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When being 'good' costs to much.

I have a problem. I am on welfare and food stamps, also I eat meat. I love meat pig meat especially, also lamb and goat. And I want to buy organic, free range, farm raised meat. But with a budget of forty dollars a week I can't do that. When a pound cut is sixteen dollars or ten dollars I just can't afford it. I feel guilty buying 'normal' meat. But it's so hard. Veggies are the same organic is pricey. Thank god for the farmer's market! At least there the prices are more reasonable at my local green-market and they discount 'ugly' veggies.

I suppose I could live on rice and beans. But I want to be healthy and cheap. It's a battle I'll tell you. I'm kinda leaning towards blaming the government for not giving farm subsidies to produce farmers. Also why is honey filled with good things but so bad for a diabetic?

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  1. I hear ya. There was a time that we needed to stand in line for commodities. We still need to stretch our food dollar. I buy regular supermarket food, and can't afford the high end "organic, free range, etc..." stuff, either. I still had to feed the family.
    We lived on lots of beans and rice, and whole chicken.
    As far as organic vegetables go, there are some that are better when organic, and some that are really no different. There are lists on the internet.
    That said, it pays to learn how to use every last bit. Do you like chicken? They are a little better priced, and one really can stretch it with them, using the meat, the bones, the liver and gizzard.
    But yes, I hear ya. Good, healthy food is expensive. Some say that it satisfies more, can make do with less, but try telling that to your kids that are hungry, right?
    With rice and beans, I look to other cultures, finding that spices can really add to the dish. I get my spices in bulk (the store has them packaged in bags), and are not as expensive as the tins. I also look for sales. But, if you are diabetic, I'm sure that folks will tell you that you need more than beans and rice.(and should probably avoid them).
    So, what to do? Find balance. Feeding the family with something comes first, in my book. Where the food comes from comes second. I simply don't have the luxury of a fat paycheck to get all moral about my food. I just try to do my personal best.

    1. this is also true if you want to go on a diet. Diets are expensive because fruit and veggies and fish, lean meat costs more than sugar and carbs and fatty meats.

      1. That's a tough one, YAYME.

        Proteins fill you up and keep you full longer and more satisfied than anything else. Here are some ideas:

        Eggs are cheap and versatile, be like the French- top your meal with them and use the runny yolk for a sauce.

        A big pork shoulder (12 bucks) in the crock pot can last a single person *weeks*...freeze some after shredding (but before saucing) to use to stuff things with (sandwiches) or to add to soups.

        Mapo tofu (using ground pork) is also a protein packed meal that can last for days for dinners and lunches.

        Ground lamb can be stretched by adding bulgar to make many wonderful middle eastern dishes.

        Expensive "designer" sausages (chicken and pork) or gourmet bacons can be diced and used in smaller amounts in all kinds of dishes.

        Buy better bulk beef and grind your own hamburger (food processor works for this). Better quality for the money.

        Ground chicken (also grind it yourself in the food processor) ensures more quality control -and when you purchase in bulk- it can last for weeks or months. I have no problem substituting chicken for beef in many recipes.

        Cottage cheese and al dente veggies are my breakfast and lunch of choice!

        2 Replies
        1. re: sedimental

          Agree there are lots of way to stretch your meat into many meals, but the point is that you are not going to find a big *organic, free range, farm raised* pork shoulder for $12. In fact, its hard to find period!

          1. re: firecooked

            Of course not. I think it is recognized by the OP that she will not be able to eat her fill of free range, organic, farm raised meat at every meal. Maybe there is a "happy medium" especially for the meats she said she really *loves* .........like pork.

        2. YAYME, can you add some fish to your diet and delete a little of the 4-legged protein? Just a gentle suggestion...sardines are very cheap and healthy protein and you can usually find a can for around $1 (Brunswick in olive oil just to name one) ... and the AMOUNT of protein we Americans eat is usually out of whack...3 or 4 ounces is all most of us need at each meal and you can obtain protein from non-meat/fish sources too, just to try and help a little more here. I realize you LIKE meats but perhaps subbing in some fish might help out a little?

          1. You are getting really good suggestions here, YAYME, so let me just say, first, keep your chin up, girl. It's hard being poor, and you have this diabetes, AND you're busting butt doing the best you can.

