The Best Cheap Grocery List Items (& Healthy Too!)
For those of you on a tight budget, grocery shopping and meal planning might be a little on the stressful side. In fact, the grocery budget category is often the one that most people struggle with, myself included.
It’s so incredibly easy to overspend at the grocery store. And, grocery stores know this. Why do you think they place all of that yummy candy at the register. I’m looking at you, Snickers!
Anyway, if you read my Grocery On A Budget: How To Easily Cut Your Bill By Half post, you already know that my family’s grocery bill used to be out of control. We worked hard to rein in our grocery spending.
According to the USDA’s Food Plan, the grocery budget for a family of 5 should ideally range from $567.80 to $1296.30 a month. This depends on the ages of the kiddos in the household. The older the kids, the more expensive your budget will be.
Whether you’re a college student or a family of five, if you find yourself spending a ton on groceries each month and want to work on creating a cheap grocery list, I’m here to help.
What are the cheapest groceries to buy?
So, if you are on a budget and want to lower your grocery spending, what are some cheap foods you can buy?
Here’s a list of the cheapest foods you will find at the grocery store at a great price and how much they typically cost:
Depending on where you buy them and the type you get, you can find eggs for as little as $.59 a dozen. And, not only are they super cheap, but there are so many things you can do with eggs, like make up some egg sandwiches or a delicious scramble with a side of buttery toast. Mmmmm! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Rice is so cheap, especially if you buy it in bulk. Plus, it’s filling, so you’ll be nice and full after eating a rice dish. At Walmart, you can get a 5-pound bag of extra long grain enriched rice for less than $3.00. Not only is that crazy cheap, but that 5-pound bag will last you a while. The one I have is just about a year old, and it’s still about halfway full. I’ve used it to make soups, a few stir fry dishes, and broccoli rice casserole.
Cheap Cuts Of Meat
Meat doesn’t have to break your grocery budget. According to The Christian Science Monitor, a great way to cut down on your meat costs is to opt for different cuts, like:
- Lamb shoulder chops instead of lamb loin chops
- Ground chuck instead of ground sirloin
- Flank steaks instead of strip steaks
- Whole chicken or chicken thighs instead of chicken breast
Pasta is another cheap grocery list item. You can often get a pack of 4 16-ounce boxes of generic pasta for under $5.00. And, if you would rather buy a name brand, you can find 4 16-ounce boxes of Barilla pasta for a little over $5.00 at Walmart. And, like rice, pasta is super filling. And plus, there are lots of different things you can do with a box of pasta, like pair it with a jar of your favorite marinara sauce, add it to chili, make a pot of homemade soup, or add a little butter and eat it as is. The list goes on and on. When it comes to budget-friendly grocery items, pasta is definitely at the top of that list.
Cereal can be very inexpensive, especially if you buy generic. Aldi sells many certals for under $2.00, and it’s a great way to get whole grains into your diet.
Milk is another item that can be super cheap if you opt for the generic one at your local grocery store. I have a friend who lives in Kansas who only pays $.95 for a half gallon of white milk at her local Aldi.
I don’t know about you, but I always have a jar of maraina sauce in my pantry. It’s a cheap staple that can be used in lots of dishes, like spaghetti, homemade pizza, or stuffed peppers. Yum!
Depending on the brand you buy, canned beans can cost anywhere from $.74 to over $2.00. It just depends on where you’re shopping and the brand you opt to buy. Want to save even more? Get a bag of dried beans instead. A 16-ounce bag of dried black beans will cost you about $1.47. And, like a giant bag of rice, a bag of beans will last you a while. Plus, there are so many things you can do with beans, like beans and rice, chili, and even brownies. Yes, you read that right, you can make brownies with beans. Here’s a recipe.
More often than not, name brand cheese isn’t the cheapest. But, generic cheese is definitely more budget friendly. In fact, you can get a 3-pound bag of shredded cheddar cheese at Aldi for $3.49. Omelets, anyone???
Bread is another item you can get fairly cheap if you opt for generic. At Aldi, a loaf of white bread is less than a dollar. If you’d rather have wheat bread, you’ll pay a little more, but not much.
Tortillas are cheap and delicious. You can get a pack of 10 at Walmart for a little over $2.00. And, you can do so much with them, like make tacos or quesadillas, tortilla french toast, and huevos rancheros.
Fresh Vegetables & Fruit
The key to getting vegetables and fruit at a cheaper price is to buy them in season. For example, when I first started buying cantalope for the kids, I noticed in the summer it was about 98 cents. In the winter, it was over $3, and just not as sweet. Watching the price on veggies and fruit can help you determine when they’re in season to save a lot of money on this nutritious food. These can be a great addition to any meal and help fill everyone up.
If you are looking for a cheap fruit, apples are your best bet. Depending on where you shop, you can typically find Gala apples for as little as $.89 per pound.
Oranges are another inexpensive fresh fruit. You can get a 4-pound bag at Aldi for under $2.25. That’s a steal!
If you’re okay with not buying organic, bananas are relatively inexpensive. They are about $.19 a piece at Target.
If you’re looking for a cheap vegetable, grab some carrots. You can get a pound of them at Walmart for under a buck.
The average price of broccoli is $1.64 per head. Not bad!
