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!!! $50 per week food budget

 
Tyler Ludens
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Looks like our food budget will be about $50 per week, including all toiletries, and food for 5 cats and a dog.  How would you choose to spend your $ in the grocery store if this were your budget?  We have a few home chickens to eat, plus venison - these are our only meat sources.  Home eggs and home vegetables are also available. 

2 adults in this household.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I guess it would depend on what you are growing in your garden and whether you were harvesting some of your numerous pest deer for pet food. 

It also depends on whether your family is picky with their diet, or if they will eat what is put in front of them, no matter how simple it might be. 
In this case, a meal with some veg and rice, and a nice salad can suffice at least a couple days out of seven.

  For $50/week, it also depends on what stores you have available to shop at.  That wouldn't go very far up here for groceries, but I would concentrate on what is most nutritious (vitamins/minerals/bright natural colors) veg that you are not growing.  Also, if you are short on starches or fat at home, I would concentrate some focus there.  These three (nutrition, fats, carbs) are far more important than proteins IMO, and you have quality protein at home anyway, it seems. 

Supplement oats/rice into some of your pet food with the addition of bit of cheap brewers yeast.  Put a small amount of your 50/week away for future bulk purchases of things like wheat (if you can tolerate it), or other sprout-able grain.  Sprouting a grain not only improves the nutrition, but expands it's food volume by many times, and putting additional greens into the diet.

I hope that helps.    
 
Su Ba
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There's a lot of "all depends upon" in trying to answer that question. So I'll just relate what I did many, many years ago when we had no cash coming in from hubby's job for six or seven months. We had no savings to fall back on, so we had to survive on my very, very meager wages. Because hubby was actually employed but just waiting for the contract to engage, we were not eligible for food stamps.

For part of that time I had a garden growing, so we had lots of soups and stews made from the garden veggies. Luckily I lived in an area with farmers, so I swallowed my pride and approached several farmers, telling them about my temporary difficulty and asking if I could glean. I gathered buckets and buckets of discarded veggies from their packing sheds plus lots from the fields. I froze or canned food enough to last us months for feeding ourselves and to help feed the dogs & cats. After the fields had been harvested, I approached a local restaurant and arranged to pick up food waste that I could cook for the dogs and cats. I supplied them with lidded garbage pails which I picked up each evening on my way home from work. I picked through the slop, removed the inedibles, cooked the rest with brown rice. I also got a small bag of stale donuts from our local coffee/donut shop each weekend which I used for dog treats.

Hubby never complained about the sometimes unusual meals, and the dogs actually loved it. The cats were not amused. I ended up buying chicken necks from the local mini slaughterhouse/butcher for the cats. They were incredibly cheap. I had to buy them in a 100 pound frozen block, so I had to learn to can them. No room in the freezer for that much. But I did discover that they made an excellent chicken broth and soup. Chicken necks and cheap ground beef on sale became our primary meat sources. Back then I wasn't a hunter, otherwise I would have trapped and hunted some of my protein.
 
Tobias Ber
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oh, that sounds harsh.

potatoes (bought in bulk) and veggie-oil might help. it can help to add some oil to dishes.

using baking-soda for cleaning purposes and washing of the body might help. did you read into this?
and white vinegar for cleaning stuff.
 
Anne Miller
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Tobias Ber wrote:potatoes (bought in bulk) and veggie-oil might help. it can help to add some oil to dishes. using baking-soda for cleaning purposes and washing of the body might help. did you read into this?
and white vinegar for cleaning stuff.


$50 is about how much I usually spend every other week for groceries. [We only go shopping every other week] We always buy bread, tortilla chips and tortilla, potatoes,  brown rice and dry beans maybe one a month.  We have been checking the label of canned food for vitamin C content.  Tomatoes, spinach, green beans, refried beans, pumpkin and pineapple is about all we have found of what we buy. I have added some fruit every week but only what might be on sale. We have been doing food storage since about 1995 so much of what I use I already have.

We mostly shop at the dollar store and then make up the rest of what we buy at our "convenient store priced" grocery.  I look at the store ads every Sunday and buy what is on sale of what I need.  Meat is deer, what is on sale or what is reduced at the store.

We don't have a cat, the chickens live at our daughters place so I don't have to feed them but get the eggs, and for the dog:  venison scraps cooked in the crockpot while we process the deer, pumpkin, green beans and carrots.  Once a year I buy a 50 lb sack of quality dog food and she gets 1/3 cup a day.  Rice is good for the dog if I was in a pinch for food.  Except for the dog food, we can eat what she eats, in a pinch.

Having a garden was great for having fresh veggies  but now it only has lettuce and baby cabbages.

We live where it is too far to "just run to the store" for something.  We can't go to the store if it is raining or if rain is in the forecast because we live behind a wet weather creek that will leave us stranded with no way to get home.
 
Mike Jay
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We can get through two or three days a week with a batch of homemade whole wheat tortillas, bean dip (made from dry beans), canned salsa, bit of cheese and whatever else you want to throw on.  A pan of roasted veggies (taters, onions, parsnips, squash, garlic, sw potatoes, herbs, etc) on the side and we're all taken care of.  Mix it up and do ground venison with taco seasonings instead of the beans and you have a whole different meal.  Most of that can come from your garden if you can grow that sort of stuff.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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First I say: so much depends on what veggies you have from your garden. Are they mostly green leafy veggies (like chard and kale), or root veggies (like carrots and beets), or fruits (like zuchini, peppers, pumpkins), or maybe all kinds (I hope so). You have some eggs, so you can make green-veggie-omelettes. For me such an omelet with bread is a meal.
Do you have some kind of dry beans from the garden? With cooked beans and veggies (and the kind of meat you have, if you want) you can make a thick soup (also a meal with bread).
It also depends on your climate and your taste.
If I were you, I would buy: fruits, nuts, oat/mixed grain flakes, bread, potatoes, yoghurt, maybe cheese, maybe rice, and dry beans if they aren't in the garden. All organic at the farmers market or farm-shop, to where I then would ride my bicycle.
I don't know if you have a car (if you are so remote you need a car) ... having a car and driving it is very expensive. If there's little money I would advice to do without a car ...
 
Roberto pokachinni
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A pan of roasted veggies (taters, onions, parsnips, squash, garlic, sw potatoes, herbs, etc) on the side 
  This is not just a side dish but a great meal at our house.  Tortillas can be made at home.  Mine are thicker than normal (more like Indian roti or chapati bread), but do the trick, and are a lot cheaper  <-(at least up here in the relatively remote North... maybe in Texas you can find cheap bulk tortillas from Latin American grocers?).
 
