Grocery shopping on a tight budget is not as hard as you might think. Keep your pantry stocked for a month at a time. Build a cheap grocery list around these foods and stay within budget every single month.
It will take effort and a little extra time because it will be so important to meal plan for the weeks ahead. If you have even just a basic idea of the meals you can fix for your family with the ingredients you have at home, it will eliminate that last minute fast food run that you will inevitably end up regretting the next time you check your bank account….I know, I’ve been there myself one too many times in the past!
For more help staying within your monthly grocery budget check out the 10 Best Tips To Save Money on Groceries.
Also over on this post I give you a peek into our family of five grocery budget and meal plan for a week if you’re curious to see that.
Grocery List For A Month On A Budget
When paying off debt, or living pay check to pay check every expense we can cut back on is helpful. The grocery bill is always one of the top budget busters but the good news is that it’s also one of the things we have more control over when it comes time to really tighten our spending belt.
With a little motivation, meal planning, and this shopping list of the cheaper foods at your local grocery store, you will start to see the savings on your grocery spending on a regular basis.
These are some of the cheapest foods you can get. They last a really long time and when properly prepared are really good for you. All these ingredients are very versatile. You can make breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks. Keeping these pantry staples stocked in your pantry by shopping sale prices is the best way to stay on budget, especially during hard times.
Rice will last for a very long time in your pantry. White rice a lot longer that brown rice especially. It will stretch any meal and it goes with so many dishes. You can make burritos, stir fry, egg fried rice, chicken and rice soup, the possibilities are endless.
Dry beans are so much cheaper than buying canned. They’re actually very easy to make too. Simply soak them over night and the next day put them in your slow cooker with a little salt and covered in water. Set the cooker on low for eight hours or high for six hours and that’s it! You have home cooked beans for half the price.
Beans are a great source of protein so you can choose to spend less money on meat if you need to on some months.
Cheaper and healthier than cold cereal, but don’t just put oats in the breakfast category. They’re also great to use when baking desserts or making your own granola, which by the way is a snack you can make with basic ingredients from this list too. Here’s a yummy granola recipe you can try.
They also make a great healthy substitute for breadcrumbs when making meatloaf or meatballs.
The best time to buy peanut butter is when it goes down to ninety-nine cents a jar. I call that the “stock-up” price. Even right now in the crazy inflation of 2022 I still see it for that stock up price every once in a while.
It’s so important to know your prices. Figure out what the “stock-up” price is for everything on this list in YOUR area. Keep a little notebook with you if you need to and start taking notes on prices until you learn them.
When peanut butter hits that ninety-nine cent price or whatever the best price is for your area, make sure to buy enough jars to last you until the nest time it goes on sale.
This trick applies to e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g on this grocery list for a month on a budget!
A great addition to any breakfast or snack especially when you’ve run out of fresh fruit. It’s always nice to have a bag of dry cranberries, apples, or banana chips in the pantry. Dates are also great to keep on hand because you can use them to sweeten baked goods.
Although not as cheap as all the other food items on this list. Nuts are great to have on hand for a fulfilling snack, add them to baked goods or the granola recipe I linked to above.
Walnuts, almonds, pecans, and other nuts can help lower your cholesterol, encourage heart and brain health, and they are much more cost effective than any other boxed or packaged snack from the grocery store.
This should be a staple in every home! Raw unpasteurized honey doesn’t go bad or expire. Even after it crystalizes it is still perfectly good to eat with all it’s antioxidant goodness.
Honey in its raw form can also be used for medicinal purposes. The Cleveland Clinic says you can use it to sooth coughs and sore throats, treat small wounds and burns.
In this 32 Natural Remedies master list you can see all the different ways we use raw honey in our home when we’re sick.
So as you can see, honey is a must have addition to every pantry AND natural medicine cabinet! Dual purpose = more money in the bank.
This is another staple you can usually find at a great price. The “stock up” price for spaghetti in our area is forty-nine cents, so when it goes that low I buy enough to last our family three to six months.
Buying canned tomatoes is cheaper than buying pasta sauce and you can easily make your own pasta sauce with them.
Canned Tuna Fish
Tuna is a nutritious food you can add into your lunch rotation. Tuna sandwiches or tuna salad tostadas are fairly inexpensive and yummy meals.
You’re going to need a cooking/baking oil on hand at all times so let’s pick one of the better oils for your health shall we?
Coconut oil has kind of gotten a bad name over the last few years but let me assure you of its health benefits. Here’s what Webmd.com says: “When consuming coconut oil in moderation Coconut oil has many nutrients that can contribute to your health and to a good diet. It’s full of fatty acids that your body needs and may help improve cognitive function, metabolism, and hair and skin health.”
Canned Mixed Vegetables
Every basic grocery list should include canned vegetables. Fresh vegetables don’t last very long so it’s always good to have a few of these in your pantry to add as a quick side dish.
I always think of Charles and Caroline Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie munching on their big bowl of popcorn in bed at night. You will get a much better deal when you buy the dry popcorn kernels then buying the microwave packs.
To pop your own corn at home, simply add a couple of tablespoons of oil to a soup pot.
Wait 3-5 minutes for the oil to heat up.
Add about half a cup of popcorn kernels to the pot and shake so they form a single layer on the bottom.
