Looking for cheap food to buy when broke?
We've put together this list of more than 100 different foods that you can buy to make tasty homecooked meals for less.
However, there are other things you can do to stretch the food budget further including;
Minimising your food waste (and therefore binning less of what you do have)
I've broken this cheap food list down based on the storage type of the item.
This should hopefully help you find it easier in the grocery store and allow you to check you've enough space for it in your kitchen.
While the prices below are based on supermarkets in England (at the time of writing) the majority of these cheap foods should apply to anywhere in the world.
Cheap Tinned Food
When looking at cheap food to buy when broke, tinned food should be one of your first ports of call.
Being tinned it lasts longer than fresh produce which means it stores well and can be bought in advance when you have money for times where you may have less.
Many reports have also found that tinned food when stored correctly (in water and not syrups for example) can be just as healthy as fresh produce.
Baked Beans – Basics = 22p a tin / Heinz = 50p tin
While personally, it has to be Heinz. Baked Beans are still really great cheap food. These beans are often high in fibre and low in fat.
You can even get reduced salt and sugar baked beans (often at a cost of around 10% more per tin)
Here are 7 great baked bean recipes to help you really transform the basic beans on toast into something more exciting.
Chopped Tomatoes – 28p a tin
A staple in any kitchen cupboard, basic chopped tomatoes can be purchased for as little as 28p a tin. I don't feel as though this is something you need to buy branded, so the cheaper the better!
For a super basic budget meal, throw some chopped tomatoes, diced onion and cheese on top of some basic cooked pasta. For something a little more exciting check out these recipe ideas.
Tuna – 59p a tin
Another kitchen staple and affordable basic food is tinned tuna. Again, this isn't something I feel that you need to buy branded, instead look out for how the tuna has been canned; water, sunflower oil etc.
The way it's canned shouldn't affect the price (at least not more than a couple of pence) however, it can make a pretty big difference to your health.
Sweetcorn – 35p a tin
Ideal to spruce up a salad, or add some texture to some tuna. Sweetcorn is a very affordable tinned food that lasts forever (well, a couple of years, but still!)
If you don't have room in your cupboards for sweetcorn, then consider buying it frozen instead. It's still super cheap – scroll down to learn more about my favourite cheap frozen foods.
Corned Beef – £1.47 a tin
Our first meat on this budget food list is corned beef, a pretty well known low-cost food that can once again last years.
Of course, the price of tin is much higher than some of the other items on this list. However, with a meal such as corned beef hash, this small tin can go a long way!
Kidney Beans – 30p a tin
Much like sweetcorn, you can buy kidney beans in different formats depending on the space you have in your kitchen. The pricing difference is pretty much the same.
Kidney beans are a fantastic source of plant protein and can be made into some fantastic recipes (including vegan and vegetarian)
Spaghetti Loops – 13p a tin
Again this price is based on the supermarket basic range, however, you can buy Heinz branded ones for slightly more.
I personally, don't like spaghetti loops, however, this recipe from Asda for Spaghetti Cowboy Pie looks incredible and works out at less than £0.50 a serving.
Sardines (in tomato sauce or oil) – 34p a tin
Tins of sardines might have sat in your cupboard long before seeing them on this list of cheap food to buy when you're broke.
They've probably been there that long because you've simply no clue what to do with them. Luckily, there are 14 ideas here for turning them into a pretty great dinner meal.
That's a reason to buy 13 more tins!
Mushy Peas – 15p a tin
Mushy Peas can easily be homemade on a budget if you prefer. Either way, they are a great accompaniment to a range of meals at a very affordable cost.
Tinned Sliced Carrots – 20p a tin
Much like mushy peas. Sliced Carrots can easily be chopped and pickled from fresh, however, if you don't want to do that you can pick a tin up for as little as 20p and use it as a great accompaniment to a range of meals.
Chickpeas – 33p a tin
I never really understood lentils until I tried to shop on a budget. Now I have a whole range of them and use them in a whole host of different ways.
Here's a whole host of budget chickpea recipes – my personal favourite is the chickpea curry.
