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Humble/Frugal Living, Healthy Eating

Thu May 09, 2013 11:52 am

Hi folks.

For a variety of reasons, despite being financially comfortable, I have been on a frugality drive these last few months, and aim to make it my ongoing ethos. I have really realised the benefits of planning my eating super-carefully, having the shopping planned to the last letter, and being able to spend money on other things such as travel while eating very healthily. So, I was wondering what kind of approach you take to this aspect of our daily lives, and what your top tips might be for combining healthy eating with low cost.

As I live alone, one of my very top buys every two or three weeks has to be a decent-sized chicken. They cost very little, and can literally feed one person for pretty much the entire week. This week, after roasting the chicken, I had a decent portion of it with homemade potato salad (light mayo + low-fat yoghurt dressing), green salad, tomatoes and grated carrot. That evening, I then took every scrap of meat I could identify from the chicken and split it into 1/3 - 2/3 portions. With the larger portion I made sandwiches for five working days - into the freezer with them (I really can't be arsed to make sandwiches at 0530 before work). The next day, I took the chicken carcass and all other bones and made soup - having made the stock and removing the bones and carcass, added pearl barley, then later carrots, then potatoes, then fried onion/leek/garlic, and finally the 1/3 portion of shredded chicken and chopped flatleaf parsley, obviously seasoning well. There was a gargantuan amount of delicious soup, so half went into the freezer - the other half would last three days very generously. For the weekend - there are ingredients for a large amount of risotto - leek and forest mushroom. A little of that can be portioned into small-meal-sized amounts for the freezer for the odd work day too. Every day as a minimum I'll also have an apple, a banana, and some kind of citrus. Probably a couple of handful of nuts too. Along with other staples like semi-skimmed milk, low-fat sunflower spread, that sort of thing, the cost of such a week's food is absolutely sod all. So as not to get too sick of chicken or whatever, the odd tuna sandwich is taken to work, or cheese or whatever.

I also think that using something like a whole chicken so completely is a more ethical way to consume meat, using every last bit of it. And that leads me on to the other main benefit in this approach as a whole - I am not throwing food away. Ever. That feels good.

Other examples of healthy staples for the week might include things like a large amount of chilli con carne, bulked out with beans and veg, eaten with plenty of rice.

Aside from the cheapness, it's much easier to portion control, never leaves you in that 'shit I'm hungry, what can I eat?' sort of state, and on average taking a minimum of about 6 portions of fruit/veg per day very definitely makes me feel a lot better in general. I never have to spend money at work on food or drink. I save a bloody fortune.

So, when it comes to food, what are your habits? Do you really care what you thrown in your supermarket trolley? Do you think more than a day or so ahead? Any suggestions for great combinations of healthy and frugal?

Glad to hear your opinions.

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RE: Humble/Frugal Living, Healthy Eating

Thu May 09, 2013 9:50 pm

I think you have it pretty-much sussed: I doubt there's anything a nutritionist could teach you! I cook practically all my own meals and would follow a similar regime to yourself, although not quite as strict. Chilled foods from the supermarket are out, as are fast foods, apart from the odd treat (there is a superb Bombay Pantry a few doors away and I'll allow myself the odd treat there, and, of course the very, very occasional trip to the chipper (probably twice a year -- I usually make my own). I always bring two or three pieces of fresh fruit to work, along with home-made frozen lunches.

The only thing I could suggest to stop you getting sick of chicken would be to add a few beef stir-fries to your repertoire. You can use practically any combination of vegetables and to keep costs down you don't need to use much beef at all: you'll get three or four portions out of a medium-sized piece of round steak. You can then freeze them and they'll keep for months. You'll need to experiment with different flavourings such as garlic, sliced ginger, lime juice, coriander, soy or fish sauce. All you need to do is heat some oil, add the chopped garlic and sliced beef, then add whatever chopped veggies you choose and finish by adding the sauce, lime juice and coriander, if you're using them. You only need a hint of sauce, and if the stir-fry still seems too dry you can add a small amount of water.

Bon appetit!
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RE: Humble/Frugal Living, Healthy Eating

Thu May 09, 2013 10:36 pm

Yeah, I won't be eating chicken every week! I like vegetarian meals too, and am used to being vegan for the whole of Lent.

Another thing is that I've banned takeaways, and will keep eating out purely for the odd social occasion.
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RE: Humble/Frugal Living, Healthy Eating

Sat May 11, 2013 6:10 pm

When I was first out on my own in the 1970s, my budget could only allow $70 per month to cover my grocery shopping. My lunch budget on work days was a maximum of $2.50, which was perfectly doable back then. I got into the habit of putting two dollar bills into a jar every time I did a brown bag to take to the office as an incentive to save money.

A few months ago, I did an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my spending on everything I consumed over a 60-day period. I was actually surprised that it came out as low as it did, about $12 per day. I say that's low since I read somewhere that a single person receiving food stamps would get an allowance of $180 per month, or $6 per day. If I'm only spending 2x as much as someone is allowed on benefits, and 3x as much as I spent on a frugal food budget in the 1970s, I must be doing something right.

I think the secret to my success is in keeping protein costs low. I've a vacu-sealer machine that will allow me to buy roasts around the holidays at very cheap prices to freeze for later. When boneless-skinless chicken breasts go on sale for $2/lb., I'll stock the freezer with small packages of two breasts each. I like hummus, but I'll make my own for a dollar starting with dried garbanzos, rather than pay $4 for a small tub of it at the store. My only regular splurge is that one of my local stores has a butcher counter with near-prime beef. I'll buy one steak every week for a Friday or Saturday night's dinner—what ever's on sale, be it a Porterhouse, NY strip, Tenderloin, you name it.

How families can afford a bursting grocery cart costing hundreds of dollars every week is beyond me, when you consider clothes, housing, and $4/gallon gas to haul groceries home in the SUV that probably has a sizable car note attached to it.
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RE: Humble/Frugal Living, Healthy Eating

Thu May 16, 2013 4:52 am

And ya know what's another economical, nutritious, prepare-it-yourself-at-home type meal... is pancakes.
Pancakes are delicious.
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RE: Humble/Frugal Living, Healthy Eating

Thu May 16, 2013 8:04 am

Shopping in bulk at the butchers is my tip. Can get 5kg of chicken for £22 at my local butcher and it's much better quality than the supermarkets.

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