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Jun 14, 2007 10:06 AM

The eating healthy for $3 a day challenge … help

I need ideas for eating healthy for three dollars a day.

The healthy part is the challenge.

No salt-laden cream soups in casseroles, fatty cheap cold cuts like bologna, hot dogs, dishes bulked up with lots of potatoes or lots of rice, cheap cookies, no Kraft mac n cheese, no Jiffy muffins, etc … can you tell I’ve eaten low on the hog before?

Two things are driving this (more in another link) …
- The SF Ferry Plaza Farmers Market … it is NOT only for the wealthy
- Dumb reporters / politicians who take on food stamp challenges

The thing is I don’t often cook. I eat out a lot and what I do make at home is in its pristine state … veggies raw or microwaved, fresh fruit, roasted meat, microwaved fish.

So left up to my own I’d roast a chicken or turkey and live off of that and the soup made from it. I’d boil up the eggs or scramble one in the microwave with some tomatoes or cheese. I’d microwaved sweet potatoes.

I’m hoping for some recipe ideas to make things more interesting … ideas for healthy casseroles, soups, stews, bean dishes like chili given my limited skills.

If there any good websites for healthy recipes, like the Healthy Hillbilly Housewife, that would be a help.

Don’t need any new cookbooks. Don’t have the room. Don’t want to spend the money for a short-time thing. But sure … go ahead … someone else might find those helpful. Keep the healthy in mind. There are tons of starchy casserole books using canned soup. Nothing wrong with that, but I’d like to look at this from a healthier viewpoint.

Will report back in August with the results.

The first link in this post will have the ingredients available for this. The second link the why.

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  1. Here are a few of the items that I’d need recipes for.

    Breakfast is set (55 cents)
    Oatmeal with cinnamon & raisins (20 cents)
    Cup of coffee with milk (20 cents)
    Orange (15 cents)

    Unless I eat out, that’s pretty much the only thing I eat now. The fruit changes depending on season.

    Items definitely available:

    - Quaker Old-Fashioned oats ($3 for 42 oz … about 8 cents an oz)
    - Raisins ($1 for 7 oz … about 15 cents an oz)
    - 100 percent fruit juice … apple, strawberry, berry (20 cents cup)
    - oranges (can get 10 lbs for $4 … 35 – 40)
    - summer stone fruit ($1.50 lb)
    - lettuce (60 cents a head)
    - tomatoes (60 cents lb)
    - cucumbers (2 for $1)
    - sweet potatoes (59 – 79 cents lb)
    - red or white potatoes (59 cents lb)
    - limes (10 for $1)
    - onions (50 – 99 cents lb)
    - cabbage (59 cents lb)
    - carrots (59 – 99 cents bunch)
    - misc leafy greens (79 – 1.29 bunch)
    - organic eggs (18 for $1.99)
    - butter (1/2 lb $1.29)
    - red or white wine ($1 - $1.50 per liter)
    - sardines (50 – 75 cents a can)
    - Powdered milk (60 cents a quart)
    - Knox gelatin (25 cents a pack)
    - popcorn ($1 - $1.49 lb)
    - 6oz cans tuna 50 cents - $1.25
    - yogurt - $2 for 32 ounces … decent yogurt on sale like Mountain High.
    - tomato paste – 8 oz 4 for $1
    - Powdered milk – 20 quarts for $13. It just doesn’t matter to me. I don’t drink it straight but use it in cooking and coffee. It saves time going to the market weekly. I can buy it once a month and I’m set.

    Some possible protein options (besides eggs and milk)
    - dried beans (about $1 lb)
    - turkey parts … I saw a nice package of three nice-looking drums for $1.79
    - cottage cheese (16 oz for $1.50 - $2)
    - There are usually meat sales. This week boneless pork loin is $2.47 lb … loin chops $1.79 lb … boneless rump or bottom round $2.99
    - skinless chicken breasts or thighs $1.99
    - whole chicken 99 cents lb.
    - various cheese on sale for about $1.50 for 8 oz. Don’t want to go heavy on the cheese

    52 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Beans & rice, my brother (or sister), beans-n-rice. Assuming that you already have some spices on hand, you need lentils, chickpeas, black beans, red beans, etc. Virtually every culture around the world has some form of bean cookery. And you can get beans way cheaper than $1 pound, if you shop carefully.

