Skip to comments.Foods to Buy When You’re Broke
Posted on 01/18/2014 11:57:04 AM PST by nickcarraway
On a tight food budget? Here are seven inexpensive and nutritious items you should consider adding to your grocery list.
Trying to live on a food budget of about $4 per day can be quite a challenge. People quickly discover this when they take the Food Stamp Challenge and try to learn what it's like to be poor for a week.
The challenge mirrors what someone can get through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the federal program that helps low-income people buy groceries. One in seven Americans receive the benefits, which were significantly reduced by Congress in November.
To qualify, a family of four can have an annual net income of up to $23,556, which puts them at the federal poverty level. They would then receive up to $632 a month in SNAP benefits, which equates to about $5.25 a day per person for food. The average SNAP recipient receives $4 per day, according to the Food Research and Action Center.
While getting this extra money can mean the difference between eating and going hungry, the limited funds can make it difficult to choose which food to buy. Getting the most nutrition for your money can be hard when you don't have a lot of money for groceries, but it's not impossible.
According to dieticians and nutritionists, some foods are better than others when you're trying to stretch a dollar. Here are seven that you should consider when funds are tight:
Brown rice. The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are some of the benefits, but one of the biggest pluses may be that the high amount of fiber in brown rice helps slow digestion and fill you up for a long time.
"Fiber is one of the best [nutritional components] that helps with satiety, or the feeling of fullness," says Rachel Begun, a food and nutrition consultant in Boulder, Colo."They also help to spread the food dollar because they're a component of meals that can help you make a fulfilling dish."
Beans. Like many items at the grocery store, buying in bulk can save a lot of money. Dry beans can cost about $1 per pound and expand to three times their volume when cooked, turning three to four cups of dry beans into nine cups when cooked, says Carol Wasserman, a certified holistic health practitioner in Manhattan.
And beans, like rice, can be flavored with spices and herbs to make the main portion of a meal.
"We have to kind of shift our thinking from having the meat be the center of the plate," and be more creative with other dishes, such as rice and beans, says Julieanna Hever, a plant-based dietician in Los Angeles and host of a healthy living talk show on Veria Living.
Beans are also a very healthy choice. They are high in fiber and protein, low in fat and sodium and have minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium, copper and zinc, along with vitamins such as folic acid, thiamin, niacin and B6.
Potatoes. These versatile vegetables can be added to casseroles and used in a variety of ways, and they're every bit as nutritious as colored vegetables, Begun says. They contain 45 percent of the recommended daily nutritional intake of vitamin C, 18 percent of fiber and 18 percent of potassium, a mineral that regulates blood pressure, she says. They've been found to have the lowest cost source of dietary potassium.
The average potato is virtually fat free, with a high water and fiber content to make it ideal for weight-loss at 200 calories for an average baked potato, according to information from GoIreland.com. Be careful how you cook them. Frying a potato raises fat content from 0 to 8 grams.
Green vegetables. Any leafy greens, such as broccoli, spinach and kale, have lots of nutrients per calorie and help protect against inflammation and disease, Hever says. Some lettuces can be bitter, she says, but can be offset in a salad with carrots, beets and other sweet vegetables.
"People aren't really used to it," she says of bitter greens such as kale. "It's kind of a taste bud transition that some people have to get used to."
Instead of buying an expensive dressing for any of these foods, Wasserman suggests mixing a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil with juice from half of a lemon or lime.
Frozen vegetables. Buying fresh vegetables in season is an inexpensive way to get them, but frozen vegetables are a good option too, Begun says. They're picked at the peak of their flavor and aren't nutritionally inferior to fresh ones. The downside of fresh vegetables is they might be picked before their height of ripeness and often travel many miles to a grocery store, she says. Peanut butter. This is another economic source of protein, rich in healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Peanuts contain resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, says Sharon Palmer, a Duarte, Calif.-based food and nutrition writer who covers plant-powered diets.
Protein bars. You may not want to make them the only part of your diet, but they obviously have protein in them and cost about $2 each. Andrew Ross and his wife, who live in Baltimore, eat a Quest protein bar from GNC every three hours from when the time they wake up until when they go to bed. They started this habit in April and he's lost 78 pounds so far. They also eat Power Pak pudding once a day, which contains 30 grams of protein per can and less than 200 calories. The protein bars have 20 grams of protein and less than 200 calories. Ross estimates that they spend less than $400 per month on food and drinks, saving money by buying in bulk during sales.
The best answer to getting the most nutritional foods for your buck may be to simply buy fresh food that's in season and not to fall for the theory that fast food is cheaper than what you can purchase at the grocery store. "People don't think out of the box," Wasserman says. Fast food may be quicker than preparing a meal at home, but it won't beat buying fresh fruit and vegetables in taste or cost, she says.
