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Shoestring Meals Budget friendly ideas for healthy eating

Diet help please?

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Old 12-19-2012, 03:07 AM   #1
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Default Diet help please?

So I have a monthly budget of $135 for food. It is in food stamps, so I am unable to shop at farmers markets or other local produce markets that do not take these. (None around me do anyway and gas is too expensive to go riding around the country side looking for cheap apples, lol.)

It might be asking too much, but could anyone think of a grocery list that would sustain me for the entire month on this budget, with a limited amount of processed foods/fats? I also have colitis which is pretty much the equivalent of crohns disease so I am also hoping to start a low-fat and healthier diet to relieve my symptoms.

If this is even possible at my budget, which literally makes me laugh at how impossible it seems.. if anyone could message me or post here about this I would really appreciate it. I have tried everything I can think of and I'm just getting very depressed and discouraged now. I fear that I will be symptomatic, sick, and overweight forever because of my circumstances. I cannot even work or continue with college until my symtoms are under control and that will not happen with the food pantry and cheap fatty food diet I am on now. (I was at the grocery store today and the cheapest juice was $3 while a bottle of soda was $1. It is all very depressing as I am 21 years old and feel that my quality of life is so low and that I have absolutely no control...)

Any words of advice would be so much appreciated. Thank you. <3
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Old 12-19-2012, 03:14 AM   #2
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A good start would be ... not drinking juice or soda???

I don't know where you live but if meat goes on sale I'd suggest a basic diet of inexpensive meat, beans, and inexpensive veggies.
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Old 12-19-2012, 03:19 AM   #3
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I am definitely not a meat eater, so I could never live on just meat. Ew :S
I looked at the juice because I've been drinking so much water it's just getting annoying. I've always got water in the house (can't drink water from the tap) thanks to my grandmother. She either brings me water from her well or spring water.

Another question to ask is what is better, spring or filtered water from the store? I buy the gallon waters sometimes as they are only $1. What else can I drink besides water then? Because water, ugh, I am drinking it right now, lol and it gives me a stomach ache just thinking about it.
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Old 12-19-2012, 03:19 AM   #4
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I suggest along the same lines as John. I eat a lot of celery and nut butter (peanut butter with no sugar added is cheap), salads with homemade dressing (herbs, oil, vinegar, yum!), eggs, tuna, etc. Think basic dishes and inexpensive produce. But meat and cheese that is marked down as soon to expire and cook it up or freeze it when you get home - that saves you 50-70% right there, depending on the product. Keep processed foods to a complete minimum, I can stretch my family's dollar a lot further with $100 of chicken thighs, root vegetables, and salad fixings than I can with frozen entrees, prepackaged beverages, chips, etc. More nutritious and less expensive.
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Old 12-19-2012, 03:23 AM   #5
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All meat? Who said that? The foundation of your diet should be produce, healthy fats, and some meat or dairy to taste. Eggs and oatmeal (if you do grains, I dont!) for breakfast, a salad and a side of cheese/nut butter/tuna/chicken for lunch, a steamed veggie/chopped fruit/grilled protein for dinner. Snacks can be cheese, fruit, nuts, hummus, what have you.

Bottled water sounds insane to me, so I don't know which to recommend. I'd just fill up the 1 gallon jugs with the dispenser at the store for arrowhead or whatever the local water is, or buy a Brita pitcher and be done with it. If it is boring, a little lemon juice goes a LONG way.
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Old 12-19-2012, 03:39 AM   #6
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It's just very confusing for me, because one day my docs suggest I stay away from fiber and the next they tell me to eat more of it! I know that with this illness it will be a trial and error type of deal, but it's much more difficult when I am not in the position to waste food. I will have to start slow and try one item at a time to see how it sits. It's also annoying that I don't like certain things, like beans and meats. I wish I could force myself to like them, it would be so much easier! I will try the nut butter, I have heard many things about it but never actually knew what it was until now, so thank you both.
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Old 12-19-2012, 06:59 AM   #7
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My husband and I are both on disability with multiple health issues, and for a while, when hubby was working but I wasn't but hadn't yet filed for disability, our food budget was $25 a month for the both of us (and we were not eligible for foodstamps because hubby made just a few dollars more than the cut-off, but our medical and medication expenses were so high).

That was our situation when I first started on the weight loss journey.

