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BROADBRUSH Posts: 1,806
4/1/14 2:12 P

foods such as eggs, beans, onsale fruits, skim milk powder, are cheap, complete and many different meal combos can be made.
also sale rack veggies/fruits which can be blanched and frozen for later. just be sure to check that they have not begun to spoil or rot.
i have managed to get great deals on lemons and limes- i use the zest - freeze in bags, squeeze the juice and either freeze for later baking or drinks etc.
buy meats on sale as suggested in other posts - cheaper cuts go well in crock pot dishes and casseroles.
scour the sale papers for loss leaders and buy the limit they put out.
you can manage quite well.

KNOTARY1 Posts: 88
3/31/14 1:46 P

when you see boneless skinless chicken breast for 2$ a lb stock up on it and freeze what you wont be using in the next 3 days. chicken breast has about 20 grams of protein and 3 grams of fat for 3 ounces. the frozen bags of chicken breast can be a good deal I usually find them for 2.30 a pound but because it is made with up to a 15% solution when it thawed and cooked 2 pound becomes 1 pound where 2 pounds of the normal packaged chicken breast is cooked it becomes about 1.5 pounds.

some times the chicken is 2$ a pound and some times it can be 4$ a pound so stock up on it when it is a good price. Also if the pieces are huge cut them down into about 3 ounce pieces so they will cook quickly with out scorching your pan.

HOPCOM5 Posts: 1
3/31/14 11:58 A

Great topic! I am always trying to figure out low-cost healthy meals. Thank you! Thank you!

NBTEACH Posts: 13
3/31/14 9:39 A

Thanks for the link, Algebragirl! This site has a great selection of choices and is easy to use :)

Edited by: NBTEACH at: 3/31/2014 (09:39)
3/31/14 4:25 A

I will get a charity turkey basket for Thanksgiving and for Christmas. Roasting a turkey helps heat the house, and a turkey lasts a long time. You can get a lot of meals from one turkey. I live in Wisconsin where the Winters are usually cold enough to store the extra turkey on the patio if I don't have room in the freezer for two turkeys. I will also store winter squash under the sink, where it lasts until March. Winter squash is easy to microwave and you can season it a lot of different ways. Just pick through the squash now and then to remove the rotting squash. Any root crop stores well through the Winter too. Local hunters donate venison to the local food pantries, where it is tested for chronic wasting disease before it is distributed. Many folks donate fresh garden produce to the food pantries in the Summer. Buy whatever meat is on sale and plan your menu around that cut.

GENRE009 SparkPoints: (33,687)
Fitness Minutes: (15,287)
Posts: 4,367
3/31/14 1:23 A

I think making homemade soup is the healthiest, and cheapest meal you can make. also making refried-non fat bean & putting it on a corn tosida, and putting salsa on it is very good. just don't add cheese.

ALGEBRAGIRL Posts: 1,925
3/30/14 12:15 P

Wow - reading the posts here, I found this to be an amazing collection of low-cost recipes:

I really like the way the categories are divided up - there's even 'soy,dairy and gluten-free'!

Thanks for the link, Buffliece!

Edited by: ALGEBRAGIRL at: 3/30/2014 (12:16)
KSGAMMA Posts: 2,460
3/29/14 7:30 P

KRS... I haven't been caught up to date for a few days but came across your question and don't see that anyone has answered - if I understand you correctly you want to find the calorie count for the meals. If I've misunderstood, then the following information is old hat and not what you need to know - hopefully this will be useful to you: Go to "My Trackers" at the top of the screen and select "Nutrition" and you will see a search area where you can search for the foods you ate and look up the nutritional values of each item. If you select the items you ate, and ask it to put it in your tracker, it will log it for you under the meal time you choose below the search area. When searching for an item look it over carefully - there are SP entries and entries by people like you and I and they are not all correct and in some cases the person who saved the information only wanted calories and didn't record the sodium and protein or whatever that you may need so if more than one option, look them all over until you find the one you want. If you can't find it, I go on the internet and look up "nutritional value of XYZ" and when it comes up, jot down all the values for the nutrients I track. I then go into the SP Nutrition Tracker page again and under "Search" select "create a new entry" (or some similar wording) and I fill out the form that pops up with the information I wrote down off the internet. I then save it to my favourites so it will be there next time I do a search. As you get familiar with this tracker, you can save things to a favourites file for easier searching in the future. I have saved a lot of foods in my favourites and to make things easier to find in the future I list all cookies under cookies, a dash, and then the name of the cookie and the size a single serving is. I list all pork under pork and others that I have multiple listings are the various kinds of meat, breads, salads, salad dressings, sauces, etc. If you are preparing a casserole or multi food item for a meal, you can go into "Recipes" and calculate the nutritional value of everything in the recipe and then indicate how many people it serves and it will tell you the nutritional value for a single serving. You can then save this to your favourites files to use again another day or to a recipe book you could create. Also, if you have the same thing for lunch today as yesterday, you can go back a day and copy that lunch and it will put it wherever you tell it to - saves you looking up each item again. This also works in the Group option under Search where you may have the same combination of foods every time you eat something so you can enter all the foods and name the group and next time you have that combo, go to groups and it will plop all of them in again so you don't have to look each item up individually again.

