Cheap Grocery List 18 Essential Foods

Sometimes grocery shopping can be a fun experience, especially if the store offers free samples. Other times it can be pure drudgery. Am I right? While sometimes I will shake up the shopping experience by going to a new store or buying a new item to try there are a handful of basics I stick to on my cheap grocery list.

Today I’m sharing 18 of those items. Not only are these foods budget-friendly, they are also healthy. It’s great to save money on groceries by being wise with spending decisions but it’s unwise to sacrifice health. Eating healthy can be difficult and there are many health foods which are expensive.

Cheap Grocery List

Cheap Grocery List

Why a Cheap Grocery List?

That’s why I wanted to share this list to show there are ways you can eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and still stick to your budget. Not only that, this list helps me with my own shopping because it cuts down on the mental bandwidth I need to shop.

If I check my cheap grocery list before heading to the store, half the work is done! In our household we have a handful of pantry staples we buy week in and week out. Many of those are on this list.

These foods can be used to cook cheap healthy meals and budget meals. If you have a lot of mouths to feed these foods also work great to create cheap meals for large families. Eating healthy does not have to break the bank.

With each food I try to share a few ides on how I use the food for inexpensive meals. Keep in mind that many of these foods taste best with some spices and healthy fats mixed in – get creative!

These foods also work good for snacks or eating alone. Getting into good shopping habits is important. Over time, if your budget allows you might be able to upgrade your cheap grocery list to include organic foods, too.

Cheap Groceries

What Foods Made the Cut

One thing you will notice on this healthy cheap foods list is that I do not include any meat, which is expensive. There are many meatless Monday recipes out there to help you avoid eating meat every day.

Other times we do buy meat but splurge on what we want. This past week we had a Cornish hen which was a nice treat and still a pretty inexpensive meal with carrots and potatoes as a side.

The following foods are staples on my cheap grocery list. Normally I shop at Aldi and Trader Joe’s so most of the foods are from these two stores. The prices will reflect pricing where I live, which is Ohio.

Prices for these items or similar items at other stores may vary based on where you live and shop, however, in general these are still cheap grocery list foods anyone can utilize when they shop and want to save money on food!

Where to Buy Cheap Groceries

• Aldi
Amazon (look for 365 Everyday Value products, example here)
• Trader Joe’s
• Target (Good & Gather is their in house brand)
• Dollar Stores (look in the food section)
Kroger (cheapest in house brand is Psst… formerly called Kroger Value)
• Big Lots

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Cheap Grocery List Healthy

The prices do not include tax. Where I live food is not taxed, but again, this might vary based on where you live. All of the prices are from Fall 2018. But best of all, all of these foods cost less than $1.00 per serving for a essential grocery list on a budget.

In fact a few are so cheap per serving you might be in shock once you see the math. The list is divided, roughly, by type of food. Each item includes a description of the food, how I use it, the price for the item in full and then cost per serving.

The cost per serving was determined based on how many servings were listed on the package for this healthy cheap grocery list. Let’s check out these cheap grocery list foods!

Cheap Grocery List for a Month

Cheap Grocery List

Whole Grains

Rolled Oats: Oatmeal is an easily overlooked pantry essential. For the best health benefits and lowest impact on your wallet, be sure to purchase rolled oats. They cook up in minutes either on the stove or in the microwave and are full of fiber. Oatmeal, of course, can be eaten for breakfast. It can also be used to make granola. Lastly, consider making a large batch oatmeal in a slow cooker for the entire family or for weekly meal prep. $1.99 per canister, $0.07 per serving

Rice Cakes: As a kid rice cakes were always “healthy food” and they still are but I love them even more as an adult. They don’t have to be boring but they can be very healthy. A single whole-grain rice cake usually only has about 40 to 60 calories. For the most health benefit, be careful not to buy rice cakes that have been sweetened. Instead top your rice cake with peanut butter and/or a drizzle of honey for a nutritious snack for cheap groceries. $1.79 per bag, $0.13 per serving

Whole Wheat Pasta: Pasta is a good staple to have on hand, in particular whole wheat pasta which contains more fiber and keeps you feeling full longer. There are many new pastas available today include gluten-free pasta and lentil-pasta but for a cheap grocery list, whole wheat pasta is going to be the best bet. $2.89 per bag, $0.36 per serving

Brown Rice: Typically brown rice takes a little bit of time and preparation to cook but it’s incredibly healthy, filling and contains fiber. If you have an instant pot, cooking brown rice in the pot can really speed up the preparation time! Serve with protein and/or veggies for a more complete meal. $1.99 per bag, $0.11 per serving

Cheap Grocery List

Fruits & Vegetables

• Bananas: Not only are bananas basically available year-round, they are also affordable and healthy. Bananas contain fiber and potassium. They are also portable, which I love, and do not need to be washed prior to eating. $0.19 cents per banana

• Carrots: This past year, after re-reading Dr. Bob’s Guide to Female Hormones, I started eating carrots again. Instead of buying the mini carrots (which cost more and are sometimes hard on the teeth)  I switched buying regular carrots in a bag. I peel them, wash them and cut them but the preparation time is minimal. This way I am able to cut them into thinner sticks which are easy to eat and I share some with Lulu too! Carrots are so affordable I buy organic without blowing the budget. $0.89 per bag, $0.15 per serving

• Apples: In addition to bananas, apples are another fruit that is available year-round. Here in Ohio, apples are a native fruit. I always feel best eating fruits and vegetables that are local to my region. Apples can be purchased  at the grocery store or even more fun purchased at a pick your own  farm. Read about our pick your own experience here. $2.99 per bag, $0.50 per apple

