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Cheapest Groceries List to Buy the Cheapest Foods

This cheapest groceries list is perfect for when you are on a tight budget or when you are broke. With this list of 31 of the cheapest groceries you can buy, you will be able to stretch your grocery budget to help make ends meet and make sure you have food on the table for your family.

When you need to stretch your budget, shopping for the cheapest foods can really help you to survive financially until things get better!

I should include the caveat that these are some of the best foods to save you money on your groceries, but they are not all the healthiest of options. For a list of the best healthy cheap foods to eat, check out this article with the best cheap and healthy foods to save you money on your grocery budget!

See the end of the article for ideas on super cheap meals you can make with these cheap foods so you can eat for as little as $1 per day!

Be sure to also download the Cheapest Groceries List Cheat Sheet at the end of this article so you will have this list of cheapest groceries at your fingertips!**


Tip: Pin the image above so that you can easily find this article about cheapest food to include on a cheapest groceries list to refer to it later!



Make Your Cheapest Groceries List Even Cheaper!

One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries so that you can buy food cheap and prepare inexpensive meals 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 the Cheapest Groceries and Cheapest Foods

When you are broke or need to save money fast, buying the cheapest groceries that you can 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). Buying the cheapest foods can help you to stay afloat and keep you from slipping farther and farther into debt!

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 the Cheapest Groceries or Cheapest Food?

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.

Even if you are not in a particularly bad financial situation, you may want to eat the cheapest groceries and cheapest food that you can for a time in order to save money to make a large purchase with cash or to get your grocery spending under control. You may also want to eat the cheapest groceries that you can as part of a money-saving challenge.

Find more  ideas to slash your grocery budget spending here.


31 Cheapest Groceries List So You Can Buy the Cheapest Foods

In this cheapest groceries list below I include many of my own favorite cheapest foods and 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.

Here are some of the cheapest groceries you can buy.


1. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of the cheapest foods 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.


2. 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!


3. Eggs

Another staple on the cheapest groceries list 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!


4. 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 groceries 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.


5. 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.


6. Bananas

Probably because they are readily available all year round, bananas are one of the cheapest groceries 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. 🙂

7. 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.

8. 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 do 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.

9. 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.

10. Rice

Rice is another dish amply suited for a cheapest groceries 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.

11. 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.



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12. 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 :)).

13. 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. But if you choose to, you can add a little cinnamon and sugar for an even sweeter treat.



14. 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.


15. 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.

16. 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!)

17. Zucchini

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


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18. 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.


19. 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.)


20. 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.


21. 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.


22. 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.


23. 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.


24. 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.


25. Peppers

Green peppers are another good option if you are making a cheapest groceries list—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.


26. 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.


27. Peanut butter

When looking for the cheapest groceries you can buy, 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.


28. 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.


Related articles:

42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5!
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How to Use a Grocery Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save a Ton of Money!



29. Hot dogs

I know that the cheap hot dogs aren’t necessarily super healthy, but this is an article about the cheapest groceries, not the most healthy ones. 🙂 And hot dogs are an inexpensive option when money is short. You can put a hot dog on a slice of bread with a little ketchup for less than 20 cents (with the prices in my area, anyway).

30. Macaroni and cheese

This is another cheap option. Even though mac and cheese has also gotten more expensive in recent years (which is true for many foods), you can still make a box of mac and cheese (the inexpensive, store-brand kind) for less than 50 cents where I live. In our house we like to make what we call “more better mac and cheese,” where we add vegetables like broccoli, carrots, onions, and green peppers, as well as sometimes polish sausage or even hot dogs or hamburger. I also like to top mine with salsa to add even more vegetable goodness.


31. Ramen noodles

This one has little nutritional value, I know, but it’s about as cheap a meal choice as you can get. We add vegetables and chicken to make this not so healthy choice healthier (and tastier!).


Read on a little further below to get a list of ideas of cheap meals that you can make with these cheap foods!


Summary of the Cheapest Food to Buy When Money Is Tight

In case it is helpful, I also want to include a streamlined list of these 31 cheapest foods to include on a cheapest groceries list. And if you want this list as a handy printable, be sure to grab the cheat sheet offered below! And keep reading, because in the next section I am going to talk about some of the cheap and easy meals that you can make with this list of cheapest groceries!

Here is a condensed list of the 31 cheapest foods discussed in this article:

1. Oatmeal
2. Cream of wheat
3. Eggs
4. Bread
5. Cereal
6. Bananas
7. Apples
8. Zucchini
9. Onions
10. Broccoli
11. Squash
12. Potatoes
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Carrots
15. Canned tomatoes
16. Salsa
17. Green salad
18. Spinach
19. Peppers
20. Frozen vegetables
21. Beans
22. Lentils
23. Rice
24. Pasta
25. Macaroni and cheese
26. Ramen noodles
27. Chicken
28. Ground turkey
29. Hot dogs
30. Tuna fish
31. Peanut butter

Examples of meals that you can make with these cheapest foods are discussed just below!




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Examples of Meals You Can Make with the Cheapest Foods from a Cheapest Groceries List

Below you will find examples of simple meals or meal plans you can make with the cheapest groceries 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!

Cheapest Groceries 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)

Cheapest Groceries 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


Cheapest Groceries 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


For even more ideas of cheap meals you can make, check out this article with more than 100 cheap recipes you can make for $5 or less!

Final Thoughts about Cheapest Foods and a Cheapest Groceries List

When wanting to buy the cheapest food and compiling a cheapest groceries list at times when your budget is tight, there really are a lot of options for making meals using the items listed above. With this list of 31 of the cheapest groceries, 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. 🙂

You can find more than 70 ideas for saving money on groceries (without having to use coupons!) here.


What cheapest food items would you include on your list of cheapest groceries? 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!

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