35 Frugal Foods to Buy When You’re Broke

Here are 35 of the most frugal and relatively healthy foods that money can buy. Regularly menu planning around this list will help you to save money and stay within your budget.


Since my post, 30 Frugal Meal Ideas (for when you’re broke) has been so popular I decided to make another list of the most frugal and relatively healthy foods that money can buy. You don’t have to be broke to eat these foods, in fact my family eats them all the time because I like to keep our grocery bill low.

Basically every item on this list can be found for around $2 or less per pound. I hope to show people you can stay within your budget while still enjoying a healthy and varied diet. Also, you should be able to find additional in season produce for this price all year round such as citrus fruits in the winter, berries in the summer and sweet potatoes in the fall that are not on the list.


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35 Frugal Foods to Buy When You’re Broke


Old-Fashioned Oats


Dry Beans


Whole Wheat Pasta

Tomato Sauce

Powdered Milk










Frozen Vegetables
Frozen Fruit

Chicken Thighs

Chicken Legs

Whole Chicken

Canned Tuna

Canned Chicken




Corn Masa Mix

Baking Soda


Bouillon Powder

Popcorn Kernels

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Tea Bags

Peanut Butter

Seasonings, (Salt/Pepper, Garlic Powder, Dried Herbs, etc.)


Do you buy these foods on the regular basis? What would you add to the list? I’d love to know!


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Did you know that you can buy things like nuts, dried fruit and green tea at the dollar store? Check out this list to see what other real foods you can find!


These inexpensive meal ideas will get you through when your wallet is empty!


