How do I eat healthy on a tight budget?
Fast food can be tempting because it's cheap, but healthy eating is important for your child's nutrition. How do you eat healthy when you don't have much money to spend?
My best advice is to plan ahead and actually cook. Make a menu around what's on sale and what's in season. Know the average price of your staple items and when you make your grocery list you can keep your list within your budget.
Another way to stretch your food dollar is to rely on a large cut of meat for more than one dinner. For example a roast chicken can become chicken soup, chicken enchiladas and maybe wraps. A roast could be bbq beef sandwiches, soup, stir fry etc.
When you find a great sale, try to stock up. Some veggies can be cut and frozen for later.
Also, have a few quick budget basic meals to fall back on. Breakfast for dinner, veggie pastas etc. This way if you need to stretch things out a little longer- no problem.
Go meatless more often. Eliminating or greatly reducing the animal protien in your diet saves lots of money and is much better for your body and the environment. Try keeping dry staples around like bulk beans, brown rice, as in Michelle's answer and plan your meals ahead. A combination of beans and grains, IE bean burritos wrapped in whole wheat tortillas or even peanut butter on brown bread, makes a complete protein-just as good as meat and at a fraction of the cost. Buy only what you need in fresh fruits and veggies to last a couple of days, then shop again if possible. Fruits and veggies lose nutrients quickly in the frige. When things are in season, buy and freeze if you have the space. Blanching and freezing is easier than most people think and you preserve the nutrients. Go online for how-to.
We buy our fruits & vegetables at the Farmer's market which definitely costs less than the supermarket. I make a lot of soups come fall. They are inexpensive, healthy, & can make enough for a few meals for the week. Then I just whip up a batch of "Quick Biscuits" from a recipe I found on the internet & add herbs or honey to the butter for something different to go with the soup. Salads in the summer are another quick cheap meal. Especially if you raise a few of your own veggies. I add some salt & pepper, a little garlic powder, Olive Oil & red-wine vinegar. This is one of our favorites for a ridiculously hot day when no one really feels like eating much. A piece of left over chicken, pork, or steak chopped up and added to the top is a nice way to stretch your wallet too. Another family favorite is to get a rotisserie chicken from the store (already cooked & costs the same amount as an uncooked one). We have most of it for dinner one night, then the next night I fry onions& peppers until they are soft, add 1 cup of frozen corn (or 1 can), a can of black beans, taco seasoning (chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt & pepper), cilantro (or parsley) & the left over chicken. We eat it as burritos or tacos.
We write about it and we talk to experts on our radio show. Here are just a few ideas. Eat less - Americans as a whole eat more than needed. Buy nutrient packed foods which satisfies ones appetite since you are well fed. The empty junk cheap food is nutrient-empty so you keep eating since you are not getting what you need - money down the drain. Coupons and sweepstakes help. Buy online - look for deals and again, coupons, on food companies' websites. Grow your own - its easier than you think. Just one tomato plant can save you money. More plants, more food, more savings. We are talking to Farmer Jay about this on this Friday's internet radio show, www.BetterFoodChoicesRadio.com, noon EDT. It's a podcast so available for free on iTunes. And there's more ... for the health of your family, ellen@KidKritics.com
We rely on the bulk bins in our supermarket alot. Quinoa, lentils, brown rice, nuts, grain cereals...its all there and you can buy just what you need (or can afford before the next pay day) so you can manage your shopping budget better. Spending a little less on the dry goods means that we can allocate a bit more to fruits and veggies. We try to shop all organics, but know there are some fruits/veg where organic is more important (like things that you eat with the peel on) so we'll go for organic for those first if we are on a tighter budget.
When my children were younger, I was a single parent on food stamps. I cooked fresh foods. Fresh foods are far less expensive ( and healthier) than frozen, canned and processed foods. Especially if they are in season. I wasn't a total "earth mother" but my food stamps lasted until the end of the month!
I try to shop ahead little by little and freeze what I can and re-use leftovers for a different recipe. I find that shopping the Farmers Market for fresh fruits and vegetables is a BIG money saver for my family as my 4 year old LOVES his fruits and vegetables and alot of these you can blanch and freeze to use through the winter when your budget seems to be a little tighter.
