This post may contain affiliate links. See our Privacy Policy and Disclosure Page for more information.

Sharing is caring!

cheap foods to buy when broke

Cheap Foods to Buy When Broke

In this article I am going to share 41 of the best cheap foods to buy when you’re broke. These are some of the best foods where you get the most bang for your food-buying buck!

**Note: See the end of the article for ideas on super cheap meals you can make so you can eat for as little as $1 per day!**


Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to this list of cheap foods to buy when you’re broke later.


Make Your Cheap Foods to Buy When Broke Even Cheaper!

One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries in order to buy cheap foods inexpensively when you are broke is to use money-saving apps! My favorite FREE grocery money-saving app is Ibotta.

I’ve been a member of Ibotta for years, and they are a fun and easy way to save money whenever you shop! With the free Ibotta app, you earn cash back on purchases you make every day from your favorite grocery and other stores such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Dollar Tree, Sam’s Club, Amazon, and many, many more! With the easy-to-use Ibotta app you can get cash back when you shop not only for groceries but also for clothing, home improvement supplies, travel services, and more!

I can even use Ibotta at several of our smaller, local grocery stores, which I love!

Signing up takes just a minute, and then you can start to save money whenever and wherever you shop, at physical stores and online! Sign up for your free Ibotta account here!

A Huge Benefit of Buying Cheap Foods When You Are Broke

When you are broke or need to save money fast, buying cheap foods to get by for a time can be a great way to stretch your food dollar till payday or to help you save money to reach an important financial goal (like paying a bill, paying off a debt, paying for a large and necessary purchase, saving for something important, and so on).

For another great way to save money on your food budget, see this article for more than 100 cheap recipes that you can make for $5 or less in 30 minutes or less. Your family will love these cheap, easy, quick, tasty kid-friendly meals!


Why Buy Cheap Foods When Broke?

When your budget is tight and you’re living paycheck to paycheck, buying cheap foods can help you to avoid going into debt or going into as much debt, which will only make your situation worse and make your budget more strained.

Sometimes you are in a financial situation, as I mention briefly above, where money is very tight. At these times, rather than go into debt and put myself and my family in an even more precarious situation financially, I personally would much rather cut my grocery budget in order to save money.

Buying cheap foods for a time is a great way to save money to make a large purchase with cash, pay for Christmas without going into debt, make a large car repair, pay for a needed home maintenance proect, replace a piece of furniture or appliance, and so on. Again, by eating cheap foods to slash your grocery budget, you can save up the money or a lot of the money so that you can avoid debt altogether or avoid going into as much debt.

When you go into debt you become a slave to the lender, as the Bible says—you give up control of your largest wealth-building tool: your income. The best way to reach financial peace and financial freedom and be able to build financial stability and wealth over time is to get and stay out of debt and then save and invest wisely for the future

Another good reason to buy cheap foods when you are broke is that it can be the catalyst to help you to get your grocery spending under control. This can be huge to help you break old habits!

And finally, you may also want to eat cheap foods as part of a money-saving challenge.

Find more  ideas to slash your grocery budget spending here.


How to Buy Cheap Foods When Broke

One of the best ways that you can know which cheap foods to buy when broke is to use a grocery price comparison cheat sheet! With a grocery price comparison cheat sheet, you can know when you go shopping which foods are the best value for your grocery-spending buck!

Sometimes items at the store that are marked as being on sale really aren’t. The best way to know what the truly good prices are for the items that you regularly buy is to record them. And the best way to record them for easy reference is with the grocery price comparison cheat sheet!

Sign up for the awesome cheat sheet below!


Where to Buy Cheap Foods When Broke

If you live in a smaller town, the best place to buy cheapish foods when broke may be your local Walmart. However, if you live in a town with several supermarkets, then one of them may be the best price.

One of the best ways to find out where to get great deals is to ask around! Many people love to share the awesome deals that they find! So ask on Facebook or your favorite social media platform, or ask your neighbors at church or school.

In our case, our cheapest grocery store is only a block away, which is awesome! Overall, their prices are definitely better than Walmart, and they are quite a bit better than Smith’s and our higher-end local grocery stores that are around.

