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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May. 28, 2006
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    3,127

    Default How can you afford to eat healthy food?

    I'm a newlywed, still getting to know my way around the kitchen. I LOVE to cook, but I'm not that great at it yet. I can follow a recipe, but if something goes wrong, I'm calling mom because I will have no idea what to do

    I've gotten pretty good at meal-planning so I know what I need from the store ( I even coupon sometimes!!). And I try to make nice, well-rounded, healthy meals.

    But GOOD LORD is it expensive!!!!

    Around here, even at the cheapo stores, a pound of ground beef is almost $5. One meal and that's gone. Fish is expensive, fresh produce is expensive, don't even say the word organic....everything's expensive! I try to go by sale flyers and coupons, but is there some older, wiser, motherly trick to getting decent food that's not going to take my entire paycheck? Maybe some food or recipe faves that I didn't realize were healthy, and are a fraction of the cost??

    Thanks!!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug. 29, 2012
    Location
    Bahstin, Mass
    Posts
    660

    Default

    Take up gardening for produce: there is nothing like going out and picking something off a vine or some herbs that you helped cultivate.

    If you can afford a CSA, if there are any in your area, check into those. You can also split them with friends so the cost goes down.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun. 14, 2006
    Location
    VA
    Posts
    11,372

    Default

    Meal planning.

    I'm serious.

    I went from shopping just for me to shopping for a family of four in the last few years and I INSIST on healthy stuff. But dang! It's expensive!

    To avoid waste and take the most advantage of the good stuff, it's best to plan a menu a week ahead so that you can use the same ingredients as needed. For example...love cilantro. But you can't buy just a "little"...you have to buy a bunch. Fine...I plan more than one meal that needs cilantro to avoid waste.

    Another thing? Costco. Seriously. I wish I were kidding, but I'm not. Meat, especially meat you can freeze, is great there. Well worth the membership fee.

    Going veggie--I'm not a vegetarian. Oh no. But I do plan 2 meals a week that are meatless.

    Leftovers that freeze. I try to do at least 1 meal a week that is in the crock pot and will leave enough to freeze or at least have lunch leftovers.

    Allrecipes.com is my saviour. Seriously.

    Farmer's markets and seasonal foods. Use the green stuff all summer and be ready for squash, taters, etc in the winter. You can save money if you can buy from the market and not the fancy store.

    I don't coupon or anything. But I do meal plan very very tightly. 4 people, all adult type appetites (12 YO child is 5' 11" and growing, 14 YO is 5' 10")...I feel like I'm feeding an army sometimes.

    Other thing I do? Cold frame. I grow my own lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, etc.

    The produce is what really kills me.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...



  4. #4

    Default

    Grow your own veggies and can for the winter. Even if you live in an apartment you can do some pretty significant container gardening. See if there is a gleaning group in your area.

    Use beans and legumes for a protien source. Use the cheapest cuts of meat you can as an accent, not as the main part of the dish.

    Avoid pre-made and boxed meals like hamburger helper or other noodle dishes. Pasta is cheap and dressing it up is healthier and cheaper than that stuff.
    http://www.tbhsa.com/index.html

    Originally Posted by JSwan
    I love feral children. They taste like chicken.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep. 5, 2011
    Posts
    2,966

    Default

    Another thing to think about? Protein PORTION SIZE. If you're just cooking for two people, 1 pound of ground beef shouldn't be "gone" in one meal.

    My husband doesn't eat red meat, so I buy ground turkey or chicken, but a regular package (one pound to 1-1/3 pounds) easily makes 4 servings of whatever I'm making with it - sometimes even more. For instance, one pkg. of ground turkey will make two 1/4# turkey burgers for one meal (with veggie sides), & the other 1/2# will be divided in half, wrapped in plastic wrap & frozen for use in two different stirfry dishes - along with lots of veggies - in the future. So that one pkg. of $5 meat stretches into THREE meals. And three healthy meals at that.

    A roast chicken &/or roast duck are other examples. Meal One - the roast with veggies, Meal Two - leftover roast with veggies, Meal Three - stirfry, curry, soup, whatever. Again - Three meals out of ONE roast bird. So if that duck cost $11-$15 or that chicken $5-$8 - divide by 3 meals & you'll find it's extremely economical.

