Tag Archives: budget

3 Meals That are Cheap and Healthy

By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., TheBestLife.com lead nutritionist

Feeling like you’re about to go off your own fiscal cliff after all that holiday spending? No need to settle for cheap junk food to help pay down your credit card bills. The truth is, some of the least expensive foods are also the healthiest.

Here’s my core budget-but-healthy shopping list. (Check out my blog for more lower-cost items.)

Canned beans – dried are even less expensive, but require you to plan ahead
Canned tomatoes – no salt added (the store brand is cheapest)
Canned wild salmon and canned light “chunk” tuna
Dried herbs – whatever is on sale
Fresh fruit – whatever is on sale
Fresh vegetables – whatever is on sale
Oatmeal or steel-cut oats – large carton of plain oats (the store brand is usually cheapest)
Peanut butter
Tofu – for cooking pointers, click here.

The following meals use some of the items listed above. All three of these dollar-stretching dishes are also seriously nutritious.  I calculated the cost of each meal using prices at my local Giant supermarket in Washington D.C.; prices may vary in your area. (more…)

Eating Healthy on $12 Per Day Food Stamp Budget is Impossible and How the Next President May Make it Worse

Next week presents so many possible changes for our nation as we mark our ballots. Election day could end with a new president lined up to lead the country. A new president impacts huge issues like the soldiers overseas, foreign affairs, and of course the budget. As you vote next week, you will also be determining smaller issues that affect all of us. Who we vote in as our Commander-in-Chief may change what’s served on a large percentage of Americans’ dinner tables.

Frequently called food stamps, our government has a food assistance program called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The program is income based and designed to help those who are financially struggling. According to Politofact.com, one in seven US families are using the SNAP program. Findings from the Food Research and Action Center state that many families struggle to purchase enough nutritious food before the month’s allotment runs out. Many users cannot afford proper foods for healthy meals and actually have to turn to food pantries to supplement their food needs.

If one out of seven families are currently needing the SNAP program and the current benefits are found to be too little to support a family, what can one expect from our primary candidates on this issue?

Valerie Jarrett is the Senior Advisor to the President Obama. She explained in The White House Blog where he stands on the issue of food assistance.

“…When President Obama took office, he enhanced and expanded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The investments we made kept 3.9 million Americans, including 1.7 million children, above the poverty line in 2010. They prevented child hunger from rising, even as poverty and unemployment levels increased in the wake of the economic crisis.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported on what former Governor Romney may intend to do about the SNAP budget is he were elected. Richard Kogan and Paul N. Van de Water wrote that Romney would cut entitlement and discretionary program budgets. These cuts would mean a reduction in the funds allotted for SNAP. (more…)

Side-by-Side Comparison of Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Fresh Market

Habit, convenience, and proximity are major factors in shaping where we purchase food and which foods we purchase. The decision to eat a healthier diet can be much easier than deciding which foods to purchase and from where to purchase them. While healthier options are becoming more widely available, where you live may determine what is or is not available. In Indianapolis, the 12th largest city in the United States, we have at least one farmers market year round, as well as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Fresh Market. Proximity plays a major role in where I shop most frequently, but perhaps that is not the most important factor.

Farmers markets may give you the best opportunity for the freshest produce and to speak with farmers about the conditions in which animals and produce are raised, but they are often not available throughout the week and selection of goods can vary. Whether we like it or not, we all visit a grocery at least occasionally, and the majority of Americans buy the majority of their food at a box store. Your farmers market may not offer fresh-made pasta or gluten-free baked goods like mine does, but your Whole Foods is probably a lot like my Whole Foods. (more…)

Healthy Diets are Less Expensive than Unhealthy Ones, Study Says

For those who think Twinkles and Pop Tarts are the cheaper way to go when it comes to a budget-friendly diet, think again. A new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that eating a diet consisting of healthier foods doesn’t necessarily cost more than one made up of mostly unhealthy foods.

Reason for the study was motivated in part by the perception that diets that align with the USDA dietary guidelines are not affordable; and that eating a diet higher in fat, sugar and processed foods is less expensive.

The study was led by a group of economists at the USDA, one of which was Andrea Carlson who helped analyze the cost of more than 4,400 foods. In their research, she and her colleagues considered each item by price per calories, price by edible gram, and price per average portion. (more…)

5 Places People Waste the Most Money on Their Health

David Bakke writes about tips for improving health and saving money on Money Crashers Personal Finance.

In 2009, Americans spent almost $2.5 trillion on health care, and that number is expected to almost double by the year 2019. As these costs escalate, it’s obvious that a healthy lifestyle can save you money. But the question is, how much money should you spend to live healthy? Fortunately, there are many ways to cut back on health expenses without cutting back on health benefits.

1. Gym Membership

Unless your monthly gym bill serves as your only motivation to exercise, a gym membership is usually not worth the expense. You can walk or jog in your neighborhood, bike at a local park, and swim in public pools. You can also pick up a cheap set of dumbbells for strength building. In fact, skipping the gym can easily save $500 annually.

2. Organic Food

Organic foods cost roughly 30% more than their traditional counterparts. So if you’re spending the money on organic, make sure it’s worth it and research which are safe to buy conventionally grown instead. For example, some conventionally grown fruits don’t contain as many pesticide residues as others. Whereas conventionally grown apples repeatedly test as some of the “dirtiest” fruits on the market. Avocados, onions, cantaloupes, asparagus, and eggplants should be safe to buy non-organic. (more…)

Healthy Across America on a Budget: The Nutritious America Road Trip

By Abra Pappa for NutritiousAmerica.com

3000 miles, 8 days, and 500 bucks to get across the country. Could you do it?

Last week my business partner (and best friend), Karen, and I embarked on an adventure across the country to see if it was possible to eat healthy in as many states as we could for as little money as possible.

