6

votes

What are the healthiest "cheap" calories for kids with a very limited budget?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 31, 2012 at 5:06 PM

I am a Ph.D. student who just lost all funding this year. I'm also a single mom of 4-year-old twin boys, so we've been on a tight budget for years and don't have much savings. The good news is that I have almost half a cow in my freezer (a gift from my parents) and a lot of frozen/canned produce from my garden. The bad news is that I have almost no money to buy any other food until I graduate and find work (hopefully May). We are talking a seriously limited budget (I'm not eligible for foods stamps since I own my house).

We've been eating a lot meat, so I've been thinking that if I cut back our meat consumption I could make the freezer beef last a lot longer. But I'd have to add in some seriously cheap calories to make up for it . . .

So, what do you feel are the healthiest sources of cheap calories to add to a young child's diet? Maybe some cheap sources of fats? Maybe some cheap sources of starchy foods like potatoes and rice (my boys are very active so I think they could handle a higher carb load)? I imagine I eat more protein than I really need, and maybe more fat is the way for at least me to stay lower carb (where my body is happy.)

FYI - I already feed my boys a little bit of rice, beans and 2% milk which I get free from the WIC program (and I'm eligible for and seriously considering adding corn tortillas, corn chex and rice chex).

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and suggestions.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:14 PM

Yes, we've started to add more beans back in. Good suggestion. Thanks.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:13 PM

Thanks for the link.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:12 PM

Thanks for the links.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:12 PM

Thanks. I didn't think of bananas, but they are very filling and "paleo ice cream" made from frozen ones is one of my boys' favorite treats. We'll have to do that more often. They'll think they're getting a treat every night.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:10 PM

Thanks. I'm just getting into the "always have a pot of bones on" mode. I haven't found any free yet, but I did find some cheap ones last weekend.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:09 PM

I've found a HUGE bag of carrots at my store yesterday -- funny thing is the organic is only about 3 cents more a pound than regular when you get the 10 pound bag. Score! Good thing my boys like carrots.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:06 PM

Thanks for the suggestions. I just found the "dented" food aisle in my store and am keeping my eyes open for any good deals on wholesome foods.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:03 PM

Thanks for all of your wonderful suggestions. We do garden and are just getting our fall greens coming in. And I have enough dandelion in my yard to keep me in greens for a year! I'm looking into some of the others as time permits, such as seeing what's really cheap at the butcher. Thanks again

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on September 02, 2012
at 12:15 AM

Alexander, you don't really want to eat cheap American raised chickens unless you have to.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on September 02, 2012
at 12:13 AM

+1 for eggs. So many great nutrients that kids need, so cheap.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on September 01, 2012
at 01:17 PM

If you have money saved, why do you need to be on food stamps? Why do folks think food should be free?

43e9d0f324c2fc8b5f283786a1e3bf4f

(419)

on September 01, 2012
at 04:28 AM

Yes, God forbid poor people get help feeding their kids.

D5d982a898721d3392c85f951d0bf0aa

(2417)

on September 01, 2012
at 02:14 AM

Yes, and kindly. It's nice to see the gentle soul of moderation on here! :)

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on September 01, 2012
at 12:18 AM

Use up savings to get on food stamps? *facepalm*

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on September 01, 2012
at 12:17 AM

Most WIC programs offer oatmeal and Brown rice instead of corn or wheat products. Check if yours does.

0242b468fe1c97997749db416c92e7ed

(4528)

on August 31, 2012
at 11:58 PM

Lots of great suggestions here!

4fce8590b5453d379dddeaa649955eb9

(173)

on August 31, 2012
at 06:51 PM

2-3 bucks!? that IS crazy. This is in America i assume? i always suspected we Europeans had to pay more for food ...

94480caec9fbbaacc386d86a45efa720

(1007)

on August 31, 2012
at 06:24 PM

Soaking directions: http://eatdrawlive.com/soaking-grains-legumes-nuts-and-seeds/

94480caec9fbbaacc386d86a45efa720

(1007)

on August 31, 2012
at 06:13 PM

I find Crown Prince sardines cheaper than tuna per ounce at WalMart in BPA free pouches.

Medium avatar

(2338)

on August 31, 2012
at 05:56 PM

you can get 2 chickens for 2-3 bucks? thats crazy.

43e9d0f324c2fc8b5f283786a1e3bf4f

(419)

on August 31, 2012
at 05:41 PM

Find out what the assets are that DQed you. If the problem is that you have savings, use them up. Then reapply.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on August 31, 2012
at 05:38 PM

Thanks, MathGirl. I must have been confused about the reasons they didn't accept me into the program (which isn't surprising since the whole application procedure was very confusing). I have too many "assets" supposedly and I just assumed it was the house.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on August 31, 2012
at 05:33 PM

Here's the link for eligibility: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10101.html#a0=1

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on August 31, 2012
at 05:30 PM

Your home and the land it is on cannot be counted in food stamp eligibility (federal rules).

