Ask the Readers: How Do You Eat Healthy on a Budget? (Chance to win $25!)

By Linsey Knerl on 4 May 2010 122 comments
Photo: Selma90

*** Congrats to our winners! ****

  • Emily - It's actually less expensive to eat healthily than not... a shopping basket filled to the brim with fresh fruits and vegetables costs considerably less than one filled with ready-made meals, processed foods, etc.! Like many others, we...

    1) cook from scratch as much as possible, freezing leftovers if we'd cooked a big batch of food. This includes baking our own breads and making our own sauces most of the time.

    2) buying frozen and dried goods in bulk. we buy canned goods too, but they're generally not as healthy.

    3) avoid wasting food -- we cook as much as we can eat, freezing leftovers. We buy fresh produce once or twice a week, and finish them before they go bad.

    4) we compost our food wastes and use it towards our small vegetable garden.

    5) we mostly buy whatever's on sale

    6) limit meat products... this one's also tough for us because my husband loves his meats :-)

  • 1bets1 - I eat healthy on the cheap! I use beans for protein, and grains such as bulgar are very cheap. Add produce & milk- G2G. #WBAsk  

And check out these reader blog posts that share how they are eating healthy on a budget!

 

Many of us are starting gardens, watching what we eat, and giving organics a try. Others count calories, exercise more, or drink plenty of water to shed pounds and live longer. What are your strategies for maintaining a healthy diet? Can you do it with less money than you've been spending on unhealthy options? We think so!

In partnership with General Mill's Eat Better America, we are asking you, the readers, how you can amp up the health factor of your meals, without juicing up the grocery budget. It can be done, and with Eat Better America offering healthy recipes, tips, and savings coupons, it just got easier!

We want to know how you eat healthy on a dime. With so many of us living such busy lifestyles, it can be difficult to implement good eating habits — especially those that won't break the bank!! What kinds of tips can you offer others hoping to achieve good eats for less? By sharing your thoughts, you'll be entered to win a $25 grocery gift card!

Feel free to link to a blog post, if you're written on this topic! We'll include it in our post upon the conclusion of our giveaway!

For even more chances to win, visit Eat Better America's website and register for the chance to score a $1500 in groceries! You can also "Like" them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter for updates on more exciting promotions, better living tips, and savings coupons.

Win one of two $25 grocery gift cards:

We're doing two giveaways — one for random comments, and another one for random tweets.

How to Enter:

  1. Post your answer in the comments below, or
  2. Tweet your answer. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, May 10th at 11:59 pm CST. Winners will be announced after May 10th on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter both drawings — once by leaving a comment and once by tweeting.
  • Only tweets that contain both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" will be entered. (Otherwise, we won't see it.)

Good luck!

*Prizes provided by General Mills and Eat Better America.

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Guest's picture
Kristin

I eat meat only occasionally, I buy healthy beans and rice in bulk from a food coop, I buy fresh produce in season from the farmer's market, and I shop the sales at my local grocery store to keep my pantry stocked.  I don't buy alcohol or junk food like chips or cookies.  

I try to avoid wasting food (i.e., feeding the garbage can), I eat out rarely, and I only go to the grocery once every ten days or so.  Stretching out my trips to the grocery store forces me to use leftovers in my fridge and the stores in my pantry, changing some of my food decisions from "What do I feel like eating?" to "What do I have to eat?".  

Guest's picture
Erica

On Sundays, my best friend and I roast 2 to 4 huge sheet pans of vegetables, whatever's cheap and in season. Bell peppers, zucchini, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflour, peas, carrots, turnips, broccoli, etc. (Berkeley Bowl, best grocery store ever!) We also make a big pot of whole grain (quinoa, brown rice, or a grain/pea/lentil mix from the Korean market). Then we have lunch and dinner all week! Various sauces help keep it interesting. When reheating, I sometimes mix in an egg or some cheese, or top w yogurt. Because we each live alone, combining shopping and cooking efforts makes it cheaper, easier, and more fun. We spend about $10-$15 each for 5 days of lunch and dinner, and get to hang out and catch up with each other every week. Sometimes we'll mix it up by making some quiche (rice or quinoa crust) or lasagna instead.

Guest's picture
ryan

I make it a priority. Buying clean food is not something that will be compromised. If it came to it, anything else would be cut first.

Personally it makes it easier because I dont buy meat or preprocessed/packaged foods.  We eat dinner out maybe twice a month, and never any other meal.  I also dont have cable, so that helps. 

Guest's picture
Robin

My hints are pretty basic, but very effective:

1. Cook from scratch.  I can't overemphasize this.

2.  Cook what's on sale.

3.  Minimize the use of meat.  My husband is a "meat and potatoes" man so this can be a challenge, but I do my best.

Guest's picture
Kate

Recently I've tried to cut down on meat both for moral and economic reasons. I try to use whatever is cheap/in season from the store as far as fruits and veggies go. I find I waste less if I prepare more on the weekend. So, I'll cut up a whole watermelon on the weekend and have enough to bring for lunch every day and some to snack on at night. Or, I'll make a veggie lasagna on sunday and bring pieces for lunch for the rest of the week. 

Guest's picture
gt0163c

For the most part, I eat what I can find on sale, which means it's in season. I cook from scratch most of the time and don't eat a lot of processed foods. That helps keep the cost down. I use coupons, ideally combined with sales for as many things as I can and that also helps keep the costs down.

Guest's picture
Emily

Find a local ethnic grocery store or market and stock up on spices. They can turn ordinary, cheap food staples (like beans, lentils) into amazingly tasty dishes. Look for ethnic recipes that a vegetarian, as the ingredients will also be less costly. 

Guest's picture
Kristy

We buy less - less meat, less junk food, less from restaurants - so that the things we do buy can be higher quality. We don't buy any soda at all, for example, which means that we can spend that money on organic tea and coffee. We don't buy bottled water, but use a filter pitcher. We eat a lot of beans. I love the bulk bins; I wish more grocery stores had them.

