In order to develop long-term menu plans that will keep your family on budget, you’ll need to have a strong supply of staple foods in the pantry. Being stocked with cheap food allows you the freedom to skip large weekly grocery bills, opting instead to fill in with sale items and other fresh produce. Here are several staple foods that we use on a regular basis.


Lentils are one of the more powerful cheap weight loss foods, as they have a high nutrient density and an extremely low cost. They can be used to prepare everything from spreads and curries to vegan meatloaf and veggie burgers. Cooking with brown lentils is exceptionally affordable, as they routinely ring in at less than a dollar per pound at the cash register.


As protein sources go, seeds are one of the biggest money-saving options you have. That makes them a must-purchase when you are shopping for staple foods. Pumpkin, sesame and flax seeds all contribute greatly to baked goods, sauces and salads. Sunflower seed kernels are another option that offer a full flavor when toasted, and come at a nominal cost.


When preparing cheap healthy meals, it pays to consider quinoa. This easy-to-cook food is shelf-stable complete protein that performs like a grain, making it the perfect base for stir fry dinners, curries and more. It also makes a decent, low-fat side dish and a great feature ingredient for cold salads.

Garbanzo Beans

Otherwise known as chick peas, garbanzo beans are a hearty bean and helpful to have on hand for homemade falafel, vegetarian crock pot recipes, vegan tuna salad and other filling meals. They’re a cost-effective solution whether you purchase them canned or dried.

Frozen Vegetables

If you’re serious about grocery store savings, then frozen vegetables should be a major part of your game plan.  Everything from mixed veggies and frozen broccoli to corn kernels and chopped spinach can be used extensively in home menus. It’s not all tuna casserole and basic microwaved side dishes either. Various international cuisines can be prepared with these ingredients, providing your family with a full-flavored dinner experience at a fraction of the cost of takeout.


I also recommend buying these frozen throughout the year for a cheap source of antioxidants. They can be used to create desserts, oatmeal toppings, added to baked goods and even used to create salad dressings and sauces.


While they need to be used up quickly, bananas are almost always a budget item in the produce aisle. They are also flexible enough to make their way into everything from sweetbreads and smoothies to pancakes and breakfast cookies.

These are by no means the only affordable staple foods available at the supermarket, but they are some of the most flexible. I’d love to hear from all the home cooks out there.

What are your go-to items for keeping your pantry and freezer stocked?

Myscha Theriault

Myscha Theriault

A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.