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Shoestring Meals Budget friendly ideas for healthy eating

Healthy eating on $25 a week

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Old 12-30-2009, 11:37 PM   #1
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Default Healthy eating on $25 a week

having a healthy diet on a budget is important to many people, especially since convenience foods have been getting cheaper and cheaper. although getting started was a little rough, i have found ways of cutting costs. I buy whole grains in bulk...only what i plan on eating in a week, in the off season i buy frozen veggies, and freeze fresh fruit when it is in season (or on sale). the nice thing about freezing is that there is minimal nutrient loss, and you can eat your food when you get ready to do so.

a disadvantage that those who rely on public transportation may have is that to get the best deals you will have to go to a couple of different stores. i am fortunate to have 3 different natural food stores in town and each store has things cheaper than other stores. i am also not ashamed to go to kroger, meijer or even walmart if i have to to save a buck.

to those who have a small food budget, what do you do to get more bang for youe buck?
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Old 12-31-2009, 12:24 AM   #2
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I am working on budgeting more and more as money gets tighter. I find the freezer to be a good friend. I go to costco and buy the big packs of ground turkey, chicken breast, etc. and I always have them on hand. I pack my own lunches at home instead of buying prepared foods at the store (at least during the week). I try to use "bento" style- preparing foods in an organized container.
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Old 12-31-2009, 12:32 AM   #3
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I live in a tiny apartment with a tiny freezer (enough room for 2 packs of frozen veggies...), and no car to transport stuff either, so I usually stop by the store once a day to shop for the essentials. I do however never go into the store hungry, because that will make me go for the unhealthy choices and spend more money on that than would normally. I also never go there without a plan; I know what's for dinner, and usually I get dinner to last me two days (portion control means that I don't have to throw things out - I live alone).
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Old 12-31-2009, 11:41 AM   #4
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299, I hear you. I don't think my freezer is as small as yours, I can definitely keep a week's worth of things and more, but there's not room for really stocking up on specials. I don't have the cupboard space for a lot of stocking up either.

I love the idea of daily shopping, just haven't ever quite implemented it. It seems to maybe suit urban living more than suburban. Still, I should at least give it a trial. I have a grocery store between my apartment and work, and it's close enough to walk. It's just that I don't prefer shopping at Albertson's everyday - I'd rather go weekly to Trader Joe's. But since the daily stuff would be mostly produce, it might be fine. Albertson's has more things in bins - TJ tends to package up produce so you have to buy a certain quantity.

Acutally, I've just gotten out of the habit of cooking almost all my own food. Just getting back to that should save a whole lot
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Old 01-01-2010, 09:51 PM   #5
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I stumbled upon a budget food blog yesterday at http://thirtyaweek.wordpress.com/ that looks great. She's feeding two people for 30 bucks a week in NY, which sounds pretty impossible! They are vegetarian, so that helps. They aren't dieting, but most of their recipes look very healthy.
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Old 01-01-2010, 10:07 PM   #6
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Actually, my freezer has limited space as well. All I can say it is filled so much it is kind of difficult to find what I need.
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Old 01-03-2010, 12:01 AM   #7
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When I am forced to tighten the belt in more ways than one (haha! I'm funny!), like I am now, I start relying on beans and bulk veggies like carrots and parsnips and onions, oh my. I had good results recently with some white beans, soak and boiled off in low-sodium chicken stock, with roasted vegetahmahbulls added in near the end (except the onions, oh they went right in yum yum). Add that to a roasted chicken, and you are eating for daaaaaays, girl! Beans, brown rice, bulk lean meats... um, ok, bulk leans meats and a pernil. Pernil is lean I tell you. And cheap veggies. I look in the circular online before I shop, and make some choices about 3 main meals that will make left-unders (as hubs calls them), and then a pack of turkey, a hunk of cheese, some whole wheat bread, oatmeal and skim milk for breakfast.
My $.02 (which doesn't go far anymore).
Good luck with the budget, and the diet.
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Old 01-03-2010, 07:06 PM   #8
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i have fond memories of buying frozen chicken breast...eating half of one for dinner and using the other half of the breast in a salad the next day. I also remember that ground chicken(or was it turkey) was very cheap.
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Old 01-03-2010, 08:37 PM   #9
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As far as meats go, you can find some of the best bargains with pork and dark-meat chicken.

Many people avoid pork and dark meat poultry because they're assumed to be fattier than other choices, but this isn't always the case.

Skinless chicken thighs are leaner than skin-on chicken breasts - and are much cheaper. Bone-in thighs, legs and leg quarters are generally the most economical cuts of poultry, but boneless thighs are often cheaper (per pound of edible portion) than bone-in breast.

It can be hard to comparison shop when you're trying to compare the prices of boneless, skinless pieces and bone-in, skin-on pieces. I've often thought of trying to measure how much weight is (on average) in the skin and/or bone of the different cuts, but instead I developed a sort of gut-reaction sense.


Whole chickens I will never pay more than $1.00 per pound
Boneless breasts, I buy only when they're under $2 per pound.
Bone-in breasts, I buy only when they're under $1.50 per pound.
Boneless thighs, I buy only when they're around $1.00 per pound.
Bone-in, skin-on thighs, legs, or leg quarters I buy only when they're under 80 cents per pound (and buy whichever is lowest in price - in the past year, I've found bargains as low as 39 cent per pound).