Guest's picture

I solicit the coupons I need.  I like buying Organic and healthy but admit they are not on sale as often so I literally walk through a grocery store thinking "man I have had Kozy Shack Pudding, Bolthouse Juices, chiquita sliced apples, etc. in a long time" and I go home and email them how much I love them and week later I have coupons for the next sale!

We also mostly plan by what is on sale and what we have on hand.

Guest's picture

I solicit the coupons I need.  I like buying Organic and healthy but admit they are not on sale as often so I literally walk through a grocery store thinking "man I have had Kozy Shack Pudding, Bolthouse Juices, chiquita sliced apples, etc. in a long time" and I go home and email them how much I love them and week later I have coupons for the next sale!

We also mostly plan by what is on sale and what we have on hand.

Guest's picture
Erin

When deciding where to spend my money on food seasonings, I hit the nursery, not the supermarket.  For the same $2.50 I would spend on five stems of basil prepacked in plastic, I can buy a thriving basil plant for the same cost.  If you have a plant that lasts 20 weeks, and you normally buy fresh herbs on a weekly basis, that $2.50 has just broken down to less than $0.13 a week.  Not to mention there is less wasted since you only harvest what you need and you are saving the earth from all that plastic packaging.  This also works well with oregano, thyme, parsley, sage, and especially rosemary.  My intitial $5 rosemary mini-bush is 3+ years old and providing continual harvests!

Guest's picture
Erika

I look at the local grocery ad each week when meal-planning, then buy meat and produce that's on sale. We do not eat a lot of meat, so that helps. I use a lot of frozen vegetables, which are healthy and economical. In the summer, we have a CSA membership to a local farm that is half reimbursed by our health insurance provider.

Guest's picture
Kelly

Pack a lunch! Packed lunches are much healthier, and much cheaper, than buying a lunch every day. I have a tiffin with three sections. One section usually has some sort of leftovers in it from dinner the night before. The other two I fill with fresh fruit and vegetables, or maybe granola and yogurt (which I buy in big containers and section off into smaller reusable plastic containers every day).

Guest's picture
bjs1109

Eat - and shop- seasonally. Piles of produce will always beat sales and coupons.

Guest's picture
Neal

~Popcorn-Put yellow kernals in brown paper bag and microwave. Only $1 lb of kernals, 0 fat and about 100 calories for 5 cups popped.

~Oatmeal- Steel cut oats are only $1 a lb and 100 calories for 1/4 cup (measured prior to cooking). Basically fat free and a complex carbohydrate that keeps you full longer.

~In season fruit- I just bought 10 Texas grapefruits for $1. Need I say more?

~Online coupons- HipToSave.com, (wisebread...) and Restraunts.com all inform readers of amazing deals to satisfy the urge to eat out and relax. Eat healthy by simply researching menu nutrition fact of restaurant prior to going out. Also, don't be afraid to order a kids meal or appetizer at restraunts/fast food places.

~Drink water- Zero calories. Carry a waterbottle to avoid having to purchase a wasteful plastic bottle.

~Cheap go-to meals- Baked potatos, omeletes, salads, turkey/chicken sandwhiches, etc. all offer healthy/cheap ways to fill up on great, cheap food.

~Organic?- Only buy organic if the food you buy organic is a food you eat the skin with.. (EX. strawberries, apples, peaches, tomatos... NOT: bananas, cantalope, oranges, etc.)

Guest's picture
Cameron Malek

I'm on a slow carb diet, inspired by Tim Ferriss. It consists of eating a protein, legume, and vegetable for every meal. I also eat the same thing for every meal every day for at least 2 weeks before I'd change anything out. Buying dried lentils and black beans is incredibly cheap. Buying some collard greens, broccoli, and spinach don't cost much either. Then I'm left with protein: 18 eggs a week, then a generic brand of skinless chicken breasts (12 servings a bag) and then I can still buy a $10 salmon fillet. The total each week comes out to $30. That's $30 a week for 5 lbs of weight loss a week. If I needed to constrict my budget, I could substitute the salmon for something else. Oh, and nothing but water and tea for liquids, and I have enough tea stockpiled to last me until the end of time.

I cook all the chicken and salmon at once (reheating the salmon can make it a bit dry if you're not careful). Therefore everything's in the fridge and I don't lose anything to freezerburn OR have to pay to power a freezer either. And when you eat the same thing every day (which sounds boring, but I still like everything I've been eating), it's not really possible to forget about something and waste it.

Guest's picture
Amber

We are not exactly on a budget but I do like to keep our grocery costs under $150/month for two.  Not sure if that's a lot or not...  My main way of keeping costs down is combining coupons & store sales.  I routinely pick up a whole mess of stuff at "super doubles" or "triples" events and work meals around them the rest of the time.

We rarely eat meat because we've committed to cutting CAFO meat out of our home (we still eat meat at restaurants...).  That means I buy a chicken or a couple of steaks at the farmer's market each week and we work to make it stretch.  It doesn't save us too much money (because the meat is so expensive compared with the supermarket) but it forces us to be healthier the rest of the week - lots of eggs, beans, veggies.

Guest's picture
Leslie

I don't eat meat, and that is a BIG help.  I have printed out a list of what fruits/vegetables are in season during certain months, so that helps me determine what to head straight for at the grocery store.  It's also easier when you plan your meals around a "base" ingredient like rice, pasta, quinoa, or couscous for example.  I can make up a big pot of that ahead of time and then just add veggies and some kind of flavor (or not) and I'm ready to go.  Also growing my own herbs helps out too.  I have a TINY apartment, but there is room on my balcony to put out a couple pots of basil and this keeps the pesto sauce coming!  The bulk bins at the grocery and the ethnic groceries are great as well.  Meal planning probably makes the most difference because I sit down and plan out everything around a specific group of base ingredients and then I don't end up buying way more than I need because it looked good at the time!

