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Surviving on a low budget while attempting to feed your family, or maybe just yourself, can be a very difficult position to find yourself in.
If you’re struggling to feed yourself, it may be stressful when you’re on a tight budget and still can’t put together a decent meal to keep you going.
Even if you have a handful of ingredients at home, it can be difficult to work out how to use them to create a substantial, nutritious meal to keep yourself fit and healthy.
A bowl of ramen noodles is a great quick fix, but not great for your health in the long run.
So, how can you fix this?
In this article, we will look at 40 inexpensive ingredients and cheap foods that will keep you going throughout these rough times.
We will also be providing you with some quick, easy recipes that use these cheap foods to create some tasty meals.
Let’s get started.
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Table of Contents
The Cheapest Places To Shop When You’re Broke
You should browse around for the top discounts on the cheapest foods in order to get the most bang for your buck.
When going grocery shopping, it’s critical to consider your location, since it can have a considerable impact on your budget!
Fruit, for example, can be quite costly if purchased from your neighborhood convenience shop. You can save money by driving just a little further.
Indeed, it is thought that this is one of the reasons why so many families do not eat as healthily as they should: buying fruits and vegetables in the incorrect areas might break your budget!
No matter where you live, it is likely that there will be many discount grocery stores in your surrounding area.
Plus, you might be able to save even more money by buying some items at one store and other items somewhere else.
If there’s a special deal at Kroger on paper products but Aldi has cheaper meat, then visit both stores to save the maximum amount. I frequently buy items at Target like meat because of the coupons they offer. (Click here to find out when coupons expire)
Have a look around, and see if you can find a cheap grocery store like WinCo, Food4Less, or even a local The Dollar Tree.
Other options of grocery stores include CostCo, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart for finding cheap foods.
More reading: What is the 30/30/30/10 Budgeting Rule?
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Where Can You Find Free Food If You’re Broke?
If you are particularly low on funds, there are still options out there for you to look into. No one deserves to go hungry, and everyone deserves to have a meal on their table.
We encourage you to research the following options in your local community so that you can grab some food for yourself and your family.
Here are some places that offer free food to those in need:
- Meat pantries
- Food banks
- Your local social services department
- Facebook groups
- Family and friends
Of course you can also consider growing your own food, getting started will not be free but from that point on there will be plenty of cheap food in your own back yard!
The last option may be considered a last resort for many people, but remember: you should never feel ashamed to ask your nearest and dearest for aid if you need it.
Your loved ones want the best for you, and will do whatever they can to help.
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40 Cheapest Foods To Buy When Broke
Many individuals believe that grocery shopping is as straightforward as showing up, throwing some things in your cart, and paying.
However, in order to get the most out of your money, you need to be clever about it.
This is particularly true when it comes to buying food in bulk. Frozen and cupboard items are fairly safe, as they will last you months, or even years.
When it comes to buying fresh food, however, you will need to prep your ingredients to ensure that you make the most out of them.
Below, we have listed 40 of the cheapest, most essential ingredients that you should have in your kitchen.
We have organized these foods into 4 separate cheap foods categories:
- Cupboard Food
- Fruit and Vegetables
Take your time, and sift through our list while thinking about the meals that you could create with the following ingredients and cheap foods.
You will be surprised how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you can make with them!
So, here is our list of 40 cheapest foods to buy in bulk.
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Cheap Pantry Foods (Cupboard Food)
Out of the 4 food groups that we will be mentioning in this list, this is, perhaps, the most important group to focus on when you are trying to save money.
Cupboard foods including cereals, grains, nuts, herbs and spices, spreads, cooking oils, and canned meats should be purchased in bulk whenever feasible due to their lengthy shelf lives.
Some of these foods won’t expire for several years!
Unlike fresh and frozen foods, ingredients that can be stored away for long periods of time will help you out in the long run.
As long as you have cans of tuna, jars of hot dogs, and boxes of cereal, you’ll never go hungry.
