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Shoestring Meals Budget friendly ideas for healthy eating

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Old 11-17-2009, 11:20 AM   #16
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Mindi - are you able to grow any of your own veggies? I also know others make their own bread (I don't eat it often enough to really do that).

I do think 'diet' packaged products cost a bit which explains the hot dogs/cheese. Your produce costs do seem slightly high although we are lucky in that we have asian markets near us were we can get $20 for a 3-4 bags of veggies/fruit and $15 will also buy a 50 lb bag of brown rice (I haven't done this, yet but I usually buy smaller bags of rice).
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Old 11-17-2009, 01:03 PM   #17
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Here is an interesting article about costs of nutritious diets. As they say, it depends on what you personally define as nutritious. Some define it as organic food, some define it with respect to amounts of animal protein and dairy, some define it with respect to veggies, some defined it with respect to how radically you want to change what you eat. The cost of a nutritious diet will depend on how you define it.


costs also vary according to region that you live in and how easy it is to sustain your own garden. Those of us in the North can't garden much in the months of January or February. Those of us in Arizona have a greater chance of year-round veggie gardening. Those of us in Alaska have to pay a superhigh premium for dairy and fresh produce. Those of us in Wisconsin might find dairy is more available and a great price.

I don't think anyone can say comfortably that the short term cost of two boxes of Kraft Dinner for dinner is more expensive than chicken breasts, veggies and potatoes/rice, especially if you find the KD at the dollar store at 2 boxes for a buck fifty total. The long term costs with respect to health care/medication and so on from an insufficient diet is a different matter.

And England! Don't get me started! Fruit/veg is way more expensive than say picking up a sausage roll for lunch. It just comes down to what you want to eat and how you want to live and if the extra cost if you find it is costing you more to eat more healthfully is worth it to you.

Last edited by misskimothy; 11-17-2009 at 01:04 PM.
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Old 11-17-2009, 01:04 PM   #18
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I've got ROOM to grow veggies...but not enough time to put into a garden of any size to make it worthwhile. We've thought about it, but work responsibilities keep me from a lot of free time at home....

Our store is horrible. I'm in a town of 3,500 with ONE locally owned store. They don't get any call for health-conscious foods, so they don't stock them. And when they do, they totally blow the price out of proportion to pay for the small quantities they order. I think we do ok, and we're trying HARD to condense out of town grocery shopping trips to once a month or once every three weeks, and stocking up as much as possible on those trips...

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Old 11-17-2009, 01:20 PM   #19
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I guess it depends on how you ate before. Personally, I was a binge eater, so I would buy huge amounts of food. Now I eat for one person instead of multiple people and it's much cheaper.
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Old 11-17-2009, 01:39 PM   #20
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It's really fascinating to hear about everyone's different experiences. I think that here in England it's pretty much accepted that buying unprocessed food, especially in the winter, is much more expensive than buying fresh. For example it costs about twice as much to buy a pound of fresh potatoes as it does a pound of frozen fries, not that I'm eating many potatoes or even ever ate many frozen fries, but you get the idea.

Also, it seems to be that any coupons or special offers are for branded processed food, maybe supermarkets don't think that offering cheap apples will attract as many people as offering cheap apple flavoured puddings?

When the sockeye salmon went to $4 a pound I bought an entire case.
I don't know if I should laugh or cry at this, I'm currently paying about $20 per lb for salmon.
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Old 11-17-2009, 02:09 PM   #21
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I probably am spending more on this lifestyle, but I feel that the rewards more than outweigh the increased costs.

As far as clothing, I LOVE thrift stores and frequent them often!

I do have a gym membership, at work ( I work at a university), $200 a year. And yes I do use it, 4-5x a week. I also have a recumbent exercise bike at home that I ride 6x a week. DH and I did the c25k program this Spring/Summer for FREE! And he's still running !

As far as food, I don't really know that I changed the way I cooked so much as the amount that I cook. I am cooking alot more, which my family of 4 really appreciates. I'm a from scratch, farm cook. I don't necessarily cook low-fat, but I assume that my home-cooking is far healthier, are far more filling, than some processed box meal. I do love the grill, my crockpot and the breadmaker. We eat lots of beans, lentils and potatoes. One of my family's favorite meals is homemade soup in the crockpot, tonight is chicken and brown rice, with homemade lower fat muffins or oatmeal bread from the breadmaker (tonight--yum!). Tonight is going to be a crazy night but dinner will be ready when we get home. I also try to have some easier things on hand for times when I'm unable to cook a more intricate meal. I aim for 4 nights a week with one night of an easy meal.

Last Winter, while on a kick to pay off credit card debt (done!), I created a rotating 6 week menu plan of my family's favorites (some come around more than once) and grocery lists to go with it. I do follow the sales and usually do a big shop every 2 weeks on payday, followed by a weekly trip to Aldi for milk and produce. My freezer is full. Last week I bought 2 turkeys at .39 a lb and would have bought more but have no more room.