Guest's picture
Dory

What I'm going to cook and eat for a week is pretty dependendent on what is on sale at the grocery store. I usually look through all the grocery store ads on Tuesday when I get them, and then figure out what I'm going to make for the week. Luckily I live in California so there are farmer's markets everywhere. Buying produce there is helpful. It's inexpensive and local, which is nice.

Guest's picture
Amy N.

We grow whatever fruits and vegetables we can.  And, only the ones we like to eat.  Our neighbors get together in summer and have a produce swap.  You bring your bounty and leave it and take some of what antoher has grown.  You get to try different varieties this way.

I look for fresh in-season items in the produce area of my grocery store.  And, I don't overlook the frozen isle.  These vegitables are just as healthy and oftan a lot cheaper.

Guest's picture
Sara A

Beans, beans/the magical fruit/the more you eat..... the less you spend at the grocery store.

Guest's picture
Beth

I cook dried beans in the crock pot and I make my own yogurt.  Both require a minimal amount of time and are cheaper and healthier for me and my family.

Guest's picture
Ann Marie

My tips:

1. I eat no meat. At all. Not everyone wants to be a vegetarian, but I believe it's healthier overall and it really cuts down on restaurant bills when I do go out to eat.

2. I buy in-season produce, from either the grocery store or the farmer's market. You can save 75% or more on fresh produce if you buy in season.

3. Cook from scratch as much as possible. I know what's going into my meal (and how much butter/oil I can cut out), and I'm not paying a convenience fee for someone else to assemble and/or cook my food.

Guest's picture

I'd like to eat healthier on my limited grocery budget. It's really hard in Canada to do so. During the winter months, everything is imported and costs a lot.

That being said, I do try to get some fresh or frozen produce in with every meal.

Guest's picture
dj

I keep a db detailing our spending, and the price of products we commonly use, and we have reduced our food expenses/mth by $200 from previous years. Unbelievable given inflation. I have 3 food categories: food (to sustain life), junk, and restaurants. Our junk is basically nonexistence these days and we prefer picnics to restaurants, so that was easy. If we want something sweet, we make a healthier version of it. Fries, we make our own in the oven. If we want something, we make it. I haven't bought soda probably in a decade. If we want to treat ourselves, we use sparkling water and a little fruit juice. We have simplified everything. I abhor complex recipes and cookbooks. We don't buy a lot of things we use occasionally, but rather a few things we use a lot, and we substitute and make our own. I make my own buttermilk, bbq sauce, taco seasonings, salad dressing. Buy on sale and only buy what you use. Buy prepared foods sparingly. Always have loads of frozen vegetables on hand. Buy grains and beans in bulk. Use good quality meat sparingly. Never throw anything out. Chop it up and freeze it, to use later. We don't have diabetics or heart disease, but we eat, as-if, to some degree. It can be relaxing, rewarding, and even spiritual, to work with food and make meals for the family.

Guest's picture
Cori

I buy in bulk from Costco and can make my purchases last longer than a month. I usually buy the following at Costco:

  •  Organic quinoa
  • 12-can packs of garbanzo, black, pinto beans, tomatos
  •  frozen blueberries (for smoothies),
  • organic milk (3-packs)
  • organic eggs ($3 for 18-eggs!)
  • giant bag of organic carrots
  •  bags of onions and potatoes for $3
  • frozen organic vegetables
  • 12-pack salmon burgers
  • bags of dried fruit (mangos, prunes, cranberries) for 1/2 price of grocery store

I could go on and on, but that's just an example of how I save $$ every month and buy healthy foods.

Guest's picture
BRB

I do have a garden, but I get the majority of my food from the farmer's markets!  The food is always fresher and you get to eat in season by defualt.  Eggs also make a good meal protein replacement once or twice a week.

Guest's picture
Michelle

With a husband and two teenagers, it can be hard but basicaly I try not to buy any pre-packaged or processed foods.

For dinners we eat - a veggie (usually from our garden or whatever frozen veggies are on sale),
- a meat (we buy half a hog from friends of ours - it's raised on their farm, only a litter at a time, and that means there are no chemicals, hormones or antibiotics fed to it - also pound for pound, much cheaper than store bought meat and SOOO much better!)
- and usually a starch - potatoes, pasta or rice. I bake cookies and other sweets from scratch.

It's kind of old-fashioned but it was how I was raised. My husband and I both work and my mom was a working mom, too, so time isn't really an excuse not to cook, just make it a family affair. My 16-year-old daughter is getting to be quite the cook!

Guest's picture
kim

Fewer impulse buys - when I shop I actually evaluate each item, and if it doesn't fit my budget and how I want to eat then I don't get it.

Guest's picture
Carrie

i cook at home and focus on eating lots of in season produce

Guest's picture
Guest

Of course, the garden with canning or freezing will stretch the dollars. Buy on sale if at all possible. Reduce meat portions in your cooking, i.e. Chili with beans can be made with 1/2 the amount of meat, or less. Cooking from scratch is critical in saving money and improves your eating habits.   We avoid food with additives and no processed foods. The most important part is balanced meals in reasonable portions. Veggies are allowed without restriction.  Eating out at lunch time is cheaper and smaller portions than the dinner menu.

Guest's picture
Heather

I use cooked whole wheat on a regular basis. I often substitute it for part of the cooked ground beef in a recipe. It cuts down the grease and increases the fiber and nutrients. My favorite recipe made this way is tacos. To make using wheat on a regular basis I pre-cook it the crock pot. 10 cups of water + 4 cups of whole wheat x 8 hours=12 cups cooked wheat berries. Then I divide it up into freezer bags. I use these with ground beef, in salads and even in salsa. Many people are skeptical until they try it. I also plan meals around oatmeal, beans and brown rice. These ingredients are very cheap and so much better for you than prepackaged dinners.

Guest's picture
saudade

I buy from bulk bins, cook at home, and I don't cook with meat very often.  If I do use meat, I will use it more as a flavor enhancer:  a single pork sausage in sauce or stew (along with tempeh or tofu as the main protein), a few slices of bacon in a bean, pasta, and vegetables dish. 