Dan Boone
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I am dealing with a similar budget but shopping mostly for me and a bunch of dogs.  For me the groceries are affordable *if* I can hit the loss leader sales at various places, but the fuel cost of getting to those places eats the savings.  So I'm always balancing the sales against the travel, and trying to shoehorn food shopping errands into other trips that were going to happen anyway.

My key strategies are:

1) whole grains and legumes;
2) loss leader (and sometimes old/discounted) produce;
3) massive purchases of long-store staples during seasonal sales

Fundamentally my diet is whole grains, dried legumes, tubers, and onions.  Fall is a good time for me because:

1) There are several stores in my shopping reach that will have sales this time of year (usually just before the eating holidays) where they sell russet potatoes for 10 cents a pound or less in bulk.  (The usual deal is a ten pound bag for a dollar.)  Potatoes keep for a couple of months on the floor of my pantry, so I stock up.  If I had a root cellar I'd buy a couple of hundred pounds; instead I buy about fifty.

2) Likewise sweet potatoes; I can always get them for $.20-$.25 per pound just before thanksgiving at somebody's loss-leader sale; this is a fifth the normal price and they will store until spring for me in a box in my kitchen.  I only bought about thirty pounds but I should have got more.

3) Onions (the cheap small yellow ones) usually cost about sixty cents a pound at my local discount grocer, but again there's usually a seasonal sale where you can get a three pound bag for a dollar -- this year it was .89 at Aldis.  They keep forever and I eat a lot of them, there's usually 3-4 onions in everything I cook.  So I buy them 30-40 pounds at a time when they're really cheap. 

For fresh stuff I have what I grow (still far too little) but I'm getting pretty self-sufficient on greens and herbs and (in season) tomatoes, cukes, and peppers.  (I still don't have storable surpluses of anything but the herbs, but I'm working on it.)  However, shopping the produce loss leaders and picking up what's in season (and thus cheap) or end-of-life (double cheap) makes the rest of my produce affordable.  Strategies:

1) Shop the loss-leaders at fancy produce stores (all of which are more than an hour's drive away from me) when I'm there for other reasons.  Sprout's Market (two hours away from me in two different directions) always has weekly loss leaders on seasonal produce that are stupid-cheap, and if you can hit them on Wednesday you get the loss leaders from last week and this week both.  It's never worth it for me to take a special trip to Sprouts, but I never miss a chance to hit them opportunistically and usually I buy about $20-$30 worth of produce when I do.  (Often I'll need to dehydrate or preserve something that was so cheap it was worth buying for that.)  Aldi stores (one hour away in two different directions) likewise always have one, two, three, or four produce loss-leaders that are substantially cheaper than anything local I can buy.  They also sometimes have sales on canned goods (I only usually buy tomato products in cans) that are cheaper than my local discount grocer. 

2) Shop my local discount store (I have a Sav-A-Lot within 10 miles) for seasonal fruit and vegetables (they often have a few pallets in the produce aisle of whatever's in season and cheapest).  A little later in the winter they will have small Navel oranges ten for a dollar, one pallet and then they're gone.  Usually they have the cheapest watermelons in season.  They also mark stuff down when it's getting old. 

3) Check all my local supermarkets (when I can do so without burning extra gas) for their loss leaders and discounted aging produce.  Even the places I never buy anything (because small-town supermarket prices) sometimes have loss-leader produce; this is often the best price I can find on avocados, which my Sav-A-Lot doesn't reliably have at a price I'm willing to pay. 

4) To make all this shopping work, I've had to rearrange how I think about shopping trips.  "I'm getting low on fruit and veg, gotta go shopping" does not mean make a list and fill it.  It means go to whatever stores fit with my existing errands and fuel budget, and buy whatever is cheap there that I can eat before it spoils or can make up a preserving plan for (usually "bung it in the dehydrator").

5) In many ways my shopping expeditions resemble the betting strategy of a professional poker player.  Those guys will play hand after hand after endless hand, paying an ante every time, betting little or nothing, and folding routinely.  And then when the cards fall just right, they suddenly shove a huge stack of chips out onto the table.  In this analogy my fuel costs are the antes, most of my shopping trips are the routine hands where little is spent and little accomplished, but like the poker player I have to retain the willingness to buy in stupid bulk and/or to stake a huge chunk of my weekly food budget on an opportunistic purchase when I hit just the right sale and see tomato sauce at five cans for a dollar or sweet potatoes marked "5lb/$1".

There are a couple of frozen veg staples I use a lot -- frozen corn and frozen peas in the one-pound bag.  The corn can routinely be found for a buck a bag in many of the places I shop; the peas are *usually* $1.30 but can be found for a buck on sale sometimes; I stock up when that happens.

Last but not least, the whole grains and dried legumes.  These vary wildly in price but again if you shop discounts stores and sales, they all work out to about a dollar a pound (rule of thumb).  A few things are routinely cheaper in big bags (25 or 50 lb) but in general most everything shows up in retail packaging at those same lower prices eventually if you shop the sales and look for loss-leaders.  A few grains and legumes never get that cheap but I can always manage to find wheat, rye, rice, oats, and four or five kinds of beans and split peas.  A pound of any of these makes a meal for two, usually with leftovers.

That's how I manage; but it's intensely specific to the shopping options available to me and the stores I am able to visit.

=======


Now let's talk dogfood -- I don't know cats and have no insight there.  But I have numerous large hungry dogs. 

In my experience a healthy fat glossy outdoor country dog who catches the occasional critter for extra fresh nutrients can survive and stay healthy a long time on the cheapest available pelleted dogfood, which in most places in the country is Ol' Roy from Walmart (here it's twenty-one bucks for a fifty pound bag).  However, a rescue dog in nutritional deficit will *never* get healthy eating those cheap crunchies.  Likewise if your dogs have metabolic issues (common in dogs that have been starved) or appetite deficits (common in older dogs or dogs with dental issues) they won't stay healthy on the cheap foul crunch.  I go two ways with this problem:

1) in this particular region we have some grain processing mills that turn out locally-distributed dogfood brands.  This stuff tends to have better ingredients (whole grain instead of brans/germs/chaffs, animal products/fats instead of vegetable) and be cheaper to boot, probably because of the lack of long-range shipping costs.  I can 70lbs of a brand from my local (one hour away) mill for the same price as 50lb of the Walmart stuff, and my dogs like it better.