Butterbeans – 36p a tin
Again you can buy butterbeans both dry or tinned depending on the amount of room you have in the kitchen – and how much you like them (dry butterbeans tend to come in larger bags)
You can turn butter beans into a whole host of meals including this wonderful vegetable stew.
New Potatoes – 38p a tin
Again, you might find it easier to buy and pickle your own potatoes. However, if that's not for you then pick up a tin for as little as 38p.
Not only are potatoes super filling they are filled with fibre, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 content.
Tinned Soup – 24p a tin
Simple yet effective, a tin of soup can be picked up in a whole host of flavours and make for the perfect budget lunch on a winters day.
Tinned HotDogs (8) – 50p a tin
A tin of hotdogs can quickly be turned into a creative snack for kids lunch boxes thanks to this amazing guide.
Alternatively, use them as pizza toppings, in paella or even as traditional hot dogs with some chopped onions and mustard.
Peach Slices – 33p a tin
Tinned peaches are great, as it allows you to eat an affordable fruit all year round – not just when peaches are in season.
Of course, you can eat the fruit straight out of the can, or you can turn it into something a little more exciting with one of these great recipes.
Pineapple Pieces – 66p a tin
Slightly more expensive than tinned peach slices you have tinned pineapple pieces. Again these can be eaten straight out of the can or turned into a fantastic snack or after-dinner dessert.
Rice Pudding – 20p a tin
Tinned rice pudding again is a great snack or after-dinner dessert that can be heated up or eaten straight out of the can.
Of course, you can also easily jazz this cheap food up with a variety of different things to improve the taste, texture and flavour.
Custard – 25p a tin
You can buy custard in a whole host of different formats depending on your requirements. All of which are very affordable.
In this case, you can get a tin for as little as 25p and use it to sprinkle over those sliced peaches you bought earlier.
Evaporated Milk – 49p a tin
Evaporated milk is something I've never bought. However, it's super affordable and can be used in a whole host of different ways – I'm going to buy some on my next shop and try some of these recipes out.
Rosecoco Beans – 45p a tin
Kala Chana – 45p a tin
Black Eye Beans – 45p a tin
Again, Black Eye Beans can be purchased in tins or dried (in larger quantities) they are a great affordable food that's filled with super healthy properties.
The fibre, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and phytonutrient content of black beans, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health.
I personally, love this Black Eye Beans stew recipe which is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
White Kidney Beans – 45p a tin
White Kidney Beans are often referred to as miracle beans. An important food crop and major source of protein throughout the world.
A laboratory study, the results of which appeared in the journal Food Chemistry in 2014, found that both white and red kidney beans are rich in phenols – plant compounds possessing anti-inflammatory properties that may help protect against chronic illness.
Black Beans – 50p a tin
There's a whole host of black bean recipes that can turn a 50p tin of black beans into a delicious lunch or dinner for the entire family.
You can often save further by buying the beans on a 3 for £1.00 offer or in bulk dried.
Gungo Peas – 50p a tin
Gungo Peas are also known as Pidgeon Peas are typically popular in the Caribbean, Africa, India, Asia and Latin America.
However, they are super versatile and can be transformed into some incredibly tasty meals such as this Jamaican soup.
Cheap Store Cupboard Foods
After tinned food, I'd recommend buying store cupboard foods. Store cupboard foods are the ideal cheap food to buy when broke.
Again, they last longer than fresh produce, and can often be transformed into many different home-cooked meals.
Plain White Flour – 45p a bag
Plain white flour is an affordable store cupboard essential that can be used in a whole host of ways to make some fantastic home-cooked meals.
Self Raising Flour – 45p a bag
The same goes for self-raising flour. Again you can pick this up for 45p a bag and use it in a whole host of ways to make some fantastic home-cooked meals.
Wheat Biscuits – 74p a box (24)
If you're looking for a quick, easy, healthy and cheap breakfast then the budget version of wheat-a-bix are great. You can pick up a box of 24 for just 74p and add various toppings to create a variety of different tastes to brighten up your morning.
Corn Flakes – 77p a box
These budget boxes of cornflakes are much the same as the wheat biscuits. At 77p a box, they make for a great affordable breakfast cereal.
