Food Talk And Fabulous Finds Recipes, Healthy Cooking, and General Food Topics

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Old 08-10-2006, 02:53 PM   #1  
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Default HELP! i'm "poor" and need food ideas!!!!!!

seriously - no joke...ok, so i need some help. i've REALLY gone off plan lately because I don't have the $$$ to spend on groceries like i used to and you all can NOT deny that junk food is cheaper. my bills have gotten WAY too high and my checks are getting "smaller" because it's the off season at work and no overtime is i have $1400 in bills per month and i ONLY bring home (after taxes) $1530 / month - and honestly for one month of GAS (which as you all know is outrageous) and Groceries $130 / month is NOT a lot of money...specially when i usually spend $65 on gas and $65 for the entire MONTH (i'm not exaggerating) on groceries.
(and, btw, i don't have any "foofoo" bills that i can get rid of. and i'm also already going through a credit counselor with my Ccards even though i have "good credit" just high bills)

ok, now that i've explained all that...the question remains - how can you live on $65 / month for groceries? asides from Raman Noodles? thankfully, it is just me and i don't have to "feed" anyone else...

but what do you all suggest that's cheap, easy, and say, about spending $20 / week on groceries?

i try to shop at dollar tree, which does sell a FEW dry goods (soup, oatmeal bars, pasta, etc)

but i'm looking for some ideas on how to stretch things out as much as possible, until i get a higher paid position (which i'm also looking into right now).
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Old 08-10-2006, 03:00 PM   #2  
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Dried beans are cheap. I think canned goods are cheaper than fresh, too.

Look at your cupboard and decide what things you have now that you can make things with.

Invite yourself over to family members' houses for dinner, maybe?
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Old 08-10-2006, 03:09 PM   #3  
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Default Healthy Food on the Cheap

I was reading an article the other day about cheap, healthy food. I went and found it.

This comes from

Healthy Food on the Cheap
Fill your grocery cart with these 10 items that are good for your diet—and your wallet.
by Sally Wadyka for MSN Health & Fitness

When you’re trying to save money in your food budget it can tempting to opt for the value menu at a fast food joint rather than buying and cooking a healthy meal. And while it sometimes seems as if “healthy” and “cheap” are mutually exclusive concepts, there are ways to cut costs without sacrificing nutrition.

At the grocery store, experts recommend spending most of your time circling the periphery. “The whole, fresh foods tend to be around the edges, while the unhealthier—and often pricier—processed foods line the middle aisles,” says Bethany Thayer, a registered dietician and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Buying what’s in season can also save you a bundle. Finding fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter is a pricey proposition, but come August, your local farmers will be practically giving them away. And summer fruit—like watermelon or cantaloupe—will give your diet a beta carotene and vitamin C boost at less than fifty cents per serving.

Here, the foods to add to your grocery list for healthy—not pricey—eating all year round.

Beans: This protein powerhouse gives you more nutritional bang for your buck than almost anything else you can buy. Black, pinto, garbanzo, lentil—they’re all low in fat, packed with fiber and folic acid, and have some calcium, zinc and potassium. You can buy them dry or make your life easier by getting ready-to-serve cans—still a bargain at less than a dollar for enough to serve at least two. Mix beans into salads, stir them into soup or chili, or just heat a can and dump them over rice for a fast—not fat—food meal.

Eggs: At about a dollar a dozen, eggs also can’t be beat when it comes to inexpensive protein—and not just at breakfast. Dietician Susan Moores suggests stirring a couple of beaten eggs into just-cooked pasta (the heat immediately cooks the eggs), then adding some fresh vegetables for a protein-rich pasta dinner.

Bananas: They’re readily available regardless of season, and usually average about 60 to 70 cents a pound. And bananas are an easily portable source of fiber, potassium and vitamin B6. If you find them on sale, try freezing what you can’t eat immediately, suggests Thayer. “Then take one out and use it in a smoothie to add great texture and extra nutrients without adding any fat,” she says.

Brown rice: It’s nearly as cheap as the white stuff, but because it still has the bran covering it (hence why it’s called a “whole” grain), brown rice is much better for you. You get essential minerals—like magnesium and zinc—plus tons more fiber. A cup of white rice has less than 1 gram of fiber, while the brown variety packs 3.5 grams of the heart-healthy stuff.

Carrots: You’ll pay a premium if you buy those uniform little baby carrots, but if you don’t mind doing your own peeling and cutting, you can get a bag of these for under a dollar. Try shredding them and adding them to a sandwich for extra crunch and a boost of fiber, beta carotene, potassium and vitamin C and B6.

Flank steak: Leaner cuts of red meat have less saturated fat and lots of good-for-you iron, zinc, protein and B vitamins. But these cheaper cuts also tend to be tough. So Moores suggests marinating the meat overnight in something acidic (a recipe that includes orange juice or vinegar, for example) to break apart the connective tissue and make the meat as tender and tasty as a much-pricier filet.

