For most people, the grocery bill becomes one of the highest bills of the month. When it comes to budgeting, food is one of the easiest ways to cut back on spending (without having to sacrifice too much on taste!). By careful grocery shopping and looking for cheap food, you can save a lot of money.
I like to have certain staples in my home’s pantry, refrigerator, and freezer at all times. This means I have to buy very few ingredients because I have most of them at home already. It takes less time to put together meals, and I spend much less money eating out. Plus, it allows me to feed my family healthy meals, even on a whim!
To help you tighten up your grocery list and pantry items, I’ve rounded up 47 of the best cheap food options I love to include in my kitchen. Use it as inspiration for your grocery budget!
Cheap foods for baking
Here are the essential items you should keep in your kitchen for baking – they are all very cheap and must-haves.
If you plan to do any type of baking, you will need flour. From batch cookies to dinner rolls, flour will be your friend. It binds ingredients together in sauces and gravies, making it perfect to have on hand even if you don’t find yourself baking.
Yes, we will need to improve things! Depending on your baking needs, you will need white sugar, brown sugar, and confectioners’ sugar. If you only need it for coffee, tea, and cooking, white sugar works well.
All chocolate lovers will need cocoa powder. This makes brownies, chocolate cakes, and all things sweet and chocolatey in baking.
Baking soda and baking powder
Anyone who forgets these things in their baking will soon know why they’re important – they help make things better. As a bonus, baking soda acts as an essential cleaning ingredient.
Have you been one of the people who have tried making their own bread in the past couple of years? You may be surprised to learn how easy it is to make your own. Get fresh loaves, cakes, and even pizza dough ready by adding yeast to your baking supplies.
These pantry staples serve as the base for many meals, so stock up on these ingredients for your kitchen.
Keep your food from sticking to the pan by using a little oil. Also useful for baking and sauces, try to have a few vegetable oils ready for recipes.
Vinegar works as a meat tenderizer, for preparing salad dressings, and for use in marinades. He also plays double duty as a cleaner. White vinegar is the basic and versatile option.
Many recipes call for chicken or vegetable broth. To avoid waste, freeze any open and leftover stock for your next recipe. You can also make it easily using leftover chicken and vegetables.
Salt and Pepper
If you want your food to have flavour, you’ll need salt and pepper. Every time you cook or bake, you’ll get at least one of these two essential ingredients.
If you follow recipes frequently, you know how your spice cabinet can get out of control. Instead, choose to focus on all-purpose spice blends and a few of your favorite spices.
Cheap food for supplies
Try to keep these items on hand, as they are common ingredients used in many recipes.
Not only can you use oatmeal as a nutritional breakfast, but you can use it in a lot of dessert and cake recipes. It works well as a crumb for desserts and a binder for cooking.
Having tuna, salmon, or other canned meats in your pantry allows you to make sandwiches or protein-rich casseroles with what you already have in your kitchen. Who doesn’t like a tuna sandwich or chicken salad?
Whether canned or dried, I always have beans in my pantry. A source of protein, you can use it to replace or add to meat in a recipe. It is one of the most filling and inexpensive pantry options.
Canned vegetables and fruits
In this case, stock up on more canned vegetables. They are often cheaper than fresh produce and last longer. Canned corn, diced tomatoes, green peppers, pumpkin, tangerines, and peaches are some common types that can be included.
I probably make a batch of rice every week. You can prepare some to pair with vegetables and meat for a more filling meal. It also enhances casserole dishes.
Who doesn’t love pasta night? Pasta is a family and college favorite for really good reason. It’s a very cheap food, and makes a large, filling meal. Picky eaters don’t seem to mind a bowl of it either!
Try to limit yourself to two types of pasta in the pantry at a time. Otherwise, you’ll be left with boxes half-finished, and you don’t want to waste them.
To make this easy pasta meal, you’ll also need sauce. I love using marinara because it can be used as a pizza sauce, chili topping, and chicken topping.
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich will always be a hit in my books. Not only does peanut butter work well on sandwiches, but you can add it alongside soy sauce to make a delicious sauce. If peanut butter isn’t your thing, replace it with a different nut butter.
Coffee and tea
Whether you’re a coffee or tea lover, I know you need to get your cup every morning. So, this is the one thing I made sure to include in the basic list.
Canned soup is perfect for a cold, dreary day, and can be used as a meal on its own or as a side dish. You can also use thick soup as a sauce for meat. For example, cream of mushrooms taste great with pork chops!
Always look for the low-sodium version, as canned soup almost always comes full of salt.
Honey is a great natural sweetener. You can add it to your morning tea or coffee, in baking, or as a little sweetness to a homemade sauce for cooking.
The one thing I don’t want to miss on this list is easy snacks. In addition to fruit, granola bars are great for on-the-go. You can easily buy a bulk package in bulk to last you a few months.
Cheap foods for the refrigerator
Make sure you have your favorite spices on hand. Additionally, here are some other ideas for inexpensive things you can keep in your refrigerator.
Ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise
You’ll find that you’ll reach for these three spices more than anything else. Mustard is especially used in other recipes such as salad dressing and even dishes like macaroni and cheese.
