20 Cheap And Filling Foods For Tight Budgets

Just because you’re living on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t eat a filling and nutritious meal. In this article, I’ve got a great list of cheap filling foods you’ll enjoy. 

You’ll be able to make a shopping list based on some of the following cheap groceries that you can use for easy meals throughout the week.

20 Great Cheap Filling Foods For Tight Budgets

20 great cheap filling foods for tight budgets

One of the most common mistakes that budget shoppers make is focusing on inexpensive pre-made meals. While it may seem like you’re getting a full meal for a low price, these frozen meals are usually unhealthy, unsatisfying, and can’t work as leftovers.

Instead, you can pick from the list of good budget foods that fill you up below when it’s time to go shopping.

Good Cheap and Filling Foods to Shop For

These food choices are a fantastic starting point for planning a cheap meal that’s still ok to eat and won’t hurt your body in the long run.


Bananas are a cheap fruit that contains an impressive serving of nutrients. They have plenty of potassium, fiber, and magnesium, all of which contribute to your general health.

What’s more, bananas are a fun means to satisfy a sugar craving without indulging in processed foods with added sweeteners.


If you are working with a tight budget, a cheap can of black beans or white beans is an absolute must-have on your shopping list. Beans are often one of the cheapest meal options you can find.

Beans provide an excellent source of protein, and you can use them in various healthy recipes.

From vegetarian tacos to yummy bean burgers, a can of beans works great when your budget doesn’t allow meat. If you have the time to prepare them, you can also try saving money by buying dry beans.

Brown Rice

Rice is a staple in many recipes, and you can enhance any meal simply by switching from white rice to brown rice. Brown rice is less processed than white rice and therefore contains more nutrients.

Opting for a more nutritious grain won’t make a big difference in spending but will leave you feeling fuller and healthier.

Canned Tuna or Salmon

Canned tuna or salmon is an easy way to get affordable access to fish. Unlike fresh fish, canned tuna lasts a while and doesn’t need refrigeration.

Tuna and salmon will provide you with a source of healthy fish oils and filling protein and make a great addition to salads, sandwiches, or casseroles.


When trying to feed a whole family, consider buying a whole chicken. Most grocery stores will sell chicken at a lower price per pound when you buy the entire bird.

Season the chicken how you like and roast it in your oven, and you will have a classy meal at a minimal cost. Moreover, if you buy a large chicken you will have leftovers for the next day’s lunch and can keep it warm & fresh with just an oven..

Chuck Roast

This is a delicious and filling option if you want to make a dish with beef. It is usually less expensive than other cuts of meat, and you can use it in recipes with good results.

Chuck roast works particularly well for pot roast or beef stroganoff.

Corn Tortillas

Corn tortillas are an excellent choice for a filling and frugal meal. They’re often sold in bulk at a low price, contribute whole grains to your diet, and you can incorporate them in various recipes.

For instance, use them for tacos at dinner and make sandwich wraps for lunch the following day.


Eggs are a filling and cheap protein choice. Not only can you prepare eggs in many styles, but they are also a key ingredient in other recipes.

You can use eggs in cake batters, pasta dough, and homemade condiments.


A pound of flour is incredibly affordable. With flour in your kitchen pantry, you can make just about any baking recipe you find.

Baked foods are filling and tasty and can help you save money on buying expensive pre-made products from the store.

Frozen Vegetables

No matter the size of your food budget, be sure to prioritize vegetables. You can save money by buying frozen vegetables.

They are just as nutritious when thawed and will last a long time. For an even better investment in your nutrition, try buying fresh veggies from your local farmer’s market and freezing them yourself.

Ground Beef or Ground Chuck

Ground beef and ground chuck are usually the cheaper meat options at grocery stores. This kind of meat is perfect for hamburgers, meatloaves, meat sauces, tacos, and meatballs.

Since ground beef or chuck can be seasoned and prepared in many ways, it ends up being a quite versatile ingredient.


Honey doesn’t cost much, and a regular-sized bottle can accommodate multiple servings. It is a great sweetener for tea, coffee, and certain baking recipes.

Honey is also used frequently in dressings, marinades, and condiments.

Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg lettuce is one of the cheapest greens available. It’s not as nutritious as darker greens, but it will still provide you with fiber and other nutrients.

Iceberg lettuce pairs well with plenty of flavors, making it useful as a default vegetable to keep in your kitchen.


Lentils are another protein-packed legume to keep at the forefront of your mind when grocery shopping. These small pods are an excellent substitute for meat protein.

They also contain a large quantity of fiber, which makes them an extremely filling food item at a remarkably low cost.


