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Shoestring Meals Budget friendly ideas for healthy eating

Eating better on a budget? BUT HOW?!

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Old 11-11-2010, 11:39 AM   #1
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Wink Eating better on a budget? BUT HOW?!

I have to keep my grocery shopping under a certain amount since I don't make that much.

So here is my question to you all:
What are some healthy food finds that are cheap?
And what stores did you go to for these items?

Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 11-11-2010, 11:48 AM   #2
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I moved your thread because we have a forum dedicated to your question Read through some of the threads, I think they'll help.

Where to shop - Search your area, ethnic markets are great places for a number of things on the cheap. Farmer's markets can be a bargain depending on your area.

What to buy - Buy in bulk if you can. Bulk grains, beans and spices are generally much cheaper in bulk. Dried beans are also much cheaper than canned beans. Also, shopping the sales helps and being flexible. If I want to buy broccoli one week but find zucchini is on sale, you bet I'm going to buy the zucchini. Eating 'in season' also tends to be cheaper.
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Old 11-11-2010, 11:54 AM   #3
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periscae I am right there with you! I have about $30 a week to spend on food, which would feed a few people if I wanted to eat processed junk, but I am trying to eat natural more healthy stuff, so it's hard to stretch the budget sometimes. Two tricks I have learned is to shop at a co-op, IDK where you are but here in Northern California (and the Bay Area, especially) people are big on co-ops and usually they have good organic produce for cheap and they even have a "last chance" table, where they are trying to get rid of stuff (I know it sounds seedy, but I've found some great stuff there!) also, I live by the sales papers; like I am scouring those things on SUnday and planning what I am going to buy for the next week. It's still rough though, so I feel you!
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:01 PM   #4
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Dried beans and brown rice are both great staples that don't cost a lot of money. These items can stretch any meal. Also, whole chickens are pretty reasonable. I also clip lots of coupons and look at the sales ads. When buying fresh fruits/veggies it's usually cheapest to buy what's in season. Sometimes I'll use frozen veggies instead of fresh also.
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:08 PM   #5
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FYI - I'm just feeding myself, and I have a standard kitchen and fridge - I stopped eating out for lunch, and I do much more cooking than I used to...and my food budget has been cut to only about 25-30% of what I used to spend -

First up, I found that I saved tons of money on food when I started planning out a whole week's meals at a time, and only bought enough food for those meals (unless there was something that I knew I would eat soon that was at a very good price - and it was something that would keep or freeze). No more giant bags of carrots or other produce - the price per pound might have been better, but not if I ended up throwing out half.

Each week, I check the weekly food ads and look for lean proteins, fruits, and veggies that sound tasty...I pretty much ignore all the processed packaged foods (which unfortunately make up most of the ads). If I can find bone-in chicken on sale for under $1/lb, I buy 5-10 pounds, roast it or make it in the slow cooker, pull the meat off the bone, and freeze it in ziplocks (about 2-3 cups a bag). Then I use this for soups, stews, chicken salad, crustless chicken pot pie, etc. I also buy canned tuna and frozen veggies in larger amounts when they go on sale. If I buy beef, it tends to be something I can stretch in soup (ie beef barley soup), or make a bit of taco meat for salads...steaks are a rarity in my diet now-

I buy old fashioned oats in bulk (they only take a little longer in the microwave than instant)...even if you just buy the brand name Quaker Oats tubs, you can get 40-50 servings for the price of 10 individual packets -

Milk always goes bad on me, so I've switched to unsweetened Almond Breeze - it's shelf stable with fewer calories than milk (although a bit more expensive than milk unless on a really good sale), but doesn't feel as wasteful - and I really like the chocolate flavor in cereal or the vanilla in my oatmeal.

Bread is another thing I never finish...so now I buy a loaf of whole wheat on sale and put at least half straight into the freezer. And I only buy bread when I know I have food items on my weekly schedule that I will use it for -

I tend to make a big pot of certain soups/stews, freeze half or so, and then pull out the frozen containers when I'm reaching my monthly grocery limit - I make a chicken taco soup (with previously mentioned frozen chicken, green pepper, black beans, frozen corn, onions, cabbage, and a tomato-y broth); a lentil stew (with lentils, carrots, and spinach in a tomato-y broth); and a white bean stew with turkey sausage and whatever else sounds good; beef barley, etc..

I keep track of sale/non-sale prices on things that I typically purchase (chicken, turkey, tuna, various fresh produce items, frozen veggies, cottage cheese, diet soda, coffee, creamer, etc) at different stores, so I truly know when I'm getting a good price. I make sure to visit the farmer's market and ethnic food stores at least occasionally to check prices/quality. For me, the savings come mostly from planning and not buying things that will go to waste. I also always go shopping with a list and avoid any unplanned purchases. It's definitely more work and time than buying stacks of frozen meals, premade salads, and rotisserie chicken - but I'm trying to save a bunch of money right now, so it's the choice I make

Not sure if any of that really helps you in your specific circumstances, but it works for me
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:09 PM   #6
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Also, there is a blog I like to read by a lady who spends $3.33/day on food for her and her two teenage boys. She stopped blogging for a while but recently started back up. She tries to focus on healthy food.

http://melomeals.blogspot.com/
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:11 PM   #7
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Use the sale fliers. I try to stick to the meats, fruits and veggies that are on special and plan my menus around them.

