Shoestring Meals Budget friendly ideas for healthy eating

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Old 12-19-2009, 03:23 PM   #16  
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waste nothing!

Food lifecycle in my house

A)Whole chicken - roast it --->>

Chicken carcass in pot with (wilty carrots, carrot tops, celery ends, onion bits) salvaged as I find them and toss them into a bag in the freezer. Add water and boil forever strain and defat ---->>

Use defatted chicken broth to cook my potatoes so they have so much flavor on their own they dont need hardly any salt or butter or anything. SAVE the drained potato broth and toss in freezer. -->>

broth for soup to use up all the leftover veggies I have. The potato starch thickens the soup slightly and gives a blended veggie soup a bit more creaminess.

I keep a soup bag in the freezer for all the little bits of food that we dont use. Veggies that are getting just a little past their prime. Cooked veggies that I dont see myself putting on my salad or in my omelet. The little bit of meat that isnt enough for anything but is good for flavor. Soup baby soup.

And dont underestimate the power of beans! Cheap filling and healthy.
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Old 12-20-2009, 03:13 AM   #17  
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I appreciate this so much, ladies! Please, keep it coming!

I do live in the poorest part of my town. (My state in general is low-income, I believe)

I have a few different grocers here, and I try to go where the bargains are. What seems to be killing us is buying the fresh fruits and veggies, along with opting for the whole wheat/grain instead of white. Also, fruit juices are so much more expensive than soda! Some half gallons of fruit juice cost more than a 12pack of name brand soda!

We receive $239 a month, and that feeds me, my fiancee, and our niece when we babysit her, at least 2 days a week.

I hope that info helps!
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Old 12-20-2009, 06:58 AM   #18  
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I'm a bad one to ask about fruits. They were always the first things to go. I did buy frozen juice when it was on sale and canned fruit. But I have to admit that we did not eat fresh fruit everyday.
As for vegetables ... frozen is not bad and canned is OK. Sometimes, you just have to do the best you can. (Did I already say that?)
And bread? I clench my teeth and buy good grain bread. For me, it's about cutting down the portions. I don't need four slices of any kind of bread. But that didn't stop DH and the kids from scarfing the expensive stuff down

I'm a firm believer in shopping the sales. I don't care if we don't eat beef for weeks on end. If it's not a good deal, we don't buy it.

You can toss up a fry pan full of almost anything and roll it into a tortilla (which are super cheap to make).

It's be kinda fun to start a thread for folks to post their cheapest healthiest recipes. Hint, hint ...
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Old 12-20-2009, 07:30 AM   #19  
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Someone mentioned Angel Food Ministries (google them). They do participate in food stamp programs, and host sites are all over the country in urban and rural communities.

They helped me and my husband immensely when we were both in college and afterwards with struggling to pay off student loan debt.

The Signature boxes they do include enough food to feed 4 people for a week including meat and sides (note sometimes they include fish sticks or chicken nuggets). They also have fruit and vegetable boxes that you can buy or meat or poultry boxes. We were able to stretch out a box pretty far (seriously, it's hard for me to eat soup to this day).

Currently for $22 you get 3 lbs of sweet potatoes, 4 russet potatoes, 2 lbs of yellow onion, 1 head of cabbage, a pound of carrots, celery, 4 lemons, 6 oranges, 4 grapefruit, a mango, an avocado, and a lb of kiwi.

I don't mean to sound like an Angel Food Ministries commercial, but they really were helpful to us during a harder time. I volunteer at a local host site when I can and buy boxes for local shelters.

Edited to add: I forgot to mention that there's no requirements or qualifications; anyone of any income can purchase a box.

Last edited by Jilu; 12-20-2009 at 07:32 AM.
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Old 12-20-2009, 08:16 AM   #20  
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Another recommendation for Angel Food Ministries! They provide healthy, and fresh, food at an incredible price - and they have no income limitations, so you don't have to justify why you are using their service. They provide food at cost - so you are not taking resources away from other people when you use them.

Do you have a bakery outlet in your area? That's a great way to stock up on whole wheat bread, and store it in the freezer.

I don't buy processed stuff with unhealthy ingredients. That is the one decision that's saved us the most money, and freed up dollars for healthy food. For the price of one package of cookies, I can buy a bag of apples (and they keep well for a long time in the frig.)

Seasonal fruit and vegetables tend to be a bargain. We eat them when they are in season. We almost always have bananas and iceberg lettuce in the house, because they're generally inexpensive.

A whole chicken bought on sale is a bargain, and can be used for several meals. Roast in the oven (I often do 2 at a time) or even in the crockpot.

I agree about frozen and canned vegetables - tests have shown them to be as healthy as fresh (in some cases, more so, because they're picked and processed immediately after harvesting).

