Budget-Friendly Foods: 40 Cheap Options for When You’re Broke

Are you struggling with a tight budget and searching for the cheapest foods? If you’re exploring wallet-friendly yet delicious food options that won’t compromise your health, you’ve come to the right place. We will unveil the 50+ cheap foods that assist in saving some dollars while grocery shopping.

Secondly, we will discuss the meal ideas, cost, and best nutrition facts. This article is valuable for those who face financially tight situations and want to save money at the month’s end.

Table of Contents

Cheap Good Food

Let’s dig a little deeper; according to the price index report, the prices of foods increased from 0.5% to 10.6% in November compared to the previous year. And the costs of restaurant meals have also increased by 8.5% in the past few months.

Due to the high prices, buying grocery items is challenging. Nowadays, everyone wants to save money on grocery shopping due to the upcoming global recession, rising food costs, economic changes, and food shortages.

On the other hand, if you are also facing this problem, there is no need to stop eating to overcome this problem. You need to follow different plans to live a prosperous life. For example, make a budget, buy cheap foods, and cut on non-essential expenses.

At the end of the month, saving money can be used for different purposes, such as paying off debt, transportation, housing, or education expenses and breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.  

However, the grocery budget is more flexible than the housing and transportation budgets, so it is an excellent place to begin if you seek to reduce your spending immediately.

How to Cut Your Grocery Budget Quickly?

Are you looking for a quick way to reduce your grocery budget? A simple way to reduce food consumption is to minimize grocery spending and follow alternative ways. For example, stop eating bad, expensive food and cut on useless spending habits.

Adult obesity levels in America remain unacceptably high, which is alarming. The report states that nearly 45% of adults suffer from obesity. A thoughtful way is to use free money-making apps like Ibotta while grocery shopping.

How to Use Ibotta?

  • Firstly, install the application on your smartphone.
  • Create an account by providing all the required data.
  • After the data, choose your favorite retailer.
  • Includes an offer to your list after finding them.
  • Now, rebate your offers by clicking on the plus button.
  • Next, go shopping.
  • Upload your receipt immediately and scan it.

Moreover, users also have a chance to earn cash back on shopping from Ibotta. After making the first $20, you can redeem this money on your PayPal or personal bank account and get a gift card. If you want to save money, always plan to shop through Ibotta. 

Free Food Places When you’re Broke or on a Budget

Here are the best options to get free food if you don’t have money for groceries. 

  • Facebook Freecycle groups
  • Food co-ops
  • Friends and family members
  • Foraging
  • Food banks
  • Local churches
  • Social services department 

Cheapest Foods For College Students

It is difficult for students to prepare and cook a cheap meal at home because they face many problems. For example, due to the fear of fire hazards, many doormats are prohibited from using toaster ovens, slow cookers, and hotplates.

At that time, you need to be creative. And use other methods while preparing a cheap healthy meal with $10 and a microwave at home. Here are some cheap microwave meals you can make:

Microwaved Eggs:

  • Firstly, break two eggs and put them in a cup.
  • Then, add one milk’s tablespoon to the cup. You can add shredded cheese and a small amount of pepper and salt. 
  • After that, mix all the items well.
  • In the end, cook for thirty seconds. Stir well and again cook for an additional thirty seconds.

Microwaved Oats:

  • Get half a cup of oats. 
  • Include half a cup of milk or water
  • Then add a pinch of salt
  • Dash of cinnamon or vanilla 
  • Mix all the items and give heat for 90 seconds
  • You can add more items for toppings to make it beautiful and delicious.

Mac & Cheese:

  • Get 1/3 cup of dry elbow pasta
  • Add 12 tablespoons of water
  • Give heat and set a timer for approximately 180 seconds.
  • Stain all the extra water
  • Mix four tablespoons of milk 
  • Include 2 to 4 tablespoons of cheese
  • Half teaspoon flour or cornstarch
  • Again, put it into a microwave and set a timer for up to 60 seconds.
  • Mix well, and for taste, use salt and pepper in a small amount.


  • Firstly, put a fish in a dish.
  • Then, use salt, cajun, spices, and garlic. 
  • Use one teaspoon of lemon juice, stock, and water.
  • Afterward, wrap a fish with a plastic cover or use a microwave lid for marination.
  • Give microwave heat between 3 to 5 minutes. 
  • Wait for a few minutes before removing the lid from the fish.