    Start thinking "portion size", "fresh & frozen vegetables", & "recipes & planning ahead" are your FRIENDS.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar. 3, 2007
    Location
    North-Central IL
    Posts
    3,475

    Default

    I've noticed that, at least around here, people end up with a bumper crop of something, usually tomatoes, pickles, zucchini and will advertise on Craigslist and Facebook groups at a huge discount or free. My mom, before she had both carpal tunnels done this year, would can enormous amounts of tomato juice and pickles and freeze zucchini, shredded. You can make all kinds of sauces from the tomato juice and you can throw shredded zucchini into a ton of breads, cakes, etc. And sometimes it's cheaper to go in with someone and buy a half of beef and pork and put it in the freezer.
    Quarry Rat



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb. 19, 2009
    Posts
    4,670

    Default

    Frozen veggies help stretch things a bit. I usually always have a couple packages of broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and green beans on hand. When buying fresh, I tend to just do a very select type (lettuces, peppers, occassionally cukes, mushrooms, and snap peas). Over the summer we grow our own tomatoes and squash, which also helps.

    Costco is definitely the best for meat. Very, very affordable and a lot of it per package. Same goes for eggs from Costco. Eggs are very affordable and healthy.

    Stay away from anything premade. 99% of the time its cheaper to buy the needed ingredients and make your own. That also goes for sauces/condiments. Healthier that way too.

    Also, when you meal plan for the week try not to be all over the place in terms of ingredients. It will be cheaper if what you buy can be stretched over most of your meals, versus buying one ingredient for only one dish and then not using it again before it goes bad.

    Eating healthy isn't a super cheap endeavor in general though. I remember when I was eating a lot of bread, pasta, premade and packaged foods, etc I would only have to go to the store every two weeks and my grocery bill for two people was around $400/month. Now that I eat Paleo my bill has definitely gone up and I have to get to the store much more often, but I feel like my health is something that I don't mind paying a little extra for!



  8. #8
    Join Date
    May. 28, 2006
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    3,127

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bacardi1 View Post
    Another thing to think about? Protein PORTION SIZE. If you're just cooking for two people, 1 pound of ground beef shouldn't be "gone" in one meal.
    Ok, so I am doing something right at least..I try to make bigger portions to keep leftovers for lunch to bring to work. "Gone" means into an entire casserole/lasagna/etc. So technically more than one meal, didn't think about how that read. I was on a rant. Sorry



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 9, 2007
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    304

    Default

    I second (or third or fourth) gardening... do you ever go to the farmer's market or local farm stands and see how much tonatoes are per pound?! Insane!

    Maybe cut out some of the pricey red meat in your diet?

    Costco or one of the big bulk stores and buy bulk chicken, and individually freeze chicken pieces?



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec. 18, 2006
    Location
    NY
    Posts
    4,428

    Default

    Eat less meat. When you do buy meat, buy in larger portion "family" packs and re-portion and freeze in smaller sizes. In general, Americans eat way more meat than we need, and it is one of the more expensive ingredients.

    Buy in bulk -- pasta, dry beans, rice, breakfast cereal, etc.

    Make soups and stews to stretch your meats out - a small quantity of beef makes a very good vegetable beef soup or stew, in comparison to eating roast beef, or chicken soup instead of rotisserie chicken.

    Homemade oatmeal is much, much cheaper than breakfast cereal, breakfast bars, single-serving oatmeal packets. Making rice pilaf is cheaper than buying boxed rice. Making french fries from potatoes is much cheaper than buying french fries.

    Make your own yogurt - very simple and much cheaper.

    Avoid convenience foods...they are more convenient, but you pay for it!

    Avoid waste -- this one is huge! This is where menu planning comes in...especially fresh vegetables - they can be expensive and only last a few days before it's too late.

    So yes....planning would probably help a lot! I'm a terrible planner, but I do try to avoid convenience foods and waste. However, my grocery bill is still higher than I would like so I think I need to buckle down on the planning part to help make sure I'm not tempted to go the quick way out and order a pizza!



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun. 14, 2006
    Location
    VA
    Posts
    11,372

    Default

    Costco actually sells these great chicken things where there are two breasts or two thighs per packet and it's good freezer type plastic (as opposed to the saran wrap type at the normal grocery store). We love 'em.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar. 28, 2002
    Location
    East of Dog River
    Posts
    5,699

    Default

    Frozen vegetables are less than half the cost of fresh, and just as good. Sometimes a sale will net you a twofer and that makes it even cheaper

    Store brands, with some exceptions, are just as good as big name brands (notable exception, tinned corn where Green Giant is the best bang for the buck) and a little experimentation won't go wrong for most things. This applies to everything packaged includng coffee, coffee whitener, jelly, pasta, spices and most tinned goods

    Buy the biggest practicable package unless you are trying something new.

