50+ Cheap Grocery List Ideas for a Family of 4 on a Budget
If you’re looking for cheap grocery list ideas, you’ve come to the right place! This article will provide cheap grocery ideas for a family of four on a tight budget. You will also learn:
- Tips on how to meal plan on a budget
- Help you save money on your grocery bill
- All while still eating healthy foods
Let’s get started!
Tips to Find the Cheapest Groceries
Grocery prices are at an all-time high, so read on. We will share tips in the hopes that you will maximize your dollar.
- Make a grocery shopping list before you go shopping and stick to it. Making a list will help you avoid buying impulsively. Not to mention overspending.
- Plan your grocery list around sale items to avoid buying unnecessary items.
- Try to buy in bulk when possible. Buying in bulk may require some strategic planning. But it can save you a lot of money in the long run.
- Take note of sales and coupons and plan your meals around these items. Taking the time to shop this way will help you get the food you need at a fraction of the cost.
- Compare prices at different stores before you decide where to shop.
More Tips to Save Money
- Buy generic brands instead of name brands at your local grocery store. You will find that they are often cheaper and every bit as good.
- Try to buy whole foods instead of processed foods.
- Use leftovers! Cook once and make extra for the next day. Or freeze for another day!
- Avoid buying junk food. Make junk food a once-in-a-while treat.
- Cook at home most of the time instead of eating out at restaurants. In reality, eating out is usually more expensive than cooking at home
Cheap Grocery List Ideas on a Tight Budget
This list is a great launching point to get you thinking about your pantry and what you and your family will eat. Feel free to research and add to this list!
Inexpensive Pantry Staples
- Barbecue Sauce-delicious on hamburgers or as a dipping sauce.
- Bread-an important staple in almost every home. Whole wheat bread is the best choice and can still be pretty inexpensive.
- Broth-helpful to keep in your pantry. I like to keep both chicken and beef broth on hand.
- Black beans and other canned beans-a great source of fiber and other nutrients and are very low in calories. A can of beans typically costs less than $1.00.
- Dry beans-an inexpensive, healthy, and very versatile. You can use them in your soup, stew, chili, salad, rice dish, and more.
- Dry lentils-an excellent source of protein and fiber, making them a great option for those on a tight budget. Lentils cook quickly and efficiently and can be used in various dishes.
- Flour-an important staple to keep and very inexpensive. Gluten-free flour is available if you need it, or whole-grain flour for more nutrition.
- Jelly-a must-have if you are a peanut butter and jelly lover. I also grew up on jelly toast.
- Milk-good to keep in your fridge if you are a milk drinker. It is also good to keep on hand for recipes. Nondairy milk like almond or coconut milk is an excellent alternative to milk. Powdered milk is also a great idea to have in your pantry.
- Oats-a hearty and healthy grain perfect for breakfast or snacks. A one-pound bag of oats usually costs less than $2.00.
- Olive oil-a healthy food option that won’t break the bank. Whether you’re looking for a healthy alternative to butter or a way to add some extra flavor to your favorite recipes, olive oil is a versatile and affordable option.
- Pasta sauce-inexpensive and can be used in a pasta dish or as a dipping sauce for bread.
More Pantry Items
- Pasta-packed with complex carbohydrates, fiber, and B vitamins. It can be used in various sauces, vegetables, and meats or enjoyed with a drizzle of olive oil.
- Peanut butter-a good source of fiber and vitamins and contains heart-healthy fats.
- Ramen Noodles-lovely to have on hand. I wouldn’t say they are nutritious but excellent in a pinch.
- Salad dressing-can be used for dips, marinating meat, and on top of your salads. Keep a variety of your favorites on hand.
- Seasonings-including salt, pepper, oregano, basil, garlic powder, onion powder, etc. Sugar is not a health item but a cheap thing to keep in your pantry to sweeten foods just a bit. In addition, keeping some brown sugar on hand is good to use for homemade baked goods or on top of oatmeal.
- Taco seasoning-a good pantry item to buy that adds flavor to foods from tacos and burritos to chicken and vegetables.
- White rice-filling, flavorful, and easy on the wallet. Brown rice can be a good thing to store as it has more fiber and nutrients than white rice. It is good to have both kinds of rice in your pantry. Wild rice is another healthy addition; however, it is slightly higher in cost.
Budget Friendly Dairy and Eggs
- Cheese-a must-have food. Buy the store brand or cheese that’s on sale. Shredded cheese also freezes well. We always like to keep mozzarella, cheddar, and Colby jack cheese on hand.
- Cottage cheese-lower in fat and calories, is high in protein and is an excellent calcium source.
- Eggs-a great source of protein and other nutrients and one of the cheapest foods you can buy.
- Sour cream-is often associated with unhealthy foods, but it can be a healthy option. In addition, it is a good source of protein and calcium and is also low in fat and calories.
- Yogurt-an excellent item to add to your diet. It can be affordable and is good with fruit, cereal, or granola.