I get fruit from trees in our neighborhood (I always ask first!) and make jam.  I never throw bread away -- I make croutons, pudding, squash stuffing, etc. with any leftovers.   I make my own probiotic kombucha and kimchi instead of buying the expensive store versions or probiotic supplements.

Guest's picture
Therese

I'm learning to make healthier things from scratch, such as soymilk and tofu. I am also eating less meat, so that saves money, too.

Guest's picture
Bobbi

I have planted my first small garden this year. I have tomatoes, pole beans, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli so far. This weekend, I will be planting red potatoes. Some things I waited too long on, but the winter garden should do so much better after my learning curve. :) The tomatoes are looking awesome and the beans are getting really tall. Can't wait until they are ready!

Guest's picture
Jennifer

Shop ads, clip coupons, cook from scratch, join a local food co-op, buy in season...

Guest's picture
John B

GO VEGETARIAN! Fresh fruits & veggies from the local farm stand and bulk grains from markets are all super-cheap.

Also, buy as few pre-made foods as possible - make as much as you can at home instead. Invest in a soy milk maker for $100 (make a gallon of soy or almond milk for about $0.25) instead of paying $3/half gallon. Make pesto for less than two dollars instead of over four for an overly-salted tub of pre-made...

Guest's picture
Jeff

Cook from scratch.  Processed foods are full of refined starches and chemical that are not healthy.  Make your own versions of pasta roni, rice aroni.  Make mashed potatoes from real potatoes instead of a box.  Pizza does not have to be ordered from Dominoes or come from a box in the freezer.  It is a great family project to make pizza dough from scratch and top it the way you like it.  Instant foods are not always faster and they are usually not as healthy as home made things.  Instead of filling up your shopping cart with bags of chips and prepackaged meals, fill it up with flour, and brown rice and yeast.  You can bake or make anything you need.  Don't buy the pre mixed drinks or soft drinks.  Buy bags of tea and brew your own iced tea.  Add various flavors to your tea if you like.  Pick up a juicer at a garage sale and make your own juices.  When you make it yourself you control what goes into the food and the quantity you make.  You will save money on the ingredients plus you can make less food and not have all the leftovers in your fridge.  For a family of three we have cut our grocery bill in half using this appoach.  We shop every two weeks and only put about half the groceries in the cart that we used to put on a weekly basis.  It is the best way to eat healthy and to save money

Guest's picture

Funny you should ask! I wrote a post about this on my site womenatforty.com after watching Food Inc. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't that hard either. I'm blessed to live close to a farmers market and food coop, and I cut way back on meat. I undterook a $25 a week healthy food challenge and have pretty much stuck to it for the past several months. Here's the link to my original post - http://womenatforty.com/2010/01/my-25-a-week-good-food-experiment/

Guest's picture

I keep it simple.  I drink only water, which is basically free.  I drink a glass or two before each meal because sometimes our brain mistakes thirst for hunger.  I then start out each meal with loads of vegetables for digestive purposes.  I also try to eat a good amount of fiber-rich foods.  I do eat meat, which stretches the budget the most but grilling a couple of chicken breasts isn't too bad.  Simplicity is the key.  Clean simplicity.

Guest's picture
Cheryl

You CAN eat healthy on a budget if you work at it. There are coupons out there for organic foods. I get my fruits / veggies in season at the local farmers markets, and freeze what doesn't get eaten for non-season! Ask for gift cards to your favorite natural/organic grocer for occasions, split the share of a co-op with a friend!

Guest's picture

We cut down on our meat consumption and put in a garden. Also, with our improved eating babits, portions are smaller and junk food is out, leaving room in the budget for a few more organic/whole/natural choices.

Guest's picture

1. We don't eat out (often).

2. We split a CSA share.

3. We eat vegan.

4. We found a local bulk-buying club for dry goods and joined with a neighbor, which means we split the cost of picking up the food.

5. We grow our own veggies.

6. We buy fresh produce every other day and only what we need for 2 days, so it doesn't go bad.

7. We pressure cook and freeze large bathces of dried beans.

8. We don't eat processed food.

9. The only bread or fake meat products we eat are made in our house.

10. We eat dinner together every night without distractions.

Guest's picture
Diane

In all seasons except winter, I forage.  In the parks, nature areas, and at properties the local university owns, I've picked morels, puffballs, black raspberries, and blackberries.  One property had so many blackberries they were drying up on the vine--I know we picked hundreds of dollars worth.  The university has several persimmon trees, and I scavenge the fruit as it falls when perfectly ripe.  I don't have the patience to crack walnuts, but those are available too.  We always make sure picking fruit is permitted before we go foraging.

Guest's picture
Eris

Eating oatmeal or a cooked grain in the morning. Drinking water, planting some veggies. 

Guest's picture
Eric

Get 2 slices of budget and slap some healthy on there; Healthy on Budget sam'ich!

Guest's picture
Joel Gray

I really love your blog! I have a friend who found some great tips on this website!
http://www.financetips101.com/

Guest's picture
Chiara

I try to cook from scratch most of the time. I stock up on meat when they're super cheap (chicken, ground beef at $0.99) and always check the "quick sale" bins at the supermarket. I also shop at multiple stores, using the weekly sale fliers to determine which store I visit that particular week. My favorite place to get produce is at a local indoor farmers market called Henry's and at Persian/Asian markets. It's amazing how cheap beef is at Korean supermarkets :)

I keep my pantry and freezer stocked so in case I feel like something different, most likely I already have the ingredients. To make sure I don't take short cuts and eat out during the week, I do prep-work on weekends. For example, I trimmed sugar snap peas this past Saturday and store them in a ziploc/reusable container. I rinse vegetables just before cooking them.

I also pack lunches. I use bento lunch boxes I get at a Japanese discount store, and make sure I pack 2-3 boxes at a time so I get a break from packing them. 

