15 Foods To Buy When You're Broke
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15 Foods To Buy When You’re Broke

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When money is tight, yet you need to feed your family, it’s essential to know what to buy. You can get specific foods to make different meals for yourself and your loved ones at low prices without breaking the bank. So if you’re ready to save money without worrying about going hungry, check out these 15 foods to buy when you’re broke.

Having a meal plan and menus ahead of your grocery shopping trips helps a ton. That way you buy what you need based on your grocery budget and you aren’t as prone to buy on impulse. For families these days, a tight budget for food is the norm, so it pays to shop for the cheapest foods possible without sacrificing those vitamins, minerals, and fiber content we all need.

15 Foods To Buy When You're Broke

I decided to update this post because grocery prices continue escalating. On the TV news, the reporters show lines and lines of cars backed up to get food at the Food Banks. More and more people need food stamps (EBT Cards) than ever before. We must teach our kids and grandkids how to cook from scratch at home. Who can afford to go to local fast-food drive-throughs these days? The term “cheap foods” is an oxymoron these days. It takes real planning to make that grocery budget work and keep that grocery bill as low as possible.

Items Needed At Food Banks Now:

  • Peanut butter
  • Granola Bars
  • Canned Fruit
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Bottles of Water
  • Canned Beans
  • Spaghettio’s
  • Ravioli’s in a can
  • Stew in cans
  • Meals where you add water
  • Cheese Crackers
  • Canned Meats
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Spaghetti Sauce

15 Foods To Buy When You’re Broke

1. Frozen Vegetables

You can’t go wrong with frozen vegetables! While fresh vegetables aren’t always affordable, you can get generic brand frozen vegetables for a dollar per bag or less. These bags of vegetables provide enough servings to feed a small family. Some of the veggies worth buying and adding to your freezer include broccoli, broccoli with cauliflower and carrots, corn, spinach, and peas!

2. Bread

If you have bread at home, you can do a lot with it. Not only is a loaf of bread cheap when you buy the generic brand at the grocery store, but it’s also good to have for making different meal options. We all love toast with butter, sandwiches, homemade stuffing, and more. While you can buy traditional white bread for cheap, whole wheat bread made from whole grains is an even better option because it’s a complex carb that offers numerous health benefits.

3. Eggs

Grab eggs when they’re at their lowest price and store them in the fridge. Depending on where you live and where you shop, you can get a dozen eggs in a carton for 99 cents or less, which is quite the steal. It’s good to have eggs because you can scramble them, fry them, boil them, use them as a base for breading chicken, and more. So, not only are eggs good for you, but they’re also cheap, tasty, and versatile enough to use in different meals. Remember that brown eggs tend to cost more, so you’re better off financially sticking with white eggs.

Read More of My Articles  Food Storage Tips for Your Groceries and Leftovers

Eggs can also be included in things like stir-fry to provide more healthy content to a fun and nutritious meal.

4. Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein. You don’t need to buy the brand-name stuff, either! Instead, get yourself a small container of generic creamy or crunchy peanut butter and enjoy it on bread or toast. You can also use it as a dip for fruit and veggies, including apple slices, celery sticks, and carrots. Besides its flavor, the other good thing about peanut butter is that it tends to go a long way, depending on how thick you spread it or dip it.

5. Pasta

Be sure to grab pasta while it’s on sale. Most grocery stores will have deals where you can even get the popular brands at low prices from time to time. It’s good to have pasta because you can make a variety of pasta dishes with it, including spaghetti with sauce, chicken alfredo, macaroni and beef, and pasta salad. In addition, it’s the kind of food that can fill you up fast.

I’ve always been amazed at how much volume you get from pasta once it’s cooked. You take a handful of spaghetti noodles and put them in a pan and before you know it you’re feeding your whole family. So when you don’t have a lot of money but want to make sure you and your loved ones don’t go hungry, pasta is an excellent choice. Also, if you see Snack Ramen on sale at your store, consider buying it as a great pasta option.

Another great feature of pasta is that it has a fairly long shelf life. As long as it’s stored in a cool dry location, it should provide good meal choices for months, and even years. I consider pasta to be one of my pantry staple items, and it’s very cost-effective.

6. Beans

Buy cans of beans for less than a dollar and make different meals with them, such as hot dogs with baked beans, homemade chili, and bean burritos. If you’re not the biggest fan of beans, there are ways to use them in different recipes to keep you feeling full while adding more flavor.

