Cheap Foods for a Successful Grocery List on a Budget
Last updated: August 2021
Create a grocery list on a budget for your family using these inexpensive foods. When you’re strapped for cash or just simply maintaining a tight budget, getting creative with your grocery list can be difficult. Let’s walk through what to purchase to keep your grocery list on a budget and your family healthy.
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What You Eat Matters
If you’re trying to save money, you might be considering where you can cut costs.
Although it’s tempting to reduce your food budget drastically and take a nutrition hit, it is important for overall wellness that you still maintain an appropriate quantity of quality nutrients throughout the day. That means consuming a balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals through food.
Sometimes Creating Inexpensive Meals is Difficult
But, you might be wondering, “What CAN I actually afford to buy when I’m attempting to make cheap meals? Everything seems so expensive!” Or, “I always seem to go over budget without meaning to”.
Sometimes going to the grocery store – especially when walking down the meal aisles – might be frustrating. You’re paying attention to all the foods that you think you can’t afford right now.
There are a lot of items you probably shouldn’t include right now if you’re trying to save money. Steak is a well sought after example. BUT there are a lot of foods that you can buy that allow you to prioritize healthy foods for your family, but still maintain your grocery list on a budget.
Before we get into specific foods you might buy, let’s talk about some general principles to guide your grocery shopping. While I have a great list of cheap foods, it’s impossible to list virtually every food out there, so these principles will help you find your own cheap foods to keep your grocery list on a budget.
1. Simplify Your Grocery List on a Budget
Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.
You do not need a new meal every single night. I promise you, eating leftovers will not kill you.
If you plan to eat leftovers throughout the week, you have less diversity in food, but you will save money and reduce food waste.
Related: Practical & Healthy Meal Planning that will Save You Money
Simplification of your budget grocery list also might look like having rice with multiple meals this week. Or, maybe you bought a bundle of celery and only used a few stalks of it in your recipe so you use the remaining celery raw with your lunches!
Sure, you’re having similar ingredients at each meal, but often you can prepare the food in a different way so that the flavor profiles change dramatically. For example, cooked onions and raw onions are vastly different in flavors!
Using leftover ingredients in multiple dishes saves money because it reduces food waste and prevents us from buying yet another food to fill the spot.
2. Stay Away from Prepackaged Foods
Remove as many prepackaged foods from your grocery list as possible.
Thankfully, cutting out “junk” foods and sugary-food-like-products is often the quickest way to reduce your food costs overall!
Eliminating prepackaged foods allows us to improve our health and optimize our food budget because they are typically very expensive with very little nutritional value. Without these, you have more room in your budget to prioritize healthy foods.
Don’t buy pre-made pizza sauce with sugar and preservatives. Instead, purchase crushed tomatoes and cook on the stove with your own Italian seasonings. No need for frozen French fries when you can easily cut potatoes and fry or bake them in your own stovetop or oven.
Items that you can easily make in your own kitchen should be purchased before the items made in a factory. As a consumer, you always pay for convenience. Prepackaged foods are no exception.
Buying prepackaged foods reduces your capability to have a grocery list on a budget.
Plus, when you eat foods prepared in your home, it increases mindful awareness of food and digestion processes.
Related: Five Easy Steps to be More Present Using Mindful Eating
3. Check out my other articles for creating a grocery list on a budget
Creating cheap meals on a budget is something I’m passionate about and have written on extensively. For more specific tips to prioritize cheap healthy food and create your grocery list on a budget, check out my other posts:
- How to Save Money on Groceries – Strategies before, during, and after your grocery shopping to reduce spending
- Practical and Healthy Meal Planning that will Save You Money – Why meal planning is the best cheap food hack
- How to Get Delicious and Nutrient Dense Foods for Every Budget – How to find the best food on the smallest budget
- Budget Meal Plan for Two Using a Healthy Grocery List – A sample meal plan and grocery list for two weeks
Healthy Grocery List Staples to Create Cheap Meals on a Budget
Without further ado, here’s the list we’ve all been waiting for – Cheap foods for a successful grocery list on a budget.
- Bananas: They’re often cents on the dollar per pound. Bananas can be used in a variety of baking recipes, smoothies, or simply eaten as a side.
- Apples: Also a cheaper fruit option that can be used in diverse ways. My favorite way to have apples? Peeled and added to pancakes on a Sunday morning! Brings back memories….
- Spinach: Fresh or frozen. I routinely purchase 16oz (!!!) boxes of spinach for less than two dollars when it’s marked down at my local Kroger. Frozen is a good option for when it’s not on sale.
- Onion: A great flavor addition to many recipes, and it’s a root veggie, so onions last forever; Typically bagged onions are cheaper than buying individually, in my experience.
