Grocery Shopping on a Shoestring Budget

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It’s so expensive to feed the family these days, I get it. Maybe you don’t have enough money at the end of the month to buy groceries. If you look at it, eating and grocery shopping on a shoestring budget isn’t always easy, but it can be done.

It’s hard to know how to eat when you’re on a budget. As the cost of items in the USA rises, the grocery budget of Americans tends to shrink. No matter what part of the USA you live in, it’s possible to shop on a shoestring budget.

Grocery Shopping on a Shoestring Budget

While meal planning and grocery shopping are hard on a tight budget, it’s not impossible. However, if you’re going to grocery shop, you need to know the best things to buy on that tight budget.

#1. Buy in Season Produce

One of the biggest money-saving ways to shop on a shoestring budget is to buy produce that is in season. When you buy it in season, you can then freeze it and have it for the offseason.

#2. Buy Cheaper Meats

Listen, when you’re on a budget, you just can’t afford to buy the more expensive meat. You can grocery shop at the grocery store for cheaper meats by buying the less expensive meat cuts. It’s hard to say no to those steaks, but when you’re on a budget, you gotta do what you gotta do. There are ways to prepare and cook the cheaper cuts of meat, like using a pressure cooker to make them more tender. Try some new approaches to meal preparation, it can save lots of money over the long term.

#3. Choose Frozen Veggies

As much as you may like fresh produce, it’s sometimes way more expensive. I would suggest buying frozen veggies, if money is really tight. If you can get veggies on sale, you can also freeze or can your own veggies.

#4. Buy More Beans and Rice

Think about it, when you’re trying to shrink your grocery bill, you need to think of more filling items to buy to feed the family. Beans and rice are super cheap, but filling. Think of the possibilities, when it comes to the types of foods you can make with these two ingredients.

#5. Buy Marked Down Items

A shoestring budget can go far if you use your money wisely. One area in which you can stretch your money further is by buying marked down items. Any major grocery chain marks down items. Just be sure to check the “best used by” dates so you don’t have to throw them out.

#6. Buy Items on Sale

This is a no brainer, but you can stretch your budget by buying items on sale. Buying boxed pasta and canned fruits and veggies are a great start. Before you head to the store next time, check out the ads! This will help you determine what’s going to be on sale.

#7. Shop at a Discount Store

If there is a discount store near you, then it’s worth checking out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve saved money by shopping at a store that offers discounted goods! You will really be able to stretch your budget this way.

#8. Buy Marked Down Meat

As soon as you get home, you can always freeze the marked down packages of meat that you buy. It’s important to get food as cheap as possible and most of the time meat is more expensive than not. Marked down meat can help you save a lot of money.

#9. Buy Canned Foods

I know we have become a “fresh is the best” society. However, if you can’t afford fresh fruits and veggies, then canned is the next best thing. Buying canned foods will help your budget go further than you ever imagined.

#10. Shop for Unconventional Foods

I know this will be weird to some, but sometimes a shoestring budget means you have to think outside of the box. One way of thinking outside the box is buying foods that are unconventional.

  • Lamb shoulder chops
  • Ground chicken
  • Chuck roast
  • Flank steak
  • Liver
  • Pig’s feet

#11. Head to the Farmer’s Market

Although I understand that some Farmer’s Markets are no longer cheap, it does make sense to buy some of your items there. Buying local and buying in season is one way we always make our budget stretch as far as possible. Head to your local market and see what you can get there. Be sure to check the prices vs what is charged at your usual grocery store.

#12. Buy the Store Brand

I know what it’s like to want to buy the brand named items for groceries. They sometimes taste better and it seems that everyone else can tell you that they don’t always like the off-brand. However, a shoestring budget requires buying the cheapest possible. The cheapest possible is usually the store brand.

Cheapest Veggies to Buy

Are you looking for the cheapest veggies to buy? There are several you can buy and still stay within a meager budget.

  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Celery

Which cheap veggies would you add to this list? I’d love to hear your preferences.

Least Expensive Fruit to Buy

When you’re on a shoestring budget, what kind of fruit do you eat? The fruit isn’t always seen as a cheap item to buy at the store. Stick to small amounts, so they don’t go bad. Fruits are the cheapest to buy frozen or canned, but fresh is nice too! Our family eats a lot of bananas every week.

  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Plums
  • Watermelon

Keep in mind that the secret to fruit that is cheap is to buy in season.

What’s a Shoestring Budget?

Have you ever thought about what a shoestring budget is? When someone is talking about a shoestring budget, they are talking about a budget that is tiny.

A shoestring budget is just enough to suit its purpose. A shoestring grocery budget can be hard because this is the least amount that will work. There are no frills and nothing fancy!

What’s Living on a Shoestring Budget Like?

I would think that living on a shoestring grocery budget is hard. A lot of grilled cheese is eaten, right along with other meals that are very easy and cheap.

It can be hard to buy fruits and veggies on a shoestring budget. However, there are ways to get it done. Just like buying meat can be hard on a shoestring budget, but there are ways to make it happen!

What are the Best Meals to Make on a Shoestring Budget?

