If you’re aiming to cut down your grocery expenses, selecting low-cost food items can be a savvy strategy to stretch your food budget further. Opting for cheap foods can make a notable difference in how much you spend on groceries.
With the average American household spending around 10% of its disposable income on food and the rising food prices this year, shopping frugally cannot be overstated.
You can still make nutritious family meals by knowing which inexpensive food items to buy. So, before you hit the aisles, hold on to your shopping carts and keep this list in mind to help you spend less on groceries without compromising on quality.
Cheapest Food To Buy – Carbohydrates
Nutritionally, rice is relatively low in calories but has a decent amount of essential vitamins and minerals, including B1, B6, magnesium, and zinc.
Cost: Around $1.14 per pound ($0.52 per kilogram)
Meal Ideas: Fried rice, Chinese casseroles, stir-fries, etc.
Not only are they one of the cheapest foods, but they are also full of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Cost: $0.33/lb. ($0.73/kg)
Meal Ideas: Oatmeal with added fruits or nuts is great for breakfast. They can be blended into smoothies as a base or sprinkled on salads.
While flour is known for being the cheapest food on earth, it’s also incredibly nutritious, providing protein, B vitamins, iron, and zinc.
Cost: $4/lb. ($1.81 per kg)
Meal Ideas: You can make tortillas, pancakes, bread, cakes, and other stuff.
4. Plain Cereal
Plain cereal is overflowing with added vitamins and minerals to keep your body going strong. A bowl of plain cereal makes a great start to the day, or you can even snack on it throughout the day.
Cost: $2 – $6 per box
Meal Ideas: For breakfast, add some fruit and nuts to cold cereal or mix yogurt and honey for a sweeter flavor. For dinner, use it as the base for casseroles or as an additive to soups and stews.
From high-fiber whole wheat and multigrain varieties to the ever-popular sourdough, there’s something for every taste profile of bread.
Cost: $2.50 a loaf
Meal Ideas: Add nut butter and other toppings for a delicious lunchtime sandwich.
Pasta is a delicious and inexpensive food. It is the cheapest food to add to your grocery list, but it packs an impressive amount of nutritional value in every serving.
Cost: $4.39/lb ($1.99 per kg)
Meal Ideas: Creamy carbonara pasta or a classic spinach and ricotta lasagna
It’s surprisingly nutritious, low in calories, and full of fiber. Popcorn works excellently as a meal or an afternoon snack.
Cost: $2.98 for 4.6 ounces (130 grams)
Meal Ideas: Top with a little bit of melted butter and salt, or sprinkle some garlic powder over it for a zesty burst of flavor
8. Ramen Noodles
Nutritional-wise, ramen noodles don’t pack many vitamins and minerals, but they have some decent protein content that helps them keep their shape when cooked.
Cost: $0.25-$0.45 per pack
Meal Ideas: These noodles can bulk up soups, be thrown into salads, or be enjoyed straight from the package.
Quinoa is a nutritious, gluten-free pseudo-grain with vegan protein, iron, and fiber. It is high in magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and copper, making it an excellent choice for your diet.
Cost: $1.57-$1.66/lb. ($3.46-$3.66 per kg)
Meal Ideas: Stuffed peppers with quinoa, spinach quinoa salad with feta cheese, and roasted eggplant bowls with quinoa tabbouleh.
10. Frozen Pizza
A classic Italian dish with tomato sauce, cheese, and your favorite toppings. Pizza is affordable, tasty, and highly nutritious.
Cost: $3.84-$10.48 per pie
Meal Ideas: Enjoy it with a side dish of fresh vegetables for a well-balanced meal or top it with sausage and peppers for an interesting new flavor.
Honey is a versatile and sweet ingredient for adding flavor to all your favorite dishes! It is relatively inexpensive and contains essential antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Cost: $1.37-$1.47/lb. ($3.01-$3.24 per kg)
Meal Ideas: Enjoy it on toast with peanut butter, in tea or coffee to sweeten the taste, or drizzle over roasted veggies for a tasty dinner.
Tortillas are a staple in Mexican cuisine made from corn or wheat flour. Generally, its nutritional value is high in calories, with little fat but moderate levels of carbohydrates and protein.
Cost: $2-$3 per dozen
Meal Ideas: They can be enjoyed as a snack or incorporated into meals like tacos, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas, and more.
Cheapest Food To Buy – Protein
13. Frozen Chicken
Frozen chicken is a convenient and budget-friendly source of lean protein. It’s typically affordable and available in several cuts and sizes, so you’ll have plenty of options.