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    1. Red Lentils (the orange ones) are great to add nutrition and thicken long cooking soups and stews - your family will never know if you let them cook until the burst and disappear.
  1. My favorite foods to go to when money is tight: eggs! (I know you did list eggs). They are Free when you have chickens & incredibly healthy. Egg sandwiches, egg salad, So much you can do with eggs. For fresh produce I take a minute to see what's on sale at my local markets & price match it at Walmart.
  2. It's funny, I have most of these items in my pantry as staple items. I would add whole wheat tortillas and cheese. Makes a great meal in less than 5 minutes. Great for burritos or sandwich wraps!Visiting from Titus2Tuesdays Link-up.
  3. This list a great! I'm looking for ways to cut the grocery bill for a house of 6. All of these are great ways to stretch the more expensive items we all love.
  4. I can't believe ramen noodles weren't on this list. This is the staple of every broke college kid. I managed to become quite the ramen gourmet chef in college.
  5. I go to my local save a lot and buy canned tomatoes and sauce by the case. It usually costs me 7 dollars for a case of each. They last me a whole month. I make my spaghetti sauce and use the tomatoes for my soup too. I usually by the low sodium ones. When summer comes we will plant our tomatoes and can them :)
    1. Do you have a recipe for the spaghetti sauce? I have a ton of tomatoes put up from this summer and could always use more spaghetti sauce!
  6. Bacon. Of course, I know that bacon isn't usually under $2 a pound, but when I buy it, I slice crossways into about 10 sections. Then I can make pasta carbonara, bacon green beans, loaded baked potatoes... you get the picture. You don't need a lot of bacon to get that bacony flavor, yet it makes everything taste wonderful! And if I run out of bacon - I use the bacon grease - of which I save every drop!
  7. Congratulations, Missy Rakes! As an Italian, I usually eat following this kind of food. I would suggest to add extra virgin olive oil to your list. The good one is not so cheap, but it has do be used in small doses (a table spoon at a time per person)and it must be considered as a medication to keep you healthy. Regarding the bacon, it's ok but just once in a while (let's say a thin slice or a TBSP chopped per person, no more than once a month or less). I've been to US three times and every time I tried to do such shopping: it was quite impossible to find only non processed food for a reasonable price. I wish you to have many followers!
  8. As someone that has a $200 grocery budget, I love this list! I regularly buy most of these things. I don't buy powdered milk often because from my calculations it's more expensive. I do buy it to use in my homemade cream soup mix. Also, I skip the canned chicken and just freeze my own cooked chicken (or sometimes I actually can it). But, really, we all eat and cook and shop differently and overall, I think you have a wonderful master list for frugal shoppers. A couple of things that I buy regularly that I feel like are frugal and help us eat inexpensively are tortillas, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
    1. I agree that powdered milk may not be the most frugal purchase, but it keeps you out of the store when you run out of fresh! Also, I don't buy canned chicken either, but I figured a lot of people probably do so that's why I've included it in the list. PS I admire your $200 grocery budget posts! :)
    2. I started keeping a box of dry powered milk in the refrigerator when I saw how useful powered milk is in a variety of foods. I found it particularly handy when we had a really bad blizzard and now it's there in case of a hurricane. ( I moved from the frozen north to the Gulf coast)
  9. When money is tight, I buy a small amount of ham...a slice or more if it is on sale. Even a small piece of ham, cubed, adds a nice flavor to bean soup, mac & cheese, potato soup and eggs.
  10. Since I learned how simple most Indian dishes are and how frugal it is, a must to have in my pantry is coconut milk, curry spices, chickpeas,frozen kale and potatoes. Paired with the ingredients on the list above I can whip up a cheap and flavor filled curry in less then a half hour. It's a wonderful way to do meatless Mondays and great if I get surprise guests. Left over curry can be turned into meatless burger style paddies or rolled up in homemade tortillas.
  11. I see chicken breasts on sale every couple weeks for $1.99/lb (and occasionally $1.98/lb). I try to buy a couple family packs and freeze them to have on hand when they are not on sale. It seems like you listed every other chicken piece, so might as well add those. :)
  12. This looks like my monthly grocery list (or at least my master list I use to check off what I need to buy.)
  13. Great list! Most of these are my everyday fridge and pantry staples. It's much easier to stay frugal when you stick to the basics.
  14. Isn't it amazing how choosing food that is good gor you like beans, lentils, eggs, whole grains is also good for your wallet. It will also simplify grocery shopping and cooking. I would also add bagged kale and dry roasted peanuts. Great post!
  15. Tortillas can be made at home! :) It's a simple recipe and can be made in a jiffy. Homemade tortillas are more softer and chewier than the store bought ones.
  16. Thank you so much for writing out this list! It's very helpful. I am shopping tomorrow and with only $70 to spend for the week it is helpful to see what I should be buying. Keep up the great work!
  17. When I made my first batch of peanut butter at home, it rocked my world. All it takes is 2 cups of dry-roasted peanuts, a pinch of salt, a little oil, and some sweetener if you like. Combine and pulse in your food processor, and you've got tasty peanut butter .
    1. Here in the Pacific Northwest we can buy canned salmon at great discounts. You can make salmon sandwiches instead of tuna, salmon patties, or salmon and potato casseroles. Love the list. Thanks so much for sharing it
  18. Herbs and spices can do so much for simple foods but they can be ridiculously expensive for bottles that contain more than most people use in a year. I've found that stores that carry mexican foods (the real stuff, not prepared foods) are starting to have herbs and spices in smaller, much less expensive packages in that section (or check out Latin food stores for even more selection). Another bonus is that many of the spices are whole so they stay fresh longer since you just grind what you need.
  19. Great list! I'd like to add that I plant arugula and harvest the seeds and plant them 3 times a year. I'll never buy seeds again! Also, on my list are some items at the Dollar Tree: asceptic milk without hormones, roasted peanuts, non-GMO popcorn kernels, and 6 frozen pretzels, each for just $1. It is probably a little more expensive to get the milk there but it is shelf stable and can be used when I run out of milk and for camping.
  20. I've found that you can find pork, especially pork tenderloin for less than $2./lb. on a fairly regular basis, and it is very versatile. Also, celery can be a reasonably priced vegetable.
  21. Great list and really handy. I know you're going for the home cooked theme, but getting whole rotisserie chickens and pizza from Costco would be my goto for prepared food. Personally I try to stay away from pasta and potatoes. I love to eat them but the carbs really pack on the pounds and my health suffered. Now, even though I miss them, my body is much healthier.
  22. Yes I get all of these, except teabags. I buy tins of organic tea, they work out much cheaper than tea bags and have less waste. The tins are great storage when they are empty too!

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