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Shoestring Meals Budget friendly ideas for healthy eating

Why Is Healthier Food, Also More Expensive Food?

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Old 12-20-2009, 06:25 PM   #31
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Low Cost subforum???

There have been quite a number of threads about eating healthy on very low budgets, and it seems to me like a subject applicable to *large* numbers of 3FC-ers. I kinda think a forum/subforum might be worthwhile for Low Cost Healthy Eating, or something like that. Making it easy for people to find these *very* important ideas that get strung out all over the forum.

Just seems like such a fundamental need to me, especially these days.
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Old 12-20-2009, 06:34 PM   #32
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agree nix the juice. My kids didnt get any juice until they started preschool, then they get juice there. They get diluted juice occasionally at home as a treat and I will sometimes put a splash of juice in my water. (1/4 cup in a pint glass)

If you must buy it, juice is something to only buy on sale - it can vary so much in price. Apple juice can run from 0.99 to 3.00 for a 1/2 gallon. Frozen is usually cheaper and then you can make it and dilute it ahead of time and the kids will never know. If you are looking for lunch box size juice items buy a refillable container. (Edit: I don't support giving the kids crystal lite or other sugar free stuff - kids dont need artificial sweeteners )

Fresh fruits and veggies rarely have coupons, but if you coupon the other items and stick to the special. Frozen is not a bad way to go for veggies and occasionally you can get coupons, although store brands without coupons are often cheaper. Never use a coupon for anything you cant use or for name brands that are still more expensive than store.

Bread products freeze well so when bread is on special stock up. We have one brand of bread we love that is ~ $4/loaf, but every once in a while the store will have it for $1.50 a loaf and I buy 4 loaves and freeze

One thing to remember is although processed crappy foods seem cheaper, you can sometimes make stuff cheaper if you do a little prep.

Canned chicken noodle soup seems like one of the cheapest foods out there. But take my frozen broth from my whole chicken I bought (free!) and remember that canned soup hardly has any chicken in it so yours doesnt need much to beat it (good place to dice up a little of the dark meat, you use so little it wont be noticed) an on sale bag of frozen veggies - any kind, but the peas/carrots always work and some chopped up whole wheat pasta or cooked brown rice. The equivalent of 8-10 cans of soup for about $1.50 - freeze in individual portions for fast lunches

Many of the diets will lead you to think the dark meat of the chicken is SO bad, but it is still better than processed foods and a whole chicken is so much cheaper than chicken breasts. Use the white meat for a dish that is primarily meat, use the dark meat for stir frys and to stretch beans in a burrito - just enough for flavor.

Learn how to cook dried beans. You can make lowfat refried beans in a crock pot.

Bake your own bread, pizza crusts etc. I know it is tough to start if you have never done it but you can make basic whole wheat bread for cheaper than you can buy it and with fewer preservatives.
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Old 12-20-2009, 07:07 PM   #33
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I routinely shop in the cheap, and my mainstays are:
cereal (nothing sugared, I like cornflakes if on sale)
oatmeal (not the single serve, the big container)
12 grain bread
bananas
apples
oranges
frozen blueberries
strawberries (only when in season priced around 2 quarts for $4)
cabbage
broccoli (fresh or frozen, whatever is cheaper that day)
carrots
sweet potatoes
onions
yogurt
cottage cheese
pretzels
canned tuna or sardines
eggs
chicken breasts (bulk)
whole chicken (if priced under .69 cents a pound)
soy milk (my single "luxury" item, I don't drink regular milk)

If I have money left over after those items, I will buy other stuff (such as my favorite english muffins, pineapple, or a nice steak). I make a lot of soups or one dish meals that I freeze for later meals. I never by prepackaged meals. I can get at least 14 single serve soup lunches/dinners out of a 4 pound chicken, 4 large carrots, 4 large potatoes, 1 stalk of celery, and 1 onion. I drink water or green tea at home...coffee at work since they pay for it. I budget only $30 a week for groceries (it's just me eating, and I don't mind not having a huge variety day to day).
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Old 12-20-2009, 07:12 PM   #34
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I'm curious, but have you thought about growing your own veg? Even if you live in a tiny apartment with no garden, you can still grow lots of veggies in buckets and small window planters; you can even keep herbs in the small containers they're already planted in as long as you keep them watered and give them sun.

http://home.ivillage.com/gardening/v...,,4tm2,00.html

This one is geared towards the Americans out there (I live in New Zealand, so different gardening weather down here now!). Yes, there is an initial outlay, but if you can, buy seeds rather than seedlings.

We buy whole chickens and carve them up and keep the carcasses for stock.
If your veggies are JUST about finished, you can still use them in soups and stock.
Never buy more than you are going to eat.

And the most important- plan your meals out for a week, look at what's in your pantry and make meals from there. Economy Gastronomy is a BBC series showing British families how to save money by shopping differently. If you can, find the series on youtube- it will be well worth the download.
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Old 12-20-2009, 08:12 PM   #35
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but $200 isn't going to feed you for the month. I spend around $700/month which includes laundry soap ect..... for 4
I would disagree. I mentioned before that we spend $200-$300/month for the 2 of us and that includes quite a bit of organics and some splurge items too. I also mentioned the blog where a lady feeds herself and 2 (part time) teenage sons on $100/month. It is definitely doable to eat cheaply if it is your goal.
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Old 12-21-2009, 04:03 AM   #36
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Lots of great ideas here!