Fresh fruit is packed with vitamins and minerals and is relatively inexpensive. If you buy in season, you’ll get even better deals. We always keep these fresh fruits around:
- apples (in season)
- oranges (in season)
- peaches (in season)
Fresh vegetables can be affordable by:
- buying them in season
- buying in bulk
- buying when they are on sale
Some of the best fresh veggies are:
- carrots or baby carrots
- corn on the cob
- spinach (great in smoothies)
- sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a yummy and nutritious way to stretch your food budget. They can be roasted, mashed, or even made into chips.
Sweet potatoes offer a good supply of complex carbohydrates while providing lasting energy throughout the day.
White and red potatoes are also an economical and tasty source of nutrition to keep in your diet.
Frugal Frozen Foods
Frozen vegetables are a convenient and budget-friendly option for adding more veggies to your diet. A bag of frozen vegetables generally costs less than $2.00. Some of our favorites are:
- green beans
- mixed vegetables
Frozen fruits are often just as nutritious as fresh fruit while being cheaper and more convenient. Some of our favorite frozen fruits are:
Frozen pizza, french fries, and other “fast food” items are good to have on hand for occasional Friday night treats.
We limit our meat consumption by having meatless meals several times a week. Additionally, when we add meat, we generally add it as a side dish rather than the main dish. Meals like casseroles, soups, and stews are perfect for this.
- Canned tuna is terrific as it is shelf-stable and a good source of protein. I always think of creamed tuna over biscuits sprinkled with shredded cheese. Yum!
- Ground beef is one of the best protein sources and is relatively inexpensive. It can be stretched out in various recipes, making it relatively affordable. Choose lean ground beef to avoid excess fat.
- Fish is another excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which benefit heart health. Best of all, fish is relatively inexpensive compared to other protein sources such as beef or chicken.
- Whole chickens are typically cheaper than purchasing chicken thighs or breasts individually. Whole chickens can also be used to make various meals such as roasted and served with vegetables for a classic Sunday dinner. It can also be cut up and used in soups, stir-fries, or casseroles.
Cheap Snack Ideas
- roasted chickpeas
- veggie sticks with hummus
- celery stick with peanut butter
- apple slices with peanut butter
- frozen grapes
- homemade trail mix
Orange juice and other whole fruit juices are packed with vitamins and minerals, taste great, and are relatively low in calories. Orange juice is an excellent way to obtain Vitamin C. Look for it on sale and try to purchase the store brand to make it more affordable.
Water is the best and most affordable beverage. Add some lemons or limes for a refreshing flavor boost.
This section is concise because our family almost always drinks water exclusively. It’s so much better for you!
You can add unsweetened tea and choose to sweeten it with a low-calorie sweetener such as stevia.
Cheap Food for Breakfast
- Oatmeal: Breakfast gives you plenty of options that are both inexpensive and nutritious. For example, a bowl of oatmeal with some fruit is one of the best ways to start the day.
- Eggs are always a good choice if you want something more substantial. Scrambled eggs, omelets, and boiled eggs can be easily prepared on a budget.
- Toast: Another option is toast with peanut butter or jam. This classic breakfast food is both filling and easy to make.
- Pancakes or waffles are always a hit if you want something sweeter. Mix a batch of pancake or waffle batter, cook them up, and top with your favorite syrup.
- Homemade granola is another fantastic choice. Whatever you choose, any of these budget-friendly breakfasts will leave you feeling satisfied.
Cheapest Foods For Lunch
Here are some ideas for inexpensive food items for lunch that will fill you up without emptying your wallet:
- Eggs: A carton of eggs is one of the most versatile and affordable ingredients you can buy. From hard-boiled eggs to omelets to quiches, there are endless possibilities. And best of all, eggs are packed with protein to keep you feeling satisfied until dinner.
- Canned tuna or salmon: Canned fish is another budget-friendly option that is high in protein and low in cost. Mix canned tuna or salmon with mayonnaise, diced celery, and chopped onions for a quick and easy tuna salad, or as a filling for wraps or sandwiches.
- Beans: Beans are a great, economical source of plant-based protein, making them an ideal choice for anyone that wants to cut down on their meat consumption. They are incredibly versatile and can be used in various dishes, from chili to burritos to salads.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are relatively cheap and can be combined in endless variations. For instance, you could try a PB&J with banana slices or sunflower seed butter.
- Grilled Cheese Sandwiches or a simple ham and cheese sandwich are great if you’re looking for something heartier.
I hope you can see that there are so many ways to enjoy a delicious and satisfying lunch in addition to saving money.
Cheap Dinner Ideas
When it comes to dinner, it can be easy to fall into the trap of buying expensive, processed foods. However, plenty of healthy and delicious meals can be made on a tight budget.
Vegetable Soup: For example, a simple vegetable soup can be made with just a few ingredients and easily adaptable to whatever happens to be in the fridge. Add a salad and fresh bread to complete the meal.
Pasta Dishes: Another budget-friendly option is a basic pasta dish with tomato sauce. This can be made with pantry staples like canned tomatoes and pasta and spiced up with other vegetables or protein sources. We love to serve this with french bread and a veggie.
