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Huge income cut...cheap healthy food ideas?

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Old 05-21-2010, 10:14 AM   #1
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Default Huge income cut...cheap healthy food ideas?

Hi friends...my finances have been hit pretty hard the last few months and I'm looking for some cheap recipes or food ideas for healthy eating. I have discovered this ethnic market right up the street from my house that really reasonable prices on vegetables and things like pita bread, grains, beans, etc.

I had been buying a huge bag of frozen chicken breast, cooking it all up on the weekend and portioning it out for lunches for the week. Buying bags of prepared salads and spinach but lately the grocery bill is getting out of hand.

I'm in a rut and broke! Tell me how you eat cheap and still lose weight! Too bad the yucky food is so inexpensive. I could eat at McD's every day for lunch for about $3.50 which is much cheaper than buying whole foods but that is what got me into this mess!
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Old 05-21-2010, 10:30 AM   #2
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Buy dried beans and legumes as a protein source. You can get a pound for under a dollar, then just soak and cook them all and portion out and freeze. Pintos, black beans, white beans, limas, split peas, lentils are all great! Also brown rice is cheap.

Buy whatever veggies/fruits are on sale for the week and freeze them in batches when they are super cheap.

That alone will save you a ton... you can go a long ways on simple meals. Not as fun as eating out but if you eat this way 5 days a week you can splurge a little the other days on healthy but more expensive items.
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Old 05-21-2010, 10:32 AM   #3
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you can check out the Shoestring Meals forum for lots of good ideas. http://www.3fatchicks.com/forum/shoestring-meals-235/

But in general, the more prep you do yourself, the cheaper the cost. I buy all of my veggies in the least expensive version and then do the prep myself, like I peel and cut up whole carrots instead of buying baby carrots. Instead of buying prepared salads, I buy heads of leaf lettuce (on sale this week for 88 cents per head) and wash them myself and then layer the washed leaves in between half sheets of paper towels. That keeps them fresh and crispy for several days so I can prep enough to last me for about a week.

I prefer boneless chicken thighs to the breasts. They are a little higher in calories but I like the taste better and they have the advantage of being less expensive. I usually buy them at Costco where they come in giant packs that are already pre-portioned into vacuum sealed bags with 5 thighs in each bag. Or I watch for them on sale at the market and then portion them myself into baggies and cook them up as I need them.
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Old 05-21-2010, 10:36 AM   #4
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For lunch, as boring as this sounds, I eat pb&j sandwiches with Smucker's sugar free jam (Walmart - $2.18) and pb of choice. There are some fairly inexpensive breads out there that go a long way like the Sarah Lee one that are like 45 cals/slice (haven't tried it since I eat some very grainy more expensive bread, but heard it's good) and then I have carrots (2lb bag for about $2.25 when not on sale) and strawberries ($1-1.50/lb) to get some excess fill and help with my daily veggie/fruit intake. I love it. Most people would probably get tired of that day after day but I'm never hungry afterward and it takes me forever to go through everything since I do follow the serving size. Meh, might not be the greatest choice, that's just an idea.

What about buying a head of lettuce, or even romaine, and using that to make salads? You can always shred up some carrot or whatever else you'd like to put in there.

I live in a fairly pricey area without the really well paying job, but I'm 37lbs down and still going strong. I know you're not just buying groceries for you either, which makes things a bit different.
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Old 05-21-2010, 10:44 AM   #5
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Is your cleaning stuff part of your grocery bill? If so, consider switching to less products or making products do more fore you. For example...

I use Dr Bronner's and diliute 1 tbs to 32 oz water for all purpose cleaning spray. That alone is a big savings because then you aren't paying $3-4 per bottle. If you put a squirt into water inside a foaming dispenser, there's your bathroom hand soap too. If you need to, it can be used to wash clothes, floors, and more.

What you save ont he cleaning stuff can then be used on the food part.

Google your area for farmer market and produce stand/stores. That's often cheaper than supermarket.

Are you talking about just cheaper lunches? Or all the meals?

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Old 05-21-2010, 10:48 AM   #6
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One of our favorite meals is burrito bowls - a good way to use the leftover beans you've cooked up earlier in a week. I season some chicken (and also use it on a fresh salad another day), and I start with lettuce and then put salsa, black beans, diced onion, a little corn, hot chili beans, diced tomato, a bit more lettuce and the chicken and a little bit of cheese (but really, I've left it off before and never missed the taste). It's SO filling and this makes enough for a few meals. It IS a lot of bowls for the heating process (!), but the per-meal cost is pretty low since the chicken is just a small part of it.

GOOD luck!

