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Shoestring Meals Budget friendly ideas for healthy eating

Poor lady with food questions

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Old 06-13-2013, 01:36 AM   #1
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Default Poor lady with food questions

Okay so I am clueless. What food items make you feel fuller quicker while still being great for a diet on an extremely tight budget?

What foods give you more energy while great for a diet while on an extremely tight budget?

Im talking foods that will last a couple weeks at least or a couple bucks.

I am poor. Actually I am beyond poor, we often cant afford new clothes, extra foods, anything fun, ect..... Maybe this will put it into perspective. There are some months (and this is gross) where I can not afford to buy a box of tampons or pads so I have to use toilet paper.

I feel like a scumbag admitting that but we are working to actually have extra money and honestly think that in about 4 1/2 more months we will be caught up on things and actually have money. But health shouldnt wait almost 5 months sooooo any help is appreciated.

We have wal-mart, aldi, tops, and price chopper near us if you can also tell me where you generally get the food you may have a suggestion on.
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Old 06-13-2013, 03:00 AM   #2
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Dried beans are cheap and filling (black and northern are my faves)- can make it into baked beans, refried beans, dip/hummus, soup (fully pureed or whole or half/half), on top of salads, in sandwiches/wraps/quesadillas, etc. Good fiber and protein too if you can't afford to buy a lot of meat. Cheap cuts of meat can work too if you learn how to cook it properly. Whole chickens on sale can be cheaper than buying just breasts, etc and you can get a lot of meals out of one and do save the bones for broth for future meals, that way you won't have to buy broth.

Rice is also good and cheap, the kind that takes 40-45 minutes to cook on stove top and filling too. Eggs are also good and cheaper if you buy in bulk like 30 eggs for about 4 bucks here but not sure about your area though. I know it is a bit too hot but old fashioned oats are good and can be cheap if you get the generic kind (I use it in pancakes all the time- one egg, 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/4 cup applesauce or pumpkin puree, bit of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp baking powder in bowl and mix and cook as you would regular pancakes. It will take some experimenting on learning when to flip it.)

I get whatever fruits/veggies (fresh and frozen) are on sale from Walmart and Aldi's although sometimes I will just go to Walmart and price-match using Aldi's and some other stores' ads if I need to save a trip thus saving me gas and money!

Basically, I've noticed it can be cheaper to go with whole foods and try to make stuff from scratch instead of pre-packaged/processed kind of stuff, it just takes a bit more time because preparation and cooking but it is well worth it in my opinion.

Oh yea, I get my tampons/pads from the local dollar store- I think much cheaper than using toilet paper depending on the brand you use. One box/bag of pads can last me up to 2, maybe 3 months if I'm lucky flow-wise.
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Old 06-13-2013, 04:05 AM   #3
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amandie thanks for the input you always have great responses! And thank you very much for the tampon tip!! I will deff be trying out those pancakes!
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Old 06-13-2013, 06:10 AM   #4
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Eggs are a cheap protein source, here in Spain a dozen for aprox 1.95 dollars.
Canned tuna is also a great protein source and affordable, I get by with those two cause I have a tight budget too!
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Old 06-13-2013, 12:30 PM   #5
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If you browse the shoestring meals forum, you'll find tons of tips, recipes, store recommendations and even a few shopping lists.

Even though our food budget isn't supertight anymore, we still use most of our money-saving strategies. I would use even more if hubby was a little more cooperative (he's very impatient when it comes to shopping, and I don't drive).

I could write a book, but instead I'll recommend one, The Complete Tightwad Gazette. It's cheap on amazon, but I'd recommend borrowing it from the library or looking for online money-saving sites using in your search terms such as frugal lifestyle, tightwad, cheapskate, conserver lifestyle, simple living...

Some of the tips may seem extreme (I wouldn't for example, add milk to an empty jam jar, shake to dissolve the jam residue into the milk and then pour into a popsicle mold to freeze).

However, I do save my pickle juices (especially from pickled jalapenos and pepper rings) to use in salad dressings and marinades.

I rarely buy salad dressing because it's much cheaper, and better tasting to make my own. Tons of recipes online.

If you have an asian grocery nearby, I highly recommend checking it out, even if only to buy a good quality soy sauce and rice vinegar. You can buy liter bottles of high quality brands for the cost of a few ounces of generic in other stores. Fish sauce makes a good and cheaper substitute for worcestershire sauce. Bean sprouts, cilantro as well as many fruits, vegetables, and herbs are fresher, tastier and cheaper, because asian customers expect them to be. We buy cabbage, bean sprouts, eggplant, oyster mushrooms, snake beans (foot long green beans), garlic, chives, cilantro, mint, green onion, chinese broccoli, lychee, mango, papaya, pomellos... because they're MUCH cheaper and higher quality than in traditional supermarkets.

We also shop Dollar Tree a lot. Their sweet potato fries are better than the $4 bags we've bought in other stores.

