Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Wausau, WI
My husband and I are both on disability with multiple health issues, and for a while, when hubby was working but I wasn't but hadn't yet filed for disability, our food budget was $25 a month for the both of us (and we were not eligible for foodstamps because hubby made just a few dollars more than the cut-off, but our medical and medication expenses were so high).
That was our situation when I first started on the weight loss journey.
You'll find tons and tons and tons of tips on dieting cheaply in the Budget Meals forum. You won't be able to use all of them because of your diet, but you will be able to use many of them.
I don't have ulcerative colitis, but I do have IBS (iritable bowel syndrome - not inflammatory bowel disease).
Before following any of my suggestions, talk to your doctor about them, because the recommendations for ulcerative colitis is probably different than for my IBS.
1. Fiber. I too was told to avoid fiber (while the IBS was flaring). That is if I had diarrhea or cramping, eating raw fruits and vegetables could make it worse. And was told that eating more fiber would likely help prevent future flares. So - eat less fiber when in severe pain, and when the gut has calmed down, slowly start eating more fiber.
The key is to add the fiber slowly. If you're normally eating 0-3 servings of fruits and veggies per day, don't suddenly try to eat 10 servings - you'll be in for some super-intense pain.
Again this is true for IBS. I don't know if it's true for you, so ask your doctor specific questions about what you should and shouldn't be eating. If you can see a dietitian, all the better. I believe that having ulcerative colitis is one of few conditions for which medicare, medicaid, and most insurances do cover dietitian consultation. You might get to have only one appointment or you might get a certain number per year. Find out before you make your appointment how many times you'll get to see the dietitian. If it's only once, write down every question you can think of and take the list of questions with you.
Now, on to eating healthfully for weight loss on a super tight budget. Again, you'll find these and many, many more tips on the Budget Meals forum, so browse through those threads. Also remember some of these suggestions won't apply to you, so clear them with your doctor or dietitian first.
1. Don't drink juice. Fruit is healthy, juice really isn't. Don't bother with juice at all, unless you can afford a blender that "juices" by pulverizing so you're drinking the peels and fiber (and you're not going to be able to afford one of these juicers, and it's entirely unnecessary - eat your fruits and vegetables). In most juices, the good stuff has been thrown away and all you're left with is sugar water with some, but not all of the vitamins.
2. In our area the Walmart and the Aldi are the cheapest stores in town. We don't just shop there, because I start with the sale ads and if there's a super deal in the most expensive store in town - I go there and only buy the cheapstuff. If you can only shop one store, find out which store is the cheapest and go there.
3. Expect to spend a LOT of time in the grocery store until you learn what's cheapest in which stores, at what times of year. Overall cabbage, celery, carrots, and onions tend to be the cheapest vegetables. Potatoes are also cheap, but count them as a bread/starch not a vegetable.
4. Exchange plans and calorie counting are the easiest ways to diet on a budget. Exchange plans are particularly helpful, because they're helpful not just for weight loss, but for insuring that you're eating a balanced diet, and even better they can help you in the grocery store so that you don't underbuy or overbuy.
Just as an example, when I follow an exchange plan, my plan allows for 3-4 servings of fruit. I know that I will need to buy 21 to 28 servings of fruit. This helps me determine which fruits are the cheapest, and how much to buy. One orange is one fruit exchange, but an apple (because it's higher in calories) is two fruit exchanges. If apples and oranges are the same price, apples are the better deal.
For balance, I didn't ever pick only one fruit for the week. I'd pick two or three, but would make sure that they were the best value I could find. Bananas, oranges, and some varieties of apples and pears are often the cheapest - but you can find sales on any fruit and veggie so don't buy what's usually the cheapest, take a calculator and even a notebook with you so you can determine which are the cheapest.
5. In most cases, you save money by doing some of the work yourself. Chicken thighs are usually cheap, so are legs, but ironically chicken leg quarters are often cheapest of all. A whole chicken used to be the cheapest, but often leg quarters are the absolute cheapest way to buy chicken.
6. TVP can be helpful if you can find a cheap source. It's often cheapest when it's in the bulk-bins that you scoop out of yourself. Some grocery stores might have bulk bins, but often health food stores are the cheapest place for tvp (tvp being soy protein granules. They look like beige gravel or grape nuts cereal but they reconstitute with hot water to make a ground beef substitute). Dry TVP is about as expensive as cheap ground beef per pound, but one pound of dry tvp is equivalent to about 4 lbs of ground beef. So per serving it's 1/4 the price. I brown tvp with ground beef and onion and other seasonings and then add hot broth. Then I use the mixture in recipes that call for browned ground beef such as tacos, spaghetti sauces... (1/4 cup = 2 protein exchanges on an exchange plan)
7. Probably should have been tip one - go to the library and research your condition and frugal living. A book that literally was a life-saver for us was the book "The Complete Tightwad Gazettte" it gave us so many tips for saving money (and not just on groceries) that I bought a copy when I found it (either on amazon.com or at a garage sale, don't remember which).
There are tons of books on frugal living and on eating cheaply. Some of them aren't diet books, but with exchange plan and calorie counting it doesn't matter - you don't eat "diet food" you just budget your food as you do your money. Even if you're following low-carb, consider a low-carb exchange plan because it makes shopping so much easier (the website frugalabundance.com has low-carb, middle-of-the-road, and high-carb exchange plans and exchange plan information).
8. Amazon.com. This is how I found all the books I wanted to check out from the library. And those I couldn't find at the library, I ordered through interlibrary loan. I just used terms like "eating cheaply" "cheap meals," "frugal living"... in the searches and saved every book that looked interesting in my amazon "wish list." Then I printed out that list and went to the library. When I read the books, I took notes and I made a little note on that printed out list whether it was a book I wanted to buy on amazon (I didn't have much money to buy books, but I could often get a book for $5 or less INCLUDING SHIPPING on some of these books).
I know this sounds like a lot of work, and at first it is, but it's also fun (if you choose to make it fun instead of miserable). I chose to see it as a personal challenge to buy the best, most interesting food with the small amount of money we had, and every time I got a really good deal, I felt like I had "won" something or proven to myself how smart I could be. Don't let any of it stress you out, do the best you can and ignore what you can't control.
Those are the top suggestions I have, though there's a lot more in the Budget Meals forum, can't recommend the forum enough.