What to Eat When You’re Broke

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

The lower your income is, the more difficult it is to be particular about what you feed your family.

This probably isn’t an earth-shattering revelation to anyone, but if you feel like experimenting, try to buy a week’s worth of healthy food for a family on a budget of, say, $50-75.  Food manufacturers that target lower-income shoppers with more affordable products tend to include more GMOs and toxic ingredients in their offerings.

Sometimes, it just isn’t possible to stick to my usual food restrictions.  Generally speaking, I avoid:

  • Non-organic dairy because of the hormones and antibiotics as well as the GMO feed given to the animals
  • Non-organic meat because of the hormones and antibiotics as well as the GMO feed given to the animals
  • Anything containing corn, soy, or canola in any form because it is almost certain to be GMO
  • Anything with chemical additives like artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Anything that is likely to have been doused in pesticides
  • Anything containing neurotoxins like MSG, fluoride, or aspartame (along with other artificial sweeteners)

It is a matter, then, of weighing the pros and cons, and figuring out what things, for you, are the most important, while also deciding which standards can be sacrificed.  These decisions will be different for everyone, based on their personal health concerns, their genetic propensity for certain diseases, and the members of the family for whom they are buying the food.

Sometimes, when you’re looking at someone else’s situation while you are comfortably backed by a loaded pantry, it’s easy to be judgemental and tell them what they “should” do. The thing that we  must all remember is that when times are tough, a person may be down to these two options with a two-week grocery budget:


1.) Buy strictly healthy organic foods and feed your family for perhaps 8 out of the 14 days.

2.) Carefully select which standards you will relax to keep the tummies of your family full throughout the wait for the next paycheck.

Very few people are going to choose option one.

Usually, I have an enormous stockpile of non-GMO dried foods and a flourishing garden to serve as a back-up for whatever non-toxic items are being offered at a reasonable price that week.  But back when I moved from Canada to the US, I found myself rebuilding my pantry from the ground up. I had no such stockpile and I was at the mercy of the food manufacturers.

When your budget is extremely limited, the normal healthy eating suggestions of shopping only the perimeter of the store or visiting the farmer’s market will not suffice to feed a family.  As much as you may want to dine only on locally grown, fresh organic produce, a $50 farmer’s market spree will only get you through a few days if you are totally reliant on only this food.

The Lesser of the Nutritional Evils

So what is a broke, but health-conscious, shopper to eat?

If you are in a situation where you have to feed your family and don’t have a lot of money to do it, you need to do your research well before looking at those brightly colored packages with the false promises of nutrition within.  While this list isn’t comprehensive, here are some things to consider about conventional grocery store offerings.

GMOs: Genetically modified foods have not been tested for long-term effects on humans.  There is some evidence to indicate the GMOs can cause a host of illness.  But one thing is definitely certain – many genetically modified food crops are altered so that they can survive a much higher dousing of toxic pesticides and herbicides that would kill other foods and some of them even have the herbicide built right in. If I’m avoiding pesticides as much as possible, why on earth would I eat food that is treated with an even greater amount of toxic chemicals?

Hormones and antibiotics: Livestock animals that provide meat or dairy products are tainted with growth hormones, antibiotics, and GMO feed.  These items pass through the food chain to the consumer. Growth hormones can cause opposite sex characteristics in developing children, early puberty, the development of cancer, and infertility. Furthermore, the world is quickly becoming immune to the effects of antibiotics because of constant exposure through the food supply, which means that there is the potential for things that should be easily treated to become deadly due to antibiotic resistance.

Pesticides/Herbicides: The use of pesticides and herbicides in conventional farming is rampant.  Even the Environmental Protection Agency has to admit that the ingestion of these chemicals can cause health problems.  They warn of the risk of “birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time.”  (Keep in mind, however, that despite this warning, the EPA RAISED the acceptable limit of glyphosate at the behest of Monsanto.) Especially at risk of harm from pesticides/herbicides are prepubescent children and fetuses.

Neurotoxins: Our water supply is spiked with fluoride, a neurotoxin that lowers IQs, causes infertility, has been linked to cancer and causes hardening of the arteries. Nearly every packaged food on the shelf is seasoned with MSG in one of its many names, and many lower calorie foods and diet drinks are sweetened with aspartame.  Both of these are excitotoxins that cause brain cell death instantly, causing decreased IQs, headaches, depression, and seizures.

Assorted chemical cocktails:  The length of the ingredients list in your food is often a direct indicator of the unhealthiness of the item. When an item contains a host of additives, colors, flavors, and preservatives, you can safely bet that most of the nutrients are gone.  These highly processed foodlike substances are very difficult for the body to break down so that the few remaining nutrients can be used. If you can’t picture what an ingredient looked like in its natural state, it probably isn’t something you really want to eat.  When is the last time you saw a tertiary butyl hydroquinone grazing in a field, or a calcium propionate growing in the garden?

