View Full Version : Tips for eating healthy on a budget


acdc01
04-20-16, 08:21 PM
Food costs seem to be skyrocketing theses days. Any tips on how to eat healthy for less money while still maintaining delicious meals?

I've started using the grocery store apps for coupons.

Also, I use my phone as a calculator to more easily compare costs when the weight units are different.

Little Missy
04-20-16, 09:00 PM
I can eat for $30 a week. There are not many fun or delicious meals but I never have to do any dishes!

acdc01
04-20-16, 09:43 PM
I can eat for $30 a week. There are not many fun or delicious meals but I never have to do any dishes!

That's really good. I think I spend double that.

How are you able to do that?

Little Missy
04-20-16, 09:48 PM
A dozen eggs, 7 bananas, 5 avocados, some salt free roasted peanuts and a bag of frozen mixed fruit. I do some variations, but you actually make meals!

dvdnvwls
04-20-16, 09:54 PM
There's likely to be a health trade-off to consider, if you take your budget very low.

There is almost certain to be a time-and-effort trade-off as well; making good food for very cheap can take up a lot of time and energy.

It's relatively easy to find some kind of food for cheap. It's making it good/palatable in the long term that is probably the challenge.

Learning to make things that are based on dried beans and regular rice is certainly a start. Those can be had for cheap, and the combination is pretty healthy, especially when vegetables are added.

dvdnvwls
04-20-16, 09:58 PM
Reading Little Missy's post and then mine, I'd think it would be interesting to do some of both, for variety and so not too much gets missed nutrient-wise.

It may be controversial for me to say, but going completely without meat is probably not a good move unless you are already an experienced and healthy vegetarian. You absolutely need certain supplements, if you don't have any meat. (But you don't need anywhere near the amount of meat that a lot of people eat.)

Stevuke79
04-20-16, 10:07 PM
I was a master of this in college and the years following. I kept my staples cheap and dressed them with things that are more expensive.. and you kind of stretch out the more expensive stuff. Like I wouldn't eat an avocado but I'd put it in stuff... and i knew exactly what fraction of the avocado or tomatoe I could put in a particular dish.

I remember hard boiled eggs are cheap relative to their volume (fillingness). Deviled eggs can be fun. Beets are super cheap.. go well with eggs.. or good in a salad with iceberg lettuce. Tomatoes arent exactly cheap and neither is a can of corn but I found iceberg lettuce, eggs, tomatoe, corn and beets made for an interesting enough salad. The corn and tomatoes can be stretched out. Make your own mayonnaise dressing.

Bagels are $0.60 and have loads of calories. (Outside NY they tend to suck)

Nothing is cheaper than a potatoe and veggie oil is also cheap (and can be reused) ... and home fried chips are AMAZING!

Chunk light is healthier AND cheaper than solid white albacore. Avocados aren't cheap .. but cut up into tuna they can stretch out a long way.

Obviously pasta is cheap.. not exciting.. but onions are also cheap and if you love sautéed onions you can make lots of food yummier... like Mac & cheese ... I like adding an onion to M&C and even with crappy old (and cheap) American cheese it's pretty good. Homemade breadcrumbs make it yummy too. Tuna is a good addition to make it healthy.

My wife had to remind me the number. The number was 3. That what I used to tell I spent a day on food: $3/day on food. That includes an amortized loaf of bread, mayonnaise, lettuce, corn and everything. I think back then there were a lot of cold cuts in that number but I don't remember.. long time ago.

Stevuke79
04-20-16, 10:07 PM
I can eat for $30 a week. There are not many fun or delicious meals but I never have to do any dishes!

Silver lining to everything .. ;)

Little Missy
04-20-16, 10:08 PM
You see, I have a well stocked variety of 20# of each kind of dried beans there are and I always have a 20# bag of round brown rice also. I could go on and on but basically I have what I need and I add to it a bit. I live so close to hospital and can get great rare thin sliced roast beef or turkey and the salad bar is outrageous.

But mostly I stick with my easy stuff.

Little Missy
04-20-16, 10:11 PM
I'd give about anything for a chopped chicken liver sandwich.

dvdnvwls
04-20-16, 10:13 PM
$3/day on food. That includes an amortized loaf of bread, ...

Steve - when you amortize your bread, do you do that by hand, or in a food processor?