I also plan a menu for a month at a time so that I can plan out exactly what I need. I take a look to see what I need for meat and how many pounds and I place an order at my local meat place. Say I need 15 pounds of ground beef, 15 pounds of chicken breast, and a few steaks and pork chops, they will package it all for me by pound (2 pound packages for example) so that I can go home and use my Food Saver and throw it in the freezer so I can grab what I need when I need it.
I know that there are computer programs out there (my mother owns one) where you can input all your recipes into the program and when you get ready to make your menu for the month (or whatever time frame) it will automatically make your grocery list for you and cut out things that should already be on hand. The worst part of planning a menu for me is to write out all the ingredienst and figure out what I NEED to buy.
Use your resources around you and try to think ahead. Planning ahead really helps me to stay on budget!
I have always cooked real, fresh food for my kids. I knock myself out, going to the Farmer’s Market weekly, boiling beets, making hummus and pesto from scratch, squeezing fresh orange juice and baking treats instead of breaking down and buying them. BUT truth be told, given the choice, they would most likely opt for pizza or chicken nuggets. My youngest leaned over to me on Mother’s Day and said he loved me more than ketchup, which is saying a lot!
So what is a mom to do when the family food budget gets slashed, as ours did during this recession? Now I’m not really complaining, I was guilty of just throwing stuff in my cart at Trader Joe’s, buying salmon, tri-tip and organic produce more often than I should have, and generally NOT scrimping on food. But, times have been tough and I have been working hard to continue to feed my family well on a reduced budget. One of my go-to recipes the last few years has been the Moosewood Cookbook’s lentil soup. Read more:
If you have a Produce Junction in your area then definitely head there for your fresh produce and eggs (you can get 3 dozen for about $3). They have amazing deals as everything is already packaged and you are not paying by the pound. You can get a bag of 4 red or orange peppers for like $2! We shop a lot at Trader Joe's because the food is of good quality and a good price, a lot of organic products that are actually affordable. I don't have to rely on sales to shop there because it's always the same price. I also check out the reduced meat bin at the grocery store. You can get some good deals there and the meat is still good, it's just on the last day or a day or two over the shelf date. You can get a great cut of meat for often times 50% off. We don't really eat grains so we're not spending a bundle on breakfast cereal, rolls for burgers and things like that which helps us save money and be healthier.
Home cooked meals are the best! You can feed your family a healthy meal for less than drive-thru or a quick boxed dinner. Make sure that you include vegies in all of your dinners! You can have a yummy home cooked meal in like 30 minutes too! Try this: chicken pieces are always cheaper than everything else..put some pieces in a baking dish..pre-heat your oven to 350..take a can or 2 of cream of chicken soup and smush it all over the chicken..bake it for 30-40 minutes. While thats baking..you can make some mashed potatoes, or rice..and a bag of Steamfresh vegies from the freezer section at any store. The chicken pieces run about $5..potatoes are like $4 for a 10 pound bag..rice is $2.. and the vegies are $1.50 .... that's dinner for about $10!!!!!!! I do it all the time so if you need any help or tips just email me email@example.com and I'll help you out! I am all for healthier families and love what I can do on a modest income =)
I honestly do not know how you feed a family of 4, decently, on a monthly food budget of $250! There is almost no way it can be good quality food, or either you are spending your life in the kitchen! These people on the extreme couponing show usually end up with crap like ramen noodles and highly processed artificial junk, and then are proud of themselves for it! And are you counting eating out? I don't see how you possibly could be. Maybe you never do eat out.
I spend on average of $250 a month on groceries for a family of 4. I do not buy prepackaged, processed foods and I make 99% of all our food at home. I do not use a lot of meat in anything just because we are not all that into meat as a whole but also because it can add up really quickly on your grocery bill. We do eat chicken and I buy the boneless skinless breasts in a bag for that and pound them flat with a meat mallet so I can get 2 servings from one overly thick breast which also makes it go farther. I also come up with a monthly menu which helps me stay on track at the store and so I know when we can have a leftovers night which is usually once a week. For some meals like chili I make it and then take half and freeze it for a future meal. Before I had my kids I would cook and bake on the weekend and freeze the meals so all i had to do was thaw and reheat when I was in a hurry for dinner or just didn't feel like doing a whole lot of cooking instead of hitting the fast food joints or calling out for pizza.