Again, be sure to use the grocery price comparison cheat sheet so that you can know what is truly a good price and what is not!


Who Should Buy Cheap Food When Broke?

The short answer? Everyone!

The longer answer? Anyone who wants to avoid taking on debt or taking on any more debt than they would have to or who wants to avoid spending money that they cannot really afford to spend/ Also, it is a great idea for anyone who wants to be able to save money on food so that they can use that money for other awesome financial goals. And that should be everyone! 😊

If you have just lost a job, if you are working part-time, if you are a college student without a big income, if you are a one-income family, if you have a lot of debt you are working to pay off, or if you are just trying to cut down on your food budget, then buying cheap foods is a great idea!

41 Cheap Foods to Buy When Broke 

In this list below of cheap foods to buy when broke I include many of my own favorite least-expensive grocery items.

If you are a Dave Ramsey fan, you know that he talks about going on a beans and rice diet when you are trying to get out of debt and get control of your money. And that is because you really can save a ton of money on groceries if you choose to or have to.

In each of the sections below, which are divided by food category, I am going to talk about some of the best cheap foods to buy when broke.


In this section you will find some of the best cheap vegetables to buy when broke.                  

1. Potatoes

Regular russet potatoes are fairly healthy, and they are also super cheap. (Make sure to eat the skins to get the most nutritional value!) At our local grocery store we can often buy them for a dollar for a 10-pound bag.

You can cook several up in the microwave in about 15 to 20 minutes for a quick and very cheap meal. I like to make them a little healthier by topping them with salsa (or salsa mixed with a little bit of ranch) instead of sour cream, ranch, cheese, and other more expensive and more caloric options.

You can also slice up potatoes and season them and fry them up, or make homemade fries or hash browns. A simple creamy potato soup is another super cheap meal option. And of course mashed potatoes are cheap (and delicious :)).

2. Sweet potatoes

Personally, I really like making sweet potatoes as a healthier alternative to baked potatoes. Because they are so naturally sweet, I don’t even think you have to top them with anything (and I generally do not top them with anything). But if you choose to, you can add a little cinnamon and sugar for an even sweeter treat.


3. Carrots

Your list of less expensive groceries to buy and keep on hand should include carrots. The cheapest way to buy carrots generally is full sized, in bulk, but if you find baby carrots for a good price, then they are a great option, as well.


4. Canned tomatoes

Fresh tomatoes can fluctuate in price pretty wildly throughout the year, so for meals where it makes sense to use them, canned tomatoes can sometimes be a less-expensive alternative.

5. Squash

In the fall when it is in season, you can sometimes buy squash at amazing prices! (If you have neighbors who grow them and give them to you, then that’s an even better deal!)

6. Zucchini

Similar to squash, you can sometimes get amazing deals on zucchini during the fall when it is in season.


7. Onions

Onions are another vegetable that you can get for a pretty good price most of the time. And because of the awesome way that it enhances the flavor of many dishes, it is a great staple to keep on hand all the time.


8. Broccoli

You can also generally get broccoli for a pretty good price. Often the crowns are more expensive, but occasionally they are the better deal because you are not paying for the stalk. (However, we slice up the stalk and include it in some of our dishes. If you can do that, then that makes the whole broccoli heads even more affordable.)


9. Salsa

Salsa is particularly helpful if you are getting low on fresh produce before your next scheduled trip to the grocery store. It is a great item to keep on hand all of the time because it lasts longer (once opened) than most fresh vegetables, too.


10. Green salad

You will usually get a better price if you buy the ingredients for an inexpensive salad yourself rather than buying premade salads. However, sometimes the premade salads are on sale for a great price. We generally keep our salads pretty economical by making them ourselves using spinach or romaine lettuce, tomatoes, sliced or chopped carrots, cauliflower (if it can be bought for a good price), and broccoli.


11. Spinach

Spinach isn’t generally the cheapest vegetable you can buy, but it is a great way to (relatively) inexpensively increase the nutritional value of other inexpensive dishes such as egg omelets, meat sandwiches, salads, stir fry dishes, pasta dishes, quesadillas, and more.


