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Shoestring Meals Budget friendly ideas for healthy eating

I KNEW eating healthy foods was costing me more!

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Old 12-09-2009, 11:37 AM   #46
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For me, it definitely does cost more to eat healthy. Way more! The costs are related to the large amounts of produce I eat and produce can be expensive.

I don't just eat one serving of broccoli. I eat multiple servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits, every day. It adds up. My produce bill is quite high.

As far as beans and lentils, sure, they're cheap. However, if I eat too much of them, they pack pounds on me. I can't eat bowls of lentil soup or else I'll put on weight. But, I can (and do!) eat bowls of fresh produce.

It can be very hard for a person on a limited budget to get the recommended 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
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Old 12-09-2009, 12:52 PM   #47
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I definitely agree that eating healthy is a lot more expensive than eating non-healthy. Recently, I actually posted about the ever increasing cost of food (not just produce) on another forum I frequent. I was shocked, during my last grocery shopping excursion, how much a head of romaine lettuce was, etc.
I also try to buy organic if I can so that also adds a pretty penny to the final bill. Even though I don't live in a small town, it's not a metropolis either. We don't have any independent produce-only smaller stores, only big chain grocery stores and I admit I shop at the slighly more pricey one because it is 5 minutes from my house and I can stop there on the way from work or from the gym. But I also know that saying it is slightly more expensive is relative - I may pay more for one particular item but less for another item (than in another store). I guess I could try to shop at Price Chopper or Food Basics but neither is close to me.

Another thing that drives the cost of groceries up is that I try to get into myself a decent amount of protein since I lift weights. The easiest way to achieve that, with a low caloric footprint, are lean meats (such as fish or chicken breast). Having meat twice a day is quite costly.

I did start buying frozen veggies but it will take some trial and error. For example, the first bag that I bought turned out to be 60% carrots, 25% cauliflower and 15% broccoli florets (my estimate only). Not that I don't like carrots but I would have preferred 60% broccoli.
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Old 08-18-2010, 02:58 PM   #48
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I disagree because my bills have gone down but then again I don't eat meat. Beans and other legumes and whole grains are inexpensive, especially when you buy in bulk. Also, I don't buy most of my veggies/fruits from supermarkets, especially certain super markets, I'll go to the asian market where I can get 5 grocery bags full of fruits/veggies for $20. In season/sale items are also often cheaper at Whole Foods than at my grocery store (I can buy apples for 99 cents/lb at Whole Foods, organic even). Whole Foods and other similar health food stores also sell grains/legumes by the bulk which is cheaper. 1 box of quinoa is $4.99 at my grocery store but $1.50/lb at Whole Foods.

I've also bought foods at farmers markets or on a couple occasions, I've gone to the farms for certain products.
Maybe where you live there are nice places to shop, but in my little TN town there is only Kroger, Food Lion, Save-a-lot, Aldis, and Walmart. I try to find the best prices in those stores, but their selection of healthy foods are limited and pretty expensive, and we do not have a farmer's market or butcher or anything like that, though sometimes people have vegetable stands on the side of the road, but because of our low income we buy our food with foodstamps, so we wouldn't be able to purchase them. Also, I wouldn't know how much they want for them. I guess I could look sometime out of curiosity and maybe spend a little money if it were a good deal.

Of course, when the weather gets cold my dad will sometimes get a deer and share a bunch of the meat with us, and in the summer they share their garden with us, but the garden is basically gone now thanks to the heat, so now it's back to shopping at the stores again.
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Old 08-18-2010, 03:23 PM   #49
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I've recently cut back our grocery budget further to bulk up our savings account (we had to replace our roof so it took a big hit), and have been unable to get the farmer's market due to scheduling concerns. So we've been re-testing our money saving strategies.

A big one is never going into shopping with a pre-conceived notion of what we're eating. We go through circulars, find the ones with the best deals on produce (since that's where we spend a lot of our money), look for the cheapest produce items, and base our meals around that. That means if there's a really good price on, for example, squash, we have a LOT of squash that week (grilled in planks one night, chopped and roasted and tossed in a pasta another, stuffed with couscous a third, etc). We never go in saying "we need broccoli", then look for the best price on broccoli, since even the lowest price might still be relatively high. Instead, we go in, find the produce that'll be the cheapest, and form as many meals around it as we can. One week, Romaine lettuce was ridiculously cheap, so we pretty much ate salads all week, with a variety of other stuff that was either cheap in cans (beans, tuna, etc) or other sale produce.