What should you eat when you’re broke?

This list assumes a diet that is neither paleo nor vegan. Make alterations based on your own dietary preferences.

Grains: If you can’t swing organic grains, look for whole grains with few or no additives.

  • Wheat flour
  • Brown rice
  • Pasta (with recognizable ingredients)
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa
  • Barley

Unfortunately, most grains have now been proven to be doused in pesticides, so this is a tricky decision. Here’s an article to help you avoid the worst of the toxic grains.

Meats:  If you can’t afford grass-fed organic meat, at the very least look for options that are guaranteed to be hormone and antibiotic free.  The USDA does not allow the use of growth hormones in pork or poultry, which makes these a slightly better option.

Here’s a little primer on those confusing meat labels:

  • Hormone-free: This means something with beef, but is nothing but a marketing ploy when you see it on poultry or pork, as the USDA does not allow the use of hormones with those animals.  Hormone-free does not mean antibiotic-free
  • Antibiotic-free: Because of poor and stressful living conditions, factory-farmed animals are very susceptible to illness.  Antibiotic-free means they were not prophylactically treated with antibiotics. This does not, however, mean that the animal is hormone-free.
  • Grass-fed: Grass-fed cows are allowed some access to the outdoors and are not fed grains or corn.  This does NOT mean they are organic, because the grass they are grazing on may have been chemically fertilized and sprayed.  Unless you have actually seen them roaming around the farm, keep in mind their access to the outdoors may not be the lovely rolling pastures that you have in your mind, but a crowded corral with hundreds of other cows.
  • Free-range: This label doesn’t mean diddly squat.  It means that the animal is allowed a minimum of an hour a day outside.  This could mean that they are crammed into an open area with a billion other chickens, still, without room to move, or that their cage is put outside, leaving them still tightly confined. Like the grass-fed cows above, unless you actually see the farm with the gallivanting chickens or pigs, take the label “free-range” with a grain of salt.

Your best options, if you can’t afford organic meats, are to go for the hormone and antibiotic free options as a supplement to vegetarian protein sources like local eggs, beans, and organic dairy products.

Fruits and vegetables: If organic produce is not an option, look for the items with the lowest pesticide loads.  (This list by the Environmental Working Group is based ONLY on pesticide loads – some of the items they recommend could be GMOs).  Fruits and vegetables that can be peeled often subject you to fewer pesticides than thin-skinned items. If you must buy conventional, wash the produce carefully and peel it if possible.  Look to these standbys:

  • Apples (peeled)
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Oranges
  • Parsnips
  • Pineapples
  • Rutabagas
  • Sweet Peas
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Turnips

 Dairy products: Conventional dairy products are absolutely loaded with hormones.  Dairy cattle are given high levels of female hormones to make them produce a greater quantity of milk. But these hormones cross into the milk that you’re giving your children.

This makes little boys develop female characteristics and makes little girls hit puberty at a far younger age than normal, which is the reason you see 4th graders with large breasts and hips.  These hormones can also trigger obesity in both genders.  Because of the public outcry, some dairies have pledged not to use rBST, the most commonly used of the growth hormones.

Do your research to discover if there are any such brands available to you. It’s interesting to note that  the former Monsanto, the company that pushes rBST, wants the FDA to disallow dairies to put this on their labels, and that the FDA forces those who label their products rBST-free to also put the following disclaimer on the containers: “No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST treated cows.” (source)

Organic dairy is still better because the cattle are fed a healthier diet and are free from antibiotics.  If you can’t swing it, at the very least, search for rBST-free dairy products. For products, you can save loads of money by making your own from untainted milk.  Learn how to make yogurt, how to make yogurt cheese, and how to make cottage cheese.  Plain yogurt can also be used as a healthy substitute for sour cream.

Water:  If you are on city water, chances are, your water is loaded with chemicals, from fluoride to ammonia to chlorine.  I won’t drink this water, and I won’t let my children drink it either.  The large 5-gallon jugs provide the least expensive way to buy water.  Also look for sources of spring water to fill your own containers. (This interactive map can help.)

Other Tight Budget Tips

Build your pantry. It’s hard to think about building a pantry when you have barely enough food in the cupboard to make it between paychecks.  But if you can purchase one bulk item per shopping trip, in a few months you will have a pantry that will allow you to make higher quality grocery purchases on your weekly trips. At that point, you can start going to the farmer’s market, which in many locations is very reasonably priced, buying in enough bulk to preserve your foods, and have the occasional splurge.  Go HERE to pick up my book on building your pantry frugally.

Be scrupulous about food hygiene.  Wash your produce very thoroughly and soak it in a baking soda bath.  Also, remember to carefully wash your beans and rice. (Click HERE to see some photos of the dirt that comes off of a cup of rice!)