Just kidding. ;)

Unmanagable
04-20-16, 10:14 PM
What works for me - keep in mind I absolutely love to play and create in the kitchen - so for someone who does not, it may sound like sheer torture:

Sales papers and digital coupons. (although finding the healthier options becomes quite the challenge when bargain hunting, for sure - out of 383 options for downloadable digital coupons from a major grocery chain in our town, only one item was a whole food item)

Always check the "ugly" table in the produce section - request your store provide one if they don't have one - ask them what they do with over ripe produce at the end of the day.

Any and all bargain areas in the stores - some have them, others, not so much.

Many dollar stores now carry frozen veggies and fruits.

Shop at the end of the day at the farmers' markets to possibly land some bargains by the farmers who don't want to haul stuff back home.

Get to know your local farmers and barter for food by simply lending a hand in their garden for a couple hours, or share another skill set you many have that they could benefit from, and they'll gladly pay you with food.

Simplify meals - eat mono-meals and more raw foods. We don't NEED the cooked combinations we've grown to love, and now crave because we are highly addicted - how many animals eat three-course meals, season and cook their foods, or eat a wide variety within each meal?

Buy the things you eat the most of in bulk, whenever possible, and learn how to preserve (dehydrate, freeze, vacuum seal, etc.).

Learn the land that surrounds you and how to safely forage for seasonal wild foods.

dvdnvwls
04-20-16, 10:21 PM
Simplify meals - eat mono-meals and more raw foods. We don't NEED the cooked combinations we've grown to love, and now crave because we are highly addicted - how many animals eat three-course meals, season and cook their foods, or eat a wide variety within each meal?

IMO it's pretty easy to over-simplify, to the point where food doesn't taste good anymore. Especially if there isn't a significant amount of fat. Fats (whether vegetable or animal in origin) single-handedly create a lot of the flavour of food.

And... of course we're all "addicted" to food! We'd die without it, after all. :)

If people put the animal fat back into their meals where our ancestors expected it, I think the "addiction" to seasonings and variety would plummet.

Stevuke79
04-20-16, 10:21 PM
Steve - when you amortize your bread, do you do that by hand, or in a food processor?

Just kidding. ;)

You mean nowadays ...same place as anything else, I amortize bread in excel.

But in 1999 we had Excel 5.0 and the amortization function didn't have a 'bread argument'... so I had to amortize the bread in a hand written ledger... it was a mess.. crumbs everywhere..

dvdnvwls
04-20-16, 10:25 PM
You mean nowadays ...same place as anything else, I amortize bread in excel.

But in 1999 we had Excel 5.0 and the amortization function didn't have a 'bread argument'... so I had to amortize the bread in a hand written ledger... it was a mess.. crumbs everywhere..

Is a "bread argument" anything like the British "bun fight"? :)

Stevuke79
04-20-16, 10:29 PM
IMO it's pretty easy to over-simplify, to the point where food doesn't taste good anymore. Especially if there isn't a significant amount of fat. Fats (whether vegetable or animal in origin) single-handedly create a lot of the flavour of food.

Truth!

Theres a good eastern european trick .. I only did this a few times and very long ago ... you can buy rendered fat and cook with it.. or if you make chicken ever, reserve the skin and render it for fat. Good in mashed potatoes or in sautéed onions or other starches.

Chicken itself goes farther in salad and sandwiches than straight.. so you don't want to leave the skin on anyway.

Stevuke79
04-20-16, 10:38 PM
Is a "bread argument" anything like the British "bun fight"? :)

Touche!

Unmanagable
04-20-16, 10:43 PM
IMO it's pretty easy to over-simplify, to the point where food doesn't taste good anymore. Especially if there isn't a significant amount of fat. Fats (whether vegetable or animal in origin) single-handedly create a lot of the flavour of food.

I hear ya', That's why I avoided trying plant-based eating for so long. I was sure it would suck, and it surely did when I tried things on a whim without diving deeper into why it's a good idea, connecting many dots, and learning how my body actually works. But when I was propelled into the changes via my body's severe responses to years of the other stuff, I learned to dig it.

