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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  1. Thanks for the list. I love your articles. The things I would add to the list are yeast, honey, milk and butter. You can use the flour to make several loaves of bread for what 2 or 3 loaves cost. It’s a lost art but very frugal.
  2. Great list. I would add, --loose tea, so I don't waste the bags; the used tea leaves can go in compost --tortillas --canned tomatoes --cheddar cheese, because a little goes a long way --celery, essential along with carrots and onions for use in soups, stews, and more --For some fruits, I prefer canned to frozen because of limited freezer space, and cans are recyclable, while the plastic bags aren't. (Peaches, pears, pineapple in juice) I skip the powdered milk because it's not a lot cheaper than regular milk, i find, and my family doesn't like it. I do keep some canned evaporated milk on hand for cooking, in a pinch
  3. Your list is much like mine. I am single and diabetic, so I don't buy much canned food or fruit. I buy frozen veges. I have a small instapot so I make some kind of bean concoction once a week.
  4. Hiya. I honestly love this..but don’t have time to sit and read on my phone. So, would kindly like to ask you-if you’d consider turning this into a book. I’m sure your fans would love instant access to offline. In their library/bookshelves..😄
  5. I would definitely add canned evaporated milk. It was also a basic staple in my grandmother's kitchen.
  6. I would add at least one pound if not more of ground beef because it is a versatile meat and a small amount goes a long ways. You could make a meatloaf, chili, tacos, Shepard pie, just a few examples. Also if possible befriend someone who has a membership at Sam's club and purchase the rotisserie chicken when possible. Less expensive than purchasing a whole chicken and cooking it. So many things to make and many meals with a rotisserie chicken.
  7. I grew up in a frugal home and learned scratch cooking at mom's knees. Cooks from different backgrounds will have various ingredients that they consider essential. I have everything on your list in my panty except the whole wheat items. I use angel hair pasta as it cooks more quickly than others. You can also substitute rice or angel hair pasta for other types of pasta in many recipes. I'd add oils to that essential list. I keep olive oil, real butter, and Crisco (solid.) I also have soy oil. Different oils are sometimes added depending on usage. In addition to regular sugar, I have powdered sugar, honey, molasses, and brown sugar light/dark. Cream of Tartar, Cornstarch, pepper pods, baking powder, yeast food coloring, chocolate, and liquid flavorings (vanilla, lemon, peppermint) are staples in my kitchen too. Homemade cakes, desserts, and candies are more economical than prepackaged treats at the grocery store. I keep mayo for dips, slaws, and homemade salads--potato, chicken, cheese, pea, etc. I generally have cheese or two variations in the fridge too. I keep canned milk for baking. We don't have a large freezer. I buy a large pack of ground beef which I divide into patties or two-cup containers. I will purchase more when I get down to one or two packages. I buy chicken breasts and package them separately. They thaw more quickly when packaged this way. It is easy to pull down the number I need for meal planning. I buy onions, peppers, carrots, and celery to create my soup roux base---I freeze it in sandwich bags for a quick addition to soups.
    1. I agree with your add on list and have those things, too, though lately I have been making my own brown sugar with the white sugar and molasses for less. I would also add cornstarch to the list which we use to make gravies and some sauces from scratch for much less than we could buy, and I also keep bouillon cubes, because though I make stocks from scratch, sometimes the boullon comes in handy.
  8. I've been yearning for a return to those simpler times when the smell of real food cooking filled the house. Every one of the articles referenced here hold the answers I've been seeking. I'm inspired to get going - thank you!
  9. My list of frugal staples is similar to yours. Instead of buying powdered milk which nobody here drinks, I bought 2 gallons of whole milk several months ago and canned it. I use it in cooking although it doesn't do well making a custard. I have a small garden and take full advantage of our local U-Pick to fill my pantry with canned pints and quarts. My own fruit trees give me enough to make jams or jellies or just can. I shop discount (bent can) grocers and scour the Wednesday sales online before I leave home and after I have eaten. I don't buy frozen veggies. I have frozen fresh produce in the middle of canning season to can when it is cooler outside. My freezer has many bags of flour and cornmeal in plastic bags to keep humidity out. Eugene buys lettuce and I throw the unopened packages out a month later. I firmly believe the key to frugal is to buy what you will eat before it goes bad and eat what you buy. I do buy tea, but must have coffee.
  10. Really enjoy your posts. I believe it is better to prepare for the worst ahead of time then to not be prepared for an emergency and/or food shortages down the road. Thanks for the info. It is truly and greatly appreciated. Cheryl

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