Our grocery/toiletry/cleaning supply (basically anything I can get at a grocery store) budget on a monthly basis is $130 and we live in Orange County, CA. It's certainly not the cheapest place to live in and grocery prices can be quite high. I've been a coupon enthusiast since 2008 and we have been able to not only feed ourselves but others in need and our friends as well.

Guest's picture
Mdale2

Ooh a lot of people hatin' on meat here.  NOT I!

I'm pretty sure General Mills will abhor my following answer, but oh well.  I prefer to NOT slash the quality of the food I buy but I try to buy it locally or from the source to yield greater savings.  I do mind daily caloric intake, and I'm one of those infamous high fat/low carb eaters...it keeps the weight off, I feel awesome, and my cholesterol's surprisingly good. 

1.  I eat meat, eggs, and fish regularly in my diet. I buy meat locally (pref. grass fed) or fish wild caught at Trader Joe's.  The eggs I buy local (pastured) when available.  To save on the meat, I like to buy whole chickens, organ meats, use the bones for broth, and also eat the skin.  I render beef tallow and cook with it.  I buy local Amish butter - the stuff is divine.

2.  No grains.  Minimal to no legumes.  NO SOY.  I'm sure using these as fillers would help my budget, but then i'll feel like crap and probably look the same.

3.  LOTS of veggies fresh from the farmer's market.  This yields some big savings.  Some fruits, mostly berries.  I like to buy the organic ones frozen.  Sometimes I buy frozen veggies if they're on sale. 

4.  No junk or processed garbage.

5.  Spices, condiments, and olive oil in bulk.  I like to make dressings and sauces from scratch.

6.  Dairy products - I'm trying to minimize them in my diet.  I'd really like to switch to raw dairy, but it is somewhat cost prohibitive. 

7.  I'm not a snacker.  I eat bigger meals comprised of more calorically dense foods (dietary fats, protein).  it's less bulk overall.  Keeping track of portions stretches the amont of meat consumed.

8.  I basically give the middle finger to fad diet products and dietary "supplements" - I used to buy a lot of this crap and learned my lesson - it's crap.  Avoid it.  The only supplements I take are a high quality fish oil and vitamin D3. 

Guest's picture
Guest

I eat rice almost everyday, so I have switched to brown rice instead of white. Also, I've taken to throwing some oatmeal in the rice when I'm making it for added nutrients and heart-healthiness.

Guest's picture
Finance Dollar

by buying locally grown food in season. Last year I started canning and freezing food so that I could enjoy healthy food all year round.
We have a garden where we raise strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, etcFinance Dollar

Guest's picture
Shannon

I cant wait to see all of the ideas:) One thing I have found to help is to obtain a rain check for items that are of an excellent price. So lately strawberries here were $1.23/lb. they were just about all sold out (ie: i wanted more than what they had and the ones left were not that good quality and they understood) and I obtained a rain check for 12. The rain check is good for 90 days. Then when I am able to get them I will eat some fresh and freeze some later for some jelly making or smoothies.

Guest's picture

I didn't know you could get a rain check on produce! Thanks for sharing. :)

Guest's picture
Jen

I shop mainly at Safeway. I check their online add the Wednesday it comes out. I shop for their sales and they always have good coupons in their ad. They also offer coupons on their website (most grocery stores do). I plan my meals for a month and do my main shopping once a month. Fresh fruits/veggies/bread/milk I grab once a week, and I go meat shopping twice a year at Costco, buy lots meat/chicken, freeze it, and label it.

Guest's picture
Pamela

I shop at ethnic food markets. The prices are the best! I also try to cook at home as much as I can. I try to avoid "ready made" foods. I also try to make big batches of things (like pork dumplings) and freeze them. They literally take minutes to make when you're hungry and can't think of anything else to make. I freeze a batch of 100 at one time! And they have no preservatives so they are much healthier than ordering out for them!

Guest's picture
LM

I've decided to increase my grocery budget. Quality, healthy food from should cost a little more. Junk food is cheap. I'd rather pay $7 for a chicken that I know comes from a safe source. But I save in other ways -- eating seasonal foods, buying from local vendors, not eating out, cooking from scratch, growing a garden. It kind of balances out.

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Eric

You can eat healthy and still remain frugal. There are lots of coupons out there for healthy foods, which is probably my best tip -- I always use coupons for Kashi products, which are very healthy. And berries/vegetables are often on sale when in season. And yes, eating at home is both healthier and less expensive than eating out, since you know what you're putting in your body, so eat out less.

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Grace

I focus on preparing nutrient-rich meals, which means lots of soups, salads, vegetable and grain sides, and smoothies. I also cook ahead one to three times weekly, so there's always something satisfying on hand in the freezer and fridge. This back-to-basics approach has me enjoying what's in season, but for the most part, I don't plan my shopping around sales because I buy very little in the way of prepared foods. Instead, I try to use up what I've purchased so I get what I pay for. (Any marginal savings through sales is easily wasted if the product just sits on a shelf.) All my vegetable and fruit pairings, egg shells, tea and coffee grounds go right into my compost heap. Some weeks, there's packaging and little else in my garbage can, so I don't even put it curbside. I do garden a bit and will be sharing even more fresh produce with my furry friends this season. Nothing beats organic home-grown veggies and herbs.

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Christie

We eat healthy on a budget, but buying all our meat at a local market with no hormones or antibiotics (they have great sales too!). We also don't buy prepackaged and processed foods often. We spend most of our time and money in the fresh food section, and that really helps us to eat healthy. If we do have treats, they are homemade. Eating out is a treat--usually happening about once every 2 or 3 months right now. We get recipe books from the library to try new things and experience new foods. Try the library--great ideas and also helps stay on a budget!

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cherie

Honestly? I've given up the hard and fast rules and plans - it doesn't work now that our lives are so frantic . . . it really only worked when the kids were all little and at home with me, and had no lives outside the house LOL

However now I just try to make BETTER decisions each day. This means doing a menu plan and taking time to think through things that go with the entree [so the veggies get in there] as well as other meals and snacks [so I can add the produce I have on hand in there too]. If something is at a great price at the produce markete I'll just use that to replace my scheduled items - but I don't have NOTHING. It also helps me to plan some meatless meals throughout the week.

