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SARAHMO4 Posts: 335
6/3/13 10:28 P

Trying to eat healthy on a budget can be hard too. The things that help the most are: I plan a semi-big shopping trip once a month for what I can get the most meals out of and staples that I am out of or running low on. I try to buy food and that will provide the most meal options for the month. I buy a few basics that can be stored in a cupboard plus foods that can be frozen and extras if they are on sale or a good buy for what I use a lot of. Don't forget to include a treat food or snacks too. If I have a busy day, or don't have something healthy that I enjoy and can indulge in, my diet can go down the drain.

Also keeping up on other non-food bills helps in an odd kind of way. If I am out of house supplies, or don't pay other bills on time, having to buy a lot of non food items or pay late charges can eat away at what I can buy food wise. Having ads of stores sent to your phone or e-mail might be good so you can see them easily and plan around sales. Newspaper ads are great, though not the best for me if I am on the go a lot.

LOVE4KITTIES Posts: 4,690
6/3/13 12:48 P

I think that, often, we equate healthy eating with eating expensive specialty foods or eating organic foods. It's true that, for example, an Amy's frozen meal is considerably more expensive than a Lean Cuisine, but, you don't need to buy these "healthy" versions of processed foods in order to eat a healthy diet. You also don't need to buy organic foods to eat a healthy diet. Anyway, if you buy ingredients and cook at home, it's not too hard to prepare healthy foods (often much more healthy than any processed/pre-made food that you could buy at the store, including the expensive "healthy" versions). When you cook at home, you control what's in your food.

Buy the basics...oatmeal, peanut butter (or other nut butter(s)), nonfat milk, dried beans, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, eggs, whole wheat tortillas, lean meats, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt (large containers are a better deal than the small ones), cheese (I buy low fat), etc. Definitely shop the sales and look for store brands too.

You don't have to make everything at home, but the more you make, the more you have the potential to save. Some people will make things like bread and yogurt. No knead bread made in a dutch oven is really easy (if you have a dutch oven). I don't usually make bread because I tend to eat too much of it when I make it (yummy, yummy, homemade bread) and also because I kind of like some of the things they add (like calcium) to the stuff I can buy, but I have made yogurt at home. I didn't like it as much as the Fage nonfat yogurt that I can buy in large containers at Costco (for less than $5), so I gave up that endeavor (at least until I decide to try again, LOL). I have occasionally made my own spaghetti/pizza sauce, but only in the summer when my tomato plants are overflowing with tomatoes. Usually, I look for healthier versions of spaghetti sauce/alfredo sauce in a can just because it's easier and I can still make up a healthy meal with them. They are often on sale... I've also made homemade tortillas and, in a pinch, they are very inexpensive to make, but I think the whole wheat ones are harder to make than the ones that use white flour (still, you can make the white ones without lard and with very minimal added oil). I hear that homemade ricotta cheese is easy, but I haven't done it...yet.

A few ideas to get you started would be:
1. Oatmeal. The old-fashioned oats in the large cardboard container are a lot less expensive than the little packets and they don't have added salt, etc. I make mine in the microwave, using nonfat milk instead of water (extra creamy that way) and then I stir in a tablespoon of peanut butter.
2. Egg sandwich. Scrambled egg, whole wheat toast, slice of cheddar. Have some yogurt and some fruit to go with it and you've got a nice meal.
3. Homemade waffles or pancakes. Really. You can totally make healthy versions of these. You can even add in things like canned pumpkin for the added nutrients/fiber.