Get growing.  Even if it is the off season, you can sprout some seeds on your counter to add fresh nutrients. You can grow some salad greens and herbs on a sunny windowsill.  Invest a few dollars each week in some seeds and you will soon be able to supplement your diet with nutritious, organic, home-grown veggies.  Go HERE to get more ideas for growing your own food on any budget, in any location.

Visit outlet stores.  Sometimes places like Big Lots, Aldis, or grocery clearance centers have organic options at good prices. You might be able to pick up canned goods, cereals, and crackers at a fraction of the normal grocery store price.

Forage for freebies.  In many locations, even the city, there are free delicious foods just waiting for you to pick them.  Dandelions, wild berries, nuts, and nutritious leaves abound. Just be very sure you know what you’re picking and then enjoy your wild foods.  Check out this excellent guide to the nutritious goodies that may be in your backyard masquerading as lowly weeds.

Plan on at least one extra frugal meal per day.  Have peanut butter and crackers, a bowl of oatmeal, or soup for one meal per day – not every meal has to be made up of protein, fresh veggies, and grains.

Make it from scratch. Scratch cooking has the benefit of YOU being in control of every ingredient. A loaf of bread or pot of soup made at home is thrifty AND clean, based on what you opt to put in it. (Find more information on cooking from scratch HERE.)

 Don’t give up.  If you are feeling financially defeated, it is sometimes easy to say, “*bleep* it!!!” and just get some Ramen noodles or macaroni and cheese and call it a meal.  Don’t do it!  Do the very best you can with the resources you have available. Remember, if you can’t afford good food, you definitely can’t afford bad health – it’s even more expensive.

The Simple Truth

There are a lot of things that readers may find to pick apart in this article – and that’s good!  By thinking critically and discussing these things, sometimes we can come up with solutions that may not have occurred to us previous to the conversation. I’m not some expert that shouldn’t be questioned – I am just a mom on a budget.  Some of the suggestions here were gleaned from the comments sections of previous articles.

Do your research and do the best that you can with what’s available given your resources.  Create a plan to provide better options in the future. Don’t go down that toxic trail laid out by Big Food without fighting, kicking, and screaming.


Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • Another good brand of Dairy is Tillamook. Unless things have changed, I have seen those beautiful rolling pastures of plentiful green grass they eat and their yogurt, milk and cheeses are hormone free.
    Also, Dairy Gold is a cooperative in my area and many of them have good growing, farming, practises.
    I wish you well on your re-building!

  • I am a prepper and I real close to 100 articles/week to educate myself. I have to say this is the BEST, MOST WELL WRITTEN post I have read in months. THANK YOU for posting this for those of us who want to do the best for our families, but who don’t always have the financial means every week to do it. I’m passing this along to everyone that I know who say eating healthy just isn’t an affordable prepping option. Bravo!

  • Great information, have a source on quality well priced organic foods that being Costco. They have the following: ground beef, quinoa, eggs, pasta (variety pack), coconut oil, and salad greens. For cheese, I will sometimes buy a type from out of country, like Ireland, as they do not use rbgh. Having lived in Europe and now recently returned I found the food frightening here. While there and on a budget initially, I brought lentils into my diet which I continue to eat as most of the meat here is laced with hormones, etc. There are sites online that you can purchase organic lentils in bulk. Also, I learned to make my own veggie burgers with beans, say black combined with a red, add onions whatever you like, and fry lightly. Milk, there is also Alta Dena and Swiss that is hormone free as well. For those who love Trader Joes, be careful as much of their food has soy in it. I bought tea a few weeks ago to find out afterwards that it has soy lecithin in it. What gives TJ’s!?!? Last comment, water is going to get very political. I would recommend people not buy bottled water if they don’t have to because there are companies out there that don’t believe water is a basic human right such as Nestlé. They believe it is a commodity to be sold to the public. Easy enough to verify should you want more information. Food has become politics and we need to make decisions in a way so that companies will wake up and provide items that are good for us in the long term.

  • The Incan Empire ran on a diet of quinoa. The Aztecs on amaranth…Easy to grow (get the right varietal for your height above sea level!), tasty and nutritious! I love having a dinner of greens and quinoa cakes (with peas, chives and an egg) even though I’m mainly a meat eater. Cheap and cheerful! Great article.

    • A most refreshing breezes of understanding. A real breath of fresh air from the real world.
      Excellent article, fine comments, and, not much to add, except:
      Free food, Food banks & food trees, bushes, shrubs, roots, leaves etc. I got 22lobs of Service Berries (Saskatoon, June) from one cluster of shrubs. Thousands of berries and 10’s of 1,000’s of seeds.
      Take time to smell the roses.

  • Now, 61 racks adorn the house. Venison, the last pure meat. We also have real free range cattle. They must be vaccinated, but hormones of any kind are not used. Sick cow? Reality here, one head shot and a backhoe, and the cow is buried 6 ft under in less than 10 minutes. Our climate has changed out here, our deep rain forests are showing signs now. We are in a drought. We are watching, very worried. Out here, it costs minimun 300 bucks a month to feed a horse, the bare essentials. Those who know understand, its not easy. Those in the mainland at least see clearly now, you MUST find a way to live off the grid. To be free. Good article Daisy

  • Avoid sugar. Yeah, a few comfort foods, or as a small ingredient in canned foods, but don’t eat sugar if you want to stay healthy.