Sweet potatoes: Don’t save these for Thanksgiving dinner! Sweet potatoes should find their way into your diet all year round. A giant spud can cost as little as a dollar or two, and it’ll fill you up with significant amounts of beta carotene, potassium, fiber and calcium. Beyond the basic baked, try slicing them into “fries” and then roasting them in the oven in a pan with a little oil and salt.

Popcorn: The bucket you get at the movie theater is not only expensive, but it’s loaded with unhealthy fat and sodium. But if you air-pop it at home, you get a cheap fat-free, fiber-rich snack.

Canned tuna: There’s no denying that fish is good for your brain and your heart, but it can be a little tough on the budget. Cans of chunk light tuna are less expensive than albacore and deliver just as much omega-3 with less potentially harmful mercury. In addition to mixing it up for sandwiches (use healthier oil and vinegar instead of mayo), try tossing it into a tomato sauce or putting some on top of a salad.

Walnuts: Sure, nuts are high in fat, but it’s the good, monounsaturated kind. Plus, walnuts are a great source of cholesterol-lowering omega-3 fatty acids. Choose the kind you shell yourself over a jar of ready-to-eat nuts and you’ll save some cash.
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Old 08-10-2006, 03:23 PM   #4  
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This is a great topic cause i'm in the same boat - monthly expenses are way too high but need to be paid leaving little for food. I find potatoes are great! A bag lasts long and aren't that high in calories though if your doing low carb then I guess there not so good - LOL.
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Old 08-10-2006, 03:28 PM   #5  
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How many people are you trying to feed on $20 a week? I understand what you're saying about junk food being cheaper when money is tight. You may need to be a calorie counter for awhile, eat what you have but make sure it's within your calorie needs.

Have you shopped at Aldi? I checked the store locator and they have a 20 stores in Indianapolis. They don't have a huge variety of products, it's all private brands but you can't beat the prices. I stock up on basics when I visit my parents in the Midwest.

They don't accept credit cards or checks. It's cash or debit least the last time I was there.

I shop the ads...what's on sale each week is what I buy when money is tight.

Since you are in a large city, you may be able to find a large Asian or International market. Many times they have good prices on fresh fruit, produce, dry beans/lentils and sometimes meat.

Soups and stews are good filling thing. They get old after awhile if that's all you're eating but when it's all you got.... beans and whatever vegetables are on sale that week. Tofu is a good source of protein and cheap compared to most meat that is.

Worse comes to worse...start popping in on friends and relatives around dinner time. Most of the time they'll invite you stay for the meal. Of course you can't make a habit of it because they'll catch on eventually.

Good luck
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Old 08-10-2006, 03:35 PM   #6  
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Look for fresh fruit and veggies that are in season. Generally fresh produce is cheaper (my Safeway will have it on sale, sometimes for very low prices) if you buy it in season. You can usually tell what is in season because there is a big display of it and it's on sale.

If you have a farmers market, try that. Sometimes produce can be significantly cheaper at the farmers market (and better quality) than at the grocery store.

- Barbara
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Old 08-10-2006, 03:42 PM   #7  
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Try to find a produce stand in your area. Typically produce stands are WAY cheaper than grocery stores for fresh produce. When I lived in Seattle I would go to my local Carpinito Brothers produce stand and literally fill a full size grocery cart to the brim with fresh produce and it was never over $30. Also, look for what's in season and on sale. Is it squash season? Make a squash soup or squash au gratin. With a little creativity you can eat healty and on a budget! Good luck!!!!
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Old 08-10-2006, 03:53 PM   #8  
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Default Some ideas

I agree with the popcorn (air-popped with no added oil or butters), beans and potatoes suggested by other posters - filling, healthy, and not expensive.

Also check for a local health food store and get a big bag of TVP (texurized vegetable protein) -- it is dry and hard, and a very cheap form of protein (I got a huge bag of it for under $3) with no fat or not many calories (80 for 1/4 dry - puffs up to twice its size or more) -- you soak it in about equal parts warm water or broth, or even tomato sauce or home made veggie soup, add your favorite seasonings and it absorb those flavors as it puffs up. It can take the place of almost any dish you would use crumbled up ground beef in (i.e. stuffed peppers). You need protein !!!!

See if you can find a farmer's market near you. We try to make a weekly trip to the one about 20 minutes from our house and get lots of fresh items in season and on special.

My brother just told about about a meat warehouse that he goes too that isn't far, its open to the public and my hubby came home some incredible deals on chicken.

Canned goods are ok if you can get them on sale the price can be great - but watch the sodium level in veggies and soups, for fruits get the ones packed in their own juices (without added sugar).

A big pot of veggie soup is pretty cheap to make - can often find packages of root veggies and other produce that is still good but a bit older then the fresh stuff.

A crockpot would be a great investment for you (only about $25) and you can use it to cook very cheap cuts of beef and whole chickens, they come out tender and moist (just remove the skin and any visible fat after it's cooled). They are great for cooking all kinds of yummy inexpensive meals that don't require any extra oil or fat added.