Fruit juice may cost more than colas - I don't really know. It's kind of irrelevant, because colas aren't food, and fruit juice is. In our house, they aren't in competition with each other. I buy healthy food first, and only buy the luxuries (like diet cola) if there is money left over.
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Old 12-20-2009, 08:48 AM   #21  
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Other than the niece, why not drop juice? I have coffee in the am, and water the rest of the day. I haven't had anything to drink but water (and coffee) in over a year and a half. I did have one glass of unsweetened tea , but that's also very inexpensive to make.

Most juices have a lot of sugar, and not many nutrients.

(my kids get apple juice, but it's watered down by at least 50% to keep sugars down)

Here's a great, simple recipe. Get the hamburger lean in bulk (our 'fancy' grocery has lean ground beef inexpensive in bulk), then utilize rest of veggies in other meals. I think this is tasty for being so easy. My kids ate it too!

Last edited by TwynnB; 12-20-2009 at 08:52 AM.
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Old 12-20-2009, 09:16 AM   #22  
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I don't know what part of Indiana you're in, but Angel Food Ministries has several locations around. And if your town is pretty low income, you can talk to a local church about becoming a host site if there's not one close to you.

Also, depending on what part of the state you're in, Aldi's usually has good produce for a good price. I don't think they're everywhere, but there are some around, there's one not too far from me.

There's a new co-op being built on the east side of Indy that should be done by spring. There's a really great one near Ft Wayne. Trader Joe's on the north side has really great prices. Bloomingfoods in Bloomington is a great co-op too.

Kroger's whole grain wheat bread, under the Private Selection brand, is no more expensive than their white bread. I also make bread for us, not enough to own a bread machine yet, but it's much better than store bought bread. The initial cost of ingredients is higher than a loaf of bread, but the cost per loaf is amazingly low. My favorite recipe right now is a whole wheat version of the infamous "no-knead" bread, with rosemary in it. Yum.

If you buy produce in season and buy frozen when not in season, it's going to be much cheaper for you. Bulk grains and beans are inexpensive ways to stretch your budget, and if you're a meat eater you can stretch ground meat by adding beans or tvp.

DH doesn't want to give up Mt Dew, so we still buy that for him, but I drink coffee, water, and tea, all very inexpensive. If the juice is for your niece, you may want to consider concentrated juices from the freezer case. There may be some brands with less sugar, etc. I don't know personally, because we don't drink juice, but it's worth a shot.

Last edited by bacilli; 12-20-2009 at 09:20 AM.
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Old 12-20-2009, 09:34 AM   #23  
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I live in a different area but our food budget is $200-$300 month and that gets us lots of veggies, fruits, legumes, whole grains etc and a lot of that is organic.

We don't drink juice but we do drink tea or water. We find it (tea) on sale. I really don't consider juice to be healthy but I know a lot of people like it.

We buy fruits/veggies that are in season. Like we have been buying apples and some persimmons. I found organic apples the other day at 88 cents/lb. We also don't eat salads during the winter because salad veggies are too expensive. We do eat some frozen vegetables and whatever vegetables we can find cheap/on sale.

I imagine you don't have many (any?) ethnic type markets in Indiana although it depends where you live but if you do happen to have any, I recommend going and looking at them. You might be able to find some deals.
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Old 12-20-2009, 09:37 AM   #24  
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Nelie, depending on the area of course, there are quite a few REALLY good ethnic groceries in Indy. It's not that they don't exist, they're just more like a hole in the wall that doesn't advertise. They don't have websites, and several I've been to around me don't even have phone numbers. But they do exist, and we do a good portion of our shopping at them, when we can find them.
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Old 12-20-2009, 10:00 AM   #25  
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That doesn't surprise me but from others I've talked to that live/have lived in Indiana, it doesn't seem as culturally diverse as other areas in the country so I really don't know

Like for me, I have 5 ethnic markets within a mile of my house.
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Old 12-20-2009, 01:28 PM   #26  
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Thanks for telling us about Angel Food ministries. I wonder if my grocery bill would be better getting my produce from them?
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Old 12-20-2009, 03:02 PM   #27  
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I don't really consider fruit juice "real food," but rather a more natural equivalent of soda or Kool-Aid (Just as I think of dried fruit as a more natural equivalent of candy). I'm not saying that they should never be ingested - just that they need to be treated like soda and candy (at least should be) - optional treats rather than diet mainstays. If you have the calories and cash to use on them as "extras" after you've taken care of the basic nutrition, that's great, but fruit juice is rarely a good substitute for the whole fruit.

Juice is really only marginally more nutritious than Kool-Aid and soda. The sugar content/calorie count is about the same, and perhaps the best part of the fruit (the fiber) is missing.

I also agree that frozen and canned vegetables are good compromises. Cabbage, carrots, celery, and onion are generally the cheapest fresh options (and you'll pay less if you're willing to wash, peel, and trim yourself).