      Stop thinking of meat as a protein source, instead use it as a flavoring. Personally, I'd skip the pork & beef sales and buy some good sausage. A little bit of "seasoning meat" goes a long way--just 1/4 pound of good smoked sausage or ham or tasso will flavor a pound of red beans. And well-seasoned lentils need no meat at all (though a dab of butter/ghee is nice).

      Boneless, skinless is a luxury you should whole chickens and debone yourself, or roast whole. Those bones & skin make for good stock/soup base. Learn to like dark-meat chicken, as bone-in dark leg/thigh quarters are almost always the cheapest chicken at the grocery.

      My budget grocery list wouldn't include fruit juice (too pricey--just buy fruit & drink water), canned tuna, sardines, tomato paste, or powdered milk. I couldn't live without bacon (used for seasoning, buy by the lb from the deli or shop on sale), fresh garlic, the aforementioned beans, and rice (cheaper than potatoes).

      Is there a salvage grocery store near you? My local salvage grocery sells items rejected by other stores...slightly damaged packaging, incomplete lots of items (one or two cans dented in a whole case of cans will get it rejected by some stores), and closeouts. These salvage places can be a real bargain, but don't wear your nice shoes. The floor is always sticky from some leaking can of something! Ditto for the day-old baked goods store...if you toast the old items, the taste improves greatly.

      1. re: Hungry Celeste

        HC is right about the beans...beans and corn are the components of a perfect protein, article link with recipes might want to make some cornbread to eat with any bean dish you cook up from the cheaper dried beans--cornmeal is ridiculously cheap; heck, you could even make polenta.

        1. re: Hungry Celeste

          Double ditto on the boneless chicken parts. This is one of the biggest scams in all of meatmarketdom. Deboning and skinning breasts is a cinch and thigs are easy to skin but more promblematic to bone....doable, though.

          Also ditto on the sausage. Ham hocks, smoked turkey parts and sausages are GREAT for flavoring beans or barley or pasta - soups, sauces, etc.

          Making your own LayBittbread will also save money and take hardly any time.

          1. re: Hungry Celeste

            Good call on the Salvage stores... There is a Grocery Outlet in Berkeley... keeps many a starving student alive...



          2. re: rworange

            Dried beans are much cheaper than canned beans. Pick up some garbanzos, navy beans, and cannellini for soups, stews, salads and purees.

            1. re: yehfromthebay

              Homecooked beans also freeze VERY well...


              1. re: yehfromthebay

                Go to a Mexican mercado and get a bag of black beans, a big cheap package of corn tortillas (keep in the freezer) and a bottle of Tapatio salsa picante. You can live off of tacos and beans as cheaply as just about anything.

              2. re: rworange

                I'd suggest taking the red or white wine off your 'definitely available' list. When I was on a tight budget that was the first thing I dropped and, since these are our theoretical tax dollars you're spending, I'd personally rather see you use that couple of bucks to upgrade your head lettuce to spinach. ;>)

                1. re: creativeusername

                  You know, I'd definately take it off if it wasn't $1 a liter.

                  I made some wonderful merlot fresh peach jello ... 1 fresh peach (25 cents), Knox packet (25 cents), berry juice (20 cents) 1 cup merlot (25 cents) ... four servings at less than 25 cents a serving.

                  Also, for 25 cents a glass with dinner ... and the supposed health benefits of red wine ... seems wothwhile.

                  Also, it would be a nice addition to a stew to punch up the flavor at a minimal price.

                  1. re: creativeusername

                    Ewwww! This is a pretty harsh attitude. Poor folks shouldn't have wine cause we're paying for it. Since RWO is a regular contributor to Chowhound boards, I figure she's not going to skimp on nutrition so she can have a few swigs of Night Train.

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      You can't use food assistance money ("food stamps", which are really $$ on a plastic debit card these days) to purchase alcohol.

                      1. re: Hungry Celeste

                        Yep, I'm not really trying to do foods only allowed by WIC. I just want to keep it in the price-range of $3 per day. Someone limited to food stamps would have to substitute some other bererage or pay for it out of pocket.

