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So, this is our situation. First, we live in a small town...but I do fairly well finding vegan foods, or creating them. There are some things I know I will just simply have to order off the Internet if I want.
But here is my problem:
We are well below the poverty level. I try so hard to figure out how to buy food and care for our family, but sometimes I just don't have grocery money. I get WIC for my kids, but as many of you probably know, that includes a TON of dairy products. I eat what I can because sometimes it's all we have to eat period.
Bountiful baskets helps because you get a reasonable amount of produce for a very reasonable price. However, we get SO excited about getting the produce that we usually have it all eaten within like a day or so.
How sad is it that a box of Ramen noodles is cheaper than a bunch of bananas, and will last much longer, and keep my kids fed longer?
So, ANYONE out there...what are things that I can make on an extreme budget? What should I focus on buying to keep us best fed in the best way? I can't let poverty make me sicker. I can't let my kids learn poor eating habits because of situational issues we have.
Any advice would be great. I still have so much to learn about eating a kind diet, and I am trying. So, any advice is MUCH appreciated! Thanks!
What about tins of beans? I have started to use them every week as they are ready to go and pretty cheap too ... you can do so much with them as a base and that way sort of string out the veggies a bit more.
Could you grow any of your own food eventually? Do you have space? I saw a mushroom 'kit' the other day which was basically just a box already filled with all the right stuff that you keep in a cupboard so you can grow your own button mushrooms. They are good fillers too. Some garden stores have them.
Otherwise what about a simple homemade soup with bread as a filler?
Sorry ... I'm not great with ideas as I'm not much of a cook yet but good luck ... search blog after blog for easy cheap recipes perhaps??
If there is a produce farm nearby, you might check to see if they will exchange labor for produce - there are several CSA's near me that have that option. Also, if there is an Asian market anywhere near your home they might sell brown rice in 5lb bags or other large amounts for decent prices. I tend to buy brown rice, beans, oatmeal, and oatmeal in bulk - usually these things are cheap and very nutritious. You might also see about a community spot for starting a garden if you have no space of your own. Some churches and parks allow this option - volunteer time and work, and pick your own veggies.
I agree that brown rice and beans are a good healthy option. I make a pot of beans or bean soup about once a week. If you don't have time to stand over the stove, you can make them in a crock pot. They freeze well, so you can cook once for several meals. If you want to know how to cook dried beans let me know - I love them.
Also, do you have access to a Grocery Outlet or Costco? Both stores sell large bags of frozen veggies that can turn the ramen meals into something interesting and healthy.
I agree that a CSA would be a possible solution. The rural CSAs always seem to need more volunteers. I have volunteered at a CSA in the past, and I went home with a ton of veggies (mostly in the summer, but in the winter too if the CSA grows in hoop houses).
I hope you get some advice that you can use. Good luck.
Asian groceries also may have brown rice in really large bags, like 20-25 pounds, for around $15 or $16 bucks, making your cost per pound much less than white rice in a grocery store. Brown rice makes you feel fuller, so it stretches farther; same with all whole grains, so if you eat pasta, make sure it's whole grain, too. It's worth a few cents more. You may also find other whole grains there (millet, mixed grains, red rice, barley etc...) that will help round out your grain consumption at a lower price than other sources. They might not be WIC or benefit card friendly, though, but they are generally worth the investment.
Try to pace yourselves on the produce because it's probably better to have a little every day than to go feast and famine. Stretch what you have by making soups, since they also go further and make you feel full and freeze well.
Buy corn meal and find a good recipe and make polenta.
I would also look into writing a letter to your state representatives explaining the situation and letting them know just how awful some of the food is that is forced upon families using WIC. I think it's time we take this fight to the places where a difference can be made, one state at a time if that's what it takes. And finding a champion in Congress would be nice, too. I know Mark Bittman of the New York Times has taken up the cause, so maybe this will start making a difference!
If you can find a sympathetic ear and lay out your situation as a real, live person, it would have a huge impact.
There's a Facebook page called Vegan on $4 a day, and plenty of online resources that break down very affordable, quality vegan meals. Good luck!
