If you’ve been facepalming whenever you see the prices at your local grocery shop, then you’re not alone. This ‘totally-not-a-recession’ we’re in has wreaked havoc on food costs in many parts of the world. In the UK alone, food price inflation reached 12.4% in November. Meanwhile, grocery prices in the US were up 12%, compared to the year before. So you’re definitely not alone if you’ve been feeling your wallet getting thinner.
Shoppers have been forced to react to this in different ways. Some are working overtime or have picked up a new side hustle. Others are cutting back on their favorite foods, eating out, and the size of their meals. However, food budgets, creative cooking solutions, and buying things at discounts are new to some people.
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Luckily, the internet is chock full of friendly folks who love to lend a helping hand. Some budget-savvy shoppers from the r/Cooking online community shared their best tips on what underrated cheap foods you definitely shouldn’t ignore. You’ll find their awesome advice below. Upvote the posts that you found the most useful, and share some cost-saving food tips of your own in the comments. Us? We’re not big on cabbage, but lentils are great!
Baked potatoes. Cheap to buy. Easy to prepare. So many options to gussy it up with cheap but tasty fillings.
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Oats! Not only for porridge, but just grind it and add it into your baking – it is so tasty! Also, if you are on a really tight budget (or sick) it is really nice to add some oats into soup indead of noodles to make it more filling.
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Keeps forever too. Looking at you spinach..
Try taking some shredded cabbage, it can have the carrots or not, and roasting it in a pan with a tiny bit of oil and maybe some chicken stock or a little bit of bullion or umami or mushroom powder until it’s nice and wilted and toss it in with Asian pasta dishes!!!
It bulks it up so nicely (which also helps cut calories) and makes thai and other cuisines even better because it soaks up the sauces way more than the rice noodles do.
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Food prices have grown by leaps and bounds over the past year. USA Today recently reported on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ findings about just how much more expensive it is to buy some iconic holiday stables in 2022.
The price of flour rose by a quarter between November 2021 and November 2022. The cost of bread went up by 16%, cookies were 19% more expensive, and if you’re a fan of crackers, they’re now worth a fifth more.
God forbid you eat a lot of eggs or use them for baking! They’re 49% more expensive in the US, year-over-year. Sugar and sweets are up 13%, butter costs 27% more, and milk is 15% more expensive than last year. In short, baking tasty treats for Christmas and the New Year was bound to drill a hole in your wallet.
Popcorn is underrated when it comes to the variety of flavors it plays well with.
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Eggs are the cheapest healthiest food you can eat.
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Sweet potatoes. Sweet or savory, chunky or smooth, extremely versatile food you can do a lot of delicious meals and snacks with.
I use them in burritos. Cut into chunks, season with cumin, garlic, chili powder, salt, and toss with some oil. Bake until tender in the middle with some charring on the outside. So damn good with black beans, Mexican style rice, the sweetness of them goes very well with all the savory.
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Recently, Bored Panda looked at the ways that you can save money on food. Cooperating with your family, friends, and neighbors can really help you squeeze the most out of every dollar, pound, and cent you have. You can buy produce in bulk, at a major discount, and then freeze most of it for later use.
So long as you package the food properly, it shouldn’t get freezer burn, and it’ll keep its nutrition value. Double-bag your fruits, veggies, fish, or meat, or use a vacuum sealer.
Another great way to put meals together cheaply is to embrace the power of stir-fries! You can use rice or pasta as the base, and throw in some cheap, seasonal veggies from your local market or mom-and-pop grocery store. Bonus points if you tend your own veggie and herb garden.
Lentils! Lentil soup is the best! And dhal is awesome. And you can make burgers with them.
Healthy, filling, versatile and delicious.
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Tofu is legit 1 dollar a lb now and can be used in so many dishes
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I’d say omelets. They are cheap nutritious and not hard to make if you practice and have a big flat spatula. There’s also a thousand ways to make an omelet. I like mine with sautéed mushrooms and some goat cheese and herbs.
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Rotisserie chickens. One chicken will feed me and my husband for 2 meals each plus some snacking and the carcass can be turned into amazing bone broth. That’s a lot of bang for $5
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Celery root. Baked in oven with olive oil, salt and pepper.
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Instant mashed potatoes
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Baked beans for me. If you buy them just in tomato sauce you can doctor the sauce and make just about any breakfast and add them to different meats with a little thought using seasonings and sauces. No its not gourmet but it is an imitation food I suppose that can make you quite a few BS versions of meals. Im not advocating making a hummus by straining them, just things like left over duck with baked beans and a salad is sort of cassoulet like, or adding the mornings bacon is pork and beans, or tossing tobacco and smoky sauce puts you into a tex mex breakfast territory with some eggs… lots of reasons to buy a 12 pack when they are on special because when you dont have power you can have a small fire and go different places with a relatively cheap canned food.