As long as you have a handful of canned beans in your cupboard, you will always have a meal for dinner.
Whether you prefer baked beans or black beans, these cans are a staple ingredient that you should always have handy in your kitchen. Plus, the high protein in beans makes it a good staple food.
Average cost: $1.48 per 32-ounce bag
2. Canned Fish
Fish is not only a tasty food, but it is so good for you! These cans are filled with Omega-3, protein, and plenty of vitamins.
There are so many choices available, too. Canned tuna, salmon, sardines, anchovies, shellfish… the opportunities are endless!
Average cost: $0.68 per 5-ounce can
When it comes to cereal boxes, you may be spending more than you should be, depending on the brand. Our advice? Don’t aim for the big brands: look for off-brands instead.
If you live alone, one box of cereal can last a long time. If you have a large family, you may want to buy in bulk. This is a quick, simple breakfast that takes no effort to prepare.
Average cost: between $2 and $6 per box
Eggs are a great source of protein and B vitamins, and they can be utilized in almost any recipe.
You may boil them up and eat them on their own, or use them as a component in a larger meal.
Our recommendation is to choose brown, free-range eggs and keep them refrigerated for a longer shelf life.
While this food does not last as long as the others in this list, since you can make so many different types of recipes with them they are an excellent food item to keep on hand.
Average cost: $1.44 per dozen
If you are not a baker, you may be wondering why you would need flour in your cupboard.
Well, it is surprising how many recipes require flour, whether you need to thicken some sauce or coat some chicken.
Flour lasts a long time in a cupboard, but you can even store it in the freezer if you want to keep it fresh for longer.
Average cost: $2.24 per 10-pound bag
6. Hot Dogs
Even though you will avoid eating a lot of processed meats if you’re attempting to follow a balanced diet, a couple of hot dogs once in a while is ok.
They’re delicious and quite adaptable! Add some chopped hot dogs on pasta, rice, or a basic sandwich. You’ve got yourself a dinner when you top it with your favorite condiment.
It is. an easy way to cheaply incorporate meat into your meals.
Average cost: $0.98 per 12-ounce package
If you or your household aren’t huge lovers of beans, dry lentils could be a good, inexpensive food substitute.
Lentils are high in potassium, fiber, and zinc, and can be used in a variety of dishes, such as soups and stews. You can even make your own healthy veggie burgers with them!
Average cost: $0.98 per 16-ounce bag
As we previously mentioned, cereal can be pretty expensive, especially if you are going through multiple boxes per week.
Why not replace this breakfast option with some rolled oats?
Add some honey, chopped up fruit, or even a sprinkle of sugar for a tasty, nutritious alternative to cereal that is much cheaper.
Oats carry the added benefit of helping you stay full more throughout the day.
Average cost: $1.76 per 18-ounce container
Rivaling potatoes, pasta may just be the king of carbohydrates. This super food is the ultimate ingredient to use in so many meals.
While you can eat this product plain – although, we wouldn’t suggest this – it tastes so good topped with your favorite sauce, meats, and veggies.
And, best of all, it is a super cheap food you can buy when your budget is tight!
Average cost: $0.82 per 16-ounce box
10. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a particularly nutritious food when eaten in little amounts since it is high in good fats, niacin, vitamin E, and manganese.
As long as you have peanut butter, some jelly, and a couple slices of bread, you can always prepare yourself a good old-fashioned PB&J.
Or create a healthy, cheap snack of a banana with peanut butter and honey on it.
Average cost: $1.57 per 18-ounce jar
11. Powdered Milk
While powdered milk is initially more expensive, it will save you money in the long term, especially if you have a large family that consumes milk like there’s no tomorrow.
Prepare your own milk at home, and you will notice the money saved over time. Thank us later!
Average cost: $4.48 per 12.6-ounce container
12. Ramen Noodles
Next up, we have a fan favorite of college students around the world. Ramen noodles will always be the time-saving, tasty treat that saves us when we’re running low on funds.