                      2. re: oakjoan

                        Night Train? No, I think I'll stick with my "budget mamosa".

                        Tang and Champale.

                        1. re: oakjoan

                          Couldn't agree more, the audacity! Have they not even considered 'la paradoix le francais'?!

                        2. re: creativeusername

                          Though I sometimes skip the wine myself if I'm watching my grocery spending, I find a small glass of wine with dinner really helps make the meal satisfying and discourages me from going for seconds--instead I finish my wine. So from that standpoint, I would keep it ...

                          When I was in college, I ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I would buy raspberry jam, chunky peanut butter, and tasty whole grain bread. Also ate a lot of turkey sandwiches from a whole smoked breast. (I won't mention the ramen since you are eating healthy ... :) Spaghetti is a good option, tuna noodle casserole ... the bulk section should be your friend for all kinds of things. Fried rice is good, vegetarian or with a bit of meat ...

                          1. re: foiegras

                            I almost hate to recommend them, but you can actually do lots of stuff with ramen noodles. Watch for the sale where you can get ten packages for a buck. You can make a pizza on top of ramen noodles--put the noodles in a greased cast-iron skillet and top with tomato sauce, cheese, and veggies or whatever else you want to put on there. (But you have to wait till the sale, because quite frequently--at least here--you can get Jiffy pizza crust mixes for 50 cents apiece.)

                            1. re: revsharkie

                              Yeah, I want to skip the usual fill-up on the cheap unhealthy stuff like ramen. I'm really debating about the whole pizza issue. I guess the thing is that one doesn't have to eat high-carb, high-fat, high-unatural ingrediants to eat inexpensively. I'm trying to decide about including sandwiches, though I probably will since I can get high-quality bread 1/2 off at the end of the day at a few bakeries. I guess everything in moderation is ok so a sandwich every now and then would fit in well ... as long as it is not a bologna with mayo type of thing.

                              1. re: rworange

                                I think an occasional pizza is a good thing: it's healthy, done right, and it's fun--and it seems to me that for a person who's trying to get by in grinding poverty, a little inexpensive fun now and then can't be a bad thing. IMHO, that's one thing that folks who set up programs to help people in poverty don't think of: human beings need food and shelter to survive, but we also need beauty and laughter.

                                1. re: revsharkie

                                  That's so well put, revsharkie. As someone who adores food yet needs to live thriftily, I couldn't agree more with that statement -- "we also need beauty and laughter."
                                  Plus, you're so right -- there is something so delightful about pulling a steaming, golden-crusted home-baked pizza from the oven and sitting down to savor each bite. I watch my grocery bill like a hawk, and I delight in preparing pizza (from scratch! - dough, sauce, and all) about once a week. My sweety and I love our pizza nights. rworange, you can bake a healthier crust by adding some cornmeal or whole wheat, and pile the veggies atop. You could make a pesto (from basil, arugula, spinach) or a light fresh tomato sauce, or a drizzle a little garlic oil atop. Try eggplant and tomatoes with just light cheese and the garlic oil.

                                2. re: rworange

                                  The ramen that is loaded with fat, particularly hydrogenated vegetable oil, should definitely be avoided, but I have been lucky to find healthier options, including organic ramen with no added fat. I like to cook some kimchi, cabbage, mushrooms, zucchini, garlic, etc. in a pot, sometimes adding a can of tuna or some smoked ham, and then boil some ramen with it for the last couple of minutes of cooking, which makes a much healthier and also more enjoyable noodle soup.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    Can you afford wheat flour?

                                    TJ's has a whole wheat pizza dough for $1. I usually split it into 2 pizzas big enough to feed my husband and I sometimes with a salad on the side. I really don't think it's that unhealthy, esp. if you moderate the cheese. In my situation I add a small amt of hard cheese like pecorino for flavor, not sure if you can afford it..maybe some pepper or good tomatoes to sub.

                            2. re: rworange

                              Where the heck do you find red wine for $1 a liter? In MN, even the cheapest most awful wine is stil at least $5-6 a bottle....Or I'm shopping in the wrong places....
                              I'm not a wine snob, but sure would like to try that $1 bottle just to try it.