i like to buy chicken at the store bring it home grill it up or cook it up, freeze in portions and then use it when i need it u can also do this with the bulk of ur hamburger u buy and many other meats. i personally do not like pork but that would work too. it takes 20-30 min to do then freeze and when ur ready defrost and add the rest of ur ingrediants. i also find my crock pot to be a life savor, u can make ur own recipes this way(no directions needed). i like to throw canned veggies in my crock pot meals if i cant afford fresh and if u have veggies that r fresh and need to be used put them in there and freeze the leftovers makes a great lunch for a day at work. i also cant stress enough how just drinking water and limiting ur familys intake of juice can save ur budget, milk is also a healthy option if there are no allergies. i hope these tips help
I use coupons and check the online coupon sites for the best deals combining coupons and weekly sales . It helps to know what your local resources are . I shop the dollar tree and the .99 cents only store . I recently discovered that the Dollar Tree stocks" shelf stable "quarts of mik . They are fine for cooking and cream for coffee . I find Natures Owns Bread at the Dollar Tree and Mrs. Bairds bread at the .99 cent only store . Buy pasta , rice , beans and oatmeal when it is your stores loss leader (try to find coupons to match ) and really stock up . I buy from 6 to 12 months worth of staples at a time . Buy flour , sugar and oil the same way and make your own bread , muffins , cookies and cakes . I was able to find a ( very expensive model ) bread machine for $12.50 at my local thrift store . I use it to make /bake bread and pizza dough . Google what ingredients you have on hand to help you find recipes that utilize all of your pantry staples . Know when your grocery marks down it's meat and milk . Get to know your town and neighborhood . Does your neighbor have a fig tree and never picks the figs .......Ask if you may pick them in exchange for bread or jam . If you have water and a sunny back yard , then it's time to start a garden . I have had good results with (free) seeds from friends cantalope this year . Peppers and basil are very easy to grow .
You don't have to have fresh veggies you can use frozen in this day and time frozen is almost as good . If you use vegetables in the in season they are cheaper , That is what we do and the sale meats are the meats we eat . If it is an especially good sale we buy extra and freeze it . Everybody has to be careful with their grocery dollar these days . We raise a lot to our veggies . Some don't require a lot of room . The main thing I found is to take the time to prepare your food don't buy precooked . And bake from scratch the internet is the best cook book you can have .
I read some of the answers below and they are, in my opinion, great answers. The other thing to think about, is, by eating healthy you will have fewer doctors bills because you will stay healthier. If your family is eating healthy, they will also live longer, healthier lives. You can't put a price on this.
We get fresh fruits and vegetables from a farmers market coop. Wonderful food and not so much expense. We also don't eat out very often. It is also helpful to make a grocery list of items you expect to prepare in the near future.
I find fast food more expensive than buying & cooking them myself. but anyway: By bulk if you can so it last longer, chicken is also healthy& can be cooked a lot of different ways. Thats what i do anyway. im a single mom on a tight budget,it works for me. hope this helps you.