We are real fans of Mexican foods, so we have beans all the time. Besides canned beans, you can buy various bean types in bulk as dry beans. Yes, you may have to soak them first, but that’s a small price to pay for a nutritious meal choice that also can have a longer shelf life.

7. Pasta Sauce

If you’re going to buy pasta, be sure to get pasta sauce too. While you can make it yourself from scratch with different ingredients, it often requires more work and costs more money. Save yourself time and money by purchasing pasta sauce while it’s on sale to get the best deal.

8. Canned Chicken

Don’t hesitate to get some canned chicken while you’re at the grocery store. Although it might sound strange, canned chicken is excellent for chicken salad, chicken tacos, and homemade soup. It’s pre-cooked for you to save you some time, and it’s an affordable way to add a bit of meat to different meals.

I sometimes buy whole rotisserie chickens from Costco. I think they’re viewed as a loss leader to get folks into their stores. One whole chicken can feed a small family and proves to be cheaper per pound than chicken breasts or chicken thighs. They’re handy since they’ve been cooked, but it does take some time to remove the meat from the bones.

Read More of My Articles  Tips On Storing Food Storage Safely

9. Canned Tuna

Not only can you benefit from buying canned chicken, but you should also get canned tuna. It’s good for you, contains nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids, and is a versatile ingredient. Prepare tuna noodle casserole, tuna salad, tuna sandwiches, and more.

10. Hot Dogs

Okay, they’re not the healthiest food on the planet, but hot dogs are cheap and can come in handy when you’re sticking to a budget. You can eat them on hot dog buns or bread, slice them up and fry them, or eat them with baked beans to have a flavorful meal that leaves you feeling full. They’re also a real favorite with the kids.

11. Chicken/Beef/Vegetable Broth

Grab some chicken, beef, or vegetable broth to have at home. You can use it to make homemade soups with ease, adding a bit of pasta, frozen vegetables, and some seasonings to the mixture before serving it to your loved ones.

12. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is great to have for breakfast because it’s good for you and can keep you feeling full. Instead of buying the costly oatmeal packages, get yourself some oats and prepare the oatmeal using warm water or milk, along with your favorite spices, such as cinnamon sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and more.

13. Bananas

When you want something sweet yet affordable, get bananas. They taste good and are very healthy for you, but you can also get them as one of the cheapest fruits. Mark enjoys a banana with his breakfast cereal each morning. He’s seen them for as low as $.39 per pound up to $.79 per pound. Lately, he’s been paying $.49 per pound and smiles every time he cuts them on top of the cereal bowl! If they start to become overripe, you can make banana bread with them! In case you missed this post, The Best Banana Bread & Muffins

14. Potatoes

You can get a large bag of potatoes for a low price at the grocery store. Once you have the potatoes, you can prepare twice-baked potatoes, make homemade mashed potatoes, or slice them up and fry them for your own French fries. With many ways to prepare them, you can’t go wrong with buying potatoes and having plenty of them at home. Fall is typically the time of year to look for some great deals as the potatoes are being harvested and are in good supply.

I also love yams and sweet potatoes. Mark isn’t a real fan, so I don’t buy and prepare them as often as I’d like. In case you missed this post, Cheesy Potato Casserole (Funeral Potatoes)

15. Rice

Buy a large bag of rice, which should last a while. Rice stretches and isn’t as tricky to cook as some people might think. It’s even easier if you already have a rice cooker at home. You can do so much with rice, from adding it to soups, serving it as a side dish with soy sauce on top, or even eating it with beans. Rice can keep you feeling full, too. In case you missed this post, How to Cook Rice. Rice Cooker

Be careful with your brown rice, it doesn’t last as long on your pantry shelf.

