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Poor mamas: How well do you guys really eat?? - Page 3

post #41 of 129
I think we eat great when we are eating most frugally. We skip meat, we omit dairy and we focus on bean and rice combinations.

I make loads and loads of bean dishes -- spicy red lentils, brown lentils with sauteed onion, split pea soup, minestone, cajun red beans and rice, cuban black bean soup, etc. There are loads of easy bean dishes. I serve a starch alongside (corn bread, rice, muffins, potatoes) and a small salad or veggie from the garden. We do grow a garden in the summer and that helps me supplement our veggies, but in the winter we make do with less fancy veggies. Green cabbage, cooked carrots, kale and collards are all cheap and excellent sources of vitamins.

We splurge on a can of sweetened peaches (yah, just like grandma used to serve) and that is an easy dessert. Or I make pudding with powdered milk. I know yuck! Powdered milk gets a bad rap though and really does make a fine pudding and is great in cooking.

I think for the most part, eating cheap is simple when you stop thinking you need a standard American diet. Most Americans consume waaaaaaaay too much animal protein from meat and dairy. We started to think of dairy as a treat and meat as little treats, somthing we get as a fun food. Now a little ham in a sandwich or a scoop of ice cream, is a big deal and something for a special occasion.

I don't buy organic, but mostly because I have little access to organics. Because I can't afford organic meat, we simply don't eat much meat. I do like to eat organic apples, grapes and bananas and will spend more money on organic fruit IF I can find it.

Mostly though, I simply wash my non organic fruits in a bowl full of water with 2-3 T of baking soda. A weak vinegar solution will also help rinse pesticides. Consumer reports did a study of the best way to remove pesticides from fruit and veggies and they found that a weak solution of old fashioned Palmolive dish soap (the green kind) removed 95% of chemical residues. Soak for a few minutes and rinse well.

So, I think you can eat very well while living cheap. Happy eating.
post #42 of 129
It's very important to us to eat all natural, whole foods though they aren't always organic. We don't have a ton of money either. We have enough most of the time, but not a lot extra. One thing I did notice about us, was we were eating out at least once a week, sometimes 3 times a week, and we decided we'd rather spend that money (even if it was just $20) on more groceries so we could eat at home. I also figured out we were usually eating out on weekends, which is when we were also doing our grocery shopping. That meant we didn't have much in the house to eat and it was easy to just eat out at that point. I've been shopping on Fridays so we have groceries in the house over the weekend and that has stopped our weekend eating out.

We shop mainly at our local co-op, but when we can't afford it we shop at a regular grocery store. I don't work so I'm home most of the time and able to cook from scratch when I want and need to.

Quality of food is incredibly important to us. We absolutely stay away from ingredients like HFCS, MSG, and preservatives and additives. But we don't *have* to shop at our co-op to do this! The times that have been leaner for us and we've shopped at the regular grocery store, we have found plenty of food that is natural for the same price as what is "unnatural".

We're pretty much out of money until payday this week, but we needed bread and I had a couple dollars in the car. So I went to the bakery outlet where they have natural whole wheat bread (w/o HFCS) for $1 each or 2/$1.70. That made me happy. Another example is pasta sauce: the store brand canned pasta sauce is about 80 cents a can. There are about 4 or 5 varieties of it and all but one has HFCS in it. The one w/o HFCS is the same price as the others. It just takes reading labels to find these things.

But this is what works for *our family.* I would never, ever blame someone for eating processed, unorganic foods when that is all they can get from the food bank or have time and resources to make, etc.

ETA: I should add that our food costs are kept down because we don't eat meat. DH and I feel much healthier without it and DS won't eat it anyway. Meat is expensive - more expensive than tofu!
post #43 of 129
Quality of food is very important to me, and I can not force myself to eat some of the junk out there. Unfortunately, my dh is a junk-food lover, and he refuses to eat some of the healthy stuff I would willingly eat. I could eat soup everyday with some homemade bread for a very minimal amount of money, including buying organic. But my dh will *not* eat soup unless it's matzoh ball soup which can get expensive!

I try to buy as healthy as possible, but do allow some "treats" through. I wish we had a Whole Foods near us, because some things like hot cocoa mix I would feel a lot better about if it were less synthetic, but adding chocolate to milk and heating it hurts my belly (the lactose).

We just got WIC which will help, but I have NO idea what we are going to do with the 9 gallons of milk we will get! We are not big milk people.