2) if my pack is all fat/glossy/sleek I skip this next part, but when they aren't:  there is usually a discount store somewhere near me selling 10lb bags of no-brand chicken leg quarters for less than five bucks, sometimes *much* less when there's a sale.  I have an ancient pressure cooker/canner large enough to cook up about three pounds of chicken at a time along with a pound or so of rice and enough water to make a thick chicken slurry.  (I also put old leftovers in this or, sometimes, old egg and milk powders that we inherited from a deceased survivalist.)  My dogs eat their crunchies a lot better when I put a cup of chicken slurry on top and mix it all up with some hot water; and the less-healthy ones get healthy much faster.    Basically I get three pressure cooker batches out of a $5.00 bag of chicken, and each batch lasts 3-4 days feeding four large dogs.  If I were *catastrophically* broke, I could replace the chicken with fresh roadkill, of which there is a lot around here; but I'm too squeamish to do that at my current level of financial indisposition. 

====


What I'm noticing most in this thread is that strategies for grocery survival on the cheap end of things are intensely variable because of differences in local circumstances and opportunities.  I hope there's something in my strategies that will work (and help) in your circumstances!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you all so much for your suggestions, they help me think about it more clearly.  Fortunately neither of us is picky, but I'm probably the best about eating just about anything put in front of me (unless moldy or rotten).  The garden presently is mostly producing greens, but I've started harvesting some Sunchokes and if we're lucky some Sweet Potatoes might be out there.  Unfortunately it was a very poor squash year, so our standby last year isn't available this year.  My husband does most of the shopping so I've asked him to keep an eye out for cheap squash.  We've only rarely bought meat at the store for several years, depending on the chickens and the venison from our neighbors and the young man who hunts here.  We're gradually cutting out most processed foods except basics like flour, milk, and cheese but will soon be reducing our "cheese allowance."  We rarely buy vegetables at the store except canned tomatoes.  Organic food here is twice as expensive as regular, so we have had to give most of it up except apples.  Pasta is becoming a luxury food; rice is our main staple now.  I'm most concerned about not demoralizing my husband by feeding him dreary penance food, so I'll be hanging out here in the cooking forum more to check out everyone's home cooking recipes.

We live in the country so we have a car, but I think we can reduce our driving by half fairly easily, because we work at home.  We're making the transition from one business to another, hence the declining income. 
 
Casie Becker
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Here's something that might apply during the next year, take some time to walk local parks and green belts to see what they have planted. I know where two fig thickets, several pear trees, peach trees, and pomegranate bushs are planted in nearby parks. The figs are particularly productive here, if you catch them in time.

In the store with a budget like that I'd limit my purchases to necessary cleaning products (mostly vinegar and baking soda and dish soap), rice, beans, potatoes, salt, cooking oil and produce that was either in season or deeply discounted. Always take note of things you can freeze easily dry. My mother would buy a year's worth of broccoli every year during the winter when it was under 99C a pound. If I didn't know you grow a lot of onions, I'd include them on this list.

For the animals, dogs can eat nearly anything humans can. Cat's can be nearly self sufficient. Give them safe spaces, fresh water, appropriate cuddles and occasional treats. You can't give either animal cooked chicken bones as,  but raw chicken bones or any deer bone should be safe.

If I remember properly, you have a source for soap berries that can work for laundry soap. Maybe you can even eliminate dish soap with those, I think in the past someone posted how they use soap berries for dishes. 

Anyone outside of Texas probably doesn't need to read the rest of this post. Take this with a reasonable amount of salt, I work for them and so am strongly biased towards the company (sixteen years and every year leaves me more impressed). HEB has a coupon program called "The Meal Deal" where you buy one relatively high priced item and all the sides and fixings to make a typical overloaded meal come free with it. This will frequently be twenty dollars or more of food. I admit, it's not always worth getting; as usually the fixings are geared towards the typical unhealthy diet. However, sometimes these 'sides' are ideally suited to be a main course on their own. If the main item is sold by weight, shop mid morning. This will give you a chance to locate the smallest qualifying items after the case has been freshly stocked. Don't forget to check the main department, the meal deal case itself can only hold a small portion of the available product.

Also, if you're familiar with the yellow store coupons, Look in the bottom left corner and there will be either an S,B or an M in a shaded box. If you clip coupons, any coupon with an S be able to scan in conjuncture with any coupon you clip from the manufacturer. You cannot combine clipped coupons with any M coupon as those are also from the manufacture, HEB has just agreed to handle the actual printing.

There is no limit to how many coupons you use per order, you just must match the coupons to the correct number of items purchased. ie. Buy two get one free, you can buy eight for four free if you have four coupons. And yes, coupons can still be applied to sale and markdown items.
 
Dan Boone
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Another thought.  It sounds like you are already taking advantage of your local venison resources, but I've seen your property pictures which immediately make we wonder: do you have any sort of resident wild rabbits?   A rabbit doesn't really make a meat meal for two but it does make an intensely satisfying meaty flavor base for a pot of soup or stew that's mostly root vegetables.

As a kid I learned the skill of snaring rabbits (actually, snowshoe hares) with picture wire, but I wouldn't do it on my own property if I had outside dogs or cats, too much risk of one of them getting hurt in the snare.  But you could probably "hunt" them with a .22 or .410 shotgun while sitting on a bench in your back yard at dusk, just by watching the edge areas where they come out of cover to feed.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks for those deal and coupon tips, Casie.  We rarely look at manufacturers coupons because we don't eat much processed food.  Dan, we used to have wild rabbits here but since we've had an influx of feral cats, we don't see them much except for Jackrabbits.  In any case, rabbit is one of the few things my husband can't abide - he can't even stand the smell of it cooking.  And neither of us will be hunters. 
 
Nicole Alderman
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I would definitely focus on potatoes and sweet potatoes. If those are the only foods you ate, you would get 100% of most of your vitamins (they are very vitamin rich), as well as all your carbs and a good percentage of your daily need for protein. They are also often pretty cheep, even the organic ones. And, they can be prepared in lots of yummy ways (we never seem to get tired of baking them as fries, though...). There's people who have lived quite well on only potatoes. If you can get potatoes affordablely, I wouldn't spend much money on other carbs (pastas, breads, rice) as they have a lot less vitamins and minerals (and more anti-nutrients) than potatoes.

For protein, bulk beans might be a good choice. Though, plant sources really seem to pale in amount of protein compared to animal sources .

A few years back, I made an excell spread sheet of various foods that we consumed, and how many calories per dollar each was. This was actually really helpful for me, because some food that we thought was cheap (like carrots and onions) really didn't supply that many calories per dollar spent. Of course, nutrition wasn't taken into account in this, though. The cheapest protein source in our diet was Trader Joes Ends and Pieces, it was $2.63 for 2000 calories. And, you get lots of cooking fat. Only problem being that the bacon isn't organic, and so not as healthy or ecologically sound. But, sometimes when you're on a tight budget you have to make sacrifices of your other ideals for the greater good of continuing to eat...

