Shoestring Meals Budget friendly ideas for healthy eating

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Old 04-10-2010, 06:47 PM   #1  
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Wink Share your tips for dieting on a budget :)

Long story short, our family will be losing close to half of our meager income in a couple months and things are going to be very tight budget wise. I am a little worried about maintaining my diet but I am sure I can do it with some planning I have found eating healthy to be more expensive in general than eating processed junk but I know there are ways around this.

I thought it would be a nice idea to have a thread dedicated to tips for dieting on a limited budget. I think it will be very useful to show everyone they don't have to eat cheap processed junk because they think they can't afford to eat right.

So far, my best ideas are to plant a backyard garden this summer, and buy grains and cereal at our bulk food store. Any ideas including shopping tips, cheap and healthy recipes, lists of staple items, cheap ideas for child friendly foods, general tips etc would be great
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Old 04-10-2010, 07:13 PM   #2  
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stock up when things are on sale and freeze when possible. Homemade soup, freezes well, and can get a lot of it for cheap. Also tuna/pasta, canned goods when they're on sale all can last you.
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Old 04-10-2010, 07:23 PM   #3  
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I split a Sam's Club membership with my sister. I buy a big thing of chicken breasts for $1.77/lb and then freeze most of it. I don't buy much there, but the meat really is a good deal sometimes.
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Old 04-10-2010, 07:43 PM   #4  
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I buy 100% natural skinless boneless frozen chicken breast that come in a large bag for $7 dollars at Wal-mart. I can get about 10 meals out of the one bag since it's just me eating the chicken, and I only eat about 4oz of it for each meal. The chicken breasts are very large so I save half of it. That saves money because the non-frozen costs more.

I also get frozen veggies in big bags. I don't buy extra things like diet sodas when I can just drink water. I also get some fresh fruit and yogurts, but I won't buy snacks like the 100 calorie packages. I also carry a calculator around with me when I shop so I know exactly where I am at, and I can put anything that's not totally needed back.

My advice would be to plan out your meals for the week, what you need, and to try to be as cheap as possible.

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Old 04-10-2010, 07:49 PM   #5  
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I am a queen when it comes to getting good deals. The trick? Combining coupons with sales. Find a store in your area you like to shop at, and google coupon match-ups. There is surely someone who has a blog dedicated to showing you how to maximize deals in your area. I shop at Kroger, and I save 75% on practically every shopping trip, because of a blog I read. Frozen vegetables have just as many nutrients as fresh ones, and using coupons, I rarely pay more than 25 cents a bag for brand name vegetables, such as Steamfresh. I never pay for yogurt. Shop early in the morning, that is when many stores mark down their meat that is about to expire. There are things I do pay full price for because they never go on sale, but because of the amount I save matching coupons with sales, it is not a big deal.

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Old 04-10-2010, 07:50 PM   #6  
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We can do better than a thread - I moved yours into our "Shoestring Meals" forum, where you can find all kinds of tips, tricks, and ideas for eating healthy on a budget!
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Old 04-10-2010, 08:18 PM   #7  
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When you are thinking about the cost, remember that it is always cheaper to buy a piece of fruit than a piece of cheesecake, so you are ahead of the game already.

If you eat pork, it can be very lean and affordable. You don't need to get fancy cuts of meat, just buy whatever is on sale abd eat the appropriate portion. Beans of all sorts are a great value if you buy them dried. Then you can add bits of meat, either planned or from leftovers, whatever veg are cheap...either fresh or frozen, and some spices to make a nutritious soup/stew. If you smash up some of the beans, it will make the broth thicker.

I don't buy canned or boxed broths because of the price, and because we eat so much fresh and whole food that sodium isn't much of an issue for us. I buy the biggest jar of Knorr bullion, in chicken, beef or tomato and chicken that I can get. BUT...I don't buy it in the regular bullion/soup aisle. I get mine from the Hispanic foods section, right at super walmart and it is pennies per teaspoon. ( One teaspoon is used to flavor 1 cup of water, so 2 tsp plus 2 cups water is approx. the same volume as one can of broth. There are actually quite a few food items in the Hispanic section that are cheaper, including packaged spices. The quality is often better IMHO than many of the higher end jarred herbs and spices.

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Old 04-10-2010, 09:24 PM   #8  
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My first recommendation is going to the library and checking out (or ordering through interlibrary loan) books on the subject of cheap eating. To find them try searching for books with searches like "frugal living," cheapskate, saving money, "eating cheaply," miserly, tightwad, thrifting, "simple living," .... Do the same online and you'll find thrifting and frugal living websites.

