US households in the lowest income quintile spend 27 percent of income their income on food, according to the latest data available.
When money is tight, the grocery bill is one of the first places people look to cut back on spending. But it’s not always easy to know what foods are affordable and nutritious.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of the 72 best cheap foods you can buy this year.
We’ll also show you how to save money when shopping for food, and where to find the cheapest food in town.
So whether you’re looking to slash your food budget or just want some tips on how to eat healthy on a tight budget, read on.
Let’s dive in.
How can you save money when shopping for food?
The first way you can save money when shopping for food is to buy in bulk. Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club offer discounts on certain items when you buy them in bulk.
Another way to save money is to use coupons. You can find coupons in the newspaper, store catalogs, or online.
Ibotta is another great way to save money. Ibotta is a cash-back app that gives you money back on certain items when you purchase them and upload a photo of your receipt.
This is the quickest way to get started saving money on your grocery bill. Simply download the app and start scanning your grocery receipts.
You will be surprised how much money you can save.
What are the best cheap foods to save money?
Here are my picks for the best cheap foods to buy for affordable and nutritious options.
Bananas are a great pick for cheap and healthy foods to buy. They are affordable, nutritious, and filling. You can eat them as a snack or have them for breakfast.
Another great thing about bananas is that they last a long time. You can buy them in bulk and they will last for weeks.
- Banana and peanut butter sandwich
- Oatmeal with bananas
- Banana smoothie
- Bananas foster
2) Frozen vegetables
Frozen vegetables are a great cheap food to buy. They are typically cheaper than fresh vegetables and they last longer.
They are also just as nutritious as fresh vegetables. I always keep a few bags of frozen vegetables in my freezer for quick and easy meals.
- Stir fry with frozen vegetables
- Roasted frozen vegetables
- Vegetable soup
Oats are a cheap and nutritious food that can be used in many different ways. You can make oatmeal, pancakes, cookies, and more.
They are also very filling and will keep you full for hours. Oats are my go-to food when I am trying to eat healthy on a budget.
- Oatmeal with fruit
- Oat pancakes
- Oatmeal cookies
4) Peanut butter
Peanut butter is a staple when it comes to cheap but filling foods. It’s been used as a cheap source of protein for years.
You can eat it on toast, in a sandwich, or straight out of the jar. Peanut butter is also a great source of healthy fats.
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Peanut butter cookies
- Peanut butter and banana smoothie
Pasta is another cheap and filling food. It’s a great source of carbs and can be used in many different ways.
You can make a simple pasta dish with just pasta and sauce, or you can add vegetables and meat to make it more filling.
- Spaghetti with marinara sauce
- Macaroni and cheese
- Fettuccine Alfredo
- Pasta with chicken and vegetables
Potatoes are a cheap and versatile food. You can bake them, fry them, or mashed them. They make a great side dish or can be eaten as a meal.
- Baked potato with chili
- Roasted potatoes
- Mashed potatoes
- French fries
Tomatoes are a cheap and healthy food. You can eat them fresh or use them in cooking. They are a great source of vitamins and antioxidants.
- Tomato soup
- Caprese salad
- Roasted tomatoes
- Tomato sauce
Spinach is a great leafy green that is incredibly healthy. It’s a great source of vitamins and minerals. You can eat it raw in salads or cook it to add to other dishes.
- Spinach salad
- Sautéed spinach
- Spinach and cheese quesadilla
Lentils are a great source of protein and fiber. They are also versatile and can be prepared in a number of different ways including soups, stews, or as a side dish.
- Lentil soup
- Indian lentil curry
- Lentil stew
Beans are low in fat and high in protein and fiber. They are also a great frugal option that can be used for anything from soups to salads.
Beans are also incredibly easy and quick to prepare, making them a great option for anybody.
- Black bean soup
- Three bean salad
- Refried beans
- Chili with beans
11) Brown rice
Brown rice is a cheap and healthy grain. It’s a great source of fiber and vitamins. You can use it as a side dish or add it to other dishes for extra texture and flavor.
- Chicken and brown rice stir fry
- Vegetable and brown rice bowl
- Brown rice pudding
12) Canned salmon
Canned salmon is a great frugal option for seafood. It’s high in protein and omega-three fatty acids. You can use it to make sushi, sandwiches, or salads.
- Salmon sushi
- Salmon sandwich
- Salmon salad
13) Canned tuna
Canned tuna is another cheap and healthy seafood option. Just like salmon, it’s high in protein and omega-three fatty acids and can be used for all the same things.
