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2/24/13 10:06 A

Read through all of these great ideas! I can't fathom trying to stay within a budget AND eat healthy, but now I think I can!

SUNSHINE6442 Posts: 2,253
2/24/13 9:46 A

Here are some ideas to eat cheap and healthy...maybe meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesday..

Pearl Barley comes in cello sleeves, as well as, lentils & brown rice and these can all be purchased under $1.50. Make barley soup. Buy a bag of brown rice & add Cumberland Gap Ham Chuncks for $3.00

Make tacos using kidney beans in place of ground meat..Take leftover spaghetti noodles with the sauce and place in a taco ...its really good. ...12 tacos @Walmart Great Value brand is $1.00. Try tuna tacos with lettuce, top with matchstick carrots

Make cabbage soup, cabbage is inexpensive, add boullion and a can of "Veg All" ($1.00 AT Walmart) with the liquid. Add any veggie left overs so nothing goes to waste.Try shredded cabbage instead of iceberg lettuce on your tacos You can buy a large can of Veg All At Dollar General ...use half...freeze the other half

Cabbage rolls made with brown rice, about 4 ounces of ground turkey or ground chicken whichever you have bought on sale, 1 small onion diced & mixed into rice and turkey meat. Top with a can of tomato sauce.

Take a half of sleeve of lentils and put into 3 quarts of water add a chicken bouillion, and 2 sliced carrots. Cheap & easy and filling.

Sweet potatoes are inexpensive, dice up & pair with black beans and make a casserole.

Broccoli contains a bunch of good nutrients, Publix sells a 2 lb. bag frozen for $3.59

Hormel has a pork roast (Garlic & Onion) for $5.99 put it in a crock pot and cook until you can shred the meat...or in the oven (see panel for instructions)

A huge box of Original Cheerios for $3.00 at Walmart.

Popcorn has many vitamins and nutrients and is cheap. Sprinkle with parm or cinnamon.

More budget foods...
Eggs, beans, canned tuna, Sardines, Canned Chicken, seasonal veggies and seasonal fruits, oatmeal, grilled tomatoes, lentils, Kasha, Barley, Brown Rice, green beans, cucumbers, carrots, sweet potatoes, radishes, celery, tacos, celery, frozen brocolli, frozen green pepper bits, zucchini, chickpeas @ Walmart are only 67 cents and most of their Great Value brand can goods....they are also low in sodium and sugar.

I also make Hodgson Mill's brown rice pasta and mix it with chickpeas and green is a hearty dinner.You can also rinse chickpeas, pat dry and sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes for a great snack.

2/24/13 9:45 A

These are all good suggestions below. I have to say, I agree on the coupons though. My mom was a champion coupon shopper -- she'd come home with a bag of chow mein noodles, a cake mix, a jar of olives and a big jar of off-brand mayonnaise. Then we'd scratch our heads and stare at it. Our cupboards were full of this stuff, but we didn't seem to actually have anything for supper.

I second the notion of beans and lentils, rice, and fruits and vegetables, and don't waste money on soda and sugary drinks. You can make your own breads and baked goods for far less than you buy them too. Good luck to you.

2/24/13 9:42 A

Don't count coupons out. A good website for planning is

I use that website for planning out my grocery shopping. It shows the sales at grocery stores as well as available coupons available online and in weekly sale ads. Not all stores are on there so there are some manual searching involved.

I buy a lot of chicken for meat and whole wheat pasta and brown rice since they are cheap and go a long way.

10YEARSDOWN SparkPoints: (2,264)
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2/24/13 8:38 A

I tried the yogurt yesterday and it came out perfect!!!
Thank you!!!!!!

PJANTO Posts: 79
2/6/13 10:24 A

I like your thinking MISSRUTH! I have two picky eaters and one who will try anything (she is so much fun to feed!), and the pickies know if they don't like whats for dinner they can make pb&j or open up a can of tuna. Nothing wrong with that imo.

I plan meals around sales and what's in the freezer. I do ask the family for suggestions when planning my weekly grocery list based on what's on sale so they do have some say as to what we eat. My mom cooked to order for each of my picky sibs and they are still picky as adults. My son who was always a good eater until he was 3 is now trying and enjoying many new foods as he is now 10 and always "starving". My oldest picky is now majoring in food and nutrition and panicking because they have to taste everything they make in food lab!

