Shoestring Meals Budget friendly ideas for healthy eating

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Old 02-10-2011, 10:24 AM   #1  
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Default Eating healthy is so expensive.....

(from an article I read)
Eating well has never been so expensive. In fact, when researchers estimated the cost of a diet based on high-calorie foods compared to one based on healthy, low-calorie foods, the difference was shocking. The high-calorie diet cost $3.52 a day. And the low-cal diet? A whopping $36.32.

OhDearGod! - No wonder I'm "grocery-store broke"!

Does anyone have any tips/ideas for eating healthy with a little less out-of-pocket expense? ~THANKS!!!

Last edited by Beach Patrol; 02-10-2011 at 10:24 AM.
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Old 02-10-2011, 10:26 AM   #2  
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I shave down the grocery bill by going to the Farmer's Market and buying meat in bulk.
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Old 02-10-2011, 10:29 AM   #3  
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$36.32?!? What the heck food are they looking at? No way. That does not seem accurate. I can get a bag of frozen veggies on sale for $1... but a bag of chips is $4. I can drink water for free... or get a bottle of soda on sale for $1. I don't eat much ice cream, so the last time I looked and saw reg. prices of like $7 for a "half gallon" I was SHOCKED.

I signed up for a CSA. Starting in May, I will be getting a box of veggies a week. (it works out to about $10 - $15 a week, I think)

I can get chicken for $2/lb or so at the butcher.

I mean... unless you are going all organic, free range, grass fed... but even then. $36 a day. no way.
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Old 02-10-2011, 10:32 AM   #4  
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You might want to check out our "Shoestring Meals" forum:
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Old 02-10-2011, 10:32 AM   #5  
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Cook for yourself. Cook lower on the food chain.

Consider losing milk -- it's not needed, no matter what they say. All animals wean from their mothers after babyhood. We're the only ones who wean from Mom and then go on to some other animal for breastmilk. Weird when you really think about it. Usually after meats, the dairy is the next most expensive for what you get.

Perimeter shop the store -- ingredients are cheaper than premade.

Shop other places -- produce stand for instance.

Think about a freezer if you have the space. Then you can also shop bulk.

Consider switching cleaners to open up money for food. Green cleaning is cheap -- baking soda, bon ami for scrubbies. Citra-solve or Dr bronner's diluted in spray bottles for spray. That's all you need, really. The rest can come out of the fridge. Check out Annie Berthold Bond's Clean & Green.

Here's the USDA cost of food break outs at 4 levels.

I'm not so sure about that article for $36 per day. I hunted that phrase and it appeared in several places but here is seems the most complete.

And guess what? It is selling a book. "Eat this, not that" so I am skeptical about the things they pick to compare. I don't pay 4.50 for cereal!

Even so it doesn't hurt to try to save money. Just make sure it's making sense for YOUR needs. I'm not saving buying things I wouldn't even use anyway -- who cares if it is at the sale price?


Last edited by astrophe; 02-10-2011 at 10:38 AM.
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Old 02-10-2011, 10:52 AM   #6  
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It's just hubby & me to buy food for - we usually spend $80-$100/week for food. We try to eat as "fresh" as possible - meat of course, is the most expensive, followed by fruit - I usually do get frozen veggies. Chicken, even legs, are $4.00+ (breasts usually run $8.00 for 4!!!...but that does feed us lunch & dinner two days. I like to have red grapes for my after-lunch treat/snack, & lately it's been $1.97/pound so that's better/cheaper than usual ($2.47/pound) -

and thanks, Heather, for that link! - I'll go run check it out.
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Old 02-10-2011, 10:55 AM   #7  
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I do all of the cooking and shopping for food in our house. I find that my grocery bill has gone down since I am eating healthy. Why?

It is simple I am buying a lot less food than I was when I was constantly over eating. It was amazing how much food we (I) were (was) consuming every week.

The cost savings from our food quantity reduction more than makes up for the small increase in cost for reduced Sugar, Sodium and Fat food items.

You can say that we have replaced quantity with quality in our home.

As a child my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it. ~Buddy Hackett
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Old 02-10-2011, 11:03 AM   #8  
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Eating healthy does not have to be expensive. Look in the paper for the weekly ads and take advantage of the items on sale that week. I notice you live at the beach, is that a California beach ? If so you have Safeway stores they frequently have sales where you buy one and get one free. Shop for fruits and vegetables in season, they will be much cheaper. Don't buy prepared foods such as frozen dinners , you can make them yourself for much less.