Once my body had an opportunity to experience optimal nutrition as it was meant to be vs. how it was taught to us, with much less fats of the meat, egg, and dairy variety, especially, my taste buds, not to mention my digestive system, became much more appreciative of food flavors as they are and no longer required as much, if any, altering. Learning to eat for the health of it, based on urgency, and not just the taste of it landed me in the tastiest space I recall ever being in.

aeon
04-20-16, 10:50 PM
Learn the arts of lentils and beans, and you will go far with your money.

dvdnvwls
04-21-16, 12:08 AM
I hear ya', That's why I avoided trying plant-based eating for so long.

I'm advocating that people permanently avoid trying "plant-based eating", which is IMO properly called "not eating meat".

Eating less meat among those who currently eat a lot of it, yes, I'm all for that.

There is nothing particularly natural or particularly good about omnivores such as ourselves avoiding one of our traditional natural major food sources.

Socaljaxs
04-21-16, 12:30 AM
Meal prepping may help. Plan meals advance. Frozen tends to be cheaper than fresh, crock pots also help.

Google search, of budget friendly meal prepping ideas... I also use Pinterest to helps with this for ideas, when I actually do it:umm1:....example, buy frozen chicken, eggs, frozen veggies, grains of choice lettuce... in bulk, cook it in advance on Sunday. Use storage containers to plan and spread it out, and mix match foods like one meal could be veggies, rice, chicken. Different meal could include different spices. Chicken and salad. Stirfry. It helps when its planned out ahead of time and ready to go

Unmanagable
04-21-16, 01:41 AM
I'm advocating that people permanently avoid trying "plant-based eating", which is IMO properly called "not eating meat".

Eating less meat among those who currently eat a lot of it, yes, I'm all for that.

There is nothing particularly natural or particularly good about omnivores such as ourselves avoiding one of our traditional natural major food sources.

I disagree with you. It's the best thing that's happened to me in my ongoing and initially hellish pursuit of wellness, thus far. Once again, I appear to be an exception to yet another established "rule". You have me curious now. Did you happen to try it and have a bad experience?

Not every body processes what you so strongly feel we are born to eat in the same way you may. To each their own, hopefully choosing based on educating self about their actual individual needs and not just going on blind faith in what's been taught in schools or what some inept money hungry guru type is trying to sell.

So much to unlearn from all angles, yet so little time, from what I've experienced. My body and brain function much better minus a little over a year of having given up eating dead rotting flesh of other beings (and dairy, and eggs, and caffeine, etc).

My doctor, my counselor, my ob-gyn, and several other medical professionals regularly ask me to email them info about my eating, exercise, and supplement regimen, share resources, etc. for them to share with other patients and to try themselves. One of my husband's docs asked, too.

What can possibly be "not particularly natural" or "not particularly good" about so many people getting their health back by reversing multiple forms of dis-ease and being able to function again from no longer eating meat?

Not natural and not good sounds much more like what I've found behind all the curtains I dove behind in finding out all the different routes all the living things took to get to my plate, most especially in the meat and dairy industries.

Apologies to acdc for contributing to the derailing of your thread.

acdc01
04-21-16, 04:29 PM
Thanks guys. Lots of great advice.

Going to test out some bean recipes. A lot of beans are high in calories but oh well, a lot of other vegetables are low so maybe I can figure a balance.

Beets are great too - I liked a lot of your food ideas Stevuke.

I have been trying to cut out meat. You're right dvdnvwls that I've got to be careful with making things cheaper and reducing meat. Been using the myfitnesspal app
to track nutrition and finding I can easily eat too little iron or protein. I eat a daily multivitamin for now though I'm hoping to find a balance with just food. I'm sure I can get a balance, just not there yet. I might end up going back to eating seafood though because I cook for a relative too and she is not liking not eating seafood. Part of me really doesn't want to and another part thinks she's old and needs to enjoy life so I'm not wanting to take seafood away from her.

Preplanning better would make a big difference cause I still throw food away cause I don't use it sometimes even after I started cooking more in bulk and only 1 or 2 days a week.

I should buy more in bulk. Been avoiding it cause of how tiny my condo is but I think I can make room for some items.

Unmanageable and Little Missy, I'm amazed at all you do. I think I'm going to try a couple of your ideas. I can't ever get myself to do anything that adds work for myself so I think I'm going to have to skip all the ideas that add work for me. Maybe someday (doubtful but you never know since I already seem to be more motivated toward cooking than I ever thought I would be).

