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Old 08-17-2008, 08:02 PM   #1
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Default Dieting on a Budget

Did a search didn't see much to go off of so thought Id start one. How many ppl here are trying to diet on a tight budget? Was wondering if anyone had some useful hints and tips on getting the goods (healthy food) while still being able to feed your family those foods they enjoy and prefer. I personally find it tough buying healthy food when my significant other wont eat it. Yet miraculously hes at a healthy body weight. Currently Ive been buying our usual foods that get us through a month but have been cutting down my portions. Or perhaps any hints/tips to sneak the veggies he loves to hate into his meals.
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Old 08-17-2008, 08:05 PM   #2
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I actually find it easy to eat healthy on a budget.

Brown rice, beans, chicken on sale, veggies from the farmer's market, cabbage (I've been on a big cabbage kick lately), lentils, all are very cheap.

The more expensive things that I eat are ones that tend to last longer - my protein powder is $28 a container, but it lasts me a month or more. Milk is a little spendy, but I use it to make my own yogurt (which saves $$) plus to make protein shakes. Meat/fish is probably the most expensive thign I buy, but I could do w/out it if I needed to. Or buy frozen and on sale.

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Old 08-17-2008, 08:17 PM   #3
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There are some additional ideas here:
how to eat well - on a low income?

Canned and frozen vegetables may be less expensive than fresh when foods are out of season.
Oatmeal and other hot cereals are usually cheaper than cold cereals.
Look for house brands of canned goods.
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Old 08-17-2008, 08:30 PM   #4
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Fresh vegetables are usually cheap. You don't have to sneak them in anywhere. Just prepare them the way you like, and he doesn't have to eat them.
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Old 08-17-2008, 08:50 PM   #5
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This comes up alot and there are some really good threads on the topic, probably the best word to search for these threads is Aldi (because someone always mentions this store in a budget thread).

Hubby and I are on a tight budget because we're both on disability. A couple things I do.

TVP (textured vegetable protein) from the health food store, it's about 1/3 the cost of ground beef per serving (it's the same cost per pound, but a pound of tvp is dehydrated, so when it's reconstituted a lb of tvp is equivalent to 3 or more lbs of beef). I brown ground beef with the dry tvp and some onion, celery, green pepper, garlic, salt and peper. When the beef has lost most of the pinkness I add water equal in volume to the tvp I used (so 1 cup of tvp, I add 1 cup of water), and simmer until the water is absorbed. I started with 1 cup of tvp to 2 lb of ground beef the first time I made it, and I kept adding more tvp each time I made it.

Then I put the mixture in a freezer bag or tupperware container, and put in the freezer. Every 10 minutes or so, I shake and squeeze the bag or stir the meat in the container so that it freezes, but stays crumbly). Once it's frozen, then I can take out what I need for recipes, a cup at a time. I then use the mixture as a quick base for sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce, chili, tacos, shepherd's pie....

My husband was opposed to the idea, until I made it a few times without telling him until after dinner that there was tvp in the taco filling. He wasn't too happy about it though, except one day I was about to make dinner, and some of his friends dropped by, and hubby asked if I had enough for them to stay for dinner. I had to add almost twice the tvp I usually did, in order to make enough for the taco filling. My taco filling is a bit more like a sloppy joe filling. I add the dry seasonings (like the taco seasoning packets, but I buy a season blend in bulk) and a bit of tomato paste, salsa or ketchup (not a lot, just enough to add a bit of zip and moisture to the mixture).

His friends loved the tacos, one guy asking for the recipe, because he loved that the tacos weren't greasy, but had a lot of flavor. When I shared my secret, instead of being shocked, several of the guys asked "where to get" tvp. For some reason, that seemed to change hubby's view that "real men don't eat tvp." Ever since, hubby doesn't quibble, and even reminds me when we're getting low on tvp.

Bulk spices, also from the health food store or a bulk store saves alot of money.

Aldi's as I mentioned. They're adding more and more prepackaged and snack foods, so you've got to read labels, just like every where else, and some things aren't cheaper (like some of the produce). But we buy a lot of staples there, and also Walmart.