HADLEY123 SparkPoints: (22,511)
Fitness Minutes: (3,954)
Posts: 91
3/29/14 7:34 A

For my picky eater, I have her sit with me once a week for a meal planning meeting. We agree on 6 dinners and I make up my shopping list. I've trained her to get it on the list or wait until next week. For me, walking into the grocery store for that one thing that wasn't on the list invariably adds up to another $35 so I dig in my heels and wait until the next week's shopping day. I have had to make bread on the fly when I forgot to put it on the list though. LOL

I have my meal plan down to a formula. Every week we make a home made pizza, tacos with home made refried beans, a home made soup, a pasta, a rice and a casserole. We plan for a leftovers buffet once a week too. After leftovers night, I box up the remaining soup into individual portion containers and put them in the freezer for "instant" soup.

I don't personally buy, cook or eat meat so I use a lot of beans. I buy them dry and soak/cook them then portion them into snack bags and bundle the snack bags into a large freezer bag and freeze them for later use.

I use my bread machine and my slow cooker A LOT to save time and money. Pizza can be made from ingredients in my pantry in an hour and a half for pennies. I also buy my milk at a discount directly from the dairy farmer in my area and save by eliminating the middle men in the dairy business. That allows me to make my yogurt and cheese for very little cost. I recognize that's rather extreme but quality is really important to me and so is cost.

Some nights my daughter makes herself a sandwich or pulls out some leftovers but overall the system works for me.

3/28/14 6:03 P

One more:
Pancakes are easy to make from scratch and way cheaper with less sugar. I always make extra and freeze them in a baggie. You can get just one or two out and pop them in the microwave or toaster for a quick breakfast. Instead of syrup try a little yogurt and some fruit.

My mom always bought whole milk and watered it down. Apparently she did this over time so we would get used to the taste and not notice. It must have worked because for the longest time, I never knew...

3/28/14 5:58 P

I was just checking out how many people make their own bread. I love making bread but not as a money saver because the time it takes really makes it more about the quality for me. We have actually eliminated a lot of store bought bread products and save up for the weekends when I might make one specialty item. Last weekend was an amazing French banana bread recipe. DH has been portioning it out and he ate the last today for breakfast. If I happen to visit a fabulous bakery that will substitute my own, really it's more about quality. Store bought breads tend to be more empty calories than nutrition, and due to the cost, worth considering cutting down.

3/28/14 5:56 P

For main dishes, stick to single servings per person and round out the plate with more fresh or frozen veggies. Any dish I make with ground beef, I buy either ground sirloin or ground round. It costs more per pound but once cooked it will yield almost twice as much as ground beef so it is a better bargain in the long run. Also, meat tends to be the most expensive product these days so stick to single servings per person.

I will catch some flack for this but sometimes your budget and time calls for Hamburger Helper or the store brand equivalent. Yes, they do tend to be high in sodium and other stuff you don't need but at about a buck a box and made with 1/2 lb of ground sirloin or ground round and served with a double portion of vegetables, you can make dinner for under $5.00. Just make sure to measure the serving size. (My DH is quickly learning that he doesn't get a whole box to himself but he has stopped complaining as there is plenty of better-for-you stuff to round out the plate. lol)

Bulk pasta or rice mixed with tuna and a can or 2 of low sodium cream of chicken or mushroom soup and some cheese on top makes for quick tuna casserole. Add in veggies your kids will eat and you will have dinner and leftovers for lunch.

Lots of great ideas here. Some I already use and some I will be incorporating.

3/28/14 5:53 P

I make a lot of soups with beans and veggies. Every ethnic menu has some variations. My husband is really into a 15 bean Italian soup with kale. The beans are $2, the kale is $2, then there is onion, carrot, celery, a can of tomatoes $.89 and seasoning which comes with the dried beans. And water. $6 makes an easy 12 servings of hearty soup. Great for lunch with a sandwich or salad, or just by itself. Also a filling snack in cold weather.

One of my faves is Thai Hot and Sour Soup. Chicken broth, water, light tofu, dried mushrooms reconstituted, 6 jalapenos (I always get them on clearance - $2 for a bag of 10) scallions 2/$1 and the Asian seasoning you have on hand, maybe even leftover from takeout. Plus any veggies laying around and getting wrinkly you can toss in - just about. And this one cooks FAST. Buy a grocery package of veggie dumplings to share (2 or 3 per person) and dinner is on the table.

SOFT_VAL67 Posts: 2,847
3/28/14 1:10 P

spend just a little more on a bigger cut of meat, or buy a bigger whole chicken. you can make 2 or maybe 3 meals out of it.
according to how many you have to feed, this works for me as there are only 2.
a chicken in the crock pot will make chicken and rice one night.
a big bag of frozen veggies or canned veggies, the next night, chicken stew.
cut off one breast and chop up and make chicken salad sandwiches or, a small lunch sized chicken salad.