  • At year’s end, my husband’s department is being eliminated. Not fun. I have been working full speed with dehydrating, freezing, and canning. I want a very full larder at year’s end!! My best buy has been eggplant. I was picking up two bushels of green beans at a sort-of-local farm for the dehydrator when the owner told me he had too many eggplant and offered me a good price per box. I hadn’t planned on this vegetable, but we like it, so I purchased three boxes. I am baking them, scooping them out, measuring them, and freezing (Food Saver) them. In fact, I am going back and buying more. It isn’t for everyone. There are at least four recipes that I have come up with, that use “stewed” eggplant. It was an opportunity, and I took the challenge!

    • I freeze marinated eggplant. Peel, slice 1/2 thick, salt and pat dry after 20 minutes or so. Roast at 350-375 ’til done, (20 minutes or so). Remove from oven, and slather with olive oil, pressed garlic, and some lemon juice. I marinate it for a day or so in the fridge, then vacuum seal in 1 cup amounts. You can slice it and add to pizza, lasagna, Tuscan bean soup, whatever. I forgot to put it in lasagna once, and fried it up and served it on the side. The recipe is from Molly Katzen.

  • Good article Daisy,
    Something to keep in mind, farmers markets, chat with the vendors,ya might find one or two who are willing to trade weeding for veggies, lots of farmers myself included have all manner of food growing on their place and may be more than happy to barter.

  • Great advice! As much as I’d love to go completely organic and avoid GMOs I’m on a limited budget. I live in Wisconsin, the ddairy state and forunately most of the non organic milk sold here is rBST free i.e. kemps, dean, and the roundys brand sold at pick n save. I’m not sure if this is everywhere but I’ve also found that the milk sold at Aldis and Wal-Mart doesn’t contain the nasty hormone either. If I can afford it I’ll opt for organic soy milk as well.

  • This list is good….unless you really are poor and live in an area that doesn’t provide a ton of organic choices in grocery stores. A couple of things you didn’t mention–#1. Farmers Markets are your friend! Where I live (NH) they now take food stamps, but I do not know if that is a nationwide trend or local. I try to promote that as I do not think many are aware of it. #2. Buy meat in bulk! I talk to my butcher (Market Basket/Demoulas) and get a whole top round and whole bottom round and save about $2 a pound. And you can cut it how you like (more steaks…cubes….strips….roast…ect)Between those two, plus a couple whole fryers, gets my family of 4 (17 y.o. twins…b/g…hubby is big boy) fed every month…for ~around $100 in meat. It is a large expense at the outset, but you will see savings and quality difference almost immediately. #3. NO SODA/KOOL-AID/JUICE BOXES. those are huge money sucks. We drink crystal light by the gallon, and I make fresh juice with the fruit I get at farmers markets. I am currently paying around $300 a month in groceries…because I have learned that most things at the grocery store is a money suck….learn how to make your own pasta….can fruits/veggies for later…dehydrate…grow your own…that is what to eat when your broke. (sorry it was so long…this tends to be a touchy subject for me 🙂 )

    • I’m sorry if I misunderstood but did you say you are drinking Crystal Light? I hope this isn’t true. If it is you obviously didn’t read the ingredients. Artificial sweeteners are neurotoxins among other things. Just water or water mixed with a little real juice would be more healthful and doesn’t cost a lot.

      • I should have specified…Crystal light pure…no artificial sweeteners…made with truvia…which is a derivative of stevia…just because I am poor doesn’t mean I don’t read labels and pay attention 😛

        • If Truvia is a derivative of Stevia, what’s mixed with it and why risk it? Freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice with stevia and water seems healthier and who knows(I don’t) it might even be cheaper. I’ve been considering an experiment of skipping stevia and sweetening lemon water with watermelon or fresh pineapple juice.

          • Half water , half apple juice mixed in a big jar for the day is a good option. Children love this drink.

            My Mom when we where children, just cooked a pot of peppermint tea in the morning and sweetened it sometimes with honey, sometimes just plain, because we loved the taste. After it cooled down it was s a refreshing drink on hot days.

  • Well written post. Summer and fall are always times for us to be stashing away as much produce as possible for when nothing is growing.

    Shared on the CSH page and Pinned.

  • Well written article. This is precisely how I shop on the limited income we have. I asked myself what foods do we eat the most, daily, what can we afford and how…..I have lowered my household expenses by making all of my laundry soap, cleaning solutions, and not using paper products such as paper towels and plates & recycling. That in turn freed up dollars to put in the food side of the budget so I can now purchase more of the products I want and stock up as well. I am sharing your insightful words for others as they are based on ‘real’ world realities. I know many organic ‘snobs’ who set in judgment of those who are unable to afford all they have, but do not offer viable options or guidelines to encourage the purchase or growing of healthier foods…..bravo to you.

