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Home » Food & Drink, Save Money, Summer of Saving

What are your Favorite “Go-To” Cheap Foods?

Last updated by on 16 Comments

We’ve discussed how to lower the cost of food through cooking, a list of the best warehouse deals, and even the cost benefits of a vegetarian diet as part of the Summer of Saving.

So lets get down to the basics and create an awesome resource for everyone.

Lets create a list of favorite “go-to” cheap foods.

Whether it was sourced from your back yard, a farmer’s market, ethnic market, a warehouse, or grocery store, it doesn’t matter.

Lets just stick to basic items. We’ll save meals and recipes for later this week.

So simply list out:

  1. the food item
  2. why it’s one of your favorite cheap go-to foods
  3. what it costs
  4. where you get it (which could then result in others sharing where they got that item even cheaper)

cheap foods

I’ll get things started:

Cheap Food:Cost Per Unit:Cost Per Serving:Purchase From:Why I Like It:
Organic quinoa$8.79/4 lb. bag$0.21/one-fourth cup dryCostco6g protein per serving. Well-balanced. Tastes great. Excellent base for many great vegetarian dishes.
Organic, free-range eggs$2.99/dozen$0.50/two eggsTrader Joe'sI know there are cheaper eggs out there, but $0.50 for a healthy, nutrient-packed breakfast (and a little peace of mind) is a good deal in my book.
Canned black beans$0.69/can, sold in 8-pack for $5.52$0.35/half can (can says 3.5 servings per can, but 2 seems more appropriate)CostcoThe "King of Beans", in my opinion. Excellent vegetarian/mexican food centerpiece ingredient. 14g protein per half can. At this price, it's hard to justify dried beans.
Cholula sauce$7.89/24 oz. 2-pack$0.05/1 TSP (although I use a lot more)CostcoFor what it adds to every meal you add it to (it will change your life), it's worth every penny.
Frozen Kale$1.79/lb.$0.36/two-thirds cupTrader Joe'sVery healthy. Loaded with vitamins & calcium. Excellent addition to eggs, mexican, quinoa dishes, soups.
Peanut butter$1.79/16 oz. jar$0.13/2 TbspTrader Joe'sHigh fiber, protein, healthy fats. And this product has only 1 ingredient - dry roasted peanuts (as all REAL peanut butter should). Smear it on an apple, and you have a breakfast.

Your turn!

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  • Mike F says:

    Dried Bay Leaf- $1.99 for 16 oz. Add one to just about every American, European, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern meal that isn’t grilled or sauteed. About 200 leafs (a total guess) to a pack and each has a ton of flavor. Don’t be afraid to use 3 or 4 in larger dishes.

  • Monica says:

    Rice, found at your favorite grocery store, $2/bag, goes great with a number of things from chicken to black beans.
    Hass avocados, $1.79/avocado (seasonal), stores some great fat in a small punch. You can eat them plain (throw them whole into your lunch sack), and they make great toppers for salads, soup, or anything.
    Hearts of romaine lettuce (organic), $3.49/3, goes on anything from sandwiches to salads. AND, you can regrow lettuce from the heart (just put in a jar of water and watch it grow back!)

    • G.E. Miller says:

      Yes. Love me some avocado. When they are $1/each, I load up.

      Rice (anything but white rice) is another good pick.

      • We get avocados at Aldi’s 3 for 1.39. They occasionally have them on sale 3 for .99. We used to pay a lot more for them before we found Aldi’s. My wife and I eat them every morning in a green smoothie. Then we also have them a lot with dinner. We couldnt live without avocados!

        • G.E. Miller says:

          I’m going to have to try out Aldi’s, now that they are starting to carry organic. Does the offering differ much from Trader Joe’s (same owner).

          • BF says:

            Aldi is VERY different than Trader Joes. I don’t think I’ve run into any items that are the same between the two. Aldi is good for cheap candy, cheap specialty cheeses (when available), some produce, basic baking ingredients and seasonings, and random impulse buys. Some things, like the fresh orange juice, are delicious and a steal, but other things, like the milk, are pretty lacking. The ingredients aren’t top notch, and you have to check expiration dates. So very hit and miss…

          • Vanessa says:

            Aldi is definitely very different from TJ’s. However, on occasion, I do think they carry some of the same products. The “specialty cheeses” at Aldi are often ones that TJ’s carries regularly, from what I’ve seen. For example, Aldi was carrying a goat cheese with honey and some other specialty goat cheeses around Christmas, and I’d be willing to bet that they’re the same as TJ’s, just with a different label. Aldi regularly rotates out these products, though.