For nearly a decade Karen and I have been counseling clients on the benefits of a natural, organic, whole food diet. Our company, Nutritious America, works to inspire people around the country to lose weight and clear up various health problems by changing how and what they eat.

In our work we tend to hear a lot of the same “issues” from clients about their struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Topping the list is, “It’s too expensive” and, “Healthy food is not convenient or readily available.” It was time Karen and I put these “issues” to the test.

We have both lived in large urban environments for over 15 years, where healthy food is readily available. I have a farmers market literally 3 blocks from my apartment, not to mention multiple juice bars, organic restaurants, and a Whole Foods Market all within walking distance. Is healthy food expensive? It depends on how you look at it. I spend money on food. I spend money on healthy food. I live by the philosophy, “pay the farmer today or the doctor tomorrow.” I choose to spend my money on food rather than expensive clothes, shoes, or bags. It’s a choice I make. However, I have always firmly believed that healthy food should be affordable for all people in this country. Is it possible to eat healthy and not break the bank? Is healthy food readily available in small towns across the country?

We wanted to find out. This was clearly just a small sampling. In 8 days we stopped in 8 different cities and had less than $30 per day per person for food. (more…)

Challenge: Buy 30 Days of Groceries at Whole Foods on a Poverty-Level Budget

Have you ever pictured yourself doing a happy dance in the grocery store because you could afford oranges? No? Me neither, but that’s what happened during my 30-day challenge to feed my family of three at or near the poverty level. There were also moments of frustration and a few tears shed. Here’s how it all started …

I was roaming around a section of the USDA website where they keep track of over 8,000 families and what they spend every month for groceries. This helps them set four different budget levels: Thrifty (near the poverty level), Low, Medium, and Liberal.  Amounts are broken down by gender and age; kids and the elderly account for less money than 20-something guys, for instance. 

If you think this is a futile exercise and a waste of taxpayer money, you’d be wrong. If you’re going through a divorce, it’s likely that the courts will assess child support at the “Low” level, no matter your income. The food that our servicemen and women are served is budgeted at the Liberal level. So this monthly assessment by the government has a bigger effect than you might realize.

When I looked at the numbers, I realized my family was living at the “Low” level, but that wasn’t taking into account how often we eat out (two to three meals per week between lunches and dinner). The amount we spend does reflect us eating a lot of organic foods. Plus, we can sometimes be too wasteful; I cringe some weeks at what we throw away. It’s not just a waste of money, but a waste of resources for the planet.

Could our family live at the Thrifty level? What would it take? And what if I tried doing this while only shopping at Whole Foods, aka “Whole Paycheck”? And then what if I also threw a dinner party for eight as the very last meal?

I contacted Whole Foods and suggested a bet. If I could feed my family of three for 30 days exclusively from items purchased at Whole Foods for $491.10 they would reimburse me for my food. If I didn’t make it, they’d owe me nothing. The budget worked out to $16.31 cents per day total for all three of us. In case you’re wondering, here’s what we bought for the month.

Whole Foods said yes, my family was gung ho, and we were off on January 1st, shopping for over 90 minutes, trying to figure out what we could afford.    (more…)

Eat Healthy While Still Saving Money

Diana Johnson (@DianasaurDishes on Twitter) is a recipe developer, cooking instructor and food blogger who loves teaching people how easy and affordable healthy cooking can be. Visit DianasaurDishes.com for her delicious, easy and healthy recipes on a shoestring budget!

I work on a regular basis with low income families who are trying to change their eating habits. The biggest barrier they seem to have in common is not a lack of desire for healthy eating, but the feeling that healthy food is more expensive and therefore unattainable. Here are a few of my favorite tips for saving money on groceries in the quest for a healthy diet.

Utilize your freezer.
A freezer is one of the greatest tools you have. In fact, if you have room for a standalone freezer they’re easily found on Craigslist and can save you a lot of money in the long run. Fruits and vegetables are more affordable in season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a variety of produce year round. Freezing is one of the least expensive methods of preserving. You can also create cheap recipes like soups and stews in bulk and freeze them in smaller portions for fast and easy dinners.


Dr. Oz Shows How to Stay Healthy While Saving Money

Tune in Tuesday, October 18, 2011 to The Dr. Oz Show to learn how to get healthy on the cheap.

Many people are over spending in order to stay healthy. Dr. Oz will be showing easy ways to stay healthy and save money at the same time. With his tips on how to save on items such as supplements and prescriptions, Dr. Oz says he can show people how to put $1,000 back in their budget.

Dr. Oz will also be displaying $1 quick fixes to our most annoying health problems. Be sure to catch this great deal of an episode!

6 Tips to Eat Vegan on a Budget

By Becky Striepe for Care2.com

There’s a common misconception that a vegan diet is also an expensive one, but I don’t think that has to be the case at all! Sure, if you eat lots of fake meat products and load up your cart with out of season veggies, a vegan diet can definitely break the bank. If an omnivore ate nothing but filet mignon and fancy cheeses, that would get pretty expensive, too, right?

The keys to stocking a vegan pantry without maxing out your food budget is pretty simple: eat real food, and cook from scratch when you can. Does that seem easier said than done? Don’t fret! Here are some tips and tricks for eating a healthy, vegan diet without spending too much money or giving up too much precious free time.

1. Cook from Scratch
Cooking from scratch probably sounds time-consuming, but with a bit of planning it’s very easy to work this into your schedule. Pre-processing your food can go a long way. I don’t mean canning, though. I mean soaking beans and chopping veggies. When you get home from the store, cut up your veggies before you put them away in the fridge. If you know you want to make a bean dish, soak the beans overnight to speed up cooking time. It’s so much easier to make a meal after a long day when some of the prepwork is already done.