Eating healthy on a slim budget

I spend almost as much on groceries as I do on my mortgage.

Now, before you spit your coffee all over your keyboard, you should know that my mortgage is pretty low, lower than what some of my friends pay in rent. And for me, “groceries” includes all of the extras one buys at grocery stores, like paper towels and soap and the latest issue of the weekly tabloid.

(Kidding! I have zero interest in the tabloids. Especially now that none of them cover the bat boy or alien baby adoptions.)

Anyway, non-food expenses aside, I still spend a lot of money on groceries. Part of it is need. We do need to eat. Part of it is want, since food and cooking is a hobby of mine. I make cuts in other places in order to afford things like fresh-pressed olive oil. And part of it I view as a health expense — things like antibiotic-free meat and organic strawberries.

The thing is, I know I'm lucky to be in a position to afford it. Yes, I prioritize food and health in my spending, so that helps. But not everyone can do that. You can't prioritize organic avocados over, say, paying the rent or paying for childcare.

For instance, check out this post by TomInTexas on the PaleoHacks message board:

“The wife and I are having to cut costs as I'm quitting my job to go back to school. I'll still have some income, but less than half of what I make right now. As such, cuts have to be made, and it looks like the ‘unnecessarily high' cost of my paleo diet is in the crosshairs. (I've recently gone paleo, she didn't.)

“After more than two months … I feel great. But today I had my first non-paleo meal in a while: Lentils and some chicken. 15 minutes later I was bent over the commode revisiting my lunch. Now I feel horrible. And I'm hungry again, 1.5 hours after I ate.

“Moral is at a bit of a low. Any ideas on how I can keep the cost … on the low end? I live in a small apartment, so buying half a cow, etc. is not an option. Based on my stomach's response to lunch, neither is rice and beans.”

Traditional advice isn't practical

Now, this post isn't about the paleo diet per se. I don't personally follow any diet plan. I chose TomInTexas's quote because it gets to the heart of the financial aspects of trying to eat a “clean diet,” whatever that means to you. These aspects are often disregarded by people who espouse these special diets.

Usually when you're talking to a health nut about the expense of eating healthy, they say things like “cut other expenses to afford it” or “consider it a medical expense.” Or they offer the advice TominTexas mentions: “Buy half a cow.”

But TomInTexas is on a very restricted budget. He can care about his health until the grassfed cows come home, but that won't magically put food dollars in his bank account. And he can't buy in bulk because he lives in an apartment.

Plus, his significant other isn't on board. She doesn't share his views on diet, and that's a difficult situation when his food expenses have increased and his income has decreased. She has a right to be concerned about their finances.

So what can Tom do to keep eating in a way that makes him feel better while keeping to a tight budget?

Decide what matters most

The solution is to prioritize. You may not be able to afford a “perfect” diet, whatever that means to you, but you can make choices where it matters most.

Here's a round-up of some of the best advice I've read about what to prioritize and how to stretch your budget.

Cut the fancy supplements, powders, and special drinks. If you have to watch your budget, think about cutting the $50 protein powder and have some eggs for breakfast instead. Ditto the special drinks. “Don't drink your calories,” writes Anthony Vennare at Hybrid Athlete. “Avoid soda, juice, and energy drinks. Stick to water, tea, and coffee.” (Cheaper and healthier!)

Don't throw your food budget in the trash. If your produce often goes bad before you get a chance to eat it, buy some frozen vegetables. “Sure, I love fresh veggies,” writes Steve Kamb of NerdFitness, “but since frozen veggies are picked and then frozen at peak ripeness (and thus most nutritionally dense), they are often a better value while being edible for months longer.”

Get the most nutritional bang for your buck. “Target nutrient dense foods, but understand that we're looking for the most economical choices,” writes Kamb. “If food A costs $10 and has 50 of nutrient X, we'll pick food B instead, which only provides 45 of X but costs just $2.” High on his list? Dark leafy greens, broccoli, eggs, meat, canned tuna, legumes, bananas, and plums.

Cook like your grandma. “After…ditching my go-to Pam cooking spray, I began to research other cooking oils,” Rachael Adams, The Freckled Foodie, tells Abel James, the Fat Burning Man. “My favorite early discovery … is to save all the excess grease from cooked bacon, ground pork, and any other meat, and use it to cook your veggies or side-dishes.”