I'm picky about mayo, but Aldi brand is quite good. Also Aldi stores have a double your money back guarantee, so if you simply don't like something you've tried, take it back - it's like paying you to try their products.

We buy some items from our ACE hardware store, and Goodwill because they both have large dollar sections. Diced tomatoes with green chilies are 2 for $1 and makes a great pasta sauce if simmered until it thickens with some diced onion and minced garlic.

Fleet Farm ( or Farm and Fleet) have some really good bargains on nuts and jerky, abd their Wildwood brand orange diet soda is the best diet orange soda and it's something like $2.00 or $2.50 per 12 pack.

We also shop Big Lots and salvage groceries when we run across them (we no longer have such stores locally).
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Old 06-13-2013, 12:43 PM   #6
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One thing that would help is to make one big meal so that you have leftovers. For example, I use my crockpot to make this ranch chicken pasta and it literally lasts me for quite a few days just eating on it.

You can get creative with sandwiches, which I do a lot as I prefer to bake them in the oven.

Take stock of your pantry, figure out what you normally have, and research receipes that you can make from them.

And yes, there have been times I've had to roll up toilet paper and use it in place of pads. You do what you have to, so don't ever be ashamed of it.
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Old 06-15-2013, 11:48 PM   #7
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We like to make a big pot of soup once a week (big!) with every vegetable we can find in it. And lentils and beans for protein. Sometimes we put in chicken or beef.

It's very healthy, vitaminful, fiberish, and totally fills you up. And cheap-cheap.

Each time we use different spices to change it up. My fav is Mexican with salsa and cilantro. Tomorrow I'm trying pizza soup. Sounds weird, I hope it's good.

I usually have it for lunch, sometimes also for dinner.
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Old 06-16-2013, 12:15 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Just Dance Girl View Post
We like to make a big pot of soup once a week (big!) with every vegetable we can find in it. And lentils and beans for protein. Sometimes we put in chicken or beef.

It's very healthy, vitaminful, fiberish, and totally fills you up. And cheap-cheap.

Each time we use different spices to change it up. My fav is Mexican with salsa and cilantro. Tomorrow I'm trying pizza soup. Sounds weird, I hope it's good.

I usually have it for lunch, sometimes also for dinner.
Pizza soup? That sounds really good!!! Can I ask what's in it and/or the recipe for that, please? Soup is a great idea- it really does fill you up (2 bowls for sure does and it's still pretty low in calories as well.)

This just reminded me of an old favorite soup of mine-faux loaded baked potato soup. One bag of cauliflower (frozen) or a head of cauliflower boiled in approx. 2-3 cups chicken broth (just enough to cover the cauliflower- use appropriate size of pot so you won't need as much liquid) until it's soft (easily broken by a spoon or fork), one potato pureed with immersion blender (or a regular blender, just be careful because heat can build up and make the lid pop off- speaking from experience. ) then add your topping of choice to pot or bowl (sour cream, preferably greek yogurt, bacon, (cubed) ham, butter, faux butter, chives/scallions, onions, cheese, corn, broccoli, cream cheese or etc- your choice) while it's still hot. Easy, cheap and FILLING!
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Old 06-16-2013, 12:24 AM   #9
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I once made "sloppy joes" outta lentils and it was pretty good even though I used the regular green ones instead of the red like the recipe originally asked. It had such very good flavor but texture-wise? I wish I had mashed them and made them into patties instead of leaving them whole the first time I made them. Ah, you live and learn as you go, right?

Another idea is to stretch whatever beans you have out with meat at the same time (I do this a lot with wraps or bol style salads, just 1.5-2 oz of meat with at least 1/2 - 2/3 cup cooked beans with a sh!tload of veggies (spinach, lettuce, carrots, bell peppers, onions, corn, salsa, etc) saving you some calories and money at the same time. Just throwing out some more ideas.
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Old 06-16-2013, 09:21 AM   #10
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I'm just emerging from nearly 2 years of unemployment [single person, mortgage, it's been ugly]. One thing that got me through it was homemade soup, especially tomato soup. I can often get those large cans of tomatoes for $1.00, and for about $2.50 total [including veggies] i get about 3-4 quarts of tomato soup. And it's real easy over the week to toss in all kinds of other things to vary it and use up what's in your house.

some add-ins: chick peas or other beans, spinach, peas, green beans and other veggies, leftover rice, some pasta, little bits of meat [leftover meatballs cut up are good].

Also, as someone above suggested, ALWAYS buy chicken with bones in it - you'll never have to buy chicken broth again. and comparison shop EVERYTHING. My local store has a semi-annual can sale, so i was able to pick up cans of green beans and corn [and other stuff] for less than fifty cents.

also, if you buy cheese, which can be pricey, always buy it on sale and buy the ones with the most flavor so you'll need less. Extra sharp cheddar, for example, rather than mild. and consider it an ingredient and not a snack.

i know things are tough these days, but you've made it this far, and you have a plan for the future, so i'm sure you'll come out of this OK.
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Old 06-17-2013, 11:04 AM   #11
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The pizza soup turned out pretty well.