Once we've got the produce part down, we look at the rest of the meal - what is on sale in the meat department, in canned goods, etc that we can combine with the cheaper produce? We've made red beans and rice costing less than 50 cents a serving using on-sale chicken sausage, dried beans, and dried brown rice, plus spices. Inexpensive and tasty! Throw in some of that cheap squash, some cheap carrots, and an onion, and you've got it made.

There are definitely ways to keep it inexpensive (OK, not as inexpensive as Top Ramen and Kraft Mac and cheese, but close) and still healthy. Usually it takes a lot of prep work and circular skimming, though.
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Old 08-18-2010, 03:44 PM   #50
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Haha, yeah, I remember when we used to live on Ramen. Not the healthiest choice, and boy did I get sick of that stuff. A while back I made a really hearty vegetable soup that was pretty cheap. I combined several bags of mixed frozen vegetables, a bag of dried lentils, beans, and a huge can of sodium-free tomato juice. I put it in the slow-cooker, and we ate on it for several days. I miss my slow-cooker; it messed up. I think I'm going to splurge and get another one.
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Old 08-18-2010, 07:20 PM   #51
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You can make that recipe on the stove. Also, you might want to check any thrift stores you have to see if they have slow cookers available.

I also tend to go to the store without any expectations. Not too long ago, we went to the grocery store and my husband wanted broccoli but it was $3.99/lb!! Last week, I was at Whole Foods and organic broccoli was $99/lb so I bought 5 lbs. He was pretty happy.

I've definitely been cooking a lot more dried beans lately as well which is cheap and I love millet which is generally cheap if you can buy it in bulk.
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Old 09-05-2010, 03:39 PM   #52
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I *know* I spend a ton more money eating healthy than unhealthy. And that entirely ignores gym fees!! So far today, I have had 512 calories. Let's look at the breakdown:

Nonfat yogurt x 2 - $1.00 (50 cents each)
Low Carb High Fiber Whole Wheat Tortilla - 32 cents (3.16/10=32 cents each)
2 oz all natural turkey breast - $1.25 (($10/16)*2=1.25)
1 tbsp Walden Farms Zero calorie russian dressing - 16 cents (3.16/20=.158)
1/4 cup Arctic Zero ice cream - $1.12 ($4.50/4=1.12)
Walden Farms zero calorie chocolate syrup - 16 cents (3.16/20=.158)
Cool Whip Free (didn't realize this had corn syrup - eep!) - 4 cents (1/25=.04)
Samples - Free (while shopping, 2 samples of healthy choice meals + babybel cheese, counted as 100 calories)

Grand total: $4.05

Meaning I spend over $8 per 1000 calories. Yikes.
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Old 09-05-2010, 03:46 PM   #53
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All those are prepared foods though which is where the cost comes in. Healthy doesn't necessarily mean low calorie but 'diet' processed foods and speciality foods will always cost more.
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Old 09-05-2010, 03:55 PM   #54
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To illustrate what Nelie just said, for $30 at the farmer's market I just bought (all pesticide free, if not certified organic, since the growers are small and local):

5 lbs of mixed stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, pluots)
2 watermelons at $2 a piece
4 lemon cucumbers
6 red bell peppers
10 lbs of zucchini (that's enough for us to grill for the BBQ, plus one other day, and to throw some in a taco salad later in the week)
3 lbs of asian pears
Bunch of basil
3 bunches of long beans (enough to do a stirfry one night, plus a side another night)
2 lbs of heirloom tomatoes
6 ears of corn

That's my fruit and vegetables for the week, which is the biggest part of my food budget by far, plus veggies and fruit to take to my mom's for a labor day BBQ. I'll add in whatever lean proteins I can get on sale, and whole grains/beans as necessary, plus a very few processed foods, and end up with a weeks worth of breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner for two for around $80.
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Old 09-05-2010, 04:18 PM   #55
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All those are prepared foods though which is where the cost comes in. Healthy doesn't necessarily mean low calorie but 'diet' processed foods and speciality foods will always cost more.
Mmmhmmm, but it's the same with the produce around here. And really, define "processed food"... nonfat yogurt and all natural turkey breast are hardly "convenience foods"