Another way to use up everything you buy? Eat the perfectly healthy parts of produce that most people throw out. For instance, you can sauté beet greens and you can steam broccoli stalks.

It's okay to buy less expensive meat. If you want the highest quality of meat but can't afford it, don't sweat it. “If I can't eat grassfed meat, I look for the cleanest meat I can find (no hormones, no antibiotics, etc.),” writes Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint. Another way to save is by buying the cheaper cuts of meat. For instance, dark meat is cheaper than white meat. Skirt steak is cheaper than ribeye. There's nothing wrong with those cuts, they're just less desirable to the majority of consumers.

Shop sales. Okay, this one is a bit obvious, but it had to be included because sales are hard to come by for non-processed food. Places to look: grocery stores clearing out nearly-but-not-yet expired food, coupons for frozen produce, weekly sales on select cuts of meat, and end-of-day deals at the farmers markets, when vendors are packing up to go home.

As for specific advice for TomInTexas, I would tell him to sit down with his wife and come up with a food budget that works for both of them. Then, he could offer to do the grocery shopping using the tips above to stick to his diet as much as possible, while keeping in mind his wife's food preferences too. If he can find coupons for some of the foods she likes to eat, that would also help him stick to their budget.

What advice would you give TomInTexas? And whatever your diet of choice, what are some ways you eat healthy on a budget?

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Beth
Beth
6 years ago

My advice to anyone who thinks they “need” a special diet is to talk to an allergist (holistic or otherwise) and pinpoint the source of the issues. Sometimes people who have an intolerance to one food “throw the baby out with the bath water” by avoiding an entire food group. For instance, I know people who are sensitive to wheat who can enjoy other whole grains such as spelt and kamut — they don’t need to go gluten free or paleo. Sometimes people feel better and lose weight when they eliminate grains because they stop eating so much refined grains… Read more »

Matt
Matt
6 years ago

Hmm. I disagree with the skipping the powders part. It’s an affordable way to get on average 20-25g of protein per scoop. In the long run it’s cheaper than going with meat, poultry, eggs, or some other animal food source. If you’re not an athlete you may not have a need for it but if you are, it’s definitely a more affordable way. Plus there’s also a lot of other benefits from a powder pre/post-workout that include a healthy dose of electrolytes that you would otherwise have to replace via food (and it takes about 8 bananas just to get… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  Matt

If by “powders” you mean “whey” then I agree with you. It’s a huge protein bang for the buck.

All the other stuff seems like quite a waste of money to me though, often full of chemical preparations (e.g. aspartame, colorings, etc), and I’ve looked hard.

As for “electrolytes” (“It’s what plants crave!”)– nearly everything has potassium in it. E.g.: http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/food-sources-of-potassium.php

(I usually eat an orange after my whey shake)

However, I’m not trying to be dogmatic here– I’m still looking. if you have a good suggestion for good powders with good value, I’m all ears.

Meredith
Meredith
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Your “Idiocracy” shout out made my day!

Matt
Matt
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

True most plants do have potassium; however to get the recommended 4700mg/day takes quite a bit – which is why I personally prefer a little supplementation. It may not work for everyone but it works for me especially since this is about cost saving techniques.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Hi again Matt, Well, all living things have potassium, since the Na+/K+ pump is universal, no? (The plant thing was a movie quote/joke, as Meredith noticed.) There’s plenty of potassium in beef, pork, fish, poultry, game, milk, etc. I think our culture’s dietary problem is that we put too much sodium on everything, not that we can’t get enough potassium. I honestly think electrolytes are a bit of a marketing scam, but I can see how taking them would be a time/money saver in some circumstances. Any powders you’d recommend? I get Gold Standard Natural Whey, which at $60/can (I… Read more »

Matt
Matt
6 years ago
Reply to  Matt

@El Nerdo – I’m not the biggest expert on all the brands of Whey out there. I’ve used Gold Standard before and I’ve liked it. I get my whey from Costco made by Muscle Milk and it’s about $45 for 6 pounds of whey. It’s primarily protein (about 25g with very little carbohydrates which I like). I tolerate it well. There are others who probably wouldn’t stick with a brand like that and opt to have something more pure but it works for me. I’m big on electrolytes – in my field I’m constantly seeing the effects of a lack… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  Matt

@ Matt

I hear you on the Mg, people’s diets are deficient in a big way– which is why I eat sunflower/pumpkin seeds every day.

