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2/28/13 5:40 P

It is always easy to make this suggestion not knowing if you have the space, but growing your own is always an option for spring that may help for the next year (obviously this has hazards of not working etc...but if you can it might be a good option). I used to live in a condo and used an old rubbermaid tub to grow tomatoes. Soil can be expensive but you may be able to repurpose it (I was always amazed at people throwing soil in dead plants out at the condo...) you can amend the soil with a little fertilizer. If you have yard, you may be better off. Look for seed exchanges or people willing to share cuttings of plants. I learned recently that some folks don't like the idea of gardening because it is "farm work" but it really isn't - it goes against big farming and puts you in control :)

This year, I have a yard and am planning on growing and freezing veggies...I hope it works out!

2/28/13 5:28 P

I have definitely found that planning meals saves you a ton! There are some meals that I make that I can stretch leftovers over 3-4 days! Good luck!

GOODWITCH333 SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (19,035)
Posts: 137
2/25/13 11:02 A

The first step is planning.
On payday, buy lentils,beans, a big bag of oatmeal, some raisins, brown rice,and some brown bread adn peanut butter. Then buy whatever fresh food you can afford. Also,canned tomatoes and spices from the dollar store. Put the bread in the freezer so it never goes mouldy. When you run out of fresh food and your paycheck is still days away, you can live on oatmeal with raisins ( carb and fruit), peanut butter sandwiches and beans and rice.
Also, as you trim your vegetables, save the trimming in the freezer. you can add these to water with a few herbs and spices and whatever leftovers you have to make a one-of-a-kind soup.
If you are broke, you cannot afford to throw anything out. If you know you can't eat it right away, freeze it.
Also, make cooking your hobby. be creative. The less you have the more creative you need to be.
Good Luck.

2/23/13 1:21 A

Find your nearest bargain "dollar store"s and look through the marked down snacks and foods when their put out in the front of your groceries store(s).

SUNSHINE6442 Posts: 2,320
2/21/13 9:11 A

I find these are good budget foods ...oatmeal, grilled tomatoes, lentils, Kasha, Barley, Brown Rice, green beans, cucumbers, carrots, sweet potatoes, radishes, celery, tacos, brown pasta, frozen brocolli, frozen green pepper bits.

I buy a bag of brown rice $1.29 & add Cumberland Gap Ham Chuncks for $3.00

Lentils are good with sliced carrots and bouillion, cheap and easy. Low on calories & rich in plant proteins & amino-acids.You can buy a 16-ounce bag for $1.29 Carrots under a dollar

Tacos using kidney beans in place of ground meat or I also make a Kidney Bean salad with sour cream and chives

You can buy a 15-ounce can of store brand vegetarian refried beans for about $1.19 @Walmart, add lettuce into a taco shell, fresh tomato slices, & matchstick carrots. Bean burritos, bean burgers and bean chili are all easy to make, very tasty and budget friendly. The Great Value brand of tacos is 12 for $1.00

Sardines are cheap, around $1.00. Combine sardines with chopped onion, and a sprinkle of dried mustard. Good on crackers. COQ10 is one of the good features sardines have and they are heart healthy. Also high in protein

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 and lasts me a long time.

Oatmeal, string beans, cucumber, radishes, celery, Kasha made with bow tie noodles, eggplant ( you can make eggplant burgers), carrots are good staples. A large box of Old Fashioned Oatmeal @ Walmart is $2.50 Eggplant is about $1.29 a pound...
A large box of Original Cheeries $3.00 @ Walmart

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)
Sweet pototoes are cheap...I make sweet potato fries.

Make a cucumber salad, slice cucumber thinly, add fat free sour cream, with a splash of stevia and a splash of vinegar. Add a little pepper to taste. Chill overnight. Stir before serving.

Cabbage is cheap ...make stuffed cabbage..

Jimmy Dean has breakfast turkey sausuage links...32 to a package for $5.99

I just bought 18 chicken kegs at Walmart for $6.00...I'll make soup from 2 of them, maybe shred the meat into tacos or a salad....

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

Hope these ideas help!

2/19/13 6:50 P

Our local grocery store has a mark down section where they put day old breads/bakery items, smooshed boxes or dented cans, they can be quite cheap.