hi my husband and i had 2 boys and a girl each from a previous marriage and then we had a boy and another girl so 8 in total now before wehad our last baby we struggle a hell of lot no easy feet
I tried to grow my own veges we would do the shopping on a friday night then on a saturday morning while my husband was at work i'd make the weeks evening meals eg lasagne,cottage pie meatballs, chickenpie,soups then freeze them as well we would buy the cheaper cuts of meat like minced beef chicken some times pork very rarely that was for a special occassion when the veges was in abundance eg corn i would try and buy alot blanch and freeze it cause at the time it was 10cents a cob made alot of sense i also did baking on two days saturday and either a wednesday or thursday so my family had fresh things for their lunch boxes we didn't have expenive stuff in my pantry but we had alot so we didn't starve i also asked for the plums nextdoor which noone was there for i turn into jams sauces and freeze also make into plum and apple crumble for an evening dessert when it was time for other fruit eg mandarins peaches i would bottle them graprfruit etc would be made into marmalade and exchange for alot more seeds which where harvested by the nextdoor couple so in dollar value i wouldn't have a clue but with only one income i think we did extremely well we always had enough to give away to other families if they were in need please keep in mind that my husband and i was also building a house ourselves each week including other things like toilet paper lady stuff etc we only had at the most $180 to spend we would have our treats once a fortnight eg kfc fish nchips or go to the hot pools for a family swim for their school lunches try making a jelly the night before it only cast 50c sausage pinwheels they love these fresh fruit also maybe a fruit slice made at home
Sometimes instead of meat we have eggs. My husband loves it and so do I, whether they're fried, hard boiled, scrambled or made into quiche. Another idea to stretch your meat budget is to cut a pound of hamburger in half when you get home from the market. Half of it I'll use for spaghetti with meat sauce and the other half I'll use in my ground beef and bean chili. No one feels deprived and eating less meat is healthier for us. Lastly, to cut calories and money, we rarely have a third item on our plate. For instance, instead of having chicken, green beans and potatoes, we just have the chicken and green beans. We really don't need a startch and we fill up on the salad or veggies.
Buy all your produce at a local farmers market. You will always save money. Grow a garden that way throughout the summer you have fresh fruits and veggies. Always look for things on sale. use coupons.
Growing up we always ate home-cooked meals...going out was a once-a-month on Sunday, give-mom-a-break thing...and in those days the foods in the restaurants were made from scratch also...McD's wasn't even a thing back then...So once I had my own children I did the same...cooked from scratch...pasta is easy to make and can be frozen before cooking...when making a big pot of chili, remove some beans, these can be smashed and refried to add to your tacos etc...(my kids didn't like refried beans so I always added it to the hamburger mixture and it stretched it out for a couple of meals(and they never realized it until they watched me cook)...when needing a snack, keep frozen grapes in clean yogurt cups (really great on hot days)...buy baby carrots they go farther and are cheaper(great for snacking)...make fresh fruit popsicles...use your blender and make smoothies(also can be frozen for a light dessert),,,make homemade cookies...I only baked enough for one night and froze the dough for later use...definitely have a window herb garden (kids love helping and it's a great family project)...when you have a chance to buy tomatoes in bulk learn to make your own sauce, ketchup, marinara, etc...save the ketchup bottles you have on hand and just reuse...homemade bread dough can be refrigerated or frozen, this can be used to make dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, pizza etc...do you like Hawaiian rolls?...add pineapple and its' juice to your bread dough...learn to make your own cheese sauces...you can make some awesome homemade mac 'n' cheese etc..most nights my meals were cooked in under 30 minutes (I was doing this before Rachael Ray was even an inkling in her Mamas' eye)...the only meals that took longer were my soups, stews, and roasts..soups are always a good filler and easy to make...I always make my own Potato soup, onion soup, mushroom soup, creamy vegetable (no meat yet tastes like it), and can be made in under an hour...I don't know how old your children are but, get them in the kitchen with you and make cooking the meals a family thing...even the youngest ones can be given a job to help...the sooner you teach them to eat healthy the better their future health...and if you must have candy...learn to make certain kinds yourself...every fall we would make taffy and caramels...messy but so much fun for the family to do together and a great memory...I even make my own peanut butter cups and cherry mash's(or cherry mountains depending on where you live)...just need a chocolate fix...make truffles with chocolate ganache (freeze and eat when needed)...Wishing you all a Pink Day~
It takes some effort. One thing I did when we were in graduate school in early marriage with several children was to plan my menu for the whole month. I generated a list of our favorite meals and then I used a large desk blotter type calendar to write the meal choices on and then I used it for all my daily and family events (Our family planner) I could then plan for the purchase of the products needed for the meals when they were on sale, I always tried to have the staples in storage for easy access. I did the bulk of my shopping in one or two trips, the more often I went to the store the more I spent. I found when I had my meals already decided on I would be more likely to cook from the basics, plan for left overs for future meals, start early enough.....the most likely roadblocks for me. We lived on very little during those years and did not use food stamps. I would go to the grocery store in the fall and ask for their bruised fruit and bottle them for the rest of the year. They often would sell them lower than normal cost. Most over ripe and bruised fruit can be made into jam by cutting out the worst of it and mashed. The less bruised pieces I bottled for the winter. I grew a small garden and froze or bottled the extra vegetables (especially tomatoes, others need to be pressure canned) It was during this period of life I learned to make bread, cook dry beans and to bottle fresh fruits. All of which tastes better and makes it hard to enjoy the commercially produced items.