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Just a tip on getting your whey another way. I hang a quart of “organic” yogurt made from grassfed cow’s milk in cheesecloth to drain off about a pint of real whey. This leaves a very tart form of cream cheese in the now whey-less yogurt, which I do a number of things with, my favorite being to mix garlic, ginger and green onion in it and use it to stuff mushrooms or add it as a layer in omelettes. Salt and/or melted butter cuts the tartness, if you don’t like it, and you can freeze it for later use.… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago

@ Deborah

Yes! When I make… what’s the name… paneer… requesón… don’t know the name in english (boil milk, add lemon, strain the curdled protein) I’ll also save the whey & use it to cook, make smoothies, etc.

But the whey powder is definitely for the convenience added to the nutrition– either for post-workout drinks or for emergency rations or for breakfasts in a hurry or for immune boosts when under the weather, etc. I think of it as one of the components of my emergency fund.

Cadi
Cadi
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

The real Soylent has me curious. It’s supposedly everything you need. It may not taste good but keeps you filled up and is cheap-ish. This can definitely supplement solid foods in future.

Jon
Jon
6 years ago

I have a friend who is a vegetarian who told me that after a while on that diet, your body quits producing the digestive enzymes necessary to process meats. No idea if that’s actually true or not, as I’ve never given up my omnivorous habits. It sounds like TomInTexas may have lost the ability to digest non-meats. Our local grocery store will often red-tag items on the meat shelves are at or approaching their sell-by date. Tougher cuts of meat can be made more tender by slow cooking them on low in a crockpot with plenty of broth while you’re… Read more »

PB
PB
6 years ago
Reply to  Jon

That’s something of what I thought. He went from one extreme to the other and gave his body a nasty shock. Of course it reacted. If you are going to make a change, do it gradually.

Scooze
Scooze
6 years ago
Reply to  Jon

I agree. And even with chicken there are cheaper ways to do things. I buy a 5 lb bird for $6.00, roaster it up and get a ton of meat from it. I can eat it for about 8 meals. It’s way cheaper than buying cut up or breast-only meat. And I like the mixture of cuts.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  Jon

Paleo is not just red meats. It’s all kinds of natural meats and seafoods and eggs and plenty of vegetables and fruits and nuts and seaweed and even insects . There are different schools of thoughts regarding oils and certain dairies, etc. I love Paleo, I would eat that way 100% if I could afford it, but I have to modify it to fit the budget since bla bla long story. I’ll have to say though– some people don’t know how to cook beans and won’t soak them overnight, will leave them undercooked, will add salt too early which will… Read more »

Marie-Josée
Marie-Josée
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

@El Nerdo: I buy New Zealand Whey Pro-Series manufactured by Ergogenics Nutrition for my son. I like the fact that the protein comes from pasture-fed cows. It’s undenatured, whey protein, hormone and antibiotic free. I personally spend more money on food than on any other aspect of my budget, except for savings. We eat mostly organic, and tons of greens which we whip up in smoothies and large batches of soup. I am allergic to gluten, and eat limited carbs because I don’t feel well when I eat lots of them. Many, many people have a carb intolerance which translates… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago

@Marie-Josée – YES! That’s pretty much what we do. Meats (& eggs & greek yogurt) + greens + bulk nuts + fruits (seasonal+frozen) + good oils (olive/ pastured butter/ macadamia). But– since some days I’m doing heavy manual labor, and the other days I have a morning workout, I have to add a touch of carbs (like a scoop of beans, or a cup of oats) to my morning meal, to speed up recovery. I was doing this with sweet potatoes, but they are not available/ in season right now where I shop. So this morning for breakfast I had… Read more »

Kat
Kat
6 years ago
Reply to  Jon

Yes, from my experience it’s true that if you drop something from your diet for a length of time, you’ll have difficulty digesting it if you re-introduce it suddenly. I eat red meat infrequently (maybe 1-2 hamburgers per month), so now I find myself unable to eat beef unless it is finely ground. Steak or beef stew will make me bloated and slow down my digestion for up to a week now. Even stacked pastrami sandwiches give me trouble.