The best part about ramen noodles is that you can eat them on their own, without any other ingredients, and they still taste great!
But, you can also spice them up with added spices, or even an egg on top for protein.
Average cost: $0.35 to $0.55 per 3-ounce pack
Just like pasta, rice is another staple food that should always be stored in your kitchen cupboard. You can eat it alone, or pair it with a larger meal.
Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, but it takes longer to prepare and costs more. In the appropriate conditions, white rice can last up to a year.
Average cost: $1.37 per 32-ounce bag
If you don’t already have spices in your kitchen, what are you doing?! No one wants to eat an unseasoned chicken, and every meal deserves a sprinkling of salt and pepper, at least.
There are so many choices to pick from, but we believe that every kitchen should have some salt and pepper. We also recommend grabbing some mixed herbs and spices.
Average cost: Varies
A bag of sugar, or, at the absolute least, a sugar substitute, should be kept in every modest kitchen cabinet.
Sometimes, a simple cup of tea can keep hunger pangs at bay. With just a single spoonful of sugar, you can get that boost that you need to get through your day.
Average cost: $5.00 per 10-pound bag
16. Saltine Crackers
Crackers are a great ingredient to have handy in your kitchen, no matter your age or living situation.
You can crunch them up and use them in several recipes, or you can simply pick one out of the packet for a quick snack. Add them to soup to bulk up a cheap at-home meal.
Either way, you won’t regret having a pack of crackers at home.
Average cost: $1.23 per 16-ounce package
Tortillas are such a versatile product, making them perfect for anyone on a budget. Can you think of something that wouldn’t taste good in a tortilla wrap?
Sweet or savory, breakfast or lunch… there is never a wrong time to grab a tortilla wrap and fill it up until it’s ready to burst.
Average cost: $1.69 per 10-count bag
18. Wholewheat Bread
This is a food product that you should always have in your pantry. Bread is yet another food item that works with any meal, sweet or savory.
You could have a slice of toast for breakfast, and then have some bread and butter to accompany a bowl of soup. The possibilities are endless!
Average cost: $1.48 per 20 ounces
If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can skip past this section. If you are a person who enjoys a meaty diet, however, this is a section for you.
Provided that you have a freezer, you will be able to keep meat for a handful of months. In a refrigerator, however, most meats start to go bad after a couple of days.
This means that you will need to plan your meals accordingly when buying meat in bulk!
Meat is an excellent source of protein, and depending on the type of meat you choose, it can also give a variety of additional health advantages.
Poultry has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cholesterol, while red meat is high in iron.
More Reading: How to Eat Out on a Budget
Fill your sandwiches with it, or break it up and toss it into a pasta dish. When it comes to using up a pack of bologna, the possibilities are endless!
I love a good fried bologna sandwich.
Average cost: $2.00 per 16-ounce package
You simply cannot go wrong with chicken when looking for the greatest cheap food products to buy when you’re broke.
It’s nutritious, healthy, and delicious. Chicken is delicious in stews, soups, pasta dishes, and even accompanied by french fries.
Average cost: $0.97 per pound of whole chicken
21. Ground Beef
This meat product is an absolute must for anyone trying to save money. Think about it – what can’t you make with ground beef?
Packed with protein and iron, ground beef is always a good decision for lunch or dinner.
Average cost: $3.55 per pound
22. Stew Meat
On a cold winter evening, nothing sticks to your ribs like a delicious, hearty stew. It’s the ideal dinner, especially when paired with some salty butter on warm crusty bread. And, it is easy on your food budget.
To make the perfect stew, combine as many delectable ingredients as you desire.
Average cost: $5.96 per pound
Whoever said that turkey was only for Thanksgiving? This delectable poultry can be used for so many healthful meaty dishes.
Turkey is lean and so it falls more into the healthy foods category. Plus, it is one of the cheap foods you can opt for when it comes to meat.
Tip: if you want to save your money as much as you can, stock up on whole turkeys or ground turkey during the holiday season. This is when their prices are the lowest!
