10

votes

How to eat on an EXTREME budget?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created July 25, 2012 at 7:35 PM

Very soon my food budget is going to tumble down to around $20 per week. Through trial and error, I've noticed my body works a LOT better on a meat/vegetables/fat diet. Since my budget is crashing down, I've been thinking of adding in legumes and possibly some oatmeal for extra calories. I think keeping my meat consumption up is going to be a problem.

Any advice on how to do this on an extreme budget?

Also...my only means of cooking food will be a microwave.

11b7b7ba720a5cd43c74a0ef99a16adb

(3448)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

Less than $3 per day; less than $1 per meal. I honestly don't see how you would buy enough food of any kind (paleo or not) to survive.

7b9b5de13a30c823dae64a971cb14add

(540)

on July 27, 2012
at 06:57 PM

you can totally scramble eggs in a microwave too!

C0fcb48d7da4f76fac17318efd2cd6b8

(4069)

on July 26, 2012
at 02:02 AM

+ 1 GREAT answer.

43873f3cea4f22f91653b0f5ec7ab9d9

(401)

on July 26, 2012
at 12:21 AM

That's awesome, LiveFabuLESS. Could you tell us what websites/companies you're ordering the chicken, beef, and pork from? I've been using US Wellness Meats for my beef and it's a bit pricey. I'm always looking for good sources of good food.

8f87879387f2a357db7c33008ff9a04a

(887)

on July 25, 2012
at 11:45 PM

I agree about the rice over oats.

457027ce8ff067aed8e771a0da404222

(85)

on July 25, 2012
at 11:09 PM

Depends on where he lives. There's a great market near me geared for the Hispanic population which sells just about any imaginable organ meat you might want. Not pastured, but on $20 a month, you do what you need to do. (Back years ago when I was a student in the middle of Indiana, these things were not available.)

707342e3cb97e0fc088917919a154b8a

(1657)

on July 25, 2012
at 10:50 PM

In one of the poshest/most expensive parts of Florida-- but I buy my pastured chicken from SC, my beef from TX and my pork from a farm that's 200+ miles away-- even with shipping costs factored in I pay close to conventional prices for pastured/grassfed. My eggs come from a local woman who has chickens in her backyard/farm, my veggies from a CSA share and/or a farmer's market. It's doable no matter where you live, even if you're in NYC.. all you need is the freezer space (or enough friends to 'cowpool' with)

94480caec9fbbaacc386d86a45efa720

(1007)

on July 25, 2012
at 10:15 PM

Where do you live?

707342e3cb97e0fc088917919a154b8a

(1657)

on July 25, 2012
at 09:12 PM

Totally doable, if you know how/where to shop-- I feed my family of five on an average of $125/week and we eat ONLY organic/grassfed/pastured, etc. But, I would strongly suggest getting a pressure cooker, slow cooker and/or a hot plate.

1ea8d17bad42dc54fb7a8a178e3db309

(603)

on July 25, 2012
at 08:57 PM

Look for a free crockpot.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on July 25, 2012
at 08:57 PM

Ditto on the ethnic markets. They tend to have stuff for CHEAP! (Not organic and blessed by the gods, but meat and veg for CHEAP, and that is the major concern here.)

E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

(4347)

on July 25, 2012
at 08:44 PM

**I cannot stress enough checking out discount produce bins. Most of the bags of veggies at our local international market are $0.99 each, and include at least 2-3 lbs of produce in each bag.

E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

(4347)

on July 25, 2012
at 08:43 PM

I don't actually find that Costco is any cheaper than our local Asian market. Usually quite a bit more expensive except for my coffee.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on July 25, 2012
at 07:53 PM

How soon is "very soon"? Can you stock up before the budget plummets? Find a sale on canned fish and stock up like crazy.

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13 Answers

4
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 25, 2012
at 09:02 PM

You are going to need to visit your local food bank, and apply for food stamps if you want to continue eating well. It takes a while to get on the SNAP rolls, so please enroll now. Here's the website to get started: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/

Things like chicken necks and feet, can be gotten for less money than regular meat, and make a great base for soup stock that you can then throw rice, potatoes, cabbage, whatever is on sale into for a hearty soup.

Talk to your local butchers to see what they get rid of, once again you'll likely get some cheap or free soup makings.

