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Nailkita 09-20-2011 04:01 PM

How do I tighten my belt on a tight budget?
 
We're currently running on a single income household. With just the two of us it hasn't pushed us too hard, but until he's able to get a new job I really can't buy the things I would usually buy, and find my self orbiting towards sodium filled ramen, pasta and rice.

Any tips for how you manage veggies and meats on a tight budget?

dear_abby 09-20-2011 05:18 PM

There was an interesting article in today's Boston Globe on this topic.

The Recession and Your Diet: Some Good News - Nutrition and You! - Boston.com

This stresses the idea of cutting out paying for convenience. Cheap convenient food tends to be bad for you, but dealing with big hunks of cabbage, dried lentils, rice, and the like you can make great meals, and not spend a fortune.

If you use meat as more of a garnish than as a base of your meal, you'll find it leaves some money for veggies.

And, buy what is in season, and local, not only is it better for you and the environment, you aren't paying to transport it!


I work right near a large Chinese supermarket, I'm always impressed by how the people there fill up their carts, lots of work is ahead when you get that big mound of something green home, but it's not costing much!

Good luck!

Abby

almeeker 09-20-2011 05:33 PM

I don't know where you live, but around here there is a Farmer's Market 3x week. The prices on the stuff they have on display are pretty close to the prices at the grocery store, but if you ask they have uglier stuff in the back of the truck and are glad to unload it for a better price rather than take it home. For example the tomatoes on the stand are 2/$1 for the medium and $1 each for the bigger ones, but if you ask for a box of canning tomatoes, they are $10/bushel. A bushel is a lot of tomatoes, way more than 10-20, but you can do a lot of things with them. I actually grow my own tomatoes, and then can them up and store them in the basement. We have all the pasta sauce, salsa, chili tomatoes and stewed tomatoes we'll need for the rest of the year, and I paid maybe $75-100 for the whole of it. But if that's not your thing you can blanch and peel the tomatoes and store them in the freezer. You can also barter for better prices with the farmers if you're willing to buy large quantities, Mr. Orchard (that's his real name) sells his peaches for $18/bushel, but when I buy a bushel he always tops off my bag with another peck or two, just because I'm a good customer. He's the same way with his apples and he knows that I'll be there with bells on the first morning he's selling Cortland apples, because they make the BEST sauce and my kids eat applesauce like crazy.

Another thing I suggest to save money is to buy meat in large quantities at the local meat market. Not the butcher shop, but the place where farmer's take their animals to market. Generally these places are auction houses and you have to bid on a live animal, but the butcher shops are right there taking orders and usually will arrange the transportation for the animal from the auction house. So you don't have to own a stock trailer and a truck to get some great prices on meat. You do have to shell out a couple hundred dollars to get the good price, but it's not that hard to find others to go in with you on a side of beef. And actually a spring lamb is only about $100-150 and roughly 60lbs of meat, so it's not so much that you can't get it in the freezer. A side of beef is a whole different story, like 300-400lbs of meat, you need a deep freezer for that, but if you have a deep freezer, go ahead and fill it. Besides the fantastic prices, you get to give the chop house "cutting orders", so the meat comes exactly the way you like it. So our steaks are 3/4" thick, 4 in a package and they are double shrink wrapped and ready for the freezer, the roasts are 2-3lbs and the leg of lamb roasts come pre-seasoned and wrapped in cotton mesh etc etc. The only drawback to that is that you get a little bit of everything, so you have to be willing to cook hamburgers, T-bone steak and tongue.

Another thing I do to keep the budget in balance is to use coupons. There are some fantastic on-line coupon sites that will help you find great deals on stuff by pairing up sales with coupons. It's not too often that I find coupons for fresh produce, but if you get your shampoo and toothpaste for free or nearly so, then you have a little bit more money to buy groceries. I also shop price, when apples are on sale at Sav-A-Lot I go the extra 1/4 mile to buy them there, if the grocery store runs chicken breast for $1.66/lb I'm there every afternoon to buy my limit, etc etc.

Another crazy thing I do to save money is to plant a garden. If you have a little bit of land or some good pots and a tiny bit of green in your thumb you can grow food for very little money. And if you have no green in your thumb, but have a little time there are great opportunities for U-pik all summer long. Right now it's apple season here. If you buy the bagged up ones, they are $1-$1.50/lb, but if you pick them yourself, they are only $.50/lb.

Can you tell I've been living on a tight budget most of my life?

Nailkita 09-20-2011 06:17 PM

Thanks for the great tips!

And Wow wall of text :) I don't have a farmers market near me, but we do do our meat buying in bulk. I guess another part of my problem is my boyfriend is also significantly picky when it comes to vegetables.

I have such a black thumb towards gardening I think I only got 5 cherry tomatoes out of my garden this year :(

A lot of great points though, we need to invest in a freezer, ours is stuffed full since we buy bulk when we can get good deals.

Also amazing job at the 98 lb loss :)

vraphael 10-01-2011 04:51 AM

save money...
 
Make soup! You can make it out of lower priced cuts of meat or leftovers, or make vegetarian. It's very filling and there's tons of good recipes out there. AND it usually freezes well so you can make a big batch and save half for later.

mecompco 10-01-2011 06:13 PM

Lots of good tips above!

We have a discount bakery outlet locally where they sell close to end of date breads and the like really cheaply. I bring the stuff home and put it in the freezer.

We also have a grocery liquidator that sells salvaged and discounted food items. Canned and bottled stuff is often a great deal here.

It really does pay to shop around. I don't like Wal-Mart meat or produce, but some things there are substantially less than at my favorite "real" supermarket (like the 8 o'clock coffee I prefer--a full two bucks cheaper at Wally World!).

Regards,
Michael

losinflab 10-16-2011 12:12 PM

Just wanted to say,I'm amazed at your stats. What a job you have done! I whine about needing to lose 40pds & your stats put me to shame. Good for you.....your body/health will thank you. PL

Kathy13118 10-16-2011 02:08 PM

It's not that difficult to find a good deal on ramen noodles. Don't use the seasoning - just use the noodles. Cook and then toss with some cooked veggies and maybe a little meat (meat adds calories, compared to veggies) and sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese. A tablespoon would be a lot.

I actually have a book somewhere in my house of recipes that just use ramen noodles. My son loved them and they make a quick meal/snack (it's a 'snack' for a teenager). Pasta and rice are excellent meal stretchers. And if you look at the calories (without fat added), they are not 'fattening.' It's the hidden fats (in meats, eggs, dairy) and the not-hidden-fats (oils and butter) that add calories.

I want to give a shout out for bread, too! It's so easy to make your own and slice it thin as you want, or as thick as you want. You can make it as healthy as you want (add more fiber, more flavor, more anything) and, once you get started making bread, it also stretches meals when it adds fiber and satisfies hunger. A flavorful bread (I've made bread containing chopped olives, garlic and herbs - you can really do a lot while making bread from scratch) and a nice bowl of soup ... OMG. Yummm.

binatangmerah 10-16-2011 03:38 PM

Watch out for the calories in ramen noodles! They're preserved by deep fat frying, which is why they taste so good. One packet usually has at least 2 servings, so the calories can be very high.

mecompco 10-16-2011 04:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by losinflab (Post 59566)
Just wanted to say,I'm amazed at your stats. What a job you have done! I whine about needing to lose 40pds & your stats put me to shame. Good for you.....your body/health will thank you. PL

Well thank you. But really, with a good plan, a little sticktooitivness and FitDay it really hasn't been all that difficult. And I agree, dropping two hundred odd pounds has made life much more enjoyable. :D

Regards,
Michael


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