Sometimes nuts can be found relatively cheep. Trader Joes used to have (haven't checked the price recently) used to have bags of cashews for $4.99, which ended up being $3.91/2000 calories. We also have bought molasses for pretty cheap, and it's a good source of iron, magnesium and other electrolytes. It was $3 for 2,000 calories.  Peanut butter, and peanuts--especially on sale or in bulk should also be pretty affordable--though they are better sources of fat than protein, if I remember correctly.

Another tip for saving money is to check out ethnic and discount stores. Grocery Outlet in our area is a great source for getting organic food (and regular food) for much cheaper. Asian markets are great for rice and sweet potatoes. Mexican for bulk beans. Middle Eastern for lamb, etc.

There's also some useful bloggers out there that I follow that try to eat on a tight budget, and many don't even bother with coupons. I really like http://dontwastethecrumbs.com, as she also tries really hard to eat nutritiously (many frugal shoppers just buy whatever junk is on sale... which is often full of pesticides and high fructose corn syrup, etc). https://eatingrichly.com/ is another good blog that I follow.

I hope that helps!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Those are excellent suggestions, Nicole.  The most challenging part for me is shifting our diet away from the store things we've gotten used to eating (pasta, rice), to the things we eat if we grow them but don't tend to buy, like Sweet Potatoes.  I know conventional potatoes are sprayed with a lot of toxics, so we try to only buy organic of those - does anyone know what the deal is with sweet potatoes - are they heavily sprayed as well or is it safe to buy conventional?
 
Nicole Alderman
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Sweet potatoes used to be on the Environmental Working Groups "clean 15 list," but it looks like it just barely moved off that list (they now rank it 34 out of 50 fruit/veggies, with 1 being the worst and 50 the best). So, they're not as toxic as regular potatoes, by any means. This website (http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/food.jsp?food=SW) shows what pesticides were found on sweet potato back in 2010, with 40% of them having dicloran, which is a possible carcinogen (not "known" or probably," just "possible"). I don't know how much has changed in 6 years, though...
 
K Putnam
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The good news is that quality of your meals is only going to be limited by your cooking experience; most cultures developed good food on a budget.

Faced with that kind of budget, the first thing I would be buying is a bag of masa and black beans in bulk.  One of my favorite cheap meals is black bean soup with masa dumplings and greens. I am always satisfied by that meal and never feel deprived.  Masa tortillas are piece of cake to make and open up the doors to all kinds of variations on tacos and small plates, which keeps the palate happy and the cost down.

If you have chickens, I have been enjoying freezing breakfast burritos en mass.  I've been using a conventional tortilla simply because they are sturdy, but a basic yeasted flatbread recipe would probably work almost as well if rolled thinner.  One scrambled egg per tortilla, a bit of cooked potato, a bit of cheese, and a bit of seasoned black beans or meat, rolled up and frozen, make for satisfying, cheap breakfasts.  Freezing tamales would be another similar idea.  I need protein for breakfast; as much as I want to love the idea of affordable oats, I'm hungry and dissatisfied by 9:30am. 

I don't know how cabbage fares in Texas, but a head of cabbage goes a long way as a side and there are many tasty variations of slaw and salads, not to mention roasting it. 

Eggs from chickens:  Frittatas w/ veggies from garden, hard-boiled for snacks, egg-salad sandwiches, poached over veggie hashes of all kinds. 

Chickens:  Take the time to make a good stock from the carcasses and a few veggies.  Then even simple soups are satisfying. And with a little bit of butter and flour, you can make good sauces to pour over things; that really ups the quality of any meal.

Spices: buy small amounts from the bulk bin, costing literally pennies.

I'd develop a healthy relationship with a sourdough starter and make my own bread and flatbreads.  Not hard to do at all, just requires more consistent cooking that I do just for myself.  But then you have access to affordable, tasty bread.  You can fill flatbreads will all kinds off affordable, seasoned vegetable fillings.   I take Nicole's point that breads don't have as many nutrients as potatoes, but sometimes a person just really wants some warm bread...and it's still cheap.

I buy organic veggies like sweet potatoes in bulk from Trader Joes for $5.  That gets me a fair ways. 

How to feet the pets is harder because they need animal protein.  Dan gave you really good advice.  For the dog, I'd be talking to the local butcher about scraps to supplement kibble. A bag of cheap frozen marrow bones from the butcher can help keeps dogs happy.  Cats can do pretty well on kibble and like raw treats.  If they are outdoor cats that hunt, they have some access to fresh meat; they just need enough calories from kibble to stay healthy.

Toiletries:  I buy very small amounts of natural oils to use as moisturizers; way cheaper than buying any kind of branded lotion. 
 
Ron Helwig
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I've been living on $50/week for a couple years now, so I have some thoughts.

First, avoid corn for dogs. A lot of cheap dog food uses corn meal as cheap filler, but it doesn't do the dog (or its gut) any good.

For people, I suggest nixtamalized corn. I use masa (nixtamalized corn flour) as a thickener instead of cornstarch. Sometimes I toss a quarter or third of a cup and some water into a stir-fry to add some carby goodness as well as make it thicker. I use grits (make sure it is nixtamalized, some is just plain corn meal) anywhere it calls for corn meal.

When I started doing this I made a spreadsheet and calculated everything, including my morning coffee. That helped a lot.

My living situation is small, so I have limited counter space as well as almost no room for bulk supplies. I also have gut issues and have tried the FODMAP diet so I've avoided stuff like wheat, onions, and fruit. I never buy fresh veggies, only frozen. I don't have the time, space, tools, or patience to process fresh veggies and throwing half of it away all the time really grates. I'm not sure how much more it costs to buy frozen than to buy fresh and process it yourself, but I expect it isn't a lot more when you factor in all the waste, time, and tools.

When I bring the groceries home, I split it up into baggies so when it's time to cook I just have to pull a bag out of the freezer and toss it into the pan. That way I also know how many meals I have, already measured and ready to go.
 
Tyler Ludens
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The suggestions to use masa and hominy grits instead of regular corn products are excellent, thank you.  Even this small change can help make simple food more nutritious.

 
Andrea Mondine
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Hopefully this thread will encourage all of us to do better with less. There are so many great tips and ideas here. I have a few ideas and thoughts to share; hopefully this won’t be too long of a post.

An earlier post from Casie talks about walking your local parks to see what they have planted there. I’d definitely expand on that point, and really explore and educate yourself on what ‘freebies’ you might have in your local area, such as fruit or nut trees, berries, herbs, roots, and other wild edibles. You will be amazed what you can find that is absolutely free. Using what is available also lets you try new flavors and foods you may have never given a chance. Many wild edibles are medicinal as well, giving a ‘double-benefit’ to a healthy body.