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A nice baguette. Wish I could get my hands on one, but US grocery stores tend to not give a s**t about quality baked goods, and quality independent bakeries are few and far in between (and usually only focus on sweets).
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Dried beans and rice. Infinitely customizable. A perfect protein. Great source of fiber. You can eat great tasting food for a week for $5 USD. $20 gives you options
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I find a lot of canned meats and seafood are looked down upon but I really enjoy them. Spam, smoked oysters, sardines etc
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God i was wondering if anyone was going to mention instant ramen or not.
So cheap, so versatile. I do two packs, a chicken thigh (marinated, grilled, sliced, and frozen individually), and a couple table spoons of dried, mixed veg. I have an electronic kettle in my work office. 3 cups of hot water and 10min of waiting…BAM, lunch. Costs me maybe $2.
Pb&J, add berries and it really feels decadent.
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Really any “salad” involving mayo. And I don’t even like mayo on it’s own. But a good tuna salad SLAPS and it’s cheap as hell
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Canned garbanzo beans.
Add salt , pepper , sugar and a spice of your liking. Lightly oil. Put in the oven for 20-25 mins 400F. Great crunchy low calorie snack.
I make “not egg” salad with them. Great with crackers or in a pita.
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Gnocchi. I just learned how to make it, i have always loved it, and it is CHEAP. Last batch made about 6 servings for the two of us. Took six potatoes, three spoonfuls of ricotta, 2 eggs (which my backyard dinosaurs provided) and a cup and half or so of 00 flour. Maybe $8 real world. Eat them with everything. Mushroom gravy, tinned fish, puttanesca…whatever. Always good and ready in under 3 minutes 😉
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Sourdough loaf with olive oil and salt and pepper
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Bruh, i dont give a damn what time of day or night it is you put spam masubi near me and ill be scarfing that b***h down before i can say thanks.
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Peanut butter ftw
Chicken drumsticks. I can get them for 49 cents a pound on sale sometimes.
I just made an imitation crab salad sandwich and it was quite good. It definitely doesn’t taste like crab, but it’s good nonetheless. I consider it its own food product and not a substitute. It has a really nice flavorful sweet taste.
Oh yeah imitation crab and lobster is often made from pollock and are really good.
Dried beans. The US is weirdly against dried beans becoming mainstream.
With inflation, canned beans are much more expensive than they used to be. Store brand canned black beans are a minimum of $2/can around me, more for other types of beans or any kind of premium brand or organic. Back of the hand calculations suggest that dried are still cheaper even with the cost of energy.
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Cottage cheese — cheap protein/calcium and you can use it savory or sweet.
Cottage cheese is the best—Costco sells large quantities for like $4!!
In a bowl with some cinnamon and sugar or honey is a nice snack. Add some granola and it’s breakfast.
Or my favorite breakfast: a hardboiled egg, cottage cheese, cherry tomatoes, lots of olive oil, salt and pepper, and good crusty bread to soak up the oil.
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Spinach! I made this really nice spinach and artichoke dip last night, and it’s so much better homemade. The stuff you find it stores is like 50% mayo and i think that’s gross lol
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So many possibilities with onions but I love French onion soup. Doesn’t need gruyere although that’s delicious. Fine with any Swiss or even mozzarella.
I also love bologna sandwiches. Cheap and easy. Too bad it’s not healthy too.
Also chicken thighs. Goes with any seasoning and aside from a few dishes, tastes better than chicken breast to me.
Tin cornbeef with some cabbage and onion over rice what a treat.
You can do a lot with a few veggies and fruit. Individually it sounds boring and not fulfilling. But I like to make a salsa with cilantro, a red onion, a tomato, a mini pineapple OR a mango, and a lime. I’ve purchased one of each of these ingredients for under $5 and made a huge salsa out of it after chopping and stirring them all up (and squeezing the lime over). Along with tortilla chips it’s great or you can use it in fish tacos too.
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Dried pasta slaps when prepared correctly.
Lots of great ingredients listed, but I’m gonna shout out local street food and equivalent. Could be street tacos, tamales, your local laborer lunch truck, Baltimore’s chicken box or pit beef or lake trout, Seattle’s Teriyaki, NY and Boston’s Halal Chicken carts. Many others I don’t know or don’t know yet. Love em.
You could put turkey here, especially after turkey day.
If you plan your shopping budget and wait till mod November lots of stores will give you a frozen bird for a 100 or 150 dollar purchase. That’s hardly a week’s worth. You could get two or more shopping different stored.
Even buying one is cheap enough. And they go on clearance after Thanksgiving
Canned tuna! Cook it in some soy sauce and add some garlic powder, ginger powder etc with a bowl of rice and it’s warm, filling and tasty on a budget. I make it all the time and add avocado, green onion and cucumber when I have some extra cash, really takes it to the next level.
Canned pumpkin is great for pumpkin pie and other pumpkin desserts. Why bother carving out a fresh pumpkin when canned pumpkin can be just as good, if not better.