Final Word 

These are the top 15 foods to buy when you’re broke. If you want to feed your family and save money, be sure to add these foods to your grocery list. We all know food prices are historically high, so please add to your food inventory now. May God Bless this world, Linda

Copyright Images: Various types of Pasta Depositphotos_41609615_S

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  1. Thank you for all the great suggestions here, Linda! With rising prices and inflation now our family of seven is already hunkering down and doing all we can to stretch out the food budget with a hot dog night every week, and a can or two of ready made chili pairs well with that and stretches it out as well. We also have a taco/nacho night as all the ingredients for that are still cheap. Another inexpensive meal we do every week is our “rice mix” meal–three boxes of Zatarain’s rice mixes, a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, and sliced up kielbasa or bratwursts. The mixes are in a variety of flavors and it fills up our family for cheap with some left over. Another flavorful cheap base for other mix-ins is ramen, a favorite of our youngest. He likes his with a sliced up boiled egg and a few slices of folded lunch meat laid on top. This time of year is also great for storage of winter squash and pumpkins for eating over the winter. They’re super cheap at orchards and produce stands, last several months if stored right, and are very filling. There are many other ways to stretch the budget right now, but I so appreciate you doing these posts as they always give me other ideas. God bless you and your family!

    1. Hi Tracy, thank you for your kind words. I really do not know how families can feed themselves with the rising prices. It helps if they can cook from scratch like you. I remember raising my girls and we had tacos every Friday, ground beef with hashbrowns or ground beef with rice. It would stretch the meat in the tacos. Great tip on the winter squash!! I like all of your tips and so will others, thank you for sharing. Thank goodness for Zatarain’s rice mixes and ramen! I used to make a dish with ground beef, frozen peas, and ramen, our family loved it! Life is so good when we know how to feed our family with less money. Good job, Linda

      1. Linda, this list will be very helpful to so many people in need of saving money on their food budget. Thank you!!!
        I would add lentils and wheat. We like lentil tacos, lentils n’ egg, lentil soup, lentil apple cake, chocolate lentil cake. Homemade wheat bread, wheat patties (even my meat loving guys like these), wheat chili (we call it chuckwagon chili), blender wheat pancakes, wheat muffins, we put part whole wheat flour in mist of our desserts/cookies, etc.

        1. Hi Janet, oh my gosh, You taught me about lentils I need to address that in my next list. Wheat and lentils can stretch so many meals and make delicious ones at the same time!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE your reminder about them! Thank you, Linda

    2. Tracy,
      Not sure if your family would like this but we use to eat it growing up and my brother and I both still eat it
      when we can’t think of anything else. Spaghetti or Macaroni and tomato juice. Just cook the pasta then drain in
      the same pan add tomato juice or diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, butter and sugar. bring to a low boil till butter is melted
      then add pasta. If you want add a can of mushrooms or whatever you like. You can eat meat on the side if you’d like.
      Also another is Breaded tomatoes. Take canned tomatoes, pour in a pan, again add salt, pepper, butter and sugar when it
      is hot tear up bread and put in the tomatoes. let simmer only a few minutes. Then eat. You can make it thicker or thinner
      depends on how much bread per tomatoes you use. I had one person I worked with cll it a treat. I asked her if she grew up poor and she said no. Didn’t think so.

  2. Linda,

    After I got out of the Navy and started college many of my friends lived on boxed mac and cheese. I was married and the house we were in didn’t have a freezer. But I had had been raised to be prepared. Ft. Collins, Colorado, where we were going to school. had a community meat locker and the annual rent was really cheap. So I went to the local livestock auction and bought half a beef, had it dressed out into steaks, roasts and burger and stored it in the meat locker. When hunting season came around I got an elk and did the same thing. We bought a large bag of rice from the local co-op (again cheap since we volunteered there). Between that and fishing and gardening we ate really well.

    I no longer hunt, but I still buy 1/2 a beef annually from a local rancher and have it processed. The price comes to between $5 & $7 per pound–expensive for hamburger (or at least it used to be–but cheap for good steaks and roasts, plus you always end up with some decent stew meat, bones for broth or your dogs. And if you don’t like organ meat like heart and liver, it’s the best possible raw food for your dogs.

    What I’m saying is buying direct from a local beef or hog rancher, getting some fishing tackle and hunting gear and local licenses can go a long way to keeping people fed (if they know how to fish and hunt). And with current meat prices the tackle, hunting gear and licenses are cheap.

    I do love pasta and have it stored in jars with O2 absorbers and desiccant packs to keep it from getting buggy. I store some white rice the same way and more in mylar bags with O2 absorbers and desiccant packs. I have self-canned green beans and dry beans like pintos in my pantry and we never have less than 20 lbs of dry pintos stored in either jars or mylar as above. I also like Ramen noodles, Rice a Roni, Pasta Roni and those are usually cheap–though I do repackage any of them as above when I’m putting them in long term storage. I do the same with flour and pancake mix. As far as I’m concerned weevils are just extra protein but my wife has a very strong different opinion–thus all the O2 absorbers.