ALIAKAIS SparkPoints: (6,828)
Fitness Minutes: (10,141)
Posts: 97
3/27/14 8:34 P

Veggies, beans, eggs, whole foods in general tend to be really cheap. I'd check out The Great Vegan Bean Book and Vegetarian cooking for everyone...because of how expensive meat is, beans provide a much cheaper per-lb protein source, especially if you cook up dried beans with a slow cooker or pressure cooker. I'm not trying to convert you, but for years before I went veg I ate veg 2-5 times a week as a money saving strategy.

DALLAS_HILL SparkPoints: (16,013)
Fitness Minutes: (6,922)
Posts: 19
3/27/14 8:26 P

Swap prep time for convenience. and organize that prep time, including having kids help. Buying and cooking with whole foods gives you control over what goes in your meals.
On the bread making, just make dough a little wetter and make a big batch; it keeps in the refrig for a week or more and just pull off what you need. Great for making pizzas. Get a rectangular storage container to save space in fridge.
I've used the slow cooker to make breakfast; hot cereal with a mixture of grains, cut the fruit up the night before and kids add what they want (rest goes into lunches). Saves a few crucial minutes at breakfast.
If your kids are picky eaters, make up a large batch of what they like, freeze individual portions, and they pick what they want (and mike it themselves).

3/27/14 2:40 P

I know you want meal ideas but here are some general ways to save on food shopping, which will cause you to only make cheap healthy meals:

Avoid supermarkets as much as possible.
Only buy meat when it's on sale, and eat a lot less meat.
Build up your dry goods pantry to include lentils, beans, barley and dried peas. Buy large quantities of these items as they are handy to throw into a soup or to 'bulk up' meals that have less meat than before.
Buy from farmer's markets and produce specialty stores.
Don't buy bread . . . make it.
Hunt, fish and forage or makes friends with those who do.
Cook in bulk and freeze freeze freeze.
Join a produce co-op or harvest box program.

SWEETLILBLUEYES SparkPoints: (43,933)
Fitness Minutes: (24,060)
Posts: 339
3/27/14 12:42 P

Cook for your family in bulk. large pots of soup, heavy on the vegi's. Make home made stock. Buy soup bones or boiling beef or chicken necks and backs to make the stock. Very nutritious and cheap for the number of meals you get. Throw in some barley or brown rice, or whole wheat pasta or potatoes if you want more carbs in them. Use the spark recipe builder to determine your nutrient content and calories.

KRSS60 Posts: 619
3/27/14 9:02 A

Where do you get the calorie count. For the meals. I didn't see them anywhere

MARTHA324 Posts: 5,844
3/26/14 8:12 P

One of the best investments i made was for a slow cooker. They aren't expensive and you can make a BIG pot of stew or soup that is very economical. Check out or for healthy recipes. I'm sure spark people has them too.

BRONHI Posts: 425
3/26/14 7:35 P

I've found some great recipes at . All the recipes are simple, I mean if I can make them without screwing it up I call it simple emoticon . Some recipes are healthier than others but I make healthy substitutions in those cases (brown rice instead of white, etc.)

DAWNMD77 SparkPoints: (323)
Fitness Minutes: (135)
Posts: 10
3/26/14 7:19 A

If you have an Aldi store near you, it is worth checking out. They have frozen meats that can be cheap at times. Stick to the freezer. They have frozen turkey in one pound tubes, individual chicken breasts and lots of other options.
They don't have too many name brands. Mostly generic stuff including cereals. Millville is made in Lancaster, Ohio at Ralston Foods by my dad. It is good stuff. They just quit making Ralston brand because the generic made them more money and no advertising. I started going there when the kids were little. The store is small and kept the whining to a minimum because there wasn't too many things to ignite the begging.
Remember that you are the mom. If you don't buy food that has no nutrition, they won't eat it. Buy only what will supply nutrition because that is the best value.
If you have serious trouble affording food, you can apply for food stamps and ask for help from local food pantries.

BIBIANAB SparkPoints: (10,576)
Fitness Minutes: (4,702)
Posts: 74
3/26/14 2:15 A

A lot of kids want what they see on TV, but it is not real food. Fresh veggies and fruit, chicken, turkey with occasional beef or port roast. Stretch with pasta, rice,potatoes and more veggies and fruit. My kids ate what I put in front of them or didn't, but I would not let them have anything else let alone cook something else for them. Life lessons.

ANNILLY Posts: 100
3/25/14 8:49 P

I make hummus with garlic, garbanzo beans, water, and tahini. It's way cheaper than buying it, and can be used over rice or as a dip for veggies. Just dump everything into a food-processor and go.

TBOURLON SparkPoints: (18,982)
Fitness Minutes: (63,200)
Posts: 522
3/25/14 2:39 P

Do you work? If so, I assume the 1-year-old goes to daycare - do they provide meals? I also assume the 6-year-old is in school, where you should be able to get lunch assistance. There's no shame in that, you're a taxpayer, too! Anyway, if this is the case then most days you only have to think about dinner. Here's my suggestion: ground turkey instead of ground beef. It's usually cheaper AND lower in fat. Also, chicken thighs & drumsticks will also be cheaper than chicken breast, a little higher in fat but if you bake in the oven instead of fry that will make up for it. There are TONS of recipes on SparkPeople for chicken and ground beef/turkey. Frozen veggies are a terrific moneysaver, and usually just as good as fresh. Now, since there are three of you go ahead and make a recipe that serves 4, and package the leftovers to take to work with you the next day. I almost never eat out for lunch, and making my own TV dinners out of leftovers keeps me from wasting so much food, something I really hate! Happy eating! emoticon

3/25/14 10:39 A

farmers markets are starting to come back around for the season.

also...hunting and fishing (or getting proteins from those who do) are the ultimate organics

SHKIRK Posts: 1,168
3/24/14 4:18 P

On the nights you are serving something a kid doesn't like have them make something simple like PB&J sandwich for themselves.

