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Is it possible to eat healthy and still keep cost down?
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Is it possible to eat healthy and still keep cost down?

With the price of groceries lately (not to mention gas) we are trying to think of how we can cut costs on our grocery bill. Unfortunately, the cost of food and gas has gone up but my husband's paycheck has not! I'm sure you all feel the pinch too.
My question is does anyone have any ideas how we can cut down on our grocery bill and STILL eat healthy? Is it even possible? I really want to find some healthy and tasty meals my family will eat without blowing the grocery budget.
Someone once told me that buying and cooking for the month can help. I tried that once and it was ok but I spent two days in the kitchen cooking so I wasn't real thrilled with that part. Besides we don't have a deep freezer. It's something we're thinking about if it will help costs in the long run.
I do try to use coupons when I can. Any other ideas or even recipes that are low cost AND healthy? Thanks!
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20 Comments Post a Comment
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172023_tn?1334675884
We have a small freezer too, so I feel your pain!

Yes, its possible to eat in a healthy way and be cost efficient, but like anything else, it can take planning and some effort.  I don't have time to spend hours pouring over coupons and going to 10 different stores.

So I'd say my food budget is a bit higher than it was, but we're getting more nutrition from what we eat, so in the long run, we'll win.

You could choose a box of Frosted Pop Tarts for $2.39 and be throwing your money away, vs a $4 big box of regular oatmeal that gives your body the fiber you need for digestion, keeping you full, and helps cholesterol.  Which is really the more expensive choice?  

I get a lot of grains in bulk, such as pearl barley, couscous, rice, and quinoa.  You can save $$ that way vs buying them in small boxes or bags.  Stock up on chicken breasts , fish, or other lean meats when you find a good buy, and repackage in individual zip locks for the freezer.  

I hate to plan, and run out of stuff a lot, though.  I'm always going to the store.
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483733_tn?1326802046
I find it works best if I plan ahead for the week.  Incorporate a lot of whole grains, beans and legumes in your plan and they will stretch your dollars, allowing you to spend less on meat.  Do cook a vegetarian meal once a week and try incorporating an egg dish into dinner.  My goal is to eliminate processed food from our diet.  I also make a lot of homemade soups (and often from homemade stocks).  These make for very healthy and economical lunches.  We love big rib steaks but the price is out of reach.  Instead I'll buy a flank steak, marinate it and grill it and slice it up and put on top of a big salad for dinner.  You can really stretch that steak taste far. This can also work well with chicken breasts or pork tenderloin (very economical).  And you can't beat cheaper meats and the crock pot.
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213739_tn?1215489609
I don't know if you have a Wal Mart where you live (Super Wal Mart I should say) but they price match ANY add you find.  We get all of the grocery store adds on Wednesdays. I go through them all and make my grocery list and then shop at Super Wal Mart. When I go to check out, I just tell them I have price comparisons and I try to put all of those items at the end. They will override the price on everything from cereal to meat.  I've walked away saving $30-$40 or more if there is a really good meat sale.  It take a few extra min. at check out but that's it as I look through the adds anyway and just write a list of the grocery store, the items name and price and then when I check out, it makes it really easy. Just remember to bring the adds with you as sometimes they do check them other times, they trust me.  I never make up a price, always use listed add price but depends on who it is and how much of a hurry they are in.  This is GUARANTEED to save you money because you get every store's best deal.  I like to support the local and smaller grocery store's but when their prices are so much higher, Wal Mart wins!  Hope that helps!
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213739_tn?1215489609
Again, I'm so tired and just need to get off the computer and go to bed!  I meant ad NOT add.  Wow!!!  Sorry!
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63984_tn?1385441539
I've got lots of heart problems, it is absolutely essential I eliminate salt and excessive fat from my diet, and we are retired so on a fixed income from social security and dividends from securities, etc. I'm also the cook in the family. Processed foods are seldom consumed because the salt content drives up my Blood pressure.  We live in an area (Oregon) where there are farm stands and great farmer's markets and we take advantage of them.  We buy fish like Tuna, crab, etc right off the boats at the coast.  We have a small, efficient freezer and figure it costs about $10.00 a month to operate, but we save money and eat very healthy by freezing what we can.  We don't eat red meat or much chicken, seafood makes up a big part of our protein so a freezer is absolutely essential.  I believe the North American diet is heavily dipped in favor of expensive protein, more than we need, and cutting down the protein certainly cuts dollars.  
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389974_tn?1331018842
Maybe the right way to go about this is to do a reversal.

Can you characterize your food budget right now? Where do you shop, and for how many people (and their ages)? Are there particular items that you want to spend less money on?
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203342_tn?1328740807
Flycaster, I wish I lived on the coast. I love fresh seafood! I also love Farmers Markets. I'm excited to start checking them out here shortly. They only had one open so far but it's too far from us. I think the rest will open around the end of the month.