Freeze them of course so they last though.
Average cost: $2.58 per pound
Inexpensive Dairy Groceries
Dairy is a brilliant source of calcium, which helps strengthen bones and teeth. These food items can be incorporated into a healthy eating pattern in a variety of ways.
Although dairy products tend to last a little longer than meat, you will still need to be careful about how much you buy in one go.
Milk, for example, will go bad after a week, so there is no point in buying more than one carton (unless you have a large family to feed).
Milk and dairy foods are linked to an expanding sample of research that links them to a variety of health benefits, from blood pressure control and bone health to newer correlations like lowering the risk of developing diabetes disease.
24. Block Of Cheese
When you want to save dollars on groceries, avoid the pre-shredded or pre-sliced cheese and prepare your own!
Slice the block with a cheese grater or a kitchen knife, then store it in the fridge for another time.
Average cost: $1.83 per 8-ounce block
We’ve already mentioned bread in this list, so how could we not mention its partner in crime?
You can use this product to cook other recipes, or simply use it to spread on a crusty slice of bread. All we know is that we couldn’t live without this dairy product.
Average cost: $2.98/16-ounces
26. Whole Milk
Milk is a kitchen essential, whether you live alone, or you have a family to feed. You can drink it, mix it with other ingredients, or use it as an additive to a recipe.
Average cost: $2.73 per gallon
Forget the single size pre-flavored containers, and go for the bigger containers of vanilla or plain yoghurt to save a lot of money at the grocery store.
The larger tubs will last longer, and taste just as good, if not better, than the smaller tubs.
You can also save money by adding your own frozen fruit and toppings!
Average cost: $1.84 per 32-ounces
Cheap Fruits And Vegetables
Last, but certainly not least, we will be looking at some delicious and inexepensive fruit and veggies to fill up your fridge.
Some fruit and veg spoils faster than others, such as cabbage, spinach, and other leafy greens.
Some of these products last longer when placed in the fridge, while others will be okay in a fruit bowl.
It is so important to incorporate these nutritious foods into your diet!
Fruit and vegetables contain so many vitamins and minerals that will keep you fit and healthy. Plus, they taste great!
Is there anything more satisfying than biting into a crisp, juicy apple?
Because these fruits are inexpensive, you may experiment with different varieties without breaking the budget, and there are many to pick from.
Average cost: $1.32 per pound
Bananas are a good source of potassium and fiber, and you can get a bunch for a low price at any time of year. You can eat them plain or use them to make delectable treats.
Average cost: $0.53 per pound
30. Butternut Squash
While there are several varieties of squash to choose from, a butternut squash is always a great option. They taste great, and can be cooked into so many different types of recipes.
Try this Butternut Squash Soup recipe for a comforting favorite.
Average cost: $1.18 per pound
When stored properly, a decent head of cabbage will outlast almost any other vegetable.
Cover cabbage in dampened paper towels and store it in a ziplock bag to keep it. Make a few openings in the container and place it in the freezer compartment.
Average cost: $0.78 per pound
32. Canned Tomatoes
Canned tomatioes can last up to 18 months on the shelf, so you should definitely grab several cans in bulk!
Average cost: $0.74 per 14.5-ounce can
Tip: If you want to save the most money, buy huge, unpeeled carrots. Baby carrots are nothing more than ordinary carrots that have been pared down to a stump. The only difference is they cost a lot more that way!
Average cost: $0.69 per pound
Celery is on our list of cheap foods to buy when you’re broke, since it helps to keep your blood sugar constant, allowing you to feel satisfied for an extended amount of time.
Average cost: $1.32 per pound
35. Citrus Fruits
Vitamin C is abundant in oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits, and they taste delicious! Take a handful of these delectable fruits.
Average cost: $1.37 per pound of oranges
36. Frozen Vegetables
Usually, frozen vegetable packages can simply be thrown straight into the microwave and cooked according to the label instructions. So easy!