12. Peppers

Green peppers are another good option if you are looking for cheap foods to buy when broke—when they are in season, that is. When they are not in season, look at lettuce, cabbage, and the other vegetables included in this list for cheaper options.


13. Frozen vegetables

Frozen vegetables can be an economical option, as well, particularly when other favorite vegetables are not in season. And despite what you may have heard, from what I have read, vegetables lose little if any nutritional value when frozen. Frozen vegetables are great in casseroles, soups and stews, omelets, and more. To know when frozen vegetables are a better deal, do a rough comparison of serving sizes.


14. Garlic

Garlic is an awesome flavor enhancer that also has healthful vitamins and minerals. At 50 cents or less per bulb, it is not the cheapest vegetable around, but because it is so packed with flavor, a little goes a long way. 🙂 In addition to having various vitamins and minerals, I have read that garlic can help fight the common cold and other illnesses and also help reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.


15. Canned pumpkin

Pumpkin doesn’t have to be reserved just for the fall. 🙂 You can buy canned pumpkin year round to enjoy in soups, muffins, and curries. The antioxidants in pumpkin make it a healthy choice,  and at less than a dollar for the 15-ounce can, it’s another good choice for a cheap, healthy food.


16. Kale

Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables around, so it really is a great value. It is packed with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and K, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium, At our local grocery store you can find it for around $1 to $1.50 per bunch.



In this section you will find some of the best cheap fruits to buy when broke.


17. Bananas

Probably because they are readily available all year round, bananas are one of the cheapest foods you can buy, so they should be on your go-to list when you are trying to save money on groceries. And they are just delicious, in any case. 🙂

18. Apples

For what you get, apples may be the overall cheapest fruit in many grocery stores, if you choose the least expensive varieties such as red delicious and Gala. But even yellow delicious, Granny Smith, and some of the others are not too expensive, either.


19. Oranges

Oranges are another great fruit when you are wanting to eat the cheapest foods you can buy when broke. They are somewhat seasonal, so you will pay more for them in the winter generally than you do in the summer, but the prices year round are pretty good. And these awesome little fruits are packed with vitamin C as well as fiber and potassium. If you love orange juice, save money by making your own, fresh squeezed! (And you will avoid the extra sugar and other additives that way, as well!)


20. Cantaloupe

Though not as cheap as the fruits listed above, cantaloupe is still a good choice when you are looking for cheap foods to eat when broke. It is a good source of vitamin C, folate, fiber, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals. Cantaloupe is awesome to cut up for a simple fruit salad, or chop it up and eat it plain or with your favorite low-fat or nonfat yogurt.


21. Kiwi

This sweet, delicious fruit is another budget-friendly option—particularly during the summer months when they are in season. At our local grocery store we can usually get three or four for a dollar during the summer. Kiwis have tons of vitamin C and fiber, and they are great alone or sliced up in a fruit salad.


22. Watermelon

You can find watermelon for a great price—when they are in season! When they are not, stick to fruits that are so that you don’t spend an arm and a leg on them. Check local fruit stands and farmers’ markers to find great deals during the summer. This powerful fruit is a great source of vitamin C and is delicious in fruit salads or all on its own.


23. Grapes

Grapes are another one of the cheapest fruits available. When they are in season during the summer months, they can be a steal of a deal on sale. They are great in fruit salads, straight off the vine, or frozen as a sweet, healthy treat! We also love them in chicken pasta salad and chicken salad sandwiches.


24. Frozen berries

When your favorite berries are not in season (and honestly, even sometimes when they are), you will get more bang for your buck by buying them frozen. Especially if you get mixed frozen fruit with strawberries, you will spend less per serving than you will on berries bought out of season.

And frozen berries lose little if any nutritional value, so they are a great option when you are looking to buy cheap, healthy foods when broke.



In this section you will find some of the best cheap grains to buy when broke.


25. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of the cheapest grocery staples you can buy for your pantry, and it is also very good for your heart. You can make oatmeal the traditional way over the stove or in the microwave, or you can make overnight oatmeal or these super easy 2-ingredient banana oatmeal cookies. Another thing I like to do that is even easier than the two-ingredient cookies are to simply mash up a banana with one-half to one cup of oatmeal for a filling, tasty, nutritious, low-calorie breakfast.