LOUNMOUN Posts: 1,334
2/6/13 10:08 A

Look at what you already have when you make a meal plan.
Buy less meat.
Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season.
Buy generic or store brand items.
Buy dry beans & lentils. Pasta and rice are also good.
Oatmeal (not the instant flavored packets) is useful.
Soup is a good dollar stretcher.
Make your own bread products. Tortillas are pretty easy and cheap to make.
If you buy meat get a whole chicken vs skinless boneless chicken breasts. If you remove all the meat from the bones you can cut it up and freeze use it to use in soup, stir fry, or casseroles.
Cut up meat and put it in things instead of serving whole pieces.
You might use powdered milk.

Plant a garden or make friends with a gardener.
Reduce waste. Find ways to use everything you have. For example, my dd doesn't like bread crusts so I cut them off and save them in the freezer for bread pudding, stuffing or bread crumbs.
Some ideas of what you could buy. I would not spend the money on organic foods with such a limited budget but there are some ideas for meals.

VEG_GIRL04 Posts: 2,637
2/6/13 7:57 A

Have really enjoyed this thread - all great suggestions!

Less processed food, more dry and frozen goods in bulk, sticking to a menu, less meat, more using leftovers - and my absolute favorite - go to Aldi! I don't get everything there as my favorite vegetarian meat substitutes and protein sources are never there - but it's really a life saver for some things!

NIRERIN Posts: 14,249
2/6/13 7:19 A

and i just got the sale flyer for tomorrow at my local store and they have 20lbs bags of rice on sale for $8, which brings the per portion price down to 3 cents. so that sort of sale shopping is what you want to be looking for, even on the already cheap stuff.

10YEARSDOWN SparkPoints: (2,264)
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2/5/13 10:24 A

PJANTO - Thank you! I'm trying it your way on Saturday. Wish me success!

MISSRUTH Posts: 4,267
2/5/13 8:19 A

Lots of great suggestions here!

I feel your pain, about the coupons. If you don't buy much in the way of brand-name, packaged food, there are not a lot of coupons available. I used to be a big couponer, til I switched to using mostly store-brand stuff and cooking almost exclusively from scratch. The coupons I use now, are for stuff like dish soap or hair color. Stores around here are stingy with double couponing etc so the savings aren't much, but every little bit helps.

I think one of the biggest things is to get everybody on board; kids especially can be picky and when the budget gets tight, you just don't have "room" for picky-ness. If you serve a meal for supper that they just do not like, there's always peanut butter on bread or crackers.

It has helped me tremendously to switch to grocery shopping once a month, with a quick weekly trip only for fresh produce and maybe milk. I have a list stuck to the refrigerator, of what's for dinner every night for the whole month. Cuts down on the impulse buys, since I'm not in the stores all the time. And there is very little food waste in our house-- leftovers are scheduled in, or eaten for lunch.

Aldi's is a great store for the budget-conscious, if you have one in your area. I don't buy meat there, but their canned and frozen vegetables are a good price, also their produce. We eat a lot less meat than we used to-- most of the time, meat is in a casserole or stew or soup. Not a large slab of meat all by itself on the plate. You can make it go further, if you put it in something with a lot of vegetables and maybe some beans, rice, pasta.

In this area, ground meat has become fairly expensive and it is cheaper to eat chicken breasts or pork loin. I made meatloaf the other night for maybe the first time in over a year, and my DH thought he'd died and gone to heaven. One comment on rinsing ground beef-- do NOT do this if you have a septic tank. The grease will form a layer in the tank and keep the bacteria from breaking stuff down. You will end up needing to have your tank dug up, and pumped. After the sewage has backed up into your house.

If y'all are not used to eating a lot of beans, I'd suggest starting with lentils. They are cheap-- you'll find them with the dried beans-- and cook a lot faster than dried pinto beans or any other kind of beans. To me, they have a texture close to finely minced ground meat.

You can cook dried beans in the crockpot (if you have one)-- I always do the whole one or two pound bag at one time, and then freeze them so they're ready for when I don't have much time.

