crave that morning cup of coffee. Going out to buy it can be very pricey, but brewing at home definitely falls into the cheap food category. If you really want to add in more savings and have the freshest coffee, buy whole beans and grind them up each morning.
Fresh brussels sprouts are a cheap food that can be slightly expensive in grocery stores. Still, you can typically find frozen varieties on sale for a more affordable price. In addition, Brussels sprouts are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin B-6.
While their fresh counterparts can be cheap food, canned fruits can be even more affordable. Better yet, you won’t have to rush through eating them as they will stay good for quite some time.
Honey can be a great sugar substitute when looking to add some sweetness to any snack. The overall price might be a bit high for the cheap food list, but because you need to add so little and it lasts a long time, it can undoubtedly be considered cost-effective at the very least.
A classic kids’ sandwich, bologna makes a great addition to the cheap food list. Want to skip the bread? Make some finger food out of it by rolling it up with a slice of cheese!
Adding spices to any snack or meal can make all the difference in the world. Adding some oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, and some rosemary can add great flavor at practically no cost. In addition, spices can make cheap foods to buy much more flavorful than they would be otherwise.
How to Save Money at the Grocery Store
Buying groceries is a necessity that can get expensive if you’re not paying attention. Below are some tips on keeping your weekly grocery bill lower.
Don’t Shop On A Empty Stomach
When shopping, make sure you don’t have an empty stomach. Studies show we tend to buy more food when shopping on empty.
Use Coupons to get Cheap Groceries
Coupons are still an excellent way to save money when grocery shopping. Of course, you can still find the old-school coupons you need to cut out of the newspaper or store flyers, but there are also many digital options these days.
Take Advantage of Sales
Before you go shopping, take a look at what’s on sale. If there are items you buy anyway, make sure to stock up if they won’t go bad. You might pay more now, but you’ll save in the long run.
Use Shopping Apps to Save Money
There is seemingly an app for everything these days, and saving money while grocery shopping is no different. Apps like Ibotta will give you cash back on items you buy by simply scanning your receipt into the app.
Don’t Buy Name Brand Food
Generic foods can get a bad reputation, but most are just as good or better than most name-brand foods. You could pay 2x or 3x more to get the same food when buying a name brand.
Shop at Cheaper Stores
Where you shop can make a big difference in your grocery bill. Some stores are far more expensive than others. If you’re unsure, bring a receipt to a store you don’t typically shop at and compare their prices to what you currently pay.
Organize Your List Beforehand
When shopping for food, having a list and sticking to it can prevent impulse buying.
Shop Bargain Bins
Some stores will have bargain bins for items expiring soon or need to get rid of them. For example, you can often find some meats (both white and dark meat) on sale with a drastically reduced price tag.
What better way to save on food than not buying any at all! No, you’re not going to starve yourself. The pantry challenge means you’ll use all the food currently in your pantry before buying new food. This can cut down on your bill and food waste. You’ll have to get a bit creative, but it can be fun coming up with new and exciting dishes!
Final Words on the Cheapest Foods
Grocery shopping is a necessity we all need to do, but there are things we can do to minimize the impact it has on our wallets. By buying cheaper foods and using the tips to cut down on your grocery bill, you can start using that extra money towards other parts of your budget.
Jeff is a fan of all things finance. When he’s not out there changing the world with his blog, you can find him on a run, a Mets game, playing video games, or just playing around with his kids.