Get a list of the cheapest foods to buy when you’re broke. Along with a meal plan that will feed your family for $75 a week.
The light from the refrigerator is washing over your face again.
You know there’s still nothing in there…but you can’t help but hope that maybe some mysterious force left a piece of chocolate cake in the back when you weren’t looking.
You’d love to go to the grocery store and get something to fill those shelves. But how?
If it isn’t the car breaking down, it’s a sick kid. And the paycheck is gone before you know it. (Again.)
The truth is, bad times like this happen to the best of us.
It can be so hard to get ahead, especially when you’re raising a family. Kids will surprise you…with their ability to do things, how much they remind you of your favorite uncle, and…
Oh, you know, a random broken bone followed by a double ear infection alongside a huge growth spurt (hello new wardrobe).
So when you finally manage to scrape together a stash of cash to buy some food, you want to get the most for your money.
If you’re wondering what the cheapest foods to buy are, read on.
You’ll get a complete meal plan that will feed your family on $75 per week!
But first…lots of ideas.
What Food Should I Buy On A Tight Budget?
If I had to put together a bare bones grocery list of foods that would keep my large family from going hungry, here’s what I would do.
(Let me just add that feeding a family of 8 is no cheap thing, so we eat many of these things often. We are lucky enough right now to have the extra money to invest in fresh produce, which is tougher to do when you are broke.)
Here are some of the cheapest foods that can fill you up:
- chicken (whole chicken or dark meat that cost under $1 per pound)
- pork (assuming it’s on sale for less than $2 per pound)
- peanut butter
- popcorn kernels
- potatoes $3 for 10 lbs
- box of elbow macaroni $1, sometimes on sale for 79 or 49 cents
- spaghetti sauce
- plus the things listed below
What to do with those ingredients…
A container of quick oats is cheap, and can be cooked on the stove top like Mom used to make.
It can also be used as a filler with meat to make a bigger burger or a meatloaf.
Whole chicken is super frugal. Roast it with your favorite spices or herbs. Eat it off the bone one night, then pull some for sandwiches or casseroles.
Save the bones for chicken stock!
You can get a “freebie” soup by putting your leftovers together. Say you had some leftover chicken…put it in a freezer bag and drop it in the freezer.
Have more leftover chicken next week? Add it to the bag!
Make another bag for all the leftover veggies you find after a meal.
Before too long, you’ll have those bags full enough to dump into that chicken stock to create a delicious soup. Add some noodles or rice to make it more filling (but still frugal).
You can buy a 5 pound bag of flour for the same price as one loaf of bread. Grab a 3 pack of active dry yeast for $1 and you can make 3 loaves of bread using this super easy artisan bread in 5 minutes a day recipe.
Top it with peanut butter for some protein.
Potatoes are versatile. Pasta and rice can also be perfect for casseroles, soups, or a filling side dish…OR use those potatoes as a main dish. You can bake them up and top them with just about anything.
If butter, cheese, or sour cream are on rock bottom price, top it with them. Salsa is a great choice, beans or chili, or get creative with whatever leftovers you find in the fridge.
Spaghetti is a filling meal that doesn’t cost much.
What Are the Cheapest Healthiest Foods?
It’s true that a lot of healthy foods cost more than traditional groceries. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to eat a healthy diet on the cheap.
For instance, you can follow the Mediterranean diet on the cheap by buying produce that’s in season. This diet is also pretty forgiving, because it doesn’t eliminate any foods. It just asks you to eat them in moderation.
Here’s some cheaper options:
- herbs and spices at Aldi
- beans, dried or canned
- canned tuna
- canned salmon
How to use these ingredients…
Eggs. They got a bum rap for a while, but more and more healthy diets feature them as a great choice for protein.
Don’t limit them to breakfast. Keep some hard boiled for an easy lunch on the go.
You can make an omelet using just about anything as a mix in…leftover veggies, meats, or cheeses. Or just fry it up without anything else.
Around here we can find a bag of apples for $3 all the time. If they’re too soft to eat, bake them with a little cinnamon for a yummy treat.
Carrots, as in whole carrots in a 5 pound bag are crazy cheap. You’ll need a peeler, but you can cut up several at a time to keep in the fridge for a quick snack.
Seasonal produce. Look around your store to see what’s in season. Those foods sometimes fall below $1 per pound, and they’ll taste better then, too.
Load up on your favorite herbs and spices. You can find them at Aldi for around a buck each, so grab one or two new ones whenever you go.
The right flavors can make your boring beans taste brand new.
Speaking of beans, what a cheap way to get some protein in your diet. A can of beans might be 50 to 80 cents, and dried beans are even cheaper.
A cup of dried beans will give you 3 cups of beans once cooked. And it’s not as hard as you think.
Just let them soak in water overnight, then cook them in your crock pot all day long. Then you don’t have to worry about sticking the beans (burning them).
Chickpeas can be marinated or baked with your favorite seasonings.
Canned tuna is good once a week.
Canned salmon is a new protein source we’ve been using. It’s super healthy for you, and not as gross as you’re imagining.