When meat is on sale, I buy. A couple of weeks ago, ground beef was 1.59 a lb. I bought 20 lbs and promptly browned 10 lbs. DH portioned the cooked meat into 1/2 lb baggies for the freezer and presto I have browned ground beef for 20 meals! I also buy stew meat and portion that out into .75 lb a meal. I cook a couple of lbs of chicken breasts in my crockpot, chop it up, and freeze it in .75 lb amounts. This makes cooking so much easier when you work outside the home like me.
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Old 11-17-2009, 05:42 PM   #22
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losermom, you have such good advice, since I am in nursing school, I try to cook more ahead in my free time and freeze stuff. Since we have about 80 lbs of deer meat--I'm not familiar with cooking---I have been a little slack. I love Aldi's for produce. I need to go more often.
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Old 11-17-2009, 05:51 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by CLCSC145 View Post
I guess it depends on how you ate before. Personally, I was a binge eater, so I would buy huge amounts of food. Now I eat for one person instead of multiple people and it's much cheaper.
Ditto, I spend a bit less on food now than I did before. I am buying more clothes, and spend more on workout shoes stuff like that. But I'm not breaking the bank and the results are worth the extra money.
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Old 11-17-2009, 06:00 PM   #24
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Just another amen here with regard to eating out. I do not ... or at least very very seldom do. It drives me crazy to spend on one meal what I would spend on several days worth of groceries.

And another vote for stocking up when stuff is on sale. This week baby carrots and broccoli are not bad. We'll eat lots of both. Frozen salmon fillets are $6 a pound so I got a few packages for the freezer too.

Pork is not bad lately either. I wished I'd got several little roasts that were on sale last week. I did one in the crockpot while I was at work ... it was fabulous!
Oh another one ... those little hams? waaay cheaper than deli meat or prepackaged slices. We just sliced it ourselves.
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Old 11-17-2009, 09:17 PM   #25
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We live in a vey expensive area for produce - so we have to think outside the box to get good fruits and veggies on a very tight budget. For us, a CSA box of organic veggies every other week, plus frozen staple veggies, keep our quality high and cost fairly low. I spend many more hours in the kitchen cooking everything from scratch but the food tastes better and is healthier, even if the cost may be slightly more.

Overall we're spending slightly less eating healthy, but most of that comes from a decrease in convenience foods and eating out - cost against cost per meal I'd say I'm probably spending slightly more, but that is maximizing ingredient quality on the same monetary budget.
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Old 11-17-2009, 09:39 PM   #26
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I buy healthy food in bulk from Costco. Honestly it's a lot less expensive than buying all sorts of crap from the grocery store.

Clothes...well. That's a whole different story.
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Old 11-17-2009, 09:51 PM   #27
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Hmm, interesting discussion. I haven't really noticed any change in our grocery bills since my husband and I have started eating better, but I haven't really been looking, either. We do like to eat out at least once or twice a week - I make all of our meals (lunches and dinners), and I like the break from cooking. I haven't reached the point where I need a new wardrobe yet - I hadn't even been thinking about "interim" clothing!
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Old 11-17-2009, 10:25 PM   #28
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weight loss is expensive!!!! but it is worth it.

healthy food is more expensive.
the gym is expensive.
one day at a time....

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Old 11-17-2009, 10:31 PM   #29
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Calorie counting really works for me. I spend about the same on groceries now that I did before. We eat less, higher quality food now.

Clothes - thrift and second-hand shops were my fried. I literally rented clothes. I took in a bag, which netted me a coupon towards a purchase of smaller stuff.

Inexpensive rewards:
1. Check out an audio book or workout dvd at the library.
2. Bubble bath
3. Give yourself a pedicure/manicure with a fun new polish
4. New flavored teas
5. Take your outgrown clothing to a consignment shop and use the profit for something you've wanted for a while
6. A new haircut
7. A new workout video or piece of equipment
8. Update your pictures online
9. Donate food in the amount of your loss to a food pantry/charity
10. Take a "me" day - visit a favorite spot, call a friend you haven't seen in a while, window shop, picnic in the park - whatever makes you feel refreshed and pampered

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? ICor 6:19
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Old 11-17-2009, 11:15 PM   #30
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I've been a bit busy and haven't posted to much the last few weeks, but I think I can boil this down to one thing.

I'd rather spend a bit more money on food, clothes, the gym, books or whatever.

Look at it this way, do you want to buy new undies every few months because your old ones are to big and are falling down, or spend the money on new undies because you've gained weight and your old ones are crawling into the great unknown?

That aside, my grocery bill didn't really change. Clothes, I can sew, so I can take mine up, that can get you thru a size or 2. Thrift shops, rummage rooms, garage sales, trade with family and friends, all great places to supplement your wardrobe.

If you find non food rewards pricey, our local beauty college does everything at a reduced rate. Or find some friends and have a manicure/pedicure party together, or do each others hair, or take your dogs to the park, visit a museum, take up a new hobby, bird watching, it gets you outside, and you have to walk around. Volunteer at an animal shelter, or a homeless shelter or something.

Lots of options, spread your wings, try something new.

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