Shoestring Meals Budget friendly ideas for healthy eating

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Old 08-12-2012, 02:49 PM   #1  
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Default What does your grocery list look like?

Hey there guys. I was just wondering if anyone felt like sharing their grocery list? I have a pretty tiny budget, recently I've been just buying each meal by itself because the store is literally right next door.

I'd like to get out of that habit, because the more often I go into the store, the more likely I am to walk out with a butterfingers bar :P

I also considered shopping by recipe but that was for some reason really overwhelming for me.
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Old 08-12-2012, 05:20 PM   #2  
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I would suggest looking at flyers, seeing what is on sale, taking inventory of what you already have, and then creating a weekly meal plan based around those sales/items. Try to create a meal plan where you will use the same item a couple of times so that you can save money by buying in bulk. I also always like to make enough dinner to be able to pack as our lunches for the next day. Never shop hungry, always have a list, and try to shop the perimeter of the grocery store.

Good luck!
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Old 08-12-2012, 06:36 PM   #3  
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I do out monthly menus and plan my grocery buying on what's on the menu. I only plan the main meal but there's always enough food on hand for breakfast and supper. I always have oatmeal, rice, pasta and dry beans on hand as well as various kinds of canned beans,vegetables, pasta sauces, soups and condiments. Frozen vegetables, fruit and entree items are also bought on sale. I buy several packages of cheese only when it's on sale, which it is every few weeks, so that keeps me going with that. I only buy yogurt, butter, margarine and oil on sale and stock up. Eggs also go on sale at the drugstore and when they do I buy at least 4 dozen. They're usually good for about 2 months according to the best before date. We use powdered skim milk instead of fresh. I make it up the night before so it's well chilled and we actually like it much better than fresh skim milk. I shop for fresh items nearly every week using the flyers as a guide. If a particular item is needed for a menu meal and it's too expensive I change. For instance if lettuce is sky high during the winter I'll switch to coleslaw.

When I make my list out I go through the flyers and put the store heading on the paper. I write down the food items from that store with the price next to them. Then I move on to the next store flyer and do the same. Other items that are not on sale go in another column or under a store heading if I know it's cheaper there than another place. All the grocery stores are close in my town and in the other town I shop in so I don't spend lots on gas getting from store to store. I also shop for canned goods in dollar stores and Walmart (which doesn't have a fresh food section where I live.)

When I start making my menus for the month I always "shop" in my pantry/freezer first to see what I already have that can go into a meal and then go on from there. I do the same as westcoast rosa and try to make extra for suppers. (We try to eat our large dinner at noon as I'm retired and can do that.)

Don't overlook discounted food items in the grocery stores. Many of the items have months left on the shelf life and if it's refrigerated juices or cheese I buy them and freeze them. Sometimes fresh produce is in the discount bins because of blemishes but often when peeled or a few leaves pulled off are as good as new. Limp broccoli can be brought back to life by cutting a slice off the bottom of the stem and placing the bunch in a bowl or large glass of water. In a few hours time you have a very firm bunch of broccoli. Don't buy broccoli if the flowers are turning yellow. That's way too old, lol. Day old bread is just as good as fresh for toasting and some even for just eating as is. You can freeze bread to keep it fresh longer.

Doing out the grocery list can be a little time consuming to begin with but it pays big dividends for the happy diner. Happy shopping!

Last edited by retiredone; 08-12-2012 at 06:39 PM.
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Old 08-12-2012, 06:49 PM   #4  
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One of the reasons I follow an exchange plan, is because it makes it much easier to shop on a tight budget (it would be even easier, if hubby followed the same exchange plan, but he's fairly consistent in what he eats, so it's not that difficult).

For example, every day my exchange plan allows me 3 servings of fruit daily, and five extra exchanges that I can spend on fruit, protein, or starch.

So every week, I buy about 25 to 30 (60 - 75 calorie) servings of fruit, keeping in mind that many pieces of fruit are more than one serving. For example, a small apple is one serving, but a large apple or a banana are two servings, and a good-sized watermelon may have 20.

A watermelon seems expensive at $6 a melon, but when calculated per serving, it only comes to 30 cents per serving (which isn't bad, though I usually try to get a better deal unless I'm really wanting a specific fruit). This month, watermelons have been on sale for $4 which brings the price down to 20 cents a serving. The downside is that I didn't get get a lot of variety in fruit this week, I ate watermelon and nectarines, that's it.

