Budget ideas?

Jennimecham
Jennimecham Posts: 1 Member
edited November 2017 in Food and Nutrition
I'm newly single and find that my grocery budget has to be much less than it was. It seems that eating healthy is so much more expensive. For example, I need to take lunch to work. A salad is more than a 99 cent microwave meal. Can anyone give me tips on how to eat healthy, get all of nutrients in, and stay in a minimal budget? I have about 65 pounds to lose and I'm dreading the holiday season... I could use some motivation and tips! Thank you!
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Replies

  • cdudley628
    cdudley628 Posts: 547 Member
    Meal prep is my best advice.

    Batch cook and spread the food out throughout the week, or even find recipes that you can freeze leftovers and then you have "frozen meals" for lunch. There are many blogs that discuss freezer meals and provide recipes. There are also blogs (and YouTube channels) about eating on a budget. If you don't like spending a lot of time cooking, slow cookers and instant pots are great!

    Coupons could also help. Shop sales and stock up when your staples are cheap. If you find clearance meat or an amazing meat sale, you can stock up on it and freeze it for when you need it.
  • CarvedTones
    CarvedTones Posts: 2,340 Member
    I prefer fresh, but if I were on a budget I would buy a lot of fruits and veggies frozen. They are usually considerably cheaper, especially when you consider waste/spoilage. If you are a milk drinker, buy whole milk instead of skim and cut your portion to 60% of what you would normally drink; you may even find that much more filling. Buy chicken breasts that aren't filleted and filet them yourself and/or buy thigh meat and just use 80% of what you would for white; again you may find it just as filling. Eat lots of chicken.
  • GOT_Obsessed
    GOT_Obsessed Posts: 817 Member
    It's a good idea to freeze seasonal items if you can. In August I picked strawberries on 3 occasions very cheaply and froze them all. Now I plop one or 2 onto a drink as "ice cubes" or make them into smoothies.

    Moral of the story: Be aware of what is in season and what is not.
  • I personally almost never eat salads, because I think they are boring and not filling. Usually I just eat smaller portions of food that I really like. A box of pasta + can of tomato sauce is probably more than 99 cents, but it will last 4 or more meals, so it probably comes out to be less per meal. Rice and beans are also a staple for me, and cheap. Potatoes are on super sale this week because of thanksgiving coming up, so I'll probably have a baked potato for a few lunches. I just cook them all one night and boom, lunch for the week.

    If I *were* to make a salad, here's what I would do.
    Bunch of spinach: $1.00 (you do have to wash and cut this yourself)
    Tofu block: $2.00 (I'm vegetarian, but maybe something like frozen chicken breast on sale would have a similar price point?)
    Leftover cold veg, potatoes, grains from my fridge, dressing from my fridge.
    That's enough for 4 salads, and though not very interesting, would get the job done for not much more than 99 cents per meal.

    Best of luck, I totally understand the challenges on eating well on less money. Sometimes, if a 99 cent packaged meal is what works into your energy/time/financial/calorie budget, just role with it! And don't feel guilty.
  • celiah909
    celiah909 Posts: 141 Member
    edited November 2017
    Buy in bulk and meal prep. Plus I feel those .99 microwave meals don’t fill me up so that’s not helpful.
    Buy rice and beans in the larger bags, not canned or microwaveable. Also I buy frozen veggies. They last longer and are just as good.

    I also shop the sales. So if chicken is on sale that’s what I grab.

    Best of luck!
  • kimny72
    kimny72 Posts: 16,027 Member
    Nothing wrong with microwave meals.

    I like to make a big pot of soup or a grain salad on Sunday. Then I portion it out for lunches throughout the week.