26. Cream of wheat

This is another one of our family favorite staples for breakfast. It is not quite as cheap as oatmeal, but it is still very inexpensive if you buy it in the box. You can flavor it with a little white or brown sugar (or even an artificial, calorie-free sweetener of choice), or my personal favorite (not healthy at all, but so delicious! and also not super cheap) is to add some sweetened condensed milk. Yum!


27. Bread

Bread can make a very inexpensive breakfast item when you make toast, but of course bread is a staple of an inexpensive lunch, as well, with the many kinds of sandwiches you can make.

Obviously, you can spend quite a bit of money on expensive artisan and craft breads, but your basic store-brand breads are one of the items where you can get the most bang for your buck. The 100% whole wheat loaves are more expensive than white bread or just partial-wheat, but it is still quite cheap at just around $1.50 to $2 a loaf (in our area) for the less-expensive brands.

When you are needing to buy the cheapest foods you can, then skip buying buns, and just use bread for hamburgers and hot dogs and similar things. We regularly use bread in place of buns for these things just because I don’t like to have to keep buns on hand because sometimes they go bad before we can use them all up.


28. Rice

Rice is another dish amply suited for a cheapest foods list. White rice isn’t the healthiest option and it also isn’t super filling, but it is cheap and fairly versatile. Brown rice is healthier and not much more expensive.

You can make a simple breakfast rice for a cheap option for that meal, and of course there are tons of cheap dishes that you can prepare with rice for dinner meals.

29. Pasta

Basic pasta is another cheap groceries list item. You can use it in simple and relatively inexpensive main dishes such as spaghetti (especially if you make meatless spaghetti), homemade mac and cheese, broccoli alfredo, pasta carbonara, and so on.


30. Cereal

If you love breakfast cereal (like I do!), then when you are broke or on a tight budget stick to the varieties that you can buy for about 10 cents an ounce or less. (In your area they may be more expensive than that, but they would be the ones comparable in price to raisin bran, which is about the least expensive—but also one of the tastiest, in my opinion! :)—cereal you can buy unless others are on sale.



In this section you will find some of the best cheap proteins to buy when broke. For what you get, some of the inexpensive protein options, like beans and lentils, really provide some of the best value for your money spent. These proteins are super cheap and very filling, so they are a great way to stretch your grocery budget.


31. Beans

Beans may be the overall cheapest food staple there is. Especially if you buy them in a large bag and soak and prepare them yourself, you pay just a few pennies per ounce. Dry beans to take time to prepare, but if you soak them overnight and then prepare them in a slow cooker, they really don’t take much effort at all. And of course there are tons of different kinds of beans. Pinto, black beans, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), great northern beans, chili beans—we like them all at our house.

Even if you buy canned beans, you can still make a lot of inexpensive meals, such as taco soup or even meatless taco soup, to make the dish even cheaper. And use canned chili beans to stretch your can of chili and make it a cheaper meal.


32. Lentils

You can also buy lentils for very cheap, and they are another great protein option when money is tight. There are lots of recipes for lentil soups and other dishes with lentils, such as veggie lentil stir fry.

33. Eggs

Another staple on the list of cheapest foods you can buy when broke is eggs. At a price (where we live) of only about 10 cents per egg, you can have a hearty breakfast (or whatever meal) of eggs and toast for well under $1 per serving. And eggs are so versatile! 


34. Chicken

When money is tight or when you just want to be able to buy the most economical foods, chicken is definitely your friend. Much of the meat that we buy is chicken because it is generally less expensive than beef and pork and other kinds of meat. We can also get skinless, boneless chicken breasts for a $1 a pound, and so I tend to stock up when that happens until the next time they go on sale. Occasionally we can even get ground chicken for a great price, and it is excellent for dishes like tacos and enchiladas in place of ground beef.

Chicken thighs are generally less expensive than breasts, so if you want chicken and cannot get breasts at a great price, consider getting the thighs. Some people don’t like the thighs as much, but personally, for flavorful dishes, I actually like the thighs better sometimes because I feel they can be more moist and tender than the breasts. And if you don’t mind the extra work, buying the whole chicken can be a great way to purchase chicken on the cheap.