Yesterday I had to go to the all-glorious Wally World for a couple of things and picked up some groceries (all fruits and some beans). The people ahead of me had 0 vegetables, 0 fruits unless you count grape pop. I hate being judgemental (though it's one of my biggest faults), but I spent a lot less for a full load of healthy food and my random household stuff than they did for their cart full of frozen fried chicken, chips, candy, and pop.

The only things that I do break down and buy if the budget is super tight are mac & cheese and spaghetti stuff. I was raised on that crap, and have to force myself to swallow, but for a $1-3 meal, at least we won't be hungry. We had to do that a lot when we first moved in here and had no basic food stuffs and we have no kitchen space.
post #44 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krystal323 View Post

i disagree on this: i think it takes more money to eat healthier, not less. then again, i am not willing nor able to go making my own noodles, or growing a veggie garden (i would but i live in a 2nd story apartment!)...
But if you're not willing, then what is the point of this thread? Haven't you answered your own question, that poor people on MDC who eat better than you don't exist in a seperate reality with more $$ but are just more willing to do what they need to do in order to accomplish it. Reading posts about how well other people eat, you must have also read about how much effort they put into it. Some even compost in their apartments (which is probably more than I'd be willing to do, but anyway they do it). They do things that from your own words you admit you are not willing to do. I know that's going to come off sounding mean, but it's cyberspace so I guess I can't help that. I don't intend to be mean about it, but it just seems like the answer to your question is so obvious. For many people here it is not a financial luxury to eat things that don't have additives, it is something they work hard for.
post #45 of 129
Thread Starter 
well, more like i'm asking, where do you draw the line??
so, are you saying that if i don't have the $$ to eat well, then i'll have to put in enormous amounts of time and effort to do it cheaply? or just eat crap?
well those two options are obvious--i started this thread to see if anyone had any better ideas. and they have given some good ones so far
post #46 of 129
In my experience, definitely, saving money on food (or water, or electricity) translates into more investment of time and effort. The more time and effort I expend on these projects, the less money I spend. If I were to get a full time job, I would have to spend more on the bills because I wouldn't have time to make so much food from scratch and line dry, etc, and still *be* with my kids.
post #47 of 129
I think Junonia hit the nail on the head. Either you are going to go out to work to earn more dollars and be able to afford more, or you are going to work at home to save money. I don't think you can have both. I mull this over whenever another big bill comes in and think about what I could earn if I went out to work. Then I realize I wouldn't be able to line dry my clothes, bake and cook as regularly, shop the best sales/thrift stores , sew and do other things that saves us money. After counting in gas, clothes and other work related expenses, I think I save more by working hard at home.
post #48 of 129
We're poor. No we don't buy organics but we do buy minimal processed foods and avoid addatives. We buy fresh veggies and lots of hamburger, and discount bread.
Seriously, assuming I already had all my rice/beans/flour staples I could buy eggs, butter, hamburger, potatoes, onions and a couple of fresh veggies and be set for 2 weeks. We'd be eatin fancy if we got a couple of cans of sloppy joe sauce (and I'm sure I could make that myself if I tried).

I assume your family doesn't drink water very well that's why you buy sodas? Keeping a Brita pitcher of water in the fridge ready to drink will more than pay for itself because fresh water is cold and ready. Also tea and lemonade are cheaper to make and contain less artificial foods such as HFCS and coloring. We also have a gallon pitcher and I try to keep something made in it instead of buying cokes.
post #49 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krystal323 View Post
well, more like i'm asking, where do you draw the line??
so, are you saying that if i don't have the $$ to eat well, then i'll have to put in enormous amounts of time and effort to do it cheaply? or just eat crap?
well those two options are obvious--i started this thread to see if anyone had any better ideas. and they have given some good ones so far
Honestly... I don't think it takes any more work at all. Instant foods aren't really that great for you, period... not just when it's from Dollar General as opposed to the health food store. As long as you are willing to prepare meals, which I assume you do anyway since the alternative is going out ($$$) or not eating.

When I was married and my husband made $50,000+ we ate almost exclusively from Whole Foods and spent a TON of money doing so. We ate more than enough processed health food... soy yogurt and seitan and organic cereal and soy ice cream... When he left and I suddenly had to make due with what I could buy (for myself and my three kids) with $300 of food stamps every month, we ended up eating much better because simple whole foods was all I could afford. I almost never go to the HFS now, even though they take FS, because it's just too expensive.

