Calorie Counters - Dieting with a large family and a budget

06-29-2014, 04:47 PM
I am usually a low carb dieter. I lose really well that way, but I can't keep it off. I have a large family of 7 and we're on a tight budget. I make a lot of casseroles, pasta, beans, and rice type meals. I can't afford to eat separately, I've tried this, and it's expensive and time consuming. I've been thinking of calorie counting and just eating with the family but eating small portions. Does anyone do this with success? Any tips? I'm worried that the portions will have to be so small that ill get hungry and cave, but I need to do something.

06-29-2014, 05:34 PM
how about trying it and seeing how it works.

06-29-2014, 05:49 PM
Slow cooker recipe's. There are plenty of low carb slow cooker recipe out there and you can generally do it for super cheap. Just look up some online.
This is a good start!

06-29-2014, 09:27 PM
Low-carb works best for me, and I think the only reason I have difficulty keeping it off, and even more trouble losing more, is because I can't wrap my head around long-term low-carb.

I've decided that I better learn to wrap my head around it, or I will never get to where I want to be.

How low calorie/carb do I have to go to continue losing? How low will I have to stay to maintain? I have absolutely no clue.

There unfortunately is no way to find out except through experimenting. Maybe for you, calorie counting will be enough. Maybe you'll need to eliminate or reduce certain carbs, maybe most.

Regardless of your budget or your carb level you don't need to make seperate meals for your family. Even on strict low-carb you can make a cockpot dish and sides, and your family can eat the starchy sides, while you all share the meat, salad, and veggies.

My husband and I went through a very rough patch financially about 10 years ago, and soon after I learned that gluten-free low to lowish carb (100g or fewer, not counting fiber carbs) drastically improved my fibromyalgia and autoimmune symptoms. Ever since, I've learned a lot of strategies for eating low-calorie and low to lowish carb on a budget. The Shoestring Meals Forum is full of tips and recipes (not just mine).

The crockpot is probably the #1 best tool for cheap low-carb. A good dutch oven and/or casserole dish #2, because anything you can cook in a crockpot you can also cook in the oven or on the stovetop (if you have several hours of time to keep an eye on it).

I made almost every conceivable variation on stewed meat and veggies using whichever cut of chicken/beef/turkey/pork was cheapest.

The simplest being sliced onions, meat (bone-in or boneless), and jarred salsa or picante sauce (bought the best price we could find, even if it meant we had a gallon jar in the fridge). The Walmart store brand is quite good (the corn and black bean is my personal favorite) and about half the price of other salsas of the same quality. The biggest jar is the best value).

Hubby would eat the stewed meat in corn or flour tortillas (Aldi has very good, very cheap tortillas) with taco fixings (chopped or shredded lettuce, diced tomato, onions, olives, avocado, sour cream... and I would use the meat and fixing to make a huge taco salad.

Or I'd occasionally top a sweet potato with the stewed meat (sweet potato isn't strictly low-carb, but can easily fit into a lower to moderate carb diet (under 100g carb daily, for example).

There are tons of books on cheap healthy shopping/eating, some of them even low carb.

Calorie counting without carb restriction can work, but if you're at all insulin resistant or have other blood sugar issues, you may find it very difficult (almost impossible in many cases) to satisfy hunger without carb restriction and/or adding lots and lots of low-calorie, high fiber veggies.

Finding cheap high fiber veggies isn't always easy, especially if you're not fond of cabbage and onions (I love both, but I got pretty sick of them during our lean years).

Budget dieting isn't really difficult, but it is time consuming in one way or another.

06-30-2014, 10:02 AM
Thanks everyone for the tips. I guess the hard part is when I have a pound of meat for the whole family, the fillers come in handy. Cabbage and lettuce are a great idea for cheap fillers, I'll try that.
I also don't know how many carbs need to maintain, but I know I can lose easily around 50 or so. Kaplods I'm the same way, I can't wrap my mind around the idea of staying low carb for a lifetime.

07-30-2014, 10:06 AM
actually, there are a lot of good tips out there if you google "low carb on a budget". this one has some nice tips :)

EDITH says I always feel for you folks in the states. We have done comparisons (I have many friends there) and over there your processed foods, the unhealthy stuff is so much cheaper than here, but the healthy kinds, veggies, meats, milk products without strange stuff added (gelatin in yoghurt, I mean REALLY?!) etc. are more expensive than here. that is just not fair :/

07-30-2014, 12:21 PM
I wish I could eat lower carb, but you're right, it can get expensive!!! Frozen veggies are great, though, and this time of year I basically live off of zucchini. You may want to check out the Volumetrics thread ( for more ideas. You can incorporate a lot of low cal (and often cheap) veggies into your meals as filler. Don't forget about farmer's markets. You can often get a ton of stuff cheap, and anything you can't eat before going bad you can freeze. If you have a market nearby!

You can also eat primarily the same as your family, but maybe instead of the rice or beans, have zucchini noodles, a salad, or some other veggie-ful filler. That would increase your cost and preparation time a little bit, but it's easier than preparing completely different meals.

I'm wondering if some form of Intermittent Fasting ( may fit into your lifestyle? Here's a good link for info. ( You basically eat in a smaller eating window (for some that's 8 hours, 6, 5...), but you can eat the same things, so your main mealtime with your family wouldn't have to change.

