My Simple and Inexpensive Grocery List

Over the past year, most of us have been pushed to cook more than ever. I know I have. Also, I've noticed that the cost of food is rising, and unfortunately many people have to do without.

So I'm sharing my grocery list because it's simple and the ingredients are easily accessible. I hope it helps those who are facing larger grocery bills to wade into using veggies and fruits more effectively. Meals where meat is the main item are expensive (ribs, roasts, drumsticks, 9 piece meals, BBQ, burger patties). Meals where meat is simply another ingredient, like in soups, pastas, salads, or rice bowls, are less expensive.

Having been on food stamps in the past myself, I hope this could also help others use their EBT funds more effectively. I really wish I had this list years ago. Way healthier and cost effective than buying a bunch of frozen pizzas.

With my current lifestyle, I think that if I didn't have this list, having food delivered to my home would not be financially plausible. This list has kept me out the grocery stores and in my house (or car when getting curbside)during this pandemic.

This list is not absolute. I also like to add a couple of seasonal food items to switch things up. Feel free to add anything that makes it more you. Plus this list can easily be adjusted to fit vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, and gluten free diets. At the end of this list are some notes and tips for making fast meals with the following ingredients.

  • Spinach
  • Kidney beans
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes (Both canned and fresh)
  • Black beans
  • Baked beans
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • White potatoes
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Cilantro
  • Bell peppers
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • Oatmeal
  • Mandarins
  • Pineapple
  • Thyme
  • Bullion cubes/stock for soup
  • Pasta Sauce (Tomato based sauces are the most versatile)
  • Cinnamon
  • Olive oil
  • White wine vinegar
  • Mushrooms
  • Paprika
  • Rice
  • Noodles
  • Caribbean and/or Creole seasoning
  • Sea salt
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Parsley
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Peanut butter
  • Honey
  • Pickles
  • Crackers

Animal protein: Chicken, fish, eggs, beef

Dairy: Butter, ghee, goat cheese with herbs, yogurt

Other extras: Wraps, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, bread loaf, jelly, berries, olives, ketchup, cookies, juice, coffee, tea, frozen fruit

Extra-Extras: Furikake Rice Seasoning, Hojicha green tea, Seaweed (Nori), Dashi Power