            I just want to tell you that it really IS possible to eat healthfully and frugally. True, you may not be able to get all the things you want raised free-range, or organically. So that being the case, do the very best you can and complement small amounts of meat with other proteins. Healthwise (and to me, foodwise/taste/deliciousnesswise) your best bets are vegetables and grains, and those can be had very cheaply. I think you'll figure it out with the good advice you're getting. I want to mention that my income, middle-class though it is (and I'm damn lucky, not entitiled, to have THAT much...) does not permit me to always shop the way I'd like to, which ideally would be that all organic, free-range, best quality product.
            And I have been really poor, so I know from where I speak when I say that you can do this.

            3 Replies
            1. re: mamachef

              Agree... and if one treats their foods with respect, once one gets them in their possession, I think that the moral/ethical issues can be balanced. Of course, we'd like to get back to the prime source, cleanly, and respectfully, but when someone is hungry, well...... balance.
              And peace to you! Enjoy your day, OP (and everyone else, too).

              1. re: mamachef

                Also agree with mamachef....I am also part of the disappearing middle class, and also can't fit organic, free range, or even sometimes locally raised food into my budget. I also commend you for your efforts to eat as healthily as possible on $40/week. It is tough, and it is discouraging. A good website for you to check out would be "cheaphealthygood"...she posts lots of , well, cheap, healthy and good ideas. I particularly liked an article about 17 meals (for 2) from one chicken, and the entire total she spent for ingredients was $25.

                1. re: mamachef

                  Grew up someone lower class myself and while not in welfare situation some of my friends were. A few times I had dinner at a friends house who were.. lets just say literally scraping pennies together. His mom made the best meatloaf I ever tasted and still remember to this day. I also learned a few recipes from her and was the first time I ever heard of taking a potato to a cheese grater to shred it and make potato pancakes. .

                  They are my number one favorite recipe and so inexpensive but more importantly delicious.
                  Another time she made up pancakes after a sleepover that were fried somehow because they were crispy on the outside and I have no idea how she did it because when I try I get oil-sogged pancakes

                  Being poor doesn't ever have to mean settling for food that isn't tasty and delicious. Besides I love me some molasses beans with some onions and mustard mixed in and hotdogs eaten with buttered bread as the utensil.

                2. If there are ethnic or "international" markets in your area, they often have good prices on veggies and meats and seafood.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: JenJeninCT

                    And even high cost foods go on sale at some point. One of the tricks I learned very early in my lean, college years was to make friends with the grocery mgrs. They are there to help customers get a big bang for their buck and win loyalty. The produce, meat, deli and dairy mgrs would tell me when specials were coming and on what items. I would cross check those items against circulars and manf coupons (in some cases) and shop accordingly. Some weeks it was beans, rice and tossed greens for a few days; other times sirloin, pork ribs or fish. I kept an open mind about it all. But make friends with your grocers!

                    1. re: HillJ

                      True- I just picked up a large clam shell of organic spring mix at Whole Foods for $2, which will be enough for 2 salad mains and 2 salad sides, with some left over for Izzy, the Bearded Dragon :)

                      We gave up bread and HFCS for Lent, which is making the task of affordable eating even more challenging!

                  2. YAYME, I remember some of your earlier posts and am glad to still see your commitment to eating 'well', even though times are tough and diabetes is in the mix.

                    Other upthread suggestions- how to stretch meat (especially in ways that don't add excess carbohydrate) and try out other protein sources like sardines are good. Non-starchy vegetables are certainly your friend in this regard! Some other ideas are:
                    - adding shredded cabbage, spinach or zucchini to my ground meat dishes (e.g. meatballs, meatloaf)
                    -dicing up tomatoes/cucumbers and shredding carrots into chicken and tuna salad.
                    -making tacos or chapati wraps- you can make your own whole-grain corn/wheat tortillas/flat breads if you're feeling adventurous. I'm astonished at how far a pricey fish fillet or bit of meat goes when it's wrapped in a tortilla stuffed with other goodies, like cabbage and radish slaw, homemade pico de gallo, or vegetables sauteed with cumin seeds and ginger.