I just searched google using the phrase (no quotes), frugal living websites and it yeilded 499,000 results (with quotes 56,200).

My cheap bible is The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn

Not all of the tips are on food budget, but if you save money in other areas it frees up more room for the food budget, so it's a win-win.

Some of the tips may seem weird and gross to you, but you take what will work for you, and you leave the rest - and it will inspire some ideas of your own.

__________________________________________________ __________

Some of the things we do.

buy chicken at no more than $1 per pound for bone-in chicken, and $2 for boneless. We usually buy thighs because they're usually the cheapest. (wings are the exception, because there's too little meat and too much skin and bone to make them a bargain).

Instead of extra lean ground beef, we buy cheap ground beef and combine it with seasoning vegetables and dry tvp granules to use in recipes calling for ground beef. I freeze it in crumbles so I can use what I want.

If you want the recipe it's on my 3FC blog (cheap recipes are my thing)

We're always on the lookout for cheaper sources (this only works if you have inexpensive, reliable transportation). For example, we discovered that Kwik Trip (a gas station/convenience store) sells fruit and potatoes and onions at 39 cents per pound. For bananas this is always the cheapest, so we rarely buy bananas anywhere else (on occasion I buy miniature bananas at the oriental groceries, as a treat). For apples, pears, and oranges it's usually the best price.

We shop oriental groceries for some things. We can get a fancy mushroom soy sauces in a quart bottle for the price of a small bottle of generic soy sauce in the chain grocery stores. We'd save more if we bought it by the gallon. We buy fish sauce and use it in american dishes place of salt or worcestershire sauce (it brings out the flavor in foods, but doesn't taste of fish unless you use WAY, WAY too much).

The fresh vegetables and the fresh seasonings are often much cheaper and are almost always much fresher than in other grocery stores, especially nappa cabbage, bok toy, bean sprouts, green onion, cilantro, basil, mint, exotic mushrooms, eggplant (I love asian long eggplants, hate european large eggplants), some of the exotic fruits like pomello, tiny bananas, lychees, asian pear.

If you like sardines, I find sardines in all sorts of flavors in oriental grocery stores (my favorite are the ones in curry sauce). They come in 6 ounce cans or larger for 99 cents and I usually get two meals out of them.

We shop a store that is a bit like Big Lots (but privately owned) and they get in a lot of junk food (so you've got to be picky), but they also get in some gourmet stuff. Some stuff they get in a lot, sometimes it's a one time event. We've been able to buy cans of organic chicken stock for the past year (49 cents per can) and I got some sea salt seasoning shakers for 19 cents that I later saw in a grocery store for $7 each. We bought fancy bags of beans for 29 cents per pound bag (I don't remember all the varieties, but I bought one of each, and wish I'd bought everything they had - adzuki beans, pink beans, anasazi beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lima beans, pinto beans).

We usually start at the Big Lots store, because we never know what we'll find there. With the economy, the gourmet and health food stuff they get has plummetted. When they start getting in more health food and gourmet
stuff then I'll know the economy is really turning around.

We buy cheese from local cheesemakers (this isn't going to be available to everyone), and we buy in bulk and freeze). One of the cheese shops had all their Montery Jack varieties for $2 per pound.

We buy cuts of meat that are "old-fashioned." These unfortunately are getting rarer, and while they once were the cheapest cuts, now they're sometimes sold in grocery stores at much higher prices (like oxtails - wonderful for soup, but if you're paying $2 per pound for them, you're getting ripped off. Try to find smaller butcher shops that are actually butchering animals, not just buying factory meat. Their popular cuts will be much more expensive than the larger grocery stores, but the tougher and bonier cuts, and the organ meats will often be much cheaper.

Check out the meat counters. Most of the meats are more expensive than what's in the open cases, but there are exceptions. One of our stores has sales on marinated boneless breasts for $2 per pound (regularly twice that). They have a gourmet thick-cut bacon (we don't eat bacon as a meat, but use it as a seasoning) for $2.50 to $3.00 on sale (which is about the same price as the cheapest packaged bacon in our area).

We shop at Aldi. It's a great store, but don't go on Saturdays or Wednesdays, if you can help it. Wednesdays are when Social Security checks come out, and Saturday is just a busy day in any grocery store. Check the prices though, because not everything is cheaper (most of their produce, with the exception of potatoes, lettuce, onion, and apples aren't usually a good buy).

