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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
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    4,713

    Healthy food on a tight budget

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    I'm going to be living off student loans for the foreseeable future. Therefore--super-tight budget, in a small and rather backward town (it makes Cincinnati look almost forward-thinking by comparison!). I'm going to be cutting my meat consumption a little bit and forcing myself to eat eggs and beans. But I'd like tasty things too. Anything else? This should not be so difficult, but it's so much cheaper to buy crap!
    At least I don't leave slime trails.
    http://wholecog.wordpress.com/

    2009 Giant Avail 3 |Specialized Jett 143

    2013 Charge Filter Apex| Specialized Jett 143
    1996(?) Giant Iguana 630|Specialized Riva


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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Chicago suburbs
    Posts
    1,244
    Rice, quinoa, oatmeal (yes I've eaten oatmeal for dinner ), PB...these are all foods that are relatively inexpensive, yet can be stretched to last a while.
    2012 Seven Axiom SL - Specialized Ruby SL 155

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Central Indiana
    Posts
    6,132
    I actually find the processed crap to be pretty expensive. Thinks veggies, lentils, beans, and grains, with meat being a treat or "side dish. Plan your meals and grocery visits in advance, preferably a week or two at a time. Buy dry goods in bulk. Plan your meals around grocery sales (esp. on meat) and coupons. Freeze leftovers and/or get some lunches out of them. Don't throw fresh food away; use it creatively before it goes bad.
    Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.

    --Mary Anne Radmacher

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Denver
    Posts
    1,972
    It's taken awhile, but I've started to figure out when things will be marked down at my grocery store, so the few times I eat meat I can buy it at a pretty decent price (I am a meat snob too - no hormones, etc. so I can't afford it at full price!) Then I just cook right away and adapt my meal plan for the week or freeze it til I can figure out what I want to do with it.

    Lunches are still sort of random and based on whatever I'm craving (lots of soup lately, oddly enough), but breakfast is yogurt, frozen fruit, and a little of the Kroger "Natural" cereal (some kind of granola) and dinner is usually salad or pasta (kroger has frozen ravioli & tortellini that is cheap and very good).

    I don't get very creative. I'm usually so hungry by the time I get to eat dinner that I don't want anything that takes more than 10 minutes to prepare. I stock up on frozen fruits and veggies when they're cheap and have gotten pretty creative with crock pot recipes in the winter. Just a little bit of meat and whatever veggies I have on-hand. I have a tiny $6 crock pot and it works well for 3-4 meals for me.

    "I never met a donut I didn't like" - Dave Wiens

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    1,056
    I agree, oatmeal(I too have eaten oatmeal for dinner), PB(grilled PB&J sandwich, yumm), lentils and dried peas to make soup, fruit - whatever is on sale(and in season), eggs, love the frozen pasta too(ravioli and tortellini), pierogies. Most of the grocery stores around us sells the roasted whole chickens, we'll buy one of these, cut it up and put in baggies = to add to salads, make tacos, etc.... I hate processed food and think its more $$$.
    2011 Specialized Secteur Elite Comp
    2006 Trek 7100

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    2,045
    If you have access to tortillas, I ate of lot of corn tortilla quesadillas with lots of veggies and salsa during my student days.

    Eggs are relatively cheap for protein...and a whole chicken is a much better buy than pieces. It's cheaper by the pound, you can get several meals plus a carcass for soup out of it.

    And buy produce that is in season.
    2016 Specialized Ruby Comp disc - Ruby Expert ti 155
    2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker - Jett 143

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    179
    I'm not big on the carby stuff, but I'm sure you can get lots of recommendations on that front from others. As far as meat goes, always make it a point to check out the clearance/markdown meat whenever you're at the grocery store. Buy any "good deals" you find, take them home, repackage them as single servings if needed, and freeze them.