Hubby and I shop on a very tight budget, as we're on disability (though we had a much tighter budget when I first got too sick to work), but we keep many of the habits we learned from leaner times.

Read all the frugal living books, cookbooks, websites and recipe websites you can find. I started my searc at (The Complete Tightwad Gazette was the first book I bought). I wrote down the title of every book I could find, and borrowed them from the library (if I liked it enough to want to own it, I wrote the title down and looked for it at garage sales, thrift stores, Freecycle, and Amazon).

The Hillbilly Housewife has a lot of good information on dieting/eating healthy on a tight budget. There are a lot of other great money saving websites too - search on terms like frugal, cheapskate, tightwad, budget, cheap, saving money....

A technique I learned (and modified) from the Tightwad Gazette is using dry tvp to extend ground beef. I buy cheap hamburger and brown it with dried tvp granules (a meat substitite made from soy - looks like grape nuts cereal), and onions, celery and other seasonings and water or broth. By combining the fatty hamburger with the fat-free tvp I can have the eqivalent of 95% lean ground beef or ground turkey for about half the price per serving of the cheap hamburger (about 1/4 to 1/3 the price of the premium extra lean ground meats).

Tvp can be used alone as a meat substitute - but it doesn't have much flavor. Browning it with ground beef, pork, or turkey will absorb the meat flavor. For an entirely vegetarian option, you can boost the flavor with seasonings (but it takes a little more practice to get a flavor you'll enjoy - in my experience).

After browning, I then freeze the mixture (tossing/stirring until it freezes in "crumbles" so I can take out what I need to use in recipes as I would ground beef - tacos, spaghetti, sloppy joes...).

I buy chicken thighs, legs or quarters (usually even cheaper than whole chickens).

I shop the Dollar Stores (not always cheaper, so you've got to pay attention). In Dollar Tree I found Stor-It brand "green bags" (those bags that are supposed to help veggies and fruits stay fresh longer), at 10 bags for $1. I rinse and reuse the bags. They do significantly slow down spoilage, so I'm very happy with them. Hubby and I do our main grocery shopping only once a month. We eat the fresh stuff first and later in the month rely on the frozen and canned veggies. If mid-month we see a super sale in the grocery store flyers (we don't take the paper - but we get the flyers in the mail or pick up the free community paper), assuming we have the money for it - we'll buy the sale items.

It seems complicated at first, but eventually you get "in the groove," and you develop your own system. It's definitely possible in Northcentral Wisconsin and Central Illinois, WI to eat healthfully on about $200 a month (or even less if you've got the time to do more shopping, prep, and cooking).

It does take being open-minded about food and shopping though. Sometimes you find yourself doing things you would have once considered "crazy." It's why I recommend books like How to Survive Without a Salary: Learning How to Live the Conserver Lifestyle by Charles Long - and Art & Science of Dumpster Diving by John Hoffman.

I didn't find many tips that I could use, but after reading those books, I felt a whole lot less crazy for washing and reusing plastic bags.

Last edited by kaplods; 12-20-2009 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 12-20-2009, 03:17 PM   #28  
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i have to say I hate fruit juices...even the healthier versions. I started diliking them...then I started watering them down 50/50. Next thing I new, I was watering them down 80/20--80% water, 20% juice. Occasionaly, if i have it, I use juice as water flavoring and that is it.

although, since now I have tons of pomegranate arils frozen..i use them in water for flavor.

I do like fruit juice from a juicer.

I have been totally freezing everything...and making plans in my head for it, since NO ONE but me does left overs..which aggravates the pee out of me. I have to hide it, then reinvent it.
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Old 12-20-2009, 05:25 PM   #29  
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Brown rice
Tuna cans
Plain oats
Whole chickens diced and skinned at home
Veggie options: what is in season and what is cheaper option (ie. green pepper instead of red)

No juice - really, it's just sugar in a bottle and hardly better than pop. Drink water.
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Old 12-20-2009, 07:25 PM   #30  
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I agree with the others, cut the juice. I have two kids and I don't buy bottled juice of any sort. Wal-mart has their store brand of crystal lite which is sugar free and is less than $2 for I believe enough to make 4 or 6 pitchers of "juice" kids love it and it is sugar free. Another budget stretcher I have found is this:
1lb ground turkey or beef
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 pkgs taco seasoning
2 cans beans, red, kidney, black or?
cup water (give or take)
cook up the meat and rice seperately, then add them together along with the taco seasoning, water and beans let simmer and serve on tortillas add cheese, lettuce tomatoes ect.....
This is tasty and lasts at least two meals for my family of 4.
Cook oatmeal in morning instead of proceed cold cereals, buy a bread maker and make some bread, nothing beats fresh bread. Potatoes can really strech a meal along with pasta and eggs are always good, but $200 isn't going to feed you for the month. I spend around $700/month which includes laundry soap ect..... for 4
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