1. Lean meat + baked potato or baked sweet potato (weigh out your potato and watch the toppings on both because those can really add up) + veggie. Potatoes are inexpensive and they are packed with nutrients. Frozen veggies are often less expensive than fresh, but shop the sales. Lean meats can often be found on sale and you can get some pretty good deals on chicken breasts (especially frozen), but make sure you aren't buying chicken that's been injected with salt water.
2. Spaghetti. Brown 1 lb lean hamburger (or lean turkey, I guess, but I always use 93% lean hamburger), add 1 can spaghetti sauce and heat. You can get 2 meals out of this for two people, easily. Use whole wheat noodles. Have a veggie on the side.
3. Beans. There are so many ways to use dried beans and they are very inexpensive. Some early mistakes had me convinced for YEARS that it was hard to work with dried beans and that the stuff that I cooked with them had to be nasty, bland and tasteless. I was SO, SO, SO wrong. A couple of years ago, I decided to try again. I've found that dried beans are actually very easy to work with and that I can make some very tasty things with dried beans. I now much prefer them to canned beans. I've also found that you don't need to add a bunch of salt (I often don't add any at all). Anyway, don't be scared to use dried beans. They are wonderful. I make my own refried beans (just cook up pintos and whip them with my stick blender...I'll add just a touch of salt sometimes, but other times, I just add some no-sodium chicken bouillon). You can use these as side-dishes or you can use them to make things like burritos (whole wheat tortilla, some cheese, avocado, etc.) I also make chili and it's much, much healthier than anything you could ever get out of a can. For standard chili, I use 93% lean hamburger (you could use ground turkey), pintos, seasonings (I never add sodium), sometimes added veggies... Or, I'll make chicken chili using shredded chicken (cook in the crock pot or oven and shred with forks), great northern beans, canned green chilis (pureed with my stick blender), salsa, and spices (cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper). It's low fat, low sodium and high in nutrients. I've never found a healthier chili in a can nor have I found any canned chili with a taste to match. Oh, yes, it's also very inexpensive to make. There are also may other dried beans including lentils, dried black beans, dried garbanzo beans (my next project...homemade hummus), etc. Did I say I am a HUGE fan of dried beans?

Beans plus brown rice...a complete protein.

4. Homemade soups (e.g. chicken soup, split pea soup from dried split peas, vegetable soup, potato soup, etc.). People will talk about buying whole chickens, eating some the first night and then taking the remainder of the chicken off the bones and using the bones to make chicken stock. I've done it a few times and it worked well. Not too sure of the cost savings, though, because a lot of the weight of a whole chicken is bones and you can get some amazing deals on chicken breasts. I think it's a good deal if you get a good sale on a whole chicken (but the prices on some of those whole chickens when they aren't on sale can be shocking).
5. Eggs aren't just for breakfast. You can add a boiled egg to a salad as a source of protein or you can do something like make an egg salad sandwich. The key to making an egg salad sandwich a healthy choice is to use a minimal amount of lite or fat free mayo (then, I add mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and dried parsley).
6. Potatoes...potato soup, oven fries, baked potatoes, healthy versions of mashed potatoes... If you like Indian food, you can, for example, make a healthy version of something like Aloo Gobi (potatoes and cauliflowers) Bags of potatoes are very frequently on sale. You can also get great deals on bags of sweet potatoes, which are excellent in so many different dishes or just baked, plain. I usually get my bags of sweet potatoes from Costco.
7. Peanut Butter Sandwiches! Just weigh or measure the peanut butter carefully or it's easy to go overboard and it's a very calorie dense food. But, if you get the peanut butter without a bunch of added oils, it's healthy stuff. Peanuts have heart-healthy fat in them.

Like others have mentioned, stretching meat will save you a lot of money. The other thing that will save you a lot of money (something that people often don't think about) is that, if you are eating within your recommended calorie range for your weight loss or maintenance goals, you will be eating less food and so you will be saving money!

Edited by: LOVE4KITTIES at: 6/3/2013 (14:23)
ALLIFANTASTIC SparkPoints: (54)
Fitness Minutes: (0)
Posts: 4
6/3/13 9:04 A

Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions! I will definitely be trying them all. I think once I get into this "new groove" it will be easy, it's just getting to that point.

Feel free to add me on here. I think friends will make this weight loss process so much easier! emoticon

DMJAKES Posts: 1,635
6/3/13 9:01 A

You've gotten some great tips already, but I'll add my "best of" what I've learned over the last few years...

Shop the sales--check the ads for the store(s) near you and learn what the rock bottom prices are. Built your menu for the week around what's cheap and in season.