FRIDENS Posts: 17
3/24/14 2:32 P

I think my biggest problem with eating healthy and staying in budget is my picky kids. It seems there is never a night I cook that at least one of my kids doesn't decide they don't like what I make. My oldest doesn't like very many pastas. My youngest doesn't like Hamburger meat or Mac and Cheese or much of anything.. Just the idea of having to make different things for everyone is exhausting and expensive. But I get tired of eating the same things all the time.

KSGAMMA Posts: 2,460
3/24/14 10:33 A

this is my first comment here - I found the Topic on the SP side bar of my computer. As I re-read what I've written I realize this is much longer than I like for a message but the information I have provided might be helpful to someone who doesn't have a lot of experience when shopping.

I live in Peterborough, ON in Canada. Almost all of the grocery stores in the City, and I think Province-wide, price share - if you find a price cheaper elsewhere, they will match it. A couple of stores do not do this but for those that do, it makes shopping a lot faster and cheaper. I go thru the flyers on Thurs. night and make a list of items on sale in the various stores noting the price. I only list sale items that we could soon and would use. After my list is made up of the sale items, I add any items I know I need to the list I've been adding to all week. On shopping day (usually Fri pm, or Sat/Sun am) I review the lists to decide which store to go to. I either choose the store with the most sale items I want or the one I most like for overall cheapest prices yet nice produce and meat selections. We leave the house with my list and all the food sale flyers with the items I intend to purchase marked. At the store I divide my cart into 2 sections - items I'm buying regardless of sales, and items that are on sale in stores other than the one I'm shopping in. At the till, we put up our groceries leaving a small space between the 2 types of purchases and when the clerk reaches the out of store sale items, they ring them in after a brief verifying glance at the approp. sales flyer. If you are buying these items, you have to make sure you are buying the same brand and size as the sale items. For eg. you can't buy house brand water where you are shopping and asking for the sale price of someone else's house brand of water; but you can buy any brand of an item if your store has the same brand and size of item. There are so many varieties and cuts of meat that I go to the meat counter and have an employee there check the flyer with me and go through the meat department to see if there is a comparable tray of chops or roast or whatever that they will mark with the other's store price for the clerk at the till to ring through. Some stores stock the same brands of items but in different sizes and you therefore can't compare because they aren't the same but the ones that match far outweigh the others. We can save anywhere from $2 a trip to $20 a trip.

We also try to buy produce that is both local and in-season as it is usually cheaper than others - but you have to watch because that isn't always the case. We can't always get what we want or need but do it as much as possible. We also buy bulk sizes which are usually cheaper per pound than the smaller sizes but only if what's available in bulk is what we want or need and what we can use up before it's due date. If it's meat, I cook the whole package up and freeze it in portion size baggies. You save when you buy the bulk size of such things in the purchase price but by bulk cooking you also save in the hydro used to cook it. If I'm roasting a large pan of chicken breasts I will roast a second large pan of pork loin or fish or whatever so that several meals worth of meat are cooked with the hydro and time it takes to cook a single meal. I undercook such meat so that when it is reheated it does not overcook or dry out. I will also buy a roast on sale and cut it into meal sized portions of steaks or chops if it is a cheaper price than buying it pre-cut. I will buy cheaper blocks of cheese and do my own grating rather than buying pre-grated. Although the next bit is not so much about cheap budget healthy meals, the money I save doing the following, I can apply towards the purchase of more produce and dairy. For eg, if it's cleaning supplies I'm buying in bulk, I keep the oversized container in my laundry room and keep refilling a normally used sized bottle filled up from that for everyday use. I pretty much always have bleach, liquid and sheet fabric softeners, stain removal products, carpet cleaning products, vinegar, dish soap, window washing fluid, shampoo, conditioner, shower cleaner, and other cleaning products. Some of such items now come highly concentrated so I thin it out when putting it in the every day use sized bottles - it has come to my attention that offspring and husbands don't usually notice that they are to use much less when a product is highly concentrated and if it's not thinned out for them, you end up spending more than twice as much, not to mention harming whatever it is you are using the concentrated item on. In this case, more is not always better and until or unless they become responsible for the purchase of these items and the replacement of those they ruin, they don't care enough to change their ways - grrrrr. I wish more manufacturers would package their goods in refill packages that you use to refill the existing bottle of the same at home so that you don't throw away the original dispenser, or workable part of the bottle such as a trigger, each time and have to keep replacing it - which is good for the environment. Such refill packages are normally sold at a cheaper price because they are cheaper to manufacture and if they are not sold that way, you are still helping to save the environment but I dash off a note of censure to the manufacturer through their website about bilking their consumers.