After you have gone grocery shopping, you may be wondering what the best meals are to make on a shoestring budget. Here are some of the best meals to make on a shoestring grocery budget. One thing I would suggest is to make out a menu for your meals ahead of time. That means you’ll then plan your shopping around the list of foods you plan to buy to prepare those menu meals. If you go to the store without a plan/list, you’ll for sure spend more than otherwise.

  • Rice and vegetables
  • Black beans and rice
  • Omelets
  • Spaghetti
  • Ham
  • Cornbread
  • Mac n cheese
  • Pasta of any kind
  • Soup of any kind
  • Burritos
  • Homemade pizzas
  • Bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches

Looking for some lunch ideas? Check out these 25 lunch ideas on a budget.

What are the Cheapest Carbs to have on Hand?

It’s no secret that carbs are the most filling thing to have on hand when it comes to a shoestring budget. Rice, pasta, beans, potatoes, are all very inexpensive. If you have a lot of people to feed and not a lot of money, these items are always wise to buy.

Final Word

When it comes to grocery shopping on a shoestring budget, these tips will help you get there. Grocery shopping isn’t always easy, especially when you don’t have money. However, if you don’t have money, don’t forget you can always apply for help!

No one should go without food. Take a look at the local food banks in your area too, this may help you get the foods you need to survive. Hunger is a real issue in some areas, get help if you need it.

Learn How To Make Bread

Bread Pans Linda Uses

15 thoughts on “Grocery Shopping on a Shoestring Budget

    • September 2, 2019 at 10:02 am
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      Hi Laura, great reminder, thank you! We make hard-boiled eggs every week. they are so inexpensive. Thank you! Linda

      Reply
  • September 2, 2019 at 9:37 am
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    Our vegetable choices and using them:
    [note: numerous studies show that cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc) eaten at least twice a week may help prevent cancer]

    Potatoes on sale
    Carrots
    Garlic
    Celery
    Cabbage on sale
    Onions on sale
    Kale
    Broccoli on sale

    A few Main meal ideas:
    ~Western potatoes: baked potatoes topped with cooked ground beef/onion, cooked chopped broccoli, cheese, ranch dressing
    ~Baked potatoes with sour cream; side of Carmelized onions
    ~(Sometimes for lunch or light dinner we just have baked potatoes with butter, sea salt, pepper; plus side of carrot n’ celery sticks)
    ~Creamy potato, onion, garlic, celery, kale soup; whole wheat rolls or bread
    ~One bowl buttery homemade egg noodles, cabbage, onion (could add sliced kielbasa bought on sale)
    ~Hash browns with side of fried eggs; fruit
    ~Potato, kale, onion omelet; w. wheat toast
    ~Augratin potatoes (add can of chopped ham bought on sale); salad
    ~Roasted carrot dill soup; biscuits
    ~Broccoli cheese soup; homemade crescent rolls

    A few Sides:
    Roasted broccoli
    Roasted carrots
    Kale chips made in oven
    Carmelized onions
    Roasted cabbage steaks (just thick slices)
    Sous vide carrots (yum)
    Oven French fries

    And we chop kale and freeze to add to smoothies

    We make chopped salads:
    ~Cabbage, kale, craisins, sliced almonds, and homemade poppyseed dressing (We buy craisins and sliced almonds at Costco, and keep the almonds refrigerated for freshness. If we don’t have poppyseeds, we make the dressing without them)
    ~Celery, carrot, small cubed cheddar cheese, homemade ranch (sometimes add chopped green onions)
    ~Carrot raisin salad (a copycat Chick-Fil-A)
    ~Broccoli salad (so many variations online)

    I didn’t even list the many ways we incorporate these vegetables with beans/lentils!!!!

    Reply
    • September 2, 2019 at 10:07 am
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      Hi Janet, oh my gosh, I LOVE this list! We are so much alike! I totally forgot about making the carrot raisin salad. It’s so funny I never thought to make the poppyseed dressing without the poppy seeds. LOL! Great tip! I need to make a post with just these ideas, Janet, thank you!! You rock! Linda

      Reply
  • September 2, 2019 at 9:54 am
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    An inexpensive family favorite is:

    homemade creamy Mac n’ Cheese with side of roasted broccoli (we like roasted broccoli so much, could eat that for dinner alone!!) I created my creamy Mac cheese recipe after eating a tasty frozen brand at my daughter’s, and of course got 3 times as much for same price by making my own.

