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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 12-21-2009, 02:22 PM   #46
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Thanks Kaplods, I just thought you might remember. It's $3.98 here too.
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Old 12-21-2009, 03:47 PM   #47
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I agree with what others have said that while the amount may seem low, a little over $200 a month is definitely doable for groceries. I live in an area of Illinois that is part suburbs/part farmland. You drive past a subdivision of $500K townhomes behind a large piece of farm equipment. It's a bit of a paradox, and our grocery prices definitely reflect it.

For my family of 6, I spend roughly $300 per month on groceries. This includes formula for my 6 month old. It is definitely doable, but it seems impossible because of all the hoop-jumping you have to do if you aren't used to eating "this way."

I do not shop circulars. I may glance at them once, to see if there are any phenomenal deals, but I will never rely on them for making my list. There is a whole host of psychology that goes into flier circulation. For example, you're more likely to "stock up" on milk if it's cheap. You're also more likely to purchase cookies, cereal and other things that go with the milk. Companies know this and use it against you. These deals involve products that compel consumers to buy the high-margin junk food. The deals on healthy foods (unadvertised sales of strawberries for $1 per package) are not usually found in circulars, unless accompanying junk food is on sale.

Of course, the usual solution is to make a strict list and stick to it. But lists leave no room for adjustments. You can't snatch up the great deal on whole chickens if it's not on your list. Otherwise, you begin looking at all the other "good deals" and you're right back at the marketing psychology.

So, here's what I do. I've shopped at every store in my area (and there are a lot of them). Most, like Jewel, Meijer and Domick's have roughly the same prices and those are higher than everyone else. The local grocer has good deals, but their quality is terrible. 30 minutes away, I discovered a great little grocer who has AMAZING prices and AMAZING quality AND a "discounted" section for old/bruised/imperfect produce.

Now that I know where is usually good, I develop a sense of how much I'm willing to pay. I will not pay more than $.79 per pound for grapes. They're usually $1.50 to $2.00 per pound, so they usually aren't on the menu. Squash? Never more than $.50 per pound. Whole chickens? $.60 per pound. Cheese? $3 per pound. Cold cereal? $.10 per ounce. This is a quick metric that lets me decide if I should buy something or shouldn't.

Staples are purchased in such copious quantities that I don't need to buy them more than once every three or four months. I just bought a 25 pound bag of Jasmine rice (for $15 at Sam's Club). That will last us for at least three months, but probably four or five. Same with flour, sugar, oatmeal and other raw goods. I wait until a good sale and buy a huge amount. If you have freezer space, use this for frozen vegetables! From time to time, Meijer puts their frozen veggies on super-special: 4 bags for $1. Frozen broccoli, carrots, potatoes, onions, peas, beans, brussel sprouts...they're all just as good as fresh and cost far less.

If the label contains the words "hydrogenized," "high fructose," "hydrolyzed" or "aspartame/sucralose" (NutraSweet/Splenda), I do not buy it. Ever. It's not food. It's chemistry pretending to be food. Lunch meat? Don't buy it. Juice? Don't buy it. Baking mixes? Nope. Chicken breasts/pork chops? Very very rarely buy it - it has to be 75% off the regular price, otherwise I buy the whole chicken/pork loin.

Most of all, you need - NEED - to learn to be inventive with food. I had a box of Japanese curry (uses potatoes, carrots, onion, celery and 2 pounds of pork/chicken). I had no pork or potatoes. I dropped those and used lentils. It required that I change the preparation to prevent squishy lentils, but it worked. I've made cookies with whole wheat flour and bread with oatmeal I turned into flour in my coffee maker.

OK, I'm done rambling now...
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Last edited by Altari : 12-21-2009 at 03:51 PM.
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Old 12-21-2009, 04:02 PM   #48
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Im not sure if anyone has mentioned this or not but do you have a produce junction near you? They sell fruits and veggies much cheaper then grocery stores and I have never gotten anything bad out of there.
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Old 12-21-2009, 04:30 PM   #49
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Oh, the stuff at costco doesnt have the bag inside and stays fresh forever. I never ever buy the stuff in the bags because that stuff goes bad fast. When you get it home take it out of the bag, put a 1/2 paper towel (a whole one of the selectasize is perfect) on the bottom of the clamshell, then put the lettuce back in and put the other half of the paper towel on top. Pick any wilty leaves out right away and everything else will stay fresh longer.

KEEP 1-2 of the clamshells. During the times of year when lettuce is cheaper in the head these clamshells with paper towels keep the lettuce fresher longer than anything else I have ever tried. I keep 2 around for my CSA lettuce in the summer.
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Old 12-21-2009, 05:44 PM   #50
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ennay, thanks for the tips.
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Old 12-21-2009, 06:16 PM   #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ennay View Post
Oh, the stuff at costco doesnt have the bag inside and stays fresh forever. I never ever buy the stuff in the bags because that stuff goes bad fast. When you get it home take it out of the bag, put a 1/2 paper towel (a whole one of the selectasize is perfect) on the bottom of the clamshell, then put the lettuce back in and put the other half of the paper towel on top. Pick any wilty leaves out right away and everything else will stay fresh longer.

KEEP 1-2 of the clamshells. During the times of year when lettuce is cheaper in the head these clamshells with paper towels keep the lettuce fresher longer than anything else I have ever tried. I keep 2 around for my CSA lettuce in the summer.


