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72 Healthy Frugal Foods to Buy When Money is Tight

I’ve been seeing quite a few posts on Facebook lately about people trying to save money on groceries.

Prices keep going up and income is not keeping up with inflation.

It’s especially tough if you’re on a fixed income, or have growing kids that eat more year after year.

That’s why I decided to put together this post of HEALTHY frugal foods.

A majority of these foods are cheaper than $1.25 (Dollar Tree) – based on Walmart prices. Or they are very affordable per serving.

Before we get into the list, here are my best practices for getting the most value for your money when grocery shopping:

Make a meal plan and shopping list for the week

Plan your breakfast, lunches, and dinners for the upcoming week.

Base your meals around these frugal foods, and have all the ingredients for the recipes on your shopping list.

Never shop hungry

When you go into a store hungry, you are twice as likely to deviate from your shopping list.

Always eat before going to the grocery store.

Compare prices

It’s important to always compare the prices of foods (especially produce) at the most affordable grocery stores/markets in your area. 

Check out 12 Simple Ways to Save Money on Produce to learn exactly how you can maximize savings every time you shop.

Buy generic brands

Most of these frugal foods are based on Great Value prices –  Walmart’s store brand.

I find that generic brands are often just as good as name brand. And for the price, it’s worth it!

Use your own seasonings

Avoid premade seasoning packets and name brand spices.

Learning how to make your food more tasty with spices and herbs is a life-long useful skill.

Get cash back whenever possible.

I shop with the FREE rebate app Ibotta every week to get cash back for my groceries.

It takes minutes to sign up and then you will have access to hundreds of grocery rebates.

Then all you have to do is clip the rebates for the items you’re going to buy and submit your receipt.

The cash back will be in your account in 24hrs or less! 

If you haven’t downloaded Ibotta yet, you can use my referral code HYDHOJL to get a $5 BONUS when you submit your first receipt.

Here are the top 72 healthy frugal foods:

1. Bananas

This is one of the most affordable fruits and can be used for a multitude of things. 

You can turn bananas into pancakes, cookies, banana bread, and much more for cheap.

2. Potatoes

There are SO many ways to cook and prepare potatoes – they are one of the best frugal foods!

3. Sweet potatoes

4. Onions

These vegetables will add flavor to any dishes you make for cheap.

5. Green bell peppers

I buy these weekly to snack on, use in dishes or bake stuffed peppers.

Make sure you stick with just the green varieties, as the red, orange, and yellow bell peppers are more pricey.

6. Garlic

My frugal kitchen never goes without garlic. Like onion, this vegetable adds so much flavor to my dishes and has many health benefits.

7. Jalapeño Peppers

Another very affordable vegetable to flavor your food.

8. Cucumbers

9. Carrots

One of my absolute favorite frugal foods. Be sure to purchase the cheapest bag of whole carrots.

You’ll have to peel them, but you get so much more vegetable than the baby cut carrots.

10. Zucchini

Be sure to weigh them if they are priced per pound.

11. Squash

12. Kale

My favorite affordable base for salads!

13. Roma tomatoes

These little tomatoes are so flavorful and affordable. 

14. Avocados

If you like them, avocados are a FANTASTIC frugal food. Add to a piece of toast and you’ve got yourself a cheap, filling breakfast.

15. Mangos

At my local Walmart, mangos are less than $1 each. Check your prices, though, and grab the biggest mango you can find for the price.

16. Corn

This vegetable should be purchased fresh when it’s in season. Otherwise, buying canned or frozen is the way to go.

17. Peas

Canned or frozen.

18. Green beans

Canned or frozen.

19. Canned Tomatoes

There are many varieties of canned tomatoes you can purchase to cook with.

  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sliced stewed tomatoes
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Tomato paste

20. Canned tomato sauce

21. Spinach

I’ve seen fresh spinach for under $2 a bag. But if that’s a little over your budget, canned or frozen spinach is a great alternative.

22. Cauliflower - frozen

23. Broccoli - frozen

Love it or hate it, broccoli is super affordable when purchased frozen.

24. Pickled sliced beets

Canned only.

25. Mixed Vegetables

Variety is the spice of life. You can get mixed vegetable medleys (usually with corn, carrots, and green beans) for super cheap. Canned or frozen.

26. Apples

Be careful when purchasing these. Most apples are at least $1.50/lb and are getting larger and heavier (it seems) each year.

Always weigh your apples to make sure you’re not spending more than $1 on each. 

