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Thread: Biggest bang for the buck page

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    BOMO's Avatar
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    Biggest bang for the buck

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    Hey everyone,

    First I'd like to say, this website/forum is amazing! I spend most of my time here learning and lurking, so I really appreciate the info that is available here.

    On to the question:
    We are on a pretty tight budget and it's no secret this style of eating is typically not cheap, so what type of food should I spend more $ on to get high quality versus settling for what's available at the standard grocery store? Which is more important? Should we (family of 4) spend more of our budgeted grocery money on high quality meat or free-range eggs or locally grown veggies, etc?

    Thanks!

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    Offal (organ meats) are incredibly nutrient dense. I would vote towards getting better quality meats, but that will be pricey. If you eat a lot of eggs, I'd say do the best you can for organic meats without breaking the bank, but focus on veggies and eggs instead, because those will be much cheaper.
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    Thanks for the reply! We are currently buying farmers market eggs and veggies when possible and we eat 6 dz. eggs per week. It's hard to buy CAFO meat from Walmart when you know you "shouldn't". I'm guessing the "Minimally processed" and "No additives" label on the meat don't really mean anything since those types of labels are regulated (from what I've read).

    Edit: *are not regulated

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    I would buy what you can from the grocery store now, while saving up to buy grass-fed meat in bulk in the future. Buying grass-fed from regular stores (unless you are in a special situation) is incredibly expensive. Try to make it a seasonal purchase you save for, rather than a weekly purchase. I have found the best savings with that method.
    Free-range eggs are still so reasonable for cost per gram of protein, that I would spring for those right from the beginning.

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    Bulk buying meat from a farmer saves us quite a bit, as does our CSA. The one-time outlay is higher, but it saves in the long term. Also, I agree with the other posters who've said that eggs are great cheap protein.

    For meats, we buy whole animals at a time and share with friends on the costs. So we will go halves on a beef, or quarters on a bison. For pork, lam or similar, we just buy the whole thing generally. Also, our chicken farmer gives a deal for buying multiple birds at a time.
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    When I was in grad school, I was living on $50 per week for groceries. I was buying everything conventional and very little organic food. If I were you, I'd focus on getting some canned fish (salmon, sardines) as well as oysters, clams, etc.... They are usually very affordable and are great sources of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids. Make sure you get the Alaskan/Pacific wild salmon and not the Atlantic. I'd also focus on just getting healthier and buy the regular meat for now until a time comes when you can afford better quality. Just aim for leaner cuts of meat. Also, lookout for the sales sections in the stores. Things like pot roasts, and other cuts tend to be cheaper when they are about to expire. Buy that stuff up and freeze it. Also look for bones (marrow bones, preferably) at the store or at a local butcher's shop. Again, they are very cheap sources to make great stocks and broths with. Typically rich in magnesium and other minerals, this would be a great, cheap way to boost your nutrient repertoire. Good luck!

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    BOMO's Avatar
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    Thanks Sabine! You're probably right in that our best bet for getting the grass-fed beef is to save up for a quarter or half throughout the year. I wish there was a CSA that did meat nearby. Yes, I've checked eatwild.com and localharvest. Nothing.

    Unfortunately jesse, our family is not much for seafood (unless its deep fried, which is off limits). Buying the discounted meat is a great idea, will look for that in the future.

    Thanks for the replies so far!

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    1. Ethnic markets. Find one. I found one catering to the Hispanic population.
    There is every cut available you could ever want. Heads, tails, snouts, skin, feet, kidneys, tongues, tripe, neck bones, cheeks, maws, gizzards.

    2. Odd bits. Saves lots of money.
    - Pig's tails for about $2 for 3 tails. One tail has enough meat, fat and skin on it to make a lunch for me.
    - Soup bones were about $5 for a package and there appeared to be enough meat on them to make a nice dinner for two of burritos. I'm guessing neck bones would probably be similar.
    - I spent a week eating a beef tongue. Came out to less than $2 a meal.
    - Spare ribs were on sale for $2 a pound so I got 2 pounds for only $4. That's going to be way more than we need for dinner for two.

    I know grass-fed beef is supposed to be so much better for you, but the only thing available locally are $20/lb minimum rib-eyes and NY steaks. Who can eat that way every day? So I focus on an occasional pastured chicken and livers, eat the odd-bits meats from the ethnic market and buy local produce. I save the fat, the broth, everything I can and figure out how to use it.

    Also helpful is all the produce you can get for free at the office. If you have produce, start bringing it to the office to share. Others will do the same. We've been feasting on fresh tomatoes and zucchini this summer and there's a lady at work with more eggs than she knows what to do with, so we help her out in exchange for avocados.
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    Some great advice here I would also add that you don't need to eat the expensive stuff often to be healthy. I like to treat myself to steak and smoked salmon sometimes but I mostly live on tonnes of veggies, eggs, stews made from bone broth, and cheaper meats like chicken, bacon, and tinned fish.

    Whatever you make, cook it in grass-fed butter or tallow, that will make it almost as tasty and healthy as eating a steak!

    Another thing you can do is to make your diet your priority. Of course bills need paying but there are sometimes small changes you can make to your budget to allow for some bigger grocery bills sometimes. I spend about the same amount on meat and veggies as I used to spend on conventional food, but I can now afford to treat myself to smoked salmon regularly because I cut down on other stuff that slid down my list of priorities, like drinking and spending on clothes, for example.
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    Farmer's market: check out who is there, and ask around for referrals. That is how I found out about the little farms near me that do 80/20 or 70/30 grass/grain ratios. Not all grass-fed, but certainly better than the crap in the grocery store, when they butcher two animals each week. You know where your meat comes from, and it tastes amazing. And it is CHEAP. 3.15/lb for ground meat. You can't get much better unless you buy club packs. BUT when I was single and didn't have access to these farms, I bought the best I could afford. Some weeks, it was organic. Other weeks, it was club packs. Do the best you can. But definitely prioritize meat over organic veggies. I'd buy -- still do -- frozen veggies that cost a buck a bag, and get creative with them. Cheap salad. Few fruits, unless they were in season. Raw nuts are cheap enough for a snack, and you can get creative with them. I kept it really cheap. You do what you can with what you have. Lots of great ideas on the forum for cheap meals, too.

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