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Best Cheap Foods To Buy When Broke In 2021

Best Cheap Foods To Buy When Broke In 2021

Are you one of those unfortunate workers who lost their job or businesses because of the pandemic? When you're strapped for cash, you're going to have to cut back on your grocery shopping. While saving money at the grocery store may appear to be an easy method to stretch your dollars, buying cheap items for budget meals might really cost you money if you're not careful.

Tyreece Bauer
Last updated: Oct 06, 2021 | Oct 05, 2021

Table of Contents

Are you one of those unfortunate workers who lost their job or businesses because of the pandemic?  When you're strapped for cash, you're going to have to cut back on your grocery shopping. While saving money at the grocery store may appear to be an easy method to stretch your dollars, buying cheap items for budget meals might really cost you money if you're not careful. For example, if you live on cheap snack foods that cause you to gain weight and have high cholesterol, you may wind up spending a lot of money on health care. So attempt to fill your shopping cart with low-cost but nutritious foods. Consider these suggested goods if you're looking for something great, healthy, and inexpensive.

  • Beans.
  • Oats.
  • Frozen vegetables.
  • Bananas.
  • Spinach.
  • Rice, like White & Brown rice.
  • Eggs.
  • Canned tuna or salmon.
  • Chuck roast.
  • Potatoes.
  • Ramen noodles.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Pasta.
  • Flour.
  • Peanut butter.

When you're broke, it might be difficult to know what cheap food to buy, let alone what dishes to create that aren’t dull or redundant week after week.

This is why we've curated a list of nutrient-dense, delicious, and budget-friendly meal options. The goal is to make it as simple as possible for you to change your food spending so that your weekly shopping expense is reduced but your meals are just as tasty – if not better! Here are some examples of the best cheap foods to buy when broke.


different types & colors of beans

Beans, according to Taylor Wolfram, a registered dietitian and nutrition counselor in Chicago, are a healthful and cost-effective dinner option. If you buy them dry and then boil them, they're exceptionally cheap — roughly 12 cents per serving, according to Wolfram, who cites data from the Bean Institute. Beans are high in protein and will keep you full for a long time. They also last a long time before going bad, so buying in bulk will save you even more money.

When looking for the cheapest meal to buy, dry beans are usually your best pick, but canned beans can also be a good deal.

Beans are highly versatile, according to Wolfram. She suggests using them in tacos, curries, sandwiches, soups, chilis, dips like hummus, and snacks like roasted chickpeas. Here is another idea you can make with beans:

  • Use a glass dish that is at least twice the size of the volume of beans/liquid
  • Soak dry beans in water for 6-12 hours (2 cups per 1/2 pound of dry beans)
  • Add butter, margarine, bacon fat, and desired seasonings (NOT SALT)
  • Cover with a microwave-safe lid and cook for 7-10 minutes
  • Stir, recover, and cook at 50% power for 15-40 minutes stirring/checking every 15 minutes for doneness
  • Drain and enjoy!


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Daniela Novotny, a registered dietitian and biomedical lecturer at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, adds that oats are filling and tasty when spiced up. "Vitamins, minerals, and fiber are abundant in them. Whole oats have been demonstrated to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels. Furthermore, fiber aids in the slowing of glucose absorption, which is beneficial to diabetics "she continues.

How affordable are oats? Where you shop and the type of oatmeal you buy will affect the price. Steel-cut rolled and instant oatmeal all have different prices based on where you shop. On Amazon, a Quaker Oats instant oatmeal variety pack (48 packets) costs around $10.70. Budget-friendly food ideas include oatmeal, oatmeal cookies, and oatmeal bars. You could also create oat bread or use oats in homemade granola, or look up oat-based dinner dishes online, such as a broccoli cheddar oatmeal bake.