Place lid on the pot and reduce the heat to medium.
When kernels start rapidly popping shake the pot every little bit until the popping starts to slow down.
Remove from heat, take off lid and salt to taste.
For very little cost you can make your own baked goods and bread if you have flour on hand.
A must when you’re making all your meals at home!
Even if you try to eat a sugar free diet, there are always instances that call for a tablespoon of sugar here and there. It’s a good idea to have at least one small bag of sugar in the pantry.
Baking Soda and Baking Powder
No monthly grocery list would be complete without baking soda and baking powder. You need at least one of these ingredients in just about any baked good or pancake recipe. You most likely won’t need to buy them every month, unless you bake a lot.
Cheapest Meats You Can Buy
When shopping for chicken, it will always be cheaper to buy the whole fryer. The cooking possibilities are endless. Here’s the easiest whole chicken dinner recipe you will go back to over and over!
Chicken breasts are not as juicy as cooking a whole chicken anyway. Plus you can make your own chicken bone broth from the left over bones and keep it to cook your next meal in. You won’t have to buy chicken broth anymore, double the savings and it reduces food waste!
Fairly inexpensive, and you can find so many creative ways to cook it with a quick search on Pinterest.
Most of the time less expensive than ground beef.
Grocery Shopping On a Budget: Fresh Produce
Fresh fruits and vegetables need to be included in any healthy grocery list.
To save money on fresh produce:
- Always buy what’s in season. Don’t try to buy a watermelon in the middle of winter because it will cost you an arm and a leg!
- Don’t buy anything prepackaged or pre-cut.
- If you want to buy organic produce, check out the dirty dozen list and only buy those things organic.
- Root vegetables last a long time in the fridge or a dark cool place in your basement. Buy more of those and less of the leafy greens that will go bad within the week if not properly stored.
Potatoes are so versatile and filling. Make your own french fries, a hearty potato stew, mash them or bake them. They can be breakfast, lunch or dinner.
When stored in the fridge, one bag of whole carrots will stay good for an entire month.
When you buy a whole squash or pumpkin, store it in a dark cool place and it will last for months!
I included cabbage instead of lettuce in this budget friendly foods list, because it lasts much longer than lettuce and makes a great fresh topping to many meals.
You can make sauerkraut, use it as a topping for tacos, or make yummy salads with it.
Just remember to buy the whole head of cabbage and not the shredded bags for a much better deal.
You can’t forget onions and garlic in a grocery list for a month. If you run out of seasonings, just sauté both these ingredients to add a ton of flavor and health benefits to any meal.
Cook them as a side for dinner or have them for breakfast in these easy (and healthy) blender zucchini muffins.
Bananas are easily the cheapest fruit you can buy. If they start to go brown, put them in your freezer until you’re ready to bake banana bread.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. This is one of the cheapest fresh fruits and it stays good for a long period of time. If you find a great deal, make sure to buy enough and make your own applause to can or just keep in the fridge for a snack.
One of the best and cheapest ways to eat fresh produce is to start your own garden. In my experience, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, herbs, and strawberries are some of the easiest things you can grow yourself. If you live in a warmer climate the possibilities could be endless! Even if you don’t have a big space for a garden put whatever you can in pots.
Budget Friendly Fridge Food Items
No month grocery list would be complete without the king of breakfast. the egg is an excellent source of protein, and a whole lot of vitamins like folate, B5, B12, B2, D, E, & K.
It’s truly an affordable nutritious superfood that you can enjoy in a million different ways.
Makes a yummy breakfast when you add fresh fruit and homemade granola. Just make sure to buy the big tubs and not the individual cups of yogurt to get a better bang for your buck.
Believe it or not cottage cheese is another protein rich food. It’s also high in calcium and potassium.
It makes a great after school snack for hungry teenagers/kids who need something to hold them over until dinner is ready.
Buying cheese in the block will almost always be cheaper that buying it shredded. Cheese freezes great so if you come across an awesome cheese sale, don’t be afraid to buy a couple extra blocks and throw them in the freezer. It will save you money down the road.
Use as a topping, thicken soups, bake with it for rich moist cakes, or even make your own ranch dressing with it.
Tortillas are a great alternative to a loaf of bread and cheaper too! You can make quesadillas, mix them with your scrambled eggs in the morning, have tacos for dinner or add them as a side to pretty much all your favorite Mexican foods.
At the most an average gallon of milk costs between $3-$5 a gallon.
Try To Skip These Foods When Grocery Shopping On a Budget….
Ramen noodles and boxed macaroni and cheese although super cheap, have no nutritional value whatsoever. You’re better off not spending your hard earned money on those.
Hotdogs is another cheap option I would skip. They are made with so many ingredients that are so bad for you.
Grocery List For a Month On a Budget Final Thoughts
I hope this grocery list of budget friendly foods was helpful to you.
Print the shopping list and food price tracker sheet to get you started. Take them with you to the grocery store or keep them by the computer when you’re doing an online grocery order or grocery delivery.
Use the price tracker worksheet to help you figure out what the best “stock up” price is for something you buy all the time. Just write down the price every time you see the food item change price. After a few times of doing this you will learn what’s the lowest that food item will go, and THAT’S when you want to buy extra to put away for later.