I admittedly don't know much about low carb so take it all with a grain of...wheat? :P

07-30-2014, 01:17 PM
actually, there are a lot of good tips out there if you google "low carb on a budget". this one has some nice tips :)

EDITH says I always feel for you folks in the states. We have done comparisons (I have many friends there) and over there your processed foods, the unhealthy stuff is so much cheaper than here, but the healthy kinds, veggies, meats, milk products without strange stuff added (gelatin in yoghurt, I mean REALLY?!) etc. are more expensive than here. that is just not fair :/

^^ very true, at least what I have seen briefly living in Germany. That link you posted has some GREAT ideas!

To the OP, I have a similar situation, though my family is not as large and I do end up making my own meals quite often as I don't eat meat.

I second nonameslob's idea on the zucchini noodles! We probably do that once a week, a big pot of pasta (cheap!) with sauce. You can add whatever meat to the sauce, or make meatballs, for protein. I make my own sauce in tomato season, and I add all kinds of veggies, but usually carrots (cheap!) as they add bulk, vitamins and sweetness to the sauce. The husband and nearly grown-men sons have regular carby pasta and I have zucchini noodles.

Another life-saver is cauli-rice (cauliflower rice or cauliflower fried rice or cauliflower couscous - just google, there were so many recipes I didn't want to pick just one). You can pulse a head of cauliflower in a food processor until it is like grains of rice or couscous. Saute in a pan with some broth and a little oil and maybe some onion/garlic or other veggies until it is a consistency like rice. SUCH a lifesaver for dishes like stir-fries - family gets fluffy white rice and I eat cauli-rice.

Love the tacos idea - tacos in tortillas for the family, on a salad for me.

SOUPS! Especially in autumn. My family is crazy about mixed veggie and bean soups like minestrone and ribolitta (here is one version ( - leave out the bread for you, add lots for the family - I often just use cabbage (cheap!) but you can add the kale, finely chopped, or substitute spinach ... and you can use plain ol' ham for the meat flavor).

Beyond specific suggestions for meals, I can say to save money I have become a super-fiend about sales and coupons. I spent a LOT of time last year researching where all of our staples are cheapest (Usually it was Costco, but sometimes not, plus they don't have everything there). I joined every store "savings club" imaginable and would scour the sales for what we use - for example there was a jarred Alfredo sauce that the family likes for their lasagna. It went on sale, then there was an extra discount for being a club member, so it was like half price and I bought the maximum allowed. Even the warehouses put stuff on sale so I look for stuff we use and stock up like crazy. Sometimes stores offer $5 or $10 off $X purchase, so I make sure I take advantage of those as well if possible.

It felt like I was spending MORE at first because of these large purchases, like 50 lbs of bread flour and 25 pounds of pinto beans and 20 pounds of rice, but in the end I have gotten our food budget much lower. Our weekly trips are just for fresh veggies and meat and cheese.

I buy the family's meat in bulk (always trying to buy organic, which of course is more expensive) and big blocks of cheese instead of pre-shredded.

I would love to have a big freezer! I have been checking on craigslist and sometimes they can be found for less than $100. Then you could really take advantage of meat or cheese or frozen veggies on sale.

We make staples like bread (for THEM sadly :(... bought a bread machine at Goodwill for $5 or $10) and pasta sauce and yogurt, which takes overnight but the hands-on time is like 5 minutes and no special equipment required (we just use a cooler). Even with buying organic milk for yogurt, it ends up being 38 cents per 1-cup serving! Quite a savings there. You could always add sweetener and fruit to the family's yogurt if you went that route. The bread ends up at around 40 cents per 1.5 pound loaf.

The suggestions to check out the Volumetrics and Shoestring Meals threads are great ones! I have learned a lot from peeking into those. Good luck to you in finding creative solutions!!

07-30-2014, 01:23 PM
I re-read the OP and realized I gave you a lot of ideas about making your meals different... in answer to your question, I think pure calorie counting with "regular" foods is hard, as my experience is that I always feel hungry.

Definitely check out volumetrics. And maybe work on getting your family's diet closer to a lower-carb healthier version, which benefits everyone. Sneak veggies in as filler (purees work great for that) and offer things YOU can eat so maybe they will actually like some of that.

But offering something "extra" for them, like bread or rice or pasta that you just don't eat is probably your easiest bet.

07-30-2014, 04:14 PM
When I lived with my mother, she cooked what she cooked...didn't cook according to my diet plan. I ate small portions of whatever she made and filled up on vegetables and I was able to lose weight and maintain my loss. Canned and frozen vegetables are pretty cheap and they are low calorie. You can do this!

08-01-2014, 04:41 PM
take a look at You can get meals and recieps even shopping lists. You can decide what store to shop at, and what diet you want, (low fat, low carb etc)

08-20-2014, 01:52 AM
I raised alot of kids. I had 4 of my own and their friends most of the time. I remember having to measure my food, because the money wasn't there to buy special foods. I did well most of the time, but gained if I weren't vigilant. So I just got in the habit of measuring. Unfortunately my daughters picked up negative body self vibes and they were always conscious of What they put in their mouths, and always thought they were too fat. All 3 of my girls have lovely figures but don't realize it. I tell you that just so you don't give your kids a bad body image. In retrospect I should have just pushed healthy food concept.