Cost: $1.99 per bird (Prices vary in different states)
Meal Ideas: Stir-fries, tacos, casseroles, and soups
Eggs are notoriously the cheapest food around. The nutritional value of eggs is impressive, providing a balanced mix of proteins, fats, and essential vitamins like B12 and iron.
Cost: $4.25 per dozen
Meal Ideas: Scrambled eggs make for a great breakfast dish, and you can use the same ingredients to make something like an egg salad sandwich for lunch or an omelet for dinner.
15. Ground Beef
You can purchase this versatile protein for a fraction of the price compared to steaks and other cuts of beef, and it contains nutritional value, including vitamin B12, zinc, iron, and protein.
Cost: $4.81/lb. ($10.58/kg)
Meal Ideas: Burgers, tacos, chili, casseroles, or even homemade meatballs
Pork is packed with nutrients like B vitamins, zinc, and potassium, which work together to create a dish that’s tough to beat in terms of flavor and nutrient density.
Cost: $1.12/lb. ($2.47/kg)
Meal Ideas: Tacos, roasted eggplant & fig sandwiches, and homemade burgers
17. Ground Turkey
Ground turkey packs a nutritional punch—it’s packed with protein and minerals, plus vitamins B2 and B6, for an extra boost!
Cost: $4.02/lb. ($8.84/kg)
Meal Ideas: Traditional turkey burgers, tacos, lasagna, and shepherd’s pie
Fish is a versatile and nutritious protein source in fresh and frozen varieties. It is packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals such as zinc, iron, and magnesium.
Cost: $1.56-$1.58/lb. ($3.45-$3.49/kg)
Meal Ideas: Salads, tacos, sandwiches, pasta, and other dishes
While hotdogs have some protein, they contain very few vitamins and minerals and tend to be high in sodium and fat—but they are cheap.
Cost: $5.09/lb. ($11.20/kg)
Meal Ideas: Soups, chili, macaroni & cheese, tacos, casseroles, and more
Cheapest Food To Buy – Vegetables
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable that is both inexpensive and hearty. It provides numerous health benefits, including vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and dietary fiber.
Cost: $3.28 per head
Meal Ideas: Add cabbage to stir-fries or make a classic coleslaw salad with diced cabbage and shredded carrots.
Carrots are versatile root vegetables packed with vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Not only are they good for you, but they also provide a delicious sweet flavor when cooked.
Cost: $1.06/lb. ($2.33/kg)
Meal Ideas: Enjoy carrots in salads, soups, stews, or roasted whole as an easy side dish.
Lettuce is a leafy green vegetable that is an excellent source of dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. It’s inexpensive, usually costing no more than a few cents per serving, and provides powerful nutritional benefits.
Cost: $0.68-$0.72/lb. ($1.54-$1.59/kg)
Meal Ideas: Use it in salads, sandwiches, wraps, or as a side dish for dinner. It’s also great in soups, stews, omelets, stir-fries, and more!
Potato is a humble root vegetable packed with nutrition and can provide great value for your grocery budget. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and other essential minerals.
Cost: $0.47-$0..49/lb. ($1.05-$1.07/kg)
Meal Ideas: You can add potatoes to soups, stews, and casseroles for flavor and texture.
Onions are versatile vegetables that come in wide varieties and can be used in various dishes. They are inexpensive, usually costing no more than a few cents per serving, and provide critical vitamins and minerals.
Cost: $0.37-$0.39/lb. ($0.81-$0.86 /kg)
Meal Ideas: Enjoy onions raw, sautéed, caramelized, roasted, or pickled for great flavor.
Spinach is a nutrient-rich, leafy green vegetable that is low in calories and packed with various vitamins and minerals. It is affordable for salads, soups, or a side dish.
Cost: $1.31-$1.37/lb. ($2.89 – $3.01/kg)
Meal Ideas: Enjoy spinach in omelets, smoothies, or savory dishes like lasagna or stuffed shells.
Peppers are colorful and versatile vegetables used in various dishes. They are usually inexpensive and are a great source of vitamins A and C and antioxidants such as lycopene.
Cost: $2.17-$2.28/lb. ($5.02-$4.78/kg)
Meal Ideas: Peppers make great additions to salads, stir-fries, sandwiches, omelets, and more!
Squash is a versatile and nutritious vegetable you can add to many meals. It is low in calories but contains nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and folate.
Cost: $0.48/lb. ($1.05/kg)
Meal Ideas: Utilize squash in meals, including roasting it as a side dish or adding it to any soup, curry, or stew.
Celery is a crunchy, low-calorie vegetable that is widely available and affordable.
Cost: $0.34-$0.57/lb. ($0.74-$1.25/kg)
Meal Ideas: Enjoy it raw with dip or peanut butter or add it to soups and stews; sauté it with garlic and olive oil.