Swampcritter, for the most part I shop at the commissary which is supposed to be cheaper overall from all the other grocery stores. It usually is when it comes to things like meat. However, they don't sell generic so sometimes it's cheaper to buy certain things from other stores.
I have a family of 5, including 2 teenagers who are eating me out of house and home I think! I personally wouldn't mind cutting back on meat or not even eating it much at all but I have two men who are carnivores in my house, my 19 year old son and my husband! My daughter and I probably wouldn't mind eating more vegetarian or seafood. The kids are always wanting snack foods in the house but I finally told them I'm not buying stuff like ice cream anymore because I got so aggravated that it would only last a few days. To me, it should last a week or so. It just seems like they're constantly digging into the pantry or fridge!
Guessing, I'd say I spend probably around $600-$700 a month on food, sometimes more. This includes all the last minute running to get milk and bread, which we seem to do every other day. We go through a LOT of milk! I have a teenage boy who drinks it all day long. I admit, I do tend to buy a lot of convenience foods partly because it does save on time and partly because I'm not much of a cook. My mom was never much of a cook and I guess I just never learned much. I do want to learn to make healthy meals that won't keep me in the kitchen all day. With 3 kids, I to tend to run a lot getting them to and from places, etc.
I know it's healthier to make things from scratch and I don't mind when I have the time. I just need more ideas, I guess. This is why I'm so glad they set up this forum! :)
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390388_tn?1279639813
Hi.  Well this is just an idea; but, you could make it a family effort.  Old fashioned canning.  It would take some work though.  A lot of times you can find canning jars used.  The canner would cost about $25.00.  Beans should be done in a pressure canner though.    
The family markets around my area (PA/ WV) sell by mostly the whole bushels prices:

Tomatoes  $14.00
Bush Green Beans  $7.00
Carrots  14#    $7.00
Potatoes  10#   $8.00
Pickles, Apples, etc.  

They sell onions, zucchini, and some sell dairy, fish and meat products.  It takes some time to get it canned but, it saves a fortune in money and room in your freezer for fish or meats.  Do one each week and then your set for the year.  Plus you get to eat food that taste better and you know exactly what is in it!  We make our own spag. sauce, chile stock, soup stock, apple sauce, and jams, plus we can our own veggies of course.  
(If you grow your own it really saves!)  

Plus you could support your local farmers out there.  There is also a program out there called " Local Harvest" ( http://www.localharvest.org/ ) this is great for people.  They bring the food right to your door.  You can see if there is a local chapter near you.  They are scattered threwout the US.

If your family hunts or knows anyone that hunts you can make your own breakfast sausage, burger, steaks, butterfly chops, fillet mignon, roast, jerky treats, etc. from deer meat in which is very lean compared to beef.  
It's easy to butcher yourself or if you don't have the stomach for it you can have it done for about $50.00 (just make sure they don't cut into the bones), it gives a bitter/wild taste.  This will give you ~60 pounds of good fresh meat and one day of work for nothing if you do it yourself.  

I know this my all sound backwoods to some people but with the prices of everything going up; I can see a lot more people living off the land more.  We fresh water fish for our catfish, troat, and salmon.  You have to be carefull though and watch for mercery levels in the waters though.  Our problem is we love seafood.  That cost a lot here!  I try to watch for the sales and stock up then.  

Oatmeal, rice, and other staples that keep well in plastic containers I buy in bulk.  We actually spend more on our dog food than we do people food LOL; nevertheless, we all eat very well.  : )



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203342_tn?1328740807
I'd love to learn to can and jar my own food! I like the idea of everything being as fresh and natural as possible. I'll have to check into that and see how to do it. What is a canner? Lol, sorry. I'm not much of a cook. My mother never was either and didn't teach me much.
I don't know anyone who hunts. I love seafood too. I haven't even been fishing!
I always wanted to start my own vegetable garden but I know it takes a lot of work and time, something I'm not sure I can do at this point.
We used to have a neighbor who was retired and would just putter around in his garden all day. He always gave us things out of his garden like peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and even an eggplant one time. It was SOOOO good! There's nothing like home grown. It's so much sweeter, juicier and tastier than grocery vegetables.
Someday I'm going to have my vegetable garden. Until then I'll have to make due with the Farmer's Markets. By the way, for anyone who lives in Colorado, there's nothing like the Palisade Peaches! They are the best peaches I've ever had! So juicy and sweet. Even their pears are good but I especially like the peaches. I will never by grocery peaches again. I'll just wait until July when I can go to the little stands who sell the Palisade Peaches. Yum! :)
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390388_tn?1279639813
Hi.  I'm glad to hear back from you.   Let's just say a canner is like a big stock pot with a wire basket.  LOL.  You can look it up on the internet or buy a "Ball canning book or a stocking up book by Rodale".  Just a thought.  Like I said though it is a lot of work.
For me it's a love/hate thing.  While I'm doing it, it's hard.  In the middle of the winter though it's great getting that fresh garden taste.