We eat almost exclusively beans, rice, pasta, and veggies. I buy almond milk when I can afford it (free WIC milk when I can't) and we use it ONLY for baking and for cereal. We drink water or tea only. (Bottled water is super cheap at the dollar store, and there is a spring around the corner. Our tap isn't bad either.) Kids don't NEED juice. We supplement once a month with our 17 items from the food pantry. Most of the food there is total crap, but we can almost always get free rice or pasta there. When I have a little extra money, we buy stuff like decent soy sauce or olive oil or some kombu for our beans.

It seriously doesn't take that much effort to cook beans from scratch. You can leave the beans to soak overnight, but I almost always end up using the "quick soak" method. Put beans in pot, cover with water, boil, turn off stove and let sit for an hour. Then you drain the beans and add fresh water and cook until they're soft. Don't add salt until they're done because they will take freaking forever to get soft that way. If you have kombu, break off a little piece and add while the beans are cooking. This makes them good and soft and adds some really good nutrition to them.

I also use my bread machine. Got it as a gift. It saves us a ton of money. You can buy enough flour and yeast to make several loaves of bread with the cost of one ready-made loaf.

Granted, it's not the most exciting menu, but my kids are healthy and I feel pretty darn good.

Oh, and the biggest money saver by FAR is menu planning. Take stock of what you already have and USE IT. Plan out your meals and buy only what you need.
post #50 of 129

This is a novel, but I hope it helps

To put things in perspective, we spend about 1/2 our income on rent. After bills & such are paid, we're looking at about $300/month to play with, including money to spend on food.

We don't have a food budget, per se, as in we don't have a set amount that we agree to stick to when buying food, but we consistently spend about $60/wk. on food, just because the things that we buy regularly happen to add up to that. The majority of it is from Trader Joe's and about 1/2 of it is organic (when the organic is the same price or less than 50 cents more than the conventional). That feeds 2 adults & a toddler who eats as much as we do some days. I know I could save a bit more by baking my own bread, but it's so hot here right now that's not something I'm willing to do. For a while I did, because we're dealing with a dairy sensitivity (another reason we avoid prepackaged foods) and it's hard to find bread without nonfat dry milk as an ingredient. The closest we get to "convenience" foods are frozen salmon patties (5 in a package for $5) and pasta. I wish I liked beans, because that would save us a lot, but I don't. Anyone know how to make them not mealy? And if I could convince George to go veggie, that would save money, too, but that'll never happen. As it is, we buy meat from the 50% off section at Safeway (the only food shopping I do there) and get great deals. $2 for 3 meals' worth of organic boneless/skinless chicken thighs, for instance. $6 for 5 meals' worth of high-quality steak. All because the sell-by date is that day. We don't have a crock pot, but we do have a rice cooker and I'm the queen of the 30-minute meal.

Back when I was in college, living in my first apartment by myself for the summer, unemployed & living off savings, the remnants of student loans, and the $174 I got in child support from my dad every month, I spent about $60/mo. on food. A sample month's worth of groceries; unless listed otherwise, I bought these things every week:
1 dozen eggs: $1
1 lb. broccoli: $2
5 lb potatoes (lasted 2 weeks): $3
1 bag frozen skinless chicken breasts (lasted 2 weeks): $7
2 lb. block of cheese (lasted all month): $5
1/2 gallon milk: $1.50
2 lb. bag of apples (lasted 2 weeks): $3
pasta: purchased on sale, stocked up, when they were 4/$1
pasta sauce: canned, 79c each
generic cheerios (lasted all month): $2
peanut butter (lasted all month): $2
jelly (lasted all month): $3
bread (one loaf lasted 2 weeks, I froze half at a time): 59c
butter: purchased on sale, stocked up & frozen, when they were buy one/get one free for $2
huge bag of rice (lasted more than one month): $7
baking staples like flour & such when necessary

breakfast was generally cereal or eggs (with broccoli & cheese), lunch was the previous night's leftovers or pb&j, dinners were spaghetti, mashed potatoes (with broccoli & cheese), and chicken & rice (with broccoli). I snacked on apples and baked cookies & such when I wanted sweets. It wasn't varied, but it was healthy, and none of it was boxed "food" like kraft mac & cheese or ramen & soda that my friends were living off of. I drank water from the tap (well, filtered, I had a brita pitcher) or milk, and that was that. After 3 months of looking, I got a job at a pizzeria and could get dinners at a discount, and I had more money to spend on food, but I still cooked most of my food myself and just expanded my budget to include other fruits & vegetables (so it went up to about $100/month).