    Also, if have broccoli stems not used, instead of throwing away: peel them and grate or slice into salad

    Reply
    • September 2, 2019 at 10:12 am
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      Hi Janet, oh I love homemade mac and cheese! Great tip on the broccoli, I love it! Linda

      Reply
  • September 2, 2019 at 10:00 am
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    I’m here to say that one can grocery shop on a shoestring budget and you can eat very well. My monthly budget for groceries (for two, sort of) is $148 a month. I not only eat low carb, but I also make my own dog food and we both eat very well on that amount of money each month. I buy a lot of hamburger, ground chicken, ground turkey, pork country ribs, chicken wing drummets, and my splurge is Johnsonville Brat burgers. Occasionally I will get a small roast for something different. I do not buy pasta of any type, beans or rice, but I do buy a lot of frozen veggies and occasionally will buy fresh sweet potatoes, and squash (spaghetti, acorn, summer and butternut) all of which my dog eats as well. I do all my cooking from scratch, including low carb pizzas, tacos, and sweets. For larger families or people with children, it can be harder, but if you don’t buy a lot of snacks or junk food, sodas, or even bottled water, and you are willing to cook from scratch and do way with processed, ready made meals, it really can be done and will be much healthier to boot. Yes, I do go to food pantry twice a month to make it through each month, but I only keep the items I can use/eat. Everything else, I give to others around me who can’t go to the pantry, but also needs help with food each month. Listen to Linda. She always has very good articles and great suggestions to help you out when the need arises. Oh, one more thing I have learned over the years, frozen veggies are actually more fresh than the fresh produce because they have been processed immediately after picking thus have more vitamins than fresh. Plus, they are less expensive.

    Reply
    • September 2, 2019 at 10:11 am
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      Hi Pam, I LOVE your comment! Woohoo! You are cooking for two on $148.00. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas!!!! Linda

      Reply
  • September 2, 2019 at 10:11 am
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    Okay last idea to share……a way to use leftover French bread that’s going a bit stale….

    We call this Italian Bread Stew:
    A simple Italian stew made of chopped onions and garlic cooked in olive oil, then add canned crushed tomatoes (or even better: own bottled tomatoes cut up in dices, do not drain), then add Italian seasonings to taste and some basil (fresh if on hand).
    Make homemade croutons from leftover French bread, then right at serving time: add a bug bunch to each serving bowl and top with the Italian tomato stew. Serve immediately.

    Reply
  • September 2, 2019 at 6:10 pm
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    One thing I didn’t notice on any list was coupons. ( If I over looked it sorry). I love coupons.
    I think my best buy was one time was I had a coupon for a dollar off of Wish bone salad dressing.
    At that time it only cost $1.09, so I got it for 9 cents. One thing I like to do is soak my meat in
    Italian Dressing then grill or bake it.
    There at meats that I love that I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t eat but I like Chicken
    gizzards and Hearts. I also like the liver ( also good for you).
    Another thing I like to do is to buy day old things: My local convenience Store sells day old
    donuts. You can freeze them and eat later. They are just as good. You can make bread pudding out
    of day old yeast donuts too. I also like the day old bread at Walmart too.
    A meal that I make at home and at times at church is what I call a breakfast mess;
    I fry cubed potatoes in a large skillet ( I have used a sweet potato mixed in if I have one) add in
    onions, and peppers, let cook a little then add my meat ( if I have it) like sausage, regular breakfast
    or smoked sausage, bacon or I have even added hot dogs if I have it left over. After potatoes are done
    and browned I add a can of mushrooms, then I scramble eggs ( if I want them) in a bowl and add
    hot sauce then pour over mixture. I let it slowly cook and stir it. Then if I want I add cheese. This
    is a great way to use up leftovers too. oh I forgot I add season salt to the potatoes while they cook.
    Another thing to help you IF you buy a ham buy one with a bone in it. Save the bone
    and freeze it. Then later on make ham and beans. Oh don’t forget the cornbread!!!!!

    Reply
    • September 2, 2019 at 7:45 pm
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      Hi June, thanks for the reminder on coupons. I call myself the Coupon queen, I use them as much as I possibly can. I love when friends like you share a good recipe (breakfast mess) we can all use. I love day old stuff, donuts are the best! Even apple fritters! Love it, thank you so much, Linda

      Reply
  • September 3, 2019 at 9:09 am
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    Homemade pancakes or crepes are cheap! You can put anything on them. I prefer them with just a pat a butter!

    Reply
    • September 3, 2019 at 9:16 am
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      Hi Camille, I totally agree! My family loves pancakes and crepes. Great comment, Linda

      Reply
  • September 4, 2019 at 10:56 pm
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    I have a pretty tight budget but one thing I don’t do is shop for the unconventional meats you listed. Of the list:
    Lamb shoulder chops – no! I don’t like lamb at all!
    Ground chicken – no! I have tried it in several recipes and cannot get around the fact that it isn’t ground beef.
    Chuck roast – yes – I like chuck roast
    Flank steak – yes – I like flank steak
    Liver – not a chance – cannot even stand the smell of it cooking
    Pig’s feet – no way – just cannot stand the idea

    Other than that, I do coupon, shop sales exclusively, and I use meat as a side dish rather than the main dish.

    Reply
    • September 5, 2019 at 7:33 am
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      Hi Leanne, I grew up on lamb chops and when I got married my husband announced: “I don’t eat lamb”. I was shocked, I grew up on lamb, chicken livers, beef tongue, spam, and I can’t remember what else. Maybe that’s why I rarely eat meat of any kind. But I buy it for Mark, he seems to think meat is a necessity! LOL! I like your statement I use meat as a side dish, that’s awesome!! Linda

      Reply

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