I eat only all natural foods 90% of the time, which will obviously cost more. But even with produce, my farmer's market apples are $3 for 6 (50 cents for 80 calories, or $6.25 per 1000 calories

Cucumbers are a bit cheaper - $2.00 for 8, but at 30 calories each thats $8.00 per 1000 calories

Tomatoes come in buckets with roughly 6-7 large tomatoes for $4. Lets be generous and say 75 calories a tomato, since these are pretty big...That's $10 per 1000 calories

Organic chicken breast is cheap than turkey breast - let's say $6.99 a pound on average. That's about 750 calories total, or $9.33 per 1000 calories

I don't see how you figure it's cheaper to eat healthy...


ALSO, convenience "healthy" foods can actually be cheaper than fresh produce, more often than not. I could spend $1.10 on a can of healthy choice or Amy's soup on sale for 250-300 calories, or I could spend $2.00 on half a ball of mozzarella and .75 on a large tomato and drizzle them with .15 of balsamic vinegar for $2.90 the same 300 calories.

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Old 09-05-2010, 04:28 PM   #56
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If you go by calories, then you'd probably have to say nuts are the cheapest things out there

For me, I know I spend less eating healthier as my grocery bill has gone down even though I eat a bunch of organics. Right now I'm at the point where most of my produce is organic but its also summer, winter may change things. I buy a lot of basics, veggies/fruits that are in season/on sale, bulk nuts, legumes, grains and spices. I rarely buy anything that comes in a package and when I do, I expect to pay more. Overall, my grocery bill is between $200-$300 month for 2 people. Lately, I've been closer to $300 right now and looking to cut it down a bit.
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Old 09-05-2010, 04:43 PM   #57
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Quote:
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If you go by calories, then you'd probably have to say nuts are the cheapest things out there

For me, I know I spend less eating healthier as my grocery bill has gone down even though I eat a bunch of organics. Right now I'm at the point where most of my produce is organic but its also summer, winter may change things. I buy a lot of basics, veggies/fruits that are in season/on sale, bulk nuts, legumes, grains and spices. I rarely buy anything that comes in a package and when I do, I expect to pay more. Overall, my grocery bill is between $200-$300 month for 2 people. Lately, I've been closer to $300 right now and looking to cut it down a bit.
Nuts are definitely good. I need to figure out a way to add them into my diet. I don't *love* them (or really like them much, lol), but you can't argue the health benefits and cost for healthy fats. I love beans and lentils, but I don't cook them as often as I ought to due to time constraints! I'm debating trying some canned beans for the occasional snack to lower the budget a bit I don't eat grains (save for low carb whole wheat tortillas!), but I can imagine whole wheat ones would be cheaper, too.

I'm not saying my situation is the end-all, be-all for healthy eating + cost, haha, but it does hurt a little sometimes But who wouldn't pay a few hundred extra dollars a year to look incredible and feel amazing? Some people drop that on a single massage or great outfit!!
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Old 09-05-2010, 04:49 PM   #58
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I eat beans every day. One thing that can help is a pressure cooker although if you buy brown lentils, they are pretty quick cooking. 20-30 minutes from unsoaked dried to cooked. I use a pressure cooker and cook most of my beans in (except lentils since they are so quick cooking). There are many beans that don't need soaking such as black eyed peas and adzuki beans. So although black beans are one of my favorite, even if I don't soak them in the morning, I can cook my black eyed peas in my pressure cooker and in 20 minutes I have cooked beans.

And I don't mind paying extra for certain things but I really don't think most people have to. For instance, my favorite salad dressing is $6 bottle but I've also made my own salad dressing at a fraction of the cost.
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Old 09-05-2010, 04:53 PM   #59
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Then again, black beans cost this week in my store 99 cents for a 12 serving bag, with 80 calories per serving. That's $1.03 for 1000 calories.

Brown Rice is currently running $4.19 for a 19 serving bag, with each serving has 150 calories of whole grain goodness. $1.47 for 1000 calories.
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Old 09-05-2010, 05:33 PM   #60
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Millet is one of my favorite grains, it is usually 99 cents/lb for organic but quinoa is another favorite and usually costs $1.50/lb. For me, I buy the organic beans and they range in price, usually from 99 cents to 1.99, depending on the bean.
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