When I did not have a yard LOL.  I had a couple patio tomato plants and a pepper plant.  In my window sills I had the fresh herbs and leaf lettuce.  They are so nice just for sandwiches or salads.  

I guess the best way to save and eat healthy too is to STOCK UP on WHATEVER,  and  HOWEVER you can.  I'm afraid things are just going to get worse.  It seems like they are trying to phase out the middle class person between taxes and/or prices.  

If you could save up and get a new or used deep freezer, I think that would be the ticket.  You could make the good healthy soups in the summer, stuffed zucchini, apple sauce, etc. and freeze them along with good deals on meats, veggies, fish etc.  

When you make a dish, double it; eat one and freeze the other.  This way on a night that you are tired you can just pull it out and heat it up.   Works great.
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389974_tn?1331018842
Well, here are some general comments.

Your family has a variety of nutritional requirements, because of the different sexes and ages. Whatever solution you come to for healthy meals has to pay attention to all those factors.

You mentioned milk specifically as something you go through a lot of. Despite claims by the dairy industry, milk is only really good for you in specific quantities for specific people. However, lots of people develop a taste addiction to milk as it is fatty, sweet, and caloric.

To save on milk -- if you are using milk in cooking, you can substitute nonfat milk powder, reconstituting if necessary. This especially  works in prepared foods that call for some milk to be added such as M&C. Nonfat milk powder tends to give foods a slightly sweeter taste as the lactose is more concentrated, but that is compensated by lighter fat.

Adults in the house should probably not be drinking fresh milk, with the exception of those who are pregnant or nursing. Swampy's phone is already ringing with an exasperated dairy industry representative.

Rationing the fresh milk will probably not make you a very popular person with your teenagers, but if their consumption is really excessive (use age, weight, and calories requirements balanced with physical activity level to determine), you might want to do that. However, be prepared for them to seek out the calories in some other food.

Swampy, of course, does not eat meat (poor cute fluffy wide eyed creatures!), but will offer a few suggestions there. Even as a non-meat eater, the quality and price differences are very noticeable.

Consider an idea like the following: you buy a whole turkey and roast it. You cut the breast into slices which is used as deli meat (now you have some lunches covered). You take the rest and serve it a part at a time -- serve the parts whole for the first night, take the remains and make casserole the next night, and take the next level of remains and make soup the next. Now you have served your family meat for dinner for three days, and at least one lunch, With creative use of your freezer, you can probably alternate some other meat some nights, so the folks don't get too bored.

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203342_tn?1328740807
Yeah, I used to do that with chicken. I used to cut it up and boil it and have chicken for several meals or to throw in salads.
I don't usually cook with milk. I don't particularly care for milk myself. My 19 year old son is the one who drinks it the most. He's always been a big milk drinker. I do buy 1% milk so at least they're not getting all the fat. My 4 year old drinks lot's of milk too but again it's just 1% milk.
I try to have a vegetarian meal once in awhile to offset costs, etc. Sometimes it's just spaghetti with marinara sauce or something like that.
My daughter wouldn't eat meat the last two years after she saw how slaughter houses slaughter animals. Only recently has she decided to start eating some meat but only some kinds. She won't eat beef. She thinks cows are too cute! She doesn't have a problem with fish or chicken though. She's kinda gone back and forth on this. I let her decide on her own, pretty much. But for awhile there I had to get pretty creative with vegetarian foods. I make a mean chili with the Boca Crumbles! :)
I do tend to do stews and soups in the winter, which helps keep costs down but in the Summer I like lighter meals.
I'm glad they started this new forum because I need new recipe ideas! Thanks for writing! :)
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390388_tn?1279639813
I have to give you credit for caring for each of your children's nutritional needs.  I was blessed with four legged kids, and have no children of my own.  It sounds like  you are on tract as far as what each of them need and I admire you for your honesty in your question big time.  
Your son that drinks alot of milk, I was wondering; does he have stomach issues?  You might want to see if he seems to drink more milk after having spicy dishes or anything that might cause any stomach issues.  

My husband drinks ~1 1/2 gal./ day.  He also eats a lot of tums due to stomach issues.  I worry about him dearly.   I keep teasing him saying we need a cow.  Though it concerns me.  Maybe they just like it that much too though, the way I do coffee.

We save a lot because of the way we live, though I know it is hard for people to live the way we do due to where they live or health conditions.  Trust me.......