Basically, it's doable, but you have to have access, and where you don't have immediate access, you have to be willing and able to travel. I noticed one person mention a 10-15 minute 1-way trip to the store; that's not even across town in some places. It takes me 10 minutes to walk to TJ's, 15 to Safeway. When I was living alone, I had no car and lived about a 5 minute walk from Roth's (like Safeway) and 15-20 from Winco (which I hated to shop at but I did because it was cheap). Having a car makes it a lot simpler, if you have money for gas. If you live in a place that has grocery delivery, see if that is more feasible than driving to the store, especially if you have kids in tow.

I really like what someone said about putting in equal amounts of work at and away from home, but I know that not every mom is a SAHM. If you are, then get your kids involved in baking breads and snack bars (measuring is a great math lesson), experimenting with cheap meals (the library will have "food on a budget" type books), and do the best you can with what you have. If that means no organics but all the fruit is fresh, great. If that means store-bought pasta and sauce, great. As long as you're not starving your kids, it'll be ok.
post #51 of 129
Hey Krystal, I think you have gotten some excellent tips here

From my point of view; I get depressed thinking about what I should be feeding my family vs. what I can afford to feed my family. I try to strike a balance between ramen pride and hot dogs and all organic, natural everything. I feel like I do ok most of the time. Usually our food budget is about $250 a month for all of us including pet food and toiletries. I posted my montly bill and list on a thread somewhere in this forum... on a sharing the grocery budget thread or monthly shopping thread I think. Like BoysRUs, I am lucky to live in a area where there are a lot of cheap sources for food if I am willing to work a little for it.

I am sure it was mentioned, but the best thing to do is shop the outer edge of the store, stock up on loss leaders (the stuff advertized on the front & back of the fliers) and plan meals from there, use coupons for convience items and try to learn to cook. Learning to cook is very fulfilling! You can get a lot of really nice cookware from the thrift store and yardsales (at least around where I live) for next to nothing. Get your Dh to show you how to make that awesome pizza

I hope that helps a little. I hope your situation improves soon and things start to look up Good luck and let us know what you learned to cook!
post #52 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krystal323 View Post
well, more like i'm asking, where do you draw the line??
so, are you saying that if i don't have the $$ to eat well, then i'll have to put in enormous amounts of time and effort to do it cheaply? or just eat crap?
well those two options are obvious--i started this thread to see if anyone had any better ideas. and they have given some good ones so far
I wanted to mention that it has taken me a long time to get good in the kitchen. I have had a lot of years to practice and have learned a lot along the way. You sound frustrated and I know that feeling. But I hope that you are getting some good ideas from this thread.

And I don't spend a huge amount of time in the kitchen anymore. Over the years, I have found a few dozen favorite recipes. I know what freezes well and what can be made ahead of time. So, when I cook, I do it with an eye to the future. Last night, I thawed a quart of soup and reheated some rice I had made over the weekend. Dinner was on the table in less than 15 minutes.

Tonight, I made a quick minestrone in the time it took for a pot full of tortellini to cook. I spent a half hour in the kitchen and have leftovers for lunch for the next 2 days.

Tomorrow, I'll spend some time grilling all the veggies we are getting out of the garden right now. The kids can jump around in the sprinkler while I grill and we'll have toasted cheese sandwiches and grilled vegetables. Again, not a big time investment and everything is simple and inexpensive.

My favorite cheap meal was handed to me from a Korean housemate. She would take a bowl of rice (I use brown rice), top it with a fried egg, a sprinkle of salt, and a squirt of hot sauce. Add a spear of frozen broccoli or fresh if you have it and dinner is served. This is my all time favorite comfort food. And CHEAP!

I hope this is helping. I just wanted to send a little positive energy your way, because I know what it is to get down about money and trying to feed a family when payday is a week away. It is not about eating good and eating bad. Somedays, you just have to make due with what you have. There have been days when my kids have eaten tater tots for dinner and I went on a spontaneous diet when there wasn't enough for me.

