Running short of money but paycheck is still days away? And now you are looking for ideas on cheap food to buy when broke?
Don’t worry, I wrote this list with you in mind.
We’ve all experienced running short of cash. Maybe you had unexpected expenses and now you are left with a $30 food budget to get by until the next money comes in.
Or, maybe you are not really broke, but you got inspired by stories of people being able to save $30,000 in a year such as this one, and you want to do the same.
You figured, reducing your food expenses one week per month could help you save a good $200 a month and help boost your savings.
But, you don’t really want to eat junk just to save money, right? After all, good, healthy food is the foundation of living healthy.
No worries! If money is tight right now or you just want to reduce your grocery bills, create healthy family meals around some of these cheap ingredients. These are also my go-to food for when I want to cut back on our spending but still want to make healthy food that my family enjoys.
This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links at no extra cost to you. Please read my Disclosure for more information.
More Money Saving Posts
Don’t leave money on the table! Use Ibotta to get cash back when you go grocery shopping this week!
Ibotta is a FREE app that pays you for buying grocery items such as meats, canned goods, toilet paper, bread products and so much more. I’ve earned over $800 for buying groceries I would buy anyway.
A bonus? Ibotta will give you up to $20 free for using this free app! Check it out here!
Need to learn more? Read my Ibotta Review here.
12 Healthy Cheap Food to Buy When Broke
Apart from being cheap, lentils can make filling and nutritious meals for your family. You can make soups and chilis out of lentils, and they are also excellent substitutes for meat.
Price: This organic lentils costs $2.99 per pack/ $0.19 per oz
Recipes: Curried Lentils (this recipe only costs $0.87 per serving!)
Whether you prefer steel cut, instant or rolled, oats are undeniably some of the most inexpensive yet healthy ingredients every household should have (broke or not!). You can have oats for breakfast along with fruits in season, or make your own oat bars. The best thing is that oats are rich in vitamins and fiber and helps to manage sugar and cholesterol levels.
Price: This organic oats costs $5.29 per can or $0.13 per oz.
3. Frozen vegetables
If you don’t have the time and/or money to buy fresh vegetables, opt for frozen ones. They can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, but they’ll last longer in your fridge. Frozen vegetables are also just as flexible – you can use them in soups, stir-fry, pies and more.
Price: Great Value steamable mixed veggies only costs $0.07 per oz at Walmart.
Recipes: This Garlic Butter Mixed Vegetables with Parmesan Cheese costs $0.50 or less per serving
Potatoes have long shelf life compared to other vegetables and crops, so you can purchase them in bulk to save more money. Potatoes are easy to cook and flexible to use: you can fry, mash, bake, or use them in various recipes.
I usually just cook it in a pan with garlic, onion and olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with herbs from my garden.
5. Canned Tuna
When you need to get your dose of protein but can’t spend on meat, there’s canned tuna to the rescue. You can eat tuna straight from the can or use it in salads, pasta, casseroles and more!
Price: 5 oz canned tuna costs around $0.99 at Walmart.
6. Ground meat
Ground meat is one of the cheapest ways to eat your protein! Whether you want ground beef, pork or chicken, having a stash of ground meat in your lean days allows you to make filling yet nutritious meals in a jiffy. You can easily turn ground meat into burger patties and meat balls, or stir fry with vegetables you have at hand.
Price: Around $4 per lb
Recipes: I usually just saute a whole lb of ground beef with olive oil, garlic, and soy sauce; and add it to our salads, stir fried veggies, rice or pasta!
Dried beans also make excellent meat substitutes, but only costing a fraction of the price. Plus, dried beans have long life shelf, so you can store them and use when needed. Filled with a variety of vitamins, phosphorus and folic acid, dried beans are easily some of the cheapest yet healthiest ingredients you can keep in your pantry.
Price: varies per type. Great Value dried black beans, for example, is only $0.09 per oz at Walmart.
Recipes: Black Bean Recipe
Eggs aren’t just cheap, they’re also excellent source of protein.
They’re also very flexible because they can be made into variety of ways and feed you throughout the day. You can make scrambled eggs for breakfast, hard-boil them for a salad and even turn them into muffins for mid-day meals.
Price: $0.23 each / $2.67 per dozen at Walmart.
One of the best ways to get your dose of fruit without splurging is having a handy stock of apples.
Apples have longer lifespan than other fruits, so you can purchase a bag of them and they’d still be good for the next several days or weeks. You can eat apples as they are, or use them in smoothies, turn them into apple sauce and so much more.
Pasta is definitely healthier than ramen, especially if you prefer the whole wheat kind. Although you don’t want to be eating pasta every day, it’s a very filling cheap food to buy when broke.
It only usually costs a little over a dollar per box and it’s easy to throw into a meal. Simply add in some canned sauce or chop up some vegetable, sliced chicken, light oil and you have a hearty, filling lunch or dinner.
Price: This whole grain pasta only costs $0.10 per oz.
11. Brown Rice
Brown rice is another great source of carbohydrates that can fill you up, but with added benefits. Brown rice is more satisfying, aids in digestion, it’s great for the nervous system and helps in managing cholesterol levels. The best part is brown rice is cheap and easy to find. You can use brown rice as your main source of carbs or stir-fry it and use in your burrito.
Can’t squeeze in meat into your budget? Tofu makes an excellent substitute! Tofu is a good source of protein, along with other vitamins and minerals like calcium and iron. It’s also known to bring down bad cholesterol. There are variety of ways to cook tofu, such as scrambled tofu; use it in tacos in place of ground meat, frittatas, quiche and salad.
Pumpkins are easy to grow so there’s always a good supply of cheap pumpkins all year round.
This is a staple in our house because pumpkin is cheap and we love to make pumpkin soup such as this one which is so filling, delicious and nutritious and only costs about $0.60 per serving!
Ready to buy healthy but cheap food to buy when broke?
When you find yourself in the last few stretches of your cash, you should learn how to save on groceries and still come up with delicious nutritious meals without sacrificing qualify.
Meal budgeting is an important life skill we all need to learn, whether you have less or a lot of money. Stocking up on these healthy, cheap and filling ingredients should help you get through the tight days.