On many days I use my freezer as a resource to buy in bulk when things are at their best price - even things like 'bad' bananas - which I package and store for instant smoothie packs with other frozen fruits - and that way most days we have a decent meal even when I have next to no time.

On days when I'm truly desperate for take out or eating out I stop myself and think if there's ANYTHING 'instant' in the house that will work - that's cheaper and generally healthier [if in portion control if nothing else!]

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Susan

This year I've started a veggie garden for the first time. It's still cool here in Wisconsin, so I have herbs (rosemary, cilantro, basil, thyme), spring onions and lettuce so far. The herbs alone are worth it -- they make cooking a lot more fun and I recoup the expense after one use.

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fairydust

Eating healthy on a dime -- eat seasonal. Obviously, there are a lot more choices in the summer/fall when harvest makes produce plentiful, but there are seasonal choices in winter and spring. Also frozen veg are picked at the peak of freshness and flash frozen, so when stores have sales on frozen veggies, stock up -- those will let you have healthy foods for little money all year round!

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Guest

Learn to cook and look up recipes for home. For your veggeis see if you can't find a local produce stand for seasonal items, go later in the day ( not always the best selection but the best deals) at the end of the day you can haggle with them as well. If you have a large family buy in bulk ( if it saves you). I always just buy something large (a chicken or roast) and take the time to cook it myself. Make enough for dinner and lunch the next day. Don't eat out a lot.

For ingredients in your cooking try to hit as many ethnic places as you can. Usually a trip to an Asian Market and a Latino market will give you all the ingredients you need ( plus you'll be amazed at how much cheaper they are than your average grocery store.

Guest's picture
Adam

Sorry I left my details off from here. My name is Adam Gainer ,e-mail is adam.gainer@gmail.com

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Carole Hillson

My food processor makes it possible. I run it for over an hour one day a week. Carrots, and cabbage are augmented with whatever is on sale, to make a huge soup (add beans usually), and huge vinegar based coleslaw - they don't go bad!

They come out pretty much every meal. If we have houseguests, I'll make two soups (one a puree based) and two salads (the other a starch based, like potato or macaroni).

Meal = sandwich (or other entree) + salad + soup. Cheap, and easy. This week it was mulligatawny soup and "indian spiced" coleslaw. I also made a "curried carrot" puree soup, as it's been unseasonably cold here and I'm into the soup.

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CMM

Get creative about using your left-overs. Make it a goal to never throw anything out. It can be a fun, educational and rewarding challenge.

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I sit down with the grocery store sales fliers when I do my meal planning for the next week. I base my meals on the proteins and produce that are on sale each week. This small time commitment results in big savings!

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Jen B

We implement several strategies, most already mentioned, to stay healthy and on budget:
plant a garden and can/freeze much of it's bounty
make much of what we eat from scratch including whole wheat bread, tortillas, broths, soups, etc. Basically we avoid all processed foods as it keeps the unhealthy ingredients out of our bodies and almost always is cheaper.
We barter with others who have produce and other healthy food options regularly-bread for eggs, homemade noodles and jam for beef, etc.
We always make a weekly meal plan and use it as a guide for all eating during the week and this keeps us on track both with $$ and health.

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Luke

We try to buy the freshest food possible, so we buy our eggs fresh every week from a local farm. We also buy our meat (chicken and beef) freshly butchered from local farmers and then freeze it until we're ready to eat it.

We have a garden, and eat a lot of carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, etc. We also can the extra tomatoes and green beans at the end of the season so we have them on hand all year long. The canned tomatoes can be used to make chili, spaghetti sauce, pizza, soups and a lot more.

We eat out very rarely, and prefer to pack a sack lunch. We also look for "cheaper" fruits like bananas and oranges. Overall, we look for the freshest and least processed foods.

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Amy

I buy marked down produce at Ingles Grocery Stores. Then we eat it that day. Veggie trays for $1.99! Big bags of spinach for 99 cents! I do this about twice a week. Also, we keep baby carrots on hand and they are inexpensive. And, I buy apples in a bag and get them for less per pound. Aldi's grocery is not nearby but if I am near the store I stop in and get their inexpensive bananas.

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MidSouthMouth

We mix up it between neighbor's herbs, locally-owned grocery that features out state's produce and meat, farmer's markets, and on-line coupons for organics.

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gina

During the summer months, I grow my own vegetables. I also try to buy veggies and fruits that are on sale (usually these are seasonal). Reducing the amount of red meat has not only helped with my budget, but it also has helped with my health!!

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Guest

I live for the coming of Spring, Summer, and farmers markets! But in winter, to eat healthy on a budget I do a lot of crockpot cooking with grains and veggies, plus assorted leftovers tossed in. You don't have to be exact and the resulting stew or chilli tastes great no matter what you use (well, almost!).

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Ginny

I have some moral qualms about eating meat from animals raised in horrible conditions, so I only buy grass-fed beef and free range pork and chicken. Since these are expensive, meat is extremely limited at my house--we eat a lot of stir fries and pasta. Although I also buy eggs from humanely-raised chickens, these are not so expensive that I have to ration them too heavily. I buy spices from the bulk bins, where they are much, much cheaper. I have a tiny garden but after much trial and error, I only grow certain things that I know will make it and are worth the effort, such as bok choy, tomatoes, squashes,and herbs. Gardening supplies can be expensive at first, especially if the plants die, and it doesn't make sense to me to grow things that are very cheap in the stores, like beans. The rest of my produce comes from the 99cents Only store, except fruits that I know are heavily laden with pesticides, like peaches and strawberries. Those I buy organic, but very few at a time. Peelings go into compost. I buy very, very little processed food--from what I can see in the grocery store, that's where most folks' money is going and that's a big mistake, both money-and health-wise.

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Ernest S.