You'll find tons and tons and tons of tips on dieting cheaply in the Budget Meals forum. You won't be able to use all of them because of your diet, but you will be able to use many of them.

I don't have ulcerative colitis, but I do have IBS (iritable bowel syndrome - not inflammatory bowel disease).

Before following any of my suggestions, talk to your doctor about them, because the recommendations for ulcerative colitis is probably different than for my IBS.

1. Fiber. I too was told to avoid fiber (while the IBS was flaring). That is if I had diarrhea or cramping, eating raw fruits and vegetables could make it worse. And was told that eating more fiber would likely help prevent future flares. So - eat less fiber when in severe pain, and when the gut has calmed down, slowly start eating more fiber.

The key is to add the fiber slowly. If you're normally eating 0-3 servings of fruits and veggies per day, don't suddenly try to eat 10 servings - you'll be in for some super-intense pain.


Again this is true for IBS. I don't know if it's true for you, so ask your doctor specific questions about what you should and shouldn't be eating. If you can see a dietitian, all the better. I believe that having ulcerative colitis is one of few conditions for which medicare, medicaid, and most insurances do cover dietitian consultation. You might get to have only one appointment or you might get a certain number per year. Find out before you make your appointment how many times you'll get to see the dietitian. If it's only once, write down every question you can think of and take the list of questions with you.

Now, on to eating healthfully for weight loss on a super tight budget. Again, you'll find these and many, many more tips on the Budget Meals forum, so browse through those threads. Also remember some of these suggestions won't apply to you, so clear them with your doctor or dietitian first.

1. Don't drink juice. Fruit is healthy, juice really isn't. Don't bother with juice at all, unless you can afford a blender that "juices" by pulverizing so you're drinking the peels and fiber (and you're not going to be able to afford one of these juicers, and it's entirely unnecessary - eat your fruits and vegetables). In most juices, the good stuff has been thrown away and all you're left with is sugar water with some, but not all of the vitamins.

2. In our area the Walmart and the Aldi are the cheapest stores in town. We don't just shop there, because I start with the sale ads and if there's a super deal in the most expensive store in town - I go there and only buy the cheapstuff. If you can only shop one store, find out which store is the cheapest and go there.

3. Expect to spend a LOT of time in the grocery store until you learn what's cheapest in which stores, at what times of year. Overall cabbage, celery, carrots, and onions tend to be the cheapest vegetables. Potatoes are also cheap, but count them as a bread/starch not a vegetable.

4. Exchange plans and calorie counting are the easiest ways to diet on a budget. Exchange plans are particularly helpful, because they're helpful not just for weight loss, but for insuring that you're eating a balanced diet, and even better they can help you in the grocery store so that you don't underbuy or overbuy.

Just as an example, when I follow an exchange plan, my plan allows for 3-4 servings of fruit. I know that I will need to buy 21 to 28 servings of fruit. This helps me determine which fruits are the cheapest, and how much to buy. One orange is one fruit exchange, but an apple (because it's higher in calories) is two fruit exchanges. If apples and oranges are the same price, apples are the better deal.

For balance, I didn't ever pick only one fruit for the week. I'd pick two or three, but would make sure that they were the best value I could find. Bananas, oranges, and some varieties of apples and pears are often the cheapest - but you can find sales on any fruit and veggie so don't buy what's usually the cheapest, take a calculator and even a notebook with you so you can determine which are the cheapest.

5. In most cases, you save money by doing some of the work yourself. Chicken thighs are usually cheap, so are legs, but ironically chicken leg quarters are often cheapest of all. A whole chicken used to be the cheapest, but often leg quarters are the absolute cheapest way to buy chicken.

6. TVP can be helpful if you can find a cheap source. It's often cheapest when it's in the bulk-bins that you scoop out of yourself. Some grocery stores might have bulk bins, but often health food stores are the cheapest place for tvp (tvp being soy protein granules. They look like beige gravel or grape nuts cereal but they reconstitute with hot water to make a ground beef substitute). Dry TVP is about as expensive as cheap ground beef per pound, but one pound of dry tvp is equivalent to about 4 lbs of ground beef. So per serving it's 1/4 the price. I brown tvp with ground beef and onion and other seasonings and then add hot broth. Then I use the mixture in recipes that call for browned ground beef such as tacos, spaghetti sauces... (1/4 cup = 2 protein exchanges on an exchange plan)

7. Probably should have been tip one - go to the library and research your condition and frugal living. A book that literally was a life-saver for us was the book "The Complete Tightwad Gazettte" it gave us so many tips for saving money (and not just on groceries) that I bought a copy when I found it (either on amazon.com or at a garage sale, don't remember which).