Planning is key. Having staples in the house helps. Knowing that I am going to have a tough day on Wednesday helps me plan on having an easy dinner stashed in the freezer so I am not tempted to spend money on pizza. But really, planning does help.
post #53 of 129
Everyone has great tips. But I do have to say, that I totally understand where the OP is coming from. It is incredibly hard to break life-long eating habits, or learn to cooke, etc. And everyone's tips on what they buy are great for their size of family, appetites, and location. I can guarantee you some of those prices are 1/3 of what I pay for the cheapest and least organic I can find. Back in my hometown, those prices would be high, but here I would die for food to be that cheap! So when you only have a few dollars, a tight schedule, and face $2 for Hamburger Helper altogether or much more money for a healthy and just as quick meal without eating PB&J everyday. It is easy to pick the fast and cheap one. Not everyone's "perfect", we all just need to learn and hit up sales!
post #54 of 129
Better than we have in the past, but not as well as most people here.

We buy a lot of processed foods. Time and energy are a factor in it all. If I could find recipes that are equivelant in ease of preparedness, cost, and taste, then I would most DEFINATELY rather do that.
post #55 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kontessa View Post
Thank you for the other words Ruthla. I once called a friend of mine the cooling nazi as she knows I hate cooking but insisted often on my help anyway. I did not mean it in a horrible way but rather in a "She is crazy!" way. I like the other words much better. I wonder where some of us got the idea that it was ok to use that word in a funny way? I really have no idea.
Seinfeld. "The Soup Nazi."

(I posted this before I read through all the posts.)
post #56 of 129
I have 5 kids. Last year, my dh wasn't working for much of the year.. ok, two Christmas' ago..

anyway, we were all 7 of us living off of my first year teacher salary... we went to LOTS of food banks.

There are lots of food banks in my area that even give away organic canned foods and fresh veggies..

research the food banks in your area- they all have different policies some in my area-- do one of each of these different things

option 1) they ask you how many people in your family and they give you so many bags of food that are prepacked. Advantages- in and out pretty fast. Most things are staples- potatoes, oatmeal, etc.. One place I know of like this even delivers. disadvantages: some families just DON'T eat oatmeal, or potatoes, or.. and then they end up with things they don't eat regularly.. for example, my dh is Filipino- we eat LOTS or rice.. we RARELY eat potatoes. I like potatoes- but to dh it just isn't a meal without sticky rice.

Option B) items in the food bank are organized by "type" for example- vegetable table, grains table, etc.. depending on family size, you get to "select" so many off of each table.. advantages: sometimes you can find organics (really- almost everytime I got organic SOMETHING).. you can pick things that you know YOUR family will eat.. disadvantages: good things get picked over first

Option C some things are "all you can use" I have found this true especially for things like potatoes and day old bread..

Option D some combination of above.

honestly, I have gotten some pretty great meals for free. But then, I donate to them alot too, when I find clearance items, or go through my own pantry or my mother's and find things to donate... I also give and get off freecycle quite a bit..

some things I have gotten- huge restaurant size can of clams (made homemade clam chowder) TONS of beans, organic veggies, yogurt, huge bag of unbleached flour, oatmeal..

I think the thing to remember with food banks, though, is they are meeting the needs of people in LOTS of situations.. some are homeless, so they wouldn't be able to cook much from scratch, i don't think..

We also buy all of our meat on clearance- $2 whole chickens and $2 beef pounds are cheap for up here.. but we get lots of seafood for free (my family fishes a lot although I don't have the time personally)
post #57 of 129
We don't eat organic but try to choose wheat bread, noodles, rice (brown) & turkey dogs/burger instead of hamburger. Some people just can't afford organic (and BTW, how do you KNOW it's really organic just because that's what it says?)
post #58 of 129
This is what I did when we were in really tight times (we qualified for govt assitance but I did not figure it out until our income increased!: )


I would go to Winco (this huge cheap place to shop) and they have a bulk section with grains, spices, nuts, dried fruit, ect. I could get an overflowing cart of food for $100. I think rolled oats were .25 a pound--super cheap for breakfast prorridge and granola. Bulk dry beans are cheap. Canned tomato products. Natural crunchy PB. My husband ate wheat toast with PB and honey everyday. I would make a white bean soup with canned tomatoes, beans, boulion cube, garlic, onions and dry herbs. Black bean soup was another. Whole wheat (they had it in bulk!) spagetti with homeade tomato sauce. Brown rice with frozen stirfry vegs. You can make a peanut sauce with the PB. Mexican food was a cheap a popular staple too...corn tortillas, beans, cheese, onions, tomato (and an avocado if I could get one). I would also bake wheat bread (but not all the time). Sweet or regular potatoes are a great one too-bake, hash browns, oven fries, mashed, stuffed..filling, healthy, and cheap. I felt like we ate well and I think dh would agree.

