I don't really consider fruit juice "real food," but rather a more natural equivalent of soda or Kool-Aid (Just as I think of dried fruit as a more natural equivalent of candy). I'm not saying that they should never be ingested - just that they need to be treated like soda and candy (at least should be) - optional treats rather than diet mainstays. If you have the calories and cash to use on them as "extras" after you've taken care of the basic nutrition, that's great, but fruit juice is rarely a good substitute for the whole fruit.
Juice is really only marginally more nutritious than Kool-Aid and soda. The sugar content/calorie count is about the same, and perhaps the best part of the fruit (the fiber) is missing.
I also agree that frozen and canned vegetables are good compromises. Cabbage, carrots, celery, and onion are generally the cheapest fresh options (and you'll pay less if you're willing to wash, peel, and trim yourself).
Hubby and I shop on a very tight budget, as we're on disability (though we had a much tighter budget when I first got too sick to work), but we keep many of the habits we learned from leaner times.
Read all the frugal living books, cookbooks, websites and recipe websites you can find. I started my searc at Amazon.com (The Complete Tightwad Gazette was the first book I bought). I wrote down the title of every book I could find, and borrowed them from the library (if I liked it enough to want to own it, I wrote the title down and looked for it at garage sales, thrift stores, Freecycle, and Amazon).
The Hillbilly Housewife has a lot of good information on dieting/eating healthy on a tight budget. There are a lot of other great money saving websites too - search on terms like frugal, cheapskate, tightwad, budget, cheap, saving money....
A technique I learned (and modified) from the Tightwad Gazette is using dry tvp to extend ground beef. I buy cheap hamburger and brown it with dried tvp granules (a meat substitite made from soy - looks like grape nuts cereal), and onions, celery and other seasonings and water or broth. By combining the fatty hamburger with the fat-free tvp I can have the eqivalent of 95% lean ground beef or ground turkey for about half the price per serving of the cheap hamburger (about 1/4 to 1/3 the price of the premium extra lean ground meats).
Tvp can be used alone as a meat substitute - but it doesn't have much flavor. Browning it with ground beef, pork, or turkey will absorb the meat flavor. For an entirely vegetarian option, you can boost the flavor with seasonings (but it takes a little more practice to get a flavor you'll enjoy - in my experience).
After browning, I then freeze the mixture (tossing/stirring until it freezes in "crumbles" so I can take out what I need to use in recipes as I would ground beef - tacos, spaghetti, sloppy joes...).
I buy chicken thighs, legs or quarters (usually even cheaper than whole chickens).
I shop the Dollar Stores (not always cheaper, so you've got to pay attention). In Dollar Tree I found Stor-It brand "green bags" (those bags that are supposed to help veggies and fruits stay fresh longer), at 10 bags for $1. I rinse and reuse the bags. They do significantly slow down spoilage, so I'm very happy with them. Hubby and I do our main grocery shopping only once a month. We eat the fresh stuff first and later in the month rely on the frozen and canned veggies. If mid-month we see a super sale in the grocery store flyers (we don't take the paper - but we get the flyers in the mail or pick up the free community paper), assuming we have the money for it - we'll buy the sale items.
It seems complicated at first, but eventually you get "in the groove," and you develop your own system. It's definitely possible in Northcentral Wisconsin and Central Illinois, WI to eat healthfully on about $200 a month (or even less if you've got the time to do more shopping, prep, and cooking).
It does take being open-minded about food and shopping though. Sometimes you find yourself doing things you would have once considered "crazy." It's why I recommend books like How to Survive Without a Salary: Learning How to Live the Conserver Lifestyle by Charles Long - and Art & Science of Dumpster Diving by John Hoffman.
I didn't find many tips that I could use, but after reading those books, I felt a whole lot less crazy for washing and reusing plastic bags.
Last edited by kaplods : 12-20-2009 at 03:27 PM.