I think it takes some planning, to cut costs. And a willingness to work around what's on sale, what's in season, and what is just downright cheap. Carrots are always cheap, for example. Snow peas are not. Potatoes are usually cheap. Homemade (not microwave) popcorn is cheap, for snacks. It is just about always cheaper to make it yourself, than to buy it ready-made (Hamburger Helper or Manwich sauce or spaghetti sauce for example). I like, to find recipes for copycat stuff, and also for things like gravy mix or salad dressings or barbeque sauce or taco seasoning. Plus when you make it yourself, you know exactly what went into it and you can "tweak" it for your family's tastes. Make it spicier or less spicy or whatever.

SLASALLE SparkPoints: (267,415)
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2/4/13 10:58 P

Beans are definitely your friend, cheap, easy, counts as both veggie and protein, and tons of variety. Don't forget canned tuna. Whole wheat pasta in bulk is healthy.

I ALWAYS shop the sale ads and stock up too!!

LOVE4KITTIES Posts: 4,690
2/4/13 10:47 P

-Don't forget peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There are lots of servings in a jar of PB.
-Oatmeal (large cardboard tube or that large box at Costco, if you have a friend who is a member)
-Breakfast for dinner
-Potatoes are fairly inexpensive, especially the large bags when they are on sale
-Other veggies on sale, frozen is fine and possibly less expensive. Fruits too...whatever is on sale. Right now, oranges are a good price around here (especially if you get a big box or bag) and they last a long time so far as storage goes. Bananas are inexpensive choices too.
-Dried beans (I like pintos for refried beans and chili and split peas for soup) and rice.
-Homemade bread (whole wheat). Homemade tortillas are pretty easy too, but I've only made them with white flour, never whole wheat, so I don't know how that would work. But, you can get large bags of tortillas at the store (I think you can freeze what you don't eat before they go bad). If you put some homemade refried beans on them and a little onion or whatever else you have on hand, it's a pretty inexpensive burrito.
-Milk (powdered if you have to)
-Look for sales on meat and use sparingly, in things instead of as the main course. You can rinse the fattier ground beef (which is less expensive than the more lean stuff) in a colander (I think) after browning to get a lot of the fat out. Someone posted something once by Hillbilly housewife about rinsing ground beef. Hopefully, someone who knows more than me about this (and I just have a general idea that it can be done to save money) will post.
-Spaghetti (whole wheat if you can) with a can or jar of on-sale sauce and some browned hamburger meat it in makes a relatively inexpensive meal.
-Homemade soups. Mom used to make a homemade "stew" frequently when we didn't have money. She used stew meat, potatoes, pasta, carrots, a can of green beans, and a few other things that I don't remember exactly. I don't think she always used the same things. I didn't like it much (my sister loved it), but I ate it and it was filling. There are probably some good recipes out there.
-Check your area to see if there is a food pantry.

Edited by: LOVE4KITTIES at: 2/4/2013 (23:06)
PJANTO Posts: 79
2/4/13 7:43 P

I heat a scant gallon of skim milk to 180 degrees on the stove. Then pour it into a clean one gallon glass jar and chill in fridge until its at 130 degrees. While milk heating, I pull 1/4 cup of plain yogurt from fridge to warm up a bit (this is your starter). When milk is 130 degrees, mix one cup of that with your starter to make a slurry and add that back to the jar and stir gently. To incubate, I turn the oven to 200 for a minute then turn it off. I place the jar of milk, covered with a coffee filter and rubberband, into a big pasta pot. Fill the pot with hot water 3/4 the way up the side of the jar and cover the whole thing with foil. Place in the oven for 12-15 hours. Don't disturb it at all! The only failures I've had were when I heated the milk past 180 degrees when scalding it. When I strain it overnight, it yields 3-4 pounds of "greeked" yogurt. My mom has a yogurt maker, but I've read that that the gradual cooling during incubation allows different types of beneficial bacteria to grow, as some prefer cooler temps and others warmer.

Edited by: PJANTO at: 2/4/2013 (19:45)
35BYMAY SparkPoints: (1,477)
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2/4/13 7:33 P

we always had breakfast for dinner too! eggs and potatoes and if we were lucky we got some bacon... I thought it was special, but it was just cheap lol.

WHOLENEWME79 Posts: 950
2/4/13 7:13 P

I shop adds and coupon and can get away very cheaply indeed. I know that couponing can be tough, but you can use websites like to help take some of the effort out of it.