Thanks for posting this. I’m bookmarking it.
Pretty soon we’ll be like north Korea and the TV and radio will run with PSAs on how to prepare grass and tree bark soup.
They are free...
Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.
Many cities have large farmers markets that sell local produce, bulk items like beans, rice, cheese and other fresh food...
Yea, you will buy in larger quantities, but the price can as much as a third verses the supermarket...
We saved two to three hundred dollars a month making that trip...that was 20 years ago...
Oh' they often open up at 4:00 am to 10:00 am...so the restaurants can buy as fresh as possible...
And with rice, beans and hotsauce, an excellent Cajun meal.
On second thought, forget it.
Perhaps you can host a celebrity hunt-&-cook event?
Ted Nugent likes squirrel. Huckabee knows how to utilized a hot-air popcorn maker for squirrel.
Early editions of the "Joy of Cooking" have skinning and cleaning instructions.
OTOH, squirrel populations are cyclical, based on food. Big populations will put a dent in the growth of vegetation, meaning less food, and fewer tree rats the next few years, until the trees and bushes recover.
If you're really lucky, mass migrations of squirrels are not unheard of. Lucky, that is, if you are the origination, and the the destination.
Ross estimates that they spend less than $400 per month on food and drinks, saving money by buying in bulk during sales.
For 2 people? They think that’s cheap? If they only ate salads, frozen vegetables, potatatos, rice and beans as the article suggests it would be a heckuva lot cheaper than that.
Aren’t the commies in the EPA desirous of regulating what people can grow, food-wise, in backyard gardens?
Fortunately she taught me how to cook many things from scratch. A whole chicken for example can be simmered with some carrots, celery and an onion to make fantastic chicken soup and taking the meat off the bone you can make chicken sandwiches or my favorite chicken pie by using a tube of biscuits.
When they had food stamps back in the ‘70’s I was a bag boy at Big Star. The people who paid with stamps often bought the best cuts of meat and the most expensive prepared foods. When I told a woman she couldn’t buy canned dog food she shoved the cans aside, huffed off and returned with several steaks an told me “Well f*ck all of you he be eatin’ steak.”
I was recently in a Wal-Mart and the foreign couple in front each paid with their own EBT card. Not only did they buy expensive stuff but they were wearing leather coats, plenty of jewelry and had iPhones.
NY DAILY NEWS writers pretend that people live off SNAP even though these people can have other income: “To qualify, a family of four can have an annual net income of up to $23,556”... yet this fact seems to not penetrate their skulls
I'd never heard of that "theory." It flies in the face of all logic.
chicken.. biscuits... chicken n dumplings...
Short grain brown rice in a pan of water topped with a vegetable steamer filled with green beans or broccoli. Cook covered gently for about 40 minutes or until water is absorbed. To finished add Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese.
I lived on this for years and never got tired of it. I was very active back then. I tried to eat it recently and gained weight.
“Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?”
“I have about 10,000 squirrels in my neighborhood...”
My boy would love it. A killer with his pellet gun.
Possible garden ping list interest? I bought $.50 of turnip seed and $.75 of leaf lettuce at a nursery last year, gave some away and still have over half of the 1/4 cup left. I wanted to check for tomato seeds my last trip past there, but they were already closed for the day.
Potato egg hash. Lived on it at the frathouse in the early eighty’s.
Could eat for $5.00/wk. Still make it now and then cause it GOOD!
“I have about 10,000 squirrels in my neighborhood”
Ditto for us. And we have a Gamo varmiter. :-)
It’s not out of the question. Plenty of frozen pizzas and frozen entrees and cans of soup for example cost more per calorie than a lot of things off the “Dollar Menu”.
1. Sweet potatoes are much more nutritional that white ones. Fresh carrots last and they aren't expensive.
2. If you look, there are cheap ways to get canned tomatoes. Canned vegetables are cheaper than canned soups. Some stews etc have good nutrition for the price. Make your own soup.
3. Eggs, sardines (the cheapest, look for sales) are terrific protein. Chicken or turkey legs on sale are good protein sources... use them in that homemade soup.
4. Tea bags can be used for two or three cups of tea
5. Discount stores such as Job Lots and Dollar General often have quality, practical foods at excellent prices
6. Buy fruit juices and mix them 50% water instead of buying juice drinks. Applesauce is inexpensive.
7. Nothing is wasted. If you have any food at all that can go bad, make meals of it before buying any more food.
$30 a week was not difficult by following these rules.