NANNAMANDY SparkPoints: (16,507)
Fitness Minutes: (17,164)
Posts: 18
3/23/14 7:07 P

I was a single mum with 4 kids, 2 girls and 2 boys. They are all now grown some with children of their own. We also had a tight budget. Two of our mainstays were spaghetti Bolognese made with ground beef( The better kind) and Tuna casserole. I used to add frozen mixed vegetables to both, It was a good way of incorporating vegetables and it bulked out the meal. Pasta is a great carb for the kids and you can reduce the amount of pasta for yourself.

MBRANDO SparkPoints: (78,550)
Fitness Minutes: (53,055)
Posts: 918
3/23/14 3:37 P

Brown rice is pretty cheap and you can flavor it however you want.

KASSANDRA55 Posts: 114
3/23/14 2:42 P

They aren't available in every area, but look online at They are a co-op that helps save major money on your produce. You contribute weekly or bi weekly or just when you need to and it is usually about 15-20 dollars. They go use the money and buy bulk produce and you pick it up later. Here we get about $50 in produce usually. You can alos purchase add-ons...bread, grain, bulk beans, whatever is available (this week they had add on strawberries, bread, (9 grain) strawberries, asparagus and oranges. The baskets were strawberries, apples, pears, a pineapple, tomatoes and banana; red lettuce, Bok Choy, a bag of potatoes, red peppers, celery, mushrooms and one other thing I forget.

You are saving at least 35 dollars (more in our area as produce is sky high.)\ You can order up to 3 baskets. You could team up with others and split it up if you don't like something, or donate it to a food back or church basket, or just give it to someone else picking up!

It is available here in Colorado and in several neighboring states.

ALICIA363 Posts: 1,184
3/23/14 7:49 A

emoticon , BUFFLIECE!

The video brought back memories--my mom made that ripe-banana "ice cream" (she called it sherbet)!

BUFFLIECE Posts: 522
3/23/14 1:03 A

I've tried the lentil casserole from Most of the recipes have at least 4 servings.

And... I love this video...

Hope these help!

ALICIA363 Posts: 1,184
3/22/14 10:33 P

Great idea, KENDILYNN!

KENDILYNN SparkPoints: (22,924)
Fitness Minutes: (24,670)
Posts: 2,738
3/22/14 7:12 P

My kids' favorite meal is random (healthy) things on a plate. It's great for those lazy nights when I'm not up for cooking, which is mostly when hubby is our of town. I also like that it makes them think critically about their food choices. They know they need to pick one protein (usually cottage cheese, yogurt, leftover chicken chunks, edamame, beans), no more than one starch (crackers, bread, tortilla), one fruit and one or more vegetables (usually raw). So dinner for one might be garbanzo beans, apple slices with yogurt to dip, carrot sticks and snap peas. The other might choose leftover chicken, applesauce, triscuits and salad. But I'm not actually cooking anything, so I don't feel like a short-order cook.

RKTHETEXGAL SparkPoints: (29,574)
Fitness Minutes: (18,035)
Posts: 216
3/22/14 6:56 P

I always buy fresh and frozen veggies/fruits. Which ever is the best price that week. (You can get a bag of frozen corn, peas, green beans,etc cheap.)
Any of our veg scraps get tossed into baggies in the freezer for vegetable stock later on when I have enough scraps for a big batch. Another whole raw chicken, it is cheaper that way and makes at least 2-3 meals. Oh and save those bones! Refrigerate or freeze and when you have time boil them in a large pot of water, with herbs/spices you like, to make chicken stock. You can do this with ham or beef bones too. It will make a wonderful soup/stew base or just use it to cook up pasta for added flavor in the noodles!
Also, get the local ads for any stores around you. Shop the sales and maybe make a habit of getting the Sunday paper for coupons. Your 6 year old could even help clip/sort them. You'd be surprised at what you can get things for with coupons. Oh and if you have a dollar tree store close by, check there for the Sunday paper for just a buck!

RK- - - - -

GORDON66 Posts: 1,610
3/22/14 5:39 P

Beans, beans, and more beans, and dried beans are less expensive than those in the can. My store has a bruised and reduced rack, and what's available often dictates what dish I make. When preparing vegetables, I keep the scraps in a freezer bag and than use them to make broth. This is also useful to keep your sodium intake in check.

NICKYCRANE SparkPoints: (86,405)
Fitness Minutes: (47,114)
Posts: 1,317
3/22/14 5:37 P

Green smoothie as suggested by SP. My basic recipe is I cup yogurt, 2 cups fresh raw spinach, which doesnt taste, I tbsp flAx seed, I apple, I orange, with much of the peel, I banana, all liquidised and then drunk as snacks through the day. I sometimes pour it over all bran and top it with strained yogurt for breakfast or supper. If I have no spinach, I have used carrots or zucchinininstead. I was using this for a couple of weeks and lost weight. Now I am away from home. Another time I mightntake a magic bullet with me. The greatnthing about this smoothie is thatnit gets in 2 portions of veg. And is sweet without added sweetener.