Buy a fishing pole, and take up fishing if there is any water near you.

If you have enough room for a few pots to grow things, you can grow kale and potatoes easily (the potatoes you just chuck in there after they sprout, and slowly add soil as the leaves grow until the pot is full, you can make many potatoes from one).

C0fcb48d7da4f76fac17318efd2cd6b8

(4069)

on July 26, 2012
at 02:02 AM

+ 1 GREAT answer.

4
E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

on July 25, 2012
at 08:42 PM

I'm not an expert, but I'd wager a bet that white rice and sweet potatoes for filler calories would be a better bet than something like oatmeal. How do you feel about conventional meat? Frozen veg? This is what I'd do:

  1. Find an Asian/Latino market. Buy mostly from there.
  2. Buy a 20lb bag of white rice and use it to keep you from going hungry. Not strict paleo, but Perfect Health Diet.
  3. Check out the discount produce bin. Two weeks ago I was really tight on cash and managed to get the following for a total of $5: 10 Japanese eggplant (the long, skinny variety); 2 American eggplant (the regular-looking kind); 3 lbs oranges; 5 lbs zucchini. For a single person that could very easily satisfy your veggie/fruit needs with maybe the addition of some garlic or onions (which are also dirt cheap).
  4. Assuming you want to eat conventional/CAFO meat (I don't see any choice but to do so in this case), you probably want to get it at the international market as well. I see all sorts of things there, from ground meat to liver to tripe. I'd probably pick up some fresh sardines and learn how to cook them. Lean ground beef will probably be cheap, as will chicken. Eggs are a cheap source of protein as well.
  5. Most of these places will have cheap spices in bulk as well. Were I not worried about gluten cross-contamination I'd get everything there.

Best of luck. I've been in the position to buy food for a family of four on about $250/month. It's tough, but doable if you get creative in the kitchen.

E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

(4347)

on July 25, 2012
at 08:44 PM

**I cannot stress enough checking out discount produce bins. Most of the bags of veggies at our local international market are $0.99 each, and include at least 2-3 lbs of produce in each bag.

8f87879387f2a357db7c33008ff9a04a

(887)

on July 25, 2012
at 11:45 PM

I agree about the rice over oats.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on July 25, 2012
at 08:57 PM

Ditto on the ethnic markets. They tend to have stuff for CHEAP! (Not organic and blessed by the gods, but meat and veg for CHEAP, and that is the major concern here.)

4
Fc25b41326b954c4e5b8ce0dabb889a6

on July 25, 2012
at 07:50 PM

You can buy 5 dozen eggs for about 8$ at certain food stores. Go for eggs for quick protein. Plus Magnesium/manganese and a host of other useful vitamins. If you're in the U.S. you might want to check out the food stamp food availabilities to supplement.

Avoid Oatmeal, avoid legumes. Lectins and nutrient devoid carbs. When you cook bacon, save the grease and cook with it. The more fat you can cook with and consume, the fuller you will be. PS - Pork shoulders cost about 12-15 if you catch a good sale. ONe of those in the crockpot will feed you many a meal for many days. I have two I did sunday and I shouldn't run out until next friday or so. I've already had probably 10-14 servings off of them.

Good luck!

PS - Grok fasted too....use this as an opportunity to try IF and see what grok had to deal with...

3
D98ac6cd66eef65c88f5aa48425aef0a

on July 25, 2012
at 09:01 PM

I'm a very poor grad student and understand the budget thing. I live in a small town with overpriced Safeway and cheap-but-questionable WalMart. Is there any chance you could get your hands on a slow cooker? I see them at Goodwill and thrift shops all the time. I got a pork shoulder roast at WalMart on sale for $1.70/lb last week, tossed it in my crock pot and it made so much good meat! I also get the 5 dozen eggs like someone mentioned above. Frozen vegetables are much cheaper than fresh if you can't find any on sale. If the microwave is all you've got, go for potatos (sweet and yam if you can). Spaghetti and acorn squash can also be steamed nicely in a microwave if you catch them at a good price.

Again, this is something that's not for everyone, but I live in a rural area so I go fishing at least once a week and also pick wild berries. I could never afford to purchase these things.

This might just be me, or because I'm a female (5'5" 150 lbs), but once I went paleo my appetite really decreased which helps with food budgets. I only eat once a day and don't really have any cravings.

