In the perfect world, you can afford to buy the healthiest of foods, all organic, never with GMOs especially because you know that by eating healthy foods, you will look and feel better.
Then reality sets in when you walk into the grocery store.
It sucks to buy food when you are broke. You need to buy cheap food.
You are trying your best, but there isn’t enough money to go around and pay all of your bills. Yet alone try and eat healthy.
You don’t want to eat like a college student, but you need dirt cheap meals and recipes to get by.
Are you like me? Who is always desperate to try and stretch your grocery money even further and still eat nutritious foods. You want to buy cheap healthy foods.
Here is the best news…
Many of the best healthiest foods are also some cheap staple foods that you can stock up on.
That is great news for anyone living on a budget.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
You just have to become a savvy shopper and learn what is the best cheap food for you.
A little secret…not everything that is cheap is bad for you. The word cheap and bad for you is derived from the gross overly processed foods.
Now, let’s look into what should I buy at the grocery store when broke?
What should I buy at the grocery store when broke?
Most of the food we traditionally buy wouldn’t be classified as “cheap food to buy when broke.”
Our grocery list typically includes meats, dairy, convenience foods, snacks or desserts.
All of these items come with a higher price and thus not cheap food to buy. You won’t be able to stretch your grocery budget further if 50% of your cart is made up of meats, dairy, convenience food, snacks or desserts.
Many of the healthy and cheap staple foods are your basic foods. These are the items for your broke grocery list.
Foods that you would find in a plant based or vegan diet. Don’t worry, we aren’t going to dive into which diet is best. That is for you to decide and make your own conclusions.
However, branching out and cooking differently than you ever have can be daunting and overwhelming.
We are creatures of habits and we want to stay in our comfort zone.
Trying to introduce new foods to your family and kids can be darn right scary and you are nervous about rejection.
Here is the one book that taught me how to cook plant based foods. And the best part is I spent less money on groceries and still packed these healthiest foods on my tight budget. (oh, and every single recipe is ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!)
If you truly are interested in stretching your grocery budget to the max, then you need to try a few new foods.
Organic Vs Non- Organic Debate
Before we dig into the best cheap food to buy when broke. First this is one savvy tip to help you navigate the produce section.
Buying organic can be really costly. Yet, you want to provide the best for your family and get stuff with less pesticides.
We have a few friends whose parents own farms. The cost for a farmer to turn their farm into selling organic products is very costly and their goods may not even qualify because of neighboring farms and their practices.
Thankfully, we can rely on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list.
This list can help you determine when it makes sense to spend the extra money to buy organic foods.
Oh, and the biggest key is to clean your produce well! For many years, we used this fruit spray. But, after some personal research, we decided to create our own with baking soda and water.
Just a one of my best frugal living tips for you!
Dirty Dozen List
These are ranked in order of the highest amount of pesticides found on the produce to the lowest. Much of the produce with a thin outer layer is found on the dirty dozen list.
Clean 15 List
These have the lowest amount of pesticides and many contain a harder outside.
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas Frozen
- Honeydew Melons
The full list can be found here.
The Best Cheap Food to Buy When Broke
Okay, now, let’s dive into the actual food for your budget grocery list.
On of the best ways to save money on groceries is to have a stock up price. This stock up price tells you when the item is at its lowest price and you should plan your meals around those items. This is especially important when buying produce.
Get your copy of the Grocery Stock Up List!
These are the cheapest most nutritious foods you can put on your cheap grocery list.
These are your cheap healthy foods to have on hand at all times.
Cheap Staple Foods
- Canned Tomatoes
- Canned Tuna
- Peanut Butter
- Dried Pasta
- Sea Salt
Cheap Fruit – Year Around
Cheap Vegetables – Year Around
- Winter Squash
Rotating By Season
When you are looking to buy cheap food to buy when broke, you have to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season. If not, you will blow your grocery budget very quickly.
- Bell Peppers
- Green Beans
- Summer Squash
**As you can see the cheapest produce is found in the summer. This is a great time to freeze fruits for smoothies for the winter months or prepare vegetables for frozen crockpot stews for those wintry nights.**
- Bell Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
- Green Beans
- Sweet Potatoes
- Winter Squash
- Brussels Sprouts
- Sweet Potatoes
- Winter Squash
Best Protein Bang for Your Buck
Most of the time you automatically think that meat has the highest amount of protein. That is really hard to buy when you’re broke.