BUNNYKICKS Posts: 2,433
2/19/13 6:18 P

Someone pointed this recipe website out, it is really quite helpful when trying to plan healthy and interesting food on a tight budget... you might wish to look here for some creative ideas on stretching your dollar

TRIATHLETEGIRL SparkPoints: (56,067)
Fitness Minutes: (61,024)
Posts: 356
2/19/13 12:33 A

Some health food or locally-owned stores have a bulk buying program where you can purchase food in bulk for 10% above wholesale. Cases of canned tomatoes, soups, or whatever is in their store catalog. Bulk rice, beans, lentils, dehydrated mixes, herbs, etc. You might have to build up your supply, but buying in that kind of bulk REALLY saves in the long run. I buy my shampoo in a gallon container and it saves a huge amount of money. You could probably get a 25 pound bag of rice for less than $20 and it would last you for months and months. Just be careful that you can store it without bugs getting in it.
Good luck!

FITGLAMGIRL Posts: 2,045
2/16/13 9:18 P

If you really are struggling with food to eat I would locate a food bank to help your dollars stretched. Otherwise, oatmeal, tuna, canned beans, rice, eggs, bananas, are all really inexpensive healthier choices.

PALEAN Posts: 3,224
2/16/13 5:20 P

I don't know what kind of work you do, or the size of your company, but during these more stressful economic times, we suggest to Human Resources to have an employee pantry right at work. It is just a closet where any/all employees can bring in donations of food such as applesauce, oatmeal, peanut butter etc., to help out their fellow colleagues who may be of need. Everyone wins as those who donate feel good and those who struggle can get help right at work.

For people who or more sensitive to needing support, the HR staff were always very respectful of this. Perhaps it is something for the office suggestion box? Most companies have wellness programs so it can become part of that? Just an idea I didn't see listed!

I wish you the very best!

Edited by: PALEAN at: 2/16/2013 (17:21)
MISSRUTH Posts: 4,316
2/16/13 3:31 P

Some really good suggestions here! I second the, grab the free food when you can, option. Even, say, leftover fried chicken. You can pull all the skin and breading off and then chop up the chicken meat to use in a casserole, to make it stretch further. When I was younger and times were really really tight, I never said no to free food. The trick was to find a way to use it.

QUERIDAANA Posts: 1,287
2/16/13 2:40 A

I also did not know what pulses are. According to wikiedia they are dry beans like pinto beans, kidney beans and navy beans; dry peas; lentils; and other legumes.

When you don`t have a lot of money for food up your water intake. It is very beneficial to your metabolism and skin, and it curbs hunger.

A way to curb your appetite is to eat slowly. Really notice what you are eating, every bite. Put your fork down between bites. Drink water between bites and take a breath. Use smaller plates.

I have heard that fasting can be healthy, but don`t know much about it. Lemon detox requires very little food, so this may be a good opportunity to do a one day detox?

Food banks or food stamps seems the best bet. Legumes and oatmeal are so healthy!

NAKED_EYE SparkPoints: (2,490)
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Posts: 39
2/16/13 12:32 A

Sorry to hear you are in a tough spot. I try to make my money stretch the best I can. I buy a lot of the store brand frozen vegetables. When I see the following canned stuff on sale, I buy extra if I have the cash. Things like no salt added diced tomatoes, organic black beans, no salt added kidney beans, organic pasta sauces. I usually make a 6 serving meal with whole wheat penne pasta, can of black beans, can of diced tomatoes, and spices (oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes), eat one serving, keep one in the fridge for the following day and freeze the rest.

I wish you the best.

2/15/13 1:24 P

Slimmer kiwi, in your post you mention pulses being a cheap meat option. What are they?

2/15/13 1:11 P

I too am on a severely restricted food budget. I buy dried beans and lentils in bulk. Very cheap. Also frozen fruit and veggies instead of fresh. I'm basically eating vegetarian simply because I cannot afford meat very often. Oatmeal is also inexpensive.

JESSAELINN SparkPoints: (22,120)
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Posts: 729
2/14/13 8:32 P

I too work with low-income families. They usually keep up to date with the community and food drives, which helps a lot.

I like Ramen. You can buy a flat of 24 for like $3. It's refined flour noodles, and lots of sodium, but if you use half the packet of the salty flavoring, add an egg as it boils, it's actually pretty good! And though it isn't healthy, it's not real unhealthy either and its filling. I also like to go to the Dollar Store or 99c Store for some healthy foods. It doesn't last long, so I have to eat what I buy within 1-2 days, but its worth it.