There's a "Big Lots" type store in our area, only it's privately owned. It's called Don Smith's (which has several stores in WI, but it's not a national chain). But many areas have private liquidation stores, they buy overstock and bankruptcy stock and factory overruns and misruns (say a box label was printed upside down on a lot of cereal boxes). We usually start our monthly grocery shopping there. At least twice a month they get in an organic/gourmet/health food store shipment, and we try to get there the day after that shipping (every time we're their we ask when the next organic shipment is due). I've gotten some amazing deals on gourmet products. They got in packages of fancy beans once that were .39 to .59 per pound, if I remember correctly. I got a bag of every variety they had: black beans, adzuki beans, anasazi beans (black and white speckled), pink beans, garbanzo beans, orange lentils. I wish I had bought two packages because I'm coming to the end of them, and that's the thing with a sellout store - once it's gone, you may never see it again. That's why we shop there first, because we can't get everything we need, but we don't know what will be on sale.

Oriental grocery - That's close to Don Smith's so we stop there too. It's not cheaper for everything, but what is cheaper is so much cheaper and/or better than in the grocery store it's worth a stop. For the same price as a small bottle of grocery store soy sauce, you can get a quart bottle of gourmet soy sauce, and tons of other gourmet sauces and condiments. The mushroom soy is a standby, as well as hoisin sauce and fish sauce (I use the fish sauce in place of worcesteshire sauce. It smells awful, but a few drops adds a little richness to dishes usually without any identifiable flavor (if it tastes fishy, you added way too much, but to taste fishy you'd probably have to add 1/4 cup or more, where I use no more than a tsp usually). I even add it to my chili. Rice and brown rice is very cheap here, but you almost need to buy a RubberMaid garbage can or large storage container to store it in.

Bean sprouts - I love them, and they're cheaper and fresher in the oriental market, sometimes so are the asian eggplant and bok choy, cilantro, basil, and mint).


Sam's Club - This isn't always a savings, especially if you don't have one very near by. We save enough to make the membership worth it though. I buy their box of organic baby spring greens almost every week. It's a huge plastic container for under $4, about the same price as a tiny bag in the grocery store. I also buy their snap peas, and tiny colored bell peppers very frequently.

Walmart or Sam's - rotisserie chicken. I save the carcass after most of the meat is gone to make chicken soup. If I don't want to make it right away, I put the carcass in a ziploc bag and freeze to use later.
My hubby is also a veggie hater (but he likes veggie soup, so I make that a lot). I use V-8 as a base and toss in tons of veggies. I also use V-8 and lots of veggies in my meatloaf: onions, celery, green pepper, carrot, eggplant, mushroom - I put the veggies in the food processor and puree to add to meatloaf and spaghetti sauce.

He also will eat colcannon and champ (I forget which is which) but basically they're an irish style of mashed potato where you sautee veggies in butter and stir them into mashed potatoes. One is onion or leek and the other is greens like cabbage, spinache or kale... Or I will add onions AND cabbage.

I also will sometimes add rather unhealthy fatty salad dressings or sauces on veggies (so he'll eat them) and then each time I make them use less sauce (geez, it's like having a 5 year old in the house).

If I cut veggies into a really small dice and add them to pasta salads, he will usually eat them (also, I've added more and more veggies each time).

He likes "deep fried" meats and veggies, so I've made oven fried versions. I marinate veggies (zucchini sticks, thick onion slices, large mushrooms) or chicken (never together in the same bag, of course) in low fat ranch dressing, and then coat them in a seasoned bread crumb mixture and bake them at 425 degrees. He absolutely loves onion rings this way. Just make only what you want for one meal though, as they don't reheat well (the chicken is "ok" if you reheat in the oven, but the veggies are disgusting reheated).
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Old 08-17-2008, 09:42 PM   #6
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My favorite cheap things to have on hand- Peanut butter and wheat bread- I can make that last forever!!!
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Old 08-18-2008, 02:02 AM   #7
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its extremely easy to diet on a tight budget....
same as its extremely esay to exercise by spending no money at all!....
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Old 08-18-2008, 10:01 AM   #8
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I recently purchased Costco membership (to buy a Dyson - it is not any less than in other stores but it comes with additional attachments worth of $100 or so [and I can't refrain from saying MAN, THIS THING SUCKS!] and although I was not planning food there, I will look into it.