When we were dirt poor I'd make massive pots of soup, curries, or pasta bakes, then package and freeze them for meals. I'd use mostly frozen vegetables and cheap things like lentils. They'd keep a month in the freezer (though they never actually were in there for a month) and my family really like them. Plus, since I made them myself, I knew what was in it and could tailor it to everyones taste.

We'd also eat lots of pasta- The cheapest whole wheat pasta I could find, and dress it up with canned vegetables like tomatoes and mushrooms and use dried herbs like taragon, basil and crushed red pepper for flavor. On special nights I'd get some sale meat (whatever was cheap, chicken, pork, beef, whatever) and just toss that in.

I would buy eggs at the local mexican grocery store and Id get 2 dozen for a buck. Then I would make frittatas and hard boil them, egg salad, etc. Good protein source and extra cheap.

CORTNEY-LEE SparkPoints: (67,852)
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2/4/13 6:45 P

When i was a kid, my mom used to make Breakfast for dinner!

She would make eggs cooked to order or sometimes we would have oatmeal

I thought she was the coolest mom in the world for doing this! I thought she did it because she loved us... turns out, we were just really poor. Well, she did love us, but you get the idea.

Not only is that something fun for the family, but it is also a cheap meal! You can get a dozen and a half of eggs for under $3.

JULIACOLLINS62 Posts: 1,704
2/4/13 6:41 P

I've really enjoyed reading this thread. I'm glad the question was asked. Such positive ways to live a healthier frugal lifestyle. Thanks! emoticon

DIDS70 Posts: 5,368
2/4/13 5:59 P

the only thing I would not buy in bulk is fruit and veggies. Just buy what you need for the week. First it ensures that you eat it and ensures that you are eating fresh. Stockpile frozen meat, rice and maybe some potatoes.

YOJULEZ SparkPoints: (15,981)
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2/4/13 5:55 P

You've gotten great suggestions already, but I will also suggest meal plan based on your store's sale ads. Also when something goes on good sale, buy a lot of it. It may feel like you're spending a lot at first, but once you have a good stockpile going, your weekly shopping trips will be dramatically less. A few weeks ago I spent less than $25 for an entire week's worth of groceries, because my pantry and freezer are pretty well stocked.

For example, about every 6 weeks my store puts boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.99 a pound. They come in packages of 5. I buy 2-4 packages, and portion them out into ziploc freezer bags, with 2 breasts each. I also weigh them at this time and write it on the bag with a sharpie, which is helpful later on for meal planning and recipe building. Most of the time the breasts are at least 6oz, and often can be 8+oz each. Since that's pretty huge, you can cut them in half, lengthwise, and still have a very healthy portion of meat, but you're getting 4 portions out of 2 breasts.

For vegetables, buy seasonally. It's a bit hard this time of year, but come spring and summer, there will be lots of fresh vegetables available for good prices. Also stock up on frozen ones to use when they go on sale. My store's generic brand often is on sale for $1 a bag.

Also, shop multiple stores. I have King Soopers (Kroger) near my home and work, and Safeway and Sprouts (produce-centric market) near my work. Safeway and Sprouts regular prices are not very good but they have better sales for the most part. So, every Wednesday I look at the ads for each one, and write down items of interest. Often they have stuff on sale at the same time, so I'll go to the store that has the best price for something I like. I can go to Safeway and Sprouts on my way home from work or on my lunch break, and I do King Soopers on Saturday mornings for anything I don't get from the other two on sale. Safeway also does a lot of really great digital coupons attached to the store card, for discounts on things like meat and fresh produce. Safeway and King Soopers also do rewards points for gasoline, so for every $100 I spend, I get 10 cents off per gallon of gas. That helps save a lot of money for me since I fill up my 18 gallon tank at least once a week.

With this approach, I've cut my grocery bill down from over $400/mo for two people last September, to $260 this last month. I plan on it being even lower this month. This also includes the sodas my SO likes and drinks 3-4 a day of, and anything else I buy at the store, like ziploc bags, toiletries, etc. I could get it down even more if I tried harder too.