Socaljaxs
04-21-16, 04:43 PM
Going to test out some bean recipes. A lot of beans are high in calories but oh well, a lot of other vegetables are low so maybe I can figure a balance.
Been using the myfitnesspal app to track nutrition and finding I can easily eat too little iron or protein. I eat a daily multivitamin for now though I'm hoping to find a balance with just food. I'm sure I can get a balance, just not there yet. I use that app also :yes::D... I've done many weight control type programs over the years but found I get the best results from simple, and easy and convient, especially when tracking my food intake. It really helps keep me on a good food plan. Granted, I have a newly developed coping-method of eating sugar. But it does help me limit the amount and now working on moderation instead, cause not only do I track my calories, I also track my macros to keep balanced.

Preplanning better would make a big difference cause I still throw food away cause I don't use it sometimes even after I started cooking more in bulk and only 1 or 2 days a week.

I should buy more in bulk. Been avoiding it cause of how tiny my condo is but I think I can make room for some items. I've found for this,that sites like Pinterest and mfp and a large collection of websites I have a database that I have saved and collected over the years, of blogs and recipes and lightening up recipes that people made for food ideas and healthier choices of meal ideas that I easily,can get too.


I know when I was actively meal planning and prepping it was actually really easy once it started it takes only about an hour or so to cook everything and divide my meals up. I have portion control and color-coded containers that I use specifically for it that I've purchased to help the process/

dvdnvwls
04-22-16, 04:45 PM
I can't ever get myself to do anything that adds work for myself so I think I'm going to have to skip all the ideas that add work for me. Maybe someday (doubtful but you never know since I already seem to be more motivated toward cooking than I ever thought I would be).

Nearly all ideas for better food involve some work. Even more so when low cost is factored in. When you pay less for the food, you aren't paying for someone else's time and energy in preparing it. Therefore, it requires your own time and energy.

In a lot of cases, it's worth it. Things that are particularly difficult for you to handle - just skip those parts, at least for now.

Little Missy
04-22-16, 04:47 PM
I like buying a bag of frozen vegetables, any kind, nuke them, throw 'em in a bowl and eat. Voila!

acdc01
04-22-16, 06:53 PM
Nearly all ideas for better food involve some work.

Eh. I'm sure that's true but there are still some ideas that involve less work.

Like Little Missy's idea of frozen vegatables. Very easy to cook and healthy for you. I'd guess you'd say you are sacrificing taste that way but some veggies freeze pretty well and the change in taste isn't so great that it makes that much difference to me when using the veggies in say a chilli or something.

Also, I used to go out for dinner/buy out about 50% or the time or even more and then cook not as healthy food maybe 3-4 days a week.

Now, I only cook 1-2 days a week in bulk and freeze. And the foods are much healthier for me, take less work, and are a lot cheaper since I only go to a restaurant for dinner one day a week. Tastewise, I'm actually sick of restaurant food so some of the home cooked meals actually taste better to me.

acdc01
04-26-16, 03:03 PM
I've been finding a lot of ecoupons that make canned food a steal, even organic canned food. Canned vegetables seem to be cheaper than frozen ones.

Is canning not as healthy as freezing?

Little Missy
04-26-16, 03:34 PM
I've been finding a lot of ecoupons that make canned food a steal, even organic canned food. Canned vegetables seem to be cheaper than frozen ones.

Is canning not as healthy as freezing?

Read the can. Lots of salt, water, etc. I find the frozen vegetables to be as good as fresh for the most part and almost all of them are salt free.:)

Fuzzy12
04-26-16, 03:53 PM
Read the can. Lots of salt, water, etc. I find the frozen vegetables to be as good as fresh for the most part and almost all of them are salt free.:)

As far as I know, frozen is healthier than fresh. In some cases apparently frozen vegetables are even healthier than fresh ones since the veggies are still fresh when they are frozen and don't lose as many nutrients with time as fresh ones.

Also like Missy said canned can sometimes contain high amounts of salt. Also watch out for the solution they are stored in which again could be full of salt.

Anyway, I still think that canned vegetables are better than no vegetables and some things are better preserved in cans than others (though I don't remember which ones).

acdc01
04-26-16, 06:22 PM
Read the can. Lots of salt, water, etc. I find the frozen vegetables to be as good as fresh for the most part and almost all of them are salt free.:)

I noticed the cans showed 11% salt mostly and some sugar too. I think I'm going to try some and see if I can still keep my overall sugar/salt level for the day at acceptable levels using that fitness tracker app. The cans are just so much cheaper when there are good coupons.