I see there's a Trader Joe's in Seattle - if it's anywhere near you, their peanut butter is SUPERB. All natural - no hydrogenated oils. We skim off a little bit of the oil and then stir it up just to cut that fat a bit and don't miss it at all... it's pretty runny anyway - and mine is under $1.75 a jar. I'll take generic spoonsize plain shredded wheat and a serving of peanut butter and dip it in that for a breakfast.

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone ideas, as well!
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Old 05-21-2010, 10:56 AM   #7
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i used to love the bagged salads too, until i realized they were costing me $3 dollars for about half a head of lettuce, buy whole heads of lettuce for about a $1.50 each and then tear them (not cut) apart and save in airtight containers (ziploc bags, ziploc containers, etc) at the beginning of the week and use throughout the week. also, freezing fruits after stocking up on them while they are on sale, and then later using them for smoothies has been a favorite money saver of mine

also, idk if you have this in your neighborhood, but if you research around for some farmer's markets or less "popular" grocery stores (ones that aren't chains) you can usually get all of your gorceries for much cheaper. I know that I would get a ton of veggies and fruits for my family of 3 (who are big eaters) for about $50 a week! at a normal chain store, that would cost me about $80
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Old 05-21-2010, 10:58 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astrophe View Post

Are you talking about just cheaper lunches? Or all the meals?

A.
It seems that my biggest food expense is my lunch but ideas for lunch and dinner are much appreciated!
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Old 05-21-2010, 10:59 AM   #9
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Start a garden. All you need is seeds and water, the weather is perfect for it. Grow your own veggies or fruit. Pickle some stuff to have during the winter even. This will save you a ton of money, on it's own.

My parents grow tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, squash and strawberries in their garden. Then whatever money you have for groceries can go towards the things you can't just grow on your own.
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Old 05-21-2010, 11:08 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StuffedBunny View Post
Start a garden. All you need is seeds and water, the weather is perfect for it. Grow your own veggies or fruit. Pickle some stuff to have during the winter even. This will save you a ton of money, on it's own.

My parents grow tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, squash and strawberries in their garden. Then whatever money you have for groceries can go towards the things you can't just grow on your own.
I grew up with a garden and while this is a great idea...I live in a Condo with -0- yard. It's too bad. I'd love to grow my own food.
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Old 05-21-2010, 11:47 AM   #11
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One of my favorite websites ever- http://cheaphealthygood.blogspot.com/

They have awesome recipes featured under their recipe link at the top and have lots of good articles on healthy foods, keeping costs down, etc. They also have a lot of vegetarian and even vegan meals.

I've only made a few recipes from there... but they've all been really good! (mmm red lentil soup with lemon!) There's a big variety and it's encouraged me to try new ingredients and foods I hadn't thought of before.
They list out the nutrition information and the cost per serving of each meal too.
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Old 05-21-2010, 12:16 PM   #12
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I make the bread that my family eats, which is far cheaper than buying bread. I have a breadmaker, so that makes the process a little easier, but making bread fully by hand is still not that difficult or time-consuming.

Frozen veggies and fruit are sometimes cheaper than fresh. They also usually come pre-chopped, so that helps with prep time on meals.

Seasonal veggies and fruit are often cheap.

Milk and eggs are generally pretty cheap.

If you buy the cheapest ground beef, fry it up, and then rinse it in hot water--you will get a result that has less fat than the best ground beef but is much cheaper.

If there's a Trader Joe's near you, they have good prices on things like nuts, baking supplies...do compare them to your usual grocery store on everything. We also get their pre-made Thai or Indian sauces when we want to have a "treat" meal but don't want to pay the massive price of getting takeout for a family of 5.

If lunches are a specific issue for you, why not just make extra at dinner and then have leftovers for lunch?
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Old 05-21-2010, 12:49 PM   #13
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I am sorry to hear of your income reduction. That's hard.

Do you have an Aldi's store near where you live? Their prices are low on most things. They even have a Fit and Active brand that is for more healthful varieties of things.

The Aldi's near me is very nice and has great prices on produce.
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:07 PM   #14
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I second Beverly's Aldi idea -- I get 1lb ground turkey for $2.50. CHEAP! Also, if you buy whole chickens vs just the chicken breast you can save a lot of money. It's less than $2 a pound VS chicken breast which is around $4+. If it's just you, you can cut up a whole chicken for just about a week's worth of meals, or just bake the whole thing in some water/chicken stock with vegetables and make some soup with some of the leftovers.
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:15 PM   #15
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Look into Angel Food Ministries - https://www.angelfoodministries.com/. It is like a food coop. I know several people that use it and are very happy. They say they provide enough food to feed a family of 4 for about $30 a week. Some of the food is healthy and some is not.
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