It does come with tiny bones and some skin. You can remove them if you want, but those things provide you with so many nutrients…you’re better off stirring them into the meat and making salmon patties.
I promise you won’t even notice them.
What Should You Eat When You’re Broke?
If you have a couple of grocery stores that are close to each other, you’ll get the most food for your money by shopping both of them.
Stores that are further apart will eat up your savings in the form of gas. (See if a friend can give you a ride the next time they go.)
Scour the weekly ad for those stores to see what they are selling the cheapest. Look especially for good protein sources and any produce you can fit in the budget.
$75 A Week Meal Plan
Here’s how I would use those foods to feed a family of 4-6 for a week on just $75.
The Meal Plan:
The Shopping List:
I’ve created a shopping list to go along with this menu, but to be perfectly honest…it took me for.e.ver to pull all of this together, soooo it’s only available to subscribers. (Don’t worry, though…it’s free!) Sign up here:
Variety might be the spice of life, but there are some times when you just can’t afford it. That’s why you’ll see a lot of foods repeated on this meal plan.
Yeah, it’s cheaper to use the same foods over and over. But it doesn’t have to be totally boring.
For instance, with your oatmeal. Whip up a batch on the stove top or in the microwave. Or make overnight oats using a 1:1 ratio with water. (Or milk if you have it.)
Ideally you’ll have some spices on hand that will make it different each day. Cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg are great choices.
If you have any other ingredients on hand, stir them in. Things like:
- dried or fresh fruit
- peanut butter
- jam or jelly
- vanilla extract
- get creative!
Grilled cheese: Make it using 1/4 c of the shredded cheddar cheese instead of a slice of cheese. Or buy your cheese in a chunk and cut it into slices, or shred it yourself (depending on what you’re making at the time).
See how thinking a little differently can save you money? Dual purpose ingredients are the best.
I gave you two boxes of spaghetti and two cans of sauce. You’ll probably have extra after that meal.
So if you don’t like eating leftovers, turn it into spaghetti pie and eat a new meal. Just toss the spaghetti and sauce together. Add 2 eggs. Put it into a pie plate. If you have some cheese (like a can of grated parmesan), sprinkle it over the top along with some salt and pepper. Got seasonings like Italian seasoning, basil, oregano? Sprinkle them on for extra flavor.
When buying a whole chicken, aim for a bigger bird. You have to pay for the bones, why not get as much meat for that cheaper price as possible? This plan accounts for a $7 bird (at $1.19 per pound, but you may find it cheaper). Go bigger if you can afford it.
Bake the chicken in the oven, crockpot, or instant pot for the first meal. Give people plenty of potatoes and carrots so they don’t eat all the meat from the bird the first night.
After dinner, pull all the meat from the chicken and divide it in two. You’ll use one batch of the meat for chili and the other for a casserole.
Put the bones in a big pot and cover it with water. Save the carrot peels from the meal and drop them in the pot. Add salt and pepper and any herbs you have on hand that will go well with chicken stock.
Bring it to a boil and then lower the heat. Let it simmer for an hour or two. (The longer it goes, the more flavor you’ll have.)
Save that broth in the fridge for the white chicken chili. (Recipe to come!)
3 Ingredient PB Cookies are a nice treat.
Here’s the recipe for a yummy Black Bean Soup.
Make a simple chicken casserole using the chicken you saved, rice, cream of chicken soup, water, and a bag of frozen veggies.
Try this delicious recipe for salmon patties. I was able to get 7 patties from it.
If you don’t like rice pudding, you can have more oatmeal. But the recipe is pretty simple, and it’s always a good treat. If you don’t have vanilla or cinnamon, you can skip them.
(Plus you still have leftover rice from the casserole, so why not use it?)
Bake up potatoes for everyone and let everyone decide how to top them. You can put leftover chili over them. A simple salt/pepper/butter topping. Salsa and so much more. (Get creative!)
With this shopping list, you should have plenty of carrots and potatoes on hand. Bake them up when you need more food.
Remember to drink tons of water. We usually think we’re hungry when we’re really thirsty.
And if you work your creative muscles, I bet you can come up with a couple of other ways to use the foods you have on hand.
Based on shopping in southern Ohio, I made sure to use regular prices at my local Kroger store.
You can find many of these things even cheaper at Aldi. And chances are good that at least some of these things will be on sale.
That said, I do realize that in many parts of the country, prices are higher than they are in my area. You may not be able to get all of these things for less than $75, but these are the foods you’re likely to find cheaper in your own stores.
The actual full price total of this grocery list came to $72.64. With your extra $2.36 you could buy butter instead of margarine (an extra $2). You could get some extra seasonings (you can find a jar for $1…sometimes at Kroger, often at Aldi, and even at your local Dollar Store.) Or get another bag of frozen veggies or fresh fruit that’s in season for $1 per pound.
Those are the cheapest foods to buy when you’re broke.
Don’t forget to sign up for your free shopping list. It’ll make this thing so easy.
What’s a cheap food you like to buy?