Microwaved Frozen Veggies:

Cook a frozen vegetable bag by following the bag instructions. However, if you want to cook a small portion of vegetables from the bag, follow the mentioned guidelines.

  • Add half a cup of frozen vegetables to a bowl.
  • Add a small amount of water.
  • Use plastic wrap, a lid, or a plate to cover the bowl.
  • Give heat for 2 minutes. 
  • Stir and check that it is ready.
  • If you think it is not ready, give it 30 seconds of heat. 


  • Add half a cup of popcorn to a bowl.
  • Use a lid or plate to cover the bowl.
  • Microwave for two to five minutes. 
  • Ultimately, use oil, salt, melted butter, and cheese powder according to your desire.


  • Use a glass dish or bowl double the size of the bean’s volume.
  • Soak beans in water for a period of seven to twelve hours.
  • For example, if you have a half pound of dry beans, soak them in two cups of water.
  • Now, include butter, bacon fat, margarine, and desired seasonings.
  • After mixing all the items, cover with a lid or glass plate and cook in a microwave for seven to ten minutes.
  • Stir, and cook for 15-40 minutes 
  • Check after every 15 minutes for doneness
  • In the end, drain the extra water and enjoy.
Cheap Foods To Buy When you're Broke

Best Cheap Foods to Buy in Bulk

Nowadays, if your financial condition is stable and you save a few dollars at the month’s end after paying all the expenses, buying in bulk for bad times is good. However, consider some points before buying bulk food items because there are many things to consider.

For example, there are chances that your food stockpile will expire or become bad before use. However, always buy food items with a long life, and you can use them whenever you want. Here are the best food items that you can buy in bulk quantity.

  • Coconut oil
  • Canned meats
  • Frozen Berries
  • Grains
  • Nuts in the shell (hazelnuts, chestnuts, and pine nuts)
  • Oats
  • Protein powders
  • Peanut butter

On the other hand, always avoid bulk from purchasing items that have a short life. Because, in the long run, it can waste your spending. Here are the food items that you should not buy in bulk quantity.

  • Condiments
  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Oils 
  • Spices 
  • Green Beans
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Avocados
  • Kale

Cheap Meat/Proteins Foods to Buy When Broke

Below are some cheap, healthy, and relatively cheap foods you can add to your shopping cart to save money.

cheap foods


Beans contain several nutrients, including protein, dietary fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium, and many vitamins. You can consider them for their low cost.

Add beans to salads, soups, and wraps for a healthy, filling meal. A simple bean dish can also be made by pairing beans with rice and the seasonings of your choice.


A Pinto 32-ounce bean bag costs $1.48.

Calories per 100g: 347

Meals Ideas: 

You can use beans in different recipes for ground beef, hummus, turkey, chili, tacos, and many soups.


Eggs are beneficial for our health because they contain different nutrients for mental health. The price of the eggs depends on where you purchase them.

You should consider the local grocery stores if you are looking for fresh eggs. Choose free-range and brown eggs and store them in a freezer for three to five weeks.


The one dozen eggs cost $1.44.

Calories per large boiled egg: 78

Meal Ideas: 

Use eggs in toast, salad sandwiches, stirfry, omelets, fried rice, quiche, etc. 

Peanut Butter:

Peanut butter is a very economical product that lasts for a long time. It is also very popular among children. A peanut butter sandwich and a banana were usually the items that I packed for my lunch during my lean days.

Secondly, it is healthy food, and we should use it a small amount. Peanut butter is rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, niacin, and manganese.


The average 18-ounce jar cost is $1.57. 

Calories per 100g: 588

Meal Ideas: 

Use peanut butter in sauces, curries, tortillas, and more.


A simple and cheapest way to add a lot of protein to your diet is to purchase lentils dry. The beans do not need to be soaked for an extended period and cook much faster than other dry beans.

Secondly, they are full of fiber, potassium, and zinc. There is no need to prepare lentil or chili soup because both are tasty and quickly cooked.


The average 16-ounce bag’s price is $0.98.