Peas are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and vitamins, making them a healthy addition to any meal. These are low in fat but packed with essential nutrients like folate, vitamins A and C, iron, and potassium.
Cost: $0.33/lb. ($0.73/kg)
Meal Ideas: Peas can be steamed on their own or added to salads, stir-fries, soups, or omelets.
Cheapest Food To Buy – Fruits
Bananas are delicious and affordable fruit with many health benefits. They contain essential vitamins and minerals, including potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, and magnesium.
Cost: $0.33/lb. ($0.73/kg)
Meal Ideas: Bananas make a great snack or addition to breakfast dishes like oatmeal or yogurt parfaits. They also work well in desserts like banana bread or smoothies.
Apples are a sweet and nutritious fruit available year-round and rich in fiber and vitamins like vitamins C, K, and potassium.
Cost: $0.52/lb. ($1.14/kg)
Meal Ideas: Apples can be eaten fresh as a snack or used as an ingredient in recipes like baked apples, apple crisps, or apple pie.
Grapes are juicy and sweet fruit in various shapes and colors. You can buy them both fresh or dried. Grapes are an excellent source of vitamin C, antioxidants, minerals, and dietary fiber.
Cost: $1.10/lb. ($2.42/kg)
Meal Ideas: Try adding them to salads, baking them into pies or tarts, or making jams and jellies.
Watermelon is a juicy and refreshing summer fruit with a bright red hue. They are full of vitamins A, B6, and C, potassium, and magnesium.
Cost: $0.25/lb. ($0.55/kg)
Meal Ideas: Watermelon can be enjoyed as a snack or incorporated into salads, smoothies, salsa, or stir-fries.
Oranges are a sweet, juicy fruit with a vibrant orange color. They typically cost around $1 per pound and are packed with vitamin C and fiber.
Cost: $0.53/lb. ($1.16/kg)
Meal Ideas: Try adding them to smoothies, salads, and desserts, or enjoy them as a snack!
Kiwi is a lovely and unique-tasting fruit that packs a powerful nutritional punch. One kiwi contains plenty of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin E.
Cost: $1.10/lb. ($2.42/kg)
Meal Ideas: For smoothies, salads, oatmeal bowls, and more
Blueberries are small, sweet, incredibly nutritious berries. A cup of blueberries contains plenty of vitamin C, fiber, manganese, and other antioxidants.
Cost: $1.40/lb. ($3.08/kg)
Meal Ideas: Ideal for smoothies, salads, oatmeal bowls, and muffins
Cantaloupe is a juicy, sweet melon that is incredibly affordable and nutritious. A single cup of cantaloupe contains plenty of vitamins A and C, fiber, potassium, and other antioxidants.
Cost: $0.52/lb. ($1.14/kg)
Meal Ideas: Smoothies and juices or added to salads and oatmeal bowls
Cheapest Food To Buy – Legumes
Lentils are versatile and nutritious legumes that are both affordable and flavorful. On average, lentils contain essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, and more.
Cost: $0.27/lb. ($0.59/kg)
Meal Ideas: They can be blended into soups, used as a rice substitute in grain bowls, or form the base of a tasty burger.
Peanuts are a nutritious legume that offers a variety of health benefits. They are a source of healthy fats, essential protein, and dietary fiber and contain various vitamins and minerals.
Cost: $0.50/lb. ($1.11/kg)
Meal Ideas: Peanut-based snacks
Chickpeas are a versatile, plant-based protein source that is low in calories, rich in fiber, and carries various vitamins and minerals. Prices for chickpeas vary depending on the form and brand.
Cost: $0.34/lb. ($0.74/kg)
Meal Ideas: Homemade hummus, roasted chickpeas as a snack or salad topping, or added to soups and stews
Cheapest Food To Buy – Nuts
Almonds are a nutrient-rich, crunchy snack that comes in various forms. They are high in dietary fiber, protein, vitamin E, Magnesium, and calcium.
Cost: $2.67/lb. ($5.88/kg or 1,000 grams)
Meal Ideas: These crunchy snacks can be enjoyed in salads, cookies, or as an afternoon pick-me-up.
Cheapest Food To Buy – Dairy
Milk is a versatile, nutrient-rich liquid that is a staple in many diets, and you can use it in many different ways.
Cost: $4.44 per gallon ($1.17 per liter)
Meal Ideas: Add to smoothies or coffee, use it in baking recipes, or drink a glass by itself.
Yogurt is a creamy, healthy dairy product that comes in many different flavors and can be enjoyed as a snack or part of meals packed with protein and calcium.