Porridge Oats – 75p a bag
Turn these basic porridge oats into biscuits that cost just £0.06 per serving with this fantastic Anzac Biscuits recipe from Thrifty Lesley.
Regardless of where you shop, you should be always able to get a large bag of ‘basic' porridge oats for less than £1.00 a bag.
Vinegar – 21p a bottle
You're not going to make much from vinegar alone, however, this kitchen cupboard essential is a cheap food that can help add flavour and taste to some of the perhaps less appealing budget foods you might end up eating.
Salt – 27p a bottle
You're not going to be able to make anything from salt alone. However, for some basic home cooking, it's going to be required.
You can pick up a large bottle for as little as 27p. Don't worry about the branded stuff, instead stick to the cheapest / best value you can find, after all, salt is salt.
Brown Sauce – 38p a bottle
I've recently converted from HP brown sauce down to basic brown sauce by any supermarket I'm in at the time. I've barely noticed the difference and at a saving of roughly 75% compared to the branded stuff, it makes this a much more affordable food.
Tomato Ketchup – 40p a bottle
Same goes for ketchup. I love ketchup, but converting to the non-branded cheap food version was a great way to make our supermarket shopping more affordable.
Without the non-branded budget version, it's safe to say tomato ketchup wouldn't be on our list of cheap foods today!
Mayonaise – 41p a bottle
Much like that above mayonnaise is a great sauce to add taste and texture to some of the other budget food items on this list.
Pickles Onions – 30p a jar
You can pickle your own onions or buy pre-pickled onions. Either way, they are a great cheap food with plenty of fantastic goodness!
Sweet Pickle – 34p a jar
This sweet pickle is fantastic on a sandwich with a slice of cheese. Better yet, being in a jar like this it lasts for months even once opened. At 34p it's one of my personal favourite cheap foods.
Mustard – 37p a jar
Mustard is great at adding flavour, you can get a number of different types so be sure to do your research prior to purchasing.
Tartare Sauce – 44p a jar
Like some of the sauces above and below, this tartare sauce is perfect for adding flavour to otherwise bland dishes. You don't need to buy a special brand instead get the budget / basic brand for as little as 44p a jar.
Horseradish Sauce – 49p a jar
Again, you'll be able to use horseradish sauce to add flavour to otherwise bland budget meals. You don't need to buy a special brand, instead pick up the basic version for as little as 49p a jar.
Cranberry Sauce – 49p a jar
One of the final sauces on this list (you'll no doubt be glad to hear) again you could go out foraging and make your own cranberry sauce quite easily. However, if you're short on time and resources consider buying it pre-made instead.
Gravy Granules – 20p a box
Gravy granules are ideal for mixing with water to create gravy to enhance a meal. My Sunday roast sure wouldn't be the same without it.
Stuffing Mix – 25p a box
You can buy stuffing mix for as little as 25p a box. This box should create 24 stuffing balls, which should be enough to keep you going for a couple of months!
Stock Cubes – 39p a box (12)
There's multiple different types and flavours of stock cubes you can purchase. The ones you choose to buy is likely going to depend on the budget recipes you're following.
Either way at 39p for a box of 12, this is a cheap food you can easily add to your shopping basket.
Sponge Mix – 27p a bag
If you're wanting to bake a cake but fancy fast-forwarding this process consider buying this sponge mix. It's 27p a bag and only requires; eggs, water and some oven time to turn into a delicious cake.
Batter Mix – 31p a bag
If buying the frozen Yorkshire puddings below isn't right for you, then consider picking up this batter mix at 31p instead.
Scone Mix – 70p a bag
Just add milk, pop in the oven and with this 70p comes 8 incredibly delicious scones. At less than 10p each a scone mix is one of our favourite cheap foods.
Sugar – 60p a bag
An essential for creating some delicious meals from the various other ingredients on this list.
Free Range Eggs – 84p (6)
Free-range eggs don't have to be expensive. In fact, you can get 6 large ones for as little as 84p. Ideal on their own, boiled, fried or scrambled or used as an ingredient in cakes etc.