Edited by: YOJULEZ at: 2/4/2013 (17:59)
TRIATHLETEGIRL SparkPoints: (55,983)
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2/4/13 4:43 P

If you have any room in your yard, you can put together a raised bed and have a garden, which really helps out the food bill in the summer. In fact, last year the only thing I had to purchase was eggs and tofu in the later summer months. The rest of the time I was stuffed to the gills on greens, beets, peas, beans, carrots, pumpkin, and tomatoes. A garden has a small start-up cost but you can reap the benefits for years. Of course it does take time, but for me it is worth putting in the time to save the money. Fresh organic vegetables aren't cheap when you buy them in the store!

10YEARSDOWN SparkPoints: (2,264)
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2/4/13 4:41 P

How do you make your yogurt? I keep making big batches of failure.

I agree with the suggestions, they are great. I have a very low budget, too. We rely on bulk buying, istitutional sizes and freezer bags, whole chickens, lots of soup. Oatmeal is the cheapest breakfast possible, and always pack lunches.

My last chicken was 5 lbs at $1.59/lb. We ate some yesterday with beets (fresh, roasted next to the chicken) and mashed potatoes, tonight it's going to be soup with homemade rolls (super cheap and easy), tomorrow we're having it repurposed as a white chili with double the beans, Friday, there will be plenty left for chicken quesadillas. Wednesday is spaghetti and Thursday is tuna noodle casserole. All made with whole wheat pasta bought in bulk, spaghetti sauce that came in 6 lb cans and I freezer bagged them, and shredded cheese, bought on sale and frozen.

It can be done. It's not easy and it takes a lot of prep work and planning. But I am proud of my homemade bread, my from-scratch meals... Once upon a time, I was a terrible cook. My first attempt looked nothing like a meatloaf, and today I feel like an old pro!

PJANTO Posts: 79
2/4/13 4:09 P

Hello! I spend about $90.00 a week on groceries for a family of 5 (2 adults 3 kids 18,10, 7, and 2 cats). This includes paper products, laundry, cat food & litter, feminine, and personal care items. I plan menus a week at a time and stick to them. When I cook a whole chicken, we eat the breast meat one night and make a big pot of soup that can feed us for an additional two nights. Save scraps of cooked meat such as a leftover pork chop and freeze to use in a stirfry. Buy marked down rolls and have a sandwich night. I save a ton by buying marked down meat. Just use it or freeze it right away. I make good use of the freezer and stock up on sales. My rule is that everyone has one serving of meat only, but as much salad and veggies as they want. I shop mostly at Aldi's which is a real money saver. Don't discount coupons. I make a grocery list on the back of a repurposed envelope (usually a business reply) and put my coupons inside it. I can usually get hair color, feminine products, razors, shampoo, and toothpaste for free or $1.00 when I stack double coupons on top of a store sale. I make homemade yogurt (super easy) for the price of a gallon of milk, and limit the amount of prepackaged snacks I buy.

CBR0422UNCW SparkPoints: (3,410)
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2/4/13 4:00 P

I can spend $10 or less making a giant pot of homemade vegetable soup and have a ton of meals from it. I freeze it in smaller containers of about 2-10 servings each. You can make different kinds and use things like beans, potatoes, rice or pasta to make it heartier. When my mom, grandma, great grandma were growing up, they only had meat once a week, on Sundays. First because of being poor country people, then the depression, then war rations, then being poor country people (again.) They would use small amounts for seasoning here or there, but they were never the main course. They were strong, healthy, hearty people and fed their families on almost no money. This idea of meat being the main course of every meal is a relatively new thing in our long history. There are other ways to get fat/protein.

35BYMAY SparkPoints: (1,477)
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2/4/13 3:59 P

only eat meat a couple of times a week... trade meat for beans, tofu etc. that will help a TON. Forfeit cheese unless it is on sale, no juice, just milk and water, big bags of flour and get a breadmaker if you don't have one (people sell used ones for a few bucks on buy and sell sites all the time) and eat a lot of pasta different ways... its amazing the great meals you can make with veg and pasta for very little money.