We buy seasonings from a baking-supply store (most are in tiny plastic tubs rather than shaker containers). The price is at least 1/3 of grocery store prices. I buy ranch dressing powder there (well I used to, now I buy the ingredients seperately and make my own. It's the recipe you'll find if you google "ranch dressing mix recipe."

Last edited by kaplods; 04-26-2010 at 10:45 AM.
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Old 04-25-2010, 09:10 PM   #9  
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This may seem pretty obvious, but I'll say it anyway...

Make a weekly menu.

List breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. You can make it in a chart format. I used to try to plan it out by day, but, I felt it was too constricting for us. So, it's a weekly plan and we choose daily what we'll eat.

After making the menu, then I go through the freezer, fridge, and pantry to see what we have on hand for that week's menu. What we are lacking gets added to the shopping list. I should interrupt to say that we first go through the weekly ads at the various markets and make our menu choices based on what is on sale.

After making the shopping list, I put next to each item an estimate as to what that item will cost. Add the total, and readjust for budget. Chances are, you can go through and eliminate an item here, an item there, of things that are a. too expensive or b. not needed.

I stick to the shopping list to a T with the exception of a MASSIVE discounted item I see in the store that I know I can buy in bulk and save us money in the long run (this helps going back to the second step of seeing what is in your pantry/freezer).

Once you have a pantry built up and are cooking whole foods from scratch (always the cheapest route) you will almost never have to deal with the middle isles in the market, rather, you'll just stick to the perimeter, and therefore avoid the temptation items, and the end-cap "sale" items (which are just processed temptation items).

STOP BUYING ANY JUNK FOOD AND DO THIS BY NEVER BEING HUNGRY GOING TO THE MARKET!!!!! Always go shopping after a big meal that leaves you more disgusted by poor choices you see rather than in a thought of "OMG! I MUST get those cookies!" Trust me. I used to buy chips, brownies, cookies, and swiss rolls every single shopping trip. I don't buy any of it anymore. And the rule in our house, if you want it so badly you can walk a mile to the 7-11 and get a SINGLE serving treat... I will NEVER be an enabler to those drugs again. You'll lose your cravings for that junk. Family can get mad at the beginning, but, would you rather help them KILL themselves in the long run with that junk???

I wish you all the best! If you don't already, learn how to cook meals from complete scratch and I guarantee, that alone, will save you dollars.

BTW... buy olive oil in the economy sized metal containers, buy a filter, and refill your fancy olive oil bottle. You'll save tons if you invest a bit in the beginning, plus it comes in a dark metal container, so it's not as tainted as the clear fancy bottles on the market shelves.
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Old 04-26-2010, 09:58 AM   #10  
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I enjoy cooking and love a challenge, so it's not as difficult as it seems. And although I live in nyc, I have access to all sorts of cheap "ethnic" markets and take full advantage of it. I refuse to buy my chili garlic sauce and other Asian condiments at a regular mainstream supermarket. The price is too jacked up!

I also became a vegetarian, partially due to budget constraints. I love beans and tofu, so in that regard, I'm very lucky.

I also cook on my days off and freeze such things as big tupperware-fuls of chili or prep veggies for stir frys. I also learn to depend on frozen vegetables out of season and pay attention to all circulars including ones for drugstores. Sometimes they have great sales on cereal or canned fruit. So if you can stock up. Like others here, I also go to local discount stores. For example, I found fiber one bars at Deal$ (a dollar/discount chain) for 5 for $1. At the supermarket, that amount costs at least $3.50. So I ended up buying several boxes. Now I'm stocked up for the next few months. These are a staple snack of mine, so definitely a great value.

To be honest, part of my food budget issues in the past were a matter of discipline. I felt lazy and didn't want to cook, ordering out was much more "exciting". First off, that's not great if you're trying to watch your weight and it's an easy way to blow a week's grocery budget in 2 to 3 nights.
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Old 08-14-2010, 11:01 PM   #11  
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I know all too well how it is to live on a budget I used the excuse of being broke for way too long.. I'm not realizing its manageable! I don't eat all whole foods or anything like a lot of people on here.. but here are some of the main things I eat.

Grapes (always cheap!)
Salad Bags (usually 1.99)
Ground turkey meat (i make taco salads, tacos)
Tortillas (only 1pt each for the corn)
granola bars (nature valley are delicious)
LeanGourmet frozen meals (99cents)
Chili from wendy's .. under 2 bux
SlimFast! 5 bux for a 6 pk.. i eat one for breakfast with a banana every day

These are just some items i usually stock. dont forget ur brown rice, popcorn, and veggies!
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