Balsamic Vinegar – 59p a bottle
I personally love to use balsamic vinegar as a dressing on a salad, you can pick up a large ‘basic' bottle for just 59p. You can also make your own from some of the ingredients on this cheap food list.
Strawberry Jam – 28p a jar
Strawberry Jam is a great preserve to add to toast and / or sandwiches. Better yet the basic supermarket brand can be bought for as little as 28p a jar.
Lemon Curd – 57p a jar
Certainly, something you can make at home from very basic ingredients, however, it's just as good in a jar and is one of our cheap foods at just 57p.
Orange Marmalade – 27p a jar
Marmalade is a great jam alternative and has been proven to be incredibly good for you. No wonder Paddington Bear loved it so much.
Chocolate Hazlenut Spread – 80p a jar
If you're looking for a chocolate fix then chocolate hazelnut spread is a great choice at just 80p a jar. You can use this as a topping for toast, pancakes and more…
Crunchy Peanut Butter – 70p a jar
If you're stuck for what to use a 70p jar of crunchy peanut butter on, then consider trying out one of these 26 recipes.
Instant Custard Mix – 19p a box
You can buy custard in a variety of formats, all relatively cheaply. However, if you're short on space buying instant custard mix is probably the best way to do so.
Better yet, you can get the supermarket own-brand version for as little as 19p a box.
Jelly – 37p a packet
A great snack or dessert, it's much cheaper to buy packet jelly and make it yourself than pre-made jelly.
Tortilla Chips – 41p a bag (share size)
Tortilla chips are great cheap food and can be used as a snack or as part of a meal.
Salted Peanuts – 48p a bag
Again these salted peanuts are a great snack. You can get a whole share size bag for around 48p making these a great cheap food!
Popcorn Kernels – £1.25 a bag
Certainly one of the more expensive things on my list, however, these popcorn kernels can go a long way. Turn these popcorn kernels into a whole heap of popcorn using this great recipe.
Chicken Paté – 50p a tub
Ideal as a sandwich spread, this chicken paté is a cheap food which can add a lot of flavour to an otherwise plain sandwich.
Dried Spaghetti – 20p a bag
Pasta is a basic cheap food that you've probably been using long before seeing this list. It's super diverse and super filling.
Dried Pasta Shapes – 29p a bag
If you're looking for the pasta in a different format to spaghetti above, consider buying it in these pasta shapes for just 29p a bag.
Dried Lasange Sheets – 50p a box
You can do so much more than just lasagne with lasagne sheets and at 50p a box these are very affordable food to include in your shopping basket.
Golden Vegetable Savoury Rice – 25p a bag
The ideal side dish to a meal is this golden vegetable savoury rice. You can easily make your own in larger batches if you prefer too.
Cous Cous – 40p a bag
Again, a great side dish to a meal or addition to a salad, you can buy small packets of couscous for as little as 40p a bag. All you need to do is add water.
This is certainly an item to consider buying in larger batches to save even more money if it's something you enjoy.
Egg Noodles – 57p a bag
Ideal for the base of a meal or a side dish you can get a bag of egg noddles for just 57p.
Again, this is one of those items I'd certainly recommend buying in bulk if you can afford it, as the pound per gram often works out significantly cheaper.
Long Grain Rice – 45p a bag
Much like the egg noodles above, long-grain rice is a great side dish or base for a meal and at 45p a bag is one of the cheap food staples we often recommend.
Orzo – 65p a bag
Orzo is a form of pasta, that actually resembles rice. It's perfect for making light pasta dishes such as this Spanish seafood pasta.
Cheap Frozen Food
Cheap frozen food is another long-term solution making it a great option for cheap food to buy when broke.
Unlike store cupboard foods and tins, the number of frozen foods you are going to be able to store is going to depend on your freezer space.
So this isn't something you'll be able to stock up on in advance as much as you can store cupboard foods and tinned foods.
Breaded Chicken Nuggets – 82p a bag (20)
If you're looking for cheap foods for kids then chicken nuggets are a great place to start. You can get supermarket own brand nuggets for as little as 82p a box.
Breaded Chicken Burgers – 97p a box (8)
If you're looking to mix things up at tea-time then consider picking up a box of these breaded chicken burgers. They can easily be served alongside many of the other cheap foods on this list.