There are tons of books on frugal living and on eating cheaply. Some of them aren't diet books, but with exchange plan and calorie counting it doesn't matter - you don't eat "diet food" you just budget your food as you do your money. Even if you're following low-carb, consider a low-carb exchange plan because it makes shopping so much easier (the website frugalabundance.com has low-carb, middle-of-the-road, and high-carb exchange plans and exchange plan information).


8. Amazon.com. This is how I found all the books I wanted to check out from the library. And those I couldn't find at the library, I ordered through interlibrary loan. I just used terms like "eating cheaply" "cheap meals," "frugal living"... in the searches and saved every book that looked interesting in my amazon "wish list." Then I printed out that list and went to the library. When I read the books, I took notes and I made a little note on that printed out list whether it was a book I wanted to buy on amazon (I didn't have much money to buy books, but I could often get a book for $5 or less INCLUDING SHIPPING on some of these books).

I know this sounds like a lot of work, and at first it is, but it's also fun (if you choose to make it fun instead of miserable). I chose to see it as a personal challenge to buy the best, most interesting food with the small amount of money we had, and every time I got a really good deal, I felt like I had "won" something or proven to myself how smart I could be. Don't let any of it stress you out, do the best you can and ignore what you can't control.

Those are the top suggestions I have, though there's a lot more in the Budget Meals forum, can't recommend the forum enough.
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Old 12-19-2012, 08:24 AM   #8
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Those are some really tough circumstances, you can do it though!

First, I suggest knowing your seasons. Right now, you will do great on tuber-type vegetables which can be the foundation of a low/no-meat diet, these are very affordable in the winter. I live just a bit north of you and we're at $1.50 for a 10lb bag in some stores! Cabbage, rutabaga, etc.

The tricky part is that the most affordable foods (beans) are high fibre.

WHITE rice, rather than whole fibre brown rice, is very very cost effective and I would suggest using it frequently if your stomach allows.

Canned fish/tuna is usually a good deal.

You don't like meat? With your budget, you can look online for affordable vegan/vegetarian recipes or head to the library for great cookbooks. Are you unemployed? If so, I would dedicate a good amount of time each day to learning how to cook/read recipes/read about foods. If you can find Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" in a library, you should check it out. It will teach you how to properly butcher various cuts of meat (ie a whole chicken) which can save you a large amount (it's really shocked how much cheaper it is!!)

Here's a nice website I like:
http://thirtyaweek.wordpress.com/
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Old 12-19-2012, 08:51 AM   #9
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6. TVP can be helpful if you can find a cheap source. It's often cheapest when it's in the bulk-bins that you scoop out of yourself. Some grocery stores might have bulk bins, but often health food stores are the cheapest place for tvp (tvp being soy protein granules. They look like beige gravel or grape nuts cereal but they reconstitute with hot water to make a ground beef substitute). Dry TVP is about as expensive as cheap ground beef per pound, but one pound of dry tvp is equivalent to about 4 lbs of ground beef. So per serving it's 1/4 the price. I brown tvp with ground beef and onion and other seasonings and then add hot broth. Then I use the mixture in recipes that call for browned ground beef such as tacos, spaghetti sauces... (1/4 cup = 2 protein exchanges on an exchange plan)
REALLY?! I never heard of this before. Where can I find more info on this TVP? Sounds like a great idea to help with the meat prices.
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:14 AM   #10
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I was going to suggest things like:
Dried legumes (beans, split peas, lentils, etc - in bulk if possible), Cabbage, carrots, whole grains (various types of rice, oatmeal, etc - in bulk if possible) and what not. Honestly, $135 should be plenty for 1 person. I don't really have a budget but my husband and I spend between $250-$350/month on food for both of us. And honestly, a lot of our food is organic but because we don't eat meat, our costs are fairly low.

I would check your local library for some cookbooks to help you with some recipes: vegan on the cheap, supermarket vegan and more-with-less are 3 books I can think of that would help.