Average cost: $0.84/12-ounce bag
Onions are a low-cost approach to boost the flavour of any meal.
Tip: if you can, buy them in bulk and keep them cool and dry separate from potatoes, which might cause them to decay more quickly.
Average cost: $0.55 per pound
In the words of Samwise Gamgee: boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew! Potatoes are super versatile, and are an all-time favorite.
Inexpensive and filling, potatoes are an ideal cheap food to buy.
Average cost: $0.33 per pound
39. Raw Spinach
Spinach is nutritious and satisfying, and it can be eaten fresh or cooked. Plus, when you cook it, it does that magical thing where it shrinks in half – how fun is that?
Average cost: $1.98 per 10-ounce bag
When everyone has more zucchini on their hands than they know what to do with, the greatest time to buy zucchini is in the middle to late summer.
To use throughout the year, peel, slice, and freeze.
Average cost: $0.98 per pound
Cheap Meals That Cost $10 Or Less
It might be challenging to figure out what inexpensive meals to make on a regular basis, whether you’re a college student living alone for the first time, or a parent with children to feed.
Below, we have listed a handful of cheap meal ideas that contain all the nutrients that a person needs to remain fit and healthy.
You don’t have to be the greatest chef in the world to whip up these recipes: all you need is a kitchen, some simple ingredients, and a little patience! And, not a lot of money.
This classic TV dinner is the favorite of many families across the country. It is so easy to throw together, and may even result in leftovers!
- Pasta (preferably elbow macaroni)
- Block of cheese
- Cream cheese
- Salt and pepper
Only two ingredients needed for one recipe – how could you refuse? You could even add in some extra ingredients for added flavors, including bacon, spinach, and/or onions.
- Any of your favorite ingredients: green pepper, bacon, avocado, tomotoes
Fajitas are not only delicious, but they’re super fun to provide as a family dinner. Simply lay out all the cooked ingredients, and let everyone dig in and fill up their own tortilla wraps!
- Bell peppers
- Fajita spices (chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin)
This was a recipe that was believed to have been created by working class families who only had a handful of simple ingredients at home, including eggs and bacon and not a lot of money for food.
The result was a tasty meal that is a family favorite to this day. And, if you have a little extra money, you can use ground beef to add some meatballs!
- Pasta (preferably spaghetti)
- Pancetta or bacon
- Cheese (preferably parmesan)
- Black pepper
Any type of stew is perfect for anyone who is struggling financially, or doesn’t have much time on their hands.
Simply throw the ingredients into a pot, and let the stove do the rest of the work!
- Stew meat
- Red wine
- Parsnips or potatoes
Who said rice and beans had to be boring? While this is a fairly simple meal to make, it is healthy, nutritious, and most importantly, filling.
And it is made up of two of the cheapest foods to buy when broke.
- Canned tomatoes
- Black beans
- Garlic powder
FAQ: What SHould I eat on a Low Budget?
If your budget is tight, the above list of cheapest foods to buy when broke will work. Buy in bulk. Buy cheap items that you can make many meals from, like pasta and beans.
FAQ: How Can I eat for $30 a Week?
If you want to keep your food budget as low as $30 a week, you need to be super careful and strategic in your purchases.
Buy in bulk so it lasts longer. Especially when items are on sale. Buy meat that is on sale whether you need it or not and just freeze it for later.
Make meals that are cheap and last, like casserole or chili.
Final Thoughts on Eating on a Budget
It is no secret to any of us that we are living through tough times, and there are so many people who are struggling financially: not just in this country, but all over the world.
There are so many aspects that take up time in our lives – working, studying, parenting, etc. – that it can be so difficult to find the time to plan ahead, especially when it comes to meal planning.
However, this is a skill that will benefit you in the long run!
When you take care of the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves. By planning your future meals, you will not only save money, but you will also save time.
We truly hope that you found this article helpful.
Good luck, and happy prepping!
Try these helpful tips for living below your means for more help on a budget and how to save money.
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