- Tuna sandwich
- Tuna pasta salad
- Tuna noodle casserole
Chicken is one of the cheapest sources of protein. It’s low in fat and calories and high in vitamins and minerals.
It’s also a highly popular food for the taste and all the different ways it can be prepared. You can use it to make all sorts of dishes like soups, salads, casseroles, and more.
- Roasted chicken
- Chicken soup
- Chicken stir fry
- Chicken salad
15) Corn tortilla
Corn tortillas are incredibly affordable and can last a long time in your pantry. You can use them to make all sorts of dishes like tacos, burritos, or quesadillas.
They’re also a great source of fiber and vitamins.
Eggs are cheap, versatile, and nutritious. They’re a great source of protein and can be used for breakfast dishes, lunches, and even dinner meals. The great thing about eggs is that they also last a long time in your fridge.
- Scrambled eggs
17) Ground beef
Although not the least expensive protein, ground beef is a great option for meat lovers looking for an affordable alternative. It’s a great source of protein and can be used for all sorts of dishes like burgers, meatloaves, or tacos.
18) Iceberg lettuce
Iceberg lettuce is one of the most affordable leafy greens. It’s light and crisp, making it a great addition to salads or as a wrap for sandwiches.
It’s also a great source of vitamins and minerals.
- Wedge salad
- Caesar salad
- BLT sandwich
Honey is a great natural sweetener that can be used in all sorts of dishes. You can use it to sweeten oatmeal or yogurt, bake with it, or add it to tea.
It’s also a great source of antioxidants.
- Oatmeal with honey
- Yogurt with honey
20) Ground turkey
Ground turkey is another affordable source of protein. It’s leaner than ground beef and just as versatile. You can use it to make all the same dishes like burgers, meatloaves, or tacos.
- Turkey burger
- Turkey meatloaf
- Turkey taco
Quinoa is a healthy grain high in protein and fiber and low in calories. You can use it as a side dish or add it to other dishes for extra texture and flavor.
It’s a great alternative to beans in certain dishes as well.
- Vegetable quinoa bowl
- Chicken quinoa stir fry
- Quinoa salad
Apples are my go-to snack in the morning. They’re high in fiber and vitamins and can be used in all sorts of dishes or as a snack. You can eat them as is, bake with them, or add them to your favorite recipes.
- Baked apple
- Apple crisp
- Apple pie
Margarine is an easy way to add flavor to all sorts of dishes. It’s considered to be a butter alternative and can be used in the same ways. Use it to cook, bake, or spread on toast. It’s also a great source of essential fatty acids.
- Sautéed vegetables
- Baked potato
- Grilled cheese sandwich
Oranges are the ultimate snack. They also go great in certain dishes. You can use them as a garnish, in salads, or add them to your favorite recipes.
- Orange salad
- Chicken with oranges
- Oranges and yogurt smoothie
Yogurt is a healthy and delicious snack. It’s high in protein and calcium and can be used in all sorts of dishes. You can eat it as is, add it to smoothies, or use it as a base for dips or sauces.
- Plain yogurt
- Fruit yogurt
26) Saltine crackers
Saltine crackers are a great pantry staple. They’re cheap, last a long time, and can be used in all sorts of dishes. You can use them as a side dish, in soups or stews, or even as a base for dips or sauces.
- Cracker and cheese
- Soup with crackers
- Cracker and peanut butter
27) Whole wheat bread
Whole wheat bread is a great source of fiber and nutrients. It’s also cheap and lasts a long time. You can use it for all sorts of dishes like sandwiches, toast, or even as a base for dips or sauces.
- PB&J sandwich
- Toast with margarine
- French toast
28) Whole milk
Whole milk is a great source of calcium and vitamin D. It’s also cheap and can be used for cooking, drinking or baking. You can use it for all sorts of dishes like cereal, oatmeal, or baking.
- Cereal with milk
- Oatmeal with milk
Carrots are cheap, last a long time, and are a great source of vitamins and minerals. try using them in all sorts of dishes like salads, soup, or as a side dish.
- Carrot salad
- Soup with carrots
- Roasted carrots
Cabbage has long been used as a cheap a frugal ingredient. Since it’s high in vitamins and minerals and low in calories, it’s a great choice for those trying to eat healthy on a budget. You can use it in all sorts of dishes like salads, soup, or as a side dish.
- Cabbage salad
- Soup with cabbage
- Steamed cabbage
Tofu has become a popular meat alternative in recent years. It’s high in protein and low in calories, making it a great choice for those trying to eat healthy on a budget. You can use it as a meat alternative, add it to soups or stews, or even use it as a base for dips or sauces.