Marla
Marla
6 years ago
Reply to  Jon

Paleo carb starves you, and forces your body to process proteins rather than carbs. You feel sick for the first while on it – and then they’re surprised they feel sick going off it!

Nick | Millionaires Giving Money
Nick | Millionaires Giving Money
6 years ago

We only go out on occasions and never throw away leftovers, all this has helped us to slash our budgets. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago

I say to eat healthy on a budget, start with macro-healthful stuff (basic fruits and veggies), before moving on to the micro-healthful (organic, non-GMO, grass fed etc). Organic and non-GMO, while I’m sure preferable to most, is not the only versions of healthful food. My method is pretty straight forward. I eat a 90% whole foods diet (and because I don’t normally have time to cook it’s easy on the go foods that are raw or lightly steamed and quartered for the week). I try to eat at least 10 – 15 different fruits veggies per day for variety since… Read more »

William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
6 years ago

We’ve discovered that going “semi-vegetarian” saves a surprising amount of money. Cutting out meat of any kind two or three times a week costs less, and you never have a sense of deprivation.

We also discovered that there’s a direct trade-off between eating cheaper and time. Cooking an entire chicken and using different parts for different meals is a lot cheaper than buying just chicken breasts, but it takes more time to plan and execute.

Stephanie
Stephanie
6 years ago

Definitely agree on money savings after cutting cutting meat/dairy – but for a slightly different reason… Tofu and Tempeh last longer in the fridge. If something comes up and ruins your dinner plans you’re not stuck figuring out if the meat is bad. Ditto with almond milk (not a fan of soy)over cow’s milk – I only tend to use it for baking or cereal, and I was throwing away a good portion of the gallon/half gallon I purchased every week. Should you think Tofu is too expensive, check out your local Asian foods market (if you live in a… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
6 years ago

Great point, William!

We’re vegetarian and not buying meat frees up money to buy organic produce and specialty foods. We eat a lot healthier and for the same amount of money that we used to spend before.

Celia
Celia
6 years ago

I agree. We eat meat for various health reasons, but I am pretty picky and buy organic/grass-fed for ethical reasons. As such, we can’t afford to eat meat daily. We mostly eat cheap cuts of meat, too, and stretch them over multiple meals as a seasoning rather than main dish. (A whole chicken lasts us several meals, including homemade stock for the week.) Still, several days a week are vegetarian because beans and grains are cheap.

Jillian
Jillian
6 years ago

My best advice for Tom is to prep his meals and lunches at the beginning of the day and to eat the same thing every single day for those meals. Cook two to three dinners a week and make sure they generate enough leftovers you can eat on the other nights. I boil a dozen eggs at the start of every week and eat them for breakfast every day with half an avocado and a Trader Joe’s chicken sausage. So, less than $3.00 a day for a high protein, high fat breakfast that keeps me full for six hours or… Read more »

Adam
Adam
6 years ago

One of my favorite blogs is Budget Bytes, specifically about eating on a budget (and her recipes are DELICIOUS).

http://www.budgetbytes.com/

Valerie
Valerie
6 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Holy crap, thank you so much! This website is the best thing I’ve discovered in a while.

We do a lot of our own cooking, but have been in a recipe slump for a while. I sent the site to my boyfriend and we’ve spent the last 20 minutes excitedly freaking out about all of the recipes we want to try. I love the organization of the site, that there’s a budget breakdown, and almost everything makes leftovers!

Babs
Babs
6 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Thanks for that link!
What Valerie said.

SwampWoman
SwampWoman
6 years ago

Former daughter-in-law and I had this conversation last week. Her husband has been complaining that she spends waaaaaaaay too much on food, and that she should be like the wives of his friends who get $100 worth of food for $3 through couponing. *sigh* I told her to tell him that THEY DON’T GIVE OUT COUPONS FOR STALKS OF BROCCOLI! They do, however, give out coupons for processed foods like macaroni and cheese or canned soups, which they do not eat.