Canned pork liver pate. I especially love using it for banh mis.
Canned corned beef hash is great when pan-fried until it gets ultra-crispy. I haven’t had homemade corned beef hash that was better than the canned variety.
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Not sure if it counts as “cheap”, I’ve never seen anyone else even own (let alone prepare) a can of Vienna Sausages. So many great recipes with those things.
My favorite is rolling them up in a Pillsbury croissant dough to make pigs in a blanket. But my “cheapest” preparation is slicing in half lengthwise and frying them and having them with eggs and toast.
Cuban black beans.
All day every day.
I have loved liverwurst since I was a kid, and it’s very cheap. I can get a pound of it at my usual grocery store for $2.49, whereas any sliced lunchmeat will cost me at least double that.
I really love a cheap grilled cheese with American cheese (the processed kinda plastic stuff in individual sheets) just cheap white bread, cheese, and margarine. The American cheese almost tastes fluffy, like a cheese cloud.
Boiled peanuts, i get a large cup of cajun peanuts and they’re only $3
Bolognese, classic dish, everybody likes if. Cheap.
Hamburger Helper. Use to make it in college cause it was all I could afford. Now decades later I still enjoy it.
Nothing makes me happier than a tuna sandwich and an orange. My favorite lunch.
Healthy, delicious, eco-friendly and CHEAP!
I get the mustard sauce ones and eat them over hot multigrain bowl (one of those 90 second pouches from Aldi). Or just over crackers: I like the mustard sauce ones.
I’ve heard people sauté them in their own oil and toss them with pasta, you could break them up in pasta sauce for a fishy kick.
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Canned tuna, pasta with butter and garlic, chicken, beef or veggie broth (can be used for so many things), dried/canned beans or any other canned items that will be used.
These are all things that we always had on hand when we had very little money. Never went without, but we didn’t each steak, much meat or went out for food.
Dried jarred herbs and spices. Yes, they don’t compare to fresh, and yes they lose some oomph the longer they sit.
But modern cooking trends have resulted in people feeling like jarred seasonings are automatically inferior. But the truth is they are comparable to fresh (you may need to use more) and while I wouldn’t suggest making dinner for the King of England with them or for your Michelin Star restaurant, for Saturday spaghetti, you absolutely can throw in jarred dried oregano instead of spending a ton on fresh. In my area buying Badia brand seasonings is typically the cheapest way to go, plus they carry large sizes.
And while we’re at things in the spice cabinet, get yourself some MSG, buying it from the Asian grocery store (or online even from Amazon in the asian brands) is cheaper than buying a jar of Accent from the grocery store, because its that secret ingredient you are missing from your meals!
Batchelor Chow: a starch potatoes/stuffing/rice/pasta, vegetables, a protein sausage/chicken/egg/beans. Terrific with Tabasco sauce.
The humble chicken Maryland (thigh and drum together).
When I bbq them with charcoal and make a good sauce people get excited vs a ho hum another steak. $4.50 per kilo vs $30 ish for the steak.
Pork Carnitas are really easy too. Drop a big chunk of butt in with 1% salt by weight and put water up to its shoulders. Black pepper, Lime, garlic, cumin, bay leaf, anything you want adds to it but just salt is fine. Simmer it til the water is basically gone, 2 hours or so. It falls apart and is incredible pan fried for putting in tacos all week.
Mussels! Cheapest food in the seafood counter, easy to make and delicious with frites and/or crusty bread
Pollock is a legitimate fish to eat on its own.
Pork neck bones. Super cheap, adds lots of flavor and extremely versatile
Organ meats! Heart especially. It takes a bit of etra effort to trim down, but it gives a fantastic beefy flavor, and as red meats go its very lean and comparatively healthy. I’ll usually chop it up and throw it in the slow cooker for a stew. Occasionally I’ll slice it thin and cook it more fajita style, but the stew is my go-to. I’ve been out of the states for a bit now so not sure if the price is still the same, but it used to be about $5-6 a pound, not a bad price at all for meat.
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Chicken feet are cheep and good if done right
Velveeta. It’s delicious. It may be a “cheese product” and have a strange consistency, it it’s delicious and goes fantastic as a dip or with veggies.
Vienna sausages. They’re dirt cheap, and for all intents and purposes, they are pate. Pate is an expensive culinary delicacy- Vienna sausages are the exact same thing, but dirt cheap and in an easier to get ahold of format.
Canned salmon for salmon patties and canned chicken for casseroles and chicken salad.
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Honeybuns, great carb to price ratio.
I buy the cheapest hotdogs I can find (my grocery store sells packs for $1 made from chicken by-product) and pickle them. Makes them actually taste good, and you can eat them on some sardines.
For the record, I cut them into quarters so they are more akin to vienna sausages.
Channa masala. Cheap to make, but that’s only if you already have the spices. Very underrated vegetarian dish.