    Sometimes I find nothing, sometimes I bring home several lbs. of meat at a deep discount. A few weeks back I found five packages of pre-marinated chicken breasts for 99 cents a piece. I bought all five. One package is enough for one dinner and 2-3 lunch salads over the following few days. Not a bad yield for 99 cents. At various other times, I've found whole organic/free-range chickens at 50-70% off. That's another multi-meal affair...I eat the thighs and legs for dinner after roasting, pull the meat off of the breasts for salads, use the carcass for stock to make soup or to flavor other foods.

    It takes some looking, but it is totally possible to eat well on a budget. This has actually become sort of a game to me over the years. It started as a necessity just out of college, but now seeing how little I can spend on groceries while still eating a whole foods diet is almost a form of entertainment.
    2009 BMC Road Racer SL 01 / Specialized Ruby 155
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    4,713
    Alas, azfiddle, we in Ohio haven't figured out Mexican food in big cities, let alone tiny towns. Maybe I can get a salsa and tortilla exchange going with DBF in returns for cans of Skyline chili!

    I'm quite happy with rice and oatmeal (I have a small supply of leftover steel-cut, and will have to ask DBF's method of preparing rolled because I actually like it), I didn't particularly care for quinoa (and this isn't a part of the country where you're likely to find anything too "ethnic"), and will have to get used to beans and eggs. Bring on the salsa!

    I know I can stretch a pound of flank steak out over four meals, and a package of chicken breasts out over six at least. Good call on the whole roasting chicken. I make a lot of soup in winter, so saving my buying chicken stock is a good thing--and it's something I don't have to pay a ton of attention to.

    How do the prices of frozen veggies compare to fresh? While I'm never buying frozen spinach (ew), I'm not sure I can stomach the thought of root veggies and kale (as much as I like it) for four months!
    At least I don't leave slime trails.
    http://wholecog.wordpress.com/

    2009 Giant Avail 3 |Specialized Jett 143

    2013 Charge Filter Apex| Specialized Jett 143
    1996(?) Giant Iguana 630|Specialized Riva


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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    This time of year you can do pretty well at the farmers' markets.



    (And spinach is the only vegetable I buy frozen in preference to fresh if I'm planning on putting it in a cooked dish anyway ... it is just TOO much of a pain to wash.)
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    Posts
    6,981
    Interesting discussion...because how we cope depends on what we know or accustomed to in terms of food preparation.

    Just how "backward" is this town, Owlie in terms of food choices? Usually there is at least 1 local ingredient which the locals are tired of because it's in great abundance and therefore cheap during peak season.

    For instance in a quiet rural town of 2,000 people just 2 years ago I found butternut squash for $1.00 for a huge squash that I would have to pay $4.00 in a big city. It's because it's a squash growing region in Ontario. I stir fry my squash cubes which naturally carmelizes it and brings out its sweet flavour. No need for sugar nor honey at all!

    Or another town of 1,000 where I found apple butter for $1.00 per jar....because it's a apple butter producing area.

    Rice, pasta, oatmeal, occasionally a tin of salmon can be stretched with Dijon mustard for sandwiches for 2-3 days, veggies of course.

    HOney for sweetening. Though I never buy it for myself (I don't buy honey or sugar for home. I just eat desserts outside of home).

    With flour, water, an egg or 2 and fresh/dry herbs: can make spaetzle or with yeast (without egg) focaccia with tomato, onion, garlic, herbs and maybe (not necessary) cheese. If you have time... or need a break from studying..

    A tasty pasta dish can be made from linguine sauteed with tin of smoked mussels or tinned clam, tomatoes, onions and garlic. Herbs if available or dried. Yummy.

    With rice being cooked, break an egg and cover rice pot with lid. Egg will be cooked in less than 10 min. How's that for speed?

    Don' forget couscous....too.
    Last edited by shootingstar; 08-20-2011 at 07:05 PM.
    My Personal blog on cycling & other favourite passions.
    遙知馬力日久見人心 Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long period of time, you get to know whatís in a personís heart.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Israel (Middle East)
    Posts
    1,200
    Lentil stews with varied grains - barley, wheat, rice. And seasonal veges. Make your own bread - will pm you an easy no-knead recipe. Home-made granola. Pancakes. Yoghurt you can also make at home and it goes by itself - low-maintenance bacteria! Smoothies.
    What are you studying, by the way?