There may also be bread outlets that have items on sale -- may not be the healthiest choices - but they are cheap. There is a wonder bread place near us that my mom went to all the time while we were growing up -- just pennies for bread and tasty cakes packs that were a little banged up.

Also look into food kitchens in your area -- everyone needs a bit help now and then so check it out. And church organizations too. Many cities have places that offer free or very inexpensive food items that have been donated or where you can get the occasional free meal.

Last edited by lady_rose_13; 08-10-2006 at 04:35 PM.
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Old 08-10-2006, 04:19 PM   #9  
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Frozen Stir Fry (not the meal deal ones) are about $1.25 and can provide a side of veggies for a week (for 1 person). I buy frozen veggies alot now instead of canned. I can get what I want and leave what I don't want.

A bag of chicken (boneless and separated in the bag so you can pick one at a time to cook..3lbs should last you for the whole week or more). Walmart price $7.99

Look for buy one and get one fruit on sale deals. I buy strawberries and blueberries at my local suppermarket this way. I have a family to feed though.

LEAN chilli (cook for the week) or another budget crockpot meal is a great idea.
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Old 08-10-2006, 05:47 PM   #10  
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Really keep an eye out for sale ads for the grocery store you shop at. Sometimes the dollar tree isn't cheaper! And if you have a couple grocery stores nearby, they are usually in competition, so the ads are better. Hope this helps.
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Old 08-10-2006, 06:07 PM   #11  
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Homemade split pea soup has always been a standby for me when I was broke. All the ingredients are cheap and you can make a lot and then freeze some for later.

1 pound green split peas
2 smoked ham hocks(about 1-1/2 lbs.)
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 to 10 cups water
1 bay leaf

In a large saucepan, combine all of the ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; leaving cover ajar, simmer for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard bay leaf. Remove the ham hocks; when cool enough to handle, cut meat into bite-size pieces. Return meat to soup and heat through.

Yield: 6-8 servings. (2 quarts)
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Old 08-10-2006, 06:14 PM   #12  
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My husband and I are both disabled and on a limited income. We mostly shop Aldis, but also the dollar stores and Liquidator stores like BigLots. I also make bread at home (my mother-in-law gave us her old breadmaker).

At first junk food seems cheaper, but once you get good at "thrifting," you find that old-fashioned real cooked food is usually cheaper. A good book to check out from the library is any of the "The Tightwad Gazette" books or those like them. They give a lot of good ideas, and recipes.

Some of our recent finds were "refried beans seasoned with chorizo," at the BigLots. It was only a little higher in calorie and fat than regular refried beans. We bought them to use as taco filling (I think it was .99 a can for a big can), so it was a lot lower in calorie than beef tacos. Taco shells at Aldi are .49 cents for a package of 10.

Aldi also often has chicken thigh quarters for .59 per pound (I think it's a 5 lbs bag).

One of my favorite ways to make chicken is to simmer it on the stove with either salsa, or a mixture (even parts, about 1 cup each) of diet cola and ketchup.

The one thing to watch at Aldi is that while most items are cheaper than other grocery store counterparts, watch the produce. Some of the produce is much cheaper than the grocery store (like lettuce and carrots, usually) and some are usually quite a bit more expensive (like cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli).

Eggs are often cheap enough at Aldi, that I buy several dozen, and throw away some of the yolks - I make omelettes and such. For every whole egg I add about 2 or 3 extra whites for an omelette or scrambled eggs equivalent to 2 eggs.

Another really tastey sandwhich spread (really, I know it sounds kind of weird, if not gross), but take a can of any kind of beans (rinsed, or even baked beans unrinsed) and throw it in your food processor with a little light salad dressing or oil and vinegar(unless you use the undrained baked beans, then you don't need extra liquid) seasonings to your taste and maybe a little celery or onion and whip it up into a paste. It tastes really good on toast. It's kind of like burrito filling.
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Old 08-10-2006, 07:11 PM   #13  
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I second the recommendations of visiting a produce stand - the other place to look is to see if you can find a place that sells either discount or close to the sell-by date produce - there's a market here that sells the produce other stores in the area either couldn't fit (in the summer, it's mostly fruit and lettuce) or stuff that's very close to the sell-by date (bagged salads for 2/$1). It might be hard to find, but ask around or find out where your local store sends stuff. The other place I shop is Trader Joe's, but I have to limit which aisles I'll let myself visit. For some foods, they're a great deal, but make sure to price check with other stores in your area. When I didn't have a Trader Joe's around, the cheapest produce was usually at the farmer's co-op.
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Old 08-10-2006, 07:13 PM   #14  
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frankncents--I like your handle and your avatar!
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Old 08-10-2006, 10:09 PM   #15  
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Cooking at home can be much cheaper if done correctly. I make my own pizza at home...its so cheap and 4 can eat in like less than $4.00! (I mean it). I buy veggies fresh (some are cheaper than others) and cook them at home.
I buy rice once in like 3-4 months and its so so cheap. beans are great bargain at times.

It will be hard at first but start stocking up!
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