I still do not buy organic that often and when I do it is animal products. I mean when you are out of $ your are out of $! I just focus on whole food and homecooking-- doing the best I can with what we have. I am not going to make my life more stressful financially to go organic because I think real food is what is most important.

It does take a while to learn how to cook. You will get the hang of it as time goes on. Like Ruthiegirl said-you will have your few dozen recipes you make and just rotate them. Most of the stuff I made was really simple because I was just starting out learning too. I mean, my homemade tomato sauce was plain canned tomatoes and I would add onions and seasonings. Nothing amazing, but good.

And if you can--find a Winco!

Best wishes,
Jen
post #59 of 129
Winco sounds great! This is there website http://www.wincofoods.com


They have stores in Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and California. None by me. :

I am on the hunt for a cheaper bulk food store. Anyone know of a place in Eastern Maryland? There are a few up in Pennsylvania that cater to the Amish and Mennonite communities, but I miss the co-ops in Seattle that stocked all the hippy organic goodies that I love so much.

Sorry for the tangent. I am feeling chatty lately.
post #60 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krystal323 View Post
well, more like i'm asking, where do you draw the line??
so, are you saying that if i don't have the $$ to eat well, then i'll have to put in enormous amounts of time and effort to do it cheaply? or just eat crap?
well those two options are obvious--i started this thread to see if anyone had any better ideas. and they have given some good ones so far
As you've seen, a lot of people do things like making their own bread and noodles, growing a garden, all that jazz. And it's cheaper, and healthier, but it's a lot of work. I personally don't have the time or energy to put all that into it, but we still eat fairly well.

We don't buy organic all the time, but we do on some things. I only buy organic peanut butter, because I can't find any other peanut butter that doesn't have added sugar. We buy organic soy margarine, because it tastes better and my daughter can't eat dairy. But for the most part, we buy just regular stuff.

We don't buy any frozen "ready-made" meals. (Since I've been pregnant, I have been getting pizza rolls and waffles, but they're the exception. I've just been craving them.) I am not a fantastic cook by any means, but I've learned to find simple recipes that I can make with minimal effort, but that will taste great. I've found a lot of good ones on BabyFit.com (you have to join, but you can just tell them the date your last child was born instead of a due date -- that's what I did, it worked fine). We don't buy snacks and sodas, because they're more expensive, and not good for you anyway. We have a Pur faucet filter and keep a jug of filtered water in the fridge for drinking -- much cheaper than buying a water or soda or juice. As some other people mentioned, I buy meats on sale in bulk and freeze whatever I can't use immediately. We don't buy canned soup that often -- I just use my crock pot. In the time it takes to stand there stirring a can of soup while it cooks, I can put all the ingredients into the crock pot and leave it sit all day, and we almost always have enough for two dinners. Oh, that's another biggie: make enough for two dinners, and freeze the leftovers. You can do that with almost anything, and it's great for if you dont' have time to cook -- you can reach for that instead of buying a frozen pizza or whatever. We also have a membership to the local wholesale club, BJ's... if you have one in your area, join! They send out coupons and you can use regular coupons there, so not only do you get food at wholesale prices, but then you can save extra money with the coupons. (Most wholesale clubs don't allow coupons, but BJ's does.) It's really great, and you can get a LOT of things there besides food as well. Totally worth it.

Another thing that will help you save money and time is to plan out a weekly (or monthly) menu. When you make out your menu, then you can make up your shopping list and get only what you need for those meals. Stick to your list, and you won't go around buying things you do'nt need and spending extra cash that you should be saving. It really helps. When I don't make a menu, I always end up with things that we don't need, and we get to the end of the week and I find I have nothing to make for dinner, so we then have to spend more money. It takes 10 minutes out of your day once a week, and will save you a lot of money and energy.

It does take a little effort to eat well on a tight budget, but you can save a lot of money just by making a few small changes. It doesn't have to be an all-out, making your own everything from scratch kind of thing if you do'nt want it to be. Honestly, it takes less time, effort, and money to make the meals that I prepare now than it does to get in the car and drive to the local fast-food joint for a "cheap" dinner. It just takes a little planning.
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