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


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  1. I keep a lot of these things on hand but I would also add tortillas, cheese melt (like Velveeta but I get Aldi brand), quinoa, and honey. I'm working my way to being frugal and I follow all kinds of blogs and yours has been very informative. :) I also like to use coupons and store coupons to save on these staples (always follow the sales).
  2. I would add cheese because you can do so much with it. It's great for a grilled cheese sandwich with homemade vegetable soup or a salad. I make homemade quiche with frozen spinach or broccoli, eggs and cheese, with or without pie crust. If you have no crust, mix in some flour and bake. It's good with almost any vegetable and served with any scrap of meat. I'd also add mayonnaise (cheap at Aldi's) for sandwiches, egg salad or tuna salad. And I'd add tomato paste with the tomato sauce to add (mixed with water) into chili & beans, usually during winter. For this I'd need to get some chili powder too.
  3. I've been reading a lot of comments using bacon for seasoning. When I'm on a tight budget and I can't buy Ham or Bacon I keep in stock Goya brand Ham seasoning. It cost me .98 @ Walmart for 1.41oz and last me quite awhile I use it in green beans, northern beans, and cabbage. Anywhere you want that smoked bacony flavor it's a life savor for making it country. You can find it in the Spanish foods section. Also I've had to live off chicken livers and pork liver before. Some people don't like it but you won't starve making some with mashed potatoes n gravy. Onions help too if you got one. It's very cheap.
  4. a few other good ones if you don't yet have a garden are celery and bell peppers, i typically buy them once a month and if wrapped in foil the celery typically only wilts as opposed to rotting in that month's time and i usually chop up and freeze the bell peppers
  5. I would also add dry onion soup mix, shortening, bouillon cubes (chicken & beef), tomato paste, ketchup, mayo & mustard.
  6. Yes, I saw someone added canned tomatoes to the list, definitely a staple for my kitchen... I would also add sweet bell peppers and citrus, (lemon & limes mostly, but oranges and others' too) These seem to sneak their way into everything to add fiber (the pepper's) and "Zing!" Now that I'm thinking about it, white or Crimini mushrooms are also ever present in my kitchen, saute'd mushrooms can go a long way in giving dishes a meaty feel and "Umami" taste without the fat or meat... Thanks for this list & Bon Appetite everyone!
  7. I would add in button mushrooms. And while they might not be the healthiest, I also like to buy perogies since they're delicious and filling, and you can buy a generously- sized bag for $3 (and that's coming from a relatively pricey city). I also find canola oil a valuable investment since you can easily get a 1+L bottle for less than $5, and a little bit goes a long way that can be used for multiple purposes. And what about grapes? It's been awhile since I've purchased some, but I believe you can get a big bag of them at a low price since they weigh so little?
  8. This is the best list I've run across. Corn masa and masa harina are better than sliced bread, economy-wise. I use them to make dough for tortillas, tacos, dumplings, flatbreads, and even pancakes. My other staples are onions, carrots, celery, cabbage, lemons, lentils, dried beans, split peas, brown rice, tea, and steel cut oats. I always keep olive oil, coconut oil, vinegar, honey, molasses, soy sauce, tomato paste, and spices on hand. With vegetables and mushroms from my garden I can make bean salads, pilafs, stir fries, burritos, tacos, hummus, masa "pita" chips, chilis, soups, stews, and more. Today, I had a vegetable soup spiced with crushed red pepper flakes, ginger, star anise, honey, and soy sauce for an Asian flavor, with thin sliced carrot, green onion, and mushrooms from the garden. My food budget is $10 per week. I drink water, iced tea, hot tea, and lemonade from fresh squeezed lemons. What I don't buy is dairy, meat, bread, and condiments other than soy sauce. I save vegetable seeds or trade for them to save money on my garden. I could spend more, but it's a fun challenge to come up with tasty dishes using simple ingredients.
  9. I love this list! I would add a cooking oil (I use olive or coconut but vegetable oil works too), Coffee, Honey, Plain yogurt, and instead of bread, I would add yeast! It is much better to make your own if possible.
    1. I agree that yeast is a good choice. If can add naked a big brick of yeast not the little packages. A what is the name of the yeast we use it would buy it or read something red star or SAF yeast are great.
  10. Every week, when I get paid, I take one $20 bill, and I go to the cheap grocery store, or the Dollar Tree, and I buy exactly $20 worth of whatever is on sale extremely cheap. My local grocery store had Red Gold Tomatoes on sale for 5 for $1 several years ago. For $20, I bought 100 cans of tomatoes. That has been over 5 years ago, and I still have some left. I find that this is a great way to stock up and save. I'm terrible at saving money, but this way, even if I spend all my money, I'll still have my stockpile of stuff. The trick is to buy whatever is extremely cheap. Last week, Arm and Hammer antiperspirant was on sale at my local store for 2 for $1.00, and I had a BOGO coupon. I stood at the self checkout and made 20 transactions, and bought 80 cans of antiperspirant for $20. I'll smell fresh for the rest of my life!
  11. I raised 8 children, 6 of them boys, on a single income, and it was worth every sacrifice. I am able to visit a salvage grocery store often, and one thing I always look for in the bent can basket is coconut milk - 99 cents for a gallon can!! I only find it occasionally. I freeze the milk in pint containers and use it not only for recipes but also for coffee creamer. Beats $2/quart for half and half, and probably healthier too!
  12. Hi I love this list (30 Foods to buy when your Broke) This is my Basic shopping list. I would add Ground Beef & Beef Roast. I am able to make several meals using a Beef Roast. Kool Aid, Crystal Ice, Jello & Pudding. Great list I love it! Thanks for the inspiration!
  13. I love this post! I would love to see posts of the meals you create from this list! Maybe a 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners, 5 snacks and 5 desserts or something like that. Thanks!
  14. I keep raisins on hand for use in oatmeal and baking and add to popcorn with some nuts to make a snack mix. If I find other dried fruit on special I stock up on those also. Becky
  15. before my three daughters flew the nest I taught them how to live on one Costco chicken for over one week . I also gave them a grocery list of things that they should always have in their pantry and fridge such as one Costco rotisserie chicken, cheddar cheese, loaf of bread, mayonnaise, rice, peanut butter and jelly, Carrots celery and onions, garlic lots of eggs canned tuna , Milk, juice, and of course flour sugar salt pepper frozen mixed vegetables. I taught them how to make a big pot of soup with the bones from the chicken the wings celery carrots and onions Mix vegetables and whatever else they want to add to it
  16. i would add smoked meat like turkey legs or ham hocks. good for greens and beans. i like to take the meat off after it is boiled and make it with eggs.
  17. I a single mom of a two year old and on a very strict budget .My toddler is picky what can I do to stretch my food budget and dollar while keeping creative meals in mind for her?

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