PHOENIX2B Posts: 294
2/14/13 2:14 P

These are all great ideas. I'm a social worker, so I don't just think about myself, I often feel for others who have these same struggles. Those who are on fixed budgets, or those who have been affected by the economy, or those who have lost jobs. We all have to find ways to take care of ourselves, and you have all expressed some really great suggestions.

This season, the Biggest Loser addressed this issue a little bit, but it always helps to have more information.

KERIANNA77 Posts: 64
1/16/13 7:10 P

I agree, soups are a great pretty cheap way to have a healthy meal.

KYLIAK Posts: 253
1/16/13 4:30 P

I agree food pantry food banks are great.

when i was in college i got sick because i didn't have the nutrition i needed.

I started visiting food banks when i got low on funds and then when i had a little extra funds i knew to stock up for hard times. Dried beans black and red from the $1 store ect. make great backups.

then after about a year or so of buying for a rainy day i saw that I had plenty to get me through a while and i started buying little its here and there to pay back the two months i needed the food bank to help me. I started in college to see food banks as banks take when you need deposit when you can.

1/16/13 3:40 P

Soup is good and to make it even healthier, make your own soup and store it in the fridge. Also, lean sandwiches can be fairly inexpensive.

MRRERE Posts: 74
1/16/13 2:59 P

I always go for healthy soups. They're pretty cheap and fill you up.

KATHRYN74 Posts: 329
1/16/13 12:35 P

Black beans and rice.
When there is a bit more $$ around try to stock up on some of the good things for the freezer like frozen veggies, frozen fruit etc. I also stock up on beans, rice, salsa when I can. Make the tougher times easier.
Dried herbs, flavourings, hot sauces etc can make a meal quite different even with the same main ingredients.
Good luck.

SLIMMERKIWI SparkPoints: (256,922)
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Posts: 27,301
1/15/13 4:08 P

I must make a comment about those commenting on rice/lentils etc. being boring on a low budget. I have lived off the smell of an oily rag for many years, and it has never been boring. The reason is that I have a variety of spices and dried herbs in my cupboard. With the mince mix I make I can have a Mexican take on it with a little chilli, or an Italian take with a little dried basil, or I might put in some mashed banana with a little curry powder, but the other ingredients are all the same. With Pork mince I can do the same, but often add some apple or a little can of crushed pineapple to give it the 'Hawaiian" theme. Dried herbs are dirt cheap and last for yonks. I make a sausage casserole with the sausage cut up in bite sizes. I add Lentils, shredded cabbage, and onion, and some chopped carrot - after that it is just what I have on hand and what suits whatever spices/herbs I am using. Two sausages can easily serve 3 people but you wouldn't think you are skinting on the servings.


Edited by: SLIMMERKIWI at: 1/15/2013 (16:08)
1/15/13 1:50 P

Like everyone else said...lentils! I have survived off of rice and beans when I was very poor. It's pretty amazing how little you have spend to survive. Of course, it gets boring...really boring...but food is FUEL. You have to treat it that way.

CLARK971 SparkPoints: (29,686)
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Posts: 827
1/15/13 12:35 P

when i was in college and funds were lean, i ate a lot of fried egg sandwiches or scrambled eggs and toast.

you could also add some frozen veggies to the ramen noodles that were suggested.

like ARCHIMEDESII said, take advantage of the free food at work by chosing the healthiest options. if you aren't sure of the best choices at work, post your options, and people can help you.

ARCHIMEDESII SparkPoints: (201,340)
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Posts: 27,434
1/15/13 10:18 A


Even if the food at work might not be the healthiest choice, if there is free food, take advantage of that food if you don't have enough at home to feed yourself. Do they offer fruit or yogurt ? Some places do. If so, load up on the fruit and yogurt.

Do you have any money ? Depending on how much you have, you could buy some staples like pasta, rice, beans, etc. Buy whatever is on sale and in bulk while you can so that you'll have some "staples" on hand at all times. Oatmeal and cereal are two good staples to have in a pinch. Right now, a huge container of Quaker Oats is on sale at CVS (with card) for $2.50. Cans of soup tend to go on sale pretty frequently too. Buy some cans of soup. While a person does need to watch their sodium intake, there is no reason they can't have a can of soup once in a while.

Where do you shop for groceries ? You could also buy store band items. I buy store bands all the time to save money.