Thanks for the question.  I can see this question popping up more and more with the years to come.   Sorry to sound all doom and gloom; but, true.

Take care.  Amy
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483733_tn?1326802046
I spend a lot of time at www.epicurious.com.  They just published a handy article on saving money on your food budget.  
http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/everydaycooking/family/foodbudgettips?mbid=rss_epilf
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101028_tn?1348750963
DEFINITELY go to the local farmers markets/produce stands this time of the year!  It saves a lot of money. for instance - grocery store you will pay $3-$4 for 4 sweet potatoes. farmer's market - $1-$2.  Red peppers in the store right now - $4/lb.  Market - 2/$1.  Bag o'salad at the store - $2.50 or more. Bag o'greens at market - $1-$2.  

Eat less meat!  You can buy beans a lot cheaper than you can meat. A cup of beans has as much protein as a serving of meat and as much calcium as a glass of milk. they are also chock full of fiber.  No fat either!  

when you do eat meat - look at the way you are buying it. for instance if normally you would just pick up a pack of split chicken breasts to throw on the grill for dinner - instead buy a whole chicken and cut it up at home.  the parts you aren't using for that meal - freeze them or throw them in the roasting pan with some fresh or dried herbs.  Pick off the meat to use later on in sandwiches, enchilada's etc. Drain the broth and freeze it for the next time you make chicken noodle soup.  We buy a lot of our meat for convenience nowadays and they charge us more for it.  Sure it's nice to just pick up some precooked meat we can just nuke and serve but it's cheaper to buy a whole roast and then have leftovers to use for other things.

it's well worth buying a deep freezer too even if it's just a small chest freezer.  If you are going to make a pot of soup - you might as well make it a big pot and then freeze the leftovers for another day. Same with most meals - making a pan of mac and cheese - might as well make 2.  Making stuffed shells - replace the meat with spinach to make them healthier and make a double batch and freeze one pan for another day. it is hard to spend a whole day or two cooking most of the day but it is well worth it on busy days when all you have to do is whip something out of the freezer and warm it up.  

grow your own food!  If you have the yard space - start a small garden.  You can spend $2 on a 6 pack of tomato plants and have fresh tomatoes all summer long.  You can also grow your own herbs too for cooking. Why spend $4 on a handful of fresh parsely in the store when you can buy  2 plants for that price and have parsely all summer long?  I plant most of my herbs in containers and bring them indoors in the fall for fresh herbs well into the winter.  

grace
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101028_tn?1348750963
if your hubby is chewing on tums that often - he probably needs better medication than tums. Does he see his doctor for this?

grace
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390388_tn?1279639813
No.  Unfortantly the only time he goes to a doctor is when he is just to the point of crawling.  LOL, but true.  He went 8 months with a ruptured disk in his back before he finally got it repaired a few years ago. (threw deer season and all).  

He is self employed and can't take the time off for the surgeries he needs.  
He needs both knees replaced, very bad veins in his legs and  now and has back problems again.  He eats alot of asprin and other OTC pills for pain.  He can't sleep at night due to pain so he eats no doz to stay awake during the day.  This all and all makes him angry.  All of this upsets his stomack so he drinks ~1 1/2 gal of milk a day and eats tums.  It's a full circle effect.  

I pray that someday he will be able to get it all taken care of.  I worry alot about him alot.  I've been begging him to go; but, he will not.  



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101028_tn?1348750963
Men....

grace
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Avatar_m_tn
It's takes a bit of planning and effort to eat unhealthily on a low budget. Processed foods and ready meals are really expensive and leave one hungry afterwards as the packaging is arguably more nutritious. I can hardly carry GBP20 shopping home!I
I always have a large stock of lentils, oatmeal, barley, wholemeal pasta , Bran and wheatgerm is good to bulk up soups and provide more dietary fibre.
I get the supermarket own-brand value items like orange juice, UHT milk, baked beans by the case and store what's not needed in the next week in the shed.
I don't eat much meat though as there isnt a kosher butcher in town so stock up on fresh fish and freeze singly and have tinned fish on hand for sandwiches for work.
I get the vast majority of vegetables from the garden. It's too cold here to grow most fruits so they remain the most expensive part of my food budget. I just buy whatever is on offer.  
Also cooking for the freezer helps reduce energy costs.
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Avatar_f_tn
Interesting input.  The spending more money to eat healthy is one I worry about.  Especially when my job has me driving a lot and I don't have time to cook and store food to bring.  I like to eat healthier and end up spending more during those times.

I prefer health food stores but their expensive.  I love Whole Foods Market and wish we had one in my area.  But I once saw it described a 'Whole Paycheck Market,' which was depressing.
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