Eating Cheap, But Healthy

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jun 05, 2007 7:13 AM GMT
    I've just started the 12 week workout plan today and I'm looking to lose about 20 pounds by the end of the year, if not more. I'd also like to change my nutrition habits so that I'm eating much healthier than I normally would.

    The problem I find when looking for nutrition plans, however, is that so many of them are just prohibitively expensive. I'm a college student and I only work part-time. I can only afford to spend about $30-$40 a week on groceries, max, and since there are perverse incentives to eat the least healthy but highest calorie foods, I can usually only afford to get those.

    Can anyone give me some pointers on how to start buying food that is healthy, but that is also fairly cheap? Cheap as in within that price range I mentioned earlier.
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    Jun 05, 2007 2:57 PM GMT
    I am not a student, but I manage to eat well in a similar budget range.

    1]. I never buy packaged meals.
    2]. Best option with veggies is to buy frozen [like frozen spinach, edmame and peppers). Others like broccoli, onions, mushrooms can easily be chopped and frozen.
    3]. Low fat [or non fat] milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu [cheaper at whole foods] and ricotta cheeses are my protein sources. Eggs as well.
    4]. I use oatmeal for breakfast, you can include some raisins in it as well.
    5]. I use regular black tea, brown-rice and Barilla pasta whole grain variety, and peanut butter.
    6]. For fruits I use frozen berries and bananas. Cheap and good.

    with these kinda stuff, I barely cross 20-25 bucks on my weekly grocery shopping. I don't know how to factor in non-vegetarian items.

    Hope this helps
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    Jun 05, 2007 3:39 PM GMT
    Inexpensive sources of protein:

    Canned tuna
    Homemade Turkey Chili (a packet makes 4 cost for the turkey, tomatoes, beans, and packet is under $5).
    Frozen white fish (NOT breaded)

    Chicken can be on the pricey side sometimes...but if you buy the bulk frozen packages you can get about 5-7 breasts for $7 or $8.

    Fresh fruits and veggies will coming down here shortly with summer's arrival. However, frozen or canned work just as well.

    Of course...this is all based on my shopping experiences here in Columbus OH. :)

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    Jun 05, 2007 3:45 PM GMT
    Hey Man....First off, I congratulate you on trying to lose weight with diet and exercise!

    I live on $40 a week in LA!

    #1 - FIND A FARMER'S MARKET near you and go EVERY WEEK and buy all your fruits and veggies there.

    #2 - Read up on sources of PERFECT PROTEIN! Peanut butter and wheat bread, beans and rice, eggs, quinoa, etc....

    #3 - spend the rest of your cash on staples such as brown rice, quinoa, eggs, cottage cheese, tofu, and other protein sources.

    Good luck!!
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    Jun 05, 2007 6:54 PM GMT
    You may want to look into vegetarianism. Aside from the health benefits (which are numerous), you can save tons of money as veggies are (on the whole) cheaper than most meats at the store and you can purchase them in abundance. Also, your skin will look amazing! :)
  • vince_the_cyc...

    Posts: 126

    Jun 05, 2007 7:01 PM GMT
    Is it possible to really get enough protein (like 180-200 grams a day or so for a guy my size to build muscle) on a vegetarian diet?
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    Jun 05, 2007 7:21 PM GMT
    Sure. Do a Google search on 'vegan bodybuilding'.
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    Jun 06, 2007 4:22 AM GMT
    Thanks for all the advice, y'all. This is what I was looking for. Good to know some others have been able to eat healthy on that kind of budget.
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    Jun 06, 2007 3:32 PM GMT
    Yeah man, it is possible to live off of a cheap budget. Cans of tuna are really good. And peanut butter seems to last so long.

    I look at my friends in amazement that spend 100 or 200 dollars at the grocery store. I always ask them are they feeding an army.

    Pasta is also something to look into. I have found that most cost a 59 cents to a dollar. I make pasta salad, and it lasts for a few days.
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    Jun 06, 2007 7:51 PM GMT
    Nice thing about tuna on a budget is that the cheaper chunk light Tongol tuna typically has a half to a third the mercury in it as the more expensive solid white albacore tuna.
  • redheaded_dud...