Here is another great idea of how you can prepare it:

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (NOT quick-cooking)
  • 1/2 cup milk, milk substitute, or water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Dash of vanilla (optional) or cinnamon
  • Stir and heat for 90 seconds
  • Add in additional toppings if desired

Frozen Vegetables

different frozen veggies in ziploc and containers inside fridge

There's a misconception that fresh vegetables are always better, but in reality, this isn't true. Fresh veggies might be of poor quality until they are in season, as even Jaime Oliver has pointed out. This is why he recommends frozen vegetables since they keep the nutritious value of these meals while also ensuring that you always have vegetables on hand. Plus, they're not only less expensive to buy, but there's no risk of them spoiling at the back of the fridge. 

"Frozen foods are never as nutritious as fresh foods, contrary to popular belief. Frozen vegetables can contain just as much nutrient value as of fresh vegetables, if not more, and at a fraction of the price. You also don't have to worry about them spoiling in a few days before you can utilize them because they're frozen”, according to Wolfram.

If you want to make sure you're eating the healthiest vegetables, head to your local farmers market, where you can be sure you're receiving something fresh and cultivated locally. Frozen vegetables, on the other hand, are a great way to acquire your vegetables at a low cost. Meal suggestions: In addition to eating frozen vegetables as a side dish for lunch or supper, you could prepare a vegetable omelet with them. Most frozen vegetable packs can be thrown into the microwave and cooked according to the package's instructions.

  • If you want to cook less than an entire bag: add 1/2 cup frozen veggies to a microwave-safe bowl
  • add a few Tablespoons of water,
  • cover with a microwave-safe lid, plastic wrap, or plate
  • Microwave 2 minutes, stir and check for doneness


"Bananas get a poor rap for being rich in sugar," says Jenn LaVardera, a registered dietitian and wellness specialist in Southampton, New York. "Bananas are high in vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6, potassium, and antioxidants, all of which are beneficial to one's health. They're also high in fiber, which is good for your heart. They are the finest deal in the produce department, with prices as low as 50 cents per pound”, according to LaVardera. 

Aside from bananas, which are available year-round, most fresh fruit is out of the question when you're strapped for cash. Buy smaller bananas in a bunch to get the most bananas for your money. You can also make banana bread, muffins, pancakes, smoothies, wraps, toppings, and snacks. You will also probably want to have bananas as a snack, but you can slice them into your oatmeal or make banana pancakes.


"Adding a couple of handfuls of spinach to practically any dish is an easy way to boost the nutritional content. A quick lunch may be whipped up in a flash when you have spinach in the refrigerator”, LaVardera explains. "When it comes to nutritional value, spinach is a great deal cheaper than most other vegetables. It's high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and manganese, and low in iron, riboflavin, and magnesium." 

Spinach is a versatile ingredient that may be used in a variety of dishes. It is denser (therefore, more filling), contains more vitamins, and can be eaten raw or cooked.LaVardera recommends spinach omelets, whole grain spaghetti with spinach, and spinach quesadillas. If you don't like the flavor of cooked spinach but prefer salad, leave off the iceberg lettuce, which is low in nutritional content, and prepare a budget-friendly spinach salad. 


a bowl of perfect steamed white rice

According to Novotny, "this entrée may be made quickly and added to numerous dinners." "It also contains important minerals like magnesium and manganese and is high in fiber. If someone has celiac disease, rice is a fantastic non-gluten choice. Because of the fiber content, it may help with hunger management and cholesterol reduction." Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, but it takes longer to prepare and costs more. Brown rice also has a nutty flavor that might alter the final outcome of some meals. In the appropriate conditions, white rice can last up to a year. The price of brown rice will vary depending on where you shop and what kind of offers you can find, but you can usually get several pounds for a few dollars. Cooking a hamburger with brown rice in a skillet is quick and easy to do (and you could throw in some frozen vegetables). Brown rice is also delicious in burritos and with just about any meat. Brown rice pudding, for example, is a popular treat made using brown rice. It can also be used in stirfry, casseroles, soups, beans and rice, and Oriental dishes.