This is a blog of a woman that used to spend $100/month for her and her son. She has quite a few tips/tricks for eating inexpensively:
http://melomeals.blogspot.com
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:22 AM   #11
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My FIL had colitis and avoided fiber. Follow your doctor's advice on this. It is possible to diet on a budget. Shop sales, when I go to the store I go around the store seeing whch items are on sale. Fresh fruits and vegies are cheapest when they are in season. I was in my grocery store this week and they had canned tomato soup at $1.00 a can, I didn't get any but remembered that price, when I went to Target they had the same exact tomato soup at 55 cents a can. I am not suggeting that you run from store to store but find which stores are usually the cheapest or offer the best sales.
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Old 12-19-2012, 11:06 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by valentine21463 View Post
REALLY?! I never heard of this before. Where can I find more info on this TVP? Sounds like a great idea to help with the meat prices.

Just type tvp or textured vegetable protein into google. It's made from defatted soy bean. It can be made from corn as well, but I've never run across corn tvp myself.

It's harder to find in some areas than others, but most health food stores sell it, if not in the bulk bins than in packages (usually Bob's Red Mill brand).

Even Walmart carries it (or at least the Walmarts in central Illinois and North Central Wisconsin). The Bob's Red Mill brand tends to run about $4 to $5 for 12 ounces (about $6 per pound which is still cheaper than beef, because it's equivalent to finding ground beef at $1.50 per pound).

I can find it in health food stores at $2.50 to $3.00 per pound

Again these are midwest prices, so you have do do your own comparison to see how it compares to beef prices in your area.

Also, dry tvp comes in different flavors and colors. I always by the unflavored granules or flakes. The granules look like grapenuts cereal or beige aquarium gravel. The flakes are have a more flattened/flake texture, but look more like meat when cooked.

TVP has almost no flavor of it's own, so it picks up the flavor of whatever you cook with it, or season it with.

Hubby doesn't care for it except when it's cooked with meat. At first he would only eat it when I used significantly more beef than tvp. Over time I kept adding more tvp and less beef, though I still use at most 3 cups of tvp per pound of meat, but you can stop wherever your own taste preferences end up.

I don't mind tvp (and no meat) in things like chili, soups, and spaghetti sauces, but for sloppy joes and tacos I want a meatier flavor.

When our budget was super-tight, we ate it almost every day, often at two meals. Some people say that soy shouldn't be eaten that often, and recommendations vary. I've heard everything from "none" for people with metabolic and hormonal issues, to up to one meal per day.

I even use it as a breakfast cereal. Even as a breakfast cereal it's pretty bland so I'll add a bit of Splenda and cinnamon, or some dried fruit. I don't drink fresh dairy (but do eat cheeses and yogurt - especially my homemade yogurt).

Speaking of which, yogurt is SUPER cheap and actually very easy to make at home. I don't like standing at the stove, so I make it in the crockpot. There's almost no work involved, but you do have to stick around while it's heating and cooling until you know how long your crockpot takes to get the milk up to and then down to the right temperature. It's about 5 minutes of total work, but about 11 to 18 hours of waiting. The first 6 hours are the ones you need to be around for. Though I've cut that down to about 3, because I heat the milk in the microwave before putting it in the crockpot.


It probably doesn't pay to make your own yogurt if you only eat a carton or two a week (which I used to), but once I learned how to make yogurt, I eat it almost every day (it's so unlike store yogurt, it's hard to even describe. Much less tart, almost like creme freche or barely sour sour cream). It will get tarter if you incubate it longer, but I like the milder yogurt.
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Old 12-19-2012, 01:12 PM   #13
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My experience is with Crohn's so I'm not sure if foods for UC would be any different. I was told years ago to stay away from soda, fruit juice, sugary foods and wheat. Definitely ask your dr for recommendations.

Staples like chicken, turkey and fish worked really well for me. They are also pretty easy to find on sale and freeze well.

Drinking water is great; especially to stay hydrated during a flare up. Check the label on the water you buy in the store. A lot of them are just tap water from local sources. Buy a filter like the type Brita makes. It might seem a little more expensive initially but you will save money in the long run and not have to lug home those heavy bottles! I got mine from Target; they go on sale all the time.
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Old 12-19-2012, 02:09 PM   #14
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I have found that making soup goes along way. We are a family of four and we can get two seperate meals with a bit of leftovers. That is almost 9 servings. You could make it and freeze it. You can make your own broth or purchase some. Last week , I made a soup using some frozen vegetables that were on sale. Very cheap.
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Old 12-26-2012, 01:34 AM   #15
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kaplods, where is this budget meals forum?
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