3 cans diced tomatoes
1lb Italian sausage
Some pepperoni
Onion, bell pepper
Basil, 1t or more
Oregano 2 t or more
Garlic 2 cloves or more
Beef bouillon

Sauté and drain the meats. Sauté the onion and bell pepper. Mix it all together. I also added lentils, mung beans, carrots, and some broccoli for health.

This made a big pot for the week.
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Old 08-13-2013, 02:44 AM   #12
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I live by peanut butter and jelly, cheese and beans. If I knew how to bake my own bread I would.
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Old 08-13-2013, 03:10 AM   #13
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I live by peanut butter and jelly, cheese and beans. If I knew how to bake my own bread I would.
Learning to make bread (with or without a bread machine) is easy. There are countless youtube videos that will show you how to make all sorts of breads.

Unfortunately homemade bread isn't necessarily cheaper or healthier (and almost never is cheaper AND healthier) than store bought bread.

Aldi and Walmart have REALLY cheap white bread (don't buy bread anymore, so I don't know how cheap). Flour and corn tortillas and other skillet flatbreads are also very, very cheap and easy to make. They're cheap to buy too, but you do save a bit of money making your own.

I'm allergic to wheat, and I try to limit starches, so I don't make bread often, but when I do, it's usually flat breads, because I can make just enough for one meal.

If you can play with playdough, or make pancakes, you can make tortillas and other flat breads for wrap sandwhiches.

The simplest recipe is just flour and water or milk (but a tsp of oil and a pinch of salt is nice). Mix in just enough liquid to make a ball. Flatten the ball with your hands, a rolling pin, or between two pans or plates. Put in a nonstick pan on medium heat and brown both side. You can add fat to the pan to "fry" the bread, but this isn't necessary.

You can also make thinner batter breads and cook like crepes or pancakes.

Also tons of youtube recipes and tutorials.
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Old 08-14-2013, 02:14 AM   #14
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Learning to make bread (with or without a bread machine) is easy. There are countless youtube videos that will show you how to make all sorts of breads.

Unfortunately homemade bread isn't necessarily cheaper or healthier (and almost never is cheaper AND healthier) than store bought bread.

Aldi and Walmart have REALLY cheap white bread (don't buy bread anymore, so I don't know how cheap). Flour and corn tortillas and other skillet flatbreads are also very, very cheap and easy to make. They're cheap to buy too, but you do save a bit of money making your own.

I'm allergic to wheat, and I try to limit starches, so I don't make bread often, but when I do, it's usually flat breads, because I can make just enough for one meal.

If you can play with playdough, or make pancakes, you can make tortillas and other flat breads for wrap sandwhiches.

The simplest recipe is just flour and water or milk (but a tsp of oil and a pinch of salt is nice). Mix in just enough liquid to make a ball. Flatten the ball with your hands, a rolling pin, or between two pans or plates. Put in a nonstick pan on medium heat and brown both side. You can add fat to the pan to "fry" the bread, but this isn't necessary.

You can also make thinner batter breads and cook like crepes or pancakes.

Also tons of youtube recipes and tutorials.
With altitude its even harder to do here. All the recipes I've seen had flour, water and dry active yeast as the only ingredients so I figured it was cheaper than buying it as dry active yeast is only a few bucks and 5 pounds of flour is 3 bucks and water is usually free. I have a few books that will tell me how to make bread I know its just a matter of trying it. At altitude it took me about 5 tries to make decent cookies its like learning how to bake all over again.

I never made bread at sea-level though so I guess this may or may not be easier than the rest of my culinary adventures have been.

Best of luck to you OP.

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Old 08-14-2013, 09:58 AM   #15
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The book the "Complete Tightwad Gazette" (a compilation of the author's frugal living newsletter) did a cost analysis of homemade bread vs. Commercial bread. The author even calculated the cost of running her oven. As I remember the author's description , she found popular brands way more expensive than homemade, but that compared to store brand bread, homemade bread was only marginally cheaper, but her family ate far more because it it tasted much better and was harder to slice thinly and it spoiled faster.

I can attest to homemade bread molding within only a few days, being difficult to cut thinly and being so yummy that one thick slice (about 2 ounces and 160 calories or more) is never enough (and it always needs real, softened butter......mmmmmmm).


Yeah for me, homemade bread is not cost-effective for my budget or my waistline. For me, no bread is cost effective because gluten-free breads mold even more quickly (with a scary neon yellow mold), are even harder to slice and generally don't taste very good.

If I'm dying for a sandwhich, I'll make a tortilla or crepe/pancake from gluten-free flour and water or coconut flour, eggs, and water, or from protein powder, water, and instant potatoes.

Yeast-free flatbread (like tortillas) are the most economical and easiest, but you still have the "too yummy" problem.
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