I started my adventure 2+ years ago after realizing I was solidly in the obese category at nearly 240 pounds and 6'2". I had thought I was just a big guy, but I realized I was in denial. I was working hard (like everyone else) and made excuses about why I couldn't exercise and eat properly. There's never enough time in the day!
I was applying for life insurance and my "Come to Jesus!" moment was that my weight would cost me nearly $600/month in additional premiums. I'm WAY too cheap for that, so my aggressive weight loss plan began.
In short, I did the "4 apples and 4 yogurt" approach. I packed four apples and four nonfat greek yogurts every day during the work week, eating them in whatever order I wanted during the day, but generally figured out that one at a time spread out from 6am to 3pm kept the hunger pains at bay. I didn't restrict any food types, but I was religious about calories, tracking them all with CalorieCounter / FatSecret. I ate what I wanted for dinner (lots of veggies to help make sure I left the table full; an example of a pound of green beans for myself is common), but kept my calories for the day around 1500. Doing the math, you see an 800 calorie dinner is small, so I stayed away from breads/pastas mainly due to calorie load. I believe that was around 700 calories between breakfast and lunch. Because I was in a time crunch with the insurance application, I also pushed very hard on daily exercise, striving for 400+ calories burned daily. The weight just melted off! I lost about 30 pounds in 4 months and it felt great. Initially, I allowed myself to cheat on the weekends, but I figured out that the weight gained by Monday morning really set me back. So, I eventually settled on small treats on the weekend, still trying to stay around the calorie limit. This helped my stomach shrink and I felt full sooner. I still firmly believe small treats, on a weekly basis, need to happen to ensure you don't go crazy. The key is moderation and portion control.
As I got closer to my goal of 40 pounds down, my caloric restrictions lessened, but I found it felt so good to be thinner that I didn't stray often and by very much. I did find 10 pound weight swings were annoying, so I decided to try and push for 180 pounds as a goal. In part, I did it to partner with my wife who had a bigger weight loss goal, but also to get rid of the annoying belly roll. So, we jumped on the alternative Ideal Protein bandwagon. I'm now down 15 pounds on that program and facing the transition to phase 2 and 3 while my wife stays on phase 1.
So, if you want/need to be dieting on a budget, you too can try the apples 'n yogurt approach. I don't think there's any secret there. I think what's important is a high protein food from the yogurt, overall caloric restriction, and that darn exercise.
I am a doc, so for when I didn't have time or ability to carry yogurts and apples while on call in the hospital, I usually carried enough Clif bars with me to get through the shift. Nothing special about the Clif bars, but they allowed me to track my calories and I could carry them instead of going to the hospital cafeteria.
Perhaps this might help someone else out there who faces the same issues I did! Good luck!