Good luck!

3
A913bf93cf3bb8351481414d1218c441

on July 25, 2012
at 08:52 PM

I do about $25-30 a week, but could probably go a bit lower if I had to. Stock up on potatoes, rice, olive oil, and coconut oil if you can afford it. I buy 3 lbs of frozen chicken per week, or whatever decent kind of meat is on sale. I can't tolerate eggs, but if you can, that'd be a good way to get protein and some fat. I have some nuts and seeds stocked up in my freezer. I buy good quality bacon (uncured, no nitrates) about once a month and cook with the fat, or just eat a straight spoonful of it. I get fresh tomatoes from my parents' house, but I hear canned tomato products are a good use of money. Spend the rest of your money on veggies, I like cabbage in particular and it doesn't go bad as quickly as some others. I also try to buy one "luxury" item, usually a dark chocolate bar, per week so I don't feel totally deprived. Sometimes I feel bad for not being able to afford optimal foods like grass fed beef, but then I put it in the perspective that I'm doing a heck of a lot better than most college students living off instant ramen and easy mac.

ETA: sweet potatoes and canned coconut milk are good and cheap too

3
07ca188c8dac3a17f629dd87198d2098

(7970)

on July 25, 2012
at 07:49 PM

Eggs and beef can be cheap so long as you don't worry about pastured/grass fed. But check your local market to see which vegetables are cheapest per pound with the least waste.

And learn to produce less waste from what you buy by the pound. As an example, I can get broccoli pretty cheaply, but I used to end up throwing away the stalks because I had no idea what to do with them. I learned I can peel them and then cook them (usually saut??ing, but you could steam them (in the microwave) too) and have a lot less waste that way.

Is there any way you could get a hot plate and a skillet?

2
7b9b5de13a30c823dae64a971cb14add

on July 25, 2012
at 09:14 PM

I am firmly in the crock pot camp. I just saw one at a thrift store in NYC for 4.50 that supposedly works.

You can often find large amounts of "cheaper" cuts of meat that work best cooked "low and slow" like pork shoulders (picnic shoulder or boston butt) and untrimmed brisket.

Buy in cheap bulk when possible and do your homework re: costs. I often grocery shop at 2 - 3 stores in a two week period to get the best deals.

Chicken thighs are cheaper than chicken breasts. Whole chickens are often your best buy. I just bought two whole chickens from cost co for a total of 9 dollars and got three meals out of each for my boyfriend and I.

Ribs are often fairly cheap and totally benefit from the crock pot "low and slow" style method.

Either way - food stamps are your friend. Depending on where you live, you can get an extra 20 - 50 dollars per week that way.

2
F5be4be097edc85690c12d67ee1a27c0

on July 25, 2012
at 07:48 PM

All I can say is no. Cooking meat in the microwave puts me on the verge of vomiting.

I'd stock up on large sacks of potatoes. You can make casseroles in your microwave layering the potatoes... add in other vegetables if you wish like squashes or brocolli... I hear you can make ground beef crumbles in the microwave easily.

Sticking with the ground beef thing, you could get very cheap tomato sauce (hunts sauce) and add in cans of artichoke hearts or something for texture... mix it with the beef and it's delicious.

1
01109277e48838b58279b1719fc23e72

(75)

on July 25, 2012
at 10:54 PM

Pork shoulder at your local latino market for $1.79/lb (more or less).

I second the slow-cooker recommendation. Grab a big bag of rice. Grab a big bag of potatoes.

Slow cook a ten pound shoulder roast on sunday ($18) , that's 1.42 lbs of meat/day for the full week. Rice should come out to $.15 / serving if you buy in bulk. Same with taters.

1.42 lbs pork + 2 cups cooked white rice = 2100 kcals / 125 carbs / 92g fat / 165g protein.

Won't be pretty, but at $20/week: that's about as good as you'll do.

1
361e96d70d6d3b91d63f6ad975e60ab6

(840)

on July 25, 2012
at 10:20 PM

Extreme budget? No way! I thrive as a student on soup/ dog bones, organ meats of all kinds and buying suet/ fat products raw. Today I made my own pork crackling, bought pork skin for $1 a pound! Lots of protein and fat.

