Healthy Living on April 19, 2010 by

How to keep eating well on a tight budget

Dried beans are a great money-saver and allow you to keep track of how much salt is used.

Dried beans are a great money-saver and allow you to keep track of how much salt is used.

Everyone you talk to these days has been affected by the downturn in our country’s economy over the last few years. Either they’ve lost a job, or they known someone dealing with unemployment. Times are tough and money is tight for almost every family in our country right now. When money is a scarcity in your life, good whole foods often get moved down on the priority list. Buying the fresh, organic eggs for $4.50 doesn’t seem as important as it did before when you can get eggs for $1.99 and spend the two dollars on something else you need.

Some would rather give up their morning latte with double vanilla than give up the organic fill-in-the-blank. Others are not even given the option of cutting back on their groceries when a special diet is needed and WOW! the cost of alternative foods can get high pretty fast.  So what do we do when we want to feed our families with nutritious foods and still keep the budget in check?

I don’t have an answer for all of us, but I thought I would share some ideas that I’ve found helpful for getting by and still eating well in these economically-challenging times.

1. Plant some of what you eat regularly: I planted my first garden this year. I love shopping for vegetables and fruits more than other ingredients and I find picking up my favorites at a farmer’s market to be rewarding and enjoyable. Not only do I feel good about helping others get by, but I like to see who grew my veggies. Yes, I love the experience, but I find I spend beyond my allotted budget. Not just because the prices are a little higher, but I buy much more than I planned because something is too beautiful to pass up. This year, I’m trying to keep myself out of the markets and get my hands into the garden. I paid near the cost of one trip to the market for my whole set-up. I’m not promising that I won’t buy produce, but this will help us supplement our produce budget with staples that we use frequently. I’m planting things that store well so I can stock up for the winter months too.  If you don’t have room for a formal garden, container gardening is a great space-saving solution. For info on getting started on gardening, check out these great resources:

Better Homes and Gardens: Planning your first vegetable garden.
Urban Gardening Tips and Info

2. Use dried beans: This is a challenge for me, but one I’m trying to implement. Dried beans are far cheaper than their canned counterparts. Most stores have a variety of dried beans in the bulk section (which is tip 3) and a pound of beans is often less than a single can of said bean. They are more time consuming, but I’ve been trying to counteract that by cooking a big batch and freezing meal-size amounts for later use. You can find basic directions for all sorts of different beans on our website.

3. Use the bulk bins: If you have a food sensitivity, you might skip this step. There are some great finds to be had in the bulk bins and most foods are less than their packaged counterparts. Not only are not paying for the packaging, you’re not getting the packaging either. Just the simple flour, oats and beans that you want for a price that’s affordable.

4. Bake your own bread: If number 1 and 2 didn’t scare you off, this one is a real no-brainer. A good loaf of bread can cost upwards of $5 at the store. Making it yourself using the simple ingredients- flour, yeast, water and salt- can save you big $$ if your family eats a lot of bread. Bread baking is not as scary as it can seem and can be really quite simple. Many bread recipes can make 2-3 loaves at once, which you can simply throw in the freezer until ready to use.

Basic Whole Wheat Bread
Three Seed Bread (my favorite)

Yes, you say, but where do I find the time to add all this into my life? I don’t know, but I do find that I’m spending more energy thinking about what my family eats than I have before and I find that to be worth the time investment.


Anne says:

These are some good suggestions. I would add the following:

1. Consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA). This is where you pay upfront for a weekly produce box from a local farm. This way you get a fresh box of produce each week, you don’t have to “shop” for it, and you help sustain the local economy.

2. Shop at outlets like Bob’s Red Mill Store and his neighbor Naturebake/Dave’s Killer Bread. You save money on your purchases and get your products directly. Other stores have outlets too, like Reser’s, Franz, and Oroweat.

3. Though several pizza chains are advertising $10.00 pizzas, consider buying your pizza dough ingredients in the bulk foods isle, pick up some spices there too, hit the produce section up for some veggies, and a a jar of tomato sauce. You will save money and the pizza will taste better.

4. Stop buying bags of lettuce. Buy heads of romaine, butter, and iceburg lettuce, and invest in a salad spinner.

5. Commercial salad dressings have tons of additives. Tupperware makes a nice shaker jar for smoothies that I make homemade salad dressings in. If the recipe you use makes too much dressing for your household, consider putting some in a bottle for your neighbor and sharing it, or make a 1/2 a recipe in the future.

6. Deli salads can be expensive. Buy a 10 lb. bag of potatoes in the produce isle and make your own potato salad. Buy macaroni in the bulk foods isle and make your own salad. And a head of cabbage is good start for making cole slaw.

7. A quick dessert: a box of brownies can be made with a store mix, a few eggs, oil and water. Keep a few for yourself, and wrap the rest in foil and share with your neighbors. Substitute a microbrewed beer for the water (i.e. Guiness Stout or McMenamin’s Ruby) for extra flavor.

8. Burger buns: if you have a bread maker, burger bun dough is easy to make, and you will save over the $3-4 charged per package in the grocery store.

Vladlena says:

Actually we need to grow up our crops and then we will be happy and healthy


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