General Diet Plans and Questions General diet questions, support for various diet plans other than those listed below.

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Old 11-01-2013, 02:17 AM   #1  
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Default Cheapest way to eat healthy

Right now I don't have a job. So my question is how can I afford to eat healthy on a very very VERY tight budget?
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Old 11-01-2013, 08:40 AM   #2  
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Portion control - eating one serving at each meal. I calorie count and by eating one serving it makes the food last longer too. I like calorie counting because there aren't many foods that I consider off limits.

About a week ago, I had to go grocery shopping and I didn't have much money but had to buy enough to make over a week's worth of dinners and lunches. I bought chicken breasts and chicken thighs that were on sale in bulk packages and then divided them up into two serving bags per bag (one for me and the other for the husband who also calorie counts) and put them in the freezer. I also bought a bunch of frozen veggies and a few boxes of brown rice. Our dinners were kind of plain but decent - chicken, brown rice and veggies. I also bought a few boxes of pasta and jars of sauce. And yes, I know chicken thighs are not as healthy as chicken breast but they were cheaper.

For breakfasts, lunches and snacks - apples (on sale here for .69/lb), yogurt (10/$4) and healthy cereal.

I also eat oatmeal often as it's cheaper than the organic granola I like. By using portions, the container lasts forever.

Last edited by Lizzyg; 11-01-2013 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 11-01-2013, 10:31 AM   #3  
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I can't say much more that Lizzyg didn't say. Good advice. Chicken thighs and drumsticks have more fat, but if you cook it without the skin and pull off the visible fat it helps.

Frozen veggies are as nutritious or more so than fresh. Also, you can take out the amount you're going to eat, but with canned you might be making more than you need. In most cases, canned are cheaper, so if you decide to use them, drain and rinse them well to remove as much of the salt and sodium as possible.

Watch the weekly supermarket ads. If you have a discount grocer in your area, try them out. Many of their off brand items are just as good as brand names.

Possibly you may qualify for assistance from food pantries or food banks. Check into that. All of us have needed help at one point or another. Good luck to you.
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Old 11-01-2013, 10:38 AM   #4  
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Check out the Shoestring Meals subforum. You'll find tons of tips and recipes.

t is tough. When my husband and I first moved to Wisconsin, we had an insanely low food budget. We made $50 a year too much to qualify for food stamp card. Rent is taken into consideration, but medications are not. We were living in a dump so that we couldcafford our medications. Our monthly medication expenses were twice our rent. There were many months when our monthly food budget was under $50 for the both of us.

If you have reliable transportation, and a few hours to spare each week, you can take advantage of unconventional food sources such as discount stores (such as Aldi), salvage groceries, bakery outlet stores, and dollar stores like Dollar Tree (where not everything is cheaper so you need to know your prices)

I read everything I could get my hands on (mostly through the library and a few through amazon for under $5 including shipping).

The Tightwad Gazette books
Good, Cheap Food
The Miserly Mom series of cookbooks....

A crockpot or even a medium to large stewing pot can come in handy (both of which you can often find cheaply at Goodwill, virtually unused).

Calorie counting, exchange plans, point systems (like Weight Watchers), and the My Plate (from the FDA website) are among the easiest to adapt to any budget.

Atkins and other reduced-carb plans are among the more difficult (It can work, but you end up eating an awful lot of chicken thighs, eggs and cabbage).

Two of my cheapest tricks are in the Shoestring Meals forums (several times):

Homemade yogurt, in the crockpot (which I learned from youtube) and a browned ground meat mixture made with dry tvp (textured vegetable protein, also called textured soy protein).

I buy cheap ground pork or beef (70 - 75% because it's the cheapest) and brown it with diced onion and celery and the dry tvp, adding hot water or broth. I do not drain the fat, because the tvp is fat free. The less money I have, the more tvp I add. Tvp comes out to about 1/4 the price of cheap hamburger (or less if you can find it in bulk bins) per serving. The cost per pound is about the same, but one ounce of tvp is equivalent to 4oz of ground beef and about 1/4 the calories.

I make a big batch and freeze in ziploc freezercbags, mushing thecbag as it freezes, so it freezes in scoopable "crumbles" that I can use in any recipe that startscwith browned ground meat (taco filling, sloppy joes, spaghetti, chili, hamburger helper-type pasta dishes....)

I can make one serving of sloppy joe in the microwave by stirring a Tbs or two of barbecue sauce into 1/3 c of frozen crumbles.

Or I can heat water on the stove or in a microwaveable bowl and add the crumbles and some shredded cabbage or frozen veggies and a brick of dollar store ramen (8-10 bricks for a dollar)

More detailed recipes, some with the calorie count are in the shoestring meals subforum.
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Old 11-01-2013, 10:44 AM   #5  
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I need to check out the Shoestrings Meal forum.

Oh and eggs! Eggs are cheap!
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Old 11-01-2013, 11:50 AM   #6  
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Canned. Fish. Vegetables. You name it.

And don't anyone whine about sodium.

It's not that bad. And you can get low salt varieties. Or just rinse.

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Old 11-01-2013, 01:50 PM   #7  
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I shop at budget places (Aldi, Asian grocery stores), eat as unprocessed as possible, eat a lot of soups, and eat little meat.

I just grocery shopped and batch cooked dishes last weekend to last me, my child, (and my boyfriend half the time) for at least the next two/maybe even three weeks.