Pork I try to buy when it is less that $1.50 per pound.

Beef, I try to buy when it is less than $2.00 per pound. Since other meats are generally available cheaper and lower in fat, I don't buy much beef - except for ground beef to brown with tvp (soy protein)

Fish we usually don't buy, because we sometimes go fishing, and hubby's father is an obsessive fisherman who fishes all year round, so we get pan-fish, walleye, and catfish free (if you don't count the cost of our anual fishing licenses).

I only buy it when it's under $5 per pound. And only buy bacon when it's under $2.50 per pound.

(This makes cheese and bacon appear to be more expensive options than other proteins, but we can't judge them that way, because we don't use them in the same way as other meats - and if we did, they wouldn't be healthy options. We use them more as seasonings or toppings for salads, pasta dishes, and other foods and recipes).

We can't save the most money by buying everything at any one store. Though if I had to shop only one store - it would be Walmart during off-hours like at 3 am. We don't shop at 3 am, but we do try to go during off-peak hours so it's easier to take our time and make comparisons, and not have to wait in line for hours to check-out.

There is no way around bargain shopping if you're on a tight budget. There are no universal rules that are always true. Dried beans are very cheap, but only if you buy them when you find them very cheap. Because "health-foods" are very popular, you might pay $5 for a pound of dried black beans packed in a box or bag with a trendy or health-food brand in the health food department. The same type of beans, you might find in a plastic one pound bag for $2 in the rice and bean aisle. A store or unknown brand may be $1 for the same size bag. Or, you could go to an ethnic (say mexican) grocery and find them in hand-sorted in a slightly-larger-than-a-lunch-bag brown paper bag for $2 for a 5 lb bag. You might get them even cheaper if you can buy them in larger bags. Or you might find them in a Big Lot's style store for 39 cents for 1 lb plastic trendy-brand bags along with a variety of other "gourmet" beans (These are all prices I've paid in the last year for beans).

Savings really add up. The best way to eat as cheaply as you can is to pay attention to the minute details and comparison shop (and use those math skills to determine the best price). Whenever I hear a child say "I hate math - when am I ever going to use it?" the grocery store is the FIRST place I now think of.

I think I've used more math, including algebra, in the grocery store (or at home planning for a trip to the grocery store) than any place else.
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Old 01-05-2010, 08:37 PM   #10
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Well...I really spend $30. per week on food...but I think I am doing very well with that. I buy meats, seafood, fruit and veggies on sale. Get store brand olives, roasted peppers, and yogurt, and so I finally learned how to make (really easy) no- knead bread, make my own seasoned breadcumbs with that, or slice it very thin and toast (like meba toast) to have with home-made humus (very cheap and easy to make).Another good good item... non-fat yogurt... You can drain the liquid off in a colander lined with a paper towel over night, and in the morning you have a very nice spread. Beans, whole grains, vegetable and/or bean soups rock.
Today I made 8 jars of jam and marmalade for less than a dollar a jar. There are lots of recipes and how-tos on line ....if you have the time, and like doing it, you can eat very well for not too much cash.
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Old 01-05-2010, 10:05 PM   #11
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Here are some tips that help me save money:
1. make a "menu" of all the meals you are going to cook for, and make note of how much of each ingredient you will need to satisfy your menu. Then when you go to the store, you only buy the healthy foods you need for the menu and it also keeps you from impulse buys.

2. Buy in bulk. There are so many items that you can buy bulk, it's almost ridiculous. I make my own granola, but I buy my seeds, dried fruit and some oats in bulk so I only have to buy exactly what I need.

3. Call local butchers and see if they are running any specials. I got a 14 lb bag of LOCAL ORGANIC chicken breasts for $1.50 a pound only because they hadn't been trimmed. I just trimmed them and portioned them in individual baggies, and they are good to go!

4. Save scraps. All of your chicken and veggie scraps and be put into a big pot, let it simmer for a day, strain it, and it's chicken stock. Add some chicken and noodles and you have a really cheap chicken noodle soup. YUM.
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Old 01-06-2010, 11:53 AM   #12
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these are all really great ideas, anything else anyone wants to add about dieting on a budget?
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Old 01-07-2010, 03:46 PM   #13
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These two ideas are longer term, but this is just the time to be thinking about them.

Idea 1. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I get a box of produce a week during the growing season. Pound for pound, it's less than I'd pay at the grocery store. It does, however, have a substantial up front cost. You can find a CSA near you by typing your zip code in the Local Harvest site:
http://www.localharvest.org/
The CSA has me eating more and different produce and cooking more creatively (the question isn't so much "what's for dinner?" as "what needs to be eaten?")

Idea 2. Grow your own food. I firmly believe nearly every one should be growing at least basil -- the plant costs about the same as a package of basil at the store and it keeps growing! Last summer was the first time I grew greens from seeds and I'm astounded at how much food can come from a $2 pack of seeds.
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Old 01-08-2010, 08:38 AM   #14
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Plan your meals around which fresh produce is on sale at the grocery store, use supercook.com (where you find recipes based on what you have in your kitchen), eat less meat and more beans and lentils. Share meals with others.
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Old 01-08-2010, 08:50 AM   #15
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Hi Hyaccinth !
I do love your hat and gloves...and your attitude....
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