                              1. re: nieves

                                Yes, WHERE are you buying such inexpensive wine? Unless making your own, perhaps?

                                  1. re: choctastic

                                    amazing! Thank you! We have Albertson's here in SW Florida but I don't think I've ever seen boxed wines there...will have to check it out just to see!

                                  2. re: Val

                                    Grocery Outlet. Recently they had Fish Eye and King Fish for that price. Actually one of those was 75 cents a liter.

                                    There were two posters ... Just Larry ... Bernardo ... that did reports about 99 cent stores & wine where they lived

                                    I never even knew those stores sold wine. But the point is that checking out those bargain stores might actually yeild some bargains.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      99 cent stores in the Los Angeles area have an amazing variety of canned and at times, fresh food in addition to the wines that are sold at some stores as Just Larry has often given us the Heads Up. Good source of cheap food too is the Mercado in East Los Angeles (East Los) in the Target shopping center on Whittier east of Atlantic - amazing prices on vegetables. Same goes for other ethnic markets, 99 market and Korean markets.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        Ditto on the 99Cent store recs, assuming you have one reasonably close by.
                                        No need at all to give up on red wine, at this moment they have some Tavernello (Italian) box wine (1 L merlot, sangiovese, nero d'sumpin) and Queen of Hearts (1.75L merlot). A review would probably use the phrase 'one dimensional' but you get what you pay for...

                                  3. re: rworange

                                    Orange mashed sweet potatoes. Just google it and pick a recipe.

                                    Carrot-raisin salad is a southern staple.

                                    Make salsas/picos with tomatoes or tomatillos. Dress up eggs. Make stacked enchiladas with leftover meats and use blendered salsas as a sauce.

                                    Make the yogurt into a sauce with lime and spices (tumeric, coriander, cumin) for meat or grated potato and pea pancakes.

                                    Crisps with your stone fruit, orange juice, reduced sweet fruit juice and a crumbled oat topping. The next couple of days mix with yogurt like fruit at the bottom yogurt.

                                    Also try frozen veggies - they are super cheap, easy and healthy. Corn and peas are always in my freezer for adding to stuff.

                                    At the farmer's market right now squash is really cheap. Try zucchini bread with orange and carrot in there too, heat it a little in the microwave 20 sec and top w/low-fat cream cheese. You could alternate that for breakfast with the oatmeal - it freezes.

                                    Powdered milk is good for making hot chocolate, saw Alton do it on FN.

                                    1. re: LaurenTX2CA

                                      Great hints ... thanks !!!

                                      Given it is summer, I'll probably pass on the frozen veggies, though I would take advantage of them in the winter. Green Giant or someone has some new veggies that are pure veggies ... I have a coupon.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        Frozen peas, I'm telling you...and maybe frozen spinach too (quiche is a good way to use eggs). They're really cheap. Corn is a summer crop, true.

                                        Some other stuff I remembered...

                                        use the cheap wine:
                                        coq au vin (can modify to use just dark meat)
                                        braised beef shortribs
                                        white wine poached fish (add halved grapes if you have them - yum)

                                        think cajun:
                                        red beans n rice
                                        bread pudding
                                        rice pudding

                                        think texan:
                                        chili and cornbread
                                        homemade tamales...if you have all day...

                                    2. re: rworange

                                      Definitely sweet'n'sour cabbage with either sale meat meatballs or lentil and rice meatballs.

                                      I love stewed lentils w/ spice over brown rice.

                                      Sweet potato fries w/ a spiced chili-lime yogurt sauce.

                                      Cottage cheese mixed w/ salsa


                                      Oatmeal pancakes... oatmeal, eggs (whites), cinnamon... cook

                                      Frozen fruit smoothies (freeze fruit and mix w/ ice and a little yogurt and/or cottage cheese for protein)

                                      Buy dried beans and soak to reconsitute, the make bean salads

                                      Look for tofu on sale as well

                                      Popcorn with cajun jerk seasoning on it; or, mix it with some fruit and yogurt, then freeze for ice creamy popcorn balls (so unrefined, but I love 'em)!