                    To stretch my budget, I pick and choose which fruits and vegetables I buy organic and which ones I don't based on the "dirty dozen" list and general ideas about what produce generally doesn't require much pesticide use (as wyogal mentioned). For example, I do not buy organic avocados or bananas. However, I will buy organic celery, apples and berries, and organic citrus if I need to use the zest....and scrape off EVERY last dang bit. :)

                    If there are u-pick places around where you live and they are easy to access, consider them as a potential option. (Though sometimes, it can be a more spendy option compared to pre-picked.) I re-sprout organic scallions and grow the "expensive herbs" (mint, basil, etc.) when I can to help boost the flavors of the precious items I spend lots on.

                    Forming good relationships with vendors at your market can help so much too. Some of the cheaper vendors still use trustworthy, responsible methods, but just don't go through the cost/procedures of becoming "certified organic", etc. I've been pleasantly surprised at how generous producers have been in terms of chucking in an extra item when I'm a regular- for example, having me try out a new varietal that they are growing this year. Or they know that I'm the person on who they can unload a large quantity of "ugly veggies or fruits" for an even steeper discount. I just have to make sure that I actually take care to use it well- can it, freeze it, or use it in as timely a way as possible.

                    If you become friends with people who raise meat and/or their processors, you might be able to score some inexpensive cuts (or even have them given to you). For example, bony shank cross cuts and neck bones might be sold for next to nothing, but will make fabulous soup, stock, or sauce flavoring.

                    Oh....and the honey, in my estimation, is not necessarily bad for diabetes- it's just best to take it easy in terms of serving size, just like with any other carbohydrate sources. If you have some sort of diet plan, just figure in how the amount of honey that you'd like to have fits/doesn't fit into your plan. Just like with everything else, balance and enjoy what you can.

                    Wishing you all the best- for keeping your belly full, your blood sugar managed- and most of all, your spirits up and your love of good food intact. :)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: 4Snisl

                      4Snisl, there is an interesting thread going on right now regarding white rice vs. brown rice...our dear mcf mentions "eat to your (glucose) meter" in that thread...and for everyone, it's probably different (for those who use a meter)...so our OP here YAYME might be saying that honey does a number on his or her meter...? not sure... thanks!

                      1. re: Val

                        Hi Val- You are absolutely right. A very hearty YMMV should accompany any generalizations about how a food affect an individual with a health condition. The OP may find that the amount of honey that works best for him/her is none. On the other hand, maybe a quarter teaspoon of really flavorful honey in a cup of plain yogurt will increase enjoyment dramatically without doing too much of a number on blood sugar level.

                        It just pains me to see an enjoyed food put on someone's (not necessarily the OP's) "forbidden list" when it doesn't have to be. Especially when other enjoyed foods seem hard to access and enjoy. That is (admittedly) my baggage coming into the conversation. :)

                    2. I really enjoy all your tips. This message board has helped me stretch cash before I love it.

                      Val- Not a fan of most fish. I like salmon and shellfish, not exactly cheap but canned salmon does keep!

                      sunflwrsdh- Thanks for the blog!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: YAYME

                        Yep, canned salmon is a pretty good value too! Sometimes you can find the pink with skin and bones for $2 per can! Our Whole Foods has their 365 house brand RED salmon for $2.59 per 7.5 ounce can...not bad either but the pink is cheaper and just as nutritious.

                        1. re: Val

                          And it makes a lovely fishloaf, casserole and is awesome saut├ęd.

                          1. re: YAYME

                            Don't forget salmon or tunaburgers, a nice change; and a great way to stretch the fish with egg, crumbs, and shredded veggies. Really healthy and tasty, on a whole-wheat bun with the usual accoutrements.

                      2. This idea may sound "scrungy" but it sounds more so than it is :)

                        When I worked in a particular pet shop, every day or ever couple of days (depending) one of the employees would walk two or three doors down to the grocery store, where they would let people who had checked with them first go through and take their veggie trim (there was the pet shop, a person who kept/bred goats, and a pig farmer who all took advantage of this), this got them/us some free veggies that only had 1-5 days left of "goodness" on them, and they didn't fill their dumpster quite so quickly. Our produce guy (well, just about everybody at that particular market) was really cool, and after awhile I figured out what time on average he was done doing his morning produce department rounds so I could go in and get first pick of the boxes.

