With the lousy economy and poor job market many of us are having trouble stretching the food dollar and stick with a low carb. Hey, let's face it, carbs are cheap!! You can buy a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter for less than $10 and make, what, 10-12 sandwiches? A couple of boxes of cheap pasta and some jarred sauce can feed a lot of people....again, for less than $10. But these foods are not good for you and you will end up spending more in the long run when you figure in the cost of medications and physician appointments for treating your high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes!
Here are some tips for low carbing on a limited budget.
1. Watch the sales. Almost every food store has weekly specials. Check them out. You may find your self buying meats you've never tried but you may find you link them! Fruits and vegetables go on sale too, so be sure to check them out!
On sale at Food Lion* this week:
- Boston Butt steaks - $1.99/lb
- Chicken breasts, frozen - buy 1 get 1 free
- Fresh Chicken Leg Quarters - 10 Lb. Bag/$.69 Lb.
- Whole fryer chickens - $0.57/lb (Whole, cut up are $0.87/lb)
- New York Strip Steaks:Value Pack, Boneless - $5.99 Lb.
2. Check out the in-store specials! You can often save 10% and more on meats that are marked down...either as an unadvertised special or ones that are reaching their expiration date (but still quite safe to eat!).
3. If possible buy in bulk! If you have the storage space, buy family packs or buy several meals worth of an on-sale meat/fish/fowl.
4. Try to invest in a stand-alone freezer. A brand new upright freezer at Sears goes for $149 (1.3cu ft) to over $1400 (21cu ft), but a quick search of Craig's list (for Raleigh, NC) shows a 13cu ft for $100 and another for just $50! Chest freezers tend to be a bit less expensive and actually save money on electricity. If possible try to get a manual defrost as they use less power and your foods will stay fresher. If money is really tight try to put aside $10 a month and in a few months you might be able to buy a used freezer. You will likely get your money back by being able to bulk shop within 6-12 months (less if you are feeding a large family).
5. Try to invest in a vacuum food sealer. These are not too expensive, but the bags can add up. Look on Craig's list and EBay for good buys. Vacuum sealing foods prevents freezer burn, so you will save money by not having to throw out food due to freezer burn.
6. Check out your local farmer's market. Many of the farmers at the markets have fantastic prices, but not all of them, so be sure to wander around and look for the best prices. You may also be able to "bargain" with the farmer if you are interested in buying large quantities, especially if it's close to the end of the day!
7. Switch to water for cold drinks. If your tap water doesn't taste good, or you're concerned about it's purity, invest in a filter. One that mounts on the faucet can be purchased for about $20 (replacement filters run about $10 each and they last 2-3 months, depending on your use). Water pitchers with the built in filters run about $10-20. If you can't or won't drink plain water, add a few drops of lemon or lime juice (the plastic lemon and lime juices in the produce sections are usually 100% juice, but do check the label!). Food stores also sell their brand of sugar free drink mixes for just a few cents for each serving.
8. Add bulky low carb salads with your meals. A small head of lettuce with a few slices feeds several....add cucumbers, tomatoes, or what you like for usually just a few cents per serving.
9. Don't forget about eggs!! A dozen eggs are inexpensive and can fill you up. Eggs can also be used with ground beef to stretch it a bit. In my opinion, eggs are pretty much the perfect food!! All that nutrition packaged in a tasty, versatile package! Having "breakfast for dinner" is a great choice.
10. Learn to cook! While convenience foods are often very convenient, you can usually save money if you make it yourself! If time is an issue try "batch cooking" on weekends or your days off. With batch cooking all you have to do is thaw and heat.
11. Make friends with a butcher! If you're lucky enough to have a local butcher, go in and ask about special deals you might be able to get. Soup bones add a lot of nutrition and can sometimes be had for low prices. See if you can get some of the fattier cuts of meat for lower prices....the time the butcher saves in trimming the meat might make it worth a few cents a pound!
12.If there is a "warehouse" store near enough, get a membership! These are especially good if you have a stand-alone freezer! Prices are low and the quality is usually excellent.
Low carb on a tight budget can be tough, but it can be done!! Look for sites online that cater to busy moms and check out the recipes. Sometimes you can make substitutions for the high carb ingredients. The main thing about sticking to your budget and your diet is to plan! Check the ads and make a list. Plan out what you need for the week....or the next few days and buy accordingly. If you're lucky enough to have a freezer it is easier, but you still have to plan!
If you're tempted to give in an buy some "filler" carbs (pasta, bread, rice), remember that fat and protein fills you up faster and keeps you full longer! That $100 worth of pasta may fill you up, but it's likely you'll be hungry sooner than if you ate $100 worth of meat or dairy!!
What are you budget savers? Post them in comments so others can benefit!
*In Raleigh NC, the week ending 8/4/2010.