Cost: $0.60 per 6-ounce cup (170 grams)
Meal Ideas: Yogurt makes a great breakfast or lunch addition to your day – enjoy it topped with fresh fruit, granola, honey, or nuts for a tasty meal.
Cheese is a savory and rich food that melts quickly and can be enjoyed in many different forms. It comes at a variety of price points depending on the type. This dairy product contains protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients.
Cost: $1.97/lb. ($4.33/kg)
Meal Ideas: Macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches
Butter is a dairy product made from churning cream. It is rich in flavor and nutrition, including vitamins A, D, and E.
Cost: $3.98-$5.48 per lb./16 oz. ($3.64/kg)
Meal Ideas: Butter can be used in baking and cooking to create delicious meals such as muffins, mashed potatoes, and cooked vegetables.
Cheapest Food To Buy – Condiment
Vinegar is a sour-tasting liquid that ferments ethanol and is commonly used in cooking, baking, and cleaning. It has many health benefits, such as aiding digestion and helping to reduce cholesterol levels.
Cost: $2.58 per 32-fluid ounce bottle (0.96 liters)
Meal Ideas: Salad dressings, vinaigrettes, marinades, pickles, and sauces.
Cheapest Food To Buy – Snacks
Chips are a crunchy, savory snack perfect for any occasion. While not the healthiest option, chips provide essential nutrients like iron, vitamin B6, and fiber.
Cost: $3.00 per 8 oz bag (227 grams)
Meal Ideas: As a snack or added to salads, sandwiches, or tacos for a tasty crunch
Chocolate is a beloved treat that’s enjoyed all over the world. It provides antioxidants, magnesium, and some essential vitamins like vitamin B.
Cost: $1.98 for a 4.4-ounce bar (125 grams)
Meal Ideas: Cookies, brownies, or other desserts
49. Saltine Crackers
Saltine crackers are a classic pantry staple that is simple and tasty. Nutrient-wise, saltines provide some dietary fiber and essential vitamins like vitamin A.
Cost: $4.98 for a 16-ounce box (454 grams)
Meal Ideas: Dipper with soup or chili
Cookies are sweet treats in various shapes, sizes, and flavors. They provide some energy, carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients like calcium.
Cost: $2.62-$4.58 per 18-ounce bag (510 grams)
Meal Ideas: Dessert or incorporate them into recipes, like ice cream sandwiches
How To Save Your Grocery Money
Here are some practical tips for saving money on groceries:
- Shop at discount stores and online grocery stores for the best deals.
- Collecting and using coupons can also lower your food bills.
- Buy in bulk and freeze whatever you don’t use right away.
- Make a plan to utilize leftovers and turn them into new meals.
- Take advantage of cashback apps, coupons, and other discounts.
- Use seasonal produce as much as possible.
- Check out local farmer’s markets or farm stands for fresh produce, spices, and more at lower prices.
- Try to substitute high-cost ingredients with cheaper options when possible.
- Look into food banks or other charity programs to get free groceries.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Cheap Foods
What Is the Cheapest Food Item?
Fruits like apples and bananas are on top of the cheap food list, along with beans, oatmeal, and bread. In their wide variety, vegetables also rank high among the most inexpensive food items. This includes potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, cabbages, cucumbers, and spinach,
How Can I Eat Very Cheap?
You can eat very inexpensively by shopping at discount stores, buying seasonal produce, using coupons, and exploring food banks and other charities, among other ways listed above. Planning your meals frugally and creatively can also make your food budget last longer.
What Is the Cheapest and Healthiest Meal?
Stir-fried or steamed vegetables are the cheapest and healthiest meal. Vegetarian pasta, omelets, and baked potatoes are also budget-friendly and nutritious.
What Foods Are Cheaper To Make Yourself?
Sandwiches, pancakes, pasta, salads, bean soups, stews, and stir-fries are cheap foods to make yourself. You can even try baking bread from scratch or preserving vegetables and fruits in season.
Conclusion – Cheap Foods
When the budget is tight, smart and creative options will always be welcome. You don’t need costly ingredients and pricey processed foods to eat well. Keep this inexpensive food list in mind. You can prepare delicious meals without breaking the bank.
Cutting your food bills without sacrificing nutrition will also positively impact your health. You can use your extra money for savings, paying off debt, making an investment, or buying an expensive item on your long-term wishlist.
Start planning your meals with a fixed budget, and you’re well on your way to enjoying the cheapest food you can buy. Bon appetit!
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Founder of Spark Nomad, Radical FIRE, Journalist
- Expertise: Personal finance and travel content
- Education: Bachelor of Economics at Radboud University, Master in Finance at Radboud University, Minor in Economics at Chapman University.
- Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.
Experience: Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.