  • Hi, I am knew to your sight and read this story today. I am currious if you have a menu plan based on these suggestions for what to eat and feed a family of 8 when you are broke. I share a lot of the same convictions and I just moved and find myself struggling to feed my family of 8 healthy meals on a budget that does not allow me to buy the things we want.

    If this is already posted somewhere, I would appreciate the link. If it is not posted yet, would you please share a week or months worth of menus using these suggestions for managing healthy eating on a very low budget?


    • I have raised 7 children myself so, I can appreciate your question. The article did an excellent job of giving some criteria to study out, but lacked the specifics you are looking for; that is difficult to answer fully because every family is different in likes, dislikes, etc.

      However generally, the things that I have found that would fill my family with nourishing food while somewhat inexpensively, was homemade soup and breads, of many sorts.

      The cheapest meals will generally be made with beans/legumes and grains combined with a few vegetables thrown in and utilizing meat bones, when able to provide a flavor base.

      The food items that provide a flavor base, besides meat bones and boullion to produce good broth are onions, garlic, carrots, celery; along with such flavor enhancers as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper, paprika, bay leaves, parsley, and other herbs and spices.
      There are others, too, depending on the dish. But, I have found these are the main things to give a fuller flavor.

      I don’t know of any specific link for you, but there are many websites to search for ideas.

      Some menus are: (just a few ideas)

      Ham and Bean soup (made with a couple of inexpensive ham hocks) For a vegetarian and more cheap option, I have added a little curry powder to taste, to give the impression of ham flavor. Ingredients vary; generally, soaked and cooked white beans, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, ham hocks, water.

      Lentil soup with some greens added at the end of the cooking to wilt. Basically lentils, water, onions, garlic, celery, some carrot and tomatoes, salt, pepper, spinach or swiss chard and olive oil (my preference).

      Split pea soup- this can go along ways.. the leftovers keep growing, as you almost always need to add more water and maybe some more seasonings to compensate for the additional water the next time you warm it up.
      Any package of split peas, yellow or green, will probably have a recipe on it to follow. This soup is good with or without the addition of ham hocks or other soup bones.. my kids really liked it with the addition of “doughboys ” or otherwise known as “dumplings”.

      A salad and or homemade rolls or bread, such as a quick bread, can be an accompaniment .

      Sorry, for the lengthy answer here; maybe this can be of some help for others, too.

      It is amazing what a person can do with planning. I would make a 12 qt pot of soup for our dinner and still can 2 or 3 qts of the soup after serving up big bowls for everyone. I would start canning it as soon as we would all sit down to dinner and it was nice to have something quick to open and heat up another day. (Must use a pressure canner for this).

      I’m trying to help one of my daughters with this question, too. Don’t let discouragement get to you. Keep trying, don’t give up hope. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.. to do anything. And some of my best inspiration came when my need was the greatest and I was willing to venture to do and try different things.

      At harvest times, I would buy up large quantities of potatoes, and onions. I had a great storage room in my basement to winter these over and I’d buy these items in 50 lb bags more cheaply than buying by the 10 lb bags. Easily, about 150 lbs or more of potatoes to last through the winter, and keeping watch to be sure no odd potato spoiled the whole bag.

      Keep your eyes and ears open for what you need and God will provide. It may take a little time, but hopefully, this bit of info helps you.

  • This is by far the most useless pile of crap I’ve ever read. This is where I about lost it.

    “Meats: If you can’t afford grass-fed organic meat”

    Are you kidding me, who in the hell is your target here? Sure isn’t broke people.
    I couls sum this up in two words – TOP RAMEN.

  • Incorporating fasting is one way to cut down on grocery expenses. I’m talking about a one meal fast or eating very lightly for a meal.

    Also, one thing I have done is after Halloween I go around hunting pumpkins which I cook down to make pumpkin puree and freeze. Most times pumpkins after Halloween are free or greatly reduced in price. They may not be the sweet pumpkin pie pumpkins but they are still good for eating. The seeds are good for roasting also.

    Buying less popular meat cuts, even grass fed is less expensive. I’m talking of soup bones, beef knuckles and sometimes oxtail which you can make a nourishing soup from.

  • THIS IS ENCOURAGING! Thanks for honestly sharing 🙂 printing this to re-read and for further evaluation and refference.

  • A note on meat…I order a half an organic, grassfed cow a year. I sell off the prime cuts for 1/2 the price the local butcher sells such cuts for and I’m left with stewing meat, ground beef and offal. I also end up paying absolutely nothing for that meat.
    Talk to and network with, your neighbours.