                        I was not alone in the fact that, if there was something still totally good and edible in the box, the employees (who all made minimum wage) would rifle through and take the good stuff home which was generally used that or the next day. Heck once or twice when there were a lot of strawberries (they tossed the box when one berry went bad, for good reason: it will spread SUPER quickly), I spent a lunch break going through all the containers, and making "new" containers of just the good strawberries, and all of us including the owner ended up having some form of strawberry snack or dessert that day. The good ones lasted about two more days, but two days is all we needed out of the good strawberries :) There are also times where there are a good deal of potatoes, onions, celery where the center stalks are still perfectly fine, bags of baby carrots, and so on. So if you get on speaking terms with your produce manager, you can tell them you have a couple of veggie eating pets at home and would they mind if you came in so often to check out/take some of their veggie trim? If they're nice they will let you :) Always clean up after yourself though, don't leave any of the trim that fell out on the floor, and usually I would take a whole box even when there was only a couple of things in it I wanted; I figured that way I was doing a polite thing of taking some of the refuse off their hands while taking advantage of the good stuff.

                        It feels a little weird to do at first, I lucked out that I got used to doing it because of my job, but dang it helps a lot sometimes.

                        1. Honey is bad for a diabetics because honey is sugar. Maple syrup is also bad for a diabetic. Life isn't fair. I can't eat either thing myself.

                          I am not on welfare, and I don't buy free range anything. I can't afford it. If you want to assess blame, I'd lean toward the marketplace. If there were a larger market for organics, the food would get cheaper.

                          I want to respectfully suggest that you think through what you food goal(s) is(are). Is it to remain healthy? Is it to consume organics? I think you can be healthy eating normal food from the grocer. There are a million pieces of advice on various threads on this board which give tips for eating more cheaply. If you are diabetic, or pre-diabetic, or insulin dependent, you know you have to cut way back on processed carbs.

                          I also would recommend that you contact your community's food pantry, to see if you qualify for food help. The food they have available might not be fabulous, but if you could get staples there, that might free up some monies for fruit and produce.

                          I work in a local food pantry. I see firsthand the results of diabetes gone unchecked among people with reduced resources. One of the things I've personally had to face, is that no one is going to be able to take care of my health except me. I hope you can find a path forward for eating healthy, because, well you know why.

                          1. Honey is a sugar, a liquid mix of the two simple sugars that your body digests, glucose and fructose. It contains a small amount of other things that are beneficial, but to say it is 'filled with good things' is a stretch.

                            1. Non-organic food isn't really much healthier than regular food. As a matter of fact the healthiest thing you can do is to simply eat less, especially carbs. This will help you out since you get to save money and eat healthy.

                              1. Yeah, champagne taste on a beer budget. As vegetables go, you can buy organics only for the "dirty dozen" which are high in pesticides, or you could avoid them altogether and stick w/ produce that are naturally grown w/ little pesticides.


                                Look at sales circulars because stores often sell things under cost, or get great deals from producers for that week. Frozen is a great option. Organic isn't always the best option--Whole Foods sources its frozen organic food from China. I'd avoid that, especially at the price.

                                While you love meat and pork, lamb and goat, stick w/ what's on sale and then use it as a condiment to flavor your food. Think of asian diets. Overall, rather than blame the government for not providing you with your choice of inexpensive food, thank them for the food stamps because that's a life saver for a lot of people. Providing inexpensive organic produce/meat just isn't likely from a government prospective (don't get me started on the corn and soy subsidies). My mom managed to feed a family of five, being thrifty, clipping coupons, buying food on sale, very frugally. It takes a lot more time but if cost is an issue, definitely worth it.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chowser

                                  Don't forget that some government policies raise prices. US sugar prices, for example, are above world prices. Corn and soy subsidies might encourage farmers to grow more, but they don't directly lower the cost of those commodities. They aren't the kind of consumer oriented subsidies (on wheat) that Egypt has used to placate the masses.

                                  Actually the US government does subsidize produce - through various large irrigation projects. In addition individual states have supported farmers with infrastructure, particularly farm-to-market roads, extension services, and university research. At a local level, some governments protect farming with land use and growth policies.