- Green Bell Peppers: A cheaper alternative to red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, the green bell pepper is routinely only a few cents at the store. We almost always sub green bell peppers in a recipe for the other varieties and haven’t looked back!
- Garlic: Always purchase bulk when you can because garlic is easy to smash/slice/mince at home. Garlic adds a punch of flavor to any recipe raw or cooked and it’s antimicrobial!
- Frozen fruits and veggies: A good alternative for when your favorite fruits and veggies are out of season or no longer on sale; pro tip: frozen is often fresher than the produce you can buy in a grocery store because it’s normally packaged at peak ripeness!
- Celery, broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, and potatoes are also good options. These will likely be a bit more expensive than the above produce options, but are versatile and cheaper than some other alternatives.
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- Ground Beef: One of the more inexpensive beef options. Do not buy hamburger patties or meatloaf already formed – You can do that in your own kitchen to save a few bucks.
- Chicken: The cheapest cuts include breasts, legs, and wings. Make sure you compare the price per pound of boneless/skinless to bone-in/skin-on cuts! Sometimes the winner will surprise you!
- Eggs: I cannot speak highly enough of eggs. They’re a great protein with loads of nutrients and such a cheap food. I can buy a dozen cage-free, hormone-free eggs from my local Kroger for $2.50. You can buy very few other proteins at that quality for that great of a price! Use them in breakfast, as a fried topper for your sandwich, or in baking.
- Pasta: I routinely buy pasta on sale at a price of $0.50-0.60 per box and stock up on a few when this happens. Never pay more than a dollar for a pound of pasta because I guarantee you that a store near you likely has it for this price or less. A pound of pasta can be used in a variety of recipes and often does not have a slew of preservatives or hard to navigate ingredients.
- Rice: An entire five pound bag of rice is only $3 at my local Kroger right now. You can buy 10lbs quantities for even less expensive per pound. Rice has a lot of different flavor options depending on the style that you buy, and can be used in lots of different capacities like soup or sushi.
- Bagged Beans, Lentils, etc. : Always purchase these bagged rather than in a can if possible. Metal cans aren’t the best for our health, and bagged beans are just that much cheaper! Be sure to remember to soak your beans the night before cooking though. Beans are high in protein and can help bulk up a meal that has reduced animal proteins.
- Flour: Flour can be used to create so many different recipes, and typically the all-purpose variety is the easiest choice. You can make your own breads without preservatives, soy, or corn syrup, DIY some fresh pasta, or use the flour to make homemade cookies – yum!
- Canned Diced Tomatoes: There really isn’t a good, easily accessible alternative to canned tomatoes in grocery stores right now. They’re cheap, pre-peeled and pre-cored, and easily adaptable to whatever your recipe needs. You can even find organic for less than a dollar nowadays. Check to make sure the only ingredients are tomatoes.
- Vinegar & Olive/Coconut Oil: While these items themselves are not necessarily inexpensive, they are required in so many different recipes and are often healthier options than their alternatives at a comparable price (e.g., salad dressing).
- Nut Butters: Peanut butter is the most widely known and available, but you might also try almond, cashew, or sunflower butters as well. Nut butters are good protein and fat wrapped in one food. The best versions have just the nut/seed and maybe salt – look for no sugar, oils, or preservatives added.
Related: 5 Best Soda Alternatives When You Want to Quit Soda
- Water: You probably already pay for this. Save up for a quality filter and drink it. It’s good for you, I promise.
- Sparkling Water: There are tons of varieties at your store for different price points. I’ve had good success with store brand and name brand, although store brand is often significantly cheaper. My husband and I like lemon-lime flavors the best, but the Clear American Strawberry at Walmart with zero sugar/sodium is surprisingly great too. If you have some money saved and you know you like sparkling water, get a soda stream or other carbonated water maker – it’s better for the environment and your body to reduce your metal can usage.
- Tea: Loose leaf, sachet, or bag tea is always a good option. Name brand is not a necessity, but I do find some varieties of black tea are sweeter than others if you’re attempting to switch from sweet tea to un-sweet tea.
Want more tips to save money at the grocery store?
Check out any of my posts linked in this article! As I mentioned earlier, saving money while eating well are two things that I’m passionate about.
Let me know, what are some food items that you love but are also inexpensive? On the flip side, what are some foods you just can’t live without no matter the cost?
Disclaimer: Although I am a mental health professional, I am not YOUR mental health professional. The information provided on this website is for educational and informational purposes only and using this website does not establish a counselor-client relationship, or constitute provision of mental health services. I am not responsible for any damages resulting from your use of the content on this site, as the information provided does not substitute for collaboration with a health professional. Please consult with your health professional before making changes to your health regimen.