Learn the best cheap food to buy and make when you’re broke. These really are the cheapest foods to buy at the grocery store, which will make your budget meal planning a cinch!
Ever wondered what you should eat when you’re broke? Like when your week has SUCH a tight budget that you literally need to know the cheapest food you can buy?
Well, here it is! This is a list of the best cheap food to buy when you’re broke. These staple foods will help you stock your pantry on any budget.
Use these ideas to create your very own ‘broke grocery list,’ or use the one at the bottom of the post. Learn how you can eat well, even if you feel like you have no money!
You May Also Like:
- Looking for some super cheap meals? Check out these 41 Dirt Cheap Meals
- How to Make a Cheap Grocery List: A Step by Step Guide
- Still learning how to eat on a budget? Check out these Frugal Meal Planning Hacks!
This post may contain affiliate links. You can view my full disclosure policy here.
Cheap Food To Buy When Broke
Where is the cheapest place to buy food?
Always compare prices in your local area, but some of these cheapest places to buy food include:
- Aldi – My favorite! Here are the 70 best things to buy at Aldi
- Trader Joe’s
What is the cheapest food you can buy?
Some people think that the only food broke people can afford is Ramen noodles and sandwich cookies.
Let’s bust that myth! There are a ton of healthy, whole foods that are actually quite cheap.
You can make cheap healthy dinners, lunches, and breakfasts out of these simple ingredients.
Let’s check ’em out!
Healthy Fresh Ingredients to Buy on a Tight Budget
Eggs are one of the most versatile cheap staple foods. They’re protein and nutrient-rich, and last several weeks in the fridge.
I can often get them at Aldi for under 50 cents. Even at $2-3 a dozen, you can make a wide variety of meals very inexpensively.
Wanna try Aldi? Check out these super handy tips:
2. Long-lasting vegetables
Part of shopping smart on a tight budget means buying food that won’t spoil quickly.
Avoiding food waste is a HUGE part of keeping your grocery bill low.
Be sure to purchase vegetables that will last all week.
Some cheap staple vegetables include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Russet potatoes
- Butternut squash
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Since fruit is a part of any well-balanced diet, be sure to include at least 1-2 kinds on your cheap grocery list.
Your best buys will be whatever is in season. That’s when it’s at its cheapest and most nutritious.
The fruits list below are always fairly inexpensive.
Some of the cheapest fruit to buy year-round is:
- Frozen berries
Regular-priced cheese can be pricey. But if you stock up when it’s on sale, it can be a cheap ingredient that’s great in SO many dishes.
Look for buy one, get one free sales, or when the cheese is about 50% off.
Cheese actually has a rather long shelf life – usually several months! So be sure to buy several packs when you see those deals.
The cheapest way to buy yogurt is in a 32 oz container. If you want to take it on the go, just portion it out into smaller containers.
You can combine yogurt with fruit to make parfaits or smoothies. Plain yogurt can be used instead of sour cream as a topper for baked potatoes or tacos.
Even if you don’t drink milk, it’s a healthy and cheap ingredient to have on hand.
Aldi has the best price of any store. We don’t use enough regular milk before it expires, so I buy almond milk. It stays good for months!
7. Lean meat
Keeping meat on hand in your fridge or freezer is a great way to stay prepared.
The less often you have to run through the drive-thru (because you have no food), the lower your total food expense will be.
I like to stock up on meat when there’s a great sale, and use my Foodsaver to keep it fresh in the freezer for many months.
Some of the cheapest meat you can buy is:
- Whole chicken
- Chicken thighs or drums
- Chicken breasts (when on sale)
- Ground beef
- Chuck roast
- Ground turkey
Related cheap meal posts:
- 30 Delicious Ways to Use a Pound of Ground Beef
- 35 Super Easy & Cheap 4 Ingredient Chicken Recipes
- Ultimate List of Cheap Easy Side Dishes for Dinner (+ printable!)
Budget Pantry Staples
Now that you’ve added those inexpensive healthy foods to your budget grocery list, let’s take a look at some pantry staples to keep on hand to make cheap, easy dinners.
