A List of Foods that are Cheap and that AREN’T beans

The first thing that comes to mind when we think about cheap staple foods is beans.  That’s why today I’m going to be sharing a list of foods that are frugal, but are NOT beans.

list of foods

When it comes to beans, I can really take them or leave them.  While I enjoy beans in chili, beyond that I don’t really eat them all that often.  I love a good black bean, but I stay far away from the kidney beans.  And let’s not even talk about lima beans!  They have NO place on my plate.  Just sayin’.

I always felt kind of bad for not liking beans.  I mean, if I called myself a frugal person, didn’t I have to embrace beans with open arms, convincing anyone that came my way that you just have to know how to cook them properly (which, hey, in all fairness could be true.)

If you love beans, by all means keep adding them to your meals.  They are so good for you and they are insanely cheap.  I really wish I could learn to love them.  But I just can’t.

If you buy beans in the can they are already cheap, but if you buy them dry in the bag they will save even more.  I’ve cooked black beans and chickpeas (my one other legume I’ll eat willingly and even enjoy it) in the crock pot when I bought them dry and then I package them up in smaller portions and stick them in the freezer until I want to use them.

So, really, if you enjoy them, beans are a great way to save money in the kitchen.

But let’s be honest.  There’s a ton of people -not just me – who don’t like beans.  And it’s okay if you are one of them.

The truth is, while beans and rice for dinner every night is super cheap, it isn’t the only thrifty option and trust me, you’d most likely tire of it quickly.  My children are pretty thankful that we don’t eat beans every night.  They love them in chili just like me, but beyond that, let’s just say it’s not their first choice.  Or second or third.

I’ve spent years and years learning how to be frugal in the kitchen.  The kitchen was always the place that made sense to me to try and save money because it was the one area I actually had control over when everything else felt out of my control.

Therefore, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what cheap staple foods are helpful in a small budget and how to make meals out of them that my whole family would love.

Turns out a lot of frugal foods are absolutely delicious and if made right, you don’t feel like you are being deprived at all.  Many of my favorite foods would fall into the cheap staple foods category.

My favorite cheap foods to buy are the ones that are versatile and can be used a variety of ways.  Not only does that make it cheaper because more often you can buy it in bulk and save a bit more money, but you don’t get sick of the food that is super affordable. If you get tired of eating it one way, you just make it another way the next time!

Many of the foods on this list can be used for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or even for snacks!


1. Pasta – Spaghetti, pasta salad, or use it in casseroles or soup.  Pasta is one of my favorite comfort foods and it is so versatile.  You can add meat to the sauce or leave it plain.  You can cover the pasta with marinara or alfredo, or just some butter and cheese.  You can fry up leftovers ( I love fried spaghetti.)  Kids love it, adults love it, and it pairs well with homemade bread for a cheap meal all around.

2.  PotatoesLoaded potato soup is my favorite way to use potatoes, and you can grab a recipe for that here.  You can also have a potato bar for dinner where everyone can put their own toppings on their baked potato.  Anything from broccoli and cheese to chili to some butter and sour cream are perfect toppings for spuds.

3.  Oatmeal –  Yes, we’ve had oatmeal for dinner.  Add raisins, coconut, sunflower seeds, etc. for extra nutrition.  Or have it for breakfast, lunch, or just a snack.  Again, another comfort food in my books.  You can also add oatmeal to things like meatballs and smoothies.  Oatmeal is also really good for you.  We buy ours in bulk.  Check out my favorite way to use oatmeal for breakfast with this Amish Baked Oatmeal recipe.

4.  Homemade Bread –  Obviously you are going to pair this with other food to make a complete meal, but a hearty and fresh homemade bread with potato or broccoli soup is a perfect meal on those rainy or snowy nights.  These Skillet Garlic Rosemary Rolls are a family favorite to make around here.

5.  Whole Chicken –  Yes, meat can be cheap if purchased correctly.  A whole chicken gives our family around three meals.  Once you cook it take all the meat off the bone and use it IN other dishes to make it stretch,  such as stir fries, stews, or casseroles.  And then make broth from the bones in your crock pot.  Make meat a side, not the main star of the meal.

6.  Eggs – Quiche, omelets, egg salad sandwiches, deviled eggs, hard boiled eggs, scrambles, etc.  The list is endless when it comes to how to make or use eggs.  You can also use them in desserts too like vanilla custard. 

7.  Rice (without beans!) – Top it with veggies and meat and soy sauce, like the meat from that whole chicken you just cooked. 🙂  Our favorite type of rice is basmati, but to go even cheaper just get the plain white rice.  You can add rice to things like soups, meatballs, and even desserts like pudding!

8.  Carrots.  Carrots are a super cheap vegetable that you can make as a side dish, steamed or roasted.  They are great to serve raw with a meal too.  If you have kids like mine who need something to dip them in, pair them with some ranch dressing and everyone is happy!

9.  Apples.  When it comes to fruit apples are perfect for a frugalista. 🙂  They are cheap, and they are healthy. I ate hundreds of apples as a kid, and I still enjoy a good apple now.  My kids eat apples for snacks regularly.


These are cheap staple foods my family regularly consumes and enjoys.  It keeps our grocery bill down and prevents us from living off of just beans.  This is a list of foods that are alternatives to beans, but often just shopping the sales can give you a variety of food options to purchase at a low price.

While I don’t expect I’ll be finding lobster or T-bone steak at a ridiculously low price in the flyers, many other foods will go on sale at one time or another during the year. So watch those flyers before you plan your meals, and work your meal plan around that.

Speaking of meal planning, if you actually plan out your meals you will save money that way as well.  If you haven’t meal planned before or are looking for a printable calendar to write out your meals onto, be sure to check out how to get started meal planning.

Is there an extremely cheap food staple you keep in your pantry or fridge most of the time that I don’t have on the list here?  What is it?  What can you make with it?  I’d love for you to share it in the comments below. 🙂


List of Foods that are cheap and that aren't beans
Article Name
List of Foods that are cheap and that aren't beans
You don't need to eat beans to save money. Try these options for frugal staple foods.
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Simple Life of a Frugal Wife

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