- Tofu stir fry
- Tofu and vegetables soup
- Tofu with rice
Peanuts are a good snack for any occasion. You can find salted, unsalted or flavored versions and can find them anywhere. They can even be used as a side dish, in soups or stews, or even as a base for dips or sauces.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Thai peanut chicken
- Creamy peanut soup
33) Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese can provide you with protein and calcium. It’s also incredibly easy to eat immediately or prepare. Use it in all sorts of dishes like salads, soup, or as a side dish.
- Cottage cheese with fruit
- Cucumber and cottage cheese salad
- Tomato and cottage cheese soup
34) Ramen noodles
Ramen noodles have a reputation for being the ultimate broke college kid food. It’s a cheap and easy way to get a filling meal, but can also be prepared in a healthy way. You can find them at any grocery store and they only take minutes to cook. Use them in all sorts of dishes like soup, stir fry, or even as a base for dips or sauces.
- Ramen noodle soup
- Ramen noodle stir fry
35) Frozen fruit
Frozen fruit is the easiest and most frugal way to get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. You can find it at any grocery store and it lasts a long time. Use it in all sorts of dishes like smoothies, yogurt, or even as a topping for cereal or oatmeal.
- Fruit smoothie
- Yogurt with frozen fruit
- Fruit salad
Popcorn is a cheap and easy snack that you can make at home. It’s also a healthy snack option. You can find popcorn kernels at any grocery store and they only take minutes to cook. Use them in all sorts of dishes like soup, stir fry, or even as a base for dips or sauces.
- Popcorn with margarine
- Cinnamon sugar popcorn
- Popcorn chicken
Celery is cheap, last a long time, and are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Try using them in all sorts of dishes like salads, soup, or as a side dish.
- Celery with peanut butter
- Chicken noodle soup with celery
- Roasted celery
Squash is incredibly versatile and can be used it in so many creative ways. The great thing about squash is how easy it is to work with. Provide any meal with vitamins and minerals by incorporating squash.
- Butternut squash soup
- Spaghetti squash with marinara sauce
- Roasted squash
39) Canned soup
Canned soup can sometimes be unhealthy and packed with bad things. High sodium is a common issue with a lot of canned soups. However, if you’re on a budget and buy the right kind, they can be lifesavers. You can find them at any grocery store and can be cooked instantly.
- Tomato soup
- Chicken noodle soup
- Minestrone soup
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a good way to get protein and fiber. Many different cultures use chickpeas in their cuisine since they are cheap, tastey and can be used for all sorts of things like salads, dips and patties.
- Chickpea salad
- Chickpea soup
- Chickpea patties
41) Canned corn
Canned corn is easy to use as a topping for salads, as a dip, or side dish. It’s also cheap and can live in your pantry for a long time.
- Corn salad
- Black bean and corn salsa
- Grilled corn on the cob
42) Frozen brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a popular vegetable even among vegetable haters. They can be prepared many different ways and are a good food to always keep around for a quick vegetable side dish.
- Roasted brussels sprouts
- Brussels sprout soup
- Shaved brussels sprout salad
If you’re a coffee lover, you know how expensive coffee can get. But if you buy in bulk at the store, or better yet, invest in a coffee maker and grind your own beans, you’ll save a ton of money.
44) Canned fruit
Canned fruit is a great way to get your fruit fix without having to buy fresh fruit, which can be expensive. Use it for anything from snacking to adding to your breakfast or lunch. The good thing is that you can also preserve it longer than fresh fruit.
- Canned peaches with cottage cheese
- Pineapple chunks in yogurt
- Fruit salad with canned fruit
This condiment is not only cheap, but it’s also versatile. You can use salsa on tacos, as a dip, in eggs, or on top of grilled chicken or fish. It’s also a great way to add flavor to your meals without adding calories.
- Taco salad with salsa
- Salsa chicken
- Black bean and corn salsa
46) Frozen meals
Frozen meals are a great way to save money and time. You can find cheap frozen meals at most grocery stores. They’re usually just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, and they last much longer.
- Frozen pizza
- Frozen lasagna
- Frozen chicken pot pie
47) Vegetable oil
Vegetable oil is a cheap and healthy way to cook your food. It’s also great for baking. You can use it in place of butter or other oils, and it’s usually less expensive.