    Frozen veggies, in season produce, canned beans, bulk grains, eggs, store brand yogurt, rolled oats, canned tuna are all inexpensive. If you make stuff like that the foundation of your diet, there's nothing wrong with adding in some cheap convenience food.
  • nickssweetheart
    nickssweetheart Posts: 904 Member
    You've gotten a lot of great advice already and I don't have much to add. I just want to highlight one thing as a person preparing meals for one (yes, I'm single, despite the screen name from 2011!)
    Plan meals to avoid waste. Store properly and eat up everything. Don't be picky, but don't base your intake on foods you don't like, either. Try new things occasionally.

    I really think the above is key for the newly single. Don't buy anything perishable without knowing how you're going to use it or having a plan for preserving it/using it up if you don't eat it as fast as you expect.

    For example, I will go ahead and buy more carrots if I get a good price even if I don't have a specific meal in mind because I can ALWAYS make soup. When grapes are cheap, I wash them all and then freeze some in 1 cup portions because frozen grapes are delicious and good "slow" eating. I never hesitate to buy onions because they last really well and I use them in everything. What I won't do is buy extra lettuce because 1) I don't have a way to easily use it up if it starts to get old and 2) the ways I like to eat lettuce involve higher calorie ingredients like oil or dressing.

    And others have mentioned lentils. They are SO good. If you haven't cooked with them before here are a few really cheap recipes:

    https://forksoverknives.com/recipes/budget-friendly-lentil-bolognese/#gs.rVl=Acs
    geniuskitchen.com/recipe/easy-lentil-stew-191459

    And a bonus recipe that's good for using up carrots and celery and onions if you have too many:

    geniuskitchen.com/recipe/uncle-bills-vegetarian-minestrone-soup-81419

  • Nikion901
    Nikion901 Posts: 2,467 Member
    I'm single also ... and I don't know what your food budget allows, but my average food cost is 180 per month over the last 11 months. I cook all my own meals except for the one-time a month allowance for a restaurant/fast-food/takeout/orderin meal. I eat a lot ... as I have only lost 20 pounds this year ... so I know I could cut it back some more.

    If what I spend is within your budget for food, send me a message and I will give you more details of how I use the food I buy. Otherwise, you have gotten some other very good responses here already.
  • Heather4448
    Heather4448 Posts: 908 Member
    Meal prep.
  • cmtigger
    cmtigger Posts: 1,450 Member
    edited November 2017
    You've gotten a lot of great advice already and I don't have much to add. I just want to highlight one thing as a person preparing meals for one (yes, I'm single, despite the screen name from 2011!)
    Plan meals to avoid waste. Store properly and eat up everything. Don't be picky, but don't base your intake on foods you don't like, either. Try new things occasionally.

    I really think the above is key for the newly single. Don't buy anything perishable without knowing how you're going to use it or having a plan for preserving it/using it up if you don't eat it as fast as you expect.

    For example, I will go ahead and buy more carrots if I get a good price even if I don't have a specific meal in mind because I can ALWAYS make soup. When grapes are cheap, I wash them all and then freeze some in 1 cup portions because frozen grapes are delicious and good "slow" eating. I never hesitate to buy onions because they last really well and I use them in everything. What I won't do is buy extra lettuce because 1) I don't have a way to easily use it up if it starts to get old and 2) the ways I like to eat lettuce involve higher calorie ingredients like oil or dressing.

    And others have mentioned lentils. They are SO good. If you haven't cooked with them before here are a few really cheap recipes:

    https://forksoverknives.com/recipes/budget-friendly-lentil-bolognese/#gs.rVl=Acs
    geniuskitchen.com/recipe/easy-lentil-stew-191459

    And a bonus recipe that's good for using up carrots and celery and onions if you have too many:

    geniuskitchen.com/recipe/uncle-bills-vegetarian-minestrone-soup-81419
    So true about perishables. I have chickens and guinea pigs so they can pretty much eat anything I don’t, but I also freeze a lot. I portion out meals into single servings and label and date with the month and year and throw them into my freezer. Also, if I open a jar of something that won’t last until I use it all, I portion it out and freeze too.