35. Ground turkey

Sometimes ground turkey is on sale for a better price than ground beef, and since it is also a healthier option than ground beef, when it is, we will sometimes buy several pounds of it and freeze it to use in various dishes where we would normally use ground beef.


36. Peanut butter

When looking for cheap foods you can buy when broke, peanut butter is a good value because it is high in protein. Especially if you just stick to regular peanut butter and not the sugar free kind (even though I admit not having the extra sugar is a healthier option), you can make a ton of sandwiches from one large jar of peanut butter!

In the 40 ounce jar (typically the largest standard size, at least at the stores where I shop, that is about 80 tablespoons of peanut butter, and if you eat the standard serving size suggested, that is 40 sandwiches that you can make from a jar that costs (in our area) about $4 or less.

So for about 10 cents for the peanut butter and another 10 cents for the two slices of bread (if you get the cheap bread) and another 15 cents or so per serving for the inexpensive jelly or jam, you are spending well under 50 cents for a PB&J sandwich. Eat an inexpensive apple with it, and you have a light lunch for well under a buck.


37. Tuna fish

Tuna has definitely gotten more expensive over the last 10 or 15 years, but it is still more economical than most meats. Tuna salad sandwiches are more expensive than PB&J sandwiches, for sure, but a simple tuna salad sandwich of tuna and mayo is generally a little less expensive than a simple homemade ham (luncheon meat) and cheese sandwich.

Get the Grocery Money Saving Bundle!

Grocery Money Saving BundleThe Grocery Money Saving Bundle includes 9 must-have resources to help you save money on groceries, eating out, healthy eating, produce, meat, and more! Also learn how to meal plan effectively—and efficiently!—to help you save time and money! Discover the foods that give you the most bang for your grocery-spending buck! And learn how to use my secret weapon to save big time on your monthly grocery budget! 

Learn the tips and tricks our family of five uses to spend less than an average of $300 a month on food! Learn more about or purchase the Grocery Money Saving Bundle today! 

Dairy Products

In this section I am going to discuss some of the best cheap dairy products to buy when broke.

38. Milk

Milk is definitely one of the cheapest dairy products, and overall foods, that you can buy when you are broke.

Milk is of course great to drink on its own, but you can also use it to make many inexpensive meals like waffles or pancakes, French toast, biscuits and gravy, cereal and milk, mashed potatoes with white gravy, and much more!


39. Yogurt

Yogurt is another relatively inexpensive dairy product that is a great cheap food to buy when you are broke. To get the most bang for your buck, buy yogurt in the larger containers, and then just measure out the amount that you want to eat at a particular time. (This is what we do in my family.)

Of course, as with most food buying, purchasing the generic or store brand varieties will pretty much always save you money over the name-brand options.


40. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is also a relatively inexpensive dairy product that is a great cheap food to buy when you are broke. Same as with yogurt, to get the most bang for your buck, buy cottage cheese in the larger containers, and then just measure out the amount that you want to eat at a particular time.


41. Cheese

Of course, you can spend a ton of money on cheese if you want to buy the fancy stuff! But cheese can be a relatively cheap food if you stick with the more familiar types of cheese like cheddar, mozzarella, and Monterey Jack.

To stretch your food buying dollar, you can always use a little less cheese than is called for in a particular recipe. So, for example, if a recipe calls for two cups of cheese, spread the cheese out thinner, and just use one.

Another great way to save money on cheese is to not buy string cheese, presliced cheese, and other types of convenience cheeses. For your kids, instead of buying the packages of cheese with individual things of string cheese, cut long strips of cheese for them yourself. We did this a lot when our kids were toddlers as a finger food, and it worked great.



Examples of Meals You Can Make from Cheap Foods to Buy When Broke

Here are some examples of simple meals or meal plans you can make with the cheap food items listed above.

These ideas are perfect for when you really have to (or want to!) make your money stretch because you are broke, waiting for your next paycheck, or saving money diligently for an important financial goal.