There are a few foraging maps / websites available online that are really easy to use where you just pop in your zip code and can see what other foragers have found in your local area. Some also show local growers that are willing to give their extras away for free. The most well-known and easiest map to use is probably https://fallingfruit.org/.

There is another that I prefer, though, because I can list MY extra produce and anyone accessing it can see what I have. I had a local convent contact me a few summers ago asking if they could have my excess of tomatoes and zucchini.   That site is: http://www.ripenear.me .  On this site, you also find things like fresh eggs and goat’s milk. Those types of items usually aren’t free, but still reasonable, local, and usually organic/raw. The site is loaded with free things though. I pulled the map for your ‘Central Texas’ location and added it here so you can see what the map looks like and that there are a LOT of items in your general area. I think the pic will show up at the end of my post (haven't attached a picture before).



I found an article that had a lot of other potential foraging information, but I haven’t personally investigated them. The article is worth a read if this seems interesting to you. Here’s the link:
http://sustainablog.org/2014/02/forage-the-urban-bounty-11-crowdsourced-maps-of-edible-plants/
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have nothing to do with the previously mentioned blog and hadn’t even read any of their info prior to this morning. I just thought the additional links were in a compact format.

Foraging can be a great activity for your family and a wonderful opportunity to teach your kids about our environment. Sometimes it’s easier to understand things like climate and the impact of pollution and conservation when you see it first-hand.

Secondly, let’s talk pet food. Personally, I feel manufactured pet kibble is overpriced and under-nutritional for our pets. I know some posters have animals that have the run of the land and can catch additional ‘nutrition’, but if that Isn’t the case for you, I would seriously consider ditching the kibble altogether. It’s full of things I sure wouldn’t want to eat, and is not regulated for safety in the way that most of the general public thinks it is. There are gross contamination issues in most pet food processing facilities and even choosing a high-end brand doesn’t provide protection. There are a lot of commercials running now that ‘compare’ two brands and the unsuspecting consumer is always surprised that the food they feed their pet has primary ingredients of grains or ‘meat by-products’.  This is a topic I could write 20 articles on, so I will keep it brief…but the term ‘meat by-products’ can mean literally anything-any animal rendered for processing….sick or healthy. Not just your standard farm animals either…..ANY ‘meat’ that has been purchased for processing…with no regulations on the country of origin or the type of meat [think horse, dog, failed pisciculture attempts (fish farms)}. I know that this is accepted in many cultures, and that opinions vary, but I don’t like the idea of the potential for contaminants and disease due to this type of sourcing.

For me, the cheapest and easiest method is to purchase 10 or 20 lb bags of chicken leg/thighs, which usually cost $5 for 10 lbs at my local Kroger (but can be had on ‘Manager’s Special’ for $3.49 occasionally). I have a giant soup pot and I cook the whole bag with a few heaping tablespoons of turmeric added (super healthy for people and animals, bought in bulk at the Indian market). I slow simmer it and then let it cool, separate the meat from the bones and package it in little bags in the freezer to be mixed with rice and frozen veggies, either leftovers from the garden or cheap store brand. It’s healthy, safe, filling, (my) vet approved, and can also double for quick soup and stew starters for dinner for the family. I also buy my rice in bulk at the Indian grocery. Someone else posted about using the ethnic groceries…I agree. The spice I mentioned, turmeric, is about $4 for .3 oz at Kroger, but I buy a half pound of it at the Indian grocery for $6. We use a lot of it, so it is well worth it. I feel that even with the extra time and effort, it is still cheaper than the $23 I used to spend for a 17 lb bag of Iams food that was gone in 10 days.

Lastly, if your $50 a week is including paper products and toiletries, it would be worth it to look into bulk delivery of TP and paper towels (if you use).  There is a new website called https://www.boxed.com/ and you can order pretty much anything you’d buy at the grocery and have it delivered, but it is at discounted big-box store prices with free delivery. Amazon is doing something similar but I don’t know much about their process. Again, I have no ties to any of these folks.

If you don’t already, please consider making your own toiletries and cleaners/home-care products. It’s ALWAYS cheaper, and it is SO much better for your body, health and the environment. The end result is the same or really comparable quality with no chemicals or scary additives that disrupt our endocrine systems. You can find lots of great recipes for products online, or I can send pretty much any recipe you need if you DM me. I teach some local community classes on detoxifying your home and body, so this subject is second nature to me.

A great example is laundry soap. I was previously spending about $15-$20 per month on Gain liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener sheets. Now I make 5 gallons of homemade laundry soap and 1 gallon of fabric softener about once every 6 weeks for about $1.50. My clothes are clean, they seem to last longer, and I don’t have ‘color fade’ (although most of my clothes are as faded as possible already).

I hope some of this was helpful, wish you blessings on your journey, and thanks to all the other posters who had such great ideas!!





RipeNearMe.PNG
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TX Ripe Near Me Map
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you , Andrea.  I've been interested in wild food for years and we do eat some wild foods.  There are not many available in our area because overgrazing has reduced many native plants.  As far as gleaning excess produce, there are almost no farms of that kind in my locale, just ranching and some fields of oats in winter and sorghum in summer.  That map is probably a great resource though for people in farming areas, so thank you for posting it.  I hope this thread will help others as well!
 
Mike Jay
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If you live anywhere near a subdivision, there is likely food to be had from yard trees.  At my last house I found 3 pear trees, a couple peaches and several apple trees that people didn't pick, all within a half a mile of my house.  All you had to do was knock on the door to get permission.  I got a bushel or more per tree.  In some areas folks will post "deer apples or deer pears" in the free section of Craigslist.  While they are good for deer food, they also work well as people food   I suspect in areas with more nuts, a similar foraging approach could work.
 
Angelika Maier
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I think prices in the USA are way lower. I would grow all my vegetables and potatoes (what I do) and if that is not enough forage for the rest especially mushrooms and dry them.
I would preserve. What I would buy is dairy, butter (this is cheap here) , cheese, and cheap bits of meat and bones. Like chicken carcasses (what I buy) make delicious soup or chicken necks, liver, soup bones.
Fruit when you don't have available. Face cream you make yourself, soap is cheap and well toilet paper. I would pick up day old bread from a bakery for yourself and the animals (I get that over a friend), preferably a good bakery.
I would buy the normal plain flour, sugar (I know it is not healthy but I like a cake every now and then) and a big bag of beans which are cheapest in Indian stores at least here.
Grow enough broad beans and potatoes.
 
William Bronson
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If you know people who process animals, talk to them about lard. They are liable to have a lot of it, and fat is full of flavor and nutrition.
My go to is a sack of leg quarters over sliced onions and potatoes.
Boil the gnawed bones for broth.
Alternatively,boil the chicken, grill the meat ,make soup with the broth, boil the gnawed bones, and make soup with that broth.
I buy a brick of brewers yeast and use it in no knead bread recipes. Bulk pizza flour(high gluten) is $14.00 for 50 lbs at Restaurant Depot, a nationwide food distributor.
You need a tax ID number to buy there but y'all probably have that .
Dumplings and bread feel luxurious,especially with some fat and sweetness.
Pancakes can be savory or sweet,the batter made ahead of time ,and the can include almost anything,from onions to strawberries.
My snack food is popcorn,I like it with salt and powdered sugar,popped in oil,but with no added butter.

 
Anniw Sawyer
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I follow this vlog that is very helpful with that type of budget. Same weekly budget along with a ton of weekly meal plans and recipes. http://www.grocerybudget101.com/cheapeats/50-weekly-menus-8/

Also Aldi has recipes on their site that are very frugal for ideas. Hope all goes well.
 
Caz Nicole
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Lots of great ideas here.

Basically the healthiest way to eat is also very often the least expensive. We've been programmed to think we need things that we do not, things that in fact, are tied to every major disease plaguing our families, friends, our country. Programmed to over complicate and also think that eating the cheapest way possible with the food I note below is somehow beneath us. There doesn't have to be any sacrifice in flavor, satiety or enjoyment!

Rice, oats, potatoes (you can actually live off potatoes alone and have great health) legumes and greens. All but the greens can be had in bulk and greens and many veg can be grown year round. Fruits and nuts also in the mix as avail.

The latter can easily be gleaned in most areas, for city/towns try things like next door, Craigslist, facebook. I walk by a plethora of fruit and nut trees in my neighborhood and all but a couple are ignored and yields gone to waste. People are more than happy to share. I also found two houses with massive neglected grapevines going 20 feet into the trees and asked and was allowed to help myself. Grapes for eating and using some of the vines for wreaths (could be sold for extra $.)

In rural areas, my mom and her friends started putting out the word they were looking for apples and they got access to many properties including ones with heirloom and previously thought to be extinct varieties and they all brought home case after case of apples, plums, pears, etc the entire season. Since you know how to preserve you'd be golden for fruit. Some of the excess you could even start to sell at fairs or markets to supplement your food budget or go toward bulk purchases.

As for pets, cats are obligate carnivores and must have taurine and other things in their diet that makes home prepared food a bit trickier but it can be done.

The healthiest and most long lived dog ate a diet of rice, lentils, potatoes and whatever garden veggies were avail at the time. Dogs are actually not obligate carnivores, they are scavengers, omnivores. Travel to tropical countries where stray dogs are numerous will show that they, like humans, will go for fruit. You could easily just feed the dog portions of whatever you make (less onions, garlics, other no nos for dogs) and they'd also be thrilled and it's healthier for them than even the highest "Quality" dry kibble.

I stated making my dogs' food because it ended up costing me less AND is healthier for them, now that I too am on a very reduced budget, it's really worked out and they are perkier than ever even being up in years. And if I'm in a pinch and feeling uninspired to cook, I will eat some of what I made for them in the crockpot and with some hot sauce and a salad alongside an completely satisfied, and it's delicious! I do a base of rice, red lentils, sweet potato and carrot and add greens and other veg as avail.


Knowing what I know now, I wish I'd been doing this all my life. If more people did, they'd see less $ going out their pockets, increased health and vitality and there would be far less food waste happening. I see it actually as the ideal now and wish more people would! Everyone wins
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you very much for these ideas.  Gleaning from people's yards is probably out of the question because I don't drive around.

you can actually live off potatoes alone and have great health


I strongly disagree.  It is quite difficult to live off potatoes alone - you have to eat several pounds of them per day to obtain sufficient calories (in Ireland pre-Potato Famine the average Irish adult ate 9 - 14 pounds of potatoes per day) - and you will likely be deficient in at least vitamin B12.*  Some people are more prone to deficiencies than others, and deficiences may not show up for years.  Thread about this:  https://permies.com/t/56996/Minimal-diet-deficiencies


* Reference: One Circle by David Duhon

 
R Ranson
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This is a great thread, Tyler.  Thanks for starting it.  It's a topic I'm very passionate about. 

Since the $50 a week includes other expenses, I'm going to pretend that the actual food budget is $21 per week, that's $3 a day to feed two people.  A bit tight, but I think it's possible.  I prefer $3 to $4 dollars per day per person, but we work with what we have. 

I have so much to say, but other stuff to deal with, so for now, I'll say that the biggest step towards affordable eating is to observe your own behaviour patterns. 

As an example, I buy lentils because they are nutritionally dense, long storing and dirt cheap.  I don't like eating lentils that much.  But I kept buying it.  I plan to eat lentils then wouldn't cook them, or I would cook them but eat something else.  I finally realised that it doesn't matter how affordable lentils are for the amount of nourishment they give, I'm not going to eat them very often.  Yet, I so wanted to eat affordable pulses (dry beans and peas).  So I thought, what beans do I like to eat?  I like chickpeas and they cost about the same as lentils.  I also like a tin of beans on toast.  That's white beans, which cost $1 more per kilo than lentils.  So I learned how to cook these two beans from dry.  It's saving me one heck of a lot of money. 

I cook a pot of beans about once a week.  About a kilo of beans at a time.  I add herbs and spices, maybe an onion, usually not.  I try to keep the beans as plain as possible.  Then each time I eat some beans, I can change the flavour.  Today it was a dollop of butter.  Yesterday it was the bit from the bottom of the ketchup bottle, shaken with some water and some maple syrup.  It's very versatile. 


Some useful threads on permies.

here's where I go on and on about a similar situation.
the thread that inspired me to learn how to cook pulses
a brilliant thread about growing your own staple crops
healthy home cooking for under a dollar a plate.

Tyler, I'm sorry, this post is pretty generic.  I'll come back later and see if I can provide something more relevant to your situation. 

A side note about potatoes.  My understanding that potatoes have NEARLY all the nutrition you need.  When paired with stout, they make a complete nutritional profile, but a diet of potatoes and stout isn't necessarily very affordable today. 
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you, R Ranson, about the lentils!  I buy them also and don't like them much. Last night's dinner was lentils with roast sunchokes curry and it was not a big hit with either my husband or me.  I think, like you, I will stick with the chickpeas.  One of our favorite meals is a big pot of chili with ground venison and plenty of beans.  I think I'm going to lobby for having it more often (my husband is the chili cook of the family).  We like it over rice, and of course with a salad from the garden.  I "force" my husband to eat a great variety of greens in salad, because I feel eating the largest number of different plants increases the chance of obtaining the largest number of nutrients ( I think you mentioned trying to eat a large number of different foods each day in the deficiencies thread or another thread). I try to put whatever edible weeds are available in our salads in addition to plants I grow deliberately.

