I’m as guilty as the next person for reaching for the caffeine when I feel a bit low in energy. The problem with that is it might seem to give you a boost, but it’s short-lived, and you could end up with a headache.
It’s far better to start with your nutrition.
If you are trying to live a frugal life and eat healthily at the same time then I’m here to tell you, that those two things go hand in hand.
If you were to compare the price of a home-cooked meal made with the ingredients I recommend below, with the price of a burger and fries, I bet you will find it comparable, or even cheaper. There, I said it!
Added to that, plenty of the foods I recommend in this post can be bought cheaply in bulk and stock-piled.
What will give you energy besides caffeine?
You will want to focus initially on your first meal of the day, breakfast. Get that right and that’s half your day sorted. What’s great is that you can make yourself, an energy-rich meal at that time very cheaply indeed. Or even have it prepared in advance.
What is the ultimate cheap food?
Let’s start with water!
Water obviously won’t give you the calories needed for life. But low hydration can make you feel lethargic and headachy. If you are suffering from low energy make sure you check your water intake first.
I sometimes use affiliate links. When you click these links and make a purchase, I may get a small commission. It won’t cost you anything but it helps me to run this site.
Cheap foods that give you energy in the morning
One thing to definitely avoid at breakfast time are pre-packed cereals. They are mostly expensive, packed with sugar, and won’t keep you going until lunch. Make your breakfast ‘whole’ with proper ingredients, even if it something you just shove in your bag as you go out the door such as a banana.
Yes. I’m going to mention water again. Improve your digestion, absorption of nutrients, and general energy levels by drinking water in the morning.
Tip: Keep a full glass next to your bed and glug it down as soon as you wake up.
Bananas keep cropping up, don’t they? Such a cheap food, and quick to eat. You will get a tonne of nutrients from a banana and if you don’t have time, pop one in your bag to eat as soon as you get a minute.
Eggs are great for filling you up in the morning. There are a thousand ways to take your eggs in the morning. Don’t have time? Meal prep some ready for the morning or add one to your lunchbox.
If you have some extra budget for food, get yourself a punnet of fruit to make it a little more interesting. Blueberries are a great choice, they are packed with goodness and help to boost your brain function.
The types of foods that naturally give you energy all day
Here’s a tip: eat little and often, that way you avoid energy slumps, but, with one rule of thumb, make sure it is whole, unprocessed and doesn’t contain high sugar content.
Foods that give you an energy boost during the day
These types of foods give you a slow release of energy, during the day.
Complex (not simple) carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are the kind that give you a slow release of energy. They won’t give you a sugar rush. Complex carbs include things like brown rice, wholemeal bread, pulses, oats and nuts.
You will find simple and refined carbohydrates in sweets, biscuits and cakes. These types of foods will give you some energy but it won’t last as long.
The types of foods that give you energy fast
Need some energy quick? Reach for that banana you put in your bag or make yourself some homemade oat bars. These homemade flapjacks can be made in no time and will keep you going for days.
- 175g/6oz melted butter
- 175g/6oz golden syrup
- 175g/6oz muscovado sugar
- 350g/12oz porridge oats
Then press the mixture into a baking dish and bake at 150C (130C fan oven) for 40 minutes. When cooked cut into squares.
If you are cutting down on your fat intake try this easy flapjack recipe without butter.
Cheap foods to give you energy before a workout
Any whole fruit would work well before a workout. Make sure it is not in the form of juice. You need to have the whole fruit including the fibre which will slow down digestion and spread the energy throughout your workout rather than at the beginning.
Great cheap foods to have at this time are bananas and apples. You could also make yourself a homemade energy bar as above.
Top cheap foods that give you energy to keep in stock
Keep these cheap foods in your pantry at all times and you will always keep your grocery bill low and your energy levels up.
Make sure you always have a bag of potatoes in your cupboard because they are regarded as one of the most satiating foods you can eat. Plus, they are super cheap to buy and very easy to prepare.
Potatoes are high in carbohydrates and should keep energy levels up all day.
If you have more potatoes than you can eat now, why not freeze your potatoes? As long as you cook them or parboil them first, potatoes will keep in the freezer for up to three months.
Brown rice has more fibre and essential nutrients in it than white rice, which makes it better for controlling blood sugar levels. Brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice.
If you don’t have time consider making your rice ahead and reheating it later.
Eggs are fabulous and cheap to have at any time of the day. They are full of nutrients and proven to keep you full compared to other foods with the same calorie content.
The price of eggs can vary. The most expensive are organic free-range. If you want to save the most money, go for eggs that come from caged hens.
Apples and bananas
Fruits such as bananas and apples do a great job of filling you up at mealtimes or as a healthy snack. If you are going to add more fruit to your diet, make sure it is the whole fruit rather than just the juice. That way, you consume the fibre too which is better for filling you up.
Quinoa is the ultimate cheap food packed with beneficial nutrients. It also has a low glycemic index making it a great choice for low carb diets. Quinoa has a nutty texture and is naturally gluten-free. You can buy it in most supermarkets.
Yes, I already mentioned that I have a sack of this at home! The ultimate cheap breakfast meal is porridge of course.
If you buy oats in their whole form rather than the individual packets you will get the best value for money. Plus, oats give you an increased feeling of fullness compared to ready to eat cereals.
I’m talking specifically about beans and lentils. These types of foods have a high protein value and low calorific count. The high fibre content combined with protein makes them a very satisfying food.
The great news is that these types of foods are all very cheap as long as you buy them whole, i.e not in a tin. You can cook your beans by soaking them overnight and then boiling them according to the directions. If you have a pressure cooker you can cook them from raw (no soaking) for about 30 minutes.
Red lentils are great because you can throw raw (no need to pre-cook) into casseroles and curries for added bulk and nutrition.
Thinking of getting a pressure cooker? Read this first – Are Pressure Cookers Worth Buying?
I have to say popcorn is a new one for me. I’ve had a jar of popping corn in my cupboard for years because the kids like to make it sometimes. But actually, popcorn is a fantastic low-calorie and satisfying snack as long as you don’t add a tonne of sugar to it.
Green leafy veg
If I’m short on money for the week, I will always top up with green leafy vegetables, specifically cabbages. This is the one fresh item that you can overbuy for the week because cabbage tends to last pretty well in the refrigerator. If you need to use them up they make a great soup that you can freeze.