Calories per 100g: 120

Meal Ideas: 

Use lentils in stews, soups, ethnic dishes, salads, and even lentil burgers.

Canned fish:

Fish is a healthy diet and a good iron, omega-3, and zinc source. A salmon or tuna fish can is a cheap and healthy alternative to fresh fish. 

Secondly, it is affordable and does not need to be refrigerated. It also has three to five years of life, so you can stock up when it’s on sale.


The average 5-ounce can’s charge is $0.68.

Calories per 100g: 116

Meal Ideas: 

Use salmon or tuna in cakes, melts, casseroles, fish salad, and sandwiches.

Whole or ground chicken:

Chicken is the best and most economical food item to buy when you are broke. For example, a whole chicken is sufficient for your weekly meal, but it depends on how you use it.

Secondly, buying a whole fresh chicken is cheaper than buying thighs or drumsticks. Compared to the other food items, inflation primarily affects the poultry sector and its price increases. 


  • The per-pound price of the whole chicken is $0.97. 
  • Secondly, the boneless or skinless per-pound breast price is $1.99. 
  • Thirdly, the per pound ground chicken price is $2.97.
  • Fourthly, the per-pound frozen thighs price is $1.18. 

Meal Ideas: 

Use chicken to prepare roasted chicken, tacos, rice, soups, stirfry, casseroles, chicken carcasses, and pasta. 

Ground Beef:

Compared to chicken, ground beef may be more expensive. It is undeniably a cheaper alternative to roast, even though it is more costly.

Further, there are numerous ways in which you can extend the usefulness of ground beef in a meal. One of my favorite ways to save money is to wait for a discount or sale and stock up when it comes.


The average per-pound ground beef price is $3.55.

Meal Ideas: 

Use in burgers, tacos, meatballs, enchiladas, meatloaf, chili, beef stroganoff, and shepherd’s pie. 

Cheapest Grains Foods to Buy When Broke


Brown rice is healthier and more costly than white rice because it has fewer additives and more fiber. It will not spike insulin levels if we prepare brown rice with fried vegetables and eggs.

The grain of rice is a very filling and inexpensive food, but I prefer brown rice to white rice because brown rice contains more fiber and takes less time to cook.

Due to more fiber, it is helpful to control appetite. However, brown rice’s flavor is sometimes nutty, which can affect dishes. It is wise to take advantage of rice whenever you find a discount on rice because you can easily store it for more than one year. 


The average price of a white 32-ounce bag of rice is -$1.44. And the 32-ounce bag of brown rice price is $1.37. 

Calories per 100g: 130

Meal Ideas: 

Use rice in stir fry, soups, casseroles, beans, and Oriental dishes.


Pasta is an excellent choice for a cheap, delicious food source. Several different dishes can be prepared using pasta. There is something for everyone among the many pasta shapes, sizes, and colors available.

You can do various things depending on what you wish to prepare with pasta. Just a few ingredients and some creativity will enable you to create the elusive dish. This is whether you use just a few vegetables, meats, and cheeses or include a variety. 

Moreover, it is a good option for college students because they can easily make ramen. You can make your own if you cannot locate a pasta sauce that meets your needs. When shopping for pasta, look for great deals on pasta brands and styles and adjust your recipe to save as much money as possible.


The average 16-ounce pasta box is $0.82. 

Calories per 100g: 360

Meal Ideas: 

Use pasts in spaghetti, soups, fettuccine, lasagna, casseroles, and macaroni.


The benefits of consuming these foods include that they are gluten-free, nutrient-dense can help lower cholesterol levels, and are safe to eat.

Additionally, oatmeal is not only an excellent source of carbohydrates but also versatile and can be used to prepare many healthy, savory dishes.

You can prepare oat rolls with it, breakfast dishes with it, such as this protein overnight oats recipe, or even sweet dishes like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Old-fashioned oats are better than instant oats to consume much fiber. A food processor can process oat flour if you need it.


The average 18-ounce oat container cost is $1.76.

Calories per 100g: 389

Meal Ideas: 

Use oats to prepare overnight oats, homemade granola, oat bars, and oatmeal cookies. 


Compared to white rice, quinoa includes more fiber and protein. It is a healthier option and quickly fills you up. It is good if you don’t have sufficient money. 