I also save by using grocery store brand frozen berries and veggies. They taste just as good as the brand name things but are less expensive.

Saving $ on those things makes it easier for me to splurge on the things I rarely find on sale, like my sprouted grain breads and almond butter, etc.
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Old 11-11-2010, 01:27 PM   #8
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I'm also feeding just myself, and like spixiet I buy only the food I need for about a week's worth of meals. I plan my meals in advance (I don't get crazy, I just outline it in my brain). I make sure that what I'm cooking will feed me for at least dinner and a lunch, and hopefully one more dinner. I end making 2 or 3 actual meals a week and make sure to eat the leftovers. A lot of the recipes I use call for the same ingredients, so I'm not having to buy new stuff every time I make a meal. I also have just a couple types of snacks around, like fruit or multigrain pita chips.

Bread is something that I've always struggled to finish before it goes bad, so I put it in the freezer as soon as I buy it and only pull out slices as I need them (a slice of bread thaws in practically a matter of minutes). Milk is another thing that tends to go bad so I've been getting Skim Plus, because it has a longer shelf life. It's a little more expensive but I have time to actually use it all.

And as far as meat goes, I don't buy it unless it's on sale. And if it's not planned into one of my weekly meals, I freeze it and plan on using the week after.

Constantly eating leftovers gets a little boring sometimes, but I'm always looking for new recipes to try so I mix it up from week to week.
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Old 11-12-2010, 06:11 AM   #9
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I didn't know she started again. Thanks Nelie!

Quote:
Originally Posted by nelie View Post
Also, there is a blog I like to read by a lady who spends $3.33/day on food for her and her two teenage boys. She stopped blogging for a while but recently started back up. She tries to focus on healthy food.

http://melomeals.blogspot.com/
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Old 11-12-2010, 06:23 AM   #10
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Record everything you spend. This is just like calorie counting: the mere act of paying attention and recording makes you spend less and helps you notice trends in what you are spending. It also really helps you feel confident and in control.

My husband and I maintain a monthly spreadsheet where we itemize every individual item we buy, where we bought it, and what we paid for it. Just doing that has saved us a ton.

Once you have a months' worth of records, figure out where you spend the most money and find ways to cut that. If you go through a jar of peanut butter every 3 months, it doesn't really matter if you pay $2 or $2.50 a jar. But if, like me, you eat over a pound of cottage cheese a day,you really want to pay the best possible price.

One more thing: don't hoard food. Eat whatever is in your pantry, and once you have it empty, keep it empty, buying just what you need for the week. Food hoarding is an expensive habit because it keeps accumulating--without realizing it, you keep buying things you don't intend to use any time soon, and sometimes you keep buying the same thing over and over because you don't realize what you have.

Part of not hoarding is committing to going to the grocery store as often as needed. When it was the "rule" that I only went once a week, I tended to overbuy "just in case". Now, I buy exactly what I think I need and when tempted to buy more, I remind myself 'I can come back'.
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Old 11-17-2010, 06:14 PM   #11
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coupons, sales n such.

i love kroger, they double coupons.

i have 10 boxes and bags of brown rice i got for 10 cents or less each!
also have veggies i got for 15 cents a can.
oh and this time if year is perfect for buying your broth!
its on sale and theres coupons.

you can get coupons for anything!
just contact the companies that make your favorite food items (contact us at bottom of most pages)
tell them you love their products and most of the time you get awesome coupons via the mail.
i have gotten coupons from, amys organics, bobs red mill, newmans own, ect

oh and if you don't coupon hardcore like some (buying 5 papers a week lol)
you can buy coupons from coupon clipping sites (just the ones you need, and you pay a tiny clipping fee, and shipping so its pretty cheap.)

hth.
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Old 12-03-2010, 11:22 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shmead View Post
One more thing: don't hoard food. Eat whatever is in your pantry, and once you have it empty, keep it empty, buying just what you need for the week. Food hoarding is an expensive habit because it keeps accumulating--without realizing it, you keep buying things you don't intend to use any time soon, and sometimes you keep buying the same thing over and over because you don't realize what you have.

Part of not hoarding is committing to going to the grocery store as often as needed. When it was the "rule" that I only went once a week, I tended to overbuy "just in case". Now, I buy exactly what I think I need and when tempted to buy more, I remind myself 'I can come back'.
I REALLY have to disagree with you there... Perhaps you live near a grocery store, and you probably have a fairly reliable income, but for me, that would just not work. My fiance works construction. When he is working, we do not want for groceries, and because I "hoard" food, we also do not want for groceries when he's not working. (In construction, if it's raining, snowing, windy, hot, etc, there is a chance the check that week will be smaller. Also, when a job ends, it may take a week or two before a new one starts.) This week for example, is a week where he is not working because one job ended, and the other hasn't started yet. This week we are eating from our "hoard". It's nice to have a stash of good healthy food to fall back on. Also we save a TON of money this way. For instance, Last week, I found stovetop stuffing on sale for $.04 a box. I bought enough for thanksgiving, AND Christmas (I'd've bought more, but thats not really a healthy staple... lol). Canned veggies were also on sale for half off... more stock up. Why on earth would I want to pay twice as much next week when I can buy extra now. Or next month for that matter? If I have a little grocery money left over, why not buy 10 cans of corn at $.50 a can?