My wife and I have found a slow cooker to be an extremely useful and efficient tool in creating healthy meals in our hectic schedule. We usually prep the materials the night before, then turn it on before heading to work in the morning. It's easy, cheap and encourages us to use fresh materials rather than a lot of processed foods.

Also, another benefit is that we usually have a lot of leftovers which can be used for our lunches at work (saving us additional money and time).

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Laurie

I scour the weekly ads, purchase the fresh fruits and vegetables that are on sale, then take an hour or so when I get home and clean and cut the fruits and vegetables and put them in snack bags for easy access for the next weeks lunches and snacks. This has saved me considerable expense over the already cut up produce that the grocery store provides, plus I feel that it is more fresh when I do it myself. It usually only takes me about an hour a week yet it literally saves me hundreds of dollars on groceries for the year.

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Mikal407

Eating healthy on a budget is extremely hard to do. Generally speaking, the cheaper the product, the less healthy it it. Healthy items, such as quality produce, lean cuts of meat and chicken, low sodium items, low sugar items, are all priced double or triple thier unhealthy counterparts.

The best advice is to buy the leanest cuts of meats, even if it means you can eat meat only once or twice a week. Buy produce in season from local farmers markets, or grow it yourself.

Cook from scratch with healthier ingredients.

Use coupons for healthy products only. Even if you can get an unhealthy item at half price, is it a bargain when your health is at stake?

It is not easy to eat healthy on the cheap, but it can be done with comprimises, planning, and extra work.

Guest's picture
danafromkz

here my $0.02:

1) eat lettuse leaves instead of crackers with cheeses, dips or anything else, as a treat - that way you get your treat and your greens!
2) eat sala every day
3) take 2-3 pieces of fruit to work for snacking every couple of hours
4) drink juice with green food in it

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danafromkz

on a budget:
- make sure you eat more greens and less meet - just compare the cost of a pound of lettuce vs a pound of beef!
- an apple is cheaper than a candy, and often tastes better!!!
- drink water - it is cheaper than sodas and after a while your taste buds will change and you wo'nt even want anything else but water

Guest's picture
cwaltz

There are plenty of healthy, inexpensive foods. Eggs,beans,and tuna are all inexpensive forms of protein. You can pick up bananas,cabbage, or seasonal fruits and veggies inexpensively or purchase frozen out of season. I wait for sales on dairy products like cheese and yogurt when I can pick up 8 ounces of cheese for 50 cents. Whole grain pasta can be found for the same as or less than its non whole grain counterparts with a coupon. Ronzoni recently had coupons that made it product free at the local kroger and food lion. Coupons can also be found for whole grain bread if you arent choosy or brand loyal.

Christine
dazed1821@aol.com

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Molly

We buy dried beans and cook them in a pressure cooker. When they go on sale for $0.50/lb, we stock up hardcore. One of our Christmas gifts was a CSA box (from my parents), so we're getting healthy inseason produce for freetous right now. Woohoo!

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FerretGirl

Ways I save; I'm a vegetarian. I buy beans, rice, flour, sugar all those kinds of things in bulk from our local coop market. Then I make my own canned beans and my own bread. I'm a big fan of slow food because it requires little effort on my part (just soak the beans then dump them in the crock pot, just measure out the ingredients and dump them in the bread maker) and it's cheaper.

I'm a member of a CSA so I get local, seasonal organic veggies/fruits for something like, 6$ a week and that feeds two people. Ummm, what else? Oh! I am an insane person about the coupon circulars that come to my house and those websites that allow you to put your coupons on your Kroger card. I flip through the circulars and clip only the coupons for things that I'd actually buy.

I homebrew wine for fun, but this also saves money. 20 - 35$ of U Pick strawberries and an afternoon's fun activity w/ my friends turns into about 30 bottles of wine. Homebrewing though can be an expensive and time consuming hobby. Cottage wines are easy, but grape juice blends are expensive and beer can be really complicated and smelly!

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Nicholas

I cook from scratch for 90% of all my meals. That way I know what is going into all my food.

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Emily

We are part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Delivery, every two weeks we get a large box of fruits and vegetables which helps us eat organic, local, and seasonal, as well as promoting us to try new things we wouldn't normally try. It would cost us a lot more to go to the grocery store or farmer's market to buy the same items and it feels like a gift at our doorstep!

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KelR1

I eat healthy on a budget by sticking with whole foods whenever possible (apples rather than applesauce, etc.) because it's not only better for you but often much less expensive. I'd rather eat real produce and such rather than processed "diet" foods that often aren't as good for you as you'd think. I'm also trying to cut back on my junk food consumption which helps save money as well as calories.

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Susan R., CA

I've been diagnosed as insulin resistant. Not yet diabetic, but veering nervously close. So, I've been dieting both for weight loss and to lower my risk, at the same time I'm looking at actual nutrition. In that light, I've discovered that barley is cheaper per pound than rice. It's ALSO higher in fiber and lower on the glycemic index. I also reserve every bit of leftover and crumb and add it either to a soup or to a salad. Recently a friend took me out for a very expensive dinner and we shared a "chopped" kitchen salad. Basically, it was an assortment of seasonal veggies with iceberg lettuce, but all of it was truly chopped and tossed. I started making these at home and I not only find the iceberg more palatable, but it also stretches the finer lettuces, AND I use less dressing for some reason. Finally, I can't say enough about Greek yogurt. I use either the 0% or 2% fat. It's good protein and calcium. And it easily converts into a dessert (with a drizzle of honey) and can be used in any recipe you would otherwise use mayo. It makes egg and tuna salads much creamier. It's literally become my secret ingredient. I've also re-discovered celery. I chop it into salads, slice it and dip it into peanut butter as a snack, and when it's down to the inner greens, I make cream of celery soup. I use all the parts.

Guest's picture

Shop at farmers markets and try to eat seasonally. Whenever possible, I try to store the local seasonal food to last me through the colder parts of the year.