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago
Reply to  SwampWoman

That’s what I’ve noticed too – coupons and sales are mostly available for highly processed foods and factory farmed produce and meat, which are the very worst choices for your health and usually taste terrible too. I guess if you only want the first half of your life to be good, and don’t mind the risk of going rapidly downhill after that, then coupons and the foods they buy are a bargain.

Amy F
Amy F
6 years ago

You can always grow some of your own food, even if you don’t consider yourself much of a gardener. My backyard is very shady, but I have a large deck and grow carrots, green beans, cherry and heirloom tomatoes, and about six different types of herbs in container gardens. I find that growing herbs is great at saving money, because they are quite expensive at the grocery store, and they encourage me to experiment more with my cooking. I also bought one-quarter of a grass-fed cow with a group of friends this year, which was a great purchase. Finally, I… Read more »

Matt
Matt
6 years ago
Reply to  Amy F

That’s a good way too. I have an apartment in the city so my space is limited but I do grow things I use frequently such as herbs (cilantro, parsley, rosemary, basil, oregano), cherry tomatoes (they produce fruit year round here in San Diego), jalapeno and serrano peppers, and green beans. I’ll use one plant to produce seeds so I won’t have to buy seeds for planting.

PB
PB
6 years ago

This is a real interest of mine, because I can never understand why people think it is more expensive to eat a healthy diet than a “normal” one. My husband is a Type 1 diabetic – this is the kind where your pancreas basically has given up and has nothing to do with overweight. We have been on the diabetic diet for the last 40 years as a consequence and I have always been very concerned to get high quality food for our family. When we were in graduate school (the 1970s, so consider inflation) I fed the two of… Read more »

Emily M
Emily M
6 years ago
Reply to  PB

YES. I can never understand people who say it’s so hard to eat healthfully on a budget (I’m talking generally speaking, yes some have very specific needs that might make it harder). A bag of brown rice (vs the processed box noodle/rice crap) is so much cheaper! Once I stopped eating pretty much all processed stuff (a real bag of carrots costs exactly half as much as processed baby carrots in my area) I was surprised at how much I was saving. I think, for some, there’s a fundamental misunderstanding about what it means to eat real food.

Marla
Marla
6 years ago
Reply to  PB

A bag of apples costs the same as 5 bags of chips, but yeah. 😉

Jill
Jill
6 years ago

I lost my job over the winter9now gainfully employed again thankfully) and had similar budgetary restrictions. I found a few folks in similar circumstance that still wanted to eat well – we pooled our resources and bought 1/2 a grass-fed cow. We all got quality food and no one had to deal with a chest freezer!

Priswell
Priswell
6 years ago

>> “After…ditching my go-to Pam cooking spray, I began to research other cooking oils”<< The active ingredient for Pam is lecithin. Get yourself a clean pickle jar with a lid, or if you wanna go upscale, a GoodSeasons Salad Dressing Cruet. Pour *liquid* lecithin (don't use the dry granules) up to the -V- mark on the Cruet (about 5-6 T). Then pour Vodka up to the -O- line (about a cup) The Vodka acts as a solvent and dilutes the lecithin. It also burns off in cooking. If you want to stay away from alcohol, dilute the lecithin with any… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

I’ve been gluten free since 2005 due to intolerance and I tell people all the time to skip most of the “gluten free” substitutes if they want to save money. Gluten free bread, cookies, pasta, etc can break a food budget and its not necessary. Once I substituted with extra veggies instead of starches I started to save money (and my waistline). Unfortunately because I have insulin resistance most fruit is out but vegetables, even organic vegetables are relatively inexpensive but it does on depend where you live. My diet is pretty unconventional (veg, soy, dairy, grain, sugar, starch doesn’t… Read more »

SAHMama
SAHMama
6 years ago

I live with a bunch of picky eaters. I can count on one hand the number of combined fruits and veggies my husband will eat. My 7yo daughter eats veggies but no fruit; my 3yo son eats fruit but not veggies; and my 16 mo daughter doesn’t eat much at all. I will eat almost anything as long as it’s not raw meat and there’s not mayonnaise or tapioca in it. To save, I coupon. A few weeks ago, Target had a $10/50 grocery purchase that could be combined with their Cartwheel savings program, store coupons and manufacturer coupons. I… Read more »

jim
jim
6 years ago
Reply to  SAHMama

SAHAMAMA,
Maybe your kids just have pretty normal picky food habits, but since all 3 of them seem to have some “pickiness”, I’m just wondering if you’ve ever heard of eosinophilic esophagitis, a/k/a EoE. Google it and see if they have other symptoms. It’s hard to diagnose in kids and it’s pretty rare, but my grand daughter has it. Just a thought.