If you're so inclined, coupons can really save you a LOT. It's true that many coupons are for the more processed foods, but I still use them for food when I can. I try to never pay full price on non-food items, particularly on paper goods, health and beauty, cleaning supplies, pet foods, etc. You have to be kind of OCD to really make coupons work, so that one is optional.

Eliminate waste by planning--make out your menu for the week and then stick to it. IMO, nothing is more wasteful than purchasing food and then pitching it.

If you do a search of these boards, you'll find other threads on this same topic with some really good ideas!

AMYTHBE SparkPoints: (2,355)
Fitness Minutes: (1,883)
Posts: 59
6/2/13 8:38 P

Being on a budget is difficult. But as others have said buy on sale as much as possible. Also, being on a budget also forces you to budget your calories. I once read a blog of a guy who was very poor in college and could manage living off of $36 a month.

Good tips I've gotten from this are, buy the most basic form of anything. Grains, beans, tea, and vegetables are ultra cheap (i usually buy frozen). Avoid too many products that come from animals, such as meat and dairy as those are the most expensive. Or if you do buy meats, put them in a dish that will lengthen their use (such as soups, stews, and chili). If I push myself I can manage off of as low as $10 a week this way, without too much extra time spent preparing. Beans are really easy to soak overnight and cook for a long while in a slow cooker, rice can be made before hand, if you buy frozen veggies they're pretty much cooked, and simple things like peanut butter sandwiches are delicious.

Good luck in your new town!

SIMPLELIFE2 Posts: 707
6/2/13 10:49 A

Don't know if you have an Aldi by you, but I save a ton of money shopping there. The prices can't be beat and they have quite a few healthy options although the overall selection is more limited. I stock up on their produce picks (sales) each week and freeze stuff if it is a really good deal. Sometimes you can score big on the day a sale ends. Last week, I got strawberries for 50 cents per pound and the week before I got a three-pack of multicolored peppers for $1.

Also, check out area farmer's markets. Visit several because prices can vary so much. I find the ones under the banner of European market are overpriced.

I really think it's a myth that having fewer resources means you have to eat "bad" food.

PUNKYB830 Posts: 5,295
6/2/13 9:12 A

Walmart here now has one lb bags of beans and also brown rice for .84 cents each. Tuna the walmart brand is .69 cents and frozen veggies are .96 a bag. They carry b.s chicken for $1.99 a lb. And if you have a save a lot store near you they often have ground turkey 12 oz for a dollar. Aldis is also cheap on fresh veggies. You will be suprised how much you actually. save cutting. out the junk and just eating the basics.

NOBLEEQUESTRIAN SparkPoints: (5,640)
Fitness Minutes: (10,988)
Posts: 247
5/31/13 10:37 P

Cutting out meat has been a great way for me to cut my budget.

I also recommend buying frozen or canned items. Canned fruits are great, and you can make smoothies or yogurt parfaits out of them!

I like to buy frozen veggies and uncooked rice, which makes the perfect meal together! I also like to buy veggie stew and put it on top of rice as well.

Whole grain pasta and tomato sauce is great and budget friendly meal.

I'd look for the million different kind of sandwhices you can make. Bread, peanut butter, jam, banana's, cream cheese, veggies, etc can all be made into sandwiches on a budget.

ANARIE Posts: 13,185
5/31/13 9:01 P

If I could only give one money-saving (and calorie-saving) tip, it would be to discipline yourself in the grocery store. Use a list, buy only what's on it, and eat a good healthy meal before you go. Most people pay about 30% of their grocery bill for things they never eat, just let spoil in their kitchen. Using the nutrition tracker to plan meals a few days ahead will help you lose weight, and it will also save you HUGE amounts of money by helping you avoid waste. Don't put anything in your grocery cart without knowing when you're going to use it, and you'll probably cut your grocery bill almost in half.

Oh, and also separate out non-foods. The techniques for saving on toiletries, cleaning supplies, and such are different from saving on food, so financially it's better to think of them as two separate budget categories.