Give me a break, averaging $4.50 per person a day for a family of four is nearly extravagant.. Shopping and buying food 3 times a week and meal planning should be both healthy and relatively simple..
One needs to cook at least 4 days a week, for enough delicious home-cooked meals for 6 days, is about all that is necessary..
I feed an average of 6 people a day, 6 days a week, on less than $150.00, Spending less than a hour in the kitchen 4 nights a week.. I serve a home-cooked meal each evening, including a soup or fresh salad, main course, with two fresh or frozen vegetables, and a starch at every meal..
With a minor alteration, 2 of the main courses can be transformed into the other 2 meals, taking less than a half hour to prepare..
Last week as an example;
Monday, I made a mixed green salad, Pot Roast, with 5 vegs, including diced potatoes in the gravy, over brown rice.. Total cost, under $25.00..
Tuesday; Being chilly, I made Kosher, Chicken Noodle Soup, including 4 vegs, with Home-made egg noodles, and Matzo Balls, with Caesar Salad.. Cost less than $15.00
Wednesday; I made Meatloaf, Green Beans, Kernel Corn, and Double Baked, Sour Cream, Garlic, Potatoes.. Fresh Cole Slaw, with raisins.. Cost less than $15.00
Thursday: I thicken the Chicken Soup, and made Dumplings, and served it in Sour Dough Bread Bowls, with fresh green salad, tomatoes, cucumbers.. Cost less than $12.00..
Friday; Pasta, with meatless gravy, and garlic bread (the center of the bread I removed from the bread bowls).. Cole slaw, lime jello for a starter.. Cost, less than $10.00
Saturday; I diced up the rest of the Pot Roast and thickened the gravy and made it a stew, served in a mashed potato boat.. Vinegar, and oil Chicken (from the soup), salad, appetizer, in stuffed Tomatoes.. Cost, under $8.00
We eat out on Sunday..
People drop by our church asking for help. Most of them smell of smoke, which costs over $5 per pack. And many of them have cell phones. They also have a particular dislike for work.
We are not poor, but we like good bread and love to save money ... plus milling your own flour is a workout; it is has a hand crank.
If those poor folks just made their own bread with store bought flour, they could save a ton. It is also easy to make flour torilllas and pasta and save bucks.
Good points; also, time is money. When you prepare a meal, it’s no extra work to make a really big meal then divide it into normal proportions in sealable Tupperware containers and frozen to be simply thawed and heated later. Many foods like soups, beans, chili, and etc. even taste better the second time around. I have found very few dishes that this method of saving preparation time doesn’t work well with.
I have seen the belief that fast food is cheaper than food you prepare yourself expressed many times. Usually, it is a lead-in to bash fast-food places and blaming McDonald's for obesity.
The assertion is ridiculous, IMO. You can spend a lot less on food by making it yourself. I made a pizza from scratch last night, it was delicious.
I suppose if I were using the examples of ready-to-eat stuff in the grocery stores....
I was thinking along the lines of produce, canned fruit and butcher, but I believe my thinking is off. A lot of folks on this thread talk about the kinds of food they see SNAP people are buying, and it ain’t produce. It’s frozen Pizza and Snackables.
One of the things I like about WIC is the purchase options are limited to economically priced items. Only a few items in the store qualify, no prime rib and lobster for the dog. Frozen pizza is not on the list either (store-brand might be).
“The big problem is that today few people know how to cook from scratch.”
That, I fear, is the sad truth. How to cook, prepare a weekly menu and shop accordingly is quickly becoming a thing of the past. There will be a whole generation of people that think gravy comes in a jar, lol.
Times change, I guess. It used to be a huge treat to go out to eat and prepared food at the grocery store was not the norm.
I found the list at the original post to be interesting. It included foods that were once staples.
“You can buy a whole rotisseried chicken at any Walmart for $5”
You can buy 10 pounds of chicken at any Walmart for $6.
Today i finished making a huge pot of chicken soup. 10 pounds of chicken quarters 9.00. bag of carrots .69. onion .75. spinach 1.00.
enough for lunch fam of 7. plan to
can abt 8 to 10 quarts.
Blueberry cobbler in oven
A caller on Chris Plante yesterday opined that by watching people in the grocery store you can learn a lot.
Say the person(A) that picks an item up, checks the price, weight etc, then sets it down and looks at the ‘generic brand’, compares price and weight and buys the cheaper item.
The other person(B) walks around, choosing the names he sees on TV, doesn’t check how much it costs or how much is in the can/package.
He surmised that Person A is spending THEIR OWN money while person B, in all likelihood, is spending OUR money.
That’s $21 A DAY for for 4 people?? Easily done unless you are buying fast food and expensive prepared meals.