                                      Sometimes the 99 cent store has some great surprising stuff... like Butterball Turkey or other name brand stuff

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        Buying oatmeal in bulk is also cheaper than your listed price. If you buy steel cut oatmeal in bulk, its cheaper than the more processed oatmeal, better for you and you seem to get more bang for your buck. I've bought steel cut oatmeal for 39 cents a pound before, and cooking 3 cups of dried oatmeal will last you at least a week. Also freezes well.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          Hey K,

                                          A couple of ideas.... make sure that you get organic produce for things high up on the pesticide scale like stone fruit, and make sure you get some deep green colored vegetables as there aren't much on your list. Frozen spinach can be a good deal... you can make a curry of onions, tomato, yogurt & spices and simmer the spinach in it.... and make enough for several meals.

                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            hey but cheap, frozen spinach is really high on the pesticide scale-- should buy fresh/organic spinach if pesticides are a concern.

                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                              Pesticide residues in frozen foods are well monitored. You'd have to be in China, i guess, to get frozen pesticides.

                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                i'm not trying to get too off topic, but there is a lot of evidence that despite the regs, there is quite a bit of pesticide residue in frozen foods:

                                                see the seven highest TI values in frozen foods, including frozen spinach, 6th paragraph down


                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                  People who have $3 a day just care about filling their bellies NOW, not getting cancer later.

                                                  Pesticide residues, GMO's and trans fats are worries of the world's rich.

                                                  1. re: LaurenTX2CA

                                                    wow. i live below the poverty line but i keep myself well informed about the effects of pesticide residues. i also care about many things besides filling my belly. when you are poor and the bills are due, it is true that you have a different set of priorities; but i think it's a mistake to say that there are health related issues unique to any social class. it's also a mistake to think that because people are poor that they are also ignorant or uneducated.

                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                      I'm sure you're right in lots of cases soupkitten, especially in America where people are less prone to actually go hungry.

                                                      I guess what I meant was that on a worldwide scale people are not always going to be ABLE to care about these things...GMO's are really popular in developing countries, and increasing yields from pesticides is important to the bottom line, etc.

                                                      1. re: LaurenTX2CA

                                                        some people are very informed about food and they are poor, some are shockingly ignorant and they are rich, it's funny, really.

                                                        i can often get organic spinach and other greens very cheaply in the summer. if it is winter, if my options are between pricey organic greens or frozen spinach that i may not want to feed to my family, i'll often make a decision to go for a third option-- buy some conventionally grown, low ti count kale or bok choi greens, for example. again it depends on priorities, and there is often a third option between the so-called "ideal" of organic and the mass-produced mass consumed "froze-food." it helps if you have some basic cooking skills and can change your meal plan based on what is available/what you will settle for/what is in the box the nice lady at the church gave you.

                                                        as for sustainable, clean food for people of all social classes, an awful lot of people are working on that, & there are a lot more urban youth learning about gardening and farming these days as opposed to 20 years ago. i remain optimistic.

                                                        i really like this website/book, with recipes and shopping lists for people with tight food budgets to eat well (fresh & from scratch) & sustainably. maybe the op can find a copy of the book at the library, it's quite informative and well researched and the recipes are good.


                                          2. re: rworange

                                            Don't laugh- pizza dough. I knew some starving artists who lived on pizza dough in the 60's You can buy dough at most markets or from pizza places and it's cheap. Roll out a pie, paint with some tomato paste, arrange some sliced tomatoes and maybe some cooked onions and sprinkle with cheese (and herbs) and bake.
                                            Italian sausages are a good buy here in southern New England- a little goes a long way on pizza, in pasta sauce or cooked with cabbage, potatoes and onions.
                                            good for you to do this - we probably all should spend less on food. Every time I go into a Whole Foods I go into sticker shock

                                            1. re: ginnyhw

                                              Pizza Dough also freezes really well...


                                              1. re: ginnyhw

                                                Trader Joe's has a very good Whole Wheat Pizza dough for $0.99... it yields a pie of generous proportions.

                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                  The plain is $0.99, The wheat is like $1.20 or something-and it isn't totally whole wheat.