Let's say you have ten dollars to spend on food between now and when you get paid. With 10 dollars, you could buy a combination of the following items, pasta, rice, beans, soup, cereal, oatmeal, frozen veggies, Ramen, etc. Ramen noodles are pretty cheap. Okay, like soup, high in sodium, but if you don't have a whole lot of money and you need to eat something, Ramen noodles are at least something in your stomach. I know places that sell Ramen 3-5 packs for a dollar. Family Dollar is another place to find cheap food.

HAPPENINGFISH SparkPoints: (0)
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Posts: 865
1/15/13 9:57 A

I have to second the lentils. And the frozen veg. I've gone through some very slim wallet times recently but you really can eat well - not maybe as fresh and bouncy as you'd like, but still well - on a tight budget.

The lentils are great because you can throw in all the "boring" vegetables you can find (onions, I'm looking at you) and still make a decent soup. Soup stock really helps with the flavour. Just this week I made a massive lentil soup that has fed me so far for 3 days and there's still some in the freezer. Sometimes instead of just heating it up I'll add a new ingredient and give it a simmer. Also a bit of grated cheese really helps with that.

I'm sorry to say that tight budgets and workout food is usually a recipe for boredom, at least for a short while, but it's not forever and it's WAY WAY better than grabbing fast food!

SLIMMERKIWI SparkPoints: (256,922)
Fitness Minutes: (41,586)
Posts: 27,301
1/14/13 11:36 P

Grab the free food, but choose the better options that are on offer. Also, would you qualify for help from a food bank? Some Churches or Community Centres have them, and it would be worth checking out. I am on a Benefit, so it is very low income. I have been able to access Food Grants from our Social Welfare Agency (New Zealand) - perhaps you have something like that where you are?

When your paycheck comes in, buy as much as you can that keeps (not processed junk) on specials, or other really cheap, healthy foods. Things like dried lentils (doesn't take much cooking and is very good for you - protein/fibre/low fat, and the list goes on! Sometimes frozen veges work out much cheaper than fresh, and are often more healthy, because what you buy in the shops has often been picked at least 2-3 days, and as a result has started to loose nutrients, whereas the frozen has often been snap-frozen within hours of picking, therefore locking in the goodness.

Pulses are a good way of cutting costs re meats. I always use them in my casseroles/soups, and even when I make Pasta dishes. I extend the Pasta dishes with tons of chopped/sauteed veges, and IF I use cheese in them, I only use a little.

Soups and Casseroles are a great way to save money. I can make a dessertspoon of minced beef make a good 'meat' serve because of all the finely chopped/purred veges and pulses in them. The protein content is about the same as straight meat, the calorie content is about the same but the fibre is lots more. Last night I did 4 small chicken drumsticks which I shredded (skin removed) and added chopped celery, onion, capsicum, carrot, lentils and dried apricots. It made a really yummy meal - but was stretched to FIVE serves, and actually had a full serve of veges in it. I can have it with other veges and potato, or with Rice, OR if I am being really lazy, have it on a good quality wholegrain toast. I generally bulk cook heaps larger quantities of soups and casseroles, and that is great for saving money - you can take better advantage of specials; it only takes one lot of cooking therefore it also saves power/gas, AND cleaning up! Also, if you are tired you have something really quick, easy and healthy for dinner. I just containerize them in single serve containers with name/date/calories on them and freeze them. I generally have a few options in the freezer, so sometimes I don't have to cook for 3-4 weeks, apart from veges.


PHOENIX2B Posts: 294
1/14/13 10:44 P

These are good ideas. I guess we have to treat our healthy lifestyles like we do our husbands... to commit for good and bad, better or worse, richer or POORER, and all that. Just receiving ideas really helps, though, so thank you!

WATCHTHIS2244 Posts: 262
1/14/13 10:31 P

I run into the same problem! What I try to do is make as many good choices as I can throughout the day and take it one meal at a time. Also remember, this is just for right now, not forever. Don't throw in the towel over a few days of not the best food.

Another thing I just thought of, try more exercising to compensate for any food choices you must make that you normally wouldn't.

Hope this helps!


LUANN_IN_PA Posts: 26,791
1/14/13 9:13 P

You can still grab that free food, but grab less of it!

PHOENIX2B Posts: 294
1/14/13 9:08 P

I'm doing well on my first week back to Sparkpeople (lost 2 pounds). But I'm scared! My paycheck doesn't come for a few days, and the cupboards are bare! How do you continue to eat healthy when funds run out? I used to just grab anything, especially free food on the job, during lean times, but what do I do now?

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