I spent $88.

In my freezer I now have at least 50 portioned meals OR part of a meal from my Sunday cooking. I made white bean soup, spicy tomato soup, marinara sauce, turkey chili, meatloaf "muffins," stuffed pepper soup, chicken/squash nuggets, turkey/zucchini nuggets, and broccoli white bean soup.

Freezer cooking saves me so much money. I just make a list of ten dishes or so, and list out the ingredients I need. Then I spend one day cooking and that's that.

Pasta, frozen veggies, rice, dried beans, eggs, potatoes, and canned fish are really wonderful inexpensive staples to have on hand.

Budget Bytes is a good website to check out for ideas. I end up spending MUCH MUCH less than her because I discount shop, but you get the idea.

Last edited by Munchy; 11-01-2013 at 01:56 PM.
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Old 11-01-2013, 01:52 PM   #8  
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Originally Posted by IanG View Post
Canned. Fish. Vegetables. You name it.

And don't anyone whine about sodium.

It's not that bad. And you can get low salt varieties. Or just rinse.
I probably eat canned sardines (with jalapenos!) for dinner once a week
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Old 11-01-2013, 03:21 PM   #9  
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Originally Posted by Munchy View Post
Pasta, frozen veggies, rice, dried beans, eggs, potatoes, and canned fish are really wonderful inexpensive staples to have on hand.
I think the least expensive most filling meal is rice and beans. A huge bag of rice can be only about $10 and it could feed you for almost a month. Dried beans as well are less expensive than canned. Toss in some canned tomatoes (for a "sauce") and some frozen veggies (or canned) and you are good to go!

Personally I don't eat red meat or poultry and find my grocery bill is much less expensive with plant based proteins (beans, tofu, etc). You could also find some of these items in a bulk store. We have a chain here called bulk barn where you go in and just scoop what you need, no paying for expensive packaging.
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Old 11-02-2013, 04:03 PM   #10  
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Check out the intermittent fasting forum. You could try fasting once a week, or for portions of the day. I generally take one day of the week to completely abstain from food for 24-36 hours. The rest of the week, I fast for 12 to 18 hours and then eat normal sized meals (one or two) for the rest of the day. Those meals can be as frugal as you care to make them.

Last edited by geoblewis; 11-03-2013 at 12:29 PM.
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Old 12-01-2013, 11:16 AM   #11  
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Like Munchy, I also love sardines. I eat them on crackers (king oscar double layer in olive oil), or sauteed with veggies (Reese's water based sardines). Lo cal water crackers only!!

I also take a handful of green beans, steam til crisp, then (while steaming), make a blend of shallots, capers, garlic, and italian spices and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Saute til soft in olive oil. Add a couple of sardines, mash them up, add the green beans, stir fry a few minutes, and then transfer to a plate. You get a little olive oil, your green veggies, and your fish plus omega-3s.

A can of king oscar double layer sardines costs $2.52 at Walmart. They are the best! And you'll have enough for two meals.

Cheap !! Cheap!!

Last edited by delmarva; 12-01-2013 at 11:17 AM.
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Old 12-01-2013, 11:45 AM   #12  
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Lots of great advice already, but just in case some of these points were missed:

Eggs are going to be your cheapest source of protein. Also, buy local whenever possible, check out farmers' markets, things like that. If we're talking "healthy" foods, buying them with as little processing as possible *should* be cheaper if you use the whole thing. But if you buy a whole chicken and only eat the breasts then you wont save anything.

Also, buy things that are in season at the grocery store. That way you be paying extra to have them imported. You can make some really hearty soups and stews with root vegetables.

And definitely buy in bulk when possible and pay attention to sales. Sometimes my store will reduce things to 50% off for "quick sale" because they're about to expire...which isn't a big deal if I plan on cooking them immediately that night or freezing them.

Oh and try to do all of your shopping once a week. Going a few times throughout the week kind of sets you up to buy more than you mean to.
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Old 12-24-2013, 02:18 AM   #13  
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Hopefully you have a crock pot. If not, a big pot on super low on the stove.

Dry edible beans are cheap. Dry barley, cheap! Dry slit peas, cheap! Brown, non instant rice, Cheap! Lentils, high in protein, cheap!

You may not be able as I am, but if another option, go hunting. Deer, goose, duck, lean meat! Go fishing! Lots of options.

Garden! Even in an apartment in the city, with no visible land, you can grow veggies, with a bit of trial and error, container garden.

Heck, I live in cold, crappy western Nebraska, and I have, in a pot a blooming green pepper plant, I have not babied this!

Eggs are awesome! So versatile.

Save up, get a food dehydrator (like $39 at wal mart) and in the peak of garden season, take all the free stuff you can get and dry it and save for later.

Dried fruit, veggies, herbs and spices!

If all else fails, where I live we have more jobs than people! And more industry moving in! If you are willing to work, come on out!
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Old 12-24-2013, 06:47 AM   #14  
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There are some great options here for you. But it sounds like to fix this issue an extra source of income needs to happen. We other it be weekend child care, house keeping or a pt gig at a store. Rework the budget!?

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Old 12-24-2013, 08:14 AM   #15  
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When my ex lost his job, I started intermittent fasting, calorie counting, and keeping to portions within reason. I was able to keep losing weight and switching to IF is helping me listen to my body and control food cravings more
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