Stay away from convenience foods. Cook from scratch every thing that you can . crock pot is a god send . Tougher less expensive cuts of meat can be made extremely tender in the crock pot and or pressure cooker. Stock up on lentils, split peas beans ,flour oatmeal bran things like that , when I am really broke I make my own breads adding oatmeal or flax seed, bran makes the bread more nutritious and more filling. A big pot of soup made with legumes and veggies and a piece of home made grainy bread goes a long way . I find that having bacon in the freezer is a good $ saver a few slices cooked and crumbled over pasta , salads, in soups adds a lot of flavor and you don't need much. I buy tons of fresh spinach when it is in season and freeze it whole add it to every thing even muffins , lots of nutrients very low cost eggs good protein source very economical , they can be frozen as well not in the shells .
You can visit http://www.concernedcitizensnetwork.org/category/health/ which I find tremendous help about a healthy diet. You can also help to make input to make healthy foods affordable and accessible by sending a letter to your legislator regarding the 2012 Farm Bill by clicking at "Take Action" at http://www.concernedcitizensnetwork.org/category/take-action/.
No one pointed out the simplest answer and that is to grow your own food. By growing your own you will save so much and teach your children the process of food and how it comes to us. You will also know how it is grown and not have to worry about using chemicals or other harmful agents.
This year my family decided to have a farm share which is also known as Community Supported Agriculture.
We found a local farm with organic produce fresher and less expensive than at the store. We feel a sense of community and support a local farm in a win/win situation.
Now we try foods we might not otherwise try. Every week we walk to our pickup location with friends. It is a fun way to support local farms while being well nourished.
To learn more about the farm we chose visit www.MaxWellNourished.com.
To find a farm in your area go to www.localharvest.org
A great place to get fruits and veggies on a tight budget is at a farmers market. There is no mark up in price that you would see at a grocery store, and things are fresher.
I have recently cut back on all fast food and processed food for my family. In the beginning it was a lot more time and money, but once you get the hang of it, I actually spend less money each mouth and I know exactly what my kids are eating. We only eat organic foods and I found that by going to local farmers markets and using farm to table you save money, the food tastes better and I get the kids involved in the process so they actually give me less grief about what we are eating, I am also in the process of learning to preserve/can foods so we will have good food throughout the year as we are trying to avoid canned foods as well. Hope this helps, Kelly
With a little creativity, you can easily turn one meal into two! Saturday night chili becomes chili mac on busy week nights, and a large pot of spaghetti will be spaghetti pizza served with a salad later in the week. If you grocery shop weekly, for example, create a menu and look at what can be made into leftovers.
As for the couponing, I agree that a lot of it is junk, but not all. There are often many healthy items available with coupons, and even so, only use your coupons on toiletries and household items if necessary. I may spend a little more to have extra money to fill the fridge with fresh produce, but I didn't pay one penny for our shampoo, body wash and toothpaste.
Breadmaker. Breadmaker. I cannot stress this enough. Make your own bread for pennies a loaf. You do not need to use breadmaker flour, or even breadmaker yeast, in my experience. Then you can make whole wheat bread, or 50% whole wheat, or any percentage you choose, for really cheap. The Real Canadian Superstore brand whole wheat flour is very inexpensive, and ground finely enough to make a good loaf in a breadmaker. You can use cheap white sugar in the recipe - you don't need to use honey or molasses or even brown sugar. I found a breadmaker at a thrift store for $15. My family of 8 eats a lot of bread. I make a loaf once a day usually, sometimes twice. It takes me 3 minutes (I timed it) to measure the ingredients into the pan. I have all my measuring spoons and cups right in the ingredients so I don't have to search, and I have my recipe memorized. Do it!