• Frozen Vegetables: While I definitely prefer fresh vegetables, particularly when they are local and in season, I also can’t deny the affordability and storage convenience that are frozen vegetables. Green beans recently went out of season where I live and I purchased a bag of frozen green beans. The frozen beans were very affordable for a cheap grocery list. $1.99 per bag, $0.25 per serving

• Sweet Potatoes: They can be steamed, made into fries, made into a casserole or chips. Sweet potatoes are incredibly versatile and loaded with vitamins and minerals. They are also a low cost food and a healthy carbohydrate for energy. $0.69 per potato

• White Potatoes (or Gold): White potatoes often get a bad rap but they aren’t unhealthy if you eat them in moderation and eat them whole and homemade. The bad rap, I think comes from fast food chains using them for fries. I like to use potatoes to make homemade fries by simply chopping the potatoes into strips, dousing them with olive oil and spices and baking them in the oven. $0.69 per potato

Cheap Grocery List


• Block Cheese: I will admit that cheese can be more expensive than some of the other foods on this list but I have found buying cheese in block form (rather than pre-sliced or shredded or string cheese sticks) is most affordable. The key here is watching portion size and also eating in moderation as cheese is high in fat. $1.99 per block, $0.25 per serving

• Cottage Cheese: Lately I’ve been on a cottage cheese kick due to the convenience of this food and the protein it packs at 13 grams per serving. I like to mix fresh fruit or jam with my cottage cheese for a little flavor. If I eat it plain, I’ve always enjoyed it topped with freshly ground black pepper. $2.29 per container, $0.38 per serving

• Plain Yogurt: I used to think yogurt was healthy, then I found out how much sugar is in it and didn’t eat it for a long time. Fast forward to when I read about plain yogurt and now I eat it again! Buying plain full fat yogurt is not only healthier but easier on the grocery budget, too. Similar to the cottage cheese, you can flavor the yogurt  with fresh fruit or homemade jam. I’ve also used honey to sweeten yogurt to my liking. $3.29 per container, $0.82 per serving.

Cheap Grocery List


Dried Beans: The beauty of dried beans is they are so affordable it’s shocking. However, you have to plan ahead for the cooking time. I recently secured an authentic South American recipe for black bean dip. The dip not only tastes amazing but it’s also affordable to make, high in protein and fiber. There are many kinds of  dried beans you can buy but for my example I am using black beans. Again, to lessen the cooking time, consider purchasing an instant pot. $2.49 per bag, $0.28 per serving

• Eggs: Do not overlook eggs when it comes to buying for your cheap grocery list and eating healthy at the same time. One egg is one serving, making a dozen 12 servings of food or snacks for your week. There are many varieties of eggs available today. Typically we buy brown eggs but they are not organic. Please remember that if you buy organic eggs the price will be higher. $1.59 per dozen, $0.13 per serving

Peanut Butter: I sometimes forget what a wonderful staple peanut butter is for our pantry. We probably go through a jar a week between the three of us. It’s versatile and can be used for so many things besides the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. One of my favorite ways to eat peanut butter is to have a tablespoon of peanut butter along with fresh apple slices. We buy natural, salted peanut butter. There are no added fats, sugars or preservatives. $1.99 per jar, $0.14 per serving

Canned Tuna: I did not include any meats on this list as meat does tend to be a more expensive grocery item. However, canned tunafish is quite affordable. I like to buy it canned in water and unsalted. Canned tuna is a great mix in for macaroni and cheese (Annie’s is my favorite!) or other pasta dishes. I also like to use it to make tuna salad to enjoy with crackers or on a sandwich. $1.69 per can, $0.85 per serving

Dried Lentils: Lastly, dried lentils need to be a staple in your pantry and on your cheap grocery list. Lentils come in several varieties including green, orange and yellow. We tend to buy green lentils the most because they have the highest levels of protein and iron. Lentils cook up rather quickly on the stove, or they can be cooked in a slow cooker. If you opt for the split lentils such as red they do tend to cook faster FYI. $2.99 per bag, $0.75 per serving

Healthy and Cheap Grocery List

Cheap Grocery List

In Summary

At any given time you will more than likely find most if not all of these cheap grocery list foods in our refrigerator and pantry. Over the years our buying habits have changed but for the better for the cheapest groceries list.

Some of these foods do take a little time to prepare but they are worth the time and effort in terms of health benefits and not breaking the bank. Many people tend to gravitate toward junk food or pre-packaged food. I understand the enticement.

These foods are quick to eat, take little preparation and often seem cheaper to buy especially when they are on sale. However, in terms of nutrient density pre-packaged foods are often lacking.

The 18 foods on this cheap grocery list are nutrient dense, high in fiber and protein, low in sugar and will leave you feeling full. They will fuel your body for work and exercise. Don’t forget the power of the addition of spices and healthy oils when preparing meals as they can make a world of difference in taste!

What pantry item can you not live without?

6 thoughts on “Cheap Grocery List 18 Essential Foods”

  1. I love your list and that you don’t assume that everyone has an unlimited grocery budget.

    I cook dried beans but I always have cans of beans on hand too when I don’t have time or forgot to cook them. They aren’t quite as cheap as the dried ones, but are still a great value.

    Happy Thanksgiving Holly!

    • Hi Pam, So I do not own an instant pot yet myself but I know it’s a very popular cooking tool. When I shop for an item I don’t know a lot about I usually check reviews. If you check on Amazon I’m betting they have some reviews and maybe photos of the device being used which would give an idea of what size works for what kind of dish. Good luck!


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