    All you need is love...la-dee-da-dee-da...all you need is love!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Central Indiana
    Posts
    6,132
    Quote Originally Posted by Owlie View Post
    Alas, azfiddle, we in Ohio haven't figured out Mexican food in big cities, let alone tiny towns. Maybe I can get a salsa and tortilla exchange going with DBF in returns for cans of Skyline chili!

    I'm quite happy with rice and oatmeal (I have a small supply of leftover steel-cut, and will have to ask DBF's method of preparing rolled because I actually like it), I didn't particularly care for quinoa (and this isn't a part of the country where you're likely to find anything too "ethnic"), and will have to get used to beans and eggs. Bring on the salsa!

    I know I can stretch a pound of flank steak out over four meals, and a package of chicken breasts out over six at least. Good call on the whole roasting chicken. I make a lot of soup in winter, so saving my buying chicken stock is a good thing--and it's something I don't have to pay a ton of attention to.

    How do the prices of frozen veggies compare to fresh? While I'm never buying frozen spinach (ew), I'm not sure I can stomach the thought of root veggies and kale (as much as I like it) for four months!
    I live in Franklin, Indiana, which is way more backwater than Dayton, Ohio, and even we have tortillas. But to the extent you really can't find exotic things there, just stock up when you go home for a visit. You make it sound like you're moving to outerspace; surely, it's not quite that bad.

    During law school, I lived on oatmeal and pasta or rice mixed with every conceivable vegetable. Not only was I poor, but my kitchen was barely useable. I survived. You'll be fine.
    Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.

    --Mary Anne Radmacher

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    Quote Originally Posted by Owlie View Post
    we in Ohio haven't figured out Mexican food in big cities, let alone tiny towns
    Okay, I admit I don't know Fairborn at all or Dayton more than superficially, and 20 years ago when my BIL lived in Beavercreek it was unimaginably whitebread (and he liked it that way ).

    But Ohio has a huge and growing Mexican population. There have to be at least ten Mexican owned and operated tiendas in Columbus. Aren't there at least one or two in your area?? Maybe not close enough for a spur-of-the-moment ingredient run, but close enough for a monthly supply trip? And cripes, you should be able to get anything at all in Yellow Springs.


    And I think I glossed over your comment about root veggies and kale, before. If you're looking for local and seasonal that's a great thing, but once winter comes, you're unlikely to be able to find much in the way of locally preserved vegetables and fruits anywhere. If you have the time, facilities (or community canning kitchen) and storage space to preserve things yourself now, that's great, otherwise you're pretty much going to have to resign yourself to stuff imported from California or farther away.


    If you have a sunny window you ought to be able to grow parsley and basil in containers year-round without much attention at all, which can go a long way - parsley especially is a super-nutritious vegetable as much as an herb.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 08-21-2011 at 03:51 AM.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Central Indiana
    Posts
    6,132
    I just Googled "food co-op" and Dayton and came up with the New Life Food Club. It looks like a co-op that order fresh, forzen and dry foods in bulk and the sorts and splits them up among members. I didn't look to see about prices, but this might be a cost-effective way to find some better quality ingredients.
    Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.

    --Mary Anne Radmacher

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Washington, DC
    Posts
    1,686
    I will add one suggestion to those made here: farro. It's a grain typical of Italy. Cook it like rice... 25min or so, with 2 cups of water (or broth) to one of farro. I make "salads" that I take for lunch at the office (I do the same with quinoa). Two very easy ones:
    • roasted Brussel sprouts, golden raisins, and farro with some grated pecorino romano. Salt to taste.
    • tuna, capers, chopped tomato, farro, with olive oil and lime, salt and pepper to taste.

    It's very high in protein -- one cup has 12g of protein (I think quinoa has about 8g), and I find the taste very pleasant whereas the nutty taste of quinoa tends to tire me.

    PS: I find farro at Whole Foods and Italian delis.
    Last edited by pll; 08-21-2011 at 04:36 AM. Reason: added information

 

 

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