If you’re on a budget, your diet doesn’t need to be solely based on eating ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Whether you’ve got some surprise bills to pay or you’re just looking for food that makes your money and meals stretch for a bit, there are certain affordable grocery items you’ll want to add to your cart. Here are the grocery staples worth stocking up on that won’t break the bank.
Here’s an insider pro tip for buying rice, an instant pantry staple that can be used in a wide variety of meals. Choosing long-grain brown rice, said Matt Lopez, founder of Cook Like a Master. Why? Brown rice keeps you full longer than white rice, Lopez said.
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Similar to rice, you can make a ton of filling meals using pasta noodles. Think easy meals for the whole family like spaghetti and fettuccine alfredo, or date night dining with pasta al limone or cacio e pepe.
Lopez also recommends investing in whole wheat pasta when possible. Just like choosing brown rice over white rice, whole wheat pasta will keep you full for longer than non-wheat options.
Never overlook beans when grocery shopping. Beans are an excellent source of protein. Just like rice and pasta, you can cook with beans in dishes ranging from soups, stews, chilis, salads or even as a side dish.
Try to purchase dried beans over canned alternatives for extra savings. “You can get several pounds [of beans] for what you’d pay for one or two cans,” Lopez said.
Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
Ashley Schuering, blogger at Confessions of a Grocery Addict, said frozen fruits and vegetables are usually cheaper than their fresh counterparts.
Two additional perks of buying these items frozen are they are just as nutritious and already prepared for you to make the cooking experience even easier.
In-Season Fruits and Vegetables
Check with your grocery store to see which in-season fruits and vegetables are for sale. Right now, Schuering said in-season, inexpensive options include apples and squash.
Other non-frozen fruits and vegetables Schuering recommends purchasing on a budget include the following. Some of these vegetables may even regrow.
- Bananas: “No matter what the season, bananas always seem to be among the most inexpensive fruits available,” Schuering said. (PS: Keep the peels to make banana cake!)
- Greens: Schuering recommends checking around for the best prices, but grocery stores like Aldi usually have a combination bag of spinach and arugula or a huge bag of kale for about $3. Add these greens to sandwiches or soups to bulk up the meal.
- Green Onions: This is a must if you’re making many Mexican, Indian and Asian-inspired dishes. Schuering also recommends sticking the ends of green onions in water. This allows them to regrow.
- Celery: “Don’t toss the celery leaves; they can double as your fresh herbs in a pinch!” Schuering said. “You can also get celery to regrow if you keep the root ends in water and then replant when you see new growth.”
Skip prepackaged instant oatmeal and purchase rolled oats to make homemade oatmeal. Oats are great for keeping you full and can be blended into flour for baking purposes.
Dishes made with oats don’t have to always be sweet either. “Make them with veggie or chicken stock, then top with a jammy egg, some pan-fried scallions and fried garlic plus a drizzle of soy sauce for an easy and delicious savory dinner,” Schuering recommends.
While this can sometimes be an expensive grocery item, usually in the case of free-range eggs, shop around at your local grocery stores for eggs. This inexpensive protein can be used in any meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner or even dessert.
Canned Whole Tomatoes
If fresh tomatoes are simply too expensive, go for canned whole tomatoes. Schuering said you can add these to soups, chili and marinara sauce. This provides a boost of acidity and an easy way to add a helping of produce to your meals.
Plain Greek Yogurt
“I use yogurt for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Schuering said. “It is a great source of protein and calcium, it can double as both sour cream or yogurt and buying a tub is way cheaper than buying individual cups.”
Want to make it fruit-flavored? Stir in a spoonful of your favorite jam!
By now, you might be wondering how you can find inexpensive meats for sale. A great way to get animal protein, if you’re not ready to go full vegetarian, is to purchase canned fish.
While a slightly pricier item, it packs plenty of protein. “I am especially fond of tuna in olive oil, flat-pack anchovies and marinated sardines in olive oil,” Schuering said.
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