  • Hmmm… thinking of what I’ve done in the past for this… but really, its not as hard as you think. I have multiple food allergies, and have been diagnosed with several debilitating disorders. None of which had a good prognosis. With some of these, my metabolism is a little skewed, and my caloric intake is around 3k+. My diet is pretty much restricted to whole foods, organic and range-fed, few grains, no soy, no dairy, and no fat. And no derivatives of such. I don’t eat shellfish or pork, and refined sugars and flours, as well as alternative sweeteners are out. But I’m not hurting, and not complaining. Quite blessed, really…
    So, allowing myself to slide on a few things is not an option, unless I want to end up in the hospital. And because I travel a lot (sometimes to places where medical help is not close), this isn’t always an option either. Add to that the fact that I do ministry, and the budget can be a little… tight?
    Several things I’ve found that help:
    Farm share, or other places where you can work for produce. Also some where you can buy shares in livestock. Check the laws in different states.
    Foraging. Again, check laws in the area. Please note that this is not acceptable in state and national parks… but sometimes BLM land.
    Field gleaning. Check your local newspapers and such for people that will let you pick and pack for a low price.
    Learn to can, freeze, dry, or anything else that lets you take care of bulk items for less.
    Flea markets and farmers markets. Check everything in the neighboring towns. Sometimes a little gas money is worth finding good bargains, especially if you car pool this one.
    There are more things, but once you know your area well enough, you’ll find them. Some of it can be rather time consuming, but worth it if you really want to have a little more control over what you eat and spend, there might be something to help. 🙂
    Shalom, and Yahweh bless.

    • One other thing… how much do we really need to eat in a meal? I find that replacing most of my carbs with produce (unless I’m having a pretty heavy day and need the energy), I feel a lot better. Also, if I remember correctly, we don’t really need as much protein as we tend to eat. Only about 6 ounces per serving. Most weeks, I can do meats about 3 times a week, if I make sure to get whole proteins in the rest of my diet. Doing this by eating eggs, mixing grains with nuts and legumes, and fishing is always fun…

  • A lot of farmers markets in Wisconsin take food stamps too. There’s 2 here in Milwaukee that take accept them as well as a winter market that does. The farmers market by my house also takes WIC checks and does a match up where you get double the amount of fresh produce listed on a check. So say someone has a WIC check for $10, they can get $20 in fruits and veggies.

  • I have been reading up on growing various types of sprouts and most literature indicates that even grown at home you are at risk for salmenela(sp). They highly discourage people from growing many of the sprouts, especially alfalfa. Any feelings on this matter?

  • Dry beans and lentils have been a godsend for me. I went vegan a few years ago, I get almost all my protein from legumes instead of tofu or mock meats and I find I can stretch my food budget significantly farther than I could when I tried to eat healthy meat and dairy.

    Also $1 stores are a surprisingly good place to find cheap healthy foods. I can usually find beans, soymilk,decent peanut butter, canned and frozen veggies

  • This is my first time reading your work and I was intrigued. One thing pops to the top of my list of questions however and it is this:

    You speak about “freebies”, wild berries, leaves, etc. How does one know whether they have been sprayed with some toxic substance, particularly in the city?

    I also find some of your choices for fresh fruits and vegetables to be rather expensive for someone trying to feed a family on “$50 or $60 a week”. Asparagus? I can’t afford asparagus and I can spend whatever I chose on food. Mushrooms? How much nutritional value in mushrooms? I love them, I cook with them all the time, but again, they’re relatively expensive, a luxury I would think.

  • HA! How foolish! NO LEGITIMATE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE EXISTS TO SUGGEST GMOs ARE UNSAFE. Save your money for local and sustainably produced products.

    And as for claiming that MSG and artificial sweeteners are “neurotoxins”… well, you clearly haven’t taken a college level neuroscience course (should I mention that I TEACH them??). Or perhaps you haven’t taken ANY science course?? Your lack of critical assessment when reading these bogus and biased sources is pathetically obvious (btw NatureNews is a pseudoscientific joke in the neuroscience community). And the naive followers who eat this shit up are just a bunch of poor suckers, finding exactly what they’re looking for (in scientific research this is called expectation bias and is not an acceptable form of objective data collection).

  • I have been using a form of rotation diet, I call 30 day menu. This helps to organize your thoughts when planning meals on a very small budget. I found it prevented me from impulsive shopping of items that are processed. I was able to gather at least 30 meals that were inexpensive, made from scratch, that I was able to keep in food storage. I started with simple meals that could be made in less than 30 minutes, with very few ingredients. This allowed me to build up my food storage for these recipes. Then I started to add more recipes one by one, adapting to my family’s requests. Spaghetti is a great starter. At first you’ll use processed pasta for convenience, then you’ll be able to experiment with making healthy homemade pasta with great added nutrients. Each recipe is meant to be fast to prep, cheap to make, nutritious for your body. Don’t forget the slow cooker, a great lazy person prep. Put it in the crock pot and forget about the stress. My husband was unemployed more years than employed, we relied on my meager salary for many years. I started the 30 day menu idea when my first child was born. He had very restrictive food allergies, so I started to compile a list of foods he could have. When we started to go through the lean years (no job) it helped enormously. I already had food storage, so for a long time we shopped in our basement food store. 😉 I can testify that having a plan, and food storage saved me my sanity.