                                                2. re: ginnyhw

                                                  Pizza dough is flour, water, yeast, salt, and oil. I'm sure you can make it yourself for less than the cost at Trader Joe's.

                                                  If you plan to use yeast regularly, buy from Costco. 2 lbs (!) costs ~$4. Share with friends.

                                                  1. re: mattm

                                                    1 lb of SAF instant yeast is $2.59 at Smart & Final. Even 1 lb is way too much for one family especially with the no-knead pizza dough which uses 1/4 tsp per batch.

                                                    I still think the Trader Joe's pizza dough is a great deal though esp if you do pizzas rarely or just want to try it out.

                                                  2. re: ginnyhw

                                                    Why buy pizza dough when you can buy flour & yeast? The whole trick to living well on $3 a day is to make everything yourself. Stop paying for the labor of others and $3 won't be such a challenge. 5 lbs flour = $3.00 packet of yeast = $.50. You can make two months' worth of pizza dough for the $3.50 investment.

                                                    1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                      That's why there would be economies of scale doing this for longer than a week. If you buy flour, yeast, etc. it would add up but you'd be all set for a long time as bread, pasta, pizza dough, etc. go.

                                                  3. re: rworange

                                                    all the replies i've read so far offer great ideas, but make sure you think outside the box. find ways to use some of the ingredients for more than one meal type.

                                                    rice is the perfect example. if you don't want to eat oatmeal for breakfast EVERY day, you can make yummy breakfast dishes [hot cereals, puddings, casseroles, etc] with rice.

                                                    instead of limiting your beans to stews, salads and the like, you can always use them to make your bean dips/spreads like hummus, black bean dip w/salsa, etc.

                                                    and if you want more protein and you get sick of the usual suspects, consider buying some protein powder. there really are some decent inexpensive ones on the market now, and the stuff is so versatile. mix it into your oatmeal at breakfast...or whip up a smoothie with some frozen fruit.

                                                    and as another poster mentioned, definitely buy things like grains, beans, nuts & seeds in bulk. much cheaper that way.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      Some of my favorite things, not sure of the prices:
                                                      Tuna heated with green chilies (from the can) and onions is good, plain or as a sandwich/wrap.

                                                      Stir fry lots of your favorite veggies together and put on top of a baked potato. Corn, black beans, onion, tomato, broccoli, red/green pepper all work. whatever you have around, all vegetables are good with potatoes.

                                                      Corn grits (polenta) mixed with mozzarella or cheddar (optional). Top with warmed black beans and salsa (or tomatoes) mixed together.

                                                      Corn tortillas are pretty cheap and broil nicely if you want crunchy. Great w/ guacamole (just mix avocado and salsa).

                                                    2. The amount of food assistance will vary from family to family depending on income. Whatever the amount is in most areas it is a monthly amount, but may be weekly in some.

                                                      I didn't see any rice on the list of what's available. Here in WA you can buy 20lbs for around $10.99, sometimes less, sometimes more.
                                                      Also didn't see any flour.

                                                      With the list you gave I can see some simple stir fry, soups, stews, salads, etc.

                                                      I'll take a closer look later and see what I can find recipe wise.

                                                      1. Things like a tomato pomodoro/ purchasing pasta on sale, fresh tomatoes and basil when in season make a really and cheap meal.
                                                        I didn't see pasta, or basil (fresh herbs) and tomato sauce. Are these items you would buy?

                                                        12 Replies
                                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                                          Pasta I'm up in the air about. It is cheap, but how healthy? It is a cheap filler. Sure for about 3 bucks you can buy tomato sauce and pasta on sale .. but it seems kind of starchy.

                                                          One of the things I've recently learned is that in Mexican markets or the Mexican sections of mainstream supermarkets like Raleys or Albertsons ... you can buy pasta for 33 cents to a high of 51 cents.

                                                          I guess I would prefer recipes on turning tomato paste which is purely tomatoes to sauce ..,. to the canned sauces. The cheaper verisons are heavy on HFCS. Any herbs are fair game as you can buy them cheaply fresh or in bulk.

                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                            I once accidentally - don't ask - made tomato sauce out of a large can of tomato paste. It was disgusting and my various attempts to salvage it failed, so it ended up in the dust bin.