So, here are alternatives, so you can stretch your grocery money and still eat healthy!
- Quinoa – 1 cup = 24 grams of protein
- Lentils – 1 cup = 18 grams of protein
- Oats – 1/3 cup = 16.9 grams
- Almonds or walnuts – 1/2 cup = 16 grams of protein
- Nutritional Yeast – 1/4 cup = 16 grams of protein (if you haven’t tried nutritional yeast, it makes a great addition to many meals)
- Black beans or Cannellini Beans – 1 cup = 15.3 grams of protein
- Chickpeas – 1 cup = 14.53 grams of protein (plus you can make your own hummus)
- Peas – 1 cup = 8 grams
- Eggs – 1 egg = 6 grams
- Spinach – 1 cup = 6 grams
- Arugula / Mushrooms – 1 cup = 5 grams
- Potato – 1 medium = 4.3 grams
- Avocado – 1 = 4 grams
- Broccoli or Brussel Sprouts – 1 cup = 3 grams
Meat / Dairy Comparison
- Chicken – 1 cup = 38 grams
- Cottage Cheese – 1 cup = 25 grams of protein
- Thanksgiving Turkeys – 3 oz or one serving size = 24 grams of protein
- It is easy to find turkeys around the holidays for $15. Make freezer meals from it. Typically, I make 15 freezer meals. That brings the cost of meat down to $1 per meal, which is enough to feed a family of 4 with leftovers for 2 adults.
- Pork – 3 oz or one serving size = 23 grams of protein
- Beef – 3 oz or one serving size = 22 grams of protein
- Canned Tuna – 3 oz or one serving size = 22 grams of protein
- Greek Yogurt – 1 container = 17 grams of protein
- Milk – 1 cup = 3.9 grams of protein
Markdown Meat Section – Great way to cut 50-75% off the original price of meat
All protein numbers courtesy of the USDA.
Eating Healthy on a Budget Grocery List
These are all of the must haves that you need to keep in your house all the time. Call it your broke grocery list.
These will keep you full and stretch your grocery budget even further.
Then compare your local grocery sales add to our Grocery Stock up list to find additional items for your grocery list.
Eating Healthy on a Budget Grocery List:
- Flour & Sugar
- Spices – Bay Leaves, Onion, Garlic, Paprika, Chili Powder, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Italian Seasoning, Sea Salt, Pepper, and Everything But the Bagel
Meal Planning Recipes When You’re Broke
It is one thing to buy cheap food when you’re broke. But, how do you correlate that to meals?
Here are some great and simple ideas:
- Stew – grab a few of the cheap vegetables, add a cup of beans, and don’t forget to add a bay leaf for flavor. (Need more guidance? Here you go Vegetable Stew Ideas!
- Baked Potato Bar – This classic is a much forgotten about meal.
- Quinoa Dinners – So many great options – Roundup of yummy quinoa based ideas!
- Lentil Tacos
- Egg Salad Sandwich or Throw it on Some Salad Mix
- Leftover Turkey Ideas plus they are easy and healthy
- Choose from 15 Delicious Protein-Packed Vegan Salads
- Breakfast for Dinner – Scrambled eggs with homemade pancakes
- Egg Roll in a Bowl – One of my personal favorites!!
- It’s All About Pasta – 25+ Pasta Recipes
Thankfully for Pinterest there are tons of great recipes. Your list of recipes to try should always be longer!
Can You Find Cheap Food When Broke?
There are a ton of ideas to buy cheap food when you’re broke.
Hopefully, we answered you question of what are the cheapest most nutritious foods? There are plenty of options to choose from! Which is great news.
The biggest key to save the most money possible is to buy items when they are at their lowest price.
Make sure to grab our Grocery Stock-Up List.
Using a broke grocery list doesn’t mean you need to eat poorly. You can eat healthy on a budget.
So, hopefully, you feel more confident and knowledgeable about buying groceries when money is tight.
More Grocery Budget Resources:
- 20 Simple Ways on How to Save Money on Groceries
- How to Meal Plan for a Month and Save Money
- How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck
- 53 Items Not to Buy at the Grocery Store
- Meal Planning 101 (plus save money each week)
How Much to Pay on Groceries?
A guide to know the lowest grocery store prices. No need to use any coupons!
Where should I send your FREE Stock Up List download?
Looking for new recipes and make dinner time easy, then check this out...