ALICIA363 Posts: 1,184
3/22/14 4:44 P

Simple snacks: peanut butter crackers--mom put peanut butter between two saltines; graham crackers and milk; apples or carrots

Milk, saltine crackers, bread and butter (margarine) were always on hand.

I agree with the chili for a great budget stretcher! We ate that a lot, too.

ALICIA363 Posts: 1,184
3/22/14 4:40 P

and bananas!

ALICIA363 Posts: 1,184
3/22/14 4:39 P

Growing up, our family budget was tight. I remember:
Simple breakfasts: Cereal and milk, oatmeal, every kind of egg--fried, scrambled, over-easy, soft-boiled, hard-boiled
I've learned to sweeten and cool oatmeal with refrigerated applesauce (natural/no sugar added)
Simple lunches: grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup; tuna salad sandwiches (with cheese was a real treat); peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter and mayonnaise (actually Miracle Whip) sandwiches--eeww now, but my favorite then; carrot sticks and celery sticks and apples on the side, grapes were a treat
Family dinner: 1/4 of the plate was meat/main dish, 1/4 of the plate was starch (usually potatoes or corn) 1 or two canned vegetables made up the rest of the plate
Lots of canned vegetables, bought in bulk on sale--my sister and I took turns getting to "choose the vegetable(s) for dinner"
Frequent potatoes--baked, mashed, scalloped
Breakfast for dinner about once a week--usually pancakes or French toast
Beef roast one night, roast beef sandwiches the next, stew the following day (a lot like the chicken sequence described earlier)
AND ... if we didn't like what was served, we could eat bread and butter. Mom bought loaves of bread from the day-old store and froze them, thawing out what we needed as we went along.
Hope something's useful there, and you have time to gather tips from this board that work for you!

3/22/14 3:39 P

So my previous comment was MASSIVE, but I didn't include any actual meal ideas yet so I'll put them here! These are things I eat pretty regularly/ate as a child.


Shepard's pie (easy three base ingredient meal = ground beef, mashed potatoes, creamed corn). This is not that difficult to make and easy to save for leftovers that you can mix up to soften and then reheat in the microwave. I just recently stopped peeling my potatoes and while that makes it a bit more work to mash they are more nutritious that way and actually way tastier. Besides that little extra mashing to get them smooth will work out your arm muscles! emoticon I keep any extra veggies on the side rather than "hiding" them inside the pie itself. Kid's aren't stupid they know they're in there!

Spaghetti (another 3 base ingredient meal = sauce, pasta, protein) I grew up eating this with ground beef, but you can get creative and substitute ground turkey (I personally HATE it), tofu (I find the texture of firm tofu to be off putting so I like to use soft and mix it into the sauce as it heats up which makes it practically unnoticeable), cottage cheese (I LOVE this and now that I think of it am definitely having it for supper tonight), spicy Italian sausage with the casing peeled off and mushed up in the sauce. I've had homemade sauce with beans in it once and it was AMAZING but never got a recipe.

Chili! There are plenty of recipes out there to make it from scratch, but you can also use the spice packets available at the store and pasta sauce. I'd definitely suggest adding yellow pepper into it and lots of beans (I use chick peas and either kidney or black beans). Can be made vegan, or with ground beef, turkey or with a sausage with the casing taken off.

Soups! Vegetable soup, chicken/turkey soup, beef stew, lentil soup, black bean soup, squash soup, etc etc. I start off any type of soup I make with cooking up garlic, onions (red are pricier but so much more delicious), and mushrooms with a bit of olive oil which makes a delicious base that I can then add the water/bouillon cube to. I don't like a lot of salt, so I use much less bouillon than directed, sot the base helps to keep it flavourful.

Eggs are fabulous and can be eaten many different ways. My favorite way is to scramble mine in a pan with veggies, black beans, and a bit of cheese and then wrap them in a pita with a bit of salsa. Mmmm! Just last night I was making this and realized I was out of cheese and added in some about a tablespoon of cottage cheese and it was delicious!

Pita pizzas
These are easy and cheap to make and fun for kids to help with. All you need are small 6inch pitas then put sauce on them (or salsa for a spicy kick!) layer some mushrooms over the sauce (I also add a small minced garlic clove), then put the cheese (go crazy with the kinds, my favorite is some feta sprinkled on top of mozzarella when it goes on sale), and then you can go crazy with the veggie toppings: coloured peppers, red onion chopped small, more mushrooms, bits of leftover chicken or other meat, pineapple if you're into that.

Grains and veggies with protein: pick whatever you want and mix it with some other thing! Chicken and rice and veggies or lentils and quinoa and veggies or... My favouriite to make is quinoa with black beans, shrimp cooked with lemon juice and butter (I use a little $2 bag), tomato sauce heated up with an entire bag of spinach, and veggies galore. This lasts forever and is delicious warm or cold.


Tuna with chopped green pepper is delicious and economical/healthy. Another option is green apple. I don't particularly like this, but my youngest sister loves it!

Bean dip or hummus.