Of regular dry beans, which would you recommend as the most nutritious and easiest to digest?  This might have been covered in another thread but I need a refresher.  I think it is kidney beans that are the most toxic?  I don't buy them.

 
Rez Zircon
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Got a Costco nearby? or another wholesale grocery? the yellow bag "Atta-Boy" looks like a cheap dog food on paper, but (other than for puppies) is one of the better and more-efficient diets on the market as well as one of the least expensive, and one of the few sufficiently balanced to feed long-term. Feed it to your cats too. (I used to manufacture dog food, have fed a large kennel for over 40 years, and usually have cats too. Been happier with it than anything since the now-gone original version of Strongpoint.) You will need to add some fat, any sort of grease will do (I add about a quart per 50 pounds). Not quite dense enough for puppies, but cats like and do well on it (and it's much better for their teeth than cat food). BTW horses and pigs love it. In a pinch, you can eat it too.   Mice are a good supplement for dogs; I've had dogs that lived on them full time. -- Fillers like oatmeal are really not very useful, as they're not digestible unless cooked (and not worth the cost of home cooking unless you're on a woodstove). Surplus mashed potatoes from a restaurant are better for keeping dogs in condition, tho hope you don't have to pick up the stool.

When I worked in a restaurant, I fed the entire kennel on the scraps and had plenty left over.

I eat on rather less than $50/week myself, and tho I don't hunt (cuz I don't like venison and game birds aren't worth it) I never lack for meat. If you get short on venison, pork and ham are cheap, are more biologically satisfying than chicken or fish, and can make everything else go further. Rice, flour, potatoes, and pasta are cheap and versatile. Eggs, ramen, and random leftovers makes a good quick hotdish. One zucchini plant can feed India, and you can treat it more or less like a pasta substitute. Walmart's baked-in-store bread is good and costs less than you can do it yourself. Tomato sauce, onions, and bulk cheese are among the least expensive flavorings, assuming you don't grow your own. Butter and milk are worth the price in how much more satisfying the meal becomes. Costco and Sam's Club memberships pay for themselves inside of two trips, just in the savings on bulk packages and pricey stuff like butter.

Anything left over goes in the freezer, to eventually become "every-damn-thing-in-the-house soup".

Lots of small vermin are legal to hunt most places with no license or limits. Squirrels, gophers, rats, and the like are all edible (cook well to kill parasites). I've eaten roast mouse; it tastes like fine beef.

There's usually plenty of gleanings to be had from root crops, and welcome to them.

At any rate, that's how I do it. I almost never buy prepared or pre-packaged as they're a lot of money for little value.

As to other savings... try cornstarch instead of shampoo (rub in a teaspoon, wait a while, brush or rinse it out). Or Mane And Tail horse shampoo, very cheap but good stuff.
 
Deb Rebel
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I've said it many times and will continue to do so... if your town is the county seat especially; go volunteer at the local food pantry. Here the volunteers always get a food share no matter if they otherwise qualify. Ours also has two freight shipments a month and one disbursement (mid week freight, one Saturday for distribution). They often get stuff on the odd freight day (the midmonth one) of perishables that won't keep, so if you show to do freight you get to take lots. The rest is set out for who wants it. After distribution day anything like that that won't keep is also set out. Bread, tortillas, sometimes potatoes or onions, and one during the summer was two pallets of lugs of oranges. Last early spring we got a lot of frozen French fries... there were whole factory containers of pumpkin spice syrup for Starbucks (!!!) that had gone just beyond date.... If you volunteer you are doing good things, PLUS can help stretch the food budget. We do have some that are surviving on minimum SSI and come to volunteer and after freight or handout get quite a bit. (sometimes we get good meat too, never know what will show up). It has really helped us foodwise AND the community to go volunteer.
 
Joy Oasis
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Sprouting your own sprouts can be quite cheap as 2 tablespoons of small seed such as clover, make full quart size jar of very nutritious sprouts. Not many calories, but tons of vitamins/minerals/healing nutrients. Some of the seeds like buckwheat can be bought from bulk bin. And outside winter wouldn't be a problem, not that you have that problem in your climate.
 
Joy Oasis
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Forgot to mention, that I stopped using any shampoo since my scalp is sensitive to them, and my hair actually looks better without it. I just use very warm (almost hot) water and then rinse it with strong herbal tea, made with filtered water.
  For deodorant you can use either milk of magnesia straight or add zinc oxide powder to a bit of oil. Zinc oxide also makes great sun lotion with coconut or jojoba oil. I buy non nano sized particle zinc oxide to prevent it absorbing through the skin in too large amounts.
  You could use old t-shirts cut up for toilet paper, if you are brave enough. I used them just for number one, but plenty of people use it for number two as well.
  You could make your own soap. I make a batch, and it lasts me a year, unless I gift out too many.
 
Rez Zircon
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Joy Oasis wrote:Forgot to mention, that I stopped using any shampoo since my scalp is sensitive to them, and my hair actually looks better without it. I just use very warm (almost hot) water and then rinse it with strong herbal tea, made with filtered water.


Tea with a little lemon juice is a pretty good cleaner, at least for stuff that doesn't stain.

 
Todd Parr
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If you are near any town or city of any size, I would dumpster dive.  Grocery stores sometimes throw out canned fruits and veggies that are past the "expiration date".  That date is arbitrary and the food can be eaten very long after the dates.  For references, read about the Bertrand, the cargo ship that sunk.  It was brought up after more than 100 years, the canned food opened and tested, and it had no bacterial growth and was safe to eat.

The other thing I would dumpster dive for was anything that I thought I could sell on Craigslist or the equivalent.  If you patrol areas the night before trash pickups in expensive neighbor hoods, people often throw things out that can be very easily fixed and can bring in good money to boost your food budget. 

I was a pretty avid dumpster diver myself for a while when I lived in a large city, and I didn't need to do it.  I just found it fascinating to get all kinds of great things for free.  Stores throw away decorations when the holidays are over.  I once got 20+ cans of Christmas cookies in the those big tin cans that are painted with Christmas scenes behind a drugstore.  I found an entire case of gourmet coffee samplers behind a Borders book store.  The list goes on and on.  I had a good friend who claimed to make over $70,000 a year dumpster diving and picking up things that people left for the trash man to pick up in Scottsdale, AZ by working a few hours a night.  I have no way of verifying that she made that much, but I know she didn't have a regular job, always seemed to have plenty of money, and drove a brand new SUV.  The only drawback for me was that it embarrassed me to do it.  That went away to some degree, but never totally.  Some people may not be willing to do it.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think dumpster diving might be great for those who live near dumpsters.  The neighbors inexplicably have a dumpster, but I would feel weird diving it.  I almost saved some junk from there and the other neighbors' trash, but my husband stopped me, reminding me that I'm trying to conquer my hoarding tendencies!    I don't drive around (actually haven't driven in a couple of months) so going to town to dive dumpsters isn't in the cards.  I think it is a great strategy, though, for people who are up to it.