  • The majority of the produce on this list can be bought canned, fresh, or frozen.
  • Chicken, fish, and beef can be bought canned, fresh or frozen. Chicken can often be bought precooked as well. Other than rotisserie chicken, canned chicken and some frozen chicken is precooked. I confess, I actually love using canned beef with gravy for recipes. I rinse off the gravy and add the nice tender meat to soups and other dishes.
  • To save money and time, buy frozen and canned. Beans are more convenient canned, but if money is more of an issue than time, buy dried beans. And use less meat!!! I find that having beans + meat is very filling. If your not sure how to pair meat with beans, here's a simple place to start: Chicken + Black beans. Beef + Kidney Beans.
  • Batch. Whenever I can, I try to process fresh food in one go. For example, if I need to slice a tomato, I don't stop at one tomato. I slice all of them at once, so they're ready when I need them. I also try to cook all fresh meat at the same time too. By the way, cooked meat can be frozen, creating a quick way to add meat to meals when in a rush.
  • To optimize health, buy fresh, especially if products are in season. Also buy frozen. Canned veggies and beans are also available with salt free and organic options.
  • White wine vinegar + Olive oil + a spritz of lemon juice + sea salt + pepper = a simple tasty salad dressing.
  • Why goat cheese? Goat cheese is crazy versatile. If sprinkled on top of a salad with the above dressing, it mixes to create a slightly creamy dressing. Goat cheese with herbs is great when added to noodles when there is no pasta sauce on hand. It's also good in on top of pasta sauce or mixed into a cold pasta salad. It also tastes good on crackers.
  • Why ghee? It's shelf stable and can last forever. It tastes amazing on bread. I have enjoyed adding a little to my oatmeal in the morning, or using it as an occasional oil replacement.
  • Respect spinach: not only is it nice for making salads, but it can also be easily tossed into soups or pasta sauces as it ages. Plus it freezes well.
  • Potatoes make great snack foods. Slice them up. Add Oil + Salt + Pepper. Bake until done and enjoy. For sweet-potatoes, I like to bake until done and then add ghee + cinnamon.
  • Why Cilantro? This is a herb that tastes great in /on everything. I love it in soups, salads, and pasta sauces. When it comes to pasta, you can also make cilantro into a simple pesto sauce. I also tastes great when added to beef or paired with mushrooms. Cilantro is common in my area so it's easy to find. Another herb with a reputation for being versatile is parsley.
  • About Mushrooms: I am a fan of canned mushrooms. Not only do I not need to prep them, but I don't have to worry about them spoiling in the fridge.
  • Making the most of tomatoes: Buy both diced canned tomatoes and fresh tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are great for whipping up simple, homemade soups. Fresh tomatoes are perfect for salads, wraps and tacos. Are your fresh tomatoes starting to spoil? Chop them up and throw them into a pasta sauce. See below:
  • Personalize that pasta sauce: Add spinach, mushrooms, over-ripe tomatoes, cilantro, and leftover onions and garlic to make a pasta sauce that's not only rich, but also reduces food waste.
  • About Rice, Lettuces, and Noodles: These are the perfect base items for simple meals. Rice + Veggies of choice + protein = a rice bowl meal. Lettuce/spinach + veggies + fruit + protein = a salad meal. Noodles + stock + veggies of choice + protein = a rich noodle soup.
  • Go International with Noodles: Noodles are a staple in many cultures. Italian noodles are the most common in the US, but I also love making meals with ramen noodles. Vietnamese rice noodles are also a possibility for switching things up.
  • Beans on salad: My favorite beans to add to salads are chickpeas/garbanzos and black beans. If the beans are canned, make sure to rinse them before adding to the salad! If they're dry, cook them first!!!
  • Cumin & Thyme: Are you throwing together a pot of soup and find it lacks flavor? Add a teaspoon of either thyme or cumin and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Left over soup + Rice = Instant rice bowl meal.
  • Why garlic and onion powder? When you're caught in a pinch without fresh garlic and onions, these can save a meal. It's not the same as fresh, but having these on stand-by has saved me many times.
  • Why Caribbean and/or Creole seasoning? Tastes great on everything from seafood to poultry, beef, and veggies.
  • Banana + Cinnamon + Peanut Butter + Chocolate Chips = Healthy dessert
  • Apple + Cinnamon + Peanut Butter + Dark chocolate chips = Another healthy dessert (This is a good opportunity to go for the creamy, all-natural peanut butter. Since it's more liquid than other peanut butters, it's not the best for sandwiches, but it is great for drizzling over fruit.)
  • Tired of your useless, runny, natural peanut butter? I've found that putting it in the fridge overnight thickens it up and makes it more spreadable.
  • Japanese efficiency: Recently I was reading A Little Book of Japanese Contentments by Erin Nimi Longhurst. In it ,Longhurst shares many simple recipes and tips for creating Japanese style meals. Around the same time, I was also browsing the blog of Hundred Rabbits. Between the two, I found some ways to bring some versatility to my cooking with a little a bit of Japanese inspiration. Here are my favorite Japanese ingredients for quick meals:
    • Hojicha Roasted Green tea: This tea actually makes a great base for a quick and simple rice soup. Brew a cup of tea, add some rice, veggies, and little meat if you wish, and ta-dah! A quick soup. This is a great way to recover from creating failed rice balls/onigiri. I also love to add a little soy sauce, seaweed, and rice seasoning. See below:
    • Furikake: This is a tasty rice seasoning is great not only on rice, but also in soups.
    • Dashi Powder: Another fast and easy soup base. One of my favorite things about these Japanese ingredients is how easy it is to make an individual serving of soup for lunch.

Inspirations: Hundred Rabbits (Rekka & Devine), Jack Monroe, Pantry cookbooks

  • Many of my recent cooking explorations have been inspired by the zero-waste life style of Rekka & Devine.
  • Jack Monroe's recipes use pretty much every ingredient on this list, except the Japanese condiments.
  • I can't recommend any pantry cookbooks, because I haven't read any, but this list is basically the same concept. It's about every food items in your home having a role to play in your daily diet. You may find them useful.

#lifestyle #eating

- 3 toasts