Course if they taste crappy, I think I'll definitely stick with just fresh and frozen.

aeon
04-26-16, 07:19 PM
I’ll use canned beans when there are coupons that make them cheap, cheap, cheap, but other than beans and tomatoes*, I can’t think of any other vegetable offhand that I would buy in a can.

Canned pumpkin, maybe? Diced green chilies? OK, there’s probably a half-dozen odd things like that where the vegetable is extensively processed in some way first.

* Tomatoes I buy both fresh and canned, depending on the application, and for me, San Marzanos are always canned, but that is part of the charm.

Beans I do both dry and canned, and when I get the canned variety, I always look for the no sodium/reduced sodium versions.

Canned almost always destroys good vegetable textures, and I want those textures. (And to say nothing of the taste.)

Frozen does too, but it matters more or less depending on the vegetable. Root vegetables and green, fibrous veggies seem to do well.

Fresh is always a joy, save the potential prep time (soaking beans, dicing veggies).

Some things are a revelation fresh if you have never had them before...like...

green peas in springtime from England...my goodness...they are divine.

haricot vert in summer from France...any other “green bean” is less.

and fresh Brussels sprouts only please...to freeze or can them would be...a renunciation of all that is right and good in the world! ;)


Cheers,
Ian

Unmanagable
04-26-16, 08:51 PM
I use canned beans quite often when I don't plan far enough ahead to prepare the dried ones, but I always make sure I drain and rinse them really well before using them.

I use the canned tomatoes sometimes, too, especially in the colder months when fresh aren't available. I buy them up at the markets when they're reduced and make my own sauces, freeze them, roast some and freeze them, etc., and we always grow some of our own.

The flavor of canned doesn't come anywhere close to the fresh or frozen, especially now that I've not eaten any of the canned varieties for so long. They taste like a mouthful of salt to me now, even the "low sodium" ones. I used to stock up on the deals and eat the hell out of them, though.

Daydreamin22
04-26-16, 10:27 PM
Here are 100 meals under $1 per serving supposedly...

http://www.allyou.com/food/supercheap-meals/cheap-recipes

acdc01
04-26-16, 10:53 PM
Here are 100 meals under $1 per serving supposedly...

http://www.allyou.com/food/supercheap-meals/cheap-recipes


Oohh interesting - thanks a lot. At first glance though, I don't believe the meals are $1 per serving but the ingredients do look like stuff you can get for cheaper. Will cook next week.

I've been trying to find a good vegan cheese but maybe that's not a good idea as they are all expensive.

If the canned stuff tastes bad, I'll probably end up giving it up. I don't want to save to the point that my food tastes bad.

Daydreamin22
04-26-16, 11:28 PM
Oh, hopefully it gives you some inexpensive stuff!

I don't want to save to the point that my food tastes bad.
I think that is a good plan!

acdc01
04-27-16, 09:16 AM
Oh, hopefully it gives you some inexpensive stuff!


I think that is a good plan!

Yeah, I have to remember it and not go to far. Decided not to give up the search for a good vegan cheese no matter the cost.

Fuzzy12
04-27-16, 12:38 PM
I use canned beans quite often when I don't plan far enough ahead to prepare the dried ones, but I always make sure I drain and rinse them really well before using them.

I use the canned tomatoes sometimes, too, especially in the colder months when fresh aren't available. I buy them up at the markets when they're reduced and make my own sauces, freeze them, roast some and freeze them, etc., and we always grow some of our own.

The flavor of canned doesn't come anywhere close to the fresh or frozen, especially now that I've not eaten any of the canned varieties for so long. They taste like a mouthful of salt to me now, even the "low sodium" ones. I used to stock up on the deals and eat the hell out of them, though.


I used canned beans as well. Dried are tastier but I usually forget to soak them in advance. Sweetcorn I use primarily canned. And sometimes canned tomatoes or passata. Seems like that's fairly standard.

Except for that pretty much everything I use is fresh except for green peas (frozen). Hubby doesn't like the taste of frozen veggies. They seem to somehow lose both their texture and their flavour. My dad uses frozen spinach and that's pretty vile.