Soy sauce is an essential ingredient in making your own sauces. Use it in stir-fries and other Asian-inspired dishes, dips, and salad dressings. If you’re gluten-free or prefer to avoid soy, try coconut aminos instead.
Always keep eggs in your refrigerator. It is one of the quickest and most nutritious breakfasts. However, you can definitely eat eggs for dinner or any time of the day! Our family usually eats breakfast for dinner once a week. Of course, they are also a staple ingredient in many baking recipes.
You can choose the milk you prefer. This can be regular cow’s milk or one of the common soy or nut alternatives. Not only does milk provide a nutritious beverage, it can be used in baking and making white sauces.
Do I have to explain why cheese is on this list? It makes everything taste better! Always avoid packages of shredded cheese – you’ll get more bang for your buck by buying a block of shredded cheese and cutting it as needed.
One ingredient that never spoils, butter, helps add more flavor during cooking than oil. It is also required in many bread recipes and tastes very good spread on a piece of bread.
Always keep a few hours in your fridge to prepare a quick breakfast and snacks. You can also make your own by buying seasonal fruits in bulk!
Sour cream works well as a topping for soups, potatoes, and other hearty meals. You can also use it as an ingredient to make dips, white sauces, and creamy soups.
Marinating the meat in some barbecue sauce makes for a delicious and simple meal. It also works for dipping.
Are you a hot sauce family? Some people, some people are not. Hot sauce works well in many dishes, from eggs and pasta to chicken and stews. It’s a quick way to add flavor and heat to a dish.
Although fresh produce is more difficult to keep than other food items, here are some fruits and vegetables you should try that are readily available.
Bananas are a great fruit to eat in the morning or on the go because they don’t need to be washed. When odd bananas inevitably become too brown to eat, either puree them into a smoothie or store them in the refrigerator to make banana bread later.
Apple and orange
I had to include these two essential elements. They last a long time in the fridge, so you can keep them on hand for quick snacks or side dishes for lunches.
Onions and garlic
I often combine these two vegetables because they are used in the same way in cooking. These two really bring flavor to dishes. The moment you cook onions and garlic in oil or butter on the stove, everyone knows a good dinner is on the way.
Broccoli is one of those vegetables that most picky eaters still eat. You can enjoy them raw, dipped in ranch, or cooked. Broccoli works well topped with cheese sauce for kids, hidden between pasta, or baked with oil and spices.
Is there a time of day that isn’t ideal for eating potatoes? This wonderful root vegetable lasts a long time in the pantry and can be used in many dishes. Cook breakfast potatoes, bake homemade hash browns, or serve them mashed with butter and garlic for dinner.
Tomatoes are in quite a few recipes, from soup and pasta to salad toppings and sandwich toppings. If you purchase grape tomatoes, they can also be eaten raw and cooked.
When it comes to vegetables, carrots are a favorite among children. Any vegetables that kids eat raw as a snack, cooked for a meal, or served on the side will be a cheap food worth stocking up on.
Celery also works well raw or cooked. What I like about celery is how long it lasts. When you notice that the celery is starting to twitch a little, simply leave it in a cup of water for a few hours. The celery absorbs the water and becomes nice and supple again.
Cheap frozen foods
Having some of these essentials in the fridge will make mealtime much easier.
Frozen fruit mixture
Having a stock of frozen fruits can help you prepare quick meals in case the need arises. They work great in smoothies in the morning, as a topping on desserts and ice cream, and even as a filling for pancakes.
You can use all kinds of frozen vegetable mixtures in meals. Add it with sauce, protein, and some rice, and you’ve got yourself a stir-fry in a heartbeat. They work well in pasta, soups, casseroles, and even on their own. If you have fan-favorite vegetables like frozen peas, you can keep those stored as well.
Although it may not be the healthiest option, frozen pizza is a relatively quick instant meal that can feed the whole family. Keep one on hand for when you’re in a real pinch. If you wait, you can often find them on sale and grab a few to stock your freezer.
I like to store any extra bread in the freezer. This works for things like hamburger buns, bread, and even baked goods like cupcakes. When you buy a box, it ensures that your toppings don’t go to waste and that you can enjoy them the next time you’re craving a hamburger.
Spinach or kale
We all know how quickly spinach, kale, and other vegetables go to waste in the refrigerator. Instead, I prefer to either freeze fresh vegetables when they start showing signs of being young or buy them already frozen. This way, it won’t go to waste, and I can quickly add some veggies to any hot meal or add a handful to my smoothies.
This can fit perishable items, but I find it helpful to buy ground meat in bulk, portion out portions, cook one piece, and freeze the rest separately. Ground beef is one of the most versatile protein options and can be used in many recipes such as chili, tacos, shepherd’s pie, and meatballs.
Just like ground beef, chicken breasts are very affordable when purchased in bulk. Divide into different portion sizes and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Final thoughts on cheap food
As you can see, you can definitely find affordable food if you are patient and shop wisely. By having these pantry staples on hand, you can feed your family nutritious meals on the cheap!