For a low-budget option, try keeping your pantry stocked with a cheap or generic brand of whole oats. Oats are full of fiber and vitamins, and since they are sold in bulk you end up getting many days’ worth of nutrition for a low price.

Meal prep some overnight oats, bake tasty blueberry cobbler, or whip up some homemade granola.

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter has been a family favorite for generations. It’s affordable, goes well with lots of foods, and is delicious.

You can use it in classic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or prepare veggies and peanut butter snack plates. Peanut butter can also be integrated into sauce recipes or used to add extra protein to baked goods.


Pasta is a filling carbohydrate source that can be bought at a low price. It can be used in so many different types of frugal meals, such as chicken noodle soup, spaghetti bolognese, and pasta with cheese sauce.

If you want to do some easy cheap meal prepping, you can boil a batch of pasta all at once and use it throughout the week with different sauces and proteins.


It doesn’t take a lot of potatoes to make a satisfying dish. With one decently sized potato, you could make enough baked potato or mashed potato servings for two people.

Potatoes offer more potassium than a banana, as well as plenty of vitamin C. As a result, potatoes are a great option for a hearty side or addition to any meal.


Dark, leafy greens are one of the cheapest filling foods. Spinach is full of vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C, and it is also a great source of iron.

Just a few spinach leaves with a meal can help you to maximize your grocery spending.


Tomatoes are used in many healthy recipes, which makes them a prime candidate for a budget shopping list. You can save the most money by buying a large can of whole peeled tomatoes.

Many stores will sell them for less than a dollar, and you can use the tomatoes for any dinner recipes that call for them. A quick frugal cooking tip: if the recipe calls for diced or crushed tomatoes, buy a can and then crush or dice them yourself.

What Is the Most Filling Cheap Food?

The best indicators for filling foods are fiber and protein amounts. Foods that are high in fiber and protein will satisfy both your body’s hunger and nutrient needs, preventing you from getting hungry again soon after a meal.

Examples of some of the cheapest food high in fiber and protein are legumes, leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains. Cheap and filling foods are often the staple ingredients that come in large quantities and last a long time.

For that reason, canned foods and bagged dry goods are reliable choices.

How Can You Eat Cheap Without Cooking?

how can you eat cheap without cooking

There are ways to eat cheaply without cooking often. One strategy is to meal prep and cook all your food for the week in a large batch.

Making a hearty stew, pasta dish, or protein-packed rice bowl are all effective methods to meal prep on a budget. You can also focus on food items that are easy to prepare, such as cold sandwiches and protein salads.

While you’ll still have to assemble these meals, it will take far less effort than cooking would.

How Much Do Ramen Noodles Cost?

how much do ramen noodles cost

Ramen noodles are extremely cheap. A single pack of ramen is usually less than one dollar. It’s even cheaper if you buy more packs of ramen in bulk.

There are also high-end ramen noodles that are much more expensive. While they might seem appealing, there is not enough difference in nutrition or flavor for them to be worth the money when you are living on a low budget.

Are Ramen Noodles Healthy to Eat a Lot?

Ramen noodles are cost-efficient, but they aren’t always the healthiest. The noodles themselves are fine, but the flavor packets included are extremely high in sodium and don’t offer much in terms of nutrition.

You can take advantage of the cheap noodles by purchasing the ramen but omitting the packets from your meals. Instead, make your broth using frozen veggies and a few spices. Add some protein with one or two hard-boiled eggs.

How Can You Make Things Taste Better When You’re Broke?

how can you make things taste better when youre broke

If you’re concerned that these cheap dinner ideas mean sacrificing tastiness, don’t be. The best way to make cheap food taste good is to invest in a few basic spices.

Start your spice with garlic powder, black pepper, paprika, and an Italian seasoning mix. These staples are versatile and can be used in most dishes.

Likewise, oranges, lemons, and limes can inject a tanginess into many meals. Look for inexpensive condiments, too. Options like chutney, mustard, mayo, and horseradish can be transformative.

You can even make your own delicious burger (and fries!) sauce by mixing mayo with ketchup. The key is experimentation: the more you experiment, the more you will find affordable options to enhance your food and make it taste better,

Another effective method to make your food taste good is focusing on foods that aren’t cheap because of their poor quality, but because of their high availability. Try to buy produce when it is in season and stick to classic simple foods like beans, pasta, and rice.

James Marshall

About the author

James is a business management professional and consultant with a former background in maintenance, repair, and hands-on projects. He enjoys DIY tasks and maintenance around the home as well as part-time writing. Read more »