5/31/13 7:31 P

Check out this printable cookbook (pdf form) for recipes and tips for healthy, budget friendly meal plans.

SP Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

NIRERIN Posts: 14,249
5/31/13 5:00 P

beans and rice are about the cheapest thing you can make. figure a [not on sale, not in bulk] pound bag of either will run you about 1.59 and will have somewhere between 10 and 15 servings in it. so you're looking at 16 cents for a serving of each if you don't shop around or buy in bulk, either of which can help make the cost per serving more like 8 cents. frozen veggies run about $2 for a 2lb bag that has ten servings, so you're looking at 20 cents for a serving of veggies. if you buy a decent olive oil, a teaspoon will add about five cents to the meal. so a serving of beans, a serving of rice, a serving of veggies and a teaspoon of olive oil brings us to 57 cents for a fairly generous portion of food. all you need is a little seasoning and you're looking at a meal for about 70 cents. and again, that's without shopping smart, which can take around 15 cents out of that meal. what high calorie foods are cheaper than that? especially for the portion size and the fact that you get fiber in it?
applesauce is a good, cheap fruit. the last time i bought a jar it broke down to 12 cents for a serving of fruit. and that's the apples and citric acid kind of applesauce, nothing else added.
i buy the fancy bread [ezekial 4:9] and it costs 4.29 for a loaf, which has 20 slices. thus it costs 21 cents a slice. the last time i bought peanut butter [peanuts, salt], it was just under 2.49 and had 14 servings in it, for a total of 18 cents a serving. the last time i bought jam not on sale it was 2.49 for 15 servings, or 17 cents a serving. two slices of fancy bread, 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter, and a Tablespoon of jam adds up to 77 cents. and that sandwich has 400 cals, 17 g fat, 120 sodium, 46 total carbs, 8 g fiber and 16 g protein. if you wanted to you could cut out 21 cents [and 80 cals, .5 fat, 15 carbs, 3 fiber and 4 protein] by having it on one piece of bread] or 9 cents [and 100 cans, 8 g fat, 60 sodium, 3 carbs, 1 fiber, and 4 protein] by reducing the peanut butter to 1 Tablespoon.
store brand pasta runs 1.19 for 8 servings [though i would highly recommend looking for coupons for name brands and using them when they go on sale. generally pasta coupons are a dollar off two and my local grocery store puts every brand bogo once a month. so that 1.79 name brand pasta becomes two boxes of name brand pasta for 79 cents. breaking that out we're talking 5 cents a serving, and that's a dry serving, so more like two cooked portions of pasta.] or 15 cents a serving. add that 20 cents of frozen veggies to it and you have a meal base for 35 cents. add the protein of your choice and seasoning or spices and you have another under a dollar meal.
potatoes are another great base. they generally run 2.99 for a 5lb bag or 60 cents a pound. so you're looking at about 15 cents for a portion of potatoes. lentils are really great as well. roughly the same price as beans but tend more to the 14 and 15 servings per pound bag, which brings their cost down around 11 cents a serving.

OLGA18 SparkPoints: (22,618)
Fitness Minutes: (16,333)
Posts: 1,203
5/31/13 4:41 P

I am finding that many of the bean meals are fantastic and cheap. Think black bean burgers, vegetarian chili etc. There is a great recipe on this site for authentic chicken curry that is inexpensive, simple and absolutely delicious (just search authentic chicken curry). Many of the ethnic choices are excellent both nutritionally and budget wise. Egg dishes can also be healthy and inexpensive. It may take a bit of time for you to figure it out but I bet you'll do great. Think of it as a challenge that you will get paid for when you succed!!!!

LEAHLEGS Posts: 184
5/31/13 4:33 P

I've been amazed how low my grocery bill is now that I've cut out most meat. We eat healthy, mostly organic foods, and do so at a fraction of the cost of our formerly meat filled life. Even going meat free a couple of days a week will cut your costs.