- Air fried chicken
- Roasted vegetables
- Baked goods
48) Sweet potato
Sweet potatoes are a cheap and healthy alternative to regular potatoes. They’re great roasted, mashed, or in soups and stews. You can usually find them for less than $0.50 per pound.
- Roasted sweet potatoes
- Mashed sweet potatoes
- Sweet potato soup
Zucchini is an excellent cheap food to buy to save money. This summer squash is versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads to main courses. Zucchini is also very low in calories and a good source of vitamins and minerals.
- Zucchini boats
- Zucchini noodles
- Grilled zucchini
Onions compliment a variety of dishes nicely. They add flavor and depth to soups, stews, sauces, and more. Onions are also a good source of vitamins and minerals. They are incredibly affordable and can open up creative pathways for many meals.
- French onion soup
- Chicken and onion skillet recipe
- Roasted onions
Broccoli is a cheap, nutrient-dense food that should be on everyone’s grocery list. Broccoli is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It can be eaten raw, steamed, roasted, or stir-fried.
- Roasted broccoli and garlic
- Stir-fried broccoli and chicken
- Broccoli and cheese quinoa bake
One of the great cheap foods to buy are peppers. Peppers are versatile and can be used in so many different dishes. You can add them to stews, soups, salads, or just eat them raw as a snack. Peppers are also a great source of vitamins your body needs
- Roasted red pepper tomato soup
Garlic is another affordable food that has a lot of health benefits. It’s been shown to boost the immune system, lower cholesterol levels, and help prevent cancer. Garlic is also a great source of antioxidants.
- Roasted garlic mashed potatoes
- Pasta with garlic and olive oil
54) Canned pumpkin
Canned pumpkin is high in fiber and low in calories, making it a great food for those who are trying to lose weight. Pumpkin can also help to regulate blood sugar levels, making it a good choice for diabetics.
- Pumpkin soup
- Roasted pumpkin seeds
- Pumpkin pie smoothie
Kiwi is a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. It is also a low-calorie food, making it a good choice for those who are watching their weight. Kiwis can usually be found affordably at most grocery stores depending on the season.
- Kiwi smoothie
- Kiwi salad
- Kiwi salsa
Watermelon is a refreshing and hydrating fruit that is low in calories. It is also a good source of vitamins A and C. Watermelons can usually be found affordably at most grocery stores during the summer months.
- Watermelon salad
- Watermelon juice
- Grilled watermelon skewers
57) Frozen berries
Frozen berries are a great way to add sweetness and nutrition to your diet without breaking the bank. They can be a good source of fiber and vitamins C and E.
- Berry smoothie
- Berry oatmeal
- Berry yogurt parfait
Grapes are a great cheap food to buy when you’re looking to save money. They’re versatile and can be eaten as a snack or added to a salad. Grapes are also a good source of antioxidants and have been linked to several health benefits.
- Chicken salad with grapes
- Grape and cheese plate
59) Cheddar cheese
Cheddar cheese is a type of cheese that is made from cow’s milk. It is one of the most popular types of cheese in the world. It has a strong, sharp flavor and it is often used in cooking. It is also a good source of protein and calcium. Cheese can get pricey but cheddar is one of the most affordable cheeses available.
- Cheddar cheese and crackers
- Grilled cheese sandwich
- Macaroni and cheese
60) Canned refried beans
Refried beans are a type of food made from cooked and mashed beans. They are popular in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. Refried beans are usually made with pinto beans but they can also be made with black beans, garbanzo beans, or kidney beans. They are a good source of protein, fiber, and iron. Canned refried beans are a cheap and easy way to add protein and fiber to your diet.
- Refried beans and rice
- Bean burrito
- Vegetarian chili with refried beans
61) Macaroni and cheese
Macaroni and cheese is a popular dish made with elbow macaroni and cheddar cheese. It can be made with other types of cheese but cheddar is the most common. It is a quick and easy dish to make and it is very affordable. Although it’s not the healthiest dish on the list, it can be a source of protein, calcium, and phosphorus.
- Macaroni and cheese with ham
- Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese
- Vegetarian macaroni and cheese
Melon is a type of fruit that belongs to the gourd family. There are many different types of melon including cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, and muskmelon. Melons are a good source of vitamins C and B. They are also a good source of potassium and fiber. Melons are a cheap and easy way to add some sweetness and nutrition to your diet.
- Melon and yogurt smoothie
- Cantaloupe and Prosciutto salad
- Watermelon, feta, and mint salad
Cucumbers are one of the best foods to buy because they are healthy, easy, and affordable. Cucumbers are low in calories and fat, and high in water content, making them a great hydrating food. They can be eaten raw, in salads, or as a healthy snack.