NIRERIN Posts: 14,249
2/4/13 3:48 P

beans and rice will be your friend. regular price, they run about 1.39 for a 1lb bag. each bag will have between 10 and fifteen servings, but from here on out i am going to pretend that there are 13 servings in each so that i don't have to do math more than once. you can do the math on your own with your actual prices, but this is so you get the idea. 1.39/13 = 11 cents a serving. if you buy the 2lbs bag, generally 2.19 the cost goes down to 8 cents a serving. and if you get the five or ten pound bags, the cost goes down even more.
figure if you base a meal on a serving of beans and a serving of rice, that meal base is going to run you at most 22 cents per person. now keep in mind that since we're talking dried here, we're talking generous portions of food [300-400 cals, 10+ g fiber and 10+ g protein all for that 22 cent base] and you can flavor them any way you would like.
yes, i know your family probably doesn't like beans. but when it comes to cheap and nutritious, they're hard to beat.
you can buy a 2lb bag of frozen veg for $2 and add a portion to the beans and rice for 34 cents. olive oil will be another five cents, so we're up to sixty one cents without seasonings. you can buy a jarred sauce for about $3 and add another 15 cents of that to your dish. you can buy plain spices and mix them in for variety. if you buy at the local ethic market or in the ethnic section of the grocery store you can get better prices than in the main spice aisle. but the dollar menu and the dollar frozen dinner can't hold a candle to a bean and rice based meal for cheapness and nutritiousness.
you could also add broccoli, cauliflower and cheese to a bean and rice base and maybe a little milk to bake into a casserole.
you could add tomatoes and mexican type spices.
you could add veggies and curry powder to make a curry.
you could add stir fry veggies and an asian sauce.
you could actually look up recipes that are better than me spouting things off the top of my head.
and again, depending on the four you are feeding, you might be able to get away with three dry portions of beans and rice being enough for everyone, which drops the cost of the meal even more.
so with about twenty cents worth of spicing assumed, you're looking at 81 cents per person per meal or 3.24 to feed four. assuming you're looking at four people, three meals a day and an average of 30.5 days per month, that 250 breaks down to 8.20 per day.
for breakfast a small canister of oats will run you around $3 and has 13 servings or is 23 cents a serving. this is another one where if you buy in bulk or shop around, you can get a better price. i just remember that they went up a lot the past 2 times i bought them, so i went high. if milk is $4 a gallon, adding half a cup to cook the oats [and using water is you need more liquid] will add 13 cents of milk. we're up to 36 cents for breakfast. if you buy the fruit on sale for $1 or less per pound, 25 cents will get you a serving of fruit, making breakfast 61 cents or 2.44 for 4 people. if you buy bananas when they are on sale for 50 cents a pound, that will bring your fruit cost down to 13 cents a serving.
also look into buying milk powder and rehydrating.

DRAGONCHILDE SparkPoints: (61,313)
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2/4/13 3:41 P

Buy frozen, in bulk. You get a much lower price per pound. I can buy a bag of frozen chicken breasts for $3 a pound in 5 pound bags, or $6+ a pound from the butcher. IF you're not couponing... start! CAreful couponing can save you hundreds, and I don't mean just on things you don't use, either. by watching sales and matching coupons to sale prices, you can save a fortune.

2/4/13 3:03 P

Well I wont give you a buy this list BUT I will give you my frugal info take what you want with it.

#1 use ALL left overs. The statistics are you can cut 30% off your food budget buy using ALL you buy and letting nothing go to waste.

#2 buy things as close to their unprocessed self as possible. Like Rolled oats instead of oatmeal packs or boxed cereal. Dried beans instead of canned long grain rice instead of minute rice. You will have a healthier option, more food at a fraction of the price,

#3 When money gets tight I stop buying bread and such. at 2-4$ a loaf and only served maby 1.5 meals to the whole family that adds up fast and is mostly little nutrition. Eat the fruits and veggies instead.

#4 More meatless meals. At least 2 a week. meat is a very expensive ingredient. use it sparingly as in no more than 4 ounces per person. you don't need more than that for good nutrition. So things like stir fry can be main with 1 chicken breast half sliced thinly with veggies and it doesn't look like a tiny portion of meat.

#5 except for milk dont buy any drinks. They are nothing but a money drain. If you must have a flavored drink then make some iced tea. I am sure you have that in your pantry already.

2/4/13 2:36 P

I have a really huge challenge. How am I supposed to feed my family of 4 a healthy diet on only $250 dollars a month. That is our food budget. What would you do? Any ideas would be much appreciated. Coupons don't help much either because I never get them in time, or they are almost always for items we don't even like......

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