            At one point recently, Aldi was carrying organic butter for ~$3 – $3.50/lb; I think/hope that this became a regular item.

            Another Aldi recommendation is their Moser Roth dark chocolate – 85% chocolate, with five individually wrapped bars within a package for $1.99.

  • Sarah says:

    We grow a lot of vegetables at home, so I’m going to avoid listing produce. But here are a few cheap staples we use regularly:

    Rice – $0.65/lb at Wegmans.
    Great as a side for just about anything.

    Whole Chicken – $0.99/lb at Wegmans
    We usually make a lemon chicken roast, then turn the leftovers into soup. Very versatile item!

    Eggs – $1.59/dozen at Wegmans
    We go through quite a few eggs for things like scrambled eggs, egg salad, macaroni salad, egg drop soup, baking, etc. Wish our town would allow chickens!

    Apples – $0.75/lb at local farms
    Between snacking, baking, dehydrating (chips), and canning our own applesauce… we go through so many apples in the fall it’s ridiculous. We also love going apple picking a couple of times each year. :)

  • Ron Ablang says:

    Hah. That’s easy. The 3lb rotiserrie chicken at CostCo for $5.00. No one else in town can beat it and the taste is amazingly good and juicy throughout… even the breast meat.

    • Sarah says:

      We have pre-cooked rotisserie chickens at a number of grocery stores here as well, usually around $5 as you said. They’re convenient, but it’s cheaper to buy a whole chicken ($0.99/lb) and cook it yourself.

      • Ron Ablang says:


        That $5 price you mentioned is for a rotisserie chicken that is on sale. $5 is CostCo’s everyday price for a 3lb chicken. You won’t find that much chicken anywhere else for $5.

        I prefer CostCo over making my own because theirs is more juicy and the cleanup is easier (I don’t have to wash the grill).

        • Vanessa says:

          I’m also a big fan of the Costco chicken. In my experience, they’re bigger than your average grocery store rotisserie chicken.

          I wanted to point out in the cost comparison that the 3 lbs of Costco chicken for $5 is after cooking, whereas the $0.99/lb for a fresh chicken includes the giblets and juices that cook out, so the quantity of cooked meat that you end up with is comparable. Of course, if you consume the giblets or use the chicken broth afterwards, you’re coming out ahead with the fresh chicken.

  • Rob G. says:

    My everyday, cheap, easy, to-go meal:

    Last night’s leftovers + a few eggs = Brunch!

    Bonus: it’s easy to prepare when you’re rushed in the morning.

    Caveat: Paleo diet/lifestyle proponent here ;)

  • Pamela says:

    I live in Tallahassee, FL and I try to keep my grocery bill to $30/wk by doing the following:
    – I get most of my produce at an awesome local farmer’s market called TomatoLand and everything else at Publix.
    – When shopping at Publix, I always create a meal based on what’s on sale (BOGO)
    – I eat oatmeal almost EVERY DAY and buy ingredients (dried fruits and oatmeal) at Sams
    – I keep rice as a staple but avoid eating it more than 2x a week and replace with other cheap but nutritious alternatives: plaintains, spaghetti squash, malanga, potatoes
    – One of my cheapest/quicket meals is a sweet potatoes casserole with garbanzo beans, carrots, cumin, curry and garlic.
    – I’ve realized adding fresh herbs, avocadoes, mushrooms, or sundried tomatoes (all are cheap at the farmers market) upgrades any meal!

  • Natalie H says:

    One of my favorite inexpensive foods is cream cheese. I pay $6.79 for a three pound loaf at Costco. I use it for cracker and cheese with fruit type snacks and also to make flavored dips and cheesecake. It keeps a very long time if you keep it wrapped up. At the Costco price it is one of the lowest $/calorie foods aside from beans and rice. 1 oz has 100 calories so the entire 48oz package has 4800 calories. That makes it $1.41 per thousand calories, so it’s my go to snack food.


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