In general, everybody says that meat at Costco is more expensive but of better quality than elsewhere. At my initial visit, I picked up two packages of skinless, boneless turkey breast (they were sealed in plastic and sold as one unit). The price per kg was the same as skinless chicken breast, but with bone in, at my regular grocery store. Not only that, they were HUGE. I was able to half each breast so I had about 10 servings. I don't recall ever seeing boneless skinless turkey breast at my regular grocery store, plus it has more protein than chicken breast.

Also, I saw at Costco, but have not bought yet, a package of three huge salmon fillets for about $21.00. I guess that I would easily have about 9 servings out of these, if not more. That is significantly less than salmon fillets would cost me at a grocery store. (Now if you are shocked by the price, I live in Canada and groceries are more expensive here than in the US).

I haven't had time to "map out" what other grocery items are available at Costco and whether it is more economical to buy it there (since I am not feeding a family, my ability to purchase in bulk is somewhat limited) but I am planning to take full advantage of my membership.
It is less convenient to go there (in terms of distance) but once a week or once in two weeks it is not so bad.
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Old 08-18-2008, 10:45 AM   #9
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I find it quite easy to diet on a food budget. I buy fruit and vegetables in season. I stock up on sales. If something isn't in season I buy frozen vegetables. They actually taste great.

A good way to get vegetables into a meal without anyone guessing: have you seen or heard of the cook book byJessica Seinfeld? It's Deceptively Delicious and has some great recipes for adding nutrition to your regular food.
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Old 08-18-2008, 11:22 AM   #10
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One thing that will help you budget wise is to not buy the 'diet' foods. No 100 calorie snack packs, skinny cows, WW or lean cuisine meals. Those things add up $$$ in a hurry. Buy frozen veggies, those are usually cheaper than fresh. Buy fruits that are in season, and watch for sales.

If your SO doesn't like what you fix, he can cook for himself. He's not a kid. That's my opinion. LOL. You can also start switching things, such as lower fat (not fat free) items without saying anything, and he probably won't notice.

Try roasting veggies. I am not a huge veggie fan, but I do like them this way. Cook them, and if SO doesn't eat them, then more for you during the week!
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Old 08-18-2008, 01:19 PM   #11
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There are some really great tips in this thread. Thanks!
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Old 08-18-2008, 02:29 PM   #12
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Watch for sales. For meat, buy family packs and divide into smaller freezable servings. It's a little more work, but worth it. If your bf or dh, or whatever will not eat healthy, then he really should just cook for himself. If he expects you to cook him up a bunch of unhealthy food, and you only eat a tiny dab, it is not only cruel, but very unhealthy for you. Empty calories are just as bad as starvation diets. If you eat 1500 calories a day worth of junk with no nutritional value, laden with fat and carbs, you will fail on your diet. Your body can't do it. Your bf might be able to live without ever eating a vegetable and not be overweight, but I guarantee you it is effecting his heart, liver, colon, eyes, skin and brain.
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Old 08-18-2008, 02:42 PM   #13
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Great thoughts and tips
I buy my veggies fresh when in season but lately even they have not looked great so I ask the produce guy to go look in the back for better looking --lettuce, radishes etc. If I am going to spend my money I want something that is the best they have. I also recommend making your own veggie soup with cabbage, onions, carrot, celery and I use a can of diced tomatoes and chicken broth. The soup when made costs very little and a pot will last me all week.
I do buy my meat and fish when it is on sale and divide it up into single protons and freeze and that really helps
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Old 08-18-2008, 03:03 PM   #14
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A crockpot is also a great thing - you can buy cheaper cuts of meat & they turn out tender & tasty; also you can buy dried beans, which are much cheaper than canned beans.
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Old 08-18-2008, 03:04 PM   #15
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It's not as tough as it looks at first.

What I spend at the grocery store seems to have gone up quite a bit since I've "cleaned up" our menus and DH was just grumbling about it the other day but when I pointed out to him that if I took our old grocery bill and added in those 5 or 6 times a week that we used to have fast food, it turns out we are actually spending less than we used to on food - even with all the recent price increases.

Takes a little more dilligence because you can't just stroll down the aisles tossing in whatever's on sale but you can still find some pretty good deals on healthy stuff.
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