When buying cucumbers, look for ones that are dark green in color and have firm skin. Avoid cucumbers that are yellow or have wrinkled skin.
- Cucumber and tomato salad
- Cucumber and feta cheese salad
- Cucumber sandwiches
64) Tomato sauce
Tomato sauce is a cheap and easy way to add flavor to any dish. Tomato sauce can be used as a pasta sauce, on pizzas, or as a dipping sauce.
When buying tomato sauce, look for ones that are made with 100% tomatoes. Avoid sauces that are high in sugar or salt.
- Spaghetti with tomato sauce
- Pizza with tomato sauce
Sausage is a cheap and easy way to add protein to any dish. Sausage can be used in pasta dishes, as a topping, or as a standalone protein.
When buying sausage, look for ones that are made with lean meat and have few additives. Avoid sausages that are high in fat or salt.
- Penne with sausage and tomato sauce
- Sausage and peppers
- Sausage and eggs
66) Apple sauce
Apple sauce can be a great snack or add sweetness to any dish. Use it as a topping or in baked goods as well. Apples are a great source of fiber and vitamins.
When buying apple sauce, look for ones that are made with 100% apples. Avoid sauces that are high in sugar or additives.
- Baked oatmeal with apple sauce
- Pork chops with apple sauce
- Apple sauce muffins
67) Green beans
Green beans are a cheap and healthy way to add vegetables to any dish. Green beans can be used in salads, as a side dish, or in main dishes.
When buying green beans, look for ones that are dark green in color and have firm skin.
- Green beans and potatoes
- Green bean casserole
- Green beans with nuts
68) Fruit strips
Fruit strips are a great and healthy snack option. They are easy to grab and go, and are a good source of vitamins and minerals. Fruit strips are also low in calories, fat, and sugar. When buying fruit strips, look for ones that have no added sugar or preservatives.
Pears are an excellent source of fiber, which can help you regulate your digestive system. They’re also a good source of vitamins C and K. You can find this fruit easily at most grocery stores and for a fair price.
- Pear salad
- Oatmeal topping
- Pear and berry smoothie
70) Snap peas
Snap peas are a type of legume that is high in fiber and protein. They’re also low in calories, making them a great snack option. When buying snap peas, look for ones that are bright green in color and have fresh-looking pods.
- Snap pea salad
- Stir fry with snap peas
- Snack on them plain
Pickles are a cheap and easy way to add flavor to any dish. Pickles can be used as a topping, in salads, or as a standalone snack.
- Pickle and cucumber salad
- Pickles on sandwiches or burgers
Olives can get pricey but they are a great food to incorporate into your diet if you can find them cheaply. They can be used as a topping, in salads, or as a standalone snack. Olives are high in healthy fats and antioxidants, and can help improve heart health.
- Olive and cucumber salad
- Olive tapenade
- Stuffed olives
Where can you get free food?
There are a few places you can get cheap or free food.
The first place to check is your local food bank. Food banks are non-profit organizations that collect and distribute food to people in need.
In order to find the nearest one, you can visit Feeding America’s website and type in your zip code.
Another option is to look for soup kitchens in your area.
Soup kitchens are usually run by religious organizations or non-profits, and they serve meals to people who are homeless or otherwise in need.
You can find a list of soup kitchens on the National Coalition for the Homeless website.
Finally, you can always ask family and friends if they have any extra food that they can spare.
What are the best cheap places to buy food?
There are a few cheap places to buy food. The first place is your local grocery store. Many stores offer discounts on certain days of the week or for people who have a store loyalty card. Another option is to buy food in bulk from a store like Costco or Sam’s Club.
You can also find cheap food at farmers markets, especially if you go towards the end of the day when vendors are trying to get rid of their leftover produce.
Finally, you can always grow your own food. This option takes a bit of time and effort, but it’s free in the long run.
There are a lot of cheap foods out there that can help you save money. The best cheap foods are typically nutritious and filling, so you don’t have to worry about sacrificing your health in order to save money.
When shopping for cheap food, be sure to check your local grocery store, farmers market, and food bank. You can also try couponing, using a cash-back app, or growing your own food.
For more tips on saving money, check out my article on the best frugal living tips or the best budget planners on the market.
If you’re looking to make an even bigger impact on your finances after implementing some of these frugal living tips, read my article about ways to make extra income online.
Do you have any other tips for eating cheap and healthy?
Reach out and let me know.