Raisins are super cheap, and they also count as fruits, and I do keep some in the pantry, but I don't usually use dried fruits for my fruit exchanges, because fresh fruit is a lot more filling.

Likewise, I can get balanas for 39 cents a pound (about 10 to 15 cents per serving), but bananas aren't very filling for me (and they're not my favorite).

Books that helped me tremendously include The Complete Tightwad Gazette and similar books (that I checked out from the library or bought used through on the topic of living and eating on the cheap.

One of the techniques I borrowed (and improved upon) from the TCTG was using tvp as a ground meat extender. TVP, or textured vegetable protein is a soy protein that looks sort of like GrapeNuts cereal (and in fact, it makes a nice crunchy low-carb breakfast cereal with a little sweetener).

You can add hot water to tvp and use it in place of ground beef in recipes, but tvp made this way is extremely bland. However, if you brown the tvp with ground beef or pork and seasoning veggies (like onion, celery, bell pepper...) the tvp absorbs the flavor of the meat (if you want a more detailed recipe, let me know and I'll link to it, I must have given it out here a dozen times or more).

Because plain tvp is fat free and super cheap per serving, I can buy very cheap (fatty) ground beef or pork and by browning it with the fat free tvp, I end up with a ground meat mixture that is even cheaper than cheap ground meat and that (even without draining) is as low in fat as the more expensive lean ground meats.

Plain tvp is even cheaper per serving, but it also lacks flavor, so making the tvp/ground beef mixture is a good compromise. I also make it in huge batches (using 2 to 3 lbs of ground meat and 2 to 3 lbs of tvp, a couple of onions, a few stalks of celery and a green pepper or two).

This makes a humongous batch that I then freeze in ziploc bags. While it freezes, I smoosh the bag around every 30 minutes or so, so that the meat mixture freezes in "crumbles." Then I squeeze out as much air from the bags as I can (to prevent freezer burn) and then I scoop out what I need to use in recipes that would use browned ground beef (such as taco filling, spaghetti sauce, casseroles, sloppy joes...) and "recipe" is a bit loose, because I'll sometimes throw a handful into a can of cheap vegetable soup (40 cents a can at Aldi) or will heat up a scoop of the meat mix in the microwave with a tablespoon of bbq sauce).

I do stock up on non-perishables and freezer items when they're on sale, and I usually calculate per-serving price to compare prices.

Aldi and Walmart both have the best prices on some things, but they're more expensive for others. Even the most expensive stores will be cheapest on some food products, so if you get to know your grocery stores and read the flyers, it's often worth a special trip (and if you get to know the stores, you also get to know which days and times are busiest).

Because I shop so many stores, you'ld probably think that I spend more time shopping than when I only used one store, but that as it turns out hasn't been true. I actually spend less time in the grocery store, because I know what's cheapest where, and when is the best time to shop, so we're in-and-out much quicker than when we only shopped one store.

Asian grocery stores and specialty health-food stores are often more expensive overall, but even they have their secret bargains. Asian grocery stores sell huge bottles of gourmet soy sauce for the same price as a bottle of Kikkoman's in the grocery store. Often the produce is of better quality (depends on the store) and rice and noodles are often super cheap compared to chain grocery store prices.

I'm not a super-domestic person. I like cooking, but only if I can do it in a reasonably low-effort way. However, I do make my own yogurt, jerky, salad dressings and dips, refrigerator/freezer pickles and grow my own sprouts. All of these are relatively low-work (except for the jerky - unless you find a butcher willing to cut the meat thin for you).

I don't can foods, because I'm kind of afraid of it to be honest (and don't want to buy all the equipment), and the yogurt I just recently learned to make and it turns out to be almost no work if you have a crockpot and a digital thermometer with an alarm to ring when it reaches a certain temp (the digital thermomenter was under $15 at Target and Crockpots are ofen reasonably priced new, and often can be found new, still in the box at thrift stores for under $10.

I LOVE crockpot for turning cheaper, tougher meats into good eating. And if you season the pork, chicken, with basic seasonings like onion and garlic, you can use the meat in all sorts of different dishes.