This may help you, or it may not, but I figured I woul offer this information up anyway because it not only shows how veganism/vegetarianism is becoming more prevailent in our society, but also that it can be done in a cost effective way.
There is a show on TLC called Extreme Couponers, and one show featured a vegan mom who used coupons to buy her family groceries. The whole family was vegan and she was able to stock pile quite a bit of vegan foods.
She would stock up on frozen veggies, Silk soy milk (which I learned can be frozen!), and canned veggies/beans. Although many of the products may not be 100% organic they were vegan. She was able to save alot of money this way and would use the savings to buy fresh produce and other items which generally aren't coupon items.
I don't know if you'd be able to find the video, but the couponer is Perry and in the featured episode she talks about saving up for a new tattoo (she's covered - she even has VEGAN PRIDE tattooed on her forearms).
I hope this helps you come up with alternatives to the cheaper foodstuffs!
Dried beans, all the way! They are so much cheaper than canned. It is so easy to cook them too. I just soak them overnight, then cook them up for an hour or two and freeze them so I have them when I need them.
Also, a bag of both red and green/brown lentils will go a long way and they don't need to be soaked ahead of time. They can be made into soup, casseroles, even the yummy Fruity Lentils in Alicia's book that I've eaten for breakfast before. I used to HATE lentils...now I eat them at least every other day!
I agree the dried beans can save you some money! One of the cheapest veggies where I get groceries is bok choy. Not the baby bok choy but the bigger ones. Also a farmers market usually has cheaper prices on produce. I like to use beans to make tacos instead of using tofu or tempeh as it is cheaper. Just cook them in a skillet with a taco seasoning packet and some water to dissolve the seasoning until it thickens up.
I'm not sure how you would feel about this but I just watched a documentary called Dive. About several families who got the majority of their food from the dumpsters at grocery stores. Everyday the stores throw away trash cans full of perfectly edible food. Technically it is considered tresspassing to go through the dumpsters though..
There are charities that don't exactly go through dumpsters, but they prevent otherwise still edible produce from being tossed out. Grocery chains, banquet halls, produce depots, etc... give them food that wouldn't pass muster for sale or last long on a shelf, providing much-needed fresh foods to families otherwise consigned to live on canned and packaged and dairy and junk food garbage that passes for public health programs. Boo hiss... Anyway...
Here in the Detroit area, we have Gleaners Food Bank and Forgotten Harvest. I have a friend that works with one of them (trying to improve their processes so they can more efficiently distribute food!), so if you want to give your general area (I don't know if you can private message here?) I can have him check if there are any similar organizations near where you are if you want.
Wow! Thanks for all the replies! OK, I live in Sheridan County in Wyoming. We really have next to nothing around here. In town, we have Walmart, Safeway, and Albertsons. There are also two pretty small health food stores. There is a food bank that is open two days a week. I don't know what other organizations are available in town. I do know that the farmer's market here is only open like August/September.
A couple hours away there is a HUGE health food store that is actually a co-op; the prices are pretty reasonable, and they sell all sorts of things in bulk. The last time we were in that town, I bought some grain items in bulk, like oats, quinoa, couscous, etc.
I also noticed that on Amazon you can subscribe to certain items and get them at a discount, such as maple sugar...you can get a 25 oz container for less than $15! Of course, that isn't my priority purchase right now, but some day I hope to be able to order some.
The couponing is great, but much harder to do in such a small town. I truly admire those that know how to use the coupons so well! I should look into it more.
On a good note, my husband works at Walmart, and so around the holidays they offer an associate discount on food items, along with the regular associate discount on other store items. Hey, that's $10 off a $100 purchase!
I actually didn't know you could make a bunch of beans and then freeze them. That little piece of knowledge is very precious to me! I like to buy dry beans, obviously, over canned, but with small children and a crazy schedule, I don't always have the time to prepare dried beans. I can't always get organic items like I would like, but I try to get a few here and there. For example, getting organic carrots at the store isn't hardly any different in price than getting regular.