Chickpea spread! Take a can of chick peas (if you use canned you'll want to peel of the skins as they tend to harden I've found) or cooked ones and mash them or put them through the blender/processor. Mix in some mayonnaise to your preferred level of moistness and a bit of yellow mustard to taste. This is tangy and delicious and is even greater if you take baby carrots and finely grate them and layer them on top of the spread in a sandwich. My whole family loved this when I was a kid.

Salad. Forget the sad wilted iceberg. Green leaves with cucumber, peppers, carrots, radish, etc and beans (I love chickpeas best in salad), whole grain bowties and a chopped boiled egg. Now that's a salad!


Forget the cold cereal! Oatmeal all the way. It's much healthier and cheaper and more filling. When I was a kid we'd have oatmeal in our bowls with milk, crushed walnuts, chopped green apples, and on special occasions maple syrup (real of course!). Now that I'm older I've come to love putting frozen bananas (I chop and freeze them myself) or berries (I like how it cools down the oatmeal), walnuts and wheat germ in.

Yogurt with delicious things added in is also a good option as are good old eggs.

LULUBELLE65 SparkPoints: (37,106)
Fitness Minutes: (27,770)
Posts: 1,169
3/22/14 3:14 P

The majority of the world lives on beans and rice. Different countries prepare them different ways, but lentils, black beans, and other pulses appear along with rice as the staple diet in South and Central America, India, etc. They are cheap, high protein and can be made all sorts of ways. If your son doesn't like the texture of lentils, try putting them in the blender to make dal, or thin them out to make lentil soup. Veggie chili is also an option.

Eggs are another high protein meal that is cheap and nutritious. You can make scrambled eggs, or find bread on sale and make an egg casserole or french toast. When I was a kid we had breakfast for dinner at least once a week because it was fast, cheap and kid-friendly.

On sale fruits can be frozen for smoothies.

Oatmeal is a great, inexpensive breakfast--much better for you than sugar cereal, and so much cheaper.

As someone else said, shop where the immigrants shop. There is bound to be a supermercado around, or an Asian grocery, and the prices are almost always better.

ANARIE Posts: 13,185
3/22/14 2:40 P

Google the name of your county and the words "cooperative extension service." Cooperative extension is a service of large public universities where they share information about agriculture and home economics, including nutrition science, with the general public. Any university that got land from the state in the 1930s has a couple of extension advisers. They give all sorts of programs and print booklets about exactly the kind of things you're looking for. They also have cooking and gardening classes, and they sponsor the 4-H clubs, which your son can join when he turns 7.

Also look for afterschool programs from the Y or Boys and Girls Club and so on. A six-year-old is old enough to start learning simple food preparation and basic nutrition. Both of your lives will be easier if he has some involvement and control in what he eats, at least for snacks. Then, if he doesn't like something you made, you can tell him, "Okay. You can make yourself a sandwich or scramble an egg. Just remember to wash your dishes." If you don't keep anything in the house that you don't want him to eat, he'll be fine. After about the third time, you'll see that he'll start to be much more willing to try what you made to save himself the work, but he'll still have the freedom and independence to take care of himself if he sincerely doesn't like the main meal. It's a win-win situation-- you'll end the battles at the dinner table without becoming a short-order cook, and it's good for a child's self-esteem and even his math and reading skills!

3/22/14 2:17 P

A lot of this comes down to food knowledge and shopping skills which are horribly absent in common knowledge these days. Healthy food being more expensive is a misconception a lot of the time that comes from shady advertising and our lack of food awareness. Often "healthy" prepared meals or things like that are way pricier. Organic fruit and veggie foods, whole wheat pastas and breads, and fancy yogurts can be incredibly expensive, but are these actually good for us? And if so are there cheaper alternatives? A lot of this type of stuff is usually highly processed, additive filled junk that has a "healthy" buzz word added in. Words like probiotic, organic, multigrain, natural or whatever the superfood of the month is are often just misleading labels (food labeling standards are incredibly low which help companies fool consumers) that allow companies to raise the price of their products dramatically while not actually providing healthier food.

But don't despair! There are plenty of tricks you can use to beat the system and get nutritious and delicious foods for cheap. However, this is going to necessitate that you do your homework.

Perhaps the most important tip: Whole foods! Whole foods are something that many people don't have that much experience with anymore because we're so used to prepackaged prepared meals, semi-prepared meals, etc. Why do we buy prepackaged seasoned rice? Or pre-grated cheese? Or pre-chopped salad mixes? Because they're easier sure, but is that tiny modicum of ease really worth the bumped up price and lack of freshness? What other things do we buy like frozen french fries (including the fancy "healthy" sweet potato slices), pasta sauces, etc that can be made ourselves for much cheaper?

So, you definitely want to stock up on your basic staples: whole grain rice, pasta, grains (like quinoa or couscous etc), BEANS (buy dry and then soak them overnight in hot water and boil the next day. This can be done on the weekend etc and then frozen in small batches for smaller meals), veggies and fruits etc.