457027ce8ff067aed8e771a0da404222

(85)

on July 25, 2012
at 11:09 PM

Depends on where he lives. There's a great market near me geared for the Hispanic population which sells just about any imaginable organ meat you might want. Not pastured, but on $20 a month, you do what you need to do. (Back years ago when I was a student in the middle of Indiana, these things were not available.)

1
457027ce8ff067aed8e771a0da404222

on July 25, 2012
at 10:15 PM

I agree... get the crockpot. Get the cheapest you can find -- you might not be able to program it, but hey.

Back in grad school, my diet was hot dogs and pasta. I actually considered writing a cookbook entitled "101 Ways of Cooking Hotdogs" at the time. This wasn't healthy by ANY nutritional idea out there, but fortunately this period didn't last so long, about a year and a half (with a cafeteria food plan for weekdays at lunch).

Suggestions: the eggs are a great idea. Not sure how to cook them in a crock pot or a microwave, but there must be some notion out there. (NOT whole!) Cabbage for sure, what a dense and long-lasting veggie! Romaine lettuce lasts longer than any other type in my experience. If a local grocery sells chicken giblets (liver, hearts, gizzards), go for it. The latter two items are really quite excellent -- chop them up if you put them in the nuker. The whole chicken is more affordable than parts ... and you can save the cartilage and bones for nutritious soup or stock.

Do you have a south-facing window that gets good sunlight? Try growing a few short term crops on your window sill. Spinach, or even herbs.

As was noted, food stamps and food banks may also be an option.

Hope this begins to help.

7b9b5de13a30c823dae64a971cb14add

(540)

on July 27, 2012
at 06:57 PM

you can totally scramble eggs in a microwave too!

0
707342e3cb97e0fc088917919a154b8a

on July 25, 2012
at 09:08 PM

It is TOTALLY doable-- I feed my family of five on an average of $125/week and we eat WELL.

-Eggs (I get pastured for $3/dozen, but you can get conventional for as low as $.79/dozen on sale) -Sardines (as low as $1/tin) -Canned Salmon (as low as $2.50/lb) -Chicken (you can get no antibiotic, whole chicken for as low as $1.99/lb-- if you're willing to go for conventional, it can be found for under $1/lb) -Chicken Liver (my local supermarket has Murray's chicken liver for $3/lb) -Beef (I've bought grass fed ground beef direct from a farmer for as low as $4/lb, so it CAN be done for almost as low as conventional-- consider cowpooling if you have some freezer space-- or, at the very least, wait for a great sale at Whole Foods and get no hormone/no antibiotic roasts for as low as $2.99/lb) Produce: Buy what's seasonal (www.localharvest.org to figure out what's seasonal in your area) and find a farmers' market, a lot of local produce will be grown without pesticides and will be even cheaper than conventional at a supermarket.

Good luck!

94480caec9fbbaacc386d86a45efa720

(1007)

on July 25, 2012
at 10:15 PM

Where do you live?

43873f3cea4f22f91653b0f5ec7ab9d9

(401)

on July 26, 2012
at 12:21 AM

That's awesome, LiveFabuLESS. Could you tell us what websites/companies you're ordering the chicken, beef, and pork from? I've been using US Wellness Meats for my beef and it's a bit pricey. I'm always looking for good sources of good food.

707342e3cb97e0fc088917919a154b8a

(1657)

on July 25, 2012
at 10:50 PM

In one of the poshest/most expensive parts of Florida-- but I buy my pastured chicken from SC, my beef from TX and my pork from a farm that's 200+ miles away-- even with shipping costs factored in I pay close to conventional prices for pastured/grassfed. My eggs come from a local woman who has chickens in her backyard/farm, my veggies from a CSA share and/or a farmer's market. It's doable no matter where you live, even if you're in NYC.. all you need is the freezer space (or enough friends to 'cowpool' with)

0
1ea8d17bad42dc54fb7a8a178e3db309

on July 25, 2012
at 08:02 PM

That's probably not enough to eat on, period. This might help: http://primaltoad.com/17-costco-staples/ Buy Costco meat (pork is often quite cheap) and eat with whatever vegs are cheapest that week Sprouts often has amazing sales on meats and vegs

E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

(4347)

on July 25, 2012
at 08:43 PM

I don't actually find that Costco is any cheaper than our local Asian market. Usually quite a bit more expensive except for my coffee.

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