Last edited by bargoo; 02-10-2011 at 11:04 AM.
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Old 02-10-2011, 11:06 AM   #9  
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Compare the massive subsidies for corn growers (and in-kind subsidies for beef growers, in the form of grazing "rights" on public land) to the virtually nonexistent subsidies for broccoli growers.

That being said, these figures sounded ridiculous. I did a little searching to find the original source, and found that there's been quite a bit of misreporting. (Surprise surprise.) The original source of the dollar figures seems to be a study by researchers at the UW who found that the cost per calorie of fruits and vegetables is much higher than the cost per calorie of chips and other junk food. This is no surprise: it would take, what, 15 heads of lettuce to get the same number of calories as in a 99 cent single-serving bag of chips? But that's because nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables tend not to be as calorically dense as junk food. In fact, that's partly what makes them "nutritious" in common parlance!

In a nation with an obesity epidemic, it makes no sense from a policy perspective to hold out cheap calories as the ideal. First, most people don't walk around the store saying, "how can I maximize the number of calories I purchase with this dollar." If anything, they look at maximizing meals per dollar, e.g., when they compare costs per pound of different cuts of meat.

Second, the fundamental problem behind our obesity epidemic is that too many people eat too many calories relative to their caloric needs. From a policy perspective, it would be helpful if veggies were cheaper and HFCS more expensive, because people might eat a smaller volume of the (now more expensive) energy dense food. But if every American substituted a veggie calorie for every HFCS calorie, we'd still have the same obesity problem.
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Old 02-10-2011, 11:08 AM   #10  
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That article must be skewed. I recently went over our checkbook (we never use cash at the grocer so I know my figures are accurate.). Compared to the same 2 month period a year earlier, despite higher individual costs as time goes on, we are spending $100 - $122 a month less on food NOW. And that doesn't include the fact that this is for more meals as we are eating out 1/3 to 1/2 less. This, despite choosing a LOT of fresh fruit and veggies every week. I'm doing a lot more steamed veggies. I'm buying more little things like spices, capers, curry paste, etc. (not the cheap stuff), as a switch from relying so much on fats, to make our meals nicer. Yet the total cost is much lower.

Yield = Saving $100/month while dh & I have dropped a full 80 lbs. combined.

Last edited by Sea; 02-10-2011 at 11:25 AM.
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Old 02-10-2011, 11:10 AM   #11  
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I spend about 40-50 a week on groceries...seems like a pretty normal amount to me. I've tried buying unhealthy for a few days and it cost the same, but only for a few days instead of a week! Healthy staples like veggies, eggs, frozen bulk meat, seem to be much cheaper than chips, dougnuts, and tons of ice cream.

Ramen, on the other hand...
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Old 02-10-2011, 11:13 AM   #12  
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Funny, because my 3x a day Wendys, cafeteria & restaurant dinners seemed more $ than my broccoli, potato, and lean protein. Ahh well!!!
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Old 02-10-2011, 11:21 AM   #13  
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First, most people don't walk around the store saying, "how can I maximize the number of calories I purchase with this dollar."
Heh... the mental image of that made me giggle

I think a good deal of the money goes toward "non-grocery" items, such as clothes washing powder, toilet paper, paper towels, etc. I plan to scrutinize our receipt for the next 4 weeks to see exactly how much money is spent on non-grocery items & how much is spent on fresh items vs. frozen or canned items. That's really the only way to break it down, because different people buy different things, and there are different prices at different stores, and different stores in different parts of the country.... y'all know what I mean
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Old 02-10-2011, 11:28 AM   #14  
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I know when i go shopping, I like to buy things that aren't name brand. Like wal-mart always has something in their Great Value which is always cheaper then Tyson or whatever else is name brand. That saves me some money.
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Old 02-10-2011, 11:39 AM   #15  
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Couldnt agree more! i aways try to have fresh fruit and veg in but it always bumps up the shopping bill.

I try to make short cuts and get frozen veg and meats when i can they tend to be a little bit cheaper. I aways find fruit is always on the pricey side so i buy fresh and tinned , tinned is usually a fraction of the price
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