Marie
Marie
6 years ago
Reply to  SAHMama

The “picky eating” issue is extremely confusing to me. I understand allergies, but I don’t get how kids have earned the power to bend meals to their whims. When I was a kid, you ate what was served, or you didn’t eat. My son has his favorites and requests them often, but he knows there will be no alternate option if he refuses to eat something.

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  Marie

Yes, as a picky eater myself I do understand the children’s side of it. I don’t like certain textures or certain foods touching each other. I also have a strong gag reflex when it comes to cheese – I dislike it that much. I grew up in a “eat or die” household and decades later I’m still healing from ED that was born out of food fear and shame.

Wow, that’s definitely another topic on another blog!

Jane
Jane
6 years ago
Reply to  Marie

I cater more to my children’s limited palates than I ever thought I would. Before I had kids, I imagined that I would take the “old school” approach you lay out here, but it’s just not something I prioritize. If you have strong willed children, this approach means that the dinner table quickly becomes a daily, unpleasant battlefield. I rather choose to enjoy my nightly time with my kids. Plus I think the “eat what you’re given or go hungry” approach can definitely backfire and create life long food issues or relationship problems between parent and child. Just my two… Read more »

SAHMama
SAHMama
6 years ago
Reply to  Marie

We don’t do alternate options. They eat what I make or they don’t eat but I don’t force them to. They won’t starve themselves. Today we had fish, macaroni and cheese, broccoli and carrots for dinner. My 7yo didn’t eat any carrots, my 3yo didn’t eat the fish and the 16 month old, only ate the macaroni and cheese. She did lick the broccoli.

FKP
FKP
6 years ago

Consider your local grocery store’s cycles- most cycle through sales at some interval, so realizing 1) how often staples go on sale and 2) what the bottom prices will be can help you know when to buy a few extra. I buy no means track everything, but just the more expensive ones or ones I use a lot. Also, most people shop on certain days, such as Sunday. I find if I shop on Tuesday, I am most likely to find marked down produce and meat nearing sell by dates. Cooking it or chopping it up and freezing it immediately… Read more »

MoneyAhoy
MoneyAhoy
6 years ago

Haha – you got me with that weekly tabloid joke. I almost spit my drink out over that 🙂

I think you raise a great point around balancing saving money and general diet/health. You aren’t doing yourself much good if you save money on the front end but end up malnourished and sick on the back end!

Babs
Babs
6 years ago

We spend a lot on groceries, too. We don’t eat out much though. Food prices are going up. I have some strategies to get good quality at a better price.
1) buy seasonal produce at the store
2) buy from the farmers markets
3) shop at Aldi.

My local Aldi has some organic selections (like fresh spinach) & grass fed, hormone free, choice beef in cryovac. If TomInTexas had had spinach instead of the lentils he probably would have been OK.

Fionna Merciollis
Fionna Merciollis
6 years ago

Why eating healthy will cost anything more? Just eating right, cooking your own food from fresh vegetables and animal products, just what our grandma used to do. Constraint of time forces us to have tinned foods and ready made ones but they are simply not healthy. I generally avoid those kinds of foods and resort to healthy cooking with good cooking oils.

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago

I live on a fixed income, and I too spend more on food than I do on housing. Partly that’s due to very low housing costs, but it’s also a choice. The nature of my illness is such that the only way I’ll get completely well is by eating right, so I look at my food budget as a medical expense. And since the doctors and drugs can’t help me, I don’t have to pay them anything! I’ve found a number of ways to eat superlatively well within the bounds of what I can spend, because even though I spend… Read more »

Celia
Celia
6 years ago

Bulk bins are a huge help for us. I make bulk orders for things like oatmeal through the bulk foods section. Also, if you eat bread learn how to bake your own. I am wheat-intolerant (but am okay with other gluten grains), and bake with spelt, rye, and emmer flour I get in bulk. It’s FAR less expensive to make your own bread, and there are tons of good resources out there for doing so with little effort. (No-knead bread is great and doesn’t require a bread machine, or you can go with the machine method.) I get high quality… Read more »