When I was pinching pennies while working and going to school (no loans!), I used to buy frozen veggies, chicken, and pasta in bulk. It was a nice change from the terribly unhealthy Top Ramen I was eating every other day...but then, those were like 6 cents a pack or something ridiculously cheap at the the time!

I agree, access to healthy food is a social issue. Some articles refer to it as the "health tax." I live pretty far north and have some Canadian friends, and one of them told me that their government subsidizes groceries nationwide so that everyone can afford decent food. Gas and just about everything else is more expensive there, but apparently not the groceries. I'm sure the system isn't perfect, but I wish the US would make healthy food access a priority like that.
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Old 12-21-2009, 11:09 AM   #37
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I thought this was a good link because all of these items can be stocked up on when on sale or with coupons and then at the end of the month when the foodstamps or budget is getting lean....

20 dishes from 10 pantry items
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Old 12-21-2009, 11:22 AM   #38
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I would disagree. I mentioned before that we spend $200-$300/month for the 2 of us and that includes quite a bit of organics and some splurge items too. I also mentioned the blog where a lady feeds herself and 2 (part time) teenage sons on $100/month. It is definitely doable to eat cheaply if it is your goal.
Hubby and I also spend between $200 and $300 a month (including personal hygeine items, cat food, kitty litter (and cat's glucosamine/chondroitin treats for her arthritis) and household cleaning products.

Most months it's closer to $200, and when we run out of pantry staples (which always seems to happen all at once) it's closer to $300 (about every 3 months). So that averages to about $233 a month for the year.

We do have a Sam's Club membership (you will not save money at Sam's Club if you're not very careful, but we're very careful). We buy organic baby spring mix lettuce regularly. It's about 1/4 the cost per serving of the same mix at Walmart (which is a lot cheaper than in other grocery stores).
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Old 12-21-2009, 11:58 AM   #39
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+1 on the spring mix. I get it at costco and not always but at certain times of the year it is cheaper per pound for the organic spring mix than for whole heads of decent non organic lettuce (ie NOT iceberg).
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Old 12-21-2009, 12:12 PM   #40
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+1 on the spring mix. I get it at costco and not always but at certain times of the year it is cheaper per pound for the organic spring mix than for whole heads of decent non organic lettuce (ie NOT iceberg).
I think I'm going to have to ask my sister to start picking me up a bag every week at Sam's Club. I'll pay her a month in advance
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Old 12-21-2009, 12:22 PM   #41
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Sorry you are in this situation.....I agree with the above poster about frozen veggies....at least you can get some nutrition from them. I hope things get better for you soon.
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Old 12-21-2009, 12:24 PM   #42
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I think I'm going to have to ask my sister to start picking me up a bag every week at Sam's Club. I'll pay her a month in advance
They have two types. One is just the varieties of baby lettuce and spinache (my favorite). The other is a "salad kit" it's a dollar more (and a smaller amount of lettuce) and contains craisins, feta cheese (I believe), and some kind of nut (I don't know if dressing is included - everything is kept separate in little compartments).

The just lettuce is a better buy in my opinion. Both are in plastic clamshells about the size of a shoebox (the bag of lettuce is inside the plastic box).

It's vacuum packed, so when you open the bag it seems like there's more lettuce than the bag can hold (which is why the plastic box comes in handy for storage).

I almost never finish the bag before it gets slimy - but it's so much cheaper than the smaller bags in other stores, a little waste isn't so horrible.

At the first sign of wilting, I can prevent waste by cooking the wilted lettuce.
At the point that it's not slimy yet, but is starting to look wilted and not quite great for salads, I'll saute the remainder - or throw it into soups (yes cooked lettuce sounds a bit odd, but the leaf lettuces cook up just like spinach, for the most part).
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Old 12-21-2009, 12:33 PM   #43
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Thanks, kaplods. I definitely just want the lettuce. I add the other stuff on my own when I want it, because what they use isn't exactly what I would use.

Do you remember the size of the bag?
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Old 12-21-2009, 12:57 PM   #44
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Thanks, kaplods. I definitely just want the lettuce. I add the other stuff on my own when I want it, because what they use isn't exactly what I would use.

Do you remember the size of the bag?
I didn't, so I went to the Sams Club website and searched on spring mix (both came up).

The just lettuce mix is 16 ounces. You can type in your zipcode and they'll quote the price (it's $3.98 in our area).

Here's the link to it (you can see what the package looks like)

http://www.samsclub.com/shopping/nav...=5&item=195627
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Old 12-21-2009, 01:23 PM   #45
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Just saying: we don't buy juice. Drink water! Juice is high in calories and sugar. If you get bored with water, go ahead and by juice, but water it down and stretch it that way. Fresca is about the only diet soda I like, so I will buy that every once in awhile when it is on sale.
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