These cheap staple foods are extremely versatile. You can make so many meals from them!
Here’s exactly what you need to stock your pantry on a budget. (I’ve also included frozen staple foods. Think of your freezer as another form of a pantry.)
8. Dry Goods, such as:
- Instant (or regular) brown or white rice
- Spices and dried herbs – to add flavor inexpensively
- Dry beans (pinto, black, etc.)
- Baking mix (like Bisquick or the store brand)
- Instant potatoes
- Peanut butter
9. Canned foods, such as:
- Tomatoes (sauce, paste, diced, stewed)
- Vegetables (corn, green beans, carrots, peas, sauerkraut)
- Pasta sauce
10. Frozen foods, such as:
- Hashbrowns (not cheaper than whole potatoes, but make a quick meal)
- Pizza (makes a really cheap dinner)
More ideas for cheap healthy dinners:
5 Quick tips for Grocery Shopping on a Tight Budget
1. Stock up when your favorites are on sale
If an item you regularly buy is at least 50% off, buy several to last you until they go on sale again.
2. Plan your meals based on the sale items
Decide what you’re going to eat that week by looking at the sales flyer. That makes meal planning easier, and will save you a TON of money.
3. Check out the clearance section
You can find some real gems in the clearance sections of your grocery store. It’s not expired food like you might think!
Usually it’s either packaging that’s slightly damaged, or brands/foods they’re not going to carry anymore.
My Kroger store also has a rack with bags of assorted fruit or veggies that are nearing their expiration date, all for 99 cents! A bag might have 2 bananas, 2 oranges, and 3 apples. Or 2 Russet potatoes, 2 sweet potatoes, and an onion, for example.
It pays to keep an eye out for clearance goodies.
4. Buy the generic brand
The store brand of food is basically the same food as brand name, just with less fancy packaging.
They’re simply cheaper to sell, and that savings get passed along to you.
The generic brand is usually 30-50% cheaper than the brand name. That’s a hefty savings right there!
5. Stick to your list
You do write out a shopping list, right? You’ll need it to stay on track.
Please do not wander around, looking at everything, falling for all the store’s marketing ploys.
It also helps to add up how your food costs as you shop. Just jot down the price of the item next to it on your list. Keep a running tab to make sure you don’t overspend.
BONUS TIP: Check out the dollar store
Believe it or not, the dollar store has some great cheap staple foods! You can get many of the pantry items from the ‘broke grocery list’ (at the bottom of the post) for just $1!
They sell both brand name and private label items. Just be sure to check the expiration dates.
What should you eat when you’re broke?
10 Broke and Hungry Recipes:
These meals are so simple that ‘recipes’ aren’t really needed. ANYONE can make them!
Sign up below to get access to a free printable that’ll tell you exactly how to make them!
Super cheap meals to make on a tight budget:
- BBQ Pulled Chicken (in the slow cooker)
- Homemade burgers
- Sloppy Joes
- Pizza (using homemade or store-bought dough, or english muffins, bagels, or pita bread)
- Breakfast for dinner (or for breakfast, of course)
- Salad (or put it into a tortilla for a wrap version)
I hope this list gave you tons of ideas for cheap food to buy when you’re broke. As you can see, you can stock your pantry, grocery shop, AND eat well on a tight budget.
Below is a list of exactly what to buy at the grocery store when you have very little money!
Example of a cheap groceries list:
- Loaf of bread
- Peanut butter
- Bag of dried beans
- Bag of rice
- Canister of oats
- Carrots (or other sale-priced veggies)
- Lettuce or spinach
- Whole chicken (or sale-priced chicken breasts)
- Ground beef or turkey (whatever is on sale)
- Canned tomatoes
What are your favorite cheap foods to buy?
Be sure to also check out:
- 10 Super Easy Tricks to Get Started Meal Planning Today
- FREE Printable Meal Planning Binder
- 15 Smart (Time-Saving) Tips to Be a More Efficient Grocery Shopper
- Free Printable Master Grocery List – so you don’t forget anything!
P.S. Don’t forget to pin this on Pinterest for later!