Cherie
Cherie
6 years ago

Well I agree that Tom should probably gradually shift back to non-paleo foods if that’s his choice – but I think a more important point is to sit down with his wife and discuss a food budget. Who’s shopping and cooking? She may not feel comfortable supporting his paleo choices for some reason – whatever it is it should be discussed. They obviously are not on the same page on this. As for buying a cow – well of course not an option but sharing would be – however I find that I can get grass fed local ground beef/pork… Read more »

Tracy
Tracy
6 years ago

One thing that helped me a lot in my dieting but also has a role in food budgets is tracking your fullness. If a bag of chips cost $1 per serving but you’re hungry 30 minutes later but a serving of kale costs $2 per serving but you’re full for 3 hours, the kale is the better budget (and waistline) bet. The other thing that has helped a lot is buying a bunch of proteins when they are on sale and freeze them. I live in an apartment also, but even with just my standard freezer I currently have 2… Read more »

spiralingsnails
spiralingsnails
6 years ago

Maybe the first step for Tom should be to figure out which food categories increased the most in cost by going Paleo. If buying more & fresher vegetables is costing them $15 more a month but buying 20 lbs of nuts is costing $100 more, then keep the kale and nix the nuts. If the dinner ‘filler’ is the choice of lettuce for $1 a serving, white-flour rolls for $0.40, or whole-wheat rolls for $0.50 (which is the most filling), then going with the WW rolls will be the best balance of health, price, and bang-for-buck nutrition. Life is full… Read more »

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago

@El Nerdo, “But the whey powder is definitely for the convenience added to the nutrition— either for post-workout drinks or for emergency rations or for breakfasts in a hurry or for immune boosts when under the weather, etc. I think of it as one of the components of my emergency fund.” Yes, I looked hard at powdered whey when it first appeared at my source for grassfed and pastured animal products. I decided then that despite its convenience and concentrated protein, that my money would be wiser spent elsewise, but these are highly personal decisions. But, the powdered whey I… Read more »

christina
christina
6 years ago

I grow as much as I can in my back yard and pots. Leafy greens are a must ,such as kale,spinach, parsley, I also have a trellis on whic I grow peas and beans at the same time.it doesnt grow alot but enough for just myself.I let my crops go to seed at the end of season so the following season I have my own seeds to replant.On heavy rainy days I will put a clean bucket out side and catch rain water,as I dont have space for a tank.

Kat
Kat
6 years ago

To save money, move toward a more plant-based diet. I’m not saying everyone should go vegetarian or vegan (I’m certainly not), but you’d be hard pressed to find any plant that is as expensive per pound than meat. Just tilt the balance from 60/40 meat to 60/40 plants. Or do meatless Mondays. My mom likes to tell me that in her day, you only ate meat maybe once a month, because that’s how much a family could afford. Today, this country slaughters 41 MILLION chickens per week. That’s a lot of meat, which may not necessarily be making us any… Read more »

Deborah Swanson
Deborah Swanson
6 years ago
Reply to  Kat

Well, plants definitely won’t make you healthier, despite all the governmental and media propaganda saying otherwise. Certainly not plants grown in North America, where even the USDA has documented a radical decline in nutrients over the past half century. They cite soil erosion as a prime culprit, and I imagine the failure of factory farms to rotate their crops and let fields lie fallow also contributes. Granted, I’m a very seriously ill person, but I’ve made more progress towards health in the past 2 years than I had in the 9+ years before that. What changed in this past 2… Read more »

Marie
Marie
6 years ago

There are multiple health issues in my family, and eating minimally processed foods has been the only effective way to accommodate everyone’s needs. Since some of the issues directly contradict each other (i.e., one person must avoid soy and nuts, while another must avoid red meat) I was going crazy trying to make meals that fit everyone. Now I make several steamed and raw vegetables with a side of lean meat, and everyone picks and chooses from the bowls to create their own custom plate, with the ratio of meat-to-veg that they desire.

