Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Wausau, WI
When it comes to eating healthier on a tight budget, it's not about being able to do everything that someone else is able to. It's finding a way to do better than you're doing now. Maybe you'll only save $1 a week. That's $1 you can spend on something else (and if you save it, it's $52 you get to spend every year). Maybe that $1 will inspire you to find another way to save another dollar. Maybe you can't save $1, but can save 25 cents.
When talking about food budget, it's about pennies before it's about dimes, before it's about dollars. But it's hard to look at the pennies, because even when you have very little money, it can seem like too much effort to put into saving so little. But truly, as the saying goes - if you watch your pennies, your dollars will take care of themselves.
I've eaten healthfully, weight-consciously (and not) on crazy-small budgets, and I've eaten poorly (as well as healthfully, weight-consciously) on a very generous budget - and probably every combination in between. I started collecting resources on eating and living cheaply (not always healthfully) when I was in college. I kept those books, even when I didn't need them - and when I needed them, I'd pull them out.
Eating without regard to health on a very generous budget, was the easiest. Hubby and I had good jobs. We worked hard, often long hours, and we ate in restaurants almost every day, because it was easiest and we could afford it (and we loved the hedonistic, "gourmet" lifestyle). Hubby can be a bit veggie-phobic so I'll only speak for myself. I wasn't getting short-changed on nutrition. I was eating mostly high-quality - even "healthy" foods, but too much of a good thing, isn't healthy. I ate a lot of veggies and fruits, but fat, sugar, and starch levels more than counteracted the healthfulness of the produce.
Eating healthfully on the crazy-small budget, was by far the most difficult. So difficult, it would have seemed impossible if I hadn't put a great deal of effort into studying the subject. It started with a book called "The Tightwad Gazette," that I bought at a garage sale. Then I began reading everything I could get my hands (er, eyes?) on - books, magazine articles, online articles... I searched on amazon.com -reading all the reviews and suggested reading lists and made a list of books I wanted to read. I checked them out from the library, ordering those that weren't there through interlibrary loan.
I found a way to own those that were the best resources. I'd put the books on my "wish list" at amazon and I printed out the list and took it with me to garage sales, thrift stores... or bought from amazon when I had the money (I never spent more than $5 for any of the books I bought - including shipping).
I tore articles and recipes out of magazines (if the magazine was mine) and copied them, if they weren't. I printed stuff I'd found online. During some of this time, I didn't have a computer of my own, but my sister would let me use her computer. I'd buy reams of paper for her (about $4) to offset the cost of the ink, and as a thank you (It was cheaper than paying 10 cents per page at the library, though sometimes I did that too).
If I hadn't collected all the eat-and-live-cheaply resources (over a span of about 25 years), I also would have said that losing weight on a healthy diet was impossible to do cheaply. I now believe it's possible to do almost anywhere IF you have the knowledge, the desire and the determination (and aren't picky or squeamish).
Some resources weren't very useful to me in terms of their specific tips - but did help me see that my situation was a lot better and easier than I'd imagined. Luckily, I've never had to resort to the advice in books such as
The Art & Science of Dumpster Diving by John Hoffman
How to Survive Without a Salary: Learning How to Live the Conserver Lifestyle by Charles Long
I believe it was the latter that advised even apartment dwellers to raise their own animals for food (pigeons on a rooftop, rabbits or guinea pigs in the basement or in an extra bedroom). Feeding them scavenged food from grocery store dumpsters.
I'm not willing to raise rodents in my home for food - but reading about it (and other equally strange ideas) did help me learn to think outside the box.
I do re-use ziplock bags (but don't wash them in the dishwasher - but maybe I should).
I try to always buy the cheapest option that is feasible (quality and preferences have to go into this equation - because an item that falls apart the day after you buy it, isn't the cheapest. If an object is useful, but you find it hideous, and hate it every time you see it, it's also not a bargain).
I save money on non-food items, to free up more food budget. I shop thrift stores, consignment shops, garage sales, discount stores...
Do you have to read the thousands and thousands of pages of money-saving
ideas to live better, more cheaply (including diet-wise)?
Absolutely not. You start with one tip that sounds doable, and you do that. It doesn't seem to make much of a difference, because it's only one tip, but then you try another, and maybe another... and soon you're saving money (or you're getting more for your money).
Is it doable for everyone? Absolutely not! But, by reading all this stuff, there's not a person who couldn't come away with something useful.
Last edited by kaplods; 12-08-2009 at 04:07 PM.