    Every so often I take a shopping break for a couple weeks and only get something if I really need it- like milk or produce- and live out of my cabinets and freezer. Sometimes it’s because I have too much, other times it’s financial necessity like this month when my plumbing needed work and my car battery needed work and was broken into last month. Catch up time.


    Edit- I enter the recipe in the recipe builder and I don’t delete it until I’m sure I’ve eaten it all out of the fridge or freezer.
  • cmtigger
    cmtigger Posts: 1,450 Member
    Oh, an often maligned budget food is sardines. Low calorie, high protein, high calcium. A can of the ones canned in tomato sauce mashed up and put on pasta and topped with a little cheese is a quick and cheap meal.
  • pisces1983
    pisces1983 Posts: 10 Member
    I find shopping for fresh fruit and veggies makes my grocery bill much less than it use to be. I use to spend $300 a week eating out. Now I don’t buy anything but fresh fruit, veggies and fish. The fish can be expensive but being over weight is something I would pay lots of money to change so I just use that money to be healthy instead. Now I spend $90 a week on groceries. I cut out all things that aren’t strictly meals or within my allotted points for a snack. A lot of my friends and family pay for expensive diet plans or to belong to expensive gyms. I decided if I wanted this badly enough I wasn’t going to use time or money as an excuse. I run outside 5 times a week for free and keep my kitchen stocked with fruit and veggies to snack on.
  • maura_tasi
    maura_tasi Posts: 196 Member
    I agree with meal prepping. Yes, a salad may seem more than those 99 cent meals, however, the ingredients for a salad will last longer. Those 99 cent meals add up! When I grocery shop I look at all of the ads at the stores in my area and find the products I need that are the cheapest. My grocery trips last a little longer because I go to several stores to save money but it's worth it. Do you have an Aldi near you? If so definitely do a lot of shopping there. Ive only had a few so-so experiences with the produce and overall I find it great. They have awesome prices on fresh produce and meats. The only thing I wouldn't recommend at Aldi is there frozen veggies, I haven't had the best experience with them and prefer t wait until the brand name ones or the big grocery store brand go on sale at my grocery store. Before you go out for your shopping trip decided exactly what you will need for the week so you aren't over buying. I'm a big fan of stirfrys for meal preps. I use whatever veggies were on sale that week and stir fry them in a skillet and put over brown rice and that'll either be my lunch or dinner for 4-5 days. Meat is expensive, but stock up when it goes on sale because it freezes well! Also, there's nothing wrong with frozen veggies. Those steam bags often go on sale for $1 and are great for meals and meal preps and for bulking up meals. It does seem like those inexpensive freezer meals are cheaper than fresh produce, but the cost of them do add up and they are far less satisfying since ththan servings are usually small. It takes some getting used to but I think you will find if you look at all of the ads and shop the sales you'll be spending less than you think on the fresh stuff!
  • toxikon
    toxikon Posts: 2,384 Member
    www.budgetbytes.com

    - Stock up on freezable/non-perishable foods when on sale
    - Lots of beans, rice, eggs, veggies, fruit are cheap
    - Meal-prepping can reduce food waste (make a large batch and freeze half)
    - Avoid restaurants/fast food in favour of cooking at home
    - Buy only small amounts of fresh food to reduce food waste (fresh produce and meats can go bad quickly)
  • megbrewerr
    megbrewerr Posts: 25 Member
    When I'm cooking on a budget I get whatever type of lean meat is on sale (ground beef or turkey, chicken breast or thighs), with a plethora of frozen vegetables to save $, then sometimes some rice. Add hot sauce, greek yogurt, seasoning and/or salsa to give it some flavor. Very simple to count, can get a little boring
  • perriwinklejones
    perriwinklejones Posts: 11 Member
    edited November 2017
    Three words.

    Beans, rice and curry xx (eta: okay, 4 words.)
  • jb050794
    jb050794 Posts: 44 Member
    If you shop late at night, look for the "Manager specials" on meat. Very cheap meat, but cook and eat it soon!