The average 16-ounce quinoa bag price is $2.97.

Meal Ideas: 

Use it in salads, side dishes, tacos, power bowls, and soups.

Wheat bread:

If you constantly struggle to make ends meet, you will always want to keep some bread to help you during those times. Whether you eat it for breakfast or lunch, it can serve as a centerpiece.

Avoid spending a lot of money on expensive artisan loaves of bread and opt for store-brand loaves instead. Whole wheat has increased slightly in price, but it remains very affordable.


The average cost of 20 ounces of wheat bread is $1.48.

Calories per 100g: 265

Meal Ideas: 

Use in sandwiches, bread pudding, french toast, served with soup and as a side to any meal. 


Eating popcorn instead of chips is a convenient way to save money and eat a healthier snack. Air-popped popcorn is a healthy snack that can be made better by lightly seasoning and air-popping. You can also save considerable money by purchasing gourmet popcorn instead of microwaveable kernels.

Cheap Dairy Foods to Buy When Broke

Cheap Foods To Buy When Broke


If you have a few dollars in your wallet, buy one gallon of milk and preserve it in a freezer. For example, divide one gallon into two small portions. Then fill it with water and place it in a freezer for later. Secondly, before freezing, leave a small space at the top side of the bottle because milk expands and takes more space when frozen.  


The average per gallon price is $2.73.

Calories per 100ml: 64

Use In: 

Use milk to make bread, cereal, sauces, and oatmeal.

Block Cheese:

If you want to save more money, never use pre-shredded cheese slices and always cut the slice for yourself.  


The average per 8-ounce block is $1.83.

Use In: 

Put cheese on just about everything. 


If you purchase small-size pre-flavored yogurt containers, skip them because you waste a lot of money. You can save money by purchasing large tubs of plain and vanilla yogurt. A yogurt takes a long time to go wrong. It is used with all dishes. I use it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is healthier for the body because it contains calcium and protein.  


The average 32-ounce cheese price is $1.84.

Calories per 100g: 61

Use In: 

Use yogurt in making smoothies, homemade bread, muffins, pancakes, and snacks.

Cheap Fruit Foods to Buy When Broke

cheapest foods


Bananas are cheap and rich in fiber, B6, and potassium. You can buy bananas at any time of the year. 


The average per-pound banana cost is $0.53.

Calories per 100g: 89 

Use In: 

Use bananas in meals like banana bread, pancakes, muffins, smoothies, toppings, wraps, and snacks.


There are different kinds of apples worldwide, each with a special flavor and quality. The popular apples are Cripps Pink, Gala, Granny Smith, McIntosh, and Envy. If you don’t have enough resources, you can buy cheap apples, which never disturbs your monthly budget.


The average per-pound gala apple price is $1.32. And red delicious per pound apple’s price is $1.10. 

Calories per 1 medium-sized apple: 95

Use In: 

Salads, snacks, desserts, and baked goods.


Citrus is an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber. Oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruits are good for our health and save us from cancer, diabetes, and neurological disease. You can buy citrus fruits without breaking your budget.


The per pound navel oranges price is $1.37. And the per pound of lemons or Grapefruit apple’s price is $1.99 or $1.08, respectively. 

Use On: 

Citrus is used in seafood, snacks, salads, and desserts. 

Cheap Vegetables Foods to Buy When Broke

Cheap Food To Buy When Broke

  • Frozen Broccoli
  • Frozen Stir Fry Veggies
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Lettuce
  • Garlic
  • Spinach
  • Cucumber
  • Kale
  • Frozen cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Frozen corn
  • Canned tomatoes and jarred tomato sauce


Sweet potatoes are healthier and an excellent substitute for white potatoes. Preparing sweet potato pies with them is possible because they are naturally sweet. Sweet potatoes are versatile since they can be served as a side dish, like sweet potato fries, or as a main course.

Potatoes are healthier because they are rich in fiber, Vitamin C, and potassium. Compared to the medium size banana, it has more neutrinos.


The average per pound russet potatoes cost is $0.33. And a pound of sweet potatoes costs $0.67. 

Calories per 100g: 77

Meal Ideas: 

Use potatoes to create meals like Loaded baked potatoes, fried potatoes, potato soup, mashed potatoes, and sweet potato fries.