Learn more tips for saving on your fruits and vegetables in my blog post: 12 Simple Ways to Save Money on Produce

27. Oranges

28. Sauerkraut

Canned only.

29. Green chili peppers

I have only seen these canned in my Walmart, but these peppers will add some serious heat to your meals.

We are now getting into the beans section of this list. It’s always a cheaper option to buy 1lb of beans and cook them yourself. 

But if you are short for time, canned beans work great, too.

30. Black beans

31. Kidney beans

Light or dark varieties are great to add to chili, soups, stews, and more!

32. Pinto beans

33. Red beans

34. Great Northern beans

35. Cannellini beans

These are also known as white kidney beans, and my favorite to add to soups!

36. Navy beans

37. Garbanzo beans (chick peas)

38. Baked beans

39. Refried beans

40. Lentils

One of my favorite frugal foods! I make lentil soup every couple of months and freeze to eat for weeks to come.

41. Black eyed peas

Now I am sharing some canned proteins and packaged starches under $1.25. These will help stretch your fruits, beans, and veggies – plus keep you fuller, longer.

42. Canned Chili

43. Chicken noodle condensed soup

44. Chicken & rice condensed soup

45. Tomato condensed soup

46. Tuna

Another top notch frugal food! Tuna salad sandwich, anyone?

47. Sardines

48. White rice

Rice is a must-have for any frugal pantry! It’s extremely cheap, can be the base for many dishes, and freezes well.

49. Brown rice

50. Pasta

51. Bread crumbs

52. Corn muffin mix

Jiffy all the way!

53. Jello

This is the only dessert I put on the list, as gelatin has some health benefits. 

“Gelatin is a protein that may promote skin, joint, hair, nail, and gut health. The protein and amino acids in gelatin can help the body build more collagen, a vital element in healthy skin.”

54. Bread

I never pay more than $1.25 for bread.

How is that possible? It’s because I shop the bakery clearance rack at my Walmart Supercenter.

They always make extra bread, rolls, donuts, cookies, you name it! And then it gets marked down a couple days later. 

Now we are getting into frugal spices. It’s VERY important to utilize spices to flavor some of these more bland frugal foods.

Learning how to make your food flavorful and delicious will help you to stick to eating foods in your budget.

All of the spices below can be found at Walmart for less than $1.25.

55. Salt

If there is only one spice you keep in your home, it should be salt.

Salt is the single most important spice to help make foods taste good! 

You can buy it on its own, or grab a pack of salt and pepper shakers like this one.

56. Basil leaves

57. Parsley flakes

58. Chili powder

59. Oregano leaves

60. Garlic powder

One of my favorite spices! Garlic toast makes a great side for any meal.

61. Ground cinnamon

62. Italian seasoning

Finally, I am sharing the frugal foods that cost more than $1.25, but are a great price per serving. 

63. Eggs

A super affordable protein that can accompany most meals.

I love hard boiling 6 – 8 eggs for the week and eating 1 after my meal if I am still a little hungry.

64. Yogurt

We recommend buying a larger carton of yogurt to get the most affordable price per serving.

But if you don’t have the budget for that, then buying a couple single serve yogurts can work too.

65. Peanut butter

66. Pasta sauce

I always have a can of pasta sauce in my pantry for a quick, cheap pasta dish! 

One can of sauce generally contains 5 servings or more and will add umami to many of the frugal foods listed in this blog.

67. Whole grain saltine crackers

Another favorite of mine. They not only go well with soups and as a snack, saltine crackers also help to settle an upset stomach.

68. Oatmeal

The “holy grail” of frugal foods. A can of Great Value oatmeal contains 30 servings of 1/2 cup oats. 

Add some fruit and you have yourself a super affordable meal.

69. Tortillas

Tortillas make a great base for meals and can be very inexpensive if you watch your prices.

My brand of choice is Chi-chis, which can generally be found with the Hispanic foods section of your local Walmart.

70. Ground turkey

I don’t know if you’ve seen the prices for ground beef lately, but they are through the roof! 

Ground turkey is a much more affordable protein with lower saturated fat than beef.

Try to buy this in bulk and freeze what you can’t use right away.

71. Chicken drumsticks

These tend to be some of the cheapest meat per pound. 

If you can, buy these in bulk. Otherwise, check around your meat section to see if you can find these marked down.

72. Chicken thighs

Again, buy chicken in bulk if you can, and consider buying these frozen.

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