When our pantry is empty, it's time to spend some MAJOR grocery dough, or I'll end up ordering pizza, or swinging through a drive through... ick.

I also buy extra veggies and fruit at farmers markets and dry them, or freeze them, etc. Anything to keep that freezer and pantry FULL. (Bake sweet potato slices and beet slices into chips... yummy, dehydrated berries are great in oatmeal, I once found them for $.99 a quart, I bought 5 and dehydrated 4.

I am glad you found a system that works for you, but in the long run I'd rather save the money...
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Old 12-05-2010, 02:26 AM   #13
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Hubby and I also save tons and tons of money through stockpiling. A small chest freezer was our BEST money-saving purchase. We also have HUGE pantry in our kitchen.

You do have to select your stockpiled foods carefully though. We only stock up on foods that are incredible bargains. No matter how good the bargain, we avoid junk and our personal trigger/binge foods.

We start our shopping most months at a local overstock store (sort of like a privately-owned version of Big Lots). If the price is awesome, we stock up. A couple years ago they got in a huge health food store shipment and we bought a lot of pantry items. They had pound bags of gourmet varieties of dried beans ($3 to $4 for a pound bag in the health food store) for I believe 29 cents per bag. I bought one of every variety (chick peas, black beans, pinto beans, red beans, anasazi beans, kidney beans, white kidney beans...) and (in hindsight) I wish I had bought 5 bags of each variety (but I didn't know whether hubby would eat the more exotic varieties of beans).

I learned that most beans are completely interchangeable in recipes. I would make a batch of beans in the crock pot (the whole pound bag) then I would drain them and freeze them in a ziploc bag and "moosh" the bag around every 20 minutes or, to separate the beans as they froze so that I could scoop out just what I needed for recipes.

I buy spices in bulk from health food stores (where I scoop my own) or from a local baking supply spice store that sells the spices in small plastic tubs and plastic bags rather than in glass or plastic spice jars (cheaper, fresher, and much better tasting than grocery store spices in glass or plastic jars).

I make my own salad dressings (I've read and been inspired by tons of recipes online, but I learned the splash-and-dash method from my mom and grandma so I rarely make a whole batch. I try not to have any leftovers).

Kwik Trip is a gas-station convenience store with great prices on butter, eggs, milk, orange juice, potatoes, onions, bananas, apples, oranges, and pears. The prices are so much cheaper than the regular grocery stores. I just bought a bag of apples that had to weigh at least 5 lbs, for only $3.99 and choice of Ambrosia and Fuji (both premium varieties of apples).

I always refrigerate apples, because they last 10 times longer in the fridge (and I LOVE the crisper, juicier texture of refrigerated apples).

We don't buy fresh potatoes in bulk though. We both watch carbs, so we don't eat them fast enough. We do buy potato flakes though (I add a little bit of mashed potato flakes to my mashed cauliflower. Almost as low-cal as mashed cauliflower alone, but with a taste and texture more like real potato-only mashed potatoes).

We buy granulated tvp and brown it with ground beef (or pork) and seasonings (onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, parsley) and freeze it like the beans (mooshing the bag so it freezes in crumbles to use in recipes). By combining the tvp and ground beef I can use cheaper (fattier) cuts ground beef and yet replicate the fat content of premium super-lean beef (because tvp is virtually fat-free). The crumbles can be used in any recipe that calls for browned ground meats, like tacos, sloppy joes, casseroles, spahetti sauce, chili, stroganoff....

I bought some "ground beef" recipe cookbooks at thrift stores and on amazon.com too.
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Old 01-24-2011, 01:18 AM   #14
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There have been times where I have found GREAT deals on good food at 99cents only stores. Not sure if this franchise is in your area.

They have bagged salads or bagged veggies (like you'd get from the grocery store) for only .99. Also I got a 5 lb bag of oranges that were DELICIOUS for only .99. I also get bread from there, as well as some other staples.

Also, milk can be frozen. If you find that it's something that goes bad on you... perhaps pour some of it into a container that you can use as needed and then freeze the rest. I thought it would be gross but once it actually becomes liquid again, it taste like milk LOL.

Also I have used couponmom.com on occasion as well as sale paper ads. You can print only the coupons that you will use. Sometimes there are really good deals.

I tend to also make extras when I cook something and then freeze it for easy meals that can be reheated fairly quickly (spaghetti, chicken breast, beef, turkey, etc) and used in a variety of meals.
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Old 01-24-2011, 01:25 AM   #15
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also I like to go to the grocery store on the date that most of the meats have the 'sell-by' date of (for instance, if a sell-by/freeze-by date is Jan 19, I try to go that day) and the store will often have 2-5 dollars off stickers on them so that they can get them sold that day!

That has come in handy more times than once.
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