    Posts: 408

    Aug 24, 2007 8:55 PM GMT
    My problem has been eating (and drinking) out all the time. Sometimes the drive in has been so temping (for food, not booze!) Staying away from places that bring me my food (either on a plate or in a sack) has saved me tons of money and has helped me lose about 5 pounds in 2 weeks.

    And I love Costco. Frozen boneless/skinless chicken breasts are around $12 for around 14 of them (that's 2 weeks worth, for the math challenged). They have a huge thing of mixed field green salad for around $3. Eggs and their version of Egg Beaters, frozen veggies, grains are also cheap there. It's a great place to stock up on the staples, but it can get expensive if you use them for everything.
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    Aug 24, 2007 9:07 PM GMT
    This time of year, it pays to drop in and visit people who have gardens. They'll invariably send you home with a basket full of fresh produce. Just not sure what to do with all of the damned zucchini!
  • DiverScience

    Posts: 1426

    Aug 24, 2007 9:29 PM GMT
    I spend 30-40 a week.


    for proteins

    lots of fresh veggies (in the summer hit the farmer's markets), whatever's on sale. Saute it lightly in olive oil with your chosen protein and a bunch of seasonings and whamo, you've got a good healhty cheap meal.
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    Aug 24, 2007 9:43 PM GMT
    I'm curious as to what kind of beans you're eating. Do you buy them dry and soak them yourself? Or do you just buy canned kidney beans, pinto beans, that sort of thing? Also, what do you put beans in? I find beans to be about the most bland food on the planet, so I need some help on how to make them less...shitty.

    By the way, thanks to this thread I've successfully cut my food budget down to $20-$25 a week. I never eat out, so that's not a problem, and veggies are cheap this time of year.
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    Aug 24, 2007 10:26 PM GMT
    There's a Costco 38 miles east of you in Petersburgh. We are able to shop for healthy foods there and really minimize cost.

    For example:

    Bags of frozen chicken breasts
    Bags of frozen green beans
    Large bags of rice - several varieties
    Eggs - in quantity. About $.03/each - sometimes less.

    To really get a handle on your weight, cut back or eliminate a lot of dairy, fruit and other simple sugars, and forget tofu - the belief that soybean proteins are as good as animal proteins is based on studies funded by the soy industry. They are NOT. The amino acid profiles are incomplete.

    You can also get generic multivitamins with minerals and supplemental vitamin C to plug any possible nutritional holes.

    You can also supplement with fresh produce from your area - always a good idea.
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    Aug 24, 2007 10:57 PM GMT
    I'll be honest and say I'm too lazy to prepare a lunch to bring to work, and I don't like spending too much, either. I got into a routine of working out around 11:30 then picking up lunch after. My usual was Moe's, and while I thought I was ordering the healthier stuff, I was amazed how many calories I was consuming.
    I found the Calorie King web site:
    which let's you pick the fast food restaurant you're interested in and customize the right caloric/fat/protein/sodium intake (among others) from a majority of each restaurant's current menu. While I don't like a lot of the religious/political actions from Chick-Fil-A, I've been able to regulate my lunch very well now. By the way, my favorite is the grilled chicken sandwich with a packet of Honey Roasted bbq and a small carrot/raisin salad (exactly 500 calories).
    You'll be surprised at how many calories some things are (790 calories for a cookies & cream milkshake from Chick-Fil-A) and you'll be surprised that there are some relatively healthy items on other menus.
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    Aug 24, 2007 11:40 PM GMT
    I taught myself lots of mexican recipes. It's a very cheap cuisine (esp. here in TX). Contrary to popular belief, mexican food is healthy if you control the ingredients yourself. You can use most of ingredients for different meals, so there's little to actully throw out due to spoilage.

    Other than that, follow what others have said here. I would disagree, however, that farmers markets are cheap. You're better off sticking to what's in season (in-season stuff is cheaper and usually local) and getting it at the big grocery store.

    As they say "shop the perimeter of the store". That's where all the fresh stuff is. Learn to use basic ingredients. Most prepackaged stuff is for lazy people and the price they pay is preservatives and additives, which I suspect helps store fat.

    My goal is to spend no more than 30 minutes preparing and eating a meal, unless I have a guest. I have a ton of super-cheap and healthy recipes in my arsenal. Email me if you want a few.

    I can eat on $75 a month and still enjoy much food satisfaction.