    I agree that canned meats when you can get them on sale or at warehouse places like Costco are a really good deal. But canned fruit, like sliced peaches, can be had cheap too. You just have to keep your eyes open for the sales. Our local Smith’s (a Kroger subsidiary) has case lot sales at least twice a year.

    I’m not LDS but when we lived in Las Vegas there was an LDS store there where you could buy cheap, canned goods, or even bring in your own food and jars and can it on site. Let me tell you, those LDS folks know a thing or two about the right way to store food long term.

    1. Hi Ray, oh your comment brings back great memories for me. We used to buy 1/2 beef and it would last a whole year for my family. Isn’t it wonderful that we were raised to survive and take care of ourselves? It’s actually a blessing because we also learned to cook from scratch. I forgot you live close to the case lot sales, like me!! SQUEAL! I love the savings! I love the feeling of having canned goods stocked, there is no better feeling than knowing we are self-reliant. I love your comment as always, Linda

  3. I really enjoyed this post!

    I know what I’m about to share will sound strange to some but please keep in mind that I grew up very country.

    Growing up anytime any of us killed a rattlesnake, copperhead, or cottonmouth we would never let it go to waste as we (I still do it now as an adult…old habits) would clean it, skin it, then eat it. Any recipe that calls for chicken can be replaced with a rattlesnake. I was raised to look at the above-mentioned snakes as 100% free as no money is needed to get that protein put on the table plus no hunting or fishing license is needed and if that isn’t enough you are making your area safer by harvesting them. My favorite recipe to use for this is “Chicken” & Dumplings.

    As always I lean so much from your posts and the comments from others. This service you provide is priceless!

    1. Hi Ravenna, oh how I love your comment! I have never skinned a snake of any kind. Isn’t it wonderful how you were taught this skill! I never really thought about the fact that o license was needed for snakes! Great comment! It tastes like chicken, oh my gosh, chicken and dumplings, you rock, my friend! Thank you for your kind words, I love our forum here as well! Linda

  4. Vegetables and fruits are esssential. Canned or dried rather than frozen might fit a given situation (e.g., no electricity or extended period). Don’t try to do without them.


    a lady I know keeps telling and screaming to him to throw his supplies away from dehydrated foods to storage in pantry and in a extra room.We see it coming starvation a false economy and now store shelves going dry. his lady is nuts she keeps her eyes closed of what is going on. shes crazy

    1. He needs to add another extra storage room for more rather than getting rid of what he already has. That’s what this HE has planned and his lady is fully on board with that plan.

    2. Hi Mark, wow, this lady would be hard to live with I think. I don’t know her, but I would do what is right for me. We must all see the writing on the wall about what’s going on around us. Good luck, Mark, Linda

  6. Banas and peanut butter ! When my kids were little, we used to slice bananas in 1 inch chunks, put a blob od peanut butter on each one and reassemble it on a wooden skewer. Next, pop it in the freezer and you have a healthy icecream alternative!
    Last summer the tradition continued with my daughter and her children.
    Apples and peanut butter are another favorite- fresh, not frozen.
    Apple slices or bananas are a good sub foe jelly in a PBJ. I gues it would be a PBF? Peanut Butter and Fruit!
    Peanut butter in celery sticks are another favorite snack.

    1. Hi Diana, oh this brings back great memories, the banana chunks with peanut butter then frozen! I need to make those! I grew up with peanut butter on celery as well, great reminders, thank you!! Linda