Cook your own as much as possible. Use evrerything. For example, buy a whole chicken instead of pieces, and use the leftovers and bones for soup. Ramp up the protien with legumes, nut butters, shop from the bulk bins, it"s cheaper. If you have any space for gardening, grow herbs, salad veggies, chard and beets. Fresh lettuces are so much better than store bought. Eat less processed foods, they cost more. Example: make oatmeal instead of processed cereal for breakfast.
Shop the deals and when you find a really good one buy extra and put in the freezer, if you possibly can.
Couponing and getting my produce at a fresh market at a Flea Market near my home has revolutionized the way we eat in our home. I average $150 every 2 weeks and save anywhere between $85- $100!
I go for the fresh, made from scratch items like produce, meats and dairy and grain items that are not processed and I will buy as much on sale as I can. We eat very little beef but do buy some locally grown grass fed once a year at a cheaper price, and only have beef once or twice a week. The rest of the time it is Chicken, turkey, ground beef or turkey and fish when on sale.
The simpler you make your meals the cheaper they can be.. If you use recipes that call for a lot of ingredients that can get pricey, but say a baked chicken, baked potatoes, vegetable and salad with healthy bread or rolls can be really inexpensive, especially if you buy everything when it is on sale and stock up, as you are able.
I was always on a tight budget and with 3 hungry growing boys it was a challenge. Tortillas and cheese or cereal or toast or fruit for after school snacks, egg sandwiches for breakfast or whole grain generic cereals like shredded wheat, or raisin bran or cheerios.. (the lower sugar cereals), or oatmeal were our breakfast choices and again, I only bought breads and cereals that were on sale.. bread can be up to 3.50 or more per loaf but I would just buy the 2.00 100% whole wheat, generic tortilla chips( one of the only snack items I would buy).
Lots of fruits and veggies but again only the lower priced or sale items.. there may be 6 kinds of apples I would like to get but only one or 2 were under a dollar a pound, those I would get. I always get celery, carrots, onions, parsley, greens onions etc and add others as I could budget in, but would sadly pass on the brocoli, cauli or zucchini if expensive..So a sample week of dinners might be 1.00 angel hair pasta with 1.00+ pasta sauce with ground turkey and above chopped veggies added and then just some bread and salad, tacos with rice and beans, baked chicken and rice or potatoes, meatloaf(gr. turkey or?) mashed potatoes .. so anyway you get my drift.. Lunches would always be a sandwich with chips, fruit and maybe granola bar(generic).
The big treat would be finding chuck roast or other on sale and I would buy 2 or 3 and put in freezer.. at about 4.00 each(back then anyway..LOL) just add potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion and make a little gravy and you are set. Here is another secret, I would make a huge batch of meatloaf mix(ground turkey was cheapest) adding lots more oatmeal or bread crumbs, eggs and veggies chopped and some maybe blended in the blender so that I could reduce the amount of meat, then make several meatloaves and whole cookie sheets of meatballs that I would broil under the broiler and freeze.. I always used fresh whole potatoes or instant mashed potatoes(cheapest) brown rice, dry peas and beans of all kinds adding just a llitle bacon bits or turkey ham for flavoring. And I was always well stocked with herbs and spices and garlic. Well I did go on and on here hoping it will be a help to someone. Stick to generic condiments and seasonings as well.
As for fast food, we did have 10.00 for one night a week for Taco Bell or? and each boy could get 3 - 1.00 items and then water to drink... it was a special treat to go out on Tues night!
It can be difficult if you are shopping at health food stores as their prices tend to be a bit higher than regular super markets. However, if you watch for sales and sit down to make out a menu for the week ahead of time, it can be done.
I do not know your eating habits but I am a slight person and I eat a small breakfast, a decent lunch and generally a light dinner. I also eat what I call "mono meals". That's a meal where I eat only one thing. For example, I will eat just one piece of fruit, or I will eat just salad. I also often eat just 2 things, such as steamed potatoes and steamed spinach. It doesn't take much to fill me up so I am lucky in that way.
I do encourage you to read labels and to stay away from additives whose names you cannot pronounce. If you are a meat eater try to stay away from nitrites, they are one of the worst poisons in American processed meat.
Good luck with your ability to stretch your food dollar. It may mean having to change some eating habits, but I am the kind of soul who believes that "where there is a will, there is a way."