I grew up eating pasta fazool, minestre, chicken soup made from the feet and gizzards, cabbage & noodles, etc.
I suppose a lot of people are allergic to peanut butter, but it belongs on a list of inexpensive foods. Eggs too.
I am sick to death of this 4.50 per day meme. Does it suck? Yup. Can it be done? Of course.
How do these parasites get so FAT on 4 bucks a day?
I received a Thermal Cooker for Christmas. I have so far made spaghetti sauce, chili, and a pot roast. I only had to use a stove top for 15 minutes each for the spaghetti sauce and chili and 30 minutes for the pot roast, which had to be brought back to a boil before adding potatoes and carrots. I seared the roast first in a separate pan. Ditto for softening onions and garlic and browning meat for the sauce and the chili.
The 1 gallon main pot for the thermal cooker will hold a 3# beef roast. I think it will hold a 5#-6# chicken easily if the chicken is cut up first. There is a smaller pot that fits inside the main pot. It can be used for rice. I needed to fill space when doing the pot roast, so I filled the top pot with boiling water and fitted it in before adding a lid and closing the thermal case.
Besides cooking in about the same time as a crock pot (6 hrs), I can hold the food much longer (over 8 hours) without any change in flavor or texture, and it is still at a perfect serving temperature. All of this with no additional electricity needed after first searing, browning and bringing the fluids to boiling. The instructions call for holding at a boil on the stovetop for 10 minutes, but I found that just bringing to a rolling boil is sufficient. This is great for both not having to watch for burning of settled contents and for saving energy costs.
I still have 4 servings each of chili and spaghetti sauce in the freezer, as well as about a quart of the pot roast gravy, which goes well in further meals over biscuits or potatoes or rice. I use Ultra Gel to thicken the gravy and the spaghetti sauce, since there isn’t any reduction with thermal cooking and I dislike freezing and reheating anything thickened with flour or regular cornstarch. The frozen gravy is only medium thick and can be used as a soup base, if I so decide, or just thickened further, if necessary.
When I have freezer space/containers free, I am going to make a chicken soup with a whole chicken. However, right now, I have 1/2 gallon of carcass soup in the freezer, so that will wait.
Occasionally, I make a Mexican sauce using either chicken or beef. I always have left over sauce, which I freeze. I can take out the sauce, add in whatever leftovers I have on hand and in 15 minutes, we have either burrito or enchilada filling.
Another budget stretcher is homemade eggrolls. Small amounts of meat and a large amount of vegetables fill 20 wrappers. I fry them once and immediately put the extra hot eggrolls into foil and freeze. I then have 2 more meals of eggrolls that heat and serve in 20 minutes from freezer to plate. Any excess filling goes into either a hot & sour soup
or a fried rice dish.
I’m only feeding two people, but our large dog always gets a serving added to his dog food. Food lasts around here and there is little menu fatigue, since the frozen food can be cycled in weeks later.
I buy as much meat as possible from the markdown bin. I also use tougher cuts of bargain beef to grind for burger and I can grind venison to stretch to further. I save beef fat to add to these if the beef is really lean. Grinding 3-5 pounds of meat takes an hour from set up to finished cleanup. Some of these meals come out to .50/serving for the main course. Adding pasta, biscuits, cornbread and a salad results in meals at well under $2/person, even when my husband has seconds.
Everything on the list is pure starch except for the suggestion of vegetables. Therefore, all of it is very fattening. None of it is good for people with health issues and people with health issues don’t receive a larger budget for food.
If I had to survive on that kind of meal plan, I’d die...young. The public couldn’t afford the amount of insulin it would take to keep me alive.
By buying food that they WANT...not need?
Also, plant a garden in spring if you’ve got room. A herb garden takes up a little space. Kale, spinach, etc. in soup is delicious. Go to the Dollar Tree stores and store up on dried herbs and spices. Lentils are cheap and healthy. Go for cheap cuts of meat - they are out there. Freeze what you don’t use. Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes are still relatively cheap and can last awhile.
I could probably live on beans and rice if I had too... provided I have a supply of spices.
Brown rice and beans are not pure starch. Potatoes have loads of vitamins. None have any fat.
People all over the world live on these sorts of foods without becoming Type II diabetics.
Arugula is very expensive in stores. Buy it in seed packets and plant it. It did very well in my spring garden. Of course, I don’t like arugula, but that’s my problem...
Also, Barilla whole wheat spaghetti is absolutely delicious. It wins most “best whole wheat spaghetti”consumer reports. It is healthy and you will be sticking it in the eye of the politically correct. We’re having it tonight!
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