    DO check the frozen food aisles carefully. Here, we can buy Basilli's Best lasagna for 5.00 for 2.2 pounds, a damned sight cheaper than building your own.

    Things like chicken portions, pork chops and cutlets frequently come in very large frozen packages that are a huge saving over individual packets; the price per pound can be up to a dollar less and sometimes much more.

    If you aren't sure about a product, find the smallest package and buy that so that if it doesn't meet expectations, or is oddly flavoured, tossing the remainder isn't so painful.

    I learned these and probably much more that I cannot call to mind from a chef. I used to drive him to the grocery store and followed him to help carry stuff (he was retired and in his 70s) and he freely shared his knowledge with me. I am only too happy to pass it on, at least what I can call to mind quickly
    Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

    Member: Incredible Invisbles



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan. 9, 2009
    Location
    a little north of Columbus GA
    Posts
    1,911

    Default

    You don't need to have meat at every meal. (This was a big shock to me. Growing up it was meat-and-potatoes every night.)

    If you do nothing else, make a pound of beans in your crock pot every week.

    Since you're in Florida, your growing season is pretty much year 'round. You'll have a break in July/August, but even then you can nurse things along in containers in the shade.

    See if your library has Eliot Coleman's "Four-Season Harvest" and Toby Hemenway's "Gaia's Garden" -- turn your back yard (or balcony or whatever you have) into a food forest. (Ask about inter-library loan if yours doesn't have them.)

    Look at the food pinboard on Pinterest.com and start following food blogs. One of my favorites is http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/ -- she shows the price per serving on everything.
    --
    Wendy
    ... and Patrick



  14. #14

    Default

    On the no waste thing - instead of buying chicken pieces, buy a whole chicken. Cook of the carcass for a great stock and make chicken soup.

    Get a hunting and fishing license. Much cheaper to catch trout than buy it. And a deer can feed you all winter.
    http://www.tbhsa.com/index.html

    Originally Posted by JSwan
    I love feral children. They taste like chicken.



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep. 5, 2011
    Posts
    2,966

    Default

    Oh, & Costco's own rotisserie chickens are not only hands-down the best I've ever personally enjoyed, but they're also the least expensive. In addition, in more than one magazine poll a year or so ago, they came up in the top tier.

    When I visit Costco for the essentials I always buy there (toilet paper, paper towels, extra-virgin olive oil, marinara, marinated artichoke hearts, vitamins, meds, etc., etc.), I rarely leave without one of their rotisserie chickens. One bird = 3 meals for two.



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Apr. 29, 2006
    Location
    Evansville, Wisconsin
    Posts
    3,081

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBayHanoMare View Post
    If you can afford a CSA, if there are any in your area, check into those. You can also split them with friends so the cost goes down.
    Yeah, I love my CSA membership. It comes out to $18.85 a week for more than enough veggies for our family of three to use in a week. They also have an every other week option for half the cost. Plus the farm is just down the road from us, so I feel good about giving money to someone local instead of sending it elsewhere. I cook most of the veggies, but end up freezing or canning some as well. And we get a newsletter with recipes tailored to the vegetables we're receiving that week, which is awesome for meal planning. They send out the newsletter on Wednesday night, I plan meals and write a grocery list at that point, go grocery shopping Thursday morning, and then pick up our CSA box Thursday afternoon.

    I like lentils, and bags of dried lentils are a pretty cheap decent protein source. And they're easy to cook.

    Eggs are also relatively cheap. I eat a lot of egg white omelets in the mornings, and after I separate the eggs, I poach the yolks and feed them to the dog.
    "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
    -Edward Hoagland



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Nov. 29, 2008
    Posts
    3,034

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by talkofthetown View Post
    is there some older, wiser, motherly trick to getting decent food that's not going to take my entire paycheck?
    Beans and Lentils…
    Dry Beans and Lentils are seeds. The healthy aspect for them is that they are still a live food, Once a bean or lentil is soaked it is essentially is a seed in the process of germinating. A meal with cooked freshly soaked beans is one that essentially contains fresh cooked vegetables.