  • You have some good advice here, but what would you suggest for those of us with food allergies? We have a daughter who can’t have wheat (or anything with gluten), oats, beans, sugar, eggs, dairy etc., and We also have a small budget. We try to have things in our pantry at all times, we’ve been prepping for years, but it is really a challenge to find affordable food that is safe.

  • We solved the problem by going whole food vegan-plant based. Do not have to worry about what’s in the dairy or meat if there is no dairy or meat.

  • As a librarian, if you would like more food budgeting ideas, I suggest you check in with your local public library and see if they have books on this subject. I suggest two below. If your library doesn’t own these books, see if they will “interlibrary loan” them from another library. Even small libraries (and I do mean small), may be part of a larger network that has a Reference Librarian that can do this. This allows you to check out books and see if you like them before purchasing. (As a courtesy, be sure and return such items on time because the lending library if performing this service to help out customers such as you. Interlibrary-loaned items usually cannot be renewed.)
    Here are two items I found very interesting:

    Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4.00 a Day
    By Leanne Brown
    ISBN #978-0-7611-8679-3
    Workman Publishing Co., 2015

    Cut your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family
    By Steve and Annette Economides
    ISBN #978-1400202836

    I did purchase these items from Amazon. The Good and Cheap Book used to be available on the internet as a pdf download. It was written for those who get about $4.00 a day per person on food stamps (and I know some people don’t even get that, but it still has some good ideas.) For example, she has four pages on “Things you put on toast” that make toast seem like a gourmet meal. She also has gourmet-type meals that are surprisingly inexpensive if you cook them–Potato Leek Pizzas and Deconstructed Caggage Rolls (a casserole).

    The book by the Economides gives lots of ideas for large families (and yes, they do have a garden, so that’s no help to those who can’t grow one–although you can still go to farmer’s markets and buy some things in bulk). There are enough other good ideas to make it a worthwhile read. And no, they are not using coupons!
    Remember, this is just my opinion, so if you can use interlibrary loan, you can save some money and look for other books on similar topics.

  • Sorry for another post, but several people have mentioned eating wild plants. Some people do get into this and it’s at least an interesting hobby. Of course, you do need to know what you are doing before you try this, so you need to either find someone who knows what they are doing, or you can learn on your own by looking at websites (like http://www.foraging texas.com) or by reading a number of books. (Remember, to save money, interlibrary loan a book from the public library first and see if you like it before you buy). You can do an Amazon search for “foraging” and also for “edible plants” to find books.

    There are probably YouTube videos on this, too, but I haven’t checked.

    A good start is the Idiot’s Guides to Foraging by Mark “Merriwether” Vorderbruggen, published by Alpha in 2016. The ISBN is 978-1615648894. If I remember correctly, Merriwether was raised in a large family, and his family really did use foraging to stretch their food budget. Of course, you have to find some private owners who will let you do this, and you have to stay away from roadsides and old oil wells, etc, but some people find they really enjoy getting out in nature and finding edible plants and berries to eat. Merriwether’s book gives recipes, but the recipes require lots more ingredients than just the wild plants. They are interesting to look at, however.

    (In my opinion, you do need to stay away from mushrooms until you know what you are doing. However, I did see one book on Amazon dealing specifically with edible mushrooms… so if you are a novice forager, you can eat them if you’re feeling lucky! NOT!)

    Hope this helps for those who are interested in this topic.

  • I keep a quart jar in the freezer. When there is a little veggies left from my meal, I put it in the jar. Then, when I make soup or stew, I thaw the veggies – juice and all, and add it to the soup. Saves a bit of leftovers ($$) and bulks up the soup.

  • I just joined you today. Heard a radio interview on Of The Grid Radio. I am enjoying your articles! Steve

  • When you are truly broke you will eat anything that is available, having lived on the streets I can honestly say it does not matter what it is but if it keeps you going for another day you do not even care. Now, I raise and grow my own food, nothing special just the basics and supplement it by harvesting different things from the countryside around me. I have not seen a food label for years I wish that people would understand that regardless of how you wish to eat when the need arises you will eat anything to survive. No offence intended to anyone reading this.

    • You’re 100% right, Trevor. I too have been in a similar situation. I guess to be more specific, this is written for people who are still able to go to the grocery store and purchase something. No offense taken, by any stretch of the imagination. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • I hope my comment posts. I felt compelled to commend you for going from living on the streets to being in a place where you can raise and grow your own food.