Eggs are a great way to add protein to any meal or eat them as a snack on their own. They are also a great source of B vitamins, as well as other nutrients. For the best results, choose brown, free-range eggs and keep them refrigerated. However, because you can use these in so many recipes, it's a good idea to have a dozen in the fridge as one of the greatest healthy pantry staples you can have. The price of a dozen eggs varies depending on where you purchase and where you reside. However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Egg Markets Overview," which was released on July 24 last year, the wholesale price for large shell eggs on the New York market, which is typically regarded as a barometer for the rest of the country, is currently 85 cents per dozen. In any case, Novotny favors eggs as a low-cost, high-nutrient food. You can make scrambled eggs with toast, stirfry, egg salad sandwiches, fried rice, omelets, and quiche to name a few.

"Eggs are a terrific source of protein and may be prepared in a variety of ways," Novotny explains. "Hard-boiled, scrambled, sunny-side up, over easy, poached, and so on." "Eggs can be used to make omelets or scrambled eggs with veggies for a filling breakfast, or they can be used to make casseroles for meals. Take caution with what you put in the eggs (for example, butter). Eggs, on the other hand, are nutritious and filling on their own."

Canned Tuna Or Salmon

For the time being, tuna prices have remained stable, while the pandemic is expected to make it more difficult for tuna fishermen in the future, and supplies may be reduced. For the time being, canned tuna remains a low-cost, high-nutrient lunch. When it comes to adding tuna to many dishes, it's cheap and easy, not to mention the health benefits. It can also be used as a chicken substitute, which is useful if you don't have any chicken in the fridge or freezer and realize you need it. Rather, just take a can from the pantry and go.

Canned tuna and salmon, according to Michele Sidorenkov, a registered dietitian nutritionist, professional chef, and blogger at, are inexpensive but nutritious foods. "Buying canned tuna or salmon is a wonderful low-cost protein alternative because it is an excellent source of protein, provides omega-3s, and does not require refrigeration. The lid of some cans can be pulled off without the need for a can opener." Tuna sandwiches, tuna noodle casserole, and tuna melts are simple, inexpensive, and quick to cook.

Chuck Roasts

In addition to being inexpensive, chuck roast is also filling and fatty, so you only need a small amount to feel satisfied, says Vered DeLeeuw, the author of According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from June 2020, you may expect to pay $7 on average for a chuck roast. If you're on a budget, easy yet fulfilling dinner options include pot roast, beef stroganoff, and Irish stew.


Potatoes are a terrific item to add to your grocery list when you're on a budget because there are so many various ways to prepare them, from baking to frying. They are an excellent way to bulk out low-cost dishes while also being healthful. They also have the advantage of being easy to buy in quantity because they survive a long time, making them even more affordable.

Sweet potatoes could be substituted for sweet potatoes to increase your protein intake (or as well). Not only are they delicious, but as an inexpensive meal alternative, they will scarcely be noticed by your budget. As Robert Ferguson, a qualified nutritionist and health ambassador for explains, "Not only are (potatoes) incredibly economical and full of nutrients; they can also be prepared in a hundred various ways that taste delicious." According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, white potatoes will cost 85 cents a pound in June 2020. Mash them, bake them, or fry them for a meal. They can be used as a soup or a side dish. You may also use them to make hash browns or shepherd's pie, which are both delicious. It's even possible to make potato bread. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner can all benefit from a range of filling potato recipes.

Ramen Noodles

spicy Gochujang Miso Ramen Noodles with egg

Cost-effectiveness is a well-known characteristic of Ramen noodles. Maruchan Ramen Noodle Soup 24-packs are now available for $5.76 at Walmart. That's why Marsha Kelly, the owner of, a small business site, says she used to buy ramen noodles by the case when she was broke and suffering. According to Kelly, they're the world's cheapest and most adaptable food source.