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13 Answers

best answer

10
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 31, 2012
at 10:51 PM

If you have anywhere around your house to plant, potatoes are sort of self perpetuating, doesn't even need to be good soil. Every time you get potatoes, if a few sprout, chuck them out back, and add a little soil. I'm in the Northwest and they grow year round.

I started a kale and collard greens garden last fall on the end of my driveway, that gave us way more than we could eat from 1/2 packet of each of the seeds, and 4 inches of soil in a 2x4 ft. raised bed made from free bricks I scored on Craigslist a few bags of compost, a bag of chicken manure, some peat moss to hold in the moisture, and native soil.

A little herb garden is cheap and easy too, and makes all those rice and potato dishes more interesting and healthful. The mint, parsley and oregano never seem to stop, they just keep reseeding and spreading.

If you live somewhere with wild blackberries (or other late summer berries), if you can get out to the boonies, you can pick enough in the next few weeks for free along rural roadsides or in parks to get you through all the way until next year.

There are a lot of edible "nuisance" weeds. Dandelion, chickweed, and nettle, that are probably better for you than greens from the grocery store as long as they don't come from a lawn treated with pesticides, or with poop from domesticated animals on it. I love teaching small kids to hunt for weeds that are good to eat.

Since you get WIC, the foods that qualify are picked for their relative nutrient density and healthfulness for little kids and moms, so make sure you are taking full advantage of those even they aren't "paleo".

My grocery store has 5 lb. bags of carrots, that cook up pretty well a bit of butter, they aren't the prettiest carrots, but they work.

Asian markets are good sources for cheap produce, coconut milk, spices, and fish. When I was young and broke, my friends and I would get together, and make big pots of red curry with potatoes, onions, and whatever else was cheap that week at the Asian market closest to us. And then make a pot of rice to go with it. It filled up 8 hungry tummys for very little money. If you threw some meat in there, you'd be better off than we were.

Personally, I'm pretty agnostic about properly prepared grains and legumes for kids as long as they aren't showing any signs of illness or concentration problems after eating them. Food banks can hook you up with dried beans, rice, etc. Most kids I know are hummus addicts, you can make that pretty inexpensively from either canned or dried chickpeas.

Talk to your local butcher shops to see what they are getting rid of, sometimes you can score tallow or lard (and render them yourself), or some interesting organ meats like heart, for very little money. Some kids love chicken hearts (taste like hot dogs), gizzards, and livers, and those are quite cheap.

Also, if there is any fishing close to you, you and the kids could give it a shot, or hit up fishermen for dock sales of their catch.

As long as you stick to healthy cooking oils, don't start feeding the kids breakfast cereal and soda for dinner, I think you can pat yourself on the back here for making the best of a tough situation. Good luck!

0242b468fe1c97997749db416c92e7ed

(4528)

on August 31, 2012
at 11:58 PM

Lots of great suggestions here!

D5d982a898721d3392c85f951d0bf0aa

(2417)

on September 01, 2012
at 02:14 AM

Yes, and kindly. It's nice to see the gentle soul of moderation on here! :)

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:03 PM

Thanks for all of your wonderful suggestions. We do garden and are just getting our fall greens coming in. And I have enough dandelion in my yard to keep me in greens for a year! I'm looking into some of the others as time permits, such as seeing what's really cheap at the butcher. Thanks again

10
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on August 31, 2012
at 05:24 PM

Assuming you don't have major healthy issues: I'd add beans to the rice and potato suggestion, even if they aren't paleo. They're dirt cheap and healthy, protein/carb packed. Look into soaking procedures.

94480caec9fbbaacc386d86a45efa720

(1007)

on August 31, 2012
at 06:24 PM

Soaking directions: http://eatdrawlive.com/soaking-grains-legumes-nuts-and-seeds/

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:14 PM

Yes, we've started to add more beans back in. Good suggestion. Thanks.

7
43e9d0f324c2fc8b5f283786a1e3bf4f

(419)

on August 31, 2012
at 05:39 PM

Most states eliminated the assets test for food stamps: http://frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-programs/snapfood-stamps/eligibility.

Owning your house does not disqualify you from food stamps: http://www.ehow.com/about_7461111_can-food-stamps-buy-rent_.html.

The rules are complicated and social workers are human beings. You can appeal incorrect benefits determinations. You should ask about doing that in this case. Because it sounds like you have been told that you do not qualify based on an incorrect interpretation of the eligibility rules.

In addition, there are other resources out there besides SNAP. You need to get help in finding them, because they vary depending on where you are and other factors.

Start here: http://www.211.org. United Way should be able to refer you to a list of local/regional resources. Your city AND county social services offices may have different lists of such resources too. Go in and talk to an intake worker at both if you can. Call and ask them to mail you information on resources and applications if you can't go in. Hit up both offices. It sounds like the one where you have had contact is not acting as your advocate. (Most people's experience with American welfare offices is like that. It's not about you.)

