T Nation

Cheap Healthy Food

One of my fellow interns was asking me how to eat healthier while remaining on a tight budget. In his case he is dirt poor(can’t stress this enough) and will be so till he finishes school (another 5 years away).

Can anyone help me with cheap healthy food ideas? He also limited in that he doesn’t have a real freezer and has limited fridge space.

Any help would be appreciated, he is reaching out and I think it is my duty to assist.

I remember a student guide thread a long time ago…well, that’s relative. But 6 months or so ago. It must have been in the diet and supps forum…I can’t remember the name of it though.
But there were suggestions about the mega packs of eggs from the mega store of your choice, things like that.

No-name (store brand) oatmeal, eggs, no-name frozen veggies, six-pack tuna (on sale). Plain yogurt and store brand frozen berries. If these are too expensive, he screwed and should look into dumpster diving.

Get a club card to a grocery store. They always have deals on produce with a club card. Example: 2 lbs of Gala apples for a buck with card at Ralphs/Kroger.
It’s a start!

Canned tuna.
No, seriously! You can get it for about 33 cents a can and while it might not be Pizza Hut (or Grow!) it is a cheap way to add protein to meals. Toss some on top of frozen veggies, or maybe with some hot sauce and whole grain bread and you are set.

As a college student I know how it works…

Costco… I cannot stress this enough.

Ex:
You can get a box of 7.5 dozen eggs for $10.
.99 for a bunch of bananas
etc
etc

@ Costco:

Bag of Veggies
Box of Oranges
Box of Apples
Cottage Cheese
Box of Eggs
Bag of Walnuts
Fish Oil
Bag of Frozen Chicken Breasts

that is a pretty solid start right there.

Canned Mackerel. Its cheaper than tuna, has less mercury, and has more fish oil.

I eat 1 can per day, and its got 84 grams of high-quality protein.

Hmm, when broke I found I had trouble eating the way I wanted to. Probably some repeats but some things to think about:

  • bulk oatmeal
  • bulk rice
  • bulk beans
  • peanuts
  • pretzels
  • milk

You can cook up a ton of beans and rice then freeze it in portion sized containers. Optionally add some meat and spices, nuke it, and away you go.

Peanuts aren’t as cheap, but they have a lot of calories, and can last a long time if you ration them.

Pretzels are also reasonably cheap, and if you are doing a P+C meal are a convenient source of carbs. I’m sure they are high GI but if you want cheap and convenient it might still work for you.

One of the difficulties of course was finding cheap meat products. I was able to get sausages at a good price, but then you are dealing with a lot of fats as well – which made them a standalone meal for me. Some of the cooked hams were good on a price/lb basis too.

Good luck.

Canned mackeral? I’ll look into it. Thanks!

First article I ever had published:

http://www.johnberardi.com/updates/sep272002/na_budgeting.htm

Good thread. I was planning to join Costco anyhow. Now even more reason to do it. Now I just have to figure out where to store all the bought-in-bulk food. As it is, I’ve already moved into three fridges. The normal one. The one the house usually just keeps beer in, and I’ve stockpiled my girlfriend’s with egg beaters. people are getting quite annoyed with me… haha

How exactly do you eat the mackeral? (with a fork, duh) Does it taste nasty? Do you cook it or mix it with anything or just gag it down out of the can?

In regard to eating canned mackerel:

Sometimes I eat it strait from the can if I’m in a hurry, but I don’t advise this if you’re squeamish about nasty foods. The little mackerels are whole, and they have little back bones that crunch up in your mouth. (mmm…fish bones).

However, if you put some in a bowl, mash it up and mix it with some mayo and seasoning (like all-spice or old-bay) it tastes kind of like tuna salad. After you mash it up the bones and skin just sort of blend in and you can’t notice them.

Get some dirt, seeds, and pots, and grow your own veggies. Tomatoes and peppers are easy to maintain and grow pretty quickly.

Natural peanut butter, I eat about a pound a week.

got_beer must be harder core than I! The idea of fish bones mixed with mayo is a bit much to take this morning. Of course, I think tuna from a can mixed with mustard is a nice treat, so who am I to judge?
I’ll try (almost) anything once.

The bones are cooked and they crumble really easily, so when they’re mixed you can’t tell. Plus, for those who cut out dairy, the fish bones are an awesome source of calcium.

Hey, a can with 84 grams of protein for 69 cents just can’t be beat

In addition to Costco, Smart and Final also has bulk items and membership is not required. And if you do get their card, they add another discount on selected items. Bananas are usually cheap as hell (I’ve seen it at around 19-39cents a pound). Oatmeal is cheap there too (sold in mega bulk).

I don’t know if your friend is working out as well. I know before, when my budget was really tight, I would get those big ass boxes of Gatorade (came out to around 79cents a bottle) and buy some whey protein powder from the local health food store or costco for my PWO shake. It’s definitely not as good as Surge, but better than nothing.

-ton

[quote]got_beer? wrote:
The bones are cooked and they crumble really easily, so when they’re mixed you can’t tell. Plus, for those who cut out dairy, the fish bones are an awesome source of calcium.

Hey, a can with 84 grams of protein for 69 cents just can’t be beat[/quote]

Hey got_beer, can canned mackarel be bought at any supermarket store?

-ton

[quote]TriGWU wrote:
As a college student I know how it works…

Costco… I cannot stress this enough.

Ex:
You can get a box of 7.5 dozen eggs for $10.
.99 for a bunch of bananas
etc
etc

@ Costco:

Bag of Veggies
Box of Oranges
Box of Apples
Cottage Cheese
Box of Eggs
Bag of Walnuts
Fish Oil
Bag of Frozen Chicken Breasts

that is a pretty solid start right there.[/quote]

that seems like a lot for eggs? up here in NoDak, eggs are usually about 50 cents a dozen. canned tuna good. bags chicken breast good. canned beans great. buy stuff on sale man, and plan ahead.