Stir fry: Stir-fries are simple to make and can be very healthy. You can purchase frozen stir fry mixes and add a little chicken or ground beef. Pair it with soy sauce and rice, and you have a quick and easy dinner.
Homemade pizza is a fun idea and is very inexpensive to make.
My Mom’s Favorite Goulash Recipe
To end this, I’ll share my mom’s famous but very simple goulash recipe.
- 1 1/2 lb ground chuck (remember to cut this back to 1/2 lb if you’d like)
- One box of Creamettes (this recipe was from the ’60s, I think, it’s simply elbow noodles)
- Celery-onions-green pepper (this recipe was not exact, add as much as you’d like)
- Brown all of the above in 1/4 cup Crisco until meat is browned. (In my healthier stage of life, I would omit the Crisco, there is plenty of fat in the ground beef)
- After the meat is browned, add one 8-ounce can of tomato sauce, 2 1/2 cups of water, 1/4 cups of Worcestershire sauce, and 1/4 teaspoons of salt. Simmer for 40 minutes. Easy & delicious!
With just a little creativity, you can cook delicious and nutritious meals without breaking the bank.
- Check out these 8-week budget-friendly meal plans that you can put into your rotation! They include recipes for a family of four. The recipes look absolutely delicious, and we have tried many of them! Honey-Chipotle Chicken and Sweet Potatoes, and the Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup are two of my favorites.
- Try this 7-day budget meal plan from the folks at Eating Well. I particularly love the tomato bun tuna melt and the Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Lasagna recipes! They also have a printable list which is super helpful.
- LivingOnTheCheap.com has 26 recipe and menu ideas for 4 dollars a day! Their recipes are a little unique. However, we enjoyed some of their pasta and stir fry recipes.
- I love, love, love this menu plan from DontWasteTheCrumbs.com! It’s designed specifically for a family of four using a $50 a week meal plan. It includes breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and a printable shopping list.
- Last but not least is a plan featuring budget-friendly meal preparation ideas. Check out this budgetbytes.com plan! They have lovely frugal breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas to keep you going for a long time!
More Cheap Grocery List Ideas
Have you discovered Aldi’s? I suppose most people have, but we just recently started shopping there. You can buy a lot of food for a great price. Some of the best deals we found are:
- canned foods
- baking essentials
- cereal (price compare, these can vary)
- maple syrup
- deli items
Check out this Aldi’s website page which has fantastic recipes using Aldi products!
Rotisserie Chicken to Make Meals Stretch
One fantastic, frugal thing I love to do is to use shredded rotisserie chicken to make many meals.
Rotisserie chicken is an incredibly versatile ingredient that is a great to use in various dishes.
One of the simplest ways to use it is to shred the leftover chicken and add it to salads, sandwiches, or burritos.
Another option is to use the shredded chicken as a filling for tacos or enchiladas. Alternatively, it can be combined with rice, beans, and vegetables to create a delicious and hearty soup.
Finally, a shredded rotisserie chicken can also be used as a topping for pizzas or pasta dishes.
However you choose to use it, shredded rotisserie chicken adds delicious flavor in addition to adding texture to any dish.
We love using the Costco rotisserie chicken, as mentioned below. It is so big, juicy, and tender!
Costco or Sam’s Club For Savings
Costco and Sam’s Club are two of the best places to purchase bulk items. They often have the best prices and healthy meal ideas for the whole family. My favorite things from Costco are
- Frozen blueberries
- Frozen cherries
- Frozen broccoli
- Canned goods
- Organic maple syrup
- Rotisserie chicken (they are BIG and delicious!)
- Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
- Breakfast Cereal
- Olive Oil
This isn’t exactly healthy, but our family sometimes buys a large box of tortilla chips from Costco.
We pair them with the large can of cheese sauce, sometimes mixing in some browned ground beef.
This is a special Sunday night tradition that we love. You could substitute organic tortilla chips with lower salt.
But because we only do this once a week and the box of chips is so economical, we feel like this is a good splurge.
Rice and Beans
Dave Ramsey always said, “eat beans and rice, rice and beans,” with the intention to try and get people to save money.
We incorporate this into our diet often! Rice and beans can be made in so many different ways. I used to make delicious homemade tortillas. They are excellent for burritos and as wraps for rice and beans.
I’m too busy these days to make them, so we purchase them from the grocery store. Here are some of my ideas to use more beans and rice in your diet:
- Substitute beans and rice for meat in dishes such as tacos or burritos
- Rice and bean bowls, topped with veggies, cheese, salsa, or avocados
- Bean and rice soup
- Bean and rice casserole
- Try this rice and bean bowl
When it comes to feeding your family of four on a tight budget, there are plenty of ways to get creative and save money.
With a little planning and some savvy shopping, you can put together healthy, affordable meals for your loved ones.
We hope these cheap grocery list ideas have given you some inspiration for creating effortless, frugal meals that your family will enjoy together.
Do you have some favorite ideas for saving money on groceries? Let us know in the comments!
Check out my About Me Page to learn more about my crew and me.