  • Excellent and very informative article, Daisy! My husband and I are dedicated to improving our health and providing the best for our little girl. Beechnut Organics and Earth’s Best baby foods are excellent choices for little ones, as is Sprout (free range chicken and turkey, antibiotic free). Thankfully Shop Rite often has good sales on these items. Many products from King Arthur Flour are non GMO, too. And you are 100% right about the importance of organic milk and dairy! Keep up the great work, Daisy!

  • For keeping tummies feeling full longer–don’t forget healthy fats. If you have access to good coconut oil, beef fat, lard (butter and cream, of course, but they’re likely to be expensive)–use those in cooking, even add them to soups and stews. We even include coconut oil in our morning coffee; some use butter or ghee in tea. Our bodies run better on fat than on large amounts of carbohydrates, and you’ll feel full longer. Plus, it tastes good.

    Of course the usual cautions about avoiding CAFO fats, that would be just as bad as CAFO meat. Also, don’t be suckered into using vegetable oils/fats, other than real olive oil–even if supposedly organic, they are heavily processed, may alter for the worse when heated, and are not as well utilized by the body as normal animal fats or coconut oil.

  • Great article! If you happen to live in Pennsylvania check to see if there’s a “BB’s Grocery Outlet” store near you. They have fantastic prices (usually 50% or more off) on pantry staples, canned goods, snacks, etc., and often have organic and/or gluten free items available. For example, I have purchased packages of organic lettuce and organic baby spinach there for $1 that cost $4 in other local stores! They accept food stamps as well as other forms of payment. If you live in Virginia or Pennsylvania, check to see if there is a “Sharp Shopper” grocery store near you. They have very good prices (lower than Aldi’s in many cases) on pantry staples, canned goods, snacks, frozen foods, dairy products, etc.
    If you live in the Baltimore or Harford County, Maryland areas, definitely check out the “Chesapeake Traders Food Warehouse” in Forest Hill, Maryland; it’s small but has wonderful low prices, particularly on frozen beef, pork, sausage, chicken, and seafood, a lot of which is conventionally raised but some of which is organic.

  • Thanks Daisy for your original article, & to everyone who added their comments. I will put more effort into the items that I place in the FOOD BANK bins we have in every grocery store here in Toronto & surrounding outlying metro areas. Never thought much about it except at Thanksgiving & Christmas & Easter, “but for the grace of G*d go I”.
    Blessed be.

  • Forgot to mention that if you live in California, Oregon, or Pennsylvania, check to see if there’s a “Grocery Outlet Bargain Market” near you. They have a nice selection of organic and/or gluten free foods (as well as conventional foods) at good discount prices, and some of their special sale prices are really great! The store near me is very attractive also.

  • Hi Daisy, I’ve been reading you for years and greatly admire you. As a total foodie and prepper person, I respectfully suggest a few more concepts to help folks like beans and rice, (super cheap complete proteins) pressure cooking, breadmaker (which can be bought at thrift store for under $20 in CO,) and soup. Soup’s a budget paradise, taking advantage of every need and restriction, as well as pleasantly using up various borderline perishing items. I’ve been working on a cookbook for years (after meeting a very poor woman in a parking lot trying to subsist on $70 per month food budget.) Risotto for instance is an incredible, versatile budget dish that range from simple to elegant, and easily cooked in a crockpot with ANY rice, no expensive Arborio required. Add pumpkin, mushrooms etc and you now have a cheap but comforting dish with great nutrition. And as for pressure cooking, it turns tough meat into melt in your mouth goodness! It’s easy to do and one can often find these cheaply at thrift stores. Just wanted to round out your valuable information!

  • You diet is a crap diet, regardless of whether or not it is “organic”. Grains are no good. Period. Too many fruits are no good. Period.

    There is no proof that what is labeled organic is actually organic. Birds, bees, other animals that cross pollinate move from farm to farm. They don’t know or care if it is organic or not. You do not know what is in the water supply of the organic farmer, either.

    • Firebird, not everyone needs to eat a grain-free diet or a low-carb diet. But I’m really glad you’ve found what works for you.

  • hate to tell you this daisy but 98% of that organic stuff your eating isn’t.it goes like this I sell apples regular apples are 23 cents organic are 1$ I slap a organic label on my apples and presto their organic if I get caught I pay a small fine much smaller than my profit change my company name and do it agen if you don’t think that’s how it works you know nothing about farming yes im a farmer

  • Most of that is really good advice. However, I cannot eat gluten, which is in wheat, oats, barley, and rye. Since corn is mostly gmo…that’s out also. This dramatically reduces what someone who has gluten intolerance or celiac disease can eat. I was once told that quinoa and adzuki beans are a very healthy staple in a case of low income.

  • You Need More Than Food to Survive

    In the event of a long-term disaster, there are non-food essentials that can be vital to your survival and well-being. Make certain you have these 50 non-food stockpile essentials. Sign up for your FREE report and get prepared.

    We respect your privacy.
    Malcare WordPress Security