Think big: Why do we buy pre-chopped beef cubes for a stew? Buy a whole beef slice and chop it yourself (hint: kitchen scissors are great for cutting up raw meat just make sure you clean them well after). Buy an entire chicken instead of chicken parts (Where I live I can get 2 whole chickens for $10-12) and roast it in a pan and eat it with veggies and potatoes etc the first night. The next day you can tear off thin strips and have it in a sandwich or salad or just about anything. That night you can cook some rice and veggies and tear up the chicken into bits and put some soy sauce on and voila chicken and rice. The next day with the leftovers (including all the darker/stringier meats you wouldn't necessarily enjoy otherwise (don't forget to pick off all the meat on the bottom of the carcass)) you can make a hearty chicken soup with red potatoes (don't peel them!), turnip, cabbage, carrots, rice, onions, garlic, kale, green beans, and whatever else you have lying around.

Sales: Sale shopping is your friend if possibly a bit time consuming. For this to work it's important to know your prices! Oftentimes in the flyers there are OMG HUGE SALE advertisements that aren't actually sales/good prices, so you need to know how much you can expect to get something for (oftentimes certain grocers are cheaper than others or have certain things cheaper than others, but not other things). Generally I have one store where I get my basics/the majority of my groceries where they are the cheapest and then a few other places where I scan the flyers to check for legit sales. I usually also have rules based on prices. I won't buy cheese for more than $1 per 100g for example unless I can't find any on sale anywhere and can't wait for a sale. Tuna I won't buy for more than $1 a can and if I can find it cheaper I stock up.

Smaller stores: Often times the smaller the store the better the deal you can get, but be careful sometimes the opposite is true. In general canned and boxed goods will tend to run more expensive unless they have a sale, but produce, non-brand name and bulk items will be cheaper. In my experience you want to shop where the immigrants in your area shop not where the fancy health conscience shoppers do (funnily enough they often sell the exact same things, just with the prices jacked up in the fancy stores because most health craze items are just things that regular poor people have been eating forever i.e. quinoa, natural yogurt). There are generally (although depending where you live obviously) stores run by immigrant families/that cater to immigrant families. These can be a gold mine of cheaper food options and are more likely to have bulk options. One shop where I live literally has huge garbage bins filled with bulk beans, rice, popcorn kernels, etc that are way cheaper than anywhere else. The yogurt I buy is from a Canadian Arabic brand and is just natural plain yogurt (one ingredient!). I get my bread from a kosher bakery $2 a loaf instead of of $4 for processed and basically white bread with added fancyness but not whole grain nutrients.

Discounted items: The main big name grocery place near me I rarely shop at unless I need something like canned corn which is pricier everywhere else or they have a sale except for when I go looking through their discount racks (generally these are in the produce/bakery sections, but often there are meats as well). I get a lot of things that I would never buy full price there like different coloured peppers or the occasional baked pastry for 30-50% off that maybe expire in a few days or are a little wrinkled or bruised up. Oftentimes there are really old/ banged up bananas that I wouldn't eat regularly (I like my bananas slightly green still), but which are perfect for homemade banana bread.

They sell food there?: I actually buy a lot of my food at my local pharmaprix (shoppers drug mart for those outside Quebec). Eggs are almost always on sale there, as well as tuna, crackers, pasta, pasta sauce, chocolate milk (protein and a treat in one!), cottage cheese, sour cream, regular cheese, etc. What are some places near you that might sell food on the cheap? If you're Canadian or have one near by Dollarama's have some really cheap options as well. I get vegetable crackers there and they have a great multigrain bread there as well, raisin bread, pickles, mustard, and I just saw some salsa there that I'd like to try.

LEC358 SparkPoints: (11,135)
Fitness Minutes: (6,555)
Posts: 2,744
3/22/14 11:36 A

Well-drained canned vegetables (a lot of places right now have sales on canned veggies because its canned vegetable month)

Shop the circulars

Also, remember that it can take several attempts before young kids will like new foods so be persistent about it. Your son will eat whatever is in front of him if he is hungry so stick to planned meal times and have healthy snacks available.

Finally, at 6 he's old enough to help you with basic meal prep like mixing things, or helping you measure. Cooking is a great way to teach skills like fractions and following directions.

MICHELLEXXXX SparkPoints: (12,145)
Fitness Minutes: (5,920)
Posts: 3,765
3/22/14 11:25 A

homemade soups
produce sales
frozen veggie sales

I would use starches as a last filler if needed as they are very cheap: rice, beans, pasta, corn, potatoes oatmeal, etc.

sample meals:
B: 2 eggs
L: homemade vegetable soup, tuna salad
D: grilled chicken, cole slaw, green beans

Edited by: MICHELLEXXXX at: 3/24/2014 (10:13)
ALGEBRAGIRL Posts: 1,925
3/22/14 11:22 A

Eggs, rice, pasta - dress them all up with lots of vegetables.

KLONG0515 SparkPoints: (4,361)
Fitness Minutes: (52)
Posts: 2
3/22/14 10:36 A

im a single mom to two kids and on a very strict budget...anyone know of any healthy cheap meals. healthy food is seriously expensive these days and i need stuff that is yummy and not gross looking...with a 6 year old who is starting to use his sight for his appetite now its hard to find new stuff he will like. my one year old is like a garbage disposal and will eat anything but also need to it be kinda child friendly...easy to eat chew....thank you!!!!!

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