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:12 PM

Thanks for the links.

6
Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on August 31, 2012
at 05:43 PM

Not only SNAP, but you may be able to apply for TANF as well.

http://www.hhs.gov/recovery/programs/tanf/index.html

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:13 PM

Thanks for the link.

4
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on August 31, 2012
at 07:00 PM

For cheap fats:

Eggs (maybe trade some local ones for canned goods/meat?)

Cheese (I think WIC still includes this?)

Lard (Trade some meat!)

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on September 02, 2012
at 12:13 AM

+1 for eggs. So many great nutrients that kids need, so cheap.

3
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on August 31, 2012
at 10:06 PM

Eggs and bananas.....mix em together to make nutritious pancakes. Banana is 55 cents a pound or so and eggs can be about 2 dollars a dozen for farm fresh.

3
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 31, 2012
at 05:12 PM

Rice, potatoes, are obvious answers.

canned tuna is pretty cheap too.

Also I like to get the roasters when they are on sale, you can get two chickens for $2-3. Throw them in a pot with carrots, celery, and onions and you've got soup for days.

4fce8590b5453d379dddeaa649955eb9

(173)

on August 31, 2012
at 06:51 PM

2-3 bucks!? that IS crazy. This is in America i assume? i always suspected we Europeans had to pay more for food ...

94480caec9fbbaacc386d86a45efa720

(1007)

on August 31, 2012
at 06:13 PM

I find Crown Prince sardines cheaper than tuna per ounce at WalMart in BPA free pouches.

Medium avatar

(2338)

on August 31, 2012
at 05:56 PM

you can get 2 chickens for 2-3 bucks? thats crazy.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on September 02, 2012
at 12:15 AM

Alexander, you don't really want to eat cheap American raised chickens unless you have to.

2
0b4326a4949718451a8571b82558dc10

on August 31, 2012
at 10:08 PM

sweet potatoes and olive oil...if they don't like it. Make them like it.

1
Ba09704971e33481f5716c4790648966

(1794)

on September 01, 2012
at 02:55 PM

rice, potatoes, lentils, milk, cheese, bananas

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:12 PM

Thanks. I didn't think of bananas, but they are very filling and "paleo ice cream" made from frozen ones is one of my boys' favorite treats. We'll have to do that more often. They'll think they're getting a treat every night.

1
A994080d499afca98cdc9de896701ebd

on September 01, 2012
at 01:06 PM

bones! (and depending on your taste: offal too!)

bone broth is wonderfully nutritious and rice/beans/potatoes cooked in broth are really way tastier than cooked in plain water. if you use bone broth, there is not as much need of many vegetables in my opinion. and that definitely saves a few bucks.

go directly to the farm or try a farmer's market. farmers might even give them away for free sometimes!

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:10 PM

Thanks. I'm just getting into the "always have a pot of bones on" mode. I haven't found any free yet, but I did find some cheap ones last weekend.

1
07c86972a3bea0b0dc17752e9d2f5642

on September 01, 2012
at 01:45 AM

Look in any "ethnic" market that may be in your area. Where I live in Los Angeles you can walk into an Armenian or Mexican market and get 5lbs of potatoes for .99 cents and sometimes you can get two 5lb bags for .99 cents.

Also, buy family packages of chicken legs and roast them and save the pan drippings (gelatin and fat, or leave the fat out if you're against chicken fat) and pour it into mashed potatoes. It gives you richly flavored, creamy potatoes without having to buy butter. Then you can boil broth from the leg bones. Leg bones alone will make good gelled broth.

Also, unpeeled carrots come cheap in big bags and celery is much more nutritious than people think and very cheap.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:09 PM

I've found a HUGE bag of carrots at my store yesterday -- funny thing is the organic is only about 3 cents more a pound than regular when you get the 10 pound bag. Score! Good thing my boys like carrots.

1
1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

on September 01, 2012
at 12:15 AM

Eggs, bar none. Mix with astarch like potatoes or cassava and them buy inexpensive greens and ferment them. Cabbage is a good source of vitamin C which can be lacking. If you can afford it buy the best butter you can afford and some chicken, lamb or beef liver a couple times a month.

1
F0a9dea438e7943fa05da318773e785e

on August 31, 2012
at 07:26 PM

Some people already mentioned eggs, and you mentioned rice and beans. But also check with your local grocer each week for sale items and marked down items. See if they also have "scratch and dent" items in the canned good section that may be marked down for that reason alone. Veggie soups and stews go a long way with minimal amounts of meat or made with meat bones.

And definitely second applying for food stamps if you can! Hang in there.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on September 07, 2012
at 08:06 PM

Thanks for the suggestions. I just found the "dented" food aisle in my store and am keeping my eyes open for any good deals on wholesome foods.

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