A type of store that's worth looking for (even though they're usually not advertised) is a grocery salvage store (sort of a private version of Big Lots).

These stores buy non-perishables from stores that are going out of business, or food that's been rejected by the chain store for one (frivolous) reason or another. If one box of cereal gets cut with careless opening, or one jar in a case is broken, or one can in a case is dent, many stores will reject the entire case (in some cases, the entire shipment). There are other reasons too that food can end up in salvage stores (say the labels were mistakenly put on upside down, or some other printing defect)....

You have to watch salvage stores carefully though, because the best sales are on foods you probably don't want to be eating tons of (lots and lots of super-cheap junk food). But there are also usually hidden bargains. In the salvage grocery we shop, most bars, whether candy, granola or protein bars usually sell for 10 for $1 (including those that sell for $1 to $3 elsewhere). I don't eat a lot of protein bars, but I always do buy a few for roadtrips and hubby does like the Nutri-grain and FiberOne bars we find there.

The store also got in some plain instant oatmeal (oats being the only ingredient) for less than 15 cents per serving ($2 per box). Instant oatmeal is a bit higher glycemic than steel-cut and even quick cooking oats, but it's still a whole grain, and is very convenient. The cheapest and healthiest way to buy oatmeal is in huge 25 lb bags, but I don't eat enough oatmeal to buy that much. I usually don't even want to bother with quick-cooking oatmeal, so I'm wlling to compromise and buy an unsweetened instant oatmeal (which is surprisingly difficult to find in chain grocery stores).

I know I'm writing a book here (actually I am writing an actual book on the subject of budget dieting), but mostly it all boils down to using thousands of little tips.

It's hard to save huge amounts of money with any one tip. Instead saving the most money is usually about using many small strategies that save a dime here and there.

Last edited by kaplods; 07-26-2014 at 11:57 AM.
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Old 09-22-2012, 09:03 AM   #5  
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I usually try to make sure I have the basics for starting a recipe, like onions, garlic, peppers, olive oil, chicken stock, I've been using Goya chicken bullion packets instead of chicken stock lately, seems like I use a little chicken stock and then it gets to the back of the fridge and that's all she wrote...

I pretty much wander around the meat area and look for whatever's on sale, usually some kind of chicken, quarters, thighs, legs, split chicken breast is on sale for around $1 a pound, sometimes pork chops will be cheap, some kind of combo pack of boneless and bone in ones.

frozen fruits and veggies are good, again, whatever's on sale, some of those steamer brands have brown rice, you can saute some onion and garlic, cut up some chicken or pork, add some frozen veg and you have a nice flavorful meal.

I try to always go with a list, that helps me stay on budget and not forget to bring home the one thing DH is looking for when i get

Rachel Ray had a list of basic things to have on hand in one of her 30 minute meal books, it was stuff like canned beans, diced tomatoes, jar of roasted peppers, etc. so if you something's on sale that you can use in multiple recipes, you can pick upl one or two and have it in the cupboard. I'll see if I can find the list online.
best to all
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Old 08-13-2013, 02:47 AM   #6  
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Basics are good. I went out and bought the basics and picked out 3 recipes with overlapping ingredients. I know some recipes by heart now which made it considerably easier!
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Old 03-22-2014, 06:57 PM   #7  
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I also shop what's on sale, and when a good deal comes up on non-perishables I'll stock up. Or even now, with berries coming in season and being cheap, I'll buy more and so I can freeze them. I also use coupons on sale items- good deals can usually be found on beans, tomatoes, coffee, tea...

Staples for me though are almost usually eggs, quinoa, bananas, oranges, Walmart has frozen bags of fruit that are cheap- or buy when in season, frozen vegetables... almonds and other nuts, non-microwave popcorn (buy an air popper, it's so much cheaper in the long run), olive oil & vinegars for salads (instead of bottled dressing). Realize this kinda forces you to portion out your food.

I also like protein powder-It is kinda hard to get enough protein on a budget, and I'm not much of a meat eater to begin with, so I like to include this. Walmart has a pretty good one (Body Fortress -with some other good stuff for exercise/building & maintaining muscle) for $16 with about 22 servings- a serving to me is like a breakfast though since I make smoothies with it.

I have an ice tea maker and use that to make iced teas when I buy all the teas on sale.. healthier and cheaper than buying the bottled ones.