Fish Fingers – 69p a box (10)
Consider including some Omega-3 in your diet with these fish fingers, at 69p for a box of 10 they are a great cheap food.
Battered Fish Portions – £1.21 a box (4)
Certainly one of the more expensive cheap foods on our list. These battered fish portions are really large and super healthy.
Beef Burgers – £1.00 a box (4)
Beef burgers don't have to be expensive, you can get supermarket own branded ones for as little as £1.00 a box. Alternatively, consider buying the mince separately and making them into the shape of beef burgers on your own.
Chicken Livers – 90p a box
This isn't a budget food I'd buy personally, but if chicken livers are your thing then they are super affordable.
Sausages – 91p a bag (20)
You can get a bag of frozen sausages for as little as 91p a bag – this includes 20 sausages. They'll take a little more cooking than they would from the refrigerator but they'll last much longer.
Peas – 68p a bag
No need to buy branded peas, basic supermarket branded peas at just 68p a bag will do fine. Ideal for a side dish, and one of my personal favourite cheap foods.
Whole Green Beans – 75p a bag
We love a whole green bean salad in our house, and at 75p a bag, the two of us can have this for lunch all week.
Mixed Vegetables – 79p a bag
These mixed vegetables are ideal for paella and as a side dish alongside some other cheap meals.
Broccoli Florets – 99p a bag
As a budget-conscious couple, we often find we throw out a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. Which is why we love that we can actually buy our broccoli frozen in florets, and at just 99p it's super affordable too.
Sliced Mushrooms – 99p a bag
Some sliced frozen mushrooms are ideal for a budget meal like this red wine & mushroom risotto.
Sliced Carrots – 99p a bag
Much like the other frozen vegetables on this list. You'll find the carrots are already sliced, making prepping meals easier. Not to mention you can buy an entire bag for just 99p.
Sliced Mixed Peppers – 99p a bag
Not only does a bag of frozen mixed peppers take the hassle of cutting and slicing, but they also last much longer than fresh ones too. At just 99p a bag these are one of my personal favourite cheap foods.
Brussel Sprouts – 99p a bag
Brussel sprouts can be bought fresh, however, they can also be bought frozen to use year-round. A bag is just 99p and works perfectly alongside a Sunday dinner.
Sliced Leeks – 99p a bag
We don't eat leeks often, but I love to make a leek soup in winter. Buying fresh is only wasted in our house, instead, we look to pick up a bag of frozen ones for as little as 99p.
Cauliflower Florets – 99p a bag
Much like the broccoli florets, these cauliflower florets are perfect if you're a small household who doesn't cook cauliflower often.
Shredded Cabbage – 99p a bag
I'm not a huge fan of cabbage personally, however, at 99p it's a great cheap food that can be used to pad out meals or as a side dish.
Yorkshire Puddings – 50p a bag (15)
You can easily make some of these Yorkshire puddings with some of the other cheap foods in this list. However, if you're looking for a shortcut, a bag of 15 frozen Yorkshire puddings is still super affordable.
Chips – 90p a bag
Much like the potato waffles below, you could easily make your own chips. However, if you're looking for cheap foods that are also super quick and easy to make then it can't get much easier than this.
Potato Waffles – 95p a box
Potato waffles are a great snack or a great side dish to a meal. Again you could make your own, but these frozen ones are still affordable.
Hash Browns – 90p a bag
A great side dish, a wonderful snack or perfect addition to breakfast. A bag of frozen hash browns can be picked up for as little as 90p a bag.
Again, much like some of the other items in this list, you can make your own for a similar price if you have the time and resources.
Pizza – 90p a box
For a quick and easy frozen meal, consider picking up a couple of basic frozen pizzas. These can be bought for as little as 90p and come in a range of flavours.
Of course, if you have the time you can probably make a tastier one at home for a similar amount of money using leftovers and basic store cupboard ingredients.
Garlic Bread – 34p a baguette
The perfect snack or side dish you can get a frozen garlic bread baguette for as little as 34p.
Alternatively, you could have a go at making your own using some basic store cupboard ingredients.