Healthy Cheap Grocery List When Money is Tight

lady with a grocery cart looking a receipt. Graphic for cheap grocery list

A cheap grocery list. I know we’ve talked lots about ways to save money on groceries! If you’ve been around before, you know my number one tip is to have a meal plan!!!

Today we are going to get a little more specific with this cheap grocery list.

Maybe it’s the end of the month, maybe money is especially tight right now.

Whatever it is, you are wondering what cheap food you can buy.

Not only what frugal/cheap foods to buy, but what are the healthiest  foods you can put on a cheap grocery list. What are your options.

First, I want to tell you don’t worry and stress. Just do the best you can. Hang in there. Being anxious, as easy as it is to do, (talking to myself here too) about what cheap food to feed your family does no good.

Related Posts on Saving Money:
Eating Healthy on a Tight Budget
How to Drastically Reduce Your Grocery Budget
Dirt Cheap Meals Under $5 Total
Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

picture of beans and other foods and a great cheap healthy grocery list that will help you feed your family on a budget.

Cheap Grocery List – aka Healthy Cheap Food

The first two that come to mind are the stereotypical budget foods – but don’t let them scare you off.

Beans. Specifically dry beans. They are super easy to cook and you can season them in a variety of ways and use them to stretch meat or replace it all together. Buying them dry will cost you at least a third of buying a can.

Rice. You can buy a pound of brown rice at Dollar Tree for $1. One of our local grocery stores sells a pound bag for $.50! If you don’t like brown rice, you can find white rice even cheaper.

Lentils. Another affordable legume for a cheap grocery list right here. People use these for all kinds of things. A lentil and rice casserole. Meat replacement in things like sloppy joes. Or one of our go tos is a quick lentil soup.

Rolled Oats. Buy the big container, none of the instant oatmeal packets. You can always make your own oatmeal packets. Breakfast really can’t get much cheaper than this. A jar of cinnamon is only $1 and will season a lot of bowls of oatmeal.

Bag of flour. Grab a bag of whole wheat (or unbleached white) flour. Use it to make a loaf of bread or a batch of pancakes (for dinner or breakfast).

Pasta. Cheap and easy. Make a batch of meatless spaghetti sauce (or replace the meat with some lentils) and supper will cost next to nothing. I always make a big batch so we can have leftovers another meal or two. (<– Another money saving tip right there!)

Peanut Butter. Takes you back to your childhood, I know, but it’s really hard to get cheaper than peanut butter sandwiches. My kids dislike jelly, but of course you can add some fruit to your peanut butter sandwich. Kroger brand peanut butter has the best price on peanut and salt peanut butter – especially if you get it on sale.

Bread. Make bread using flour for pennies a loaf. Also, watch for your local dollar store to get in a shipment of Nature’s Way bread. You can also find bread marked down at Aldi and other grocery stores. Here is an easy recipe for french bread and English muffin bread.

Popcorn kernels. Buy the kernels and pop it yourself for a healthy and frugal snack or even turn it into a snack supper.

Milk. Not to drink. I’m a huge proponent of water. Instead use it to make the pancakes, baked oatmeal etc. Dairy free, sub almond milk.

Eggs. This is really an inexpensive source of protein. Have them hard boiled for a snack, as part of a meal, or in a salad. Scrambled eggs make a great brinner. Can also use to make cheap things such as pancakes or french toast.

Chicken. If you are going to buy meat, chicken will likely be your cheapest bet. Use it as an ingredient – not the star of the meal. Be sure to ration it out and stretch it with beans, lentils, or veggies when you can. If you buy bone in chicken, use the bones to make stock and stretch your dollar even further.

Ground Turkey. As far as ground meat goes, turkey will give you the most bang for your buck! Use for spaghetti, tacos, meatballs, sloppy joes etc. Basically just as you would use hamburger only it is under $2 a pound!

Potatoes. Especially in the fall and winter months when they will often go on sale for $2-$3 for a 10 pound bag. I prefer sweet potatoes and you can also find them cheaper in the fall and winter months. There’s nothing wrong with a baked potato supper. Plan on leftovers and have fried potatoes with the eggs for supper the next night. Make a potato soup with some of the milk.

Sweet Potatoes. A great super food that’s also cheap when they are in season and frequently on sale. Use in soaps, roasted as a side dish, as a breakfast hash, in curry etc.

Summer Squash/Winter Squash. When squash is in season, you can find it for under $1 a pound. I great time to incorporate it into your diet. I love making zucchini corn skillets in the summer and spaghetti squash is a winter favorite.

Check out these spaghetti squash recipes: Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein, Spaghetti Squash Burrito Bowl, and Tex Mex Spaghetti Squash.

Onions and Garlic. Not only are these a great cheap food, but they also add tons of flavor to recipes. I use a lot of onions and garlic in my house and they are great for you!

Carrots. Not the baby ones when you are pinching pennies. Whole carrots are typically super inexpensive. I get them for $1 for a 2 pound bag. Serve them raw as a side for lunch or supper (or try roasting). Add them to soups or a stir fry.

Celery. In my part of the country a bunch of celery is $1. Use in the same way you would the carrots. Carrots and celery also make great snacks.

Frozen Veggies. Frozen green beans, peas and corn are both under $1 at Aldi. Use in soup, fried rice or as a side dish.

Apples. In the fall and winter months these are often times under $.70 a pound. Add to oatmeal or slice and serve with lunch or for a snack. Of course apple cake is a fun splurge too. 🙂

Cabbage. Right now a head of cabbage is just over a dollar and it will be cheaper in fall and winter months. Shave it for a salad or add to soups and stir fries. I also love sauteing it and having with eggs.

Bananas. Bananas are pretty much always under $.50 a pound and will frequently go on sale cheaper than that.

Canned Tomato Products. Canned tomatoes are cheap. Make your own pizza sauce, salsa, spaghetti sauce, and tomato soup for a fraction of what it would cost to buy them already made. I know canned tomatoes are controversial in the “healthy foods” world. But you do what you have to do. Another option would be to stock up on tomatoes when you can get them dirt cheap and can or freeze them to avoid the cans.

Lettuce. I can get a head of romaine or leaf lettuce for between $1 and $1.30 at my grocery stores. A bean based taco salad would make a great meal or simply have salad for your lunch or a side dish.

Other In Season Produce. This is key to getting fresh produce in on the cheap food to buy when you are broke cheap grocery list. Only buy what is on sale for a great price. Things like broccoli, corn, peaches, strawberries, grapes. It depends on what is in season and on sale.

Free Menu Plan Guide & Template

Here’s the bullet point list of all the healthy foods for a cheap grocery list, in case you are a skimmer like I am! 🙂

  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Lentils
  • Rolled Oats
  • Flour
  • Pasta
  • Peanut Butter
  • Bread
  • Popcorn Kernels
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Ground Turkey
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Summer Squash/Winter Squash
  • Onions and Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Frozen Vegetables
  • Apples
  • Cabbage
  • Bananas
  • Canned Tomato Products
  • Lettuce
  • Other in Season Produce


I hope this gives you a starting point next time you are trying to make a healthy, cheap grocery list.

What other healthy(ish) cheap foods am I missing from the list? What’s the cheapest, healthy meal that you make?

empty grocery cart and a shelf with tomatoes

picture of beans and a great cheap healthy grocery list that will help you feed your family on a budget. picture of bananas and a great cheap healthy grocery list that will help you feed your family on a budget.

Originally published October 30, 2018. Updated August 4, 2020.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *