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Frugal, Tasty Recipes for Families on Public Assistance

Anyone who has tried to feed a family on the allotment from SNAP (what we used to call Food Stamps) knows how very difficult it is to maintain a healthy diet and cook appealing meals while on a pittance of a fixed income.

I use a lot of grains and legumes; I try to use Kale, Chard and other leafy greens, I try to use meat as a condiment rather than a main ingredient; all of this helps, but I would love to get some suggestions for some perhaps more inventive frugal, healthy, appetizing meals.

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  1. You may get some ideas from this thread. I have not read all of it so not sure how many ideas. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/897303

    1. You are doing all the right things.

      If you can raise backyard female chickens you will have a supply of eggs daily, and meat every 10 weeks. A 50 lb. bag of feed is $10-$15., and they will eat all scraps, as they are omnivorous.

      A 40 lb bag of wheat, white or whole grain, is $13 at Costco, and 2.5 lb of yeast is $4.
      So batches of bread should be a regimen.

      20 lb bags of rice and beans at the large Asian stores are always on my list.

      I would add sorrel to your list of leafy greens, and grow it in pots. Also a variety of lettuce in pots.

      You probably know all about canned tomatoes and sauces. They regularly go on special for $1. Just read the the label to make sure they give up some Vitamins.

      For recipes, I would google tagines, cassoulet, French Provincial, Cioppino, Mediterranean diet, Okinawa diet, etc., but that's just me.

      6 Replies
      1. re: jayt90

        Thanks. I used to raise chickens, but oddly in this small town surrounded by farms it is illegal to keep any fowl. However it is great advice, and I am hoping this thread is of service to many others.

        Also, you should know that for most people on public assistance one of the cruelties is that there is never enough money to buy in bulk, so one is forced to pay more in order to get less.

        "Tagines, cassoulet, French Provincial, Cioppino..." Mmmm.

        1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

          I'm remembering about $80 (per week? per two weeks?), and that was a while ago. Should be easy enough for you to pick up a 5lb bag of cheese from costco (mozarella, nothing fancy) and the wheat and yeast. Buy some canned tomato paste ($5), costco's is excellent, and you can make pizzas for two weeks.

          (no, i'm not telling you to do what i don't do! pizzas for two weeks is fun! 30 minute meals if the dough's let to rise in the fridge)

          1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

            That's true about the bulk purchases--it takes money to save money. Perhaps you could pair up with a similarly-situated friend and swap?

            I lived on very little money while in graduate school, so I know what you're dealing with. Homemade soups are great, as are lentils, chickpeas, quinoa. If you have a freezer, it's easy to make large quantities of chicken stock and vegetable stock from leftovers and scraps. (I still do this.)

            The good thing is that, if you know how to cook, you can have a very healthy diet, since a SNAP budget doesn't allow for pricy, processed foods.

          2. re: jayt90

            Many Costcos don't take SNAP. In most if not all states, food assistance is now on EBT cards rather than paper coupons. You run the card the same way as you'd run a debit or credit card. All eligible items are coded in the computer. That, plus the fact that there are no more paper coupons, has led to much less fraud. When Costco opened in I believe NYC, there was a big to-do about whether they'd accept SNAP EBT, as they had not done so up until that point.

          3. How about some soup made with some frozen vegetables and you could use some cream or evaporated milk to make a cream of vegetable soup? Ground beef is great to make all kinds of meals as long as it is a meat you like to eat. As well if you like to make bread some of the slow rising breads are inexpensive to make and are delicious.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Ruthie789

              Soup is a great idea. I don't think buying already-ground meat is a very good idea, unless you know the butcher and watch your meat being ground. It's done at huge bulk stations with beef and parts shipped in from anywhere and everywhere, and is not necessarily handled properly.

              I love to bake. Bread is a lovely idea, and I am out of the habit.

              1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                I do understand about your concern about the beef, but I still buy ground beef but am particular about where I buy it. The bread is really easy to make and if strawberries are in season can make some freezer jam to top it.

                1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                  This isn't always true. I've been working as a butcher in a natural foods store for most of the last year and several of my colleagues have worked in large chain supermarkets (and even managed them). It sounds like most stores grind yesterday's stew meat for their ground beef, because it oxidizes and turns brown after the pieces have been touching each other in the package for a few hours. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this meat -- beef isn't bad until it's green and smelly (and the green smelly part can even be cut off, and would be cut off before anything is ground, because it makes for ugly, smelly grinds). I wouldn't buy ground meat in a pre-packaged chub, but anything ground in-house shouldn't be too bad as long as you cook it all the way through.

                  Also, mishandling can happen anywhere. Anywhere. With anything. There actually seem to be way more scares with vegetables than with meat.

                  1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                    I buy my ground beef from one or two specific local (kosher) stores who have very high turnover. The meat is always fresh.

                    1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                      Thanks for the reassurance. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish the scare stories from genuine warnings.

                      1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                        There has been so much bad publicity about ground beef. I continue to buy it and I make meatloaf for my son. I am more confident buying it at some grocers than others however. I always cook it well done.

                      2. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                        If you love to bake, look up recipes for Irish soda bread--the tradional kind, which is just a basic, savory brown bread made with nothing but flour, baking soda, buttermilk, sald and sometimes a touch of sugar (though not enough to make it actually taste sweet). It's a quick bread, which is great if you are busy caring for a family, it's hearty and delicious, and it's healthy because it's generally made with mostly whole wheat flour. You can start a batch at 6 o'clock and have fresh bread ready to eat at 7 (most of which is baking time, so you can do other things in the mean time.) It's wonderful with soups and stews.

                        Cornbread is another favorite of mine that is quick to make and doesn't require planning ahead. And it can be pretty healthy too, if you use whole grain (generally stone ground) cornmeal. Food co-ops and health food stores will often sell it in bulk bins for very little. That's where I get mine. Great accompaniment to those healthy greens!

                    2. when mom has a single mom I know she would use powdered milk when a recipe called for milk in small quanity like 1/4 cup it seems like a little thing but with two growing girls it made a big difference... She also use of chicken legs and thighs..Short ribs were a favourite( But they have become popular and are no longe inexpensive) Annnd Skirt steak...oh the things she could do with skirt steak! Eggs are not just for breakfast.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: girloftheworld

                        Powdered milk is expensive in comparison to way back when.

                        1. re: Ruthie789

                          I remember our powdered milk days. Not for cooking, but for drinking and for breakfast cereal. Blech.

                          During our tough times, at least once a week we had liver and onions because it was so cheap. Reportedly, my dad made the best liver and onions ever. Family of six--I was the only one who hated it. My siblings loved it.

                          I am a big fan of beans, and now that I'm eating meat again, I find beans are a great vehicle for stretching the taste of the meat. Beans and greens is a treat, and even a tiny bit of meat can infuse a pot. Bean patties of all sorts can be great.

                          As many have pointed out, eggs, eggs, eggs.

                          I think sweet potatoes can be great side dishes. Still fairly inexpensive, a ton of nutrition, versatile.

                          1. re: debbiel

                            We went through some powdered milk years, too. She tried putting it in the empty gallon jugs, thinking that she could trick us.... ugh.

                            1. re: Kontxesi

                              I don't care what container it was in, it still had that hint of blue to it. And that after taste.

                            2. re: debbiel

                              +1 for beans. Whether dried or canned, they're inexpensive, filling and loaded with good-for-us stuff. The sheer variety helps to stave off boredom with the same-old, same-old, and as debbiel pointed out, there are many, many excellent ways to prepare them.

                              Dried beans have long been one of my favorite go-to items when I want to stretch grocery dollars.

                              1. re: debbiel

                                As well as bean patties, potato patties (I use leftover mashed) with fried onions and ketchup are delicious and cheap. A big pot of vegetable soup with some ground beef or chicken thrown in goes a long way, as does a pot of spaghetti sauce.

                          2. Microwaved/baked potatoes with various toppings.

                            If you volunteer in your community, look for a SHARE site - allows you to purchase food in quantity each month at reduced prices, based on your level of volunteer activity. Boxes also include fresh produce that will add variety to your meals.

                            This discussion from 2010 is showing on my screen as a "related discussion" - not sure how CH magic decides what to show each of us, so thought I'd highlight it for you.


                            1 Reply
                            1. I ran a soup kitchen for years. We often good fresh stuff that volunteers gleaned from local farms and we gave some out to people who needed it. You might want to see if there are programs like that in your community. Best to you.

                              1. Shop with a sharp eye toward specials.

                                We often pick up family-sized packs of chicken thighs for 99 cents a pound.

                                Although you always see sales on chef boy ar dee and other junk, you also see pounds of pasta for less than a dollar. Pasta is filling and versatile. And it's the perfect thing for the leafy greens you like.

                                Frozen vegetables are often better than "fresh" vegetables since they generally are processed so quickly after picking. They are quite affordable.

                                Rice and beans

                                Try making your own bread, tortillas, etc.

                                Do you have room for a pot of cherry tomatoes? A plant costs maybe $3 and will throw off loads of fruit.

                                25 Replies
                                1. re: C. Hamster

                                  I never knew that about frozen veggies. I have been avoiding all such things. Thanks. It's a little hard to compare prices with fresh, but I'm sure I'll figure it out.

                                  I am getting very, very good with all combinations of legumes and grains. Mujadara! Yum.

                                  1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                    I grow my own, go to the farmers market but still my freezer is full of bags of veggies.

                                    Frozen = good. Canned = not so much.

                                    Also, there are all those coupon sites these days. Can you combine coupons with SNAP?

                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                      Absolutely on the coupons. The cashier has no idea how you're paying until you whip your card out. So you ring up your order, hand over your store loyalty card if applicable, then your coupons, then use your SNAP card to pay. It will cover all allowable items, and any non-allowable items (paper towels, soap, toothpaste etc etc) can then be paid for with cash, or the card of your choice. You can also ask to only pay a certain sum worth with your snap benefits and pay the rest with another method.

                                      1. re: C. Hamster

                                        I use grocerysmarts.com to find coupons. The site will show you what's on special at local stores and give you links to print out the coupons.

                                      2. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                        I buy lots and lots of frozen vegetables. The price can't be beat, and you can use what you need without it going bad.

                                        Broccoli, string beans, corn, cauliflower, peas, all have a place I'm my freezer.

                                        Some farmers markets take snap benefits. I know the Greenmarkets are not cheap, but at the end of the day you may be able to get some type of discount

                                        Shop at the supermarkets at night. Find out which markets put the "best" fresh food for "quick sale." I once asked the bakery guy if any bread was reduced, and he walked out from behind the counter with a roll of half price stickers and inspected everything within a few minutes.

                                        A mom I used to volunteer with would save a few dollars each week to buy baking staples. One week shed buy flour, another week sugar, and so on. Eventually she built up a baking "pantry" and didn't feel like it cost a ton out of pocket to bake something homemade.

                                        1. re: cheesecake17

                                          +1 to Farmer's Markets - not sure where you are, but many (if not most) of our larger farmer's markets take SNAP, and also frequently have large Seconds bins - peaches/apricots with a few bruises at $.75/lb, organic apples and heirloom tomatoes at $1/lb, juicing oranges at $.39/lb, and almost every beet farmer has a huge bin of tops people don't want that they'll give you for free. On a good week we can get 2 weeks worth of produce for $15 or less.

                                          1. re: thursday

                                            Woah..not in NYC! I've gotten some large squashes for 50 cents each, but rarely as cheap as you mention

                                            My local market gives me beet greens for free if someone is buying the beets only

                                            1. re: cheesecake17

                                              I'm in SoCal, so we do have the yearlong growing season, which makes a big difference. Those aren't the normal prices, btw, just the prices I've seen at the seconds bins. Most of the farmers don't advertise the seconds bins prominently, but if you ask, they'll point you behind their tables to a few crates..

                                            2. re: thursday

                                              Ive never seen anything like that in Boston, but they do accept SNAP.

                                              Problem is the FM produce is spendy.

                                              If you are on a tight budget, frozen is the way to go.

                                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                                FM produce may or may not be spendy. Prices get very good when the crops are at their peaks. Also, FM produce is typically several days fresher than anything in a conventional market and can be expected to last longer. Finally, some things do not do well when frozen, for example, salad greens. :)

                                                Here in Boston I know of at least one CSA (Waltham Fields Community Farm, where I am a member) that has reduced price memberships for families in need. They also have a separate non-member program for low-income families that offers them fresh produce - the same items we get as CSA members - for an extremely low price ($5/bag). As a non-profit, this is one way my CSA serves the community. Perhaps there are similar programs elsewhere. Folks who live in or near Waltham MA who would like to investigate participating in either program should go to http://communityfarms.org/index.php/p...

                                                1. re: PinchOfSalt

                                                  I believe that our CSA, Farm Direct Coop, also offers assistance to those who need it: http://www.farmdirectcoop.org/how-the...

                                                  Pickups are in Salem, Marblehead, and Melrose, MA.

                                                  1. re: PinchOfSalt

                                                    We have a nice program at our farmers market (and I think 30+ other farmers markets in the state) that doubles SNAP dollars at the farmers market. I don't think it's limitless--maybe a $50 limit?--but 2 for 1 value on SNAP at the market. Combine that with seconds bins and you could get quite a bit of produce there.

                                                2. re: thursday

                                                  Generally speaking, I think bunches of beets with the tops included are a great deal. You get two vegetables for the price of one! The greens are delicious and a lot like Swiss chard and there are a million ways to cook the beets themselves.

                                                  1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                                    I have never tried beet greens, but I will now. I like roasted beets, and I like borscht, and I like beets in a salad, but I would be grateful for other suggestions.

                                                    1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                      Radish greens are a close second to beet greens, in my house. I buy the vegetables with the greens attached, cut them off and wash well, then chop coarsely and stick in the freezer, as they go off quickly. Then I sneak them into everything I make...soup, rice, stews, etc. Because I'm the only one around here that craves healthy stuff! To everyone else, it just looks like parsley.

                                                      But I do occasionally serve it, if the meal calls for this, cooked southern style with ham, onions and stock, plus a little hot sauce and vinegar. Very tasty. Best with collard or mustard greens, but you can get away with anything really.

                                                      1. re: coll

                                                        One of my goals for this years farmers market season is to use my beet greens. I love beets and buy a lot. I have good intentions on the greens but rarely follow through. Two Saturdays ago, I washed them right after I returned from the market. I managed to eat a small bunch of them before I moved on to kale. Then I tossed (hangs head in shame) the rest. This past Saturday I again washed them when I returned home. I am proud to say I have now eaten all the beet greens from this week's market. And now I can move on to kale.

                                                        The beet greens are quite tasty, mind you. I just prefer kale.

                                                        1. re: debbiel

                                                          Someone from chow (sorry I can't remember who) shared this tip that has made a world of difference in our greens-eating: when you get home, fill the sink with warm water and rinse thoroughly, then drain and refill with cold to close the pores. Combined with storing in produce boxes, we now get 2+ weeks out of sturdier greens like beet annd kale before they wilt or rot.


                                            3. re: C. Hamster

                                              Absolutely agree with regards to the frozen veggies... I buy a ton of frozen peas/green beans/corn/fava beans/mixed vegetables etc for $0.99/lb - and just make a stir fry with rice or I cook the green beans with a chopped tomato, chopped onion and a minced garlic and add a bit of olive oil, some cumin, turmuric, s&p and a dash of cinnamon - delicious! A great, healthy meal for four people for about $1.50!!

                                              1. re: acssss

                                                I am convinced on the frozen veggie front, though it was counterintuitive at first.

                                                1. re: acssss

                                                  Totally agree that frozen vegetables are healthy and so are frozen fruits.

                                                  1. re: Ruthie789

                                                    Healthy, yes. But generally inferior in flavor except perhaps for peas. So reserve the fresh items for preparations where they shine.

                                                    1. re: JudiAU

                                                      If budget is a concern an alternative is frozen. Canned vegetables are full of salt. Fresh can be expensive. If I had a budget of $50.00 per week I might buy a bag of apples, but not sure if I would put it to fresh vegetables when frozen can be a good inexpensive substitute.

                                                      1. re: Ruthie789

                                                        The kroger brand (Giant Eagle, Fry's, Ralph's etc.) frozen italian green beans are remarkable.

                                                        Not just the frozen green beans, the italian ones. Known I think as Romano beans they are hard to find fresh and very pricey. But frozen? Often found for $1 for 12 oz. and they microwave up like a dream. Great with just butter, S & P but also really satisfying cooked with an 8oz can of tomato sauce, garlic powder and finished with a bit of butter or marg. and then topped with some grated italian cheese. A budget yum.

                                                        1. re: happybaker

                                                          That's what I was getting at, good food is available at good prices.

                                                      2. re: JudiAU

                                                        I find frozen corn, green peas, limas, etc. perfectly nice in soups.

                                                2. My husband was a student the first seven years we were married (long ago) and we were very poor so I have had cooking experience related to yours. I used to make casseroles of mostly pasta and little meat, or creamed tuna and noodles, or thick minestrone with a lot of beans and pasta. Eggs as the basis of dinner were relatively cheap (omelets, crepes, stratas). With 1 cup of cornmeal and 8 oz of cheese you can make a ton of cheesy fried polenta. Prepared food is not within a limited budget. For produce, shop at ethnic markets and buy what is in season and on sale. If you have a place to garden or fish or keep chickens that's a windfall. Do your own baking. Cook your own rice---don't rely on fast prep products. Read weekly sale ads (nowadays they're online). Make your own babyfood. Powdered milk can be used at least some of the time. Utilize everything (in stock, soup, gravy, casserole, or jello). Knowing how to cook is an ENORMOUS advantage in doing well on a low budget.

                                                  20 Replies
                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                    I've been a student for the last 6 years, just got my Masters, no jobs in sight. Polenta is a great idea, thanks. I make a lot of steel-cut oatmeal, kasha, quinoa, etc. too, all pretty cheap in bulk at the health food store.

                                                    1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                      What a refreshing post/thread this is. I've read/heard that jobs just aren't there for recent grads, but hang in there. I'll echo the roasted chicken posts here - it goes a long way. When I was just out of college I relied on rice-topped-with-anything. I wouldn't dare recommend it to anyone else, though. So incredibly boring!

                                                      1. re: KrumTx

                                                        Especially for lunches, I'll pick up a whole chicken when it's 99 cents a pound. Get a ton of meals out of that.

                                                        I love "rice-topped-with-anything" and have it regularly. A little leftover rice that isn't enough for a real meal is perfect for that.

                                                        Also tacos. An itsy bitsy bit of meat (or even no meat).

                                                        1. re: KrumTx

                                                          Thanks! What makes this thread great are all the enthusiastic, useful replies, and not a single Food Pedant (scourge of Chow) tut-tutting the frozen veggies.

                                                          1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                            I think anyone who says they NEVER use frozen vegetables is, well, I won't be impolite. Frozen peas are ALWAYS in my freezer. And frozen white corn when fresh isn't available. But I guess that's a different thread.

                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              I make a cold rice salad with a lemon fresh ginger dressing and use frozen peas in it and it is delicious. A rice salad can go a long way and can be quite filling. I will try to find my recipe and post it for you. Everyone likes it, I usually bring to buffets and family parties...

                                                              1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                I'd love that! Now that it (finally) heating up here, I can see this definitely. Thanls, Ruthie.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  Recipe for Rice and Peppers Salad
                                                                  3 cups of chicken broth
                                                                  1 1/2 cups of long grain rice
                                                                  Bring the broth to a boil and add the rice and cook for 15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. I cover mine. Put the rice aside to cool.
                                                                  Vegetables need to be diced small:
                                                                  1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper, 1 green pepper
                                                                  1 rib of celery diced small and include the leafs
                                                                  6 small carrots or about 1/4 to 1/2 cup
                                                                  1 cup of frozen green peas thawed
                                                                  Italian parsley finely chopped about 1/8 of cup
                                                                  Add all to the cooled rice mixture
                                                                  1 teaspoon of fresh minced ginger (I use a tablespoon recipe calls for teaspoon)
                                                                  The juice of two lemons
                                                                  1/3 of vegetable oil (I use sunflower)
                                                                  Salt and fresh pepper
                                                                  Mix dressing and add to the rice mixture.
                                                                  I usually chill it overnight flavour intensifies this way
                                                                  Sometimes I add a layer of browned slivered almonds around the salad
                                                                  What's is great about rice salads is that they are light and once made can be served over a few days. I got the above recipe from a cooking show on TV called Bonne Appetit-a French show on our local network.
                                                                  As they say in French, Bonne Appetit!

                                                                  1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                    This sounds super. And what I've discovered is that I like something like this MWd/warm also. Thanks.

                                                                    1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                      Love that salad, Ruthie! To make it a Mexican salad, swap out the parsley in favor of cilantro, omit the ginger, and use juice from 3 limes instead of lemon juice. Otherwise, it's the same.

                                                                      I've made it both ways and honestly can't say which I like better. Inexpensive, easily changed recipes like this salad are my bread and butter, as it were. It seems like the ingredient list is long, but it's really just rice, a bunch of diced peppers and other veg, whatever's on hand, with a simple vinaigrette. Make it once and you no longer need the recipe. I call them "stupid simple" and mean that in the very best way.

                                                                      At my house, the Asian version is known as "unfried rice", because it's got my go-to fried rice ingredients. :)

                                                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                                                        I enjoy it too. Rice salads are economical, they can last a few days in the fridge and are a good side. I will try your Mexican version.

                                                                      2. re: Ruthie789

                                                                        I came back to clip this recipe, and it reminded me of a salad that I love. It looks very pretty for company, and it's delicious. One red, one orange and one yellow bell pepper - big dice, a couple of kirby cukes - big dice, a small red onion, diced, cherry tomatoes (I cut them in half) some nice cured olives and feta. You pickle the red onion for a couple of hours in good wine vinegar and little sugar, Then use the same vinegar to make a dressing with evoo and mix with the other ingredients. Best if it rests over night. Gets raves.

                                                                        1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                          If you lived in Greece, you'd be calling that a horiatiki salata. It's a classic! And delicious... Many Greek restaurants offer it for about nine bucks a pop! Home made is better!

                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                            True. But just to nitpick, a horiatiki will have only green peppers, never red, orange or yellow, the onions are sliced, no sugar and no marinating the onions. Otherwise, exactly! LOL!

                                                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                              In the village where I lived in Greece (Vartholomeo), the onions AND the bell peppers AND the tomatoes AND the cucumbers were all cut in triangles/pyramids, with chunked or sliced feta and all swimming in fresh virgin olive oil from whose ever olive trees you happened to be dining with. But you're right. The bell peppers were ALWAYS green! '-)

                                                                        2. re: Ruthie789

                                                                          I make rice salads frequently with left over rice (just enough for one or 2 servings), using a similar assortment of vegetables (influenced by what I have available). I also do the same using quinoa, barley, cous cous, etc. I need to try the ginger!

                                                                      3. re: Ruthie789

                                                                        That sounds great!

                                                                        My mom used to ask why I like sushi (just the semi-veggie rolls, so not REALLY sushi) and I said "Mom, it's like a cold rice salad." That she got!

                                                                        I am now going to scroll down to copy your recipe - thank you!

                                                                        1. re: happybaker

                                                                          I pretty much follow the recipe to a T but I do like the extra freshly grated ginger. Hope you like it when you make it!

                                                                      4. re: c oliver

                                                                        It can be called Chowhound Pants on Fire.

                                                              2. Shakshuka or Eggs in Purgatory--both dishes are basically eggs poached in a tomato sauce. Economical and a rather tasty meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner).

                                                                I pickled some beets the other day and braised the chopped greens/thin stalks in some leftover chicken broth. An easy and healthy breakfast for me is a poached egg served on reheated greens (like the beet greens)--in fact, I think I'll have this for breakfast tomorrow!

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: nofunlatte

                                                                  Beet greens! Never tried 'em. Thanks. What a bunch of helpful folks. And no food squabbles in this thread, knock wood.

                                                                  1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                    Cheap, hearty, and delicious! I've heard that separating the greens from the beets make both last longer.

                                                                    1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                      Yes, that's definitely true. Cut off the beet greens from the beets and leave a bit of stem when you get them home. I've said this elsewhere but I think beets with greens are a really great bang for your buck. They generally cost the same, or about the same, as any other bunched green, except you're getting TWO vegetables. Beets are closely related to Swiss chard and that's pretty much what beet greens taste like. The stems are fairly tender too, so you don't have to bother with de-stemming. Just chop 'em up and cook 'em. Very quick and easy!

                                                                      1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                                                        One produce market will sometimes give me the greens for free. If someone's buying the beets and not the greens, the employees will rip off the greens. Sometimes I get em before they go in the trash

                                                                    2. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                      Someone at work made a soup from the leaves and stems around the cauliflower. I have never heard of this but someone tasted it and said it was quite good.

                                                                  2. In the fall fresh vegetables will be on sale towards the end of the season. Carrots, turnips, beets are all inexpensive at this time of year. So if you are willing to cook and mash you will have some readily available for quite awhile if you buy in bulk at this time of year.

                                                                    1. We were just discussing in another thread how buying a whole chicken is almost always the way to go. They can often be found for less than $1/pound and can be broken down into breasts, thighs, drumsticks, wings. Store the backs, necks, any internal organs in the freezer until you have enough to make stock. Store the wings in the freezer until you have enough for hot wings (2-4 per person usually works, especially if you have a bunch of sides). The uses for chicken are almost endless! The 3 lb chicken I bought the other day will last my boyfriend and I 3 meals, plus it contributed to a pot of stock, plus it contributed to my wing bag.

                                                                      Ground meat is also one of the cheapest meats out there, and can go a long way. Trader Joe's sells ground beef for something like $2.50/pound, and a pound can be stretched into a meatloaf big enough for a whole family, with leftovers for sandwiches. Meatballs can also be very versatile -- the flavours and sauces are almost endless.

                                                                      Spices are invaluable for making similar ingredients into drastically different meals. High quality spices can often be found quite cheap at Asian and Indian markets. If you're in a pinch, look for El Mexicano brand spices. They're often around a dollar a packet and taste better than the flavourless powder you find at dollar stores.

                                                                      Shopping in the bulk section has saved me many times when I'm broke and just need a teaspoon of something or half a cup of something else to make a meal work. Bulk spices can also be really affordable.

                                                                      I've found that ethnic markets usually keep their prices low. When I lived in California, I lived near a Southeast Asian market that sold massive bags of produce (much of it grown locally and pesticide free) for $1/bag. I bought some of the best tomatoes I've ever eaten there, and learned how to make a number of Thai, Lao and Vietnamese dishes that are still in my regular rotation.

                                                                      Depending on where you live, urban foraging can also have a huge payoff. When I lived in California, I picked most of my fruit from the neighbours' trees and discovered that rosemary is commonly used as a hedge put around the borders of properties. It's a bit harder here in New Mexico, but I've still been able to pick apples, crabapples, apricots and juniper berries. Find out what grows around you and scout out fruit trees. Most people are happy to let you pick a bag if you ask.

                                                                      An ice cream maker is also one of the best things you can buy. I got mine at a thrift store for $6. Just about any fruit can be pureed, mixed with simple syrup and a teaspoon of whipped egg white, and frozen into a delicious sorbet for pennies a serving. This is the perfect use for those mushy, overripe fruits you can often find on the discount rack in the produce section.

                                                                      Shop at thrift stores for cookbooks and cooking equipment (this is where most of mine have come from). Dollar stores also often have essentials like cheesecloth and cookie sheets, as well as basic foods such as rice, beans and enormous cans of El Pato spicy tomato sauce (that's a meal right there!). If you have space for a garden, SNAP can be used to buy seeds and seedlings from any retailer that accepts EBT.

                                                                      Between going to school and graduating with a more-or-less useless BFA, I've been poor for the last 10 years and I don't think anything has improved my cooking more than the challenge of eating well with no money. Try not to let it stress you out too much and look at it as a challenge instead of a burden. Have fun!

                                                                      22 Replies
                                                                      1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                                                        I second all of BBL's suggestions. Urban foraging is a wonderful idea - in my area you can forage rosemary, mint, grapeleaves, lambs quarters, purslane, mulberries, and rasberries...probably more. Combine with storebought carbs and inexpensive meats and you have a flavorful and filling meal.

                                                                        I always check the extreme discount shelves at markets. They often have produce that is on the verge, but still fine to make into soup ASAP or chop and freeze. Plus, stuff like rice and beans that are at the end of their shelf life and haven't sold. My favorite such bargain was a 10 lb. bag of pinto beans purchased for about 2 dollars.

                                                                        1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                                                          It's been great for my cooking skills. I don't feel burdened, but I was really getting bored with my own repetitive ideas. There are a lot of really useful suggestions in this thread. Is El Pato anything like Rotel? (By the way, buck up: my grown son has a BFA and he has actually become a successful photographer.) Oh, how am I a starving stoont with grown kids? I didn't go to college until late in life; lost my long-term career, had to retrain.

                                                                          1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                            I'm ashamed to admit it, but as much as I've heard about it, I've never actually had Rotel. El Pato is a smooth, spicy tomato sauce (only a little thicker than a juice) that makes a great base for cheapy chili, Spanish rice, spicy spaghetti etc. Here's a link to the company's website: http://www.walkerfoods.net/product/pd... It has a remarkably good-sounding ingredients list, for something that is regularly stocked at Dollar Tree (not even any preservatives listed!


                                                                            And thank for the encouragement. I've actually started writing again this year (the first few years after I graduated were too exciting and overwhelming to get anything done), and I'm feeling a lot closer to using that degree. And hey, it takes more bravery than most people have to go back to school and be a starving student!

                                                                            And speaking of Dollar Tree, their Landmark dark chocolate bar is just about the best chocolate bar you can buy for $1.

                                                                            EDIT: I want to add that the What's for Dinner threads are just about the best source of inspiration on the internet.

                                                                            1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                                                              El Pato is amazing stuff. It's the secret to great SoCal strip sauce. In fact, it's nearly impossible to make without it.

                                                                              And yeah, it's just a great spicy tomato sauce, so versatile. I'm nuts for good dark chocolate, will try that bar for sure. :)

                                                                              1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                DuffyH- what is SoCal strip sauce? I just bought a can of that El Pato tomato sauce, and I'm looking for inspiration?

                                                                                1. re: parkerjaxmollymo

                                                                                  Back in the day, beaches from Newport to Manhattan (mine was Huntington) had snack stands on the beach. They sold strips (hot tortilla strips). Strip sauce was a mildly spicy, slightly sweet red sauce, in squeeze bottles.

                                                                                  It was akin to enchilada or taco sauce, but subtly, and wonderfully different. El Pato is the main ingredient. A local (Tampa) restaurant's table salsa is a near-perfect copy, taste-wise. The owner uses El Pato and ketchup, and IIRC, nothing else.

                                                                                  1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                    Now you've piqued my interest. I grew up in Hermosa Beach, 1965 to 85, and do not recall any snack stands on the beach in the South Bay (Redondo, Hermosa, Manhattan). I've never heard of SoCal sauce! Maybe "back in the day" was after my day?

                                                                                    1. re: tcamp


                                                                                      It's called "strip sauce", and only used on strips. I was there during the same time frame, '66 to '72, in Huntington. We also got them on Balboa Island, at Newport, and Seal beach, too. A dear friend in Manhattan Beach had them as well.

                                                                                      But no snack stands of any kind? How did you eat? I mean, as teenagers, there's no way in hell we'd pack in our own food. Well, we did bring Red Vines, but that's it.

                                                                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                        Here's more folks looking for that sauce!


                                                                                        And mods, we're still on topics as it's WAY cheaper to make your own tortilla chips, and sauce, than to buy them : )

                                                                                        1. re: happybaker


                                                                                          I'm the poster (SandyToes) who spent a weekend trying to recreate the sauce! Thanks for taking me down that memory again. :)

                                                                                          I tried the recipe with Karo syrup and vinegar and did not like it. I've come closer with just ketchup and El Pato. I just need the right ratio, and think there might be a little water to thin it out.

                                                                                          Sauce is definitely cheaper to make than buy, but chips? That's a toss-up, I'm thinking. Buying the tortillas at Sams, I get 6 dozen for what? $5 or 6? Is that right? I think that's right. I know from experience that 3 dozen tortillas fries up into about ½ a grocery bag of strips. I think it might be pretty close to the cost of buying them, especially if buying at Sams or Costco.

                                                                                          Now to be sure, I'm frying strips, most people fry triangles. I get 8 strips/tortilla, versus 6 triangles/tortilla. I do believe those triangles occupy more space, with their curled up edges and odd shape. There's a test worth running!

                                                                                          1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                            DuffyH -

                                                                                            I'm a huge El Pato fan and if you think it's just EP, Ketchup and water, trust me, I will be happy to try that!

                                                                                            As for the chips? Yes, I can get ready made chips for dirt cheap at costco. But I can also get 30 corn tortillas for $1 at the 99 cents store, cut, spray them with pam, sprinkle them with salt, bake them and get HEALTHY tortilla chips for way less than costco or TJ's.

                                                                                            I get 8 strips/triangles per tortilla, BTW.

                                                                                            Happy cooking to you!

                                                                                            1. re: happybaker

                                                                                              To all you El Pato fans: I learned about this sauce here years ago, and have since always had some in my pantry. Nothing else like it!

                                                                                              But a question: what is the difference between the yellow and the green can? I mean I know it's different peppers, but I never opened one of each and taste tasted. I just grab either when my recipe calls for it. Is one hotter than the other? Or what?

                                                                                            2. re: DuffyH

                                                                                              DuffyH -

                                                                                              I just reread the comments on Circle B.

                                                                                              Oh my gosh! What a hoot! I reposted your post to YOU.

                                                                                              That said, thankfully, my husband is used to me going on passionate cooking quests, trying to recreate something. If the worst that happens is, I can't? Well, then we feel a little better about paying for store-bought.

                                                                                              And if there is nt store-bought? Well then we know we've done our best.

                                                                                              1. re: happybaker


                                                                                                I go on those quests, too, so know just how you feel. Even the search is fun. Thanks for the tip about the dollar store tortillas, I'll see if our local one carries them.

                                                                                                BTW -I live near Tampa now, and cannot believe how hard it is to find some of my old Mexican staples. Cotija cheese? Sure, if I'm willing to haul my butt an hour to Whole Foods. Seriously? Just for some cotija? It's a sad state of affairs. :(

                                                                                          2. re: DuffyH

                                                                                            Around the Manhattan and Hermosa piers, there were restaurants and stands on the Strand. But nothing on the beach itself. There were some small, local grocery stores up a couple of blocks from the beach where you could buy sandwiches - The Green Store, Boccatos, etc.

                                                                                            Going to email my sister to see if she remembers strip sauce!

                                                                                  2. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                                                                    Love El Pato!

                                                                                    Their enchilada sauce is wonderful as well. And yes, no additives and, not that it matters - kosher!

                                                                                    1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                                                                      Two things I always have a dozen cans of in my pantry, Rotel and El Pato. Each is perfect for completely different reasons.

                                                                                  3. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                                                                    If you need any cooking tools or appliances, like a rice cooker, crock pot, dutch oven, etc, I suggest posting that need on freecycle.com. Then if anyone in your area has what you need, they give it to you for free! I have been trying to downsize my masses of kitchen stuff, and have so far given away a bread maker, microwave, extra saucepans, silverware and 4 crock pots to good homes. The people I gave it to are happy, I am happy, win-win all around!

                                                                                    It's also a great place to get herb seedlings or vegetable starts, pots, even potting soil.

                                                                                    1. re: littlemissmuffin

                                                                                      I've heard of freecycle but didn't know it could work like that. Next.

                                                                                    2. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                                                                      I'd be cautious about urban foraging: you need to know not only what's edible, but what your local ordanances are, and how the plants were treated. In my town, you can legally pick fruit that overhangs a public sidewalk: other places may have different rules. I know that a lot of the wild fennel plants (which look a lot like the highly poisonous hemlock, btw) are sprayed with an herbicide at certain times of the year. And as tasty as they might be, those pesky squirrels are protected.

                                                                                      You can, though, ask people if you can have surplus fruit, and some people (like me) often put out surplus produce for passersby.

                                                                                      If you're lucky enough to have access to several different stores, find out which ones have which cheap specialties. My neighborhood Mexican market is good for peppers, tomatoes, corn, spices, beans, most fresh vegetables and odder cuts of meat: it's lousy for general groceries, though: Safeway is the fall-back for those, usually.

                                                                                      Unless you are blessed with a lot of storage - including a freezer - learn not to overbuy perishables: if you can't use it before it goes bad it's wasted money no matter how cheap it is. If it's not likely to perish in your conditions - canned beans, tuna, tomatoes, for example - and it's something you normally use and you can afford the outlay stock up: the economist Andrew Tobias recommends tuna futures - in the form of a discount buy stored in their cans under the bed if necessary - as a fail-proof investment!

                                                                                      1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                        Last night I visited my garden plot and foraged lambs quarters, purslane, mulberries, and peppermint. Never even considered the squirrels which are looking very plump and tasty....hmm.

                                                                                        1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                          there are foraging groups led through some city parks with guides who teach this.. very intersting...

                                                                                          My friend in Dallas does an underground restraunt he did a whole menu of foraged food..except i think the chciken which was farm fresh and barttered for

                                                                                      2. I made this recipe from Rick Bayles for Pork Tinga. Only one pound of pork shoulder and you can omit the chorizo. And adjust the spices to suit your taste and what you have on hand. It makes a lot.


                                                                                        1. If you don't already check the budget meat bin at your local big box - It's always amazing to me that you pay huge money for an aged steak yet they market down by 30% to 50%or so after 5 days at the market...

                                                                                          Some of my favorite budget meals are Arroys Con Pollo - Puerto Rican / Cuban chicken and rice


                                                                                          Also Pernil - Pork Shoulder braised in garlic, oragno, Orange and lime juice (also cuban / pureto rican). Pork shoulder is frequently a buck a pound - you can make soup or beans from the bone also.


                                                                                          If there's a farmers market near - at my local toward the end of the day they sell just about everything for a dollar a bag... I can fill my backpack for less than 10 bucks...

                                                                                          I would also check locally about "second harvest" food sources the take left overs from resturants and give to the food bank.

                                                                                          Finally, Andrew zimmer (bizzare foods) did a special here in SF there were some very good tips for for food rescue from a non profit - food not bombs... It's on line and you can watch it here


                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: sparky403

                                                                                            Agree with pork shoulder. I recently made a Korean pork dish for a picnic and bought the butt for around $1.30 a pound. That, plus the condiments I served cost me only about $20.
                                                                                            There's just so much to do with the pork. So many ways to use it and ethnic twists you can apply.

                                                                                            1. re: monavano

                                                                                              Truly probably my favorite cut of any meat.

                                                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                                                I have a slab of pork belly marinating in salt and sugar in the fridge for a long, slow roast, maybe tomorrow. Oh, yum.

                                                                                                1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                  Just the two words "pork belly" make my salivary glands do a happy dance.

                                                                                            2. If you amortize the cost over multiple meals, I do this all the time, with ingredients that seem out of reach to most of my peers. For reference, I'm 30 and I live in a very expensive and affluent area of Washington, DC.

                                                                                              I try to shop at farmers markets as much as possible in season (about March-November here). At first, it seemed like I could never buy the pastured, grass-fed, healthy meat there because of the prices (chickens run about $5.99/lb, ground beef $8/lb, steaks are mostly around $20-25/lb). Produce actually tends to be cheaper at the market, but you're somewhat limited. I've never seen an artichoke, avocado, or any citrus at the farmers market, and i'm not sure I could live without them.

                                                                                              But here's the thing. I found that with a little work, you can find ways to stretch what you buy into many meals. Here's a real life example from this week.

                                                                                              I bought:
                                                                                              1 chicken ($26)
                                                                                              1 lb asparagus ($3.50)
                                                                                              3 lbs potatoes ($4)
                                                                                              1 bunch green onions ($2.50)
                                                                                              1 bunch garlic scapes ($1.25)
                                                                                              1 huge bag of mixed salad greens ($5)
                                                                                              1 lb barley ($4)

                                                                                              That's $46.25 total. I used these ingredients to make the following meals.

                                                                                              Roast chicken over potatoes, asparagus, and scapes (just threw it all in a roasting pan and went for an hour at 425. My wife and I ate this for dinner on Monday night. I juiced a lemon over the whole dish before serving (that cost another $.99 at the organic store on our corner) This puts the total at $47.24

                                                                                              All week (tuesday through friday), we had salads made with a few ounces of leftover chicken, cooked barley, and roasted veggies for lunch (4 lunches for two people). I made dressing using some sherry vinegar and olive oil. I'd say I used maybe $0.50 of vinegar and $1 of oil for the week. Plus a tablespoon of expensive dijon mustard (maybe $0.25?) Now we're at $48.99.

                                                                                              For dinner on Tuesday, we had a fritatta made with leftover potatoes and some frozen spinach (another $1 for the spinach and $2 for eggs at the farmers market) Total so far is $51.99. I also took the bones from the chicken and made about 1.5 quarts of stock that night.

                                                                                              On Wednesday, we had a soup made of chicken stock, canned tomatoes ($2.50), barley, and some dried mushrooms I had in the back of the pantry (maybe another dollar) and two artichokes I bought at Whole Foods (on sale for $2.50/each). Used another $0.99 lemon for the artichokes. Total is $56.48 so far.

                                                                                              Last night we had the last of the chicken and potatoes alongside a salad of chopped spring onions, english cucumbers ($4 for three of them at Whole Foods), and a tomato ($3 at Whole foods). $63.48.

                                                                                              So that's eight meals for two for $64. Works out to $2 per meal per person using fresh, local, and expensive (very expensive for the chicken) ingredients. I've still got some barley and potatoes left, along with about a cup of chicken stock and a little bit of the meat, maybe enough for another hearty soup. Oh - and we did eat breakfast this week (don't always), but i didn't include it because it was a big batch of steel cut oats I made on Monday night and kept in the fridge all week (maybe $1 for the oats - 10 cents or something per portion).

                                                                                              I didn't always cook this way, and it was a very big adjustment. The transition from cooking meals from fresh ingredients only to building off of them took a lot of creative thought, but now that I'm used to it, it comes naturally. In the beginning, I would plan what to do with each ingredient, but now, having done this for about a year it's all improvisation. Tamar Adler's book (which doesn't need any more love on the internets) was a big help in that regard.

                                                                                              51 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: unburritable


                                                                                                I now naturally cook this way, it became a habit. I am a fan of purchasing high quality and expensive ingredients that are often more economical in the long run.
                                                                                                Duck fat is expensive and a "specialty product" in the US but it can be reused....many times! All expensive specialty spice mixes and infused salts can be easily made at home. No need to eat rice all week, but it takes a bit of practice and a different kind of thinking to think "weekly" or monthly about meals.

                                                                                                1. re: unburritable

                                                                                                  While the general approach is sound, that is an insane price per pound for meat that's available at a grocer for half that, particularly for someone who must use the cash they have for paper products, etc. not covered by SNAP. Why do you believe it is "healthy meat"?

                                                                                                  1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                                                                    I don't this to turn into a debate about meat, but I think the science is fairly clear on the difference between industrially-raised and pasture-raised meats.

                                                                                                    For chickens, see http://news.psu.edu/story/140750/2003...
                                                                                                    (most of the other articles I've found on chickens include footage of farms that I don't want to link here, because it's not productive or relevant



                                                                                                    Anyway, my point was that even paying very high prices for meat that I (personally) feel good about (and everyone should do whatever they want - I'm not on any kind of high horse), I can cook a full week's worth of meals on relatively little money. If I remember correctly, full chickens in the supermarket here tend to run about $3/lb, so one could feasibly save about $15 by buying meat there, maybe even more, bringing the total for the week well under $50.

                                                                                                    Plus, here in DC, at least, farmers markets not only accept SNAP benefits, they have raised private funds for matching, which means every dollar of SNAP money is worth two at the market.

                                                                                                    Again, I don't want to make any presumptions or prescriptions for anyone's life. My post was and this is meant to be illustrative of how I cook. My goal is to eliminate as much waste as possible (I even save peels and scraps from vegetables in the freezer for use in stock) to aid in getting the most out of one's grocery spend, regardless of the amount or source of the funds in question.

                                                                                                    1. re: unburritable

                                                                                                      We sell pasture-raised chickens where I work for $2.99/lb, but I guess it's different in different places (I can't imagine spending $3/lb on supermarket chickens, either...). I was told recently that Trader Joe's sells organic, free range chickens for $2.50/lb, but I haven't confirmed this (and I don't know if they're actually pasture-raised or just "free range" which can mean they're just kept in a slightly larger cage). I think it's safe to say that shopping around is a good idea before spending $26 on a chicken, especially if you have a small budget.

                                                                                                      That said, I agree that no waste is the best policy. Almost everything, from leftovers to bones to vegetable trimmings can have a use, and when you eat this way, it is absolutely possible to buy higher-quality ingredients, even with limited resources.

                                                                                                      1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                                                                                        Trader Joe's sells organic pre brined chickens (I believe they're from Coleman) for $2.99 per lb and about $2.59 in NY for non brined. Costco sells a 2 pack of Coleman organic chickens for $2.59 per lb.

                                                                                                        I used every bit, saving backs and wing tips in a Ziplock bag in the freezer until I'm ready to make a rich, concentrated stock to freeze in small portions with it, or just soup.

                                                                                                      2. re: unburritable

                                                                                                        Thanks for the links. The articles actually say the key nutrients are equivalent, although there are higher trace-values for some nutrients (e.g. omega-3's) typically gotten from other food-sources (e.g., salmon).

                                                                                                        The use-everything, cook at home approach is, indeed, the way to best stretch the food budget. As you say, even paying very high prices for meat a home-cook can make a full week's worth of meals for relatively little money.

                                                                                                    2. re: unburritable

                                                                                                      I'm still trying to wrap my mind around paying $26 for a chicken. But we all spend our money differently.

                                                                                                      1. re: miss_belle

                                                                                                        I would invite those who pay the price for organic free range chicken to inquire about the breed and raising conditions. The organic label does not protect you or your family. Chickens raised for meat are Cornish X cross, long available in organic. They constantly gorge and rarely go outside although that port hole is available. They are ready in 10 weeks, and yes, they ate only organic grains, but they are couchers, and people pay for this.
                                                                                                        Ask your seller about Cornish X cross at a market, and look straight in the eye.

                                                                                                        1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                          My favorite poultry/egg vendor at the farmers market labels the Cornish X as Cornish X--no attempt at hiding anything. I personally prefer her heritage roosters--great flavor. Can't remember offhand what the price per pound is for either, though.

                                                                                                          1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                            And chickens aren't vegetarians unless that's all they're offered. They're omnivores so pastured chickens are getting lots of protein. Chickens and eggs are very misunderstood products - by many people.

                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                              The organic Cornish X cross chickens won't go outside for bugs seeds and grass. They prefer organic corn and grains, indoors. If you do manage to acquire a rare pastured organic Cornish X cross meat-bred chicken, it will be tough as nails. We seem to prefer the 10 week grain fed bird.

                                                                                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                                Too bad for the animals and for us :(

                                                                                                                1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                                  We sell pasture-raised birds, and we've had several customers complain about them being tough. It's just the nature of the thing. The more the muscles are used, the tougher they'll be. (I don't remember what kind they are.... I remember hearing red sex links, but I think that's our egg producer.)

                                                                                                          2. re: unburritable

                                                                                                            This is perhaps the most radical idea., My first thought is that I am not buying a $26 chicken, but I detect the voice of reason in your post, and now will have to rethink my resistance.

                                                                                                            1. re: unburritable

                                                                                                              What a great week of meals. Wholesome, economical, compassionate, and frugal.

                                                                                                              1. re: unburritable

                                                                                                                I think there's a flaw with your math.... not with your cooking. I think 8 meals for 2 is $4/per meal per person, not $2. If one was into saving money couldn't these items in their non-organic form at the grocery store or produce mart for about half that? I just got artichokes on sale at $1 each and barley Is generally about half of what you pay. I'm 'middle class' and can't buy $26 chickens. To me that's beyond my range,

                                                                                                                1. re: debbypo

                                                                                                                  I think an experiment is in order. Try going out with $50.00 and see what you can get with it and how you balance out your basic food needs with this. It is a struggle, I am sure.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                                                                    Depends on for how many people and how many meals the $50 has to cover and whether you're including pantry staples in the $50 (as in starting from nothing vs. already having certain basics in stock).

                                                                                                                    1. re: desertginger

                                                                                                                      Feeding more than 2 on $50/week is going to be difficult, even with a certain amount in the pantry, unless it's just for that one week. On a regular basis it would become a challenge. Even if one of those people is a child getting a free lunch at school, that still leaves weekends, vacations, and holidays.

                                                                                                                      As Ruthie789 noted, it would be a challenge. It's very easy if you're only eating ramen noodles, but a balanced diet?

                                                                                                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                        I think it would make for an interesting challenge, maybe over on the General Topics board. I can easily do 1 person on $50/week so with some extra effort I could probably do 2. I will say, it would be hard if I didn't already have a stocked pantry and spice cabinet though, and I don't mind buying non-organic meats... although I hope to someday be at the financial point where I can afford all organic, free range etc. I also live in an area with relatively low grocery costs. It would be difficult in New England or larger cities.

                                                                                                                        1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                          I can (and do - most often than not) feed 4 people for $50 a week (including everything) and usually it is less than that - all delicious, healthy meals. I think it is just a matter of choices, whether one decides to have chicken thighs instead of steak or no meat at all and in addition, eat healthier/smaller portions which is great for health, weight and the wallet.

                                                                                                                          1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                            We eat small portions of animal protein, and larger portions of grains, veg and fruit. But still, you're doing it for ~$7/day for 4? That's less than $2pp/day. I find that astounding, and more credit to you for doing it.

                                                                                                                            Even baking bread, mixing my own spice blends (no seasoning or soup packets in my house), making my own dressings, BBQ sauce, salsa, etc... We do at least one meatless dinner every week, and it's usually a sandwich for lunch, stovetop popcorn for snacks and so on. I can barely feed 2 for $50/wk. And sometimes I can't. Part of the problem is limited freezer space, which means I can't stock up on cheap whole chickens and meat sales, so I'm often forced to buy chicken broth, etc...

                                                                                                                            1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                              Dal with rice (with or without homemade bread) - Lentils $1/lb; 3 tomatoes - $1.49; 1 onion - $0.20; 2 cloves garlic - $0.07; spices (you can make this without any spice but salt, but if you add 1/2 tsp of cumin, turmeric, cayenne still insignificant; rice ($0.50 for 2 cups - enough for 4 people) total: $3 for four people (there will be leftovers for lunch)
                                                                                                                              Example #2:
                                                                                                                              Penne all'arrabbiata with tomato sauce - 2 cans of diced tomatoes ($2), salt, pepper, cayenne pepper or 1 chili pepper; Penne (at TJ they are $1/lb - I think that is enough for four, if not make two) Total: $3-$4 - (if you make your own pasta it will reduce price by half and there will be twice as much pasta).
                                                                                                                              Example #3:
                                                                                                                              Rice stir fry with mixed vegetables: Rice (2 cups) $0.50; mixed vegetables ($1/lb); some soy sauce/sesame oil/s&p - $1 - Total: $2.50
                                                                                                                              Example #4
                                                                                                                              8 chicken thighs ($4.50) with 5 pound bag of mashed potatoes (I get them at ALDI's for $1, but in most stores they are $2.50) Total: $7 (I would think 8 thighs would be enough for four people)

                                                                                                                              1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                My wife came from a large family and is the king of combining sale items with coupons. We are very fortunate that $$$ is not a major concern but you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I buy all the beef, pork & seafood from purveyors but she buys the rest at supermarkets. In her estimate, grocery costs have gone up at least 50% in the past 5 years. $50.00 p/week for a family would be tough but not impossible. Many Russian immigrants do it for fare less. They are just glad not to stand in line for 8 hours to get the basics.

                                                                                                                              2. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                What size portions and how do you define "healthier?" I can't eat wholesome, non factory farmed chicken thighs, even from Costco and make healthy meals with adequate protein for less than %40 per week in metro ny. Maybe you are closer to the sources/farms for healthy foods?

                                                                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                  <Maybe you are closer to the sources/farms for healthy foods?>

                                                                                                                                  Agree. 3 tomatoes for $1.49, romas, maybe, right now. 1 onion for $.20? Even now, at my local produce stand, local Florida/Georgia onions are $.89-99/lb. That's one very small onion you've got.

                                                                                                                                  The rest of the year, those tomatoes will be more like $1.69-$2.29/lb, getting more expensive as winter approaches. The onions likewise go up in price, but not as much.

                                                                                                                                  Even here in Florida, fresh produce isn't cheap. And you've shown us 3 meals out of 4 that are meatless. While I agree meatless is the way to go to eat well for cheap, that would never fly in my house. My Dude is diabetic, and a preponderance of grains is not what he needs for optimal health. Veggies are key for him, which brings us back to the inescapable truth that fresh produce costs.

                                                                                                                                  And that still leaves 2 more meals with, on average, $4/day to cover breakfast and lunch for 4 people. I really don't see how to do it week in, week out, but more power to you for pulling it off. :)

                                                                                                                                  1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                    It isn't so difficult to pull it off. One just has to take the time to budget their meals :)
                                                                                                                                    I don't want to sound like other people eating $26 chickens are making bad decisions, but I personally couldn't live like that (and I don't mean money wise)
                                                                                                                                    In general, I buy the products I need at different stores - because different stores have some things worth the price and other things not so much.
                                                                                                                                    Walmart/Aldi sells onions in a bag at 3 pounds for $1.59 (at our local supermarket the same bag is $1.99) - 0.99/pound is $3 for the same bag.
                                                                                                                                    Tomatoes (off the vine) sold at Aldi for $1.49 - (Roma's cost $0.99/lb - which are not bad for cooking!)
                                                                                                                                    When winter approaches, I move to canned - or start making something else - if I cook using seasonal vegetables, things are much cheaper.

                                                                                                                                    If I want meat with every meal, I still do so under $50/week!! I can have chicken and fish every day for under $50/week. Four chicken thighs (1.5 pounds of meat) cost $2.20 at ALDI's and Trader Joe's sells cod for $4/pound.

                                                                                                                                    My totals came out to less than $50/week because I knew I had to add in breakfast and lunch which in our house is usually an egg-white omelet ($0.13/egg) with a few leaves of spinach ($3 pound of spinach can last a week) with homemade pita ($0.40 for 16 pitas)

                                                                                                                                    1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                      It does help that you have access to both Aldi and Trader Joe's. I have neither where I live in Colorado, near Denver. The cheapest I can get boneless skinless thighs is $1.99/lb. I can get bone-in for 99 cents/lb. Forget about buying any kind of decent fish for under $10/lb around here.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                        Yes, it does. I love both of those stores :)
                                                                                                                                        By the way, bone in chicken thighs at $0.99/pound is great! If you buy 4 chicken thighs - that is about 1.5 pounds - which comes to $1.50/pound for pure meat (no skins, no bones - and of course you can use the bones for broth)...
                                                                                                                                        People buy sliced turkey/salami for $7-$8/pound!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                          No surprise that I agree. Prices are similar here, shopping Sam's and Wal-mart, although I can score IQF cod for $7/lb. But still nowhere near $4.

                                                                                                                                          Alas, no TJ or Aldi's in Tampa. I do have TJ bags from my yrs in SoCal. When folks see them, they ALWAYS ask me where TJ is. :(

                                                                                                                                          I DO know that we could for much less $$ than we do now, IF we had a freezer. But that is now at son's house, he feeds 6 people every day, and the 4 boys are, well, boys. We do borrow a shelf, but realistically, he needs it way more than we do. Any food savings would likely be offset anyway, by the need to place it on an outside wall in our garage, driving our electric bill sky high. Not a good thing in Tampa.

                                                                                                                                          EDIT - I should have noted that I agree with juliejulez. My bad. :(

                                                                                                                                        2. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                          Regarding the 3 lb onion bags.... I have been getting those at my local grocer lately, but I've found that they rot/sprout SO much faster than the ones from the bin. I had the same problem with Wal-Mart's bagged onions and thought it was just them, so stopped buying them there. But it seems to be an issue where ever I buy them.

                                                                                                                                          I end up throwing a lot away and would have been better off buying the more expensive ones. Just something to think about when you're being budget conscious.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Kontxesi

                                                                                                                                            Is it possible to cut the onions into slices / wedges or puree them, and then freeze?
                                                                                                                                            They won't have any crunch when thawed, but will they work for sauteeing etc?
                                                                                                                                            If yes, then it might be cost effective to buy the bagged onions.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                              You can dice and keep in a tightly sealed container in the frige for a week or dice them and freeze them but they do give off a lot of liquid when cooked so you have to keep that in mind in choosing what to make with them. Not my favorite but I do favor it over waste!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                It works fine if you're using them in soups and sauces where they're not the star. I do the same thing with red bell peppers.

                                                                                                                                                One thing that does freeze beautifully is diced jalapeños. I use them frequently, so buy 10 or more at a time, seed and small dice them, toss em in a quart freezer bag. Fresh peppers whenever I want them. They stay quite firm. Even in pico de gallo, they've still got some crunch.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                They can be sautéed or carmelized and frozen to use later.

                                                                                                                                              3. re: Kontxesi

                                                                                                                                                I agree. If you find yourself throwing anything out - you should never buy in bulk - and not just onions.
                                                                                                                                                A 3lb onion bag in our house is gone in about 4 days. There is nothing I cook that isn't started off with onions and garlic! I bake them halved with my chicken, I eat them raw - finely chopped with finely chopped parsley, I sautee them with tomatoes and green beans, etc. So I can even buy four bags and finish them off before they start to sprout :)

                                                                                                                                                1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                  For me it has nothing to do with how quickly I use onions, but their condition at the time of purchase. If I can't hand pick each onion, it seems to be the norm that at least a few within a 3-lb bag are mushy in the interiors. They look fine on the exterior, but cutting them in half reveals that several layers (or all) are translucent and mushy. It's infuriating. I wind up tossing the bad ones, which means that I'm saving nothing by buying this way. I wind up buying my onions singly. In Canada, where I live, I have paid more than $2 for a large red onion. I don't know how anyone where I live could eat comfortably on $40 per week, unless most meals consist of beans and grains. The only deal I get is from my farm fresh egg source ($3 per dozen). Her eggs vary in size, but most are in the large-XL range. My grocery store organic chickens range from $14 - 20 each, depending on size. Rabbits run $22 - 32, depending on size. Organic eggs are $6.19. You'd think that going veg would be cheaper, but I haven't found that, either. I frequently find that 4 large apples cost me $3, a bunch of bananas is in the $2.50 range and grapes ... $$$. I almost exclusively do self-checkout at the grocery store because I prefer not to have cashiers chit chat with me about what I'm buying and what it costs.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                                                                                                    I am not a vegetarian and I eat meat three times a week - still under $50 for four for three meals a day. We eat fish ($4/pound at TJ) and chicken ($1.19/lb at both TJ and ALDI), pasta (either homemade or $1/pound at TJ) and vegetables, grains (mostly homemade) and legumes ($1/pound of lentils, garbanzo beans, etc) and fruit. I buy a dozen eggs at TJ for $1.53 and bananas are $0.19 each (also at TJ's). With regards to onions - I've never had a bad onion in the bag - ever. If I did, I'd just return them - so instead of it being infuriating, it would just be an extra trip to the market - no biggie. I think if that ever happened to me I would get a bag for free plus a refund (love living in the U.S.)

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                    Four days! Wow. How many people are you cooking for? I use tons of garlic and onions, too, but it probably takes two weeks to go through three pounds at my house, minimum. That's for two people who only eat one meal at home during the week, though.

                                                                                                                                                    I was always told to refrigerate sweet onions, but not storage onions. I might just have to start tossing them all in the fridge when I get them.

                                                                                                                                                  3. re: Kontxesi

                                                                                                                                                    I've had the same problem with bagged sweet onions. I thought it was just that I wasn't using them up fast enough. You know, versus buying 3-4 at a time from a bin, combined with the warm Florida weather. Good to know it's not just me.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Kontxesi

                                                                                                                                                      Bagged onions or any other bagged produce can sprout & rot so much faster. Those 5lb bags of produce can turn out to be wasted money. If you don't have a large enough family that will consume that bag within a reasonable time, don't buy it. I had to break away from those "sale bags" because I tend to be a hoarder & when I saw a sale, I naturally thought I would be saving a bunch of money.

                                                                                                                                                      It is often better to just select 3 or so really fresh onions, potatoes, oranges or apples & use those up within the week. There will be more there next week, so don't panic.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cstout

                                                                                                                                                        If there is a vegetable that freezes well, it would save some $ to buy in bulk, then cut and freeze in gallon Ziplocks (the 99 cents store sells them, so you don't have to go name-brand).Not sure if you can cut and freeze potatoes, but I think you can freeze mashed potatoes (seeing as they sell frozen mashed at Trader Joes, and also they come in frozen TV dinners all the time.)

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                                                                          Yes, buying in bulk & freezing saves money IF you have the freezer space.

                                                                                                                                                          Raw potatoes do not freeze well, but any kind of baked or cooked potato can be frozen.

                                                                                                                                                          I was amazed at how many fruits & veggies could be frozen. Lemons & limes can be sliced in wedges & put on a cookie sheet to be flash frozen & then put in freezer bags. They won't be attractive for serving in tea, they will have lost their bright skin color, but can certainly be squeezed on top of a soup or salad. Will taste just like fresh, even in the tea.

                                                                                                                                                          When in doubt about freezing something - just google "how to freeze blah blah". You will find a ton on information.

                                                                                                                                                          Remember, moisture is a bad thing when freezing, so make sure your veggies are dry before putting in freezer bags.

                                                                                                                                                          I just learned about spreading plastic wrap on top of the soup before freezing it. Will prevent the top from having that layer of freezer "burn".

                                                                                                                                                          These are just some tips that I have learned along the way. Just thought I would share with everyone.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cstout

                                                                                                                                                            Great tips. I forgot about freezer space-I have none! Should the plastic wrap tip also apply to sauces?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: schrutefarms

                                                                                                                                                              Yes, the plastic wrap will work for sauces too, if the sauce is not too thin so the plastic wrap won't sink to the bottom. Just gently lay it down & spread the wrap toward the edges of the container.

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: cstout

                                                                                                                                                              <I just learned about spreading plastic wrap on top of the soup before freezing it. Will prevent the top from having that layer of freezer "burn".>

                                                                                                                                                              With limited freezer space, everything I freeze is in bags, even soup. I just squeeze out as much air as is practical and zip, then lay them flat in the freezer. Works great. I do leave a bit of air in soups and sauces for expansion.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                I even freeze homemade guacamole this way. Put in a zipper bag, squeeze out excess air, flatten. Then I defrost it by putting bag and all in a bowl of warm water. Have never had it fail yet.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                        One chicken thigh per person?

                                                                                                                                        3. re: unburritable

                                                                                                                                          If you have a car, get up early on Sunday morning and run up to Baltimore for their farmer's market. Once I was buying some apples and they quoted me some outrageous price. I questioned it and the guy said "Oops, we were in DC yesterday. That's what we charge there." Seriously, similar chickens to what you're paying $26 for are about $12 in Baltimore. You'll save money and have fun.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: JonParker

                                                                                                                                            it reallly was a 26 dollar chicken? I thought that was a typo.
                                                                                                                                            5,65 for a three pound free range farmers makert chicken here. I just catered my chior end of the year banquet and did chicken and used 40 pounds of chicken and 20 pounds of bacon and some other incidentals and the cost was 208 for food.

                                                                                                                                        4. The Mr. and I were starving students when we got married, and here it is decades later and we're in a much better financial situation, but I still use some of the skills and recipes I developed way back then. Hang in there; hopefully, as the economy improves, so will your wallet.

                                                                                                                                          In the meantime, as some have written, consider ethnic foods and ethnic markets. The Mr. is from India, and I learned a lot of my Indian recipes when we were students. Get an Indian (or some other ethnicity you like) cookbook from the library (saves money), and try some dals, curries (small bits of meat, lots of vegetables) or somesuch.

                                                                                                                                          Spices can be expensive when bought from the grocery store, but look in the ethnic aisle (off-brands, often fine spices), ethnic markets, or those bulk-bins in "health-food" stores (I still sometimes buy a few tablespoons of a spice if that's all I need--lots of $avings there).

                                                                                                                                          Save leftover vegetable bits in the freezer--make stock or continue collecting until there's enough for a soup, with homemade bread (I do naan, tortillas, cornbread--all filling, wholesome and cheap).

                                                                                                                                          Best wishes, and keep us informed about what you try!

                                                                                                                                          14 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: pine time

                                                                                                                                            Great suggestion about the spices! I haven't bought anything in a jar in literally years. I'm not going to pay for the jar, the lid and the label. And they're fresher.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                              I have some "store bought spice" jars I've been refilling with bulk spices for DECADES!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                I love my decades old spice jars. Some still have the tiny paper price label--85 cents, 50 cents. Wow!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                  the ones from penseys are flint. and you can get them for free if you subscribe to their newsletter

                                                                                                                                              2. re: pine time

                                                                                                                                                Yes! Indian! Some stuff I know, and I even have turmeric, garam masala, etc. (Kastulyans on a visit to NYC) but I need to learn how to bake nan and paratha.Why hadn't I thought of this? It's so worth while to ask a question here.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                  I've never been on food assistance, but as a grad student I was pretty poor. Indian was one of my mainstays! Easy to be economical with Indian food.

                                                                                                                                                  You can also make your own paneer from supermarket milk--it was a lot easier to make that I'd anticipated!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                    Naan is so ridiculously easy to make... this recipe is easy and cheap: http://www.budgetbytes.com/2010/09/naan/ In fact, you might want to cruise around that blog.... obviously prices vary by area but there are some really great cheap meal ideas.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                                      Oh, thanks.And thanks for the spelling hint :)

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                        You can also vary the spices (if you choose to use any) on the naan to avoid taste-boredom. And aloo paratha is the food of the gods. Try puris, too. Much of Indian food springs from the masses who need filling and cheap eats (except for the richness of Moghlai food, also excellent).

                                                                                                                                                        Good luck!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                                          Disappointed with my naan from that recipe, in part because my lack of pancake-cooking skills transferred to this, too. If I try again, I'll need to add more salt and ask someone else to handle the skillet. I gave up after the 4th one and formed the rest of the dough into trefoil rolls & baked in a muffin pan, 20 min at 350 degrees.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                                                                                                                            Yeah mine weren't too pretty looking, rather amoebic, but they tasted good. I'm horrible at flipping things too.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                                            The quick yogurt cucumber sauce at this link is an easy way to use up what's left of a 5 or 6 oz small container of Greek yogurt after making the naan. Equal parts yogurt & sour cream, with shredded cucumber, lemon juice, and small amts of cumin & parsley. Tasty.

                                                                                                                                                            corrected link is

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                                                                                                                              Sounds like a raita. I've made it with straight Greek yogurt, but if I have small leftover amounts of yogurt or sour cream or buttermilk, it goes in as well. Try sprinkling some CI roasted cumin on top--just delicious.

                                                                                                                                                      2. Actually kale, chard and meat (except for chicken) is very expensive. Instead, use Lentils and make Dal served with rice - delicious, healthy and cheap - costs around $2.00 serve it with rice (another $0.50) and it serves 8 people. Another suggestion is pasta - I buy a pound of pasta at Trader Joe's for $1 plus $2 for two cans of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce - and you have a meal for 8 for $3. Another suggestion is buying chicken thighs (I purchase four chicken thighs for $2 - serve them roasted in the oven over rice or cut them up in small chunks and serve in a pita pocket with hummus ($1/can) and you have a schwarma sandwich - (make your own pitas - and you'll have 16 regular size pitas for under $1)

                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                          Today I bought orzo and leeks, to make a "creamy" (milk, goat cheese) baked casserole.

                                                                                                                                                          I never thought of baking pita! Thanks! I make a lot of Hummus and Baba Ganoush.

                                                                                                                                                        2. Our food writer did a story on this last year, after discovering that our "home economics" writer had done the same thing in 1933:


                                                                                                                                                          The BLT Pasta was very tasty, even cold after the photo shoot!

                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                          1. One of the most difficult things to deal with on very limited food budgets is the dietary need for quality, bioavailable proteins. Even obese folks are often severely malnourished as a result of this.

                                                                                                                                                            I applaud your use of fresh, in season produce, and encourage you to seek out cuts of meat on sale that you can chop or grind yourself. stewing hens, turkey, etc... if you cut them up at home, chop or grind your own, they can be as economical as grains and beans and much healthier as more than a condiment.

                                                                                                                                                            I don't know what facilities you have to prepare or store it, but I do those things to improve the quality of what we eat, not the cost, necessarily.

                                                                                                                                                            And eggs are a perfect food, so many ways to use them for any meal.

                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                              If I were in NYC I could get "old fowl" at Fairway, but out here in the sticks it's either $26 chicken as sold to the rich folk with 2nd homes (not reconciled to that idea) or whatever Halal or Kosher chicken I can find in the supermarket. It's almost always young. Leg quarters are cheap though, and I detach the back portion that they leave on, and use it for stock, along with chicken feet for collagen. Eggs I buy by the tray.

                                                                                                                                                            2. First of all, shop the sales. If your local supermarket(s) put their sales flyers online, and you have regular access to the Internet, you can see what's on sale and make a list before you leave. This week, for example, my local Winn-Dixie has 2-4-1's on top round roast, boneless-skinless chicken breasts, pork country-style ribs, and frozen bagged fish fillets, among other meats. Buy and cook one and stash the "free" one in the freezer for later!

                                                                                                                                                              Shop farmer's and ethnic markets, especially for such staples as bulk rice and different kinds of beans. (Red lentils, f'rinstance are $8 for a bag of Bob's Red Mill at Publix and about $4 for a *bigger* bag at my local Indian market).

                                                                                                                                                              Buy fresh vegetables and fruits in season. Right now peaches are on sale around here (then again, I'm in Florida, just south of the Georgia border, go figure). Cheap produce staples are cabbage, onions, potatoes, and bananas.

                                                                                                                                                              For bread and baked goods, see if you have a bakery thrift store nearby.

                                                                                                                                                              Often the best time to buy "holiday" ingredients is just AFTER the holiday, when the market needs to clear out the Thanksgiving turkeys/St Patrick's Day corned beef /Easter hams/New Year's sparkling ciders/etc. to make room for their next shipment.

                                                                                                                                                              If you have a freezer, save scraps of chicken bones/skin and veggie peelings (without pesticides) for stock. It doesn't matter whether the chicken is already cooked or not; you'll simply need more bones and meat scraps if it is.

                                                                                                                                                              If you have space, try growing your own herbs. You can also save seeds from produce and try to grow your own (this from someone who TRIED, without much success, to grow red bell peppers last year. Can't believe they go for $3.99 / lb! That's more than CHICKEN!).

                                                                                                                                                              Team up with friends to buy in bulk and split. I've done this with 10-pound bags of rice.

                                                                                                                                                              Store bread, tightly closed, in your freezer. It'll keep near indefinitely that way. I do this with herbs, too: I'll go ahead and WASH and chop a bunch of parsley, then freeze it. Can't tell the difference between fresh and frozen as long as the dish is cooked, and it's so convenient! (This doesn't work for dishes that need extra-fresh herbs, like tabbouleh and chimichurri, though).

                                                                                                                                                              Do the same with homemade stock: reduce and freeze. Nothing enhances a dish quite like homemade stock, especially if you have some aromatics (celery leaves, carrot and onion peelings, leek tops) to put in it.

                                                                                                                                                              Save drippings from any meat you roast, refrigerate it, skim the fat off, and treat like stock. If you have a use for the skimmed-off fat, you can use that, too. (It's the secret to my chicken-and-rice pilaf: sauté the onion and rice in the rendered chicken fat, mmmmm!).

                                                                                                                                                              Look into home canning. Some larger cities have commercial kitchens and equipment you can use free or for a small fee. (Again, teaming up with friends is a good idea!).

                                                                                                                                                              If your fridge space is limited, keep a hermetically-sealed carton of Parmalat milk (or the equivalent) on hand. Powdered milk is generally cheaper, but, frankly, I wouldn't want to drink it. I'll cook with it, though!

                                                                                                                                                              If you drink coffee but don't finish off the entire pot, refrigerate the leftovers. They'll taste fresh for a couple of days, and you can either reheat (preferably by microwave) or make iced coffee! Ditto for hot tea.

                                                                                                                                                              If you have the time, space, and inclination, you can make some items that are partially self-replicating: sourdough starter, homemade yogurt/kefir/buttermilk.

                                                                                                                                                              Remember, the barter system is alive and well! Lots of people feel too tired to cook and might be willing to make you a trade / hire you to cook for them.

                                                                                                                                                              Yes, I know you asked for recipes, but you can't really plan a meal until you have the ingredients (or at least have an idea of what you'll have on hand!). Some "frugal yet healthy" meals we often have are:

                                                                                                                                                              Chicken & dumplings (loaded with veggies!)
                                                                                                                                                              Spaghetti (ditto!)
                                                                                                                                                              Quesadillas (use GOOD tortillas from Hispanic market)
                                                                                                                                                              Stuffed bell peppers (with meat if possible, with rice or cornbread and veggies if not)
                                                                                                                                                              Beans & rice (many, many different kinds/flavors)
                                                                                                                                                              Crustless quiche/frittata
                                                                                                                                                              Stuffed cabbage rolls (see note about stuffed peppers)
                                                                                                                                                              Meat & Veggie Stir Fry
                                                                                                                                                              Soup (ideally with warm crusty bread)
                                                                                                                                                              This time of year, salads.

                                                                                                                                                              Hope this helps.

                                                                                                                                                              18 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Chowbird

                                                                                                                                                                "If you have space, try growing your own herbs. You can also save seeds from produce and try to grow your own (this from someone who TRIED, without much success, to grow red bell peppers last year. Can't believe they go for $3.99 / lb! That's more than CHICKEN!)."

                                                                                                                                                                Most grocery store produce items are hybrids that will not grow true to what you bought (they may revert to a "parent" plant and may be undesirable on their own.) or may be engineered to be sterile. To grow from seeds they need to be open pollinated varieties which aren't often found in major stupidmarkets, they generally carry produce selected for its ability to be shipped well and stay on shelves for as long as possible. There are all sorts of seed trades for open pollinated/ heirloom varieties on the internet, though- just check out some gardening sites. There's even a gardening forum here on Chowhound and I'd bet a request for whatever seeds someone could spare would be met with help. Gardeners are usually a generous bunch if it means someone else will be able to garden, too.

                                                                                                                                                                There are a lot of things that are super easy to grow from produce items, though- the bases of green onions put in a pot of damp soil in a sunny window or porch will continue to grow the green parts that can be snipped with scissors. It doesn't require any gardening "skill" and its nice to have the fresh taste snipped over salads, potatoes, chicken, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks, Weezieduzzit! Now I don't have to blame my non-existent gardening skills for the Great Red Bell Pepper Failure of 2012. :)

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Chowbird

                                                                                                                                                                    I'm coming to this a little late, but you should know that SNAP benefits are not only good for food, they're good for edible plants and seeds used to grow food. This might be difficult to manage on an already underfunded SNAP budget, but it is an option.

                                                                                                                                                                    From the FDA web site: "The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 defines an eligible food as "any food or food product for home consumption and also includes seeds and plants which produce food for consumption by SNAP households."

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Chowbird

                                                                                                                                                                  Some great ideas there. I always try to render chicken fat when I buy leg quarters for soup, I save bacon grease, too, when I have it. I make lots of Mexicanish food, mostly with pork shoulder and fresh chiles (Poblanos, Serranos)

                                                                                                                                                                  Crustless quiche! Never thought of it!

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                    You sound like a very organized person who likes and knows how to cook.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                                                                                                                      My very first girlfriend taught me to love cooking when I was 17, and now I am 64.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                        I actually linked your post to another thread about "food insecurity." Making the point that you, as a knowledgeable cook struggles and imagine what others are up against. Congrats.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                          Thank you. I meant this for others as well. I hope they find it.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Chowbird

                                                                                                                                                                    So many great ideas. Thank you for taking the time and effort to leave me such a thoughtful and useful post.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Chowbird

                                                                                                                                                                      Leftover coffee can be frozen in cubes to make frozen coffee drinks.
                                                                                                                                                                      It's pretty simple, as long as you have a blender.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                          Me :)
                                                                                                                                                                          My husband makes me a full pot every morning, and sometimes I don't drink the whole thing. I save the leftovers for iced coffee or cubes

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                            and me :)
                                                                                                                                                                            I love iced coffee (hate Iced tea) and I, too, freeze into iced coffee cubes for a refreshing drink on a hot day! I blend the cubes and it turns into a coffee slush - or a coffee sorbet

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                              Raising her hand! Summer is all about iced coffee..including Vietnamese/Thai and frozen java ice pops! Discount stores sell the pop molds all summer long.


                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                                                                                                            My head is bowed in shame. My intricate coffee ritual involves me weighing and grinding exactly enough coffee for my 15 oz. mug. I always drink all of it. Excellent coffee is made considerably more affordable by buying it green, and roasting it yourself on the stovetop.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                              I love my coffee, but I'm no coffee snob. Chock full o nuts or $80/lb, doesn't matter...if its got caffeine and tastes like coffee I'll drink it!

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                                                                                                                It's the ritual that's soothing. These are anxious times.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                I do exactly the same thing - buy green beans, roast them, weigh out a portion that is just right for my favorite mug every morning as my water heats. Once you have a little experience roasting you can have a really good cup for much less than if you went to a coffee bar or even if you bought good quality already roasted beans.

                                                                                                                                                                          3. Have you visited the SNAP website for some meal planning ideas? There's a recipe file (by ingredient), a build your own recipe book, plenty of tips and shopping list tools. Good information there to round out your meal planning.


                                                                                                                                                                            and http://www.fns.usda.gov/fncs-recipe-box


                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: HillJ


                                                                                                                                                                              this is one of the recipes from the site I make for my family quite often.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                Oh, great! Thanks for the links. I had no idea those existed.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. Make your own bread - very easy - I make three large loaves for $0.60
                                                                                                                                                                                Make your own pitas - very easy - I make 16 for $0.50
                                                                                                                                                                                Make your own pasta - very easy - I make 2 lbs for $0.50
                                                                                                                                                                                Make your own cookies/cakes - 1/10 price
                                                                                                                                                                                (and all of the above you can freeze)
                                                                                                                                                                                Make your own hummus - VERY easy - 1/4 price
                                                                                                                                                                                Grow your own herbs - very easy
                                                                                                                                                                                ...you get my drift
                                                                                                                                                                                Buy spices at Webstaurant ($1.50/lb for paprika, cumin, etc)
                                                                                                                                                                                Buy Olive oil at Webstaurant ($14 for three liter bottles)
                                                                                                                                                                                Look for weekly sales at local supermarkets - you can get on their weekly mailing list - and eat depending on what was on sale not depending on what you want for dinner that night (this week, for example, ALDI has chicken at $1.19/lb, yellow peppers at $0.50 each, etc)

                                                                                                                                                                                20 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                  ALDI! There is one 10 miles from here, but I have never been inside. They have fresh meat? Who knew? Thanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                    Aldi does have fresh meat, but some of it is not a great deal - you really need to keep an eye on the quality.

                                                                                                                                                                                    If you can check the aldi specials though, they have produce deals every week, and often, those are GREAT deals.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jw615

                                                                                                                                                                                      We don't eat much meat other than chicken and fish - and I buy our fish (cod) at TJ's for $4/lb... but I agree - need to be careful.
                                                                                                                                                                                      But produce at ALDI's - great for the savers among us!
                                                                                                                                                                                      Last week I bought 2 large cucumbers for $0.50, three large yellow peppers for $1 (at my local supermarket it would have cost me $4), and a pound of strawberries for $1. Not to mention the flour and other non-perishable items. I go there once a month and stock up... and no membership fee!

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                        Big fan of Aldi's myself. If the OP has never been to an Aldi's, it's worth the trip just to get an real education in how cost savings can stretch your dollar on basics.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm going on Wednesday, which is shopping day.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                            I think you're going to be very impressed with Aldi's prices. Their pricing on staples almost impossible to beat.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I really think that for someone who has a good handle on scratch cooking and budget stretching meals, shopping strategy is what makes the difference. Prices for staples vary widely between grocery chains. For example least expensive pasta at my chain grocery store $1.29/lb, discount/ethnic grocer $.69/lb. Least expensive onions at my chain grocery store $.99/lb, discount/ethnic grocer 4 lb/$1. I literally cut my grocery bill by more than half by shopping in markets that cater to price sensitive consumers, as Aldi does.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                              Definitely check out aldi!
                                                                                                                                                                                              They are very cheap on staples- rice, flour, sugar, cereal, milk, yogurt, lettuce, bananas...

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, tomorrow is Aldi day. It is in the same stripmall as Shoprite, my usual market.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Do you have a PriceRite nearby? Same ownership as ShopRite, but is targeted for the budget shopper. Less selection, but lower prices.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I can see how it will help a great deal in certain areas. The dairy products other than yogurt offer sufficient choice and are very reasonably priced (similar to Mal*Wart which is farther away). I picked a few things under the house-brand labels to see how the quality compares; don't have a reading on that yet. The pasta (very useful) was very attractively priced.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                    The first few visits I made to Aldi went pretty much the same way. I bought a few items to see if I liked the quality and the taste. Not everything passed. But overall I've found on basics and a few surprises (like brand names that appear on the shelves from time to time) that the cost savings helps me stretch the dollars I set aside for food shopping each week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    What I don't spend at Aldi's, I wind up spending at the farmer's market or grocery store on their specials for the week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Rotating my food store shopping is how I role. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                          Aldi has amazing prices on many items. I buy butter for just over $2 a #, OJ NOT from concentrate for approx. $2.50, decent imported cheeses, fruit and many vegetables. Onions are often 3# for .79 on sale, avocado often .39. lg. eggs $1.19 a doz. Chips and pretzels etc. lg. bags, under $2. and the quality is excellent. I will add that I have been a pro. chef, in private service for 34 years this month. I am fussy and do know what Im talking about.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: robt5265

                                                                                                                                                                                            I pay around $1.49 a pound for Spanish onions at ShopRite, which seems ridiculous compared to the price you mention, but I have had a few bad experiences buying by the bag. You trust Aldi, though? At Mal*Wart bagged onions usually means bruised or sprouted or oddly-sized onions.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                              I've had the same experience with bagged onions, as I just noted up thread. But it's not even just Wal-Mart. I have that issue with all bagged onions from any store.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Kontxesi

                                                                                                                                                                                                red onions were $2.49 a # at our mainstream local chain last week. They each weighed at least a pound. I wont pay that for onions, Id rather throw a few out in the end.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: robt5265

                                                                                                                                                                                                  You definitely have to do a cost analysis, for sure. I wouldn't buy them at that price either.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                Costco sells 10 lbs for about six bucks. And they're good onions, too (big, so you don't need to peel as much).

                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: robt5265

                                                                                                                                                                                                I agree and although I am not a professional chef, I am fussy about my family's food and I love ALDI's. I have no doubt that every chef in the country buys their stuff there, or at an equivalent store, to save money. It's smart.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                              I love to make just about everything I can from scratch, but I know I have the luxury of the time it takes to do all that. For so many working families struggling to make ends meet, time is even scarcer than money!

                                                                                                                                                                                            3. I generally spend about $40 a week on groceries, since I learned to coupon (and I don't mean just occasionally using coupons OR like that totally fake show, I mean using the coupon sites to buy at the lowest possible prices,) I often spend less than $40 or the $40 goes further than a week. Last week I did 2 shopping trips, one was $24 and I saved $71, the other I spent $38 and saved $91. My freezer is stuffed, I won't need to buy meat for 3 or 4 weeks. I don't eat any grains and I do eat a lot of meat since I eat VLC. Many of the meat items were organic (the store has 2 lines of natural and organic meats.) All of the dairy I bought was organic, we don't eat processed food so I'm not buying a bunch of crappy boxed and canned stuff. By learning how to not spend on things you can get dirt cheap or even free (and I'm talking quality name brand stuff,) it frees up other money to spend on quality ingredients. Now that Target has groceries and Target has their own coupons as well as mobile coupons and Cartwheel that can all be stacked with manufacturer coupons you can get good stuff stupid cheap. A site like Totally Target is a huge help. I'd suggest one for grocery stores but I don't know where you are, PesachBenSchlomo.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I was at Big Lots today and noticed they have "We accept SNAP" signs all over the grocery area. Its a great place to find all sorts of good ingredients like piquillo peppers, Indian sauces and chutney, etc. at much lower prices than the regular store and the variety changes all the time so you never know what you might find.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I plan my meals around what I find that looks the best and fits into my budget, not the other way around.

                                                                                                                                                                                              38 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm about 2 hours North of NYC in what used to be dairy country but is becoming apple orchards as the dairies fail. Not a broad spectrum of supermarket choices, unless one is willing to drive 40 miles. I really must do coupons.I have resisted on account of I am so damned lazy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you use the coupon sites they do all the work for you, just browse them to decide what deals you want to do and pass on the ones you don't.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  The only one that I know of that might work for you is forthemommas dot com (I'm on the West Coast but I check that site as well, she's out of PA.) Totally Target is a huge time saver (and money saver!) Otherwise just Google "couponing" and the name of your area.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you'll save enough money it might be worth it to make the 40 mile drive now and then to stock up. Like I mentioned before, saving on what you can really opens up money for the grocery budget so you can cook what you want to instead of just what you feel you can afford that week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Best of luck, we've all been there. I thought I was going to starve to death when I'd hit a slow patch in the early days of my business....

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                                                                    couponmom.com is one of my favorites. She has grocery deals listed by state, and also pairs them with corresponding coupons that come from various sources, many of them are online sources, which is great if you don't have a newspaper.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Also, not sure what stores are available in OPs area, but I know my store, which is owned by Kroger, has great digital coupons that load right to my store card... no printing/clipping. Then after awhile they start sending personalized coupons for stuff I buy often. The coupons are for their store-brand items, and things like produce and meat... not just packaged stuff. Safeway does this too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                    do NOT do coupons. Drive to costco, once or twice a month. (I do it once per month, and that's about the only shopping i do, but your money may show up in different quantities than mine.).

                                                                                                                                                                                                    People drive at least 90 (probably more than 120, to be honest) miles to get to my costco (I know cause they're coming from WV, and I'm in Pittsburgh). Farmers are sharp people, they know a deal when they see one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                      You realize in order to GO to Costco, you have to pay $55/year right? So most folks who are receiving snap benefits likely do not have an extra $55 to pay for that. I love Costco, but I can usually do better, price-wise, at my regular grocery store if I shop savvy with sales and a few coupons.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                                                                                        And amortization really doesn't work unless you have the money upfront. We had a tenant once who never had the money to buy a cord of firewood even though there was a great woodstove in the house. So his power bills were so high.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yup... honestly, even coming up with the $55 extra dollars for the Costco membership for me can get tricky, I basically have to plan and save up for it... and I'm nowhere near the poverty line in terms of income, so my disposable income per paycheck is not that much. I just have a very strict budget designed to pay off debt, so "extras" like Costco memberships have to be planned for. Just a bit over a year ago I was making $12,000 a year less than I am now, and an extra $55 was not an option at all at that point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Plus, once you factor in that extra $55, that usually makes the stuff at Costco not such a great deal unless you are really buying a lot of stuff, which a single person or a couple are probably not doing. We just have the membership because my SO likes going there, and I do like buying meat there since it is pretty cheap for the quality, especially beef, compared to my regular store. But if I were on SNAP, I wouldn't be going there, I'd just work with what the grocery store had. Does Costco even take SNAP?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                                                                                            We're a couple and I save the cost of our $119 dual Exec membership pretty much the first shopping trip. Particulary since they send me almost the whole amount at the end of each membership year as a check to be used at the checkout.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                              But my point is that one may not have that $55/$119 up front.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, I know. I wasn't responding to your statement. I was responding to this from Julie:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                "Plus, once you factor in that extra $55, that usually makes the stuff at Costco not such a great deal unless you are really buying a lot of stuff, which a single person or a couple are probably not doing."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I guess I should have included it, huh?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                In her case, she has the income, but has prioritized its use for debt reduction. I have no reason to doubt her when she says she saves more or just as much by couponing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                But for some, paying a fee to use Costco will free up more cash for debt reduction. I really does come down to what you buy and what your priorities are.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Gotcha :) And it's just the two of us but, yes, we buy 800 rolls of toilet paper at a time! Between the Costco rebate and the Amex one, we pay for the membership.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, I wasn't ever figuring in my Amex reward points.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The topic of this thread is feeding a family if they're on public assistance. Someone on SNAP isn't using an Amex, nor can they buy enough to make a membership worth it... that was my entire point. And as for the rewards, you would have to spend $5500 a year (approx $458 a month) at Costco to cover the cost of the $110 membership with 2% rewards, which plenty of people do... but for someone on a limited budget, that's not happening.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My monthly grocery budget is $300 for two people, which also covers stuff like toilet paper. Last month, I spent $480, but that included a $160 trip to Costco that I do every couple months, and I'm still working through what I bought on that trip, so the $160 is actually spread out over a couple months so I came in right on budget for the month of May... well, $5 over. But, I had the money to spend on stocking up. Someone on SNAP doesn't have enough money to stock up... that's why the OP said above that bulk shopping doesn't usually work for someone on a very limited budget.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Not applicable here, but the Costco Amex isn't like a regular Amex. It's just a revolving credit card which probably most people can qualify for. We also buy almost all our gas there which is a big savings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Oh I know that, but like you said, not applicable to this topic. I use my Amex at Costco too :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "The topic of this thread is feeding a family if they're on public assistance. Someone on SNAP isn't using an Amex, nor can they buy enough to make a membership worth it... that was my entire point. "

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Actually, when discussing your own income and priorities, that was not your point. And that's the portion of your post I referred to.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I fully understand that some folks may not have the spare cash to join. BTDT, got the souvenirs in the past.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            costco accepts SNAP for a reason. customer demand.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            (try buying a car at costco, which for some reason people on public assistance think they can afford!--the car eats your budget alive, folks!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Pizza's a great way to get to the point where you can bulk up. it's cheap and yummy, if you make it yourself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I just wasn't sure if Costco accepted SNAP, so good to know they do. But there's still the issue of paying for the membership, which most folks on public assistance can't do. The idea of giving Costco cash cards to someone in need is great, and some folks may have a friend w/ a membership who might let them tag along. Still have to shop savvy though... like I mentioned above, I can usually do better at the regular store with sale shopping and coupons (the digital variety that I've mentioned elsewhere, I don't buy newspapers).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                One solution to Costco would be to go with someone who has a membership card.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That wouldn't be possible using SNAP benefits. The name on the EBT card would not match the membership card.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: aimeekm

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Oh, not really sure how SNAP works am Canadian...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        which is a good point. back when I did couponing, i spent well over a hundred dollars a year on newspapers. Much more worth it to go to costco.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      my mom use to split hers with the othe four single moms in the apartment "cube" it was kind of fun on cosco day because they would divide everything up in our kitchen and the kids would get to squish the boxes for recycling

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I find the same thing at the Costco in Reno. Outside our area, it's a lot of farming and ranching and you can spot these folks cause of the volume they're buying.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I do the math on things before I buy and Costco is never cheaper than couponing for me. Obviously, YMMV, depending on what you buy but its easy to figure out the price per ounce, per load, per roll, per serving and compare (and I wouldn't even have to pay for a memership, I could tag along with MIL.) I'm saving $600-800 every single month with coupons, which is working out to be around 75%. I have a spreadsheet from one of the couponing sites I downloaded and enter my coupons and savings into. Oh, there are coupons for lots of natural food proucts on sites like Common Kindness. I was recently able to buy Spectrum coconut oil for 99 cents a jar with a $2 off coupon stacked with a coupon from the natural food store and a sale.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The digital coupons Julie mentioned are the ones that save me the most money. Because it's what I buy, I'm always getting organic produce and meat coupons. I'm also always getting $10 off $50 and I can print a $5 off $50 from Recyclebank so I'm automatically getting $15 off 50 right off the bat and they calculate it on the pre- manufacturer coupon total so it's really easy to walk out of the store for $20-25 or less for at least $50 of groceries. Real groceries that make real meals. This month is National Dairy Month, too, so the store is running a special on participating items where if you spend $15 you get a $5 coupon for your next purchase so that $5 on my next trip with a $10 off 50, and 5 off 50 will be $20 off 50 before I even use other manufacturer or digital coupons and I can use that on ANYTHING.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I should really type up a receipt and what I made with all of the groceries but first I have to run to the farmers market on my hunt for the elusive rhubarb and there's a toilet paper deal for 12 pk of Cottonelle for $2 today so I have to grab my coupons and go stock up... because that will give me more money in my budget for groceries in coming weeks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It really does depend upon what you buy. I don't see coupons for the kinds of things or brands I buy, only very rarely. And my trip to Costco overall is always cheaper for the few.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        OK, now I may be getting to be a pain, so just skip this if I am asking for too much help, but I have never done couponing in any form - do you mind just going over the basics for me? I don't really know how to find them or how to use them. I thought my customer cards at the 2 stores I shop in got me all specials. I guess they must not be getting me the proprietary ones. It sounds from what you say that it is foolish not to coupon, and I have been a fool.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If we get too off topic the mods will remove the posts but you can Google "how to coupon" "How to extreme coupon" "coupon in New York" and things like that and will find tons of info. Also check the sites mentioned in this thread. It might work well for you, it might not but it is worth finding out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Not a fool, just "unenlightened" :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            There are coupon inserts in most Sunday newspapers, and there are myriad on-line coupon sites. A caveat, however: I've found some of the on-line ones collect a little too much personal info. for my liking. If there's a brand I like, I'll go to that company's site and search for coupons--have found everything from a free product, to samples, to $1. off coupons. Some senior centers even have a boxful of coupons, which were cut/exchanged from other clients to share with others.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Speaking of dollars, don't cringe, but Dollar Stores (99 cent stores where I live) have some frozen foods (I'm leery of those) and produce, which I've bought. Lemons at my grocery store were 3/$1 and the 99 cent store had a bag of 8 lemons for 99 cents. Not a hard choice!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: pine time

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Great suggestion, Pine Time, the 99 Cents Only store here has fresh organic produce and everyone in town knows it- regardless of income- everyone from the homeless that panhandled enough money to buy something to eat to a parking lot full of Range Rovers and Mercedes. There is no stigma to shopping there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The selection of organic produce there this morning was outstanding, mostly Earthbound Farms but some other brands of organics, too. The sell by dates are 17 days out on the 1 pound tubs of greens I got (so I bought 7 of them!) They had Horizon milk today, too but I got there too late. While it's not my fave organic milk the price is right at 99 cents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              To get the store coupons loaded to your member card, just go to your store's site, and look around for a place to register your member card, all you need is the number and your information usually. Then, there is usually a button on the main page for "digital coupons". Then you can go through the list and click to add the coupons you want, and it'll load them directly to your card, so nothing else for you to do. At my store, the discount comes off after they total it up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Weezleduzzit - your amount of couponing sounds like a full time job.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Jeanne

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Jeanne, about an hour a week clipping and filing coupons if its a week of a lot of inserts and new printables (such as the beginning of the month,) 5-15 minutes on the store site to check for digital coupons, other weeks none since I check the coupon previews to see if there are coupons I want that week (this takes 2-3 minutes tops to scan the list,) maybe a half hour making my shopping lists and pulling the coupons while looking at the couponing sites I use, and then the shopping itself. I shop every 7 to 10 days usually and the prep is usually a little bit of time here, a little there. Really not much time at all for the amount of money I save (this week we only needed $20 of produce and dairy but last week I saved $169. thanks to coupons, paid $52 and change.) The couponing sites do all the work with getting the matchups together, I just go down the list for the stores I go to and pick the deals I want to do. Most of the sites even have a thing where you can check the box next to the deal and then print the list so I don't have to write it down. Nice and quick, efficient.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                For anyone that does use coupons.. there are internet printable coupons for Perdue chicken (75 cents off one package,) and fresh pork ($1 off, any brand,) right now. You can Google for them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Costco offers a value on many items but Costco is not necessarily inexpensive. Items of comparable quality, deli meats, cheeses, prepared foods are less expensive at Costco than at say Wegmans. But on a very tight food budget I don't agree that Costco is the way to go. I can always find like items at better prices on sale at a discount grocer or mass merch than everyday prices at Coscto. Even paper goods that are often mentioned, there are better per roll prices to be found elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Additionally buying in bulk ties up a significant amout of money. Buying several months supply of a staple and saving a few cents per serving/use, isn't a good investment. On a fixed income, cash flow is one of the biggest hurdles. It's why stores like Family Dollar and Dollar General are thriving. The price per use or serving is almost always higher at Dollar Stores. But smaller packages at a lower per package price (but higher per oz or unit) helps people manage their cash flow. It is not at all ideal, but is is practical. If there is only $30 left at the end of the month with a family to feed, what's the better choice, 50 lbs of rice from Costco or a variety of items from a discount store?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Soups, Stews, Curries, use lots of cheap veggies, that helps stretch. Potatos are very cheap. Oatmeal cooked with fruit is very inexpensive. Of course have to do homemade burritos, beans and masa are very cheap. Lots of bananas for you fruits, typically the cheapest ones (banana ice cream yum). Making your own bread is quite inexpensive. Typically the less processed the less price so try to keep that as a guide. Almost everything you can make your own is healthier, tastier and less expensive. It sounds like your on the right track though. Just for heavens sake, stay away from the ramen its more expensive then pasta now per weight (and frozen foods).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. 1) Know your discount grocers. If you have a Costco in the area, get a membership already! (mine has a kosher section, case ya care. yours probably does too).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Second, shop at Aldi's and/or Trader Joe's. (also discount grocers).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2) Pound for pound, chicken at .99/lb (costco prices) seems cheaper than using legumes. For 2, I get three stirfries out of the breasts/thighs, plus at least four meals of chicken soup. Per chicken ($5). Perhaps I'd get more protein from legumes, but I'm not so sure

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                There was some kerfuffle upthread about the cost of a CostCo (or Sam's, I guess) membership when funds are tight, but just yesterday, I saw that CostCo members can purchase a gift membership card. That might be a great gift for someone who is struggling.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pine time

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you go online to Sam's club or Costco and compare prices on most items, Walmart or purchasing the same thing online on Amazon in most cases is much cheaper. They are no longer the cheapest, plus you have to buy in bulk - which is a waste of money in itself IMO.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There's no comparison between the quality of products at Sams, IME, and Costco. Nor the quality of employment practices.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      IME, there's not much difference. Yes, Costco does carry some less-commonly-found foods than Sam's. But those items aside (and those are FAR from being the bulk of what's available), many of the items are identical at both stores, and most of the rest are of equal quality. Sometimes better at Costco, sometimes better at Sam's.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I've been shopping at Costco since it was Price Club, and at Sam's since the early 90's. I still shop both regularly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've been with Costco as long. I dropped my Sam's and BJ's memberships as soon as they expired.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I guess it depends on what you're looking for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Buying three bags of potatochips (equiv) isn't bad. Neither is two quanties of sour cream.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It's not like you HAVE to buy 500 lbs of flour at once (yes, people do this at my store).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Costco a discount grocer? Some prices are good but fruits and vegetables although of superior quality are very expensive here. Before going to Costco you need to know your prices in order to get the best bang for your buck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My local grocer boasts about how much they overcharge about produce (in trade journals, natch). They're seriously proud of it. They make whole foods look like a bargain (even if it is more expensive).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      so your mileage may vary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. You've received some great suggestions here so I don't have much to add but I would like to share a wonderful recipe I recently made. It sounds as though it uses many of the ingredients you would already have an hand and it really is scrumptious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The recipe is for Navy Bean and Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato and Kale. Here's a link to the recipe:


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    What I also love about this recipe is how versatile it is. It's meat-free but you could certainly choose to add sausage or leftover meat if you wished. Any veggies would work and water could be used instead of stock.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This sounds delicious. I love soups that are like a meal. Harira soup (you can google the recipe) is very similar and with a hunk of homemade rustic bread is a very cheap, very delicious and very healthy meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thank you. I make this with a few ounces of Portuguese Chourizo, Great Northern beans and Russets, but Sweet Potato sounds inspirational.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You are quite welcome PBS. The sweet potato takes this soup from good to great in my opinion. mc bc isn't a fan of soup at all and he had second helpings. It's almost stew-like in consistency. I love your idea of adding Chorizo. Luckily I froze our leftover soup so I'll have an opportunity to try your idea real soon. Thank-you!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I've made sweet potato and black bean stew. Topped with cilantro and a poached egg, it's a hearty meal.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            (My 2yo eats it too!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I love, love, love the addition of a poached egg cheesecake. Smart move. I can't wait to try this! Thanks for the inspiration.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Anytime! Enjoy :)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A poached egg makes anything better, even a rotten, crappy day

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A favorite breakfast for me is reheated rice with a poached egg and some Asian seasonings. Love it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      When I have leftover rice, I usually make "fried" rice. I get a lot of vegetables in that way

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              That looks delicious and nutritious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. I've read a few posts here about buying a whole chicken vs chicken pieces. Actually, it doesn't always come out to be cheaper... because 1/2 the weight of a whole chicken is pure bones - and only 1/3 of the weight of chicken legs/thighs/breasts are bones (and you can make broth out of both).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              At ALDI - the price of chicken thighs is $1.19/lb (less if on sale) - so it is better than buying a whole chicken (unless the price of a whole chicken is less than $0.79/lb).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              What I do is fry the whole thighs with the skin, then remove the thighs from the pan, remove the bones and skin from the thighs - place the drippings and bones in a pot to make broth and chop up the meat and make schwarma.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Unless you're like I and actively dislike legs and thighs :(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Count me in your camp. We solve that by buying SBCB at Sam's for $1.89/lb. That's not a sale, either. Neither of us eats an entire breast at one time, so we cut off the tenderloins and slice the remainder into cutlets. We freeze everything in quart freezer bags, 2 cutlets per bag, and the tenderloins divided into 2 portions. Saves us lots of money.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I will buy cheap whole chickens, using the leg/thigh meat mixed with some of the breast for tacos, chicken salad, etc... I don't notice the flavor difference as much. I do like making my own stock, so much cheaper than Swanson, but we have limited freezer space so that doesn't happen very often.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't like legs or thighs - I fry them - use the drippings for soup and take off the meat - and use that in chicken salad, chicken noodle soup, schwarma, or I pound them, cover them with bread crumbs and make schnitzels.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Now that works for me. A few months ago I did skin-on, boneless thighs stuffed with herbs and cheese and baked. Very good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I still prefer whole chickens because of the wings, backs, and necks. Save up a gallon sized ziploc bag of those in the freezer and you can make great stock. Then you can cut off the legs and breasts to use however you want. If you want boneless pieces, cut out the bones and toss those in the freezer bag with the back, neck and wing tips. Save the meaty parts of the wings for making your own hot wings. Save the skin when you don't need it and render it in batches for the chicken fat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: desertginger

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Or save the skin to season and roast at high temp for the most delicious crispy snack ever!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. sorry for so many responses, but I keep thinking of something else...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If you like jam/jelly you can buy a pound of fresh strawberries (now in season and going for $1/lb at ALDI's) - or frozen fruit (sold for $2.20 at ALDI or $3 at TJs) - and put a whole pound bag with 1/2-1 pound of sugar - depending on your sweet tooth and bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour or two - and you have about 1.5-2 pounds of jelly - delicious, cheap, healthy, no preservatives no artificial sweeteners or food coloring, etc and you can determine the sugar amounts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    19 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh yes - I don't buy jam anymore. It's more expensive and tastes worse!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      For me, it's two parts fruit to one part sugar. (Frozen blackberries may take more, but you can adjust as you go.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      And there is no need to simmer for an hour. If you are using fresh fruit, cut it up, measure it and mix it. (With fruits that have less natural pectin you use fresh lemon as well, but that's another post!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Anyhoo, just let it sit, covered, for at least a few hours to let the sugar draw out the water from the fruit and break down the cell walls. That means you need to cook it less and, it will taste much fresher!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: happybaker

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As I stated before, I wouldn't pay extra for the neck/backs if I can use the bones from the thighs and legs for broth. If it was the same cost - maybe I would, but the bones from the legs are just as efficient for broth. Also, I would never save the skins for chicken fat and for anything else for that matter - I go out of my way to make fried chicken in the oven so the fat drips off - to make it healthier. I can't imagine adding chicken fat to any meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Losing the fat doesn't actually make it healthier, just more dry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            No prob if thats' what you like.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Dry chicken is a cooking technique problem, not a function of skin or no skin. I used to eat a lot of dry chicken until I learned to cook BSCB properly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I do agree that leaving the skin intact makes moist chicken more fool-proof.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I didn't say it would be "dry."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I know how to cook moist chicken. Even if it's boneless, skinless chicken breast, the most depressing phrase in cooking, IMO. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mcf


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I misunderstood. When you wrote <...just more dry.> I took that to mean "dry."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't find BSCB depressing at all. It's a wonderful blank canvas, just begging for herbs and spices and lots of different cooking techniques. It's not like it's tasteless or anything bad. I think it tastes like chicken! :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    No, I meant just dryer. Or I would have said "dry." I never fry chicken, I do dry roast it at very high heat, and it never comes out "dry." :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I find the whole idea punishing. And I much prefer thighs. But in summer, I do occasionally marinate bscb, grill it slowly til cooked, but still moist, and place it atop goat cheese rounds on a big bed of organic salad greens with nuts, tomatoes, and dressing. Other than chicken Milanese or marsala, I don't want it any other way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I would fry chicken, but I suck at it. Despite having tried many methods and recipes, perfect fried chicken remains elusive. Truth be told, deep frying things is not one of my better kitchen skills. I keep trying. Eventually I'll get it right. Hope springs! :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I am not a lover of fried foods, so it's a skill I've never had to master, but I think it's all about oil temp and an uncrowded pan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          < it's all about oil temp and an uncrowded pan.>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yup, can't argue with that. Now that I've ditched my inadequate deep fryer, and begun using my Thermapen to monitor oil temp, I think my skills will improve. Still, fried anything isn't something we eat a lot. I've lately begun bringing oil temp up about 20º higher than specified, it seems to help, especially since my DO is stainless without the thermal mass of cast iron.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think I'd do it more often if it weren't for the steam/oil facial and the sheer waste of all that oil. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I grilled quite amazing BSCB last night. Juicy and full of flavor from my marinade. Like Duffy says,it's a blank canvas and is pretty healthy to boot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree that proper cooking technique is the key to a toothsome end product.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                For some cultures chicken fat is essential because of dietary laws.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It's not essential, it just takes the place of butter (dairy) and/or lard (pork).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Better to do without all of the above - healthier, cheaper, less fattening!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "Losing the fat doesn't actually make it healthier"... I'm sure every single cardiologist would disagree - or any other MD for that matter - and if they don't, better find another doc:)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: acssss


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD. More data are needed to elucidate whether CVD risks are likely to be influenced by the specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It's the triglycerides made by your liver and stored as fat from excess carbohydrate consumption that are a predictive marker, plus low HDL. Both corrected by higher fat and lower carb.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I find it essential in the sense that much of the pleasure of eating what I cook depends upon its essence. I don't think I would enjoy knaidlach that were made without schaltz. Or kasha varnishkes, as just two examples.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You sound just like some members of my husband's family who live in France and use 5 sticks of butter for one small meal :) - I think they've even used the same expression - of it being essential. I've heard the mother of their household say that there are three main ingredients in French cooking - butter, butter and butter

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: acssss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          + 1 There are very few things in life that aren't improved by butter. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Amen! Kasha varnishkes, in particular, must be made with shmaltz.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. You may want to check out this COTM, Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless. Loads of the recipes are available online. Easier to sub pork belly for bacon or leave out the shallots when making his oh-so-good white rice (of all things!)


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I also had a thought about kale. I only get the lacinato (?sp) aka dinosaur kale and it's not cheap. But I use the entire stalk. Slice it super thin, sprinkle with salt and 'massage' it. Changes the texture immensely. No need to remove the 'rib.' Here's a video where I learned to make this amazing salad.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                While the cheese crisp is wonderful, it's still great without it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Some cities have collective kitchens where participants buy in bulk and cook in bulk and share. Do you have anything as such in your area?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Beef liver is cheaper than almost any meat, and for me, it’s quite delicious. There are lots of wonderful possibilities beyond liver and onions, particularly in the Middle-Eastern vein. From Habeeb Salloum’s “From the Land of Figs and Olives,” this can be reduced for fewer people:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Serves 4
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    4 cloves garlic
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 chopped small hot pepper
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ½ cup chopped parsley
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 lb beef liver
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ¼ cup oil
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ½ teaspoon allspice
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    salt & pepper
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Crush garlic w/ salt. Combine w/ pepper & parsley. Cut liver into small cubes or short strips, removing skin & other bits. Fry until just starts to brown. Add garlic mix, pepper, allspice. Fry for couple of minutes until done.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is my favourite liver recipe. Cheap and tasty.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There are many suggestions for frozen vegetables and so on. The small compartment in a regular fridge doesn’t hold too much. If you don’t have a stand-alone freezer, it might be worthwhile investment. If you’re in an apartment, perhaps there’s a community garden in town where you can get yourself a plot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There are lots of great things that can be done with potatoes and onions, the cheapest vegetables out there when bought in big bags. Others have mentioned picking up big bags of rice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Porridge with multigrain add-ins and some chopped dried fruit is a satisfying and cheap breakfast. Chinese congee is another wonderful cheap breakfast for something a little more exotic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Years ago in the '70's I was a Home Economist for NYC Dept. of Social Services(Dyckman St. and East Side E. 94th St.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This was pre food stamps. We had surplus foods. The Home Economists at the time made a cookbook and distributed it in City Parks, Senior Centers, etc.) I still have mine-I just need to find it. It had recipes from a variety of ethnic groups.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      try using orzo, chickpeas, quinoa,lentils

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I am assuming ur Orthodox-Glatt Kosher-which hecksher?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      fish is also an option-as well as some cuts of meat, veal, beef and lamb.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jpr54_1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Not Orthodox,but inclined to try to keep Kosher for the most part. In the oven right now is a baking dish full of orzo and leeks in a creamy sauce of chevre, yogurt, milk and eggs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That sounds fabulous. BTW, are you feeding kids? Is it harder or easier if you are?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Twin teenagers, but only during visitation. Every other week and a month in the Summer. They are enthusiastic about my cooking and distressed by my housekeeping skills.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I've got a husband who's very enthusiastic about my cooking, and distressed that I'm making the kid into a clean/neat freak!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            More details about this yogurt orzo dish... Please! Sounds like something we'd enjoy!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Cook 1 -1/4 cups orzo in salted water, drain and set aside *before* it is properly cooked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Saute thinly sliced leeks (I used 3) and garlic in olive oil until fragrant and wilted. I season with thyme, which I get from the front lawn of this building, Kosher salt and freshly ground Telicherry black pepper.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Stir in a cup or so of green peas, 6 oz. or so of diced meat (I used the leftover porkbelly, you can use ham or whatever sounds good to you) dump in the partially cooked orzo and stir in a 3 or 4 ounce chunk of chevre, until the cheese is well distributed, and take pan off heat to cool a bit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              While it cools, beat 3 eggs, a cup of milk, and a cup of yogurt. So the eggs won't scramble, i temper the egg-mixture with a spoonful of the orzo mixture at a time until I think it is safe to dump it all in an oiled 2 quart baking dish, stir well, bake at 350c for about 45 minutes. It should be bubble, golden, and starting to brown around the edge. Mmm, creamy and leeky!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Thanks, I'll try this.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Not sure if there's a Trader Joes where you are- but they have frozen leeks that are excellent. About $2/bag, no prep, no waste

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. My latest money-saving tip at the grocery store....The price of sliced bacon seems to have skyrocketed recently and bacon is an absolute staple at my house! I started buying the 3-4 pound boxes of Bacon Ends and Pieces. You can fry up the bacon and crumble it, and then freeze it to use just as you would sliced bacon but that 4 pound box costs about a fourth (or less) as much as sliced bacon does! I have found entire smoked pork chops in these boxes! I save all the bacon grease from cooking up the bacon pieces to add to beans and other recipes....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: deileend

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I never heard of that. Who carries it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: lanersg

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oh, fonely there were a Trader Joes around here! Heaven!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It's at every store - You just have to look - it's also called seasoning bacon but just ask the butcher - though it's normally pre-packaged I'm sure they can't point you too it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This was one of the first cooking tricks I learned (20 years ago or so) and I have yet to see a market that doesn't have it...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sparky403

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks. Today is shopping day, and today I will ask (and I will also try Aldis.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. I did not make it all the way through the thread. This might have been mentioned.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              If you have a farmers market, go toward the end of the market hours and see what kinds of deals you can get on remaining produce, eggs, meat. Produce at the end of the market day is often deeply discounted. You might be able to buy in bulk that way and then put some up. One of our local farmers tweets Saturdays toward end of market to let folks know what he is putting on special. There are almost always a few significant meat specials.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              You might also talk to those local farmers about cuts and parts they have difficulty selling and see what they can offer you cheap--might be stuff they aren't even bringing to market.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              If your market doesn't accept SNAP yet, push them toward it. It's very common, at least around here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I made this a few days ago to use up the collards in the fridge. I was surprised at how filling it was. My fiance and I only ate one cup a piece and were full. (He usually eats all of whatever I make, so there are no leftovers. We had enough for lunches the next day.)


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yummy and filling and cheap. (Prettier if you use one can of great northern beans and one of kidney.)