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Kris

I combine store sales with coupons each and every time I shop. If it is a great sale, I stock up with enough that will last me until the next sale is due for that item. In addition, I only buy fruits that are in season as I refuse to pay $3.99 for a little plastic container of raspberries. I always subscribe to the store savings programs. I also clean/cut my own fruit and vegetables.

For meal planning, I like to get a lot of mileage out of one item. For instance, I will buy a turkey breast and cook it for a big Sunday meal. I then make hot turkey sandwiches the next day and I also make a giant pot of turkey noodle soup from the carcass. If I buy a ham, I prepare the ham for one dinner, then make a big pot of pea soup with the leftover meat and bone, along with saving some extra ham to make sandwiches, calzones, etc. So usually, meat will be the main course for the first night, and then the meat is kind of the 'supporting actor' for subsequent meals. I also cook at home as much as possible and if I don't have something planned already, it may just be pancakes and eggs that night for dinner with a fruit salad. I always try to have something on hand that I could serve in case of emergency. You just have to be creative!

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Lisa

We don't eat out. ever. We cook at home, in season, and try to stretch the meat. We do at least one bean meal a week, buy at ethnic stores, and shop the sales with coupons. I believe in stockpiling. We also have a garden that should start producing soon, so that will cut our fresh produce costs significantly.

Guest's picture

I don't tweet. Tweeting's for the birds. ROTL!!!

Still, in addition to cooking from scratch in bulk, using coupons and sales and "double/triple coupons", I think a case needs to be made for... subscribing to a healthy food magazine, one that is majority vegetarian or health-conscious (Eating Well, Clean Eating, Cooking Light and/or Vegetarian Times). Many of these magazines can be purchased with airline miles, or part of a promotion deal with amazon. On top of this, many of these magazines have coupons of health-conscious products as well...

Anyway, collect these magazines, and sort them by season. put into special color-coded binders according to the types of produce that are in season--green for Spring, orange for Autumn, Blue for Winter, etc. Use these recipes to find those which best use the freshest, healthiest ingredients that are at the lowest-cost.

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Marla Y

My family has just begun working on establishing a budget for healthier eating. the first thing we are doing is cutting way back on the processed and sugar-laden items we have been in the habit of buying in the past. This frees up money to be used on more fruits & veggies and organic products. I use coupons as much as I can and try to buy only items that are on sale. My motto is "If it's not on sale, we don't need it." I am trying to do as much prep work as possible on the weekends, like cutting up veggies for stirfrys, boiling eggs, pasta and rice to be used for the week, etc. It's a slow process, but it's definitely worth it to be healthier. Thank you for the giveaway.

koinonia572001@yahoo.com

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Michael

A lot of grocery stores will bundle produce at a reduced price if it's on its way out, but still good if you use it right away.

I either use the fruit/veggies right away, or cut up the fruit and freeze it for smoothies later (using a stick blender and combining with homemade yogurt and a little soft tofu)!

Guest's picture

We try to cook from scratch as often as is possible in our busy lives. This means some planning ahead - to use dried beans for instance - but is cheaper and often comes with less sodium and BPA. :)

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amy

EAT AT HOME!!! I can't stress this enough. Make recipes from scratch. It wastes time, gas and money eating out. You know what you put into your own meals. Blogs, recipe sites and friends are a constant source for healthy recipes. My biggest learning experience is finding the right store(s) and farmer markets. My grocery store has a section I constantly check that has veggies, fruits on clearance. ripe bananas by the bag are pennies a pound. I usually slice the bananas and freeze them for smoothies as well as strawberries. I found potatoes for $1 a 10 lb bag and used them right away to make freezer mashed potatoes. I make a bunch in advance so I never have to think of what to make for a side dish for dinner. It pays to visit your farmers market. Fresh food from the farmers market is cheaper than the regular market. Know what you need and don't overbuy. Freeze what you know you can't use right away. Also dinners do not need to be a four course meal. Fresh tomatoes and pasta make a great meal. Add a little garlic for more flavor.

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Trang

We do several things:
1.) Shop for veggies at the Asian supermarket. They are cheaper, and tastier than Wal Mart stuff.
2.) We eat mainly chicken now. Red meat is a luxury, but that's okay. It saves money (and probably our health in the long run).
3.) We make a lot of food and freeze the leftovers for lunch in the coming weeks. I think that saves money and is healthier.
4.) We try very hard not to waste. it's like throwing money away.

Guest's picture
Kelly

I've been trying to eat more fruits and vegetables. Left to my own devices, pasta is really my staple. I never get tired of it - but it doesn't give me any nutrients whatsoever. My BMI is really awful, so I've been exercising more (I decided to pay for a gym membership to force myself to go - going for "a walk" never worked out, but this is!) and I've been trying to eat less processed foods to follow a more minimalist diet and get back to the goodness of nature. I don't necessarily want to go organic, but I would like to make more simple meals (caprese salads, soup and bread and cheese, granola and plain yogurt, things like that) just to get back to basics and learn to appreciate food as it is, not smothered in something. Overloading myself with fries and grease and soda is great and satisfying, and I still like it, but now I look at it and I regret putting it into my body. The whole "you are what you eat" factor. It's still a work in progress, but I rather like living to improve. :)

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Kelly

PS: My "progress blog" is at http://youwerewhatyouate.blogspot.com/ :)

Guest's picture
Dan

Over the past year I have lost 80lbs through hard work and a change in lifestyle.
There are many ways that I have achieved this without increasing my food budget, and actually have lowered from approx $750 a month (family of 4) to now over $500.
Main ways, are to cook everything... and occasionally splurdge once a month on eating out.
Watching what we are eating and of course buying off brand, and utilizing coupons.

No wasting of foods and shopping maybe once a week for the groceries.

*all of this done on a very low carb diet

Guest's picture
Lynda

I try to eat healthy on a budget... I opt for more fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, and less meat. I cook with minimal oil. And I don't buy junk food like cookies or dessert. I do splurge though when I do eat out...

Guest's picture

Stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables. They seem to go on sale at least once a month in my area. In the summertime I match sales with coupons and stock the freezer so I can eat smoothies all year long.