Vegetarian meals are a simple swap. Think of dishes that are one pot, as opposed to an entree, a starch, and a veg. Stews, pasta dishes, stir frys, soups, and casseroles are all inexpensive when made without the meat. Your budget and your calorie tracker will thank you!

MEGAPEEJ Posts: 732
5/31/13 4:26 P

On those weeks where money is reeeaaally tight, my 2 go-to meals are whole chicken, and beans and rice.

I can usually get a whole chicken for about $8 (and I stock the freezer when they're on sale). Roast the whole thing in the oven with lemon, spices, onion, whatever combo you like. We eat our normal portion the first night, and after that I pluck off any remaining meat (usually another 8-10 oz - another meal!) and throw the bones, skin, anything you wouldn't eat in to the crock pot. Cover with water, add some celery or carrots if you like, set it to low overnight. Fresh chicken stock! You can add this to your beans (next), or to rice to add body, or make soup with it.

Beans are even easier (and cheaper!) - soak them overnight, drain, cover them with broth and set to low. Come home and you have dinner. They're also very filling so pair with rice and something green for a full dinner.

Buy in-season produce, shop sales and ads, don't be afraid to try cheaper cuts of meat (that usually require a little more cooking, but can be just as/more delicious). Stay away from precooked/already prepared items - you end up paying a premium and the food just isn't as good or good for you.

Edited by: MEGAPEEJ at: 5/31/2013 (16:53)
RAYNABLUE Posts: 118
5/31/13 4:18 P

First of all... good for you! It's great that you're trying to find a solution to (waaay too) common problem. Last year, I lost 12lbs, but was at a loss when a sudden financial crisis meant I couldn't afford all of the healthy stuff I'd been buying. I ended up regaining the weight.

What currently works for me is keeping it simple: there is nothing wrong w/buying a head of lettuce (about $1.00 where I am) and a cucumber (about 60 cents), and the cheapest salad dressing you can find to make yourself a salad. Yes, fresh kale and/or spinach and an oil vinaigrette would be a healthier salad, but a cheapo salad is infinitely better than prepackaged anything, right?

Until your circumstances change, consider buying what you need each week rather than buying in bulk. This can end up being a lot cheaper for just 2 people when things are tight. In other words, buy enough fresh fruit (bananas and apples are pretty cheap) for the week, to lessen the risk of anything going to waste.

The frozen veggies suggestion is a good one, too. I definitely rely on that. Also, try to avoid unnecessary things that you can just make yourself.

Hope this helps and hang in there! You're definitely not the only one trying to eat well on a limited budget.

*edited to fix stuff

Edited by: RAYNABLUE at: 5/31/2013 (16:19)
DRAGONCHILDE SparkPoints: (61,313)
Fitness Minutes: (15,545)
Posts: 9,713
5/31/13 4:06 P

The "bad" food *seems* cheaper on the surface, but in the end, it's really not; Yes, you can get ramen noodles 5/$1.00, but you have to eat more to be satiated, and you're hungry an hour later!

Two big tips for eating on a budget from me:

1) SALES. Work the sales, work the coupons, get the meat when it's reduced for quick sale to get the lowest possible price, and freeze it. Learn to buy only at the lowest price, and use coupons when you do, to make your dollar go the farthest.

2) Frozen foods. Fresh veggies are expensive; frozen veggies are usually pretty doggone cheap, and you can get coupons for them, too. Not to mention, nutritionally speaking, you actually do better, because the nutrition content is usually better when the veggies are flash-frozen at the site, whereas the fresh stuff sits on a truck for days or weeks and loses nutritional content the whole time.

Edited by: DRAGONCHILDE at: 5/31/2013 (16:12)
ALLIFANTASTIC SparkPoints: (54)
Fitness Minutes: (0)
Posts: 4
5/31/13 3:41 P

My boyfriend and I recently moved to a new place that is a little more expensive than we are used to and the first few months are going to be really tight. When I have a low budget I feel like the only thing I can get is the "bad" high calorie foods because they are cheaper. Does anyone have any meal plans or ideas for eating good, cheaply?

I appreciate your responses!

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