Louise | Philadelphia Estate Planning Attorney
Louise | Philadelphia Estate Planning Attorney
6 years ago

Very interesting topic. My mom is particular about living a healthy lifestyle to stay away from diseases. One tip that I can share to eat healthy on a slim budget is to grow your garden. She grows some herbs and uses them to cook healthy meals. Organic foods may be expensive but not if you will get it from your own backyard. 🙂

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

That’s assuming you have a backyard. 🙂

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Cost of house with yard so I can grow some of my own vegetables a few months of the year versus buying my groceries at the grocery store and farmer’s market… It’s a no brainer for me.

If you have a house, land with good soil, and the free time, go for it 🙂 Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to DIY though. Whatever works!

Tracy
Tracy
6 years ago
Reply to  Carla

I only have a small balcony (10’x3′) and I grow cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, beans, basil, parsley, rosemary, and oregano. If you use your space well, you don’t need a ton of it to grow some awesome produce. I’m planting next weekend and I can’t wait!

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  Tracy

Sounds lovely! Our apartment is very small (I work from home) without a balcony or yard so there is really no room for anything to grow. I had sprouts at one time but even our kitchen is too small for that now. Having a yard is definitely a long-term goal.

Even Steven
Even Steven
6 years ago

We practice the paleo diet at our household. We stick with our Costco visits once a month for meat, eating as many veggies as possible(frozen and organic), and making sure to cook as much as possible.

Zanda
Zanda
6 years ago

Can I add 1 thing to your list?

Its…

Don’t buy luxury food, giving in to hype will cost you alot.

There are grocery items in the market today that does that.

Nik @ Midlife Finance`
Nik @ Midlife Finance`
6 years ago

A balance between meat, veggies, and fruits will make a person healthy. Our body needs it and will benefit from it as long as you’re taking the proper amount of it.

I think you can still eat healthy on a slim budget by growing your own veggies at home. If you don’t have a backyard, there are vegetables that you can plant on vases and it will work because I’ve tried.

You can also buy poultry and meat wholesale during market sale, you can buy wholesale and just store it in the comfort of your own home.

femmefrugality
femmefrugality
6 years ago

I’m totally using grease instead of cooking spray now. We already do frozen veggies. Wish we could be more awesome and use the fresh before they went bad, but that’s just not our reality

Clelie
Clelie
6 years ago

Hello- I didn’t get thru all the comments- so it is possible that someone covered this already- but here are some ideas to have a nutrient dense diet at low cost and also some resources that I have found helpful. Bone Broth is a real extender and work-horse for our family. We can boxes of bones from the local butcher for free or cheap- generally from animals that were very well cared for and in the fall even from game. I keep a slow cooker going pretty much all of the time with bone broth going- adding our veggie scraps… Read more »

Sylvia
Sylvia
6 years ago

Its all about moderation when eating healty verses fatning or sugar. Foods. Your body actually needs some sugar. Its okay to splurge. Not benging. Drink plenty of water exercise sleep friut and vegg and you dont have to eat everything organic. Only porus skin foods not thick skin friuts and veg and meditate yoga and practice good laughter and take 10 long deep breaths counting to five when breathing in and out avoid stress. Your life is what you make it. You can only feel how you let people make you feel. ; be positive. Pray daily and your on… Read more »

Jacqueline
Jacqueline
6 years ago

After do lots of research (for my blog) and reviewing books, it seems to me that food is of critical importance to a good life. Food Matters – you seem to really know that. To pay less and eat healthy, make your own food. Eat more raw (instead of fast food), raw was the first fast food! Make a garden, there is probably a community garden nearby or help a friend grow food. When I was in Grad school I helped a caterer,she didn’t pay me, but sent me home with lots of great food / better quality than I… Read more »

JD Sherling
JD Sherling
6 years ago

I believe that we can combine healthy eating with saving on groceries. Many posters have already commented on some of the strategies. I prepare lunch & dinner six days a week for my husband and I. (There are just 2 of us here). Some of my strategies: 1) I use coupons sparingly because I don’t buy much processed or canned food at all. However, there aren’t generics for things like hair color so that’s what I coupon for 2) I love frozen fruit and vegetables (where ingredient list is just the fruit or Veg. 3) Large portions of salad and… Read more »

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