                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                              You have to ensure you get both sufficient nutrients and calories on $3/day. Most of the world resorts to cheap fillers to fill calorie needs. Bread, rice, and pasta all provide calories without lots of simple sugars or saturated fats, which are implicated in health problems like diabetes and heart conditions. As long as you also eat other foods like fruits and vegetables to get your nutrients, there's nothing wrong with eating cheap fillers.

                                                              You can make very simple, healthy sauces without resorting to anything out of a can. You list the fresh tomatoes at 60 cents a pound (which is much cheaper than anything I can find), so they should competitive on price to with paste out of a can. Being summer, there should be good tomatoes; simply cook them down in some olive oil and add spices. Or try a garlic and olive oil sauce.

                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                I would think you do it just like that Kraft mix ;) Just add water & spices. I usually also add a bit of brown sugar to all spaghetti sauces. I haven't done it in awhile, but I used to buy that mix every so often for nostalgic reasons ...

                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                  Good point about Pasta... you can get your pasta fix through Fideo soups with lots of veggies...


                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                    I mostly use tomato paste in pizza sauce. I tweaked the "exquisite pizza sauce" recipe on allrecipes to my taste.

                                                                    --oh my bad i didn't see the part where you wanted to be light on the cheese. I guess pizza is not on the menu, hehe.

                                                                    1. re: choctastic

                                                                      choctastic -- that looks like a cool recipe. I usually add roasted tomatoes to my pizzas. How did you tweak the recipe???

                                                                    2. re: rworange

                                                                      As long as the macaroni you buy is made of durum semolina you will have a very nourishing meal no matter what sauce or vegetables you add. And, don't forget you can add beans, cheese, eggs ( one or all) and have a very nutritious meal in the bargain.

                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                        You could make your own pasta (whole wheat if you were so inclined)... and make tuna casserole.

                                                                        1. re: Emme

                                                                          Yeah, whole wheat pasta is actually very cheap and easy to make, and you can do it without a pasta maker (although it's easier with). There's a very simple recipe in the Goldbecks' American Wholefoods Cuisine cookbook, which I'm personally of the opinion that everyone should have--that and the More-with-Less Cookbook.

                                                                        2. re: rworange

                                                                          You can make a tomato sauce for just about the cost of the can of crushed tomatoes. And it takes only slightly more time and skill than opening a jar of ready-made sauce.

                                                                          But pasta does other things too. You can blanch broccoli and cauliflower (in your boiling pasta water), then saute them in some olive oil with garlic, then toss with pasta of your choice. Some vegetables, like green beans, zucchini, spinach, etc., don't need to be blanched first. Add some chickpeas or other beans (straight from the can, or soaked and cooked), to your vegetables and pasta for a good-quality protein.

                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                            Not the cheapest pasta out there, but if you can get Barilla Plus on sale, it contains lots of protein as it's made out of "multi" whole grains and legumes.
                                                                            So I don't feel guilty eating pasta anymore! I too am watching my budget and really getting into beans and brown rice, just made a curried compote out of rhubarb and strawberries with red lentils, and have been eating it on brown rice with yogurt on top all week.

                                                                        3. Don't forget the tofu. It is super cheap ($1 package), and is a good source of protein. Easy to cook - Easiest is to get firm, drain it by wrapping it in a clean towel and weighting it. Cut into cubes, marinade it if desired (easy one is soy sauce and ginger), put it in a pan to saute it until it browns and then you can use in a stir fry. My kids love tofu this way.

                                                                          Eggs are also a really inexpensive source of protein. Think fritatta or omelettes. I have had many friends on WIC (student families). They get massive amounts of milk and eggs, so things like german pancakes/dutch babies (see Cooking Light recipe for a healthier version) were key.

                                                                          Huevos rancheros is easy - corn tortillas (very cheap), black beans (cook from dried, mash with salt, garlic, and chilis), over easy egg, and top with salsa if you don't want to cook, or enchilada sauce, or what I usually do is Muir Glen roasted tomatoes, onions, and chilis.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: jsaimd

                                                                            Yeah! Tofu sauteed with onions and a dash of soy, chili and fish sauce is great.

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