Last edited by ringmaster; 03-22-2014 at 06:58 PM.
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Old 03-22-2014, 11:44 PM   #8  
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I plan my meals and make lists. But, I do it a little differently than some of the above people. We are on a pretty tight budget. I look at the ads and then plan my meals based on what I can find on sale and what I already have in the pantry and freezer from stocking up on previous sales, coupons, deals, etc.
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Old 04-07-2014, 10:38 PM   #9  
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One way to save money is couponing. I know i know it sounds crazy and "there is nothing ever healthy in coupons" BUT if you never pay for toothpaste, hair products etc etc, then you have more money for food. there are a ton of coupon matchup sites ( the krazy koupon lady, I buy two papers a week and havent paid for toothpaste since! Also I buy chicken in bulk when it goes on sale. I mean like 40lbs at a time.......
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Old 07-26-2014, 11:43 AM   #10  
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I'm a "creature of habit" kind of girl. Most nights I eat the same protein (fish or chicken) but change the veg or carb I'm having with it. I don't really like pork and red meat is eaten twice a year if that! Personal preference. I love my crockpot tho. Turkey chili, soups , stews. I will by cheaper cuts for crocks because in the end , the meat is "fall off the bone" and I do eat crockpot dinners in summer too. Plus I freeze meal portions for later. A crock meal that cost 7 ($10) gave out 2 meals that night , plus 4 more waiting in freezer. That's almost 1 per meal!
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Old 07-27-2014, 08:39 AM   #11  
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It varies month to month but these are things that are ALWAYS on my list:
Egg Whites
Sliced turkey
Blueberries (when available)
Plain Greek Yogurt
Frozen fruits
Frozen broccoli
Baby spinach
Chicken breasts
1% milk
Tuna fish
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Old 11-25-2014, 07:36 PM   #12  
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I am not a great cook, and convenience food is what I always go for, so if the food in the house isn't convenient I end up ordering food which is awful... THEREFORE:

I go to Costco. I get a tray of pre-chopped veggies, and another pf pre-chopped fruit. I buy a big bag of frozen chicken breast fillets. I get frozen fish fillets.

The chicken and fish are really fast to fry up in a pan and don't require any additional ingredients, unless I'm feeling fancy in which case I squirt lime juice and some salt on top (usually on the fish). The veggies and fruits I can just eat raw - I throw out the veggie dip because it's high-calorie and full of junk. I buy hummus (also from costco) to dip them in, but sometimes I steam them instead, using the rice cooker. I suppose I could stir fry them if I wanted.

If I want red meat I usually buy it the same day I'm going to eat it, at the local grocery store on the way home. Same goes for things like potatoes, which otherwise go bad in the cupboard. Anything slightly-less-convenient has to be planned, because I am lazy when it comes to cooking.

Eggs keep a long time so I usually get a flat of eggs from costco and shove it in the pizza-shaped part of the fridge.

I always have a bag of frozen mango chunks so I can make smoothies (sometimes with vodka) when I want them.

Costco is awesome.

Last edited by faiora; 11-25-2014 at 07:36 PM.
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Old 01-14-2015, 11:29 PM   #13  
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Talking Sad...

Well...this is going to be pretty sad, but I too, am on a very very tight budget. I don't make tons of money and I have a lot of loans to pay off, but I feel as though I'm well nourished every day and have a lot of energy.

-Ramen Noodles ($2.00 at Walmart for 12 pack- good for 12 lunches!)
-Peanut butter ($3-$4 at most stores)
-Bread ($2 for a loaf at most stores)
-Rice ($10 for a decent sized bag that could last a month or so)
-Eggs ($3 for a dozen or so)
-Multi-Vitamin/Mineral ($60)

Total: $91 for about 3 weeks of food.

Now, the most I spend is on a mult-vitamin. I truly believe that a good mult-vitamin can help supplement that micronutrients we need. I don't really cook, and I'm very cheap. So I figured I can get my vitamins/minerals from my premiere vitamin, protein from eggs and peanut butter, and carbs from rice/ramen/bread.

Am I crazy or what? lol

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Old 01-14-2015, 11:54 PM   #14  
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Staples: Lean meats, eggs, whole milk (I refuse to give this up), vegetables (frozen or fresh), fruit, almonds.
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