Carrots should be one of the foods you can get at a lower cost since there are a number of them that you can purchase at a lower price. The cost of carrots is generally cheaper when purchased in bulk. You may also consider baby carrots an excellent choice if you can find them at an affordable price.


The average per-pound carrots price is $0.69. 

Calories per 100g: 41

Meal Ideas: 

You can use carrots in snacks, stews, soups, casseroles, and stir fry.

Frozen Vegetables:

Frozen or canned vegetables are not a substitute for fresh vegetables. If you purchase the generic brand, you can usually find packs of beans for less than $1.00 at your local grocery store. Add them to soup or cook them for a quick side dish.

Secondly, it is good to use when there is no season for fresh vegetables. They are affordable and have a long life.

Meal Ideas: 

Use frozen veggies to make dishes like a vegetable omelet, soup, pie, and fried rice.

Average price: $1.5/$3

Calories per 100g: 60

Frozen Fruit:

Canned fruit isn’t as good as frozen fruit when it comes to fruit. However, frozen fruit can be even superior to canned fruit regarding quality. When everyone is rushing around to prepare for work on those hectic weekday mornings, nothing is better than making a quick smoothie.

You may thaw it and serve it as a side dish or use it. By reducing food waste, frozen food reduces your food expenditure because no waste is associated with it.

Best Pantry Staples Cheap Foods to Buy When Broke


Flour is an excellent and affordable food option for someone who enjoys cooking from scratch. Use this ingredient to make bread, tortillas, pizza crusts, and more. Flour is an excellent source of carbohydrates and fiber, saving you a lot of money when you cook with it.

Choose a flour type that fits your budget to get the exact amount you need for your recipe. Whole wheat flour is the most nutritious flour, along with all-purpose flour. The fact that it can be used for various meals makes it one of the most versatile pantry staples. Save money by stocking up next time.


The average 10-pound flour bag is $2.24.

Calories per 100g: 364

Meal Ideas: 

Use flour in baked goods, bread, pancakes, pie crusts, biscuits, and pizza dough.


You can buy cereal for a low price, making it one of the cheapest foods on the market. A delicious breakfast is a perfect way to start the day, or it can be a snack between meals. There is a wide variety of cereals, so choose a cereal that will suit everyone’s tastes.

To reduce the cost of your cereal, you should purchase generic brands and larger boxes. Cheap boxes of this size from trendy brands are usually more affordable than one-half as significant from back-to-school brands. Generally, more traditional cereals, such as cornflakes and oat cereals, are less expensive.


The average price of cereal is $0.75.

Calories per 100g: 375

Bagged Salad:

Buying salad mixes in bags can be a rather difficult decision, as there are some factors to consider. There is some lettuce, a few carrots, purple cabbage leaves, and whatever else you can think of in the crisper. You can prepare this salad. 

However, bagged salads are on sale at desirable prices, so keep an eye out because it is worthwhile. Our region has quite a few markets that offer buy-one, get-one-free deals, making them a very economical option for grocery shopping.

Ramen Noodles:

It is easy to customize ramen noodles based on your taste and budget. There is generally a price difference between $0.50 and $0.75 per package, and they can last from six months to one year when stored properly. Ramen noodles are considered cheap, high-protein foods despite their high sodium content.


The average price of cereal is $0.50.

Calories per 100g: 380

Examples of Meals You Can Make from Cheap Foods to Buy When You’re Broke

Here are the best meals you can make from cheap foods.

Cheap Foods Breakfast Ideas:

  • Toast with butter, peanut butter, or jam 
  • Toast with peanut butter and bananas
  • Egg omelet with spinach
  • Oats with mashed banana 
  • Oatmeal
  • Cream of wheat
  • Cereal with or without milk
  • Oatmeal and banana cookies
  • Waffles or pancakes 
  • Scrambled eggs with salsa
  • Fried eggs with toast

Cheap Foods Lunch Ideas:

  • Baked potato with ranch or sales
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with an apple
  •  Ramen noodles with chopped vegetables
  • Lunch meat and cheese sandwich with an apple
  • Tuna fish with pickles, sandwiches, and chopped carrots 
  • Macaroni and cheese with vegetables
  • Bologna sandwiches
  • Egg salad sandwiches
  • Green salad with a hard-boiled egg, a little chicken, or beans. 
  • Baked sweet potato with a bit of margarine or cinnamon and sugar