  7. I buy cans of tomato puree and season them with herbs to create far less expensive tomato sauces. I make my own whole wheat or whole grain bread. Kielbasa, Italian Sausage, canned corned beef hash, these and other meats I buy on sale (2 (4lb) pieces of corned beef brisket @ $ 4.00, Christmas ham 2 (7-8lb) pieces for $8.00 a piece, Thanksgiving turkey (24lb) for $12.00), 92% hamburger (1 lb) @ $ 4.00 – $ 5.00, buying the day before or day after a holiday for the deepest discounts, watch out for deeply discounted sales on Chicken, small bottom round roasts for pot roast or stew ($ 5.00 – $7.00.) Use the leftovers for meals and the bones for soups, stews, and casseroles. Anything I can put in my crockpots that will make large volume soups, stews, chili, meals, etc. My husband brings these to work every day and microwaves them. I can reheat small portions at home for myself. We don’t eat meat every day except as for small amounts stretched until they scream, with my crock pots. I buy bulk hot cereals for the crockpot for the 3 seasons. In the Summer we eat cold cereals, that I stock up on during the cold seasons when they are on decent sales. I shop good sales for only things we need and use, buy store brands as much as possible. I do buy canned or fruit, LS tomato products, LS canned vegetables, beans, LS tuna, and dry goods. No ultra processed, or convenience foods.We cook everything from scratch, avoid takeout or eating out. I buy cheap seltzer to keep Hubs away from vending machines.We have desserts only rarely. I buy only basic vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, radishes,+frozen vegetables for soups). Staple fruits, (apples, oranges(on sale),bananas, for snacks or desserts. I do my best to buy all produce on sale. Sometimes I can only afford frozen vegetables, instead of produce. I do whatever I can to stretch the budget.I use store brand Greek yogurt to make salads and a much smaller amount of expensive mayonnaise. We went vegetarian once before, and may have to do so again, with all meat prices getting astronomical. Not buying meat would cut our grocery bill much more. I only use cartons of broth(bought on sale) for my soups and stews. I buy LS broth packets for when I only need smaller amounts so no cartons of broth get wasted. I dump any leftovers or odds and ends into whatever soup or stew I’m making, my Mother taught me that. We also have leftovers nights too, another thing I learned from my Mother. Plus pasta nights. These are what I do, they might not suits some others.

  8. While on the topic of meat, my hillbilly grampa trapped when he was growing up. They ate raccoon, wild rabbit, squirrel, and probably other meats he didn’t tell me about.. I have eaten squirrel and rabbit. If it got down to it, I could eat some other meats too. It’s a good idea to have some recipes on hand to fix wild game because you never know!

  9. Linda, I have a new device for vacuum sealing mason jars full of soup, broths, dried and dehydrated foods, nuts, etc. It’s a Dicorain Electric Mason Jar Vacuum Sealer and it is the simplest and easiest way I’ve found yet to vacuum seal mason jars. I just vacuum sealed 14 quart jars of pastas with it.

    It’s rechargeable (C type UBS cable included) and the LED on top tells you how much charge is left. After doing those 14 jars mine had 26% charge left. The directions say to recharge it when the charge drops below 20%. It only costs about $25 on Amazon–see link below. This is by far the easiest, fastest way to preserve foods for long term storage. And best of all, if you have those #10 cans of dehydrated or powdered foods and hate opening them because you have to use them up within a few months–you can now simply pour the left overs into a mason jar and seal it up, extending the shelf life.

    Mine seals regular or wide mouth jars. I haven’t had it long enough yet to attest to its durability but so far it’s working great.


    1. Hi Ray, oh my gosh, someone sent me an email asking about a device like this, thanks for sharing the link. I just juse my FoodSaver but this would be so much easier, thank you so much!! Linda

  10. Linda,
    I have read your column for many years. I also printed out and put in a binder, your Emergency booklet.
    My husband and I had stopped eating meat except Chicken, for over a year during 2020 and 2023. I know you live in Utah. We went to see my nephew, in Heber last May. He had just gotten home from hunting in Montana he got a huge buffalo. They had 3 freezers full of meat. We had 2 huge military [no ice] coolers. We have eaten, his farms beef, lamb, buffalo, pork, elk, and deer meat, for the past year. It wont be easy buying commercial meat again. We are going back to visit in July….. LOL

    1. Hi Daun, oh my gosh, this such a blessing! I have distant relatives in Heber and Wahlsberg, Utah! It’s so beautiful in Heber! I love hearinng this!!! Thank you for sharing! Linda

  11. Excellent ideas from everyone! Not only do we contribute to our local food pantry we also make regular donations to the local community college. There are students who live on campus who are really struggling right now also.

    1. Hi Cheryl, I agree about the students who live on campus are struggling. I have several grandkids going to school and school is expensive and food is through the roof! Great idea about making donations to the local community college. We have so many homeless kids, yes kids who are living on the streets. Most people have no idea how some of our youth are living, call your local high school and they will tell you how many are living on the streets. It’s so sad. Linda

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