 
Charles Laferriere
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Hi Tyler,

I've been on a similar budget range for a while, and I enjoy it.
I eat one can of tuna or piece of fish a week.

Rest is rice/oats/rye, wild plants and roots. I eat apples too, but they are abundant here. I grow loads of garlic too. Molasse too, same as for my cow.

I practice agnihotra and take some ashes.
 
John Elliott
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R Ranson wrote:  I don't like eating lentils that much. 

I cook a pot of beans about once a week.  About a kilo of beans at a time.  I add herbs and spices, maybe an onion, usually not.  I try to keep the beans as plain as possible.  


Well, there's your problem.  If you look at cuisines that have had to feed peasants on some starch and beans, you find that they add LOTS of spices to make them palatable.  What Chinese, Indian, and Mexican cuisine have in common is that the spices make the unappetizing edible.  Authentic Chinese cuisine can take the grossest critters out of the sea, add soy and ginger and garlic and hot peppers, until you can't recognize what it is, but it tastes pretty good.  Even sea cucumber becomes edible. It probably would if it was cooked up in some Indian curry too. If all you have for the bulk of your calories is a sackful of beans and some rice or potatoes, mixing in strong flavors is what makes it work.

One of my favorite ways of fixing red lentils is to cook them with lots of other red food: red peppers, tomatoes, red onions, carrots (almost red), and if that doesn't overpower the flavor of the lentils, add a beet. 

I'm not too fond of black-eyed peas, but once you add a ham bone, some garlic and onion, a jalapeno or two, it does have a much better flavor.

Once the flavor of the beans and lentils is in the background, dinner becomes a lot more enjoyable.  Look up some of the ways people fix beans on YouTube; I'm sure you will find a recipe that will make beans and lentils tasty.

 
Henry Jabel
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I generally spend around this amount on food or less and I am sure food is usually more expensive here than in the states. Same amount of people but no animals.

We dont buy much meat at all (as I live with a vegetarian) which definately makes things alot cheaper. We buy herbs, spices we cant grow (and rice) from Asian supermarkets in bulk which saves a huge amount of money long term.

Another good tip is using more good quality fats to cook with as it will make you less hungry.

Also are you throwing away food before you can use it? If veg comes packaged in plastic bags take it out as soon as you get home or it will go off quicker. Store potatos in a hessian sack. We find limes last longer than lemons so tend to buy them instead (unless we really want lemons). Keep your bananas seperate from other fruits. Ignore 'best before' dates.

Perhaps its worth posting a receipt if you dont mind people scrutinising your shopping habits!?
 
R Ranson
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John Elliott wrote:
R Ranson wrote:  I don't like eating lentils that much. 

I cook a pot of beans about once a week.  About a kilo of beans at a time.  I add herbs and spices, maybe an onion, usually not.  I try to keep the beans as plain as possible.  


Well, there's your problem.  If you look at cuisines that have had to feed peasants on some starch and beans, you find that they add LOTS of spices to make them palatable.  What Chinese, Indian, and Mexican cuisine have in common is that the spices make the unappetizing edible.  Authentic Chinese cuisine can take the grossest critters out of the sea, add soy and ginger and garlic and hot peppers, until you can't recognize what it is, but it tastes pretty good.  Even sea cucumber becomes edible. It probably would if it was cooked up in some Indian curry too. If all you have for the bulk of your calories is a sackful of beans and some rice or potatoes, mixing in strong flavors is what makes it work.

One of my favorite ways of fixing red lentils is to cook them with lots of other red food: red peppers, tomatoes, red onions, carrots (almost red), and if that doesn't overpower the flavor of the lentils, add a beet. 

I'm not too fond of black-eyed peas, but once you add a ham bone, some garlic and onion, a jalapeno or two, it does have a much better flavor.

Once the flavor of the beans and lentils is in the background, dinner becomes a lot more enjoyable.  Look up some of the ways people fix beans on YouTube; I'm sure you will find a recipe that will make beans and lentils tasty.



I agree flavours help.  Some beans (lentils in my opinion) are inedible unless they are hidden in other food.  Then again, some beans are amazing in and of themselves.

Most beans cooked simply can be extremely delicious.  There are many traditional cultures around the world that eat pulses with very little or no seasoning.  In Italian cooking, one often sees beans with nothing but a drizzle of olive oil. 

There's this recipe in Adler's The Everlasting Meal, where one is served bean broth that had nothing boiled with it.  Just the water from boiling beans.  Drizel olive oil on it and serve.  This is apparently an intensely flavourful (and nutritional) dish served as an appetiser. 

Likewise, I've had traditional dishes in Asia and South America that had a very simple bean pot as their main.   No strong flavours to cover the bean taste.



I think I wasn't clear enough with the part of my post you quoted.  My apologies.  I was referring to white beans as being cooked plain, not the lentils.  I wasn't saying that I always eat them plain. 

For example, yesterday I cooked a pot of white Italian beans. 
After the beans are cooked, I took some of them out of the bean pot and added flavour to them.  This made a delicious meal.
This morning I heated them with some butter and it was fantastic.
Tonight, a curry.  We will take some more beans out of the pot, heat them up with curry, onion, tomatoes, panir, and maybe the rest of the chickpeas from earlier in the week.
Tomorrow I'm thinking I will have sausage and baked beans - so scoop out some more beans from the pot, add stuff to them, stick them in the oven beside the apple crumble.
Or maybe it will be a tagine.  Beans on the bottom, some sort of protein on top.  Cooked slowly on low heat until the protein is fully cooked, by that time the beans caramelise on the bottom of the tagine.
Or possibly soup.  Beans plus bean broth, garlic, heat it up, add water if necessary, half mash the beans then cook pasta in the soup.  Drizzle of olive oil is all it needs.

If I cooked my bean pot with loads of flavour in it, I would be stuck with the same flavour for the week.  Observing my behaviour if I have a big pot of leftovers, then I don't eat it.  The food gets wasted because I find the same flavour day after day is boring!  Instead, my bean pot is a pot full of ready to use ingredient.  Beans.  Lovely, neutral beans.  Waiting to become anything I want.

I think, perhaps, many people are now cooking with such poor quality pulses that they need to gussy up the beans with extra spices and sauce. 

Now lentils on the other hand... They just don't work for me.
 
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