With these cheap and easy ideas below, you can eat for as little as a dollar a day!



Cheap Foods Breakfast Ideas

Toast with peanut butter or toast with jam or butter (or the cheaper margarine)
Toast with peanut butter and bananas
Oats with mashed banana (I know it may sound a little odd, but I love this one!)
Oatmeal and banana cookies
Cereal (with or without milk; cereal you can get for 10 cents an ounce or less will give you the most bang for your buck)
Cream of wheat
Scrambled eggs with salsa
Egg omelet with spinach
Fried eggs with toast
Waffles or pancakes (make them from scratch; sprinkle with a little powdered sugar or regular sugar in place of syrup to save money and calories)

Cheap Foods Lunch Ideas

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with an apple
Tuna fish (with pickle) sandwiches with chopped carrots or baby carrots
Ramen noodles with chopped vegetables
Egg salad sandwiches
Bologna sandwiches
Lunch meat and cheese sandwich with an apple
Green salad with dressing (add a hard-boiled egg or a little chicken or beans for protein)
Baked potato with ranch or salsa
Baked sweet potato with a little margarine or cinnamon and sugar
Macaroni and cheese (with vegetables)
Any of the ideas from the list for breakfast or dinner


Cheap Foods Dinner Ideas

Egg fried rice
Beans and rice
Bean and cheese burritos (homemade)
Meatless taco soup
Squash soup with homemade rolls
Lentils and rice
Hot dogs and fries (make the fries yourself to save even more money)
Chicken and rice with steamed carrots or vegetables
Pasta (and broccoli) alfredo
Chicken alfredo with broccoli
Meatless spaghetti
Green salad with chicken
Chili macaroni and cheese
Tuna macaroni and cheese
Homemade chicken noodle soup
Homemade vegetarian chili with cornbread
Ramen noodles with chicken and vegetables
Hot dogs with fries
Fried potatoes and hot dogs (chop the hot dogs and add them to the fried potatoes for the last couple of minutes that you cook them; I used to eat this when I was living in Bolivia, where they called it salchipapas)
Chicken or vegetarian stir fry with rice
Any of the ideas from the list for breakfast or lunch


Meal Planning When You Are Broke: Consider Using an Inexpensive Meal Planning Service

If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to create a meal plan and add one more thing to your to-do list, then an inexpensive solution is a service like $5 Meal Plans could be a great option for you. $5 Meal Plans costs just $5 per month, and they do all of the planning for you!

They plan the meals you will eat and include the ingredients you will need to buy and the recipes you will need to follow to prepare them. Pretty cool! With $5 Meal Plans, the dinners themselves also cost less than $5 per meal to make! And the service comes with a 14-day free trial, so you have nothing to lose! If this sounds like a good option for your family, you can check out $5 Meal Plans here.

If you’re regularly spending several hundred dollars on groceries or hundreds of dollars eating out per month, one of these services could really help you get on the right track and save your food budget.


When compiling a list of cheap foods to buy when broke, there really are a lot of options for making meals using the items listed above. With this list of 41 of the cheapest foods to buy when broke, you can easily make meals until your next paycheck—or for the whole month, if you need to!

I really am a big advocate of keeping your grocery costs down anyway, even when money isn’t tight, so that you can use the money for things (such as getting out of debt, retirement, kids’ college, becoming totally financially free) that have longer-lasting value than a meal that is consumed in 30 minutes or less and that you can then barely even remember the taste of. 🙂

Want more ways to cut your food budget? You can find more than 70 ideas for saving money on groceries (without having to use coupons!) here.


What items would you include on your list of cheap foods to buy when broke? What else do you do to save money on groceries? Leave a comment below and let me know! I would love to hear your thoughts!

Invitation to Share

Was there something in this article that inspired you to change something about your money? Are there ideas or tips that you feel could help others? Would you please take a minute to share this article via email or social media? I would love your help to share these principles of financial well-being. Thank you!

Join Our Facebook Group!

Join our closed Families for Financial Freedom Facebook group to get support and share ideas for how we can all improve our financial well-being by earning more, spending less, saving more, and investing more and reach our financial goals. You can do this! And we are here to help.