That's how the Sam's Club spring mix used to come. But the bag isn't like the bags that other lettuces come in though. The air has been squeezed out and it smells good and fresh (I hate the smell of most bagged lettuces).

I also don't keep the lettuce in the bag. The moment I get it home I take it out of the bag - pick out anything that doesn't look as fresh as it should be (usually it's all good), and do what you suggest. I put the paper towel in the bottom of the clamshell and add the lettuce back in (without the plastic bag). I've never put a paper towel on the top, but I'll try that next time.

I'll probably also try putting some in the green bags to see if that helps.

I love the green bags. The only thing that kept veggies better was when I had a vacuum sealer (a Seal-a-Meal machine that I picked up at a garage sale for $3). They're expensive to buy new, but if you can get a used one cheap, it's a great investment. For crackers and cereals, I'd put the bag in the sealer and suck out the air and seal the package after each use (the bag would get smaller and smaller as the stuff was used up, because I'd always cut the seal to open it).
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Old 12-21-2009, 06:41 PM   #52
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Just wanted to add, if you have too many baby lettuces to eat raw, you can cook them into a stirfry (no oil needed, cook as you normally would), add them at the last minute, serve hot foods on a bed of the lettuces or make green smoothies with them!
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Old 12-21-2009, 07:12 PM   #53
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For crackers and cereals, I'd put the bag in the sealer and suck out the air and seal the package after each use (the bag would get smaller and smaller as the stuff was used up, because I'd always cut the seal to open it).
hehe, that probably also helps fight just-one-more-tiny-piece syndrome.
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Old 12-21-2009, 07:59 PM   #54
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I am not sure if other supermarkets do it or not BUT my Kroger routinely marks down packaged produce items every single morning. The cut up brocolli, lettuce mixes, bags of spinach, etc. have sale stickers most mornings. They are substantial markdowns too--perhaps the spinach bag is $2.69 or so--they are usually marked $1.29 or so. Perhaps you could inquire at your own market.

I am not a big meat eater but I know the meat dept. at my Kroger does markdowns each morning too--as does (GULP) bakery.

Also, have you ever considered "bulking" your recipes--putting fresh veggies into ground turkey or chicken. Thus, lowering cost.

Not a novel idea at all--but I buy when the sales are on. Sure, it's my preference to have everything fresh but when I come on a good deal I buy and I buy big.

It's been mentioned before but the bulk bins are also my friend. There is nothing in them I cannot use in some way. Some of the items are rock bottom as compared to packaged products--quinoa, millet, brown rice, cous cous, raw almonds, rolled oats, steel cut oats, etc.
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Old 12-21-2009, 09:55 PM   #55
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Quote:
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Also, have you ever considered "bulking" your recipes--putting fresh veggies into ground turkey or chicken. Thus, lowering cost. .
This is a great tip. Beans are a good way to stretch meat as are mushrooms.
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Old 12-22-2009, 07:31 PM   #56
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This is embarrassing to admit, but we have a guy who stays with us who was basically living in his car. My bf has a thing about helping underdogs. Anyhow, he dumpster dives and, believe it or not, the food he brings home is pretty good. Bags of salad that are not rotten at all, lots of potatoes, both sweet and russet, romaine hearts, apples, bananas, cole slaw mix, bell peppers, you name it. He brought home these cauliflower and cheese things that were frozen and excellent, really.

Not sure how legal that is, but the way I look at it, it is a shame that the grocery stores throw away perfectly good food when there are so many hungry people in this country, so I really don't have a problem with it. And I am not too proud to eat what he brings home. Now, would I dumpster dive myself? No, that would be too risky and embarrassing. But, as long as the food isn't rotting, I don't have a problem with eating it.
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Old 12-22-2009, 08:45 PM   #57
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The freegan lifestyle is not that uncommon jillianfan. The amount of perfectly good food that grocery stores throw away is criminal. I dont see why they cant hook up with local food banks.

I actually was going to come back in here to suggest not dumpster diving but when fruit is in season keep an eye out for fruit trees and bushes. Dont take off someone's property, but a lot of times either they will let you pick it and take it away or let you pick it for a share. My friend has about 25 cherry trees on her property and she doesnt want to get in to selling fruit but you can pick all you want for free if you give her 25% of what you pick for her family. There are berry bushes lining public roadways but becareful of those because some areas spray weedkiller and pesticides. Apple trees around here are often unpicked
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Old 12-22-2009, 09:21 PM   #58
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Thanks, Ennay, I feel a little less embarrassed now.

I agree with what you say, too, Ennay. I live in San Diego, where just about everybody has trees that bear fruit - avocado, mangoes, all kinds of citrus, etc. These trees bear hundreds of fruit per season. More than any one person can eat. So it is an excellent idea to pick the fruit - asking first, of course, but they are pretty gracious about it.
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Old 12-23-2009, 01:28 AM   #59
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On the fruit issue, never ever pick anything growing by the railroad tracks. All sorts of waste gets dumped off the side of the cars.
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Old 01-20-2014, 02:11 PM   #60
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just eat much less of it, and exercise more. (not going dangerously below my calorie intake level, mind you)

Thats not a bad idea, I think Im gonna do the same
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