Frozen fruit is often a lower cost than fresh fruit. For instance, according to AARP, a 10-ounce bag of frozen organic raspberries is the same exact price of a 6-ounce container of them. That is definitely way more bang for your buck!
The same goes for frozen vegetables. They are not only cheap, but many offer lots of nutrients. For instance, frozen asparagus is full of folate and vitamin B6.
Generic Peanut Butter
You can get a 40-ounce jar of Walmart’s Great Value peanut butter for under $3.00.
If you need some ideas on what you can do with these basic grocery list items, check out my post: Dirt Cheap Meals For When You Are Broke.
Building a Cheap Healthy Grocery List
Many people think that just because they are on a budget, they can’t afford healthy foods. That’s simply not true at all. Whether you’re keto, on a vegan diet, or just trying to eat better, there are lots of great healthy food items you can add to your cheap grocery list for a month.
Cheap Healthy Grocery List Items that are Whole Foods
Remember that ad campaign: The Incredible, Edible Egg? Well, they weren’t joking. Eggs are packed full of vitamins, like vitamins A, B12, D, E, K, and lots more! And, while eggs do contain a decent amount of cholesterol, they are actually known to raise your HDL levels, which is a huge plus.
If you want rice, but you don’t love the idea of consuming copious amounts of white rice, then grab a box of brown rice instead. Depending on where you shop, it might be a tad bit more expensive than white rice, but you can typically find a pound of it for about $2. And, brown rice offers a lot of health benefits, including reducing the risk of types 2 diabetes and heart disease. Plus, it’s full of B vitamins and magnesium.
Like I said earlier, beans are a great cheap grocery item. But, they are also super healthy for you. They are full of fiber and offer a decent amount of protein. In fact, a cup of pinto beans contain 15 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber! Beans are also associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. How’s that for healthy? Dry beans need to be soaked, or you can use canned beans – just make sure to rise them to drop the extra sodium.
Whole Wheat Pasta
Whole wheat pasta is not much more expensive than regular pasta. And, it is lower in calories and carbs than regular pasta and contains a decent amount of fiber.
Oatmeal is another great cheap healthy grocery shopping list item. It’s full of nutrients, including B vitamins, zinc, and iron. And, you can usually find a pound of it for about $2. Oatmeal is also associated with lowering cholesterol. One thing to keep in mind about oatmeal is that it’s easy to make it unhealthy by adding lots of sugar to it. If you don’t like plain oatmeal, try adding some fruit to it instead of a bunch of sugar.
Fresh produce can be expensive, but there are several fruits that are on the cheaper side, like apples, banagas, and oranges. Woman’s Day also lists kiwi and cantaloupe as cheap fruits. And, don’t discount frozen fruit. According to AARP, research from the University of Georgia found that frozen fruits and veggies are just as nutritious as fresh produce items. And, some frozen produce items even have more nutrients than fresh ones, like blueberries.
Buying vegetables doesn’t have to break the bank. There are lots of veggies that are not only super healthy (well, all veggies are healthy), but also budget friendly. Woman’s Day compiled a list of the cheapest veggies you’ll find at the grocery store. It includes nutrient powerhouse items, like cauliflower, carrots, and sweet potatoes. And, don’t forget broccoli.
And, like frozen fruit, frozen veggies are not only cheaper than fresh ones, but they are also often healthier. According to AARP, some frozen veggies have more nutrients than fresh ones, like broccoli and green beans.
Man, do I love baked potatoes. At Walmart, you can get a 5-pound bag of russets for under $3.00. Plus, they are rich in potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. And, they are free of cholesterol, fat, and sodium. Don’t forget sweet potatoes as another great option – full of nutrients and can be stored in a dry, cool place for months!
Like rice and beans, lentils are very inexpensive. You can get a pound of them for under $1.50. And, as an added bonus, they are good for you. According to Healthline, just one cup of lentils contains a significant amount of folate, iron, protein, and fiber.
Getting The Most Out Of Your Cheap Grocery List
Now that I have covered both budget grocery list items and healthy cheap grocery list items, I want to spend a little time talking about how where you shop impacts your grocery budget, too.
Let’s face it, some grocery stores are more expensive than others. For instance, I love Target, but I know that it will be cheaper for me if I head on over to Super Walmart instead.
Even better, I’ve started using Walmart’s grocery pickup to get our weekly groceries. It not only saves time and money, but the headache of dragging kids to the store. If you use this referral code, you’ll get $10 off your first order!
Back in 2019, Today compiled a list of some of the cheapest grocery stores in the US:
- Trader Joes
- Market Basket
- Sam’s Club
If you don’t care if your food has some small cosmetic imperfections, you might want to check out Imperfect Foods. They offer a lot of fresh produce as well as pantry staples at affordable prices.
What If I Absolutely Hate To Cook?
Not everyone likes or wants to cook. And, that’s okay. And, even if you do try to make your meals at home, there will most likely be times when you will just have to eat out or order takeout for whatever reason.
I wrote a post that you might find helpful called The Best Cheap Places To Eat When You Don’t Want To Cook. It features a list of relatively cheap places to eat out at as well as offers some great tips and tricks for saving just as much money at restaurants or when you order takeout.
What are some of your go-to cheap grocery list items? Comment below.
A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More