Cheap Foods Dinner Ideas:

  • Pasta and broccoli
  • Beans and rice
  • Chilli macaroni and cheese
  • Hot dogs and fries
  • Chicken or vegetarian stir fry with rice
  • Meatless taco soup
  • Homemade vegetarian chili with cornbread
  • Egg fried rice
  • Squash soup with homemade rolls
  • Bean and cheese burritos
  • Lentils and rice
  • Meatless spaghetti
  • Chicken and rice with steamed carrots or vegetables
  • Chicken Alfredo with broccoli
  • Homemade chicken noodle soup
  • Green salad with chicken
  • Tuna macaroni and cheese
  • Ramen noodles with chicken and vegetables
  • Fried potatoes and hot dogs 

Best methods to save money on groceries

Following are the best ways that you can follow to save money.

  • Plan your meals and stick to the list
  • Purchase your favorite items during a sale
  • Make a meal plan based on the sale items
  • Buying grocery items in a bulk quantity
  • Check desired items at the clearance aisle
  • Buy things related to the generic brand 
  • Check out the dollar store
  • Always buy seasonal products
  • Use cash-back apps or buy with cards that give you rewards
  • Cut back on less popular meat.
  • Cut out dessert.
  • Use coupons and other cash rewards.
  • Use a rebate program.
  • Explore affordable grocery stores.
  • Use homemade food.

How to Eat Healthy Foods?

  • Grow your food on your farms.
  • Shop at farmer’s markets.
  • Know the best time to shop
  • Eat meat in less quantity. 

Which foods, grains, legumes, seeds, and starches are naturally gluten-free?

  • Dairy products
  • Amaranth
  • Fruits
  • Sorghum
  • Vegetables
  • Corn
  • Fish and seafood
  • Nut flours
  • Meat and poultry
  • Beans
  • Chia
  • Flax
  • Millet
  • Tapioca
  • Potato
  • Quinoa
  • Rice Soy

Final Thoughts

Would you like to avoid going over budget with expensive food items? It would be wise to reduce your grocery expenditures if you are on a restricted budget.

The purpose of this is to save a bit of money on your food or to save a little more money in general. Food prices are on the rise, which can make grocery shopping a real challenge. Buying alternative foods while staying on a budget.

When you compile a list of inexpensive foods, you will discover that you can make different meals. Having money scarcity and not knowing how to make ends meet, we have all had times when making ends meet became difficult.

Use these cheaper foods as a reference when shopping for more affordable foods, or include them on your shopping list. When you plan, you can stay on budget and save money. When shopping at the grocery store, list what you need, look for sales, and choose generic brands.


What is the cheapest food to live off of?

The cheapest food is rice, pasta, beans, eggs, bread, and oatmeal.

What should I eat with no money?

You can eat different items without money, like mac and cheese, microwaved oats, scrambled eggs, and frozen veggies.

Why buy cheap food when broken?

People buy cheap foods because their budget is tight, and they do not have much money to eat from restaurants or spend more. Secondly, they want to quit the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

Where to buy cheap food when broken?

Local Walmart is the best option for buying cheap food if you come from a smaller town or city. On the other hand, visit different supermarkets to get the best price if you live in a big city. 

Where to buy gluten-free foods cheaply?

  • Here are the best places to gluten-free cheap foods;
  • Amazon
  • Azure Standard
  • Thrive Market
  • Hive
  • Vitacost

What food can you make a lot of for cheap?

It includes beans, pasta, rice, and soup.

How do you buy cheap food when broken?

You can use a grocery price comparison sheet to buy cheap foods when broken. 

Who should buy cheap food when broken?

Everyone should buy cheap food when broke. 

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Jessica joined savvybudgetnow in 2022 as a Content Analyst. An MBA-Finance graduate from Alaska Pacific University with three years of experience. She is a seasoned content writer specializing in finance niches and has worked as a content writer with Yahoo Finance, adding to her extensive expertise. Follow her on Twitter (@JessicaArn97) and LinkedIn (@jessica-arnold-53132120b)

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