    Another nice thing about beans is that some varieties can be sprouted and added to stir fries, or added to salads, Sprouting beans is not very difficult once one learns the procedure, The most commonly sprouted bean is the Mung bean (the bean sprouts added to chinese food). But do read up on sprouting beans so that you are aware of the toxicity concerns that some types of sprouts are said to present. Lima Beans are the ones that I've read should never be sprouted, Iv'e also heard that uncooked sprouted Kidney Beans can be toxic too. I personally only sprout Mung Beans.

    Whole grains…
    If you're going to eat wheat or rice, eating the whole grain varieties are probably the healthier choice. There are many types of whole wheat noodles and pastas available. Whole grain Brown Rice is commonly available too. Also consider meals that include Barley, like a beef barley stew. Oats are good and inexpensive too.

    Vegetables….
    Fresh Cabbage can be very inexpensive, and when cooked can have a taste similar to that of Cauliflower. Shredded Cabbage can be added to stir fries. Cabbage recipes are abundant, and there's a lot one can do with cabbages of all varieties.

    Frozen vegetables are the next healthiest thing to fresh, when they go on sale you can stock up, as long as you have freezer space. But I try to use anything I have in the way of frozen vegetables within a few months from purchase, as they can begin to freeze-dry if kept in a freezer for a long time (at least my freezer anyway).

    Sweet Potatoes (sometimes called yams in the US), they are nutritional and often not that expensive.

    Bananas are usually an affordable fruit. If there's a Spanish population in your area, you can usually find Plantains pretty cheap. I think plantains are healthier then white potatoes, and there's a lot of recipes to use both the green ones, or the ripe ones.

    Meat….
    Chicken is typically the least expensive, Sometimes whole cryovaced(sp?) pork loins go on sale and are close to the same price as chicken breasts.
    Buying meat on sale and freezing can help.

    What I do for quick meals, is buy a roast on sale, or chicken, cook it, use part of it in a meal, and the rest I refrigerate, then the next day I cut it into bite sized pieces that I put on a ziplok freezer bag and freeze. Then if I'm in a rush I can just grab a pot and put some water in it, add some frozen meat, some frozen or fresh vegetables, and then make a quick brown sauce, or sometimes I just drain and add soy sauce. It can also be used in stir fries.

    I don't eat much meat. I think what makes meals most frugal is being able to get creative and use a lot of your least expensive ingredients, and then add vegetables and meat for variety.

    Eggs are cheep and there's a lot you can do with eggs.

    Mastering herbs and spices, and understanding their use in different types of cuisine can go a long way in making the same ingredients into entirely different tasting dishes. I think part of the fun of cooking is the variety you can create, just in how you cook what your cooking.

    Then once a week or so, do a steak, or something special, as long as you budget will allow it.

    Last edited by alterhorse; Sep. 4, 2012 at 11:05 PM.



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Sep. 16, 2006
    Posts
    612

    Default

    - I grow my own herbs year round. Fresh basil here is $5! Having my own basil and dill plants (the herbs I use most) saves tons of money.

    - Buying meat in bulk, weighing it, and freezing it. Only using 4 oz per person (or less) for meat meals.

    - Less meat for meals, more veggies.

    - Frozen veggies

    - Buying veggies and fruit in season

    - Also looking in the discount section. I buy too ripe bananas every week and freeze them for smoothies. Way cheaper than buying a bunch of bananas and waiting for them to ripen.



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Aug. 12, 2010
    Location
    Westford, Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,675

    Default

    I get a lot of mileage out of a great big, roasting chicken. If it's on sale, a 7 pounder is often less than $10. We eat that chicken for days . Roast chicken the first day. Then chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, chicken casserole of some kind... I put the carcass in the crockpot overnight, with some past their prime veggies that would otherwise be wasted: like onion, carrot, celery and make chicken stock with it. I usually get 10 cups of chicken stock from it and freeze it in 2cup bags, each of those replaces a can of chicken stock that I need for other recipes (plus it tastes much better than the canned stuff). The dogs and cat get all the bits and pieces that the people didn't eat. Very efficient and cheap!



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr. 10, 2001
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Posts
    567

    Default

    Find a good butcher. I am from FL so I know they exist. We have one here in GA - my husband bought a ton of meat this weekend ( for us - there's only 2 ) and he spent about 65.00. We will eat off of that for a month or more.

    Plus our butcher told us to start stocking up on beef - it's going to skyrocket in 2013 due to the drought. So I bought a food saver this weekend and am starting to buy beef every time it's on sale.

    I agree though about fruit and veggies - cost a fortune. And I always shop at Publix to get the BOGO. If I use it, and it's BOGO, I will get it even if I don't need it right then.



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