As a precaution, Ferguson advises staying away from the flavor packets for the sake of your health. "There's a lot of MSG in this package. Instead, season it with salt and pepper, then use broth or bouillon cubes to flavor it. You'll be astonished at how much better ramen noodles taste when cooked in this manner ", he continues. Kelly's go-to recipes included a parmesan garlic recipe with parsley, parmesan, garlic, and butter, as well as stir-fry lunches. You can also add some meat like ham or sausages to make it more savory. 


As with tomatoes, it’s something I always keep on my weekly purchasing list because of their flexibility. Due to the fact that they may be cooked or served raw, you'll find yourself utilizing them pretty much every day. To be sure, it's difficult to make a meal out of just tomatoes, but they're nutritious and delicious. According to Ferguson, they're also adaptable and useful. He adds tomatoes are often inexpensive and can be used as a condiment, snack, or to bulk up a meal. While purchasing fresh tomatoes may be out of the question when you’re broke, canned tomatoes are a great option. Any variety of tomatoes are a good choice – from diced tomatoes to tomato sauces. Tomatoes in cans can last up to 18 months on the shelf. You might also want to stock up on tomato sauce and paste cans.

Stuffed tomatoes are a simple dish to prepare (like people make stuffed peppers). They go great with pasta (which is next on our list) and salads. They can even be served as a dessert (check out recipes for tomato cake online). Other things you can make are Chili, soups, stews, casseroles, salsa, and Italian dishes.


"Pasta is one of the most affordable foods on the planet. Ramen is what most college students think of when they think of pasta, yet most pasta is inexpensive", Steffa Mantilla said, who blogs at on paying off debt, living frugally, and accumulating wealth, agrees. Having any form of pasta on hand, similar to rice, is a terrific way to make a dish more full. In the end, it doesn't matter which type you use, though whole wheat is preferable to white wheat for added nutrition. 

Mantilla suggests mixing frozen vegetables into your spaghetti for increased bulk and nutritional benefits. You can match it with a range of inexpensive items, such as chuck roast and spinach, thanks to the versatility of pasta. You can also make spaghetti, fettuccine, soups, casseroles, lasagna, and mac & cheese to name a few.


Mantilla recommends cooking using flour. "It's versatile because you can create breads, pancakes, biscuits, and other things with it," explains Mantilla. It's also cheap, at under a dollar per pound. By including flour in your low-cost grocery list, you can make your own baked products at home and save money. Mantilla recommends creating handmade pot pies rather than buying manufactured ones from the frozen foods aisle. You can also make other baked goods and use it as a thickening agent. 

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a particularly nutritious food when eaten in little amounts since it is high in good fats, niacin, vitamin E, and manganese. "Another low-cost item is peanut butter. Large jars of peanut butter can typically be found for a low price at warehouse stores". Mantilla adds a few more compelling reasons to consider buying it: "Peanut butter is full, lasts a long time, and is a wonderful source of protein. Another advantage is that the majority of children enjoy it." 

Sandwiches with peanut butter and jelly, of course. You can also create cookies with peanut butter. Peanut butter appears as a supporting character in many recipes, primarily in the form of peanut butter sauces, if you enjoy cooking. Can also be used in curries, sauces, folded up in a tortilla with a banana, or eaten straight from the jar with a spoon!


Buying cheap food that you can stretch throughout the week is one of the best methods to save money on groceries, whether you're broke or merely on a tight budget. Some people may be put off by the term "cheap meals." However, just because the food on this list is inexpensive does not mean your family will not enjoy it! Most of the food on this list is also very versatile, in addition to being inexpensive.

Tyreece Bauer | Analyst and photographer in the field of technology. When I'm not working on my laptop, I like to go surfing, hiking with friends, and go karting or play soccer with my nephew. I enjoy traveling and am excited to visit Tokyo this summer. What are your plans for your next trip?


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Click here to check the ultimate guide to learn how to leverage your PC and internet to make money online.