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Shoestring Meals Budget friendly ideas for healthy eating

Cheapest complete diets

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Old 02-04-2012, 08:51 PM   #16
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I cook both oatmeal and cornmeal (polenta) in the microwave. You can stir nonfat dry milk powder into either one for calcium and protein. Potatoes, onions and winter squash will keep several days in a cool, dry place. Apples, oranges, bananas and raisins are good fruit choices and will last a while without refrigeration. Dried beans are the cheapest protein, but unless you have a hot plate to cook them canned are a good second choice. Most are a bit bland, but they might make good cold salads with a little garlic, oil and vinegar or lemon. Don't forget peanut butter! I like it on store-brand whole-wheat crackers.
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Old 02-04-2012, 09:02 PM   #17
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Also check this website out - recipefinder.nal.usda.gov. You can search for recipes by the type of cooking equipment you have. It's designed for SNAP recipients, so most of the recipes are inexpensive and nutritious.
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Old 02-04-2012, 10:01 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vassock View Post
I think some of the posters here have misunderstood my request. The goal here is not necessarily to reduce weight gain. Rather, it is to avoid vitamin/mineral deficiency conditions such as scurvy. As someone who has little experience in preparing meals and general nutrition, I want to learn how to feed myself on a budget. It's easy to just buy whatever meat you want, but that is a luxury unavailable to me.

Also, the recommendations should not require refrigeration since this is not available, either.

I do like the recommendations listing rice and oatmeal as components, but when someone mentions NOT eating potatoes I feel as though people are avoiding the goal I mentioned above. Potatoes are actually quite cheap and a good source of nutrients.

That said, maybe this would be a better approach. What do you see as wrong with the following diet, expense/nutrition wise?

1. Brown rice (packed in plastic, soaked in water before consuming)
2. White rice (packed in plastic, soaked in water before consuming)
3. Potatoes (microwaved)
4. Canned pork and beans (microwaved)
5. Raw tomatoes
6. Microwaved noodles/pasta
7. White bread

What can I add/remove to make this diet complete and without nutrient deficiencies/diseases/disorders?

I also like the idea of buying prepared meals that only need a microwave, but I am a little worried about the effects of its sodium content if that's ALL I ever eat.
No balanced diet is going to contain only 7 kinds of food - especially since 5.5 of the 7 are really coming from only one food group (grain/starch). You only list one veggie.

Now I know you probably don't mean only eating these 7 foods - but it's why none of us can "give" you a balanced diet - we'd have to include a list of too many foods to fit in one small paragraph.

This is why I suggested exchange plan diets, because they will include servings of fat, starch/grain, protein, fruits, veggies, and dairy - and you can then choose the most econonmical options from those categories. The best way to insure balance, is to eat the widest variety of foods you can (and for fruits and veggies - the widest number of colors).

You can buy variety on a very low budget, because there are many inexpensive options in each food exchange category.

You can't give a list of a dozen or even 100 foods and ensure a balanced diet. But the more variety you eat, the better odds you'll have. Exchange plans are helpful, because you do get foods from six different "food groups" but you still want to eat more than one or two foods from each group, you want to eat dozens of foods from each group, and for the plant-based foods you want as much color variation as possible (all your veggies shouldn't be green - you shouch get fruits and veggies in all colors oranges, reds, purple-reds, greens, whites and yellows, greens).

You have to do the work to understand nutrition a little better, if you want a well-balanced diet. None of us can balance your diet for you, or give you a list of inexpensive foods that provide ultimate nutrition or even relatively balanced nutrition. The list would be way too long - and even then you could eat from the list and still end up with an unbalanced diet if you're eating too much of one food and not enough of another (which is why I suggested exchange plans, because you're assigned only so many protein, so many fruit, so many veggies.... some of the balance is built in - but if you never eat "orange" foods (just as an example) that's probably not so good.

You are going to have to do most of the work here, and that's going to have to start with learning a little bit about nutrition so you recognize healthy food at a bargain price when you see it.

If you're not willing to do the work, you've got to understand that you're going to be "taking your chances." You can "wing it" by eating as much variety as you can afford, and hoping for the best (and taking a multivitamin to hopefully fill in any gaps) or you can see a professional dietitian.

A dietitian will sit down with you and can help you plan a healthful diet with your preferences, lifestyle, and budget - but none of us can "hand you" a balanced diet. Even if we had the skill set, it would take hours and hours of work - and knowing the food prices in your area. What is cheap in my area is going to be expensive in others (and food in season here, may be out of season elsewhere).

Almost all-year-round I can find some type of cabbage for less than 40 cents per pound (as low as 19 cents). Cheese here is very inexpensive (if you choose local dairies). Food markets here are usually very inexpensive, in some places that's not true. I can't give you a "cheap diet" because what is cheap here may be expensive where you live - so you have to learn strategies - not food lists.

That's why exchange plans are so helpful - some balance is mixed in - but once you learn which foods satisfy which food group, you will choose foods based on your own budget and the prices in your area. So you will buy the ten or more cheapest proteins in your area. You will buy the ten or more cheapest fruits in your area. The ten or more cheapest veggies. Eat as much variety as possible within each of the six groups, and your diet will be better balanced than most.

If you don't have much money, there is no way to do this without doing most of the work yourself - not just the physical work, but the mental work of learning more about nutrition.
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Old 02-04-2012, 11:23 PM   #19
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What kaplods said.

There's a huge body of research on nutrition, and attempting to distill it down until a few basic foods is an impossible feat. There are as many ways to have a "healthy" diet as there are posters on this forum, foods vary naturally in nutritional value, prices vary seasonally and from locality to locality.

What resources you have available to you vary as well. I have a friend who can harvest salad from nearly anyone's front lawn, and it's a highly nutritious and free option, but requires that you know local plants and are comfortable foraging. Locally I could get fresh seafood or fish for minimal cost in time/equipment/licensing, but again, you have to have knowledge of the area and the interest in doing so.
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Old 08-03-2012, 09:17 PM   #20
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The diet you list is not balanced. It is very carb heavy. Vegetable prevent a lot of deficiencies and provide many vitamins and minerals.

I suggest looking at choosemyplate (dot) gov. The whole purpose of the website is to educate people on eating a balanced diet. (Not weight loss focused.) It will give you all sorts of examples of what you should eat based on your height and weight. You can then decide within the general guidelines what your food choices will be.

:-)
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Old 08-03-2012, 09:27 PM   #21
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You need fat and protein to survive. The diet you list is carb heavy, which is not even an essential macronutrient.

You'd get the best bang for your buck from fatty meats and produce, if your only goal is to reduce the likelihood of nutrient deficiencies.
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Old 08-03-2012, 10:03 PM   #22
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I agree with Val on protein and fat. Since refrigeration is not available, you should consider adding more beans and nuts for protein and fat. Tuna (packed in water) is pretty cheap. There are also a variety of canned vegetables and cheap, healthy soups from Campbell and Progressive that you can add.
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Old 08-22-2012, 07:52 PM   #23
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You may consider eating peanut butter sandwiches, too. That way you would be getting some protein that does not need to be refrigerated, add a banana rather than jelly and you have a serving a fruit, too. Or you could have an apple on the side.

I know that doesn't really answer your question but I know that peanut butter and apples can go a long way in regards to being budget friendly.
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