Stretch Your Food Dollars – 6 Foods to Buy When Money is Tight

Whether you are a college student trying to live off Ramen noodles, a single mom trying to make ends meet, or a father of four who is just having a tough month, most of us at some point in our lives have been a little tight on food dollars. I recently saw a U.S. News & World Report article titled “7 Foods to Buy When You’re Broke“. I get asked to teach a lot of lessons on stretching your monthly food dollars and thought these tips would fit in great with my lessons. I decided to put my own little spin on it though.

Here is my list (some of which are the same):

1. Peanut Butter: I have to agree with the original article on this one. If there is one protein source that I am constantly recommending to people on a budget it is peanut butter. Not only does peanut butter have all the health attributes mentioned in the U.S. News article but it is also very shelf stable. If you keep it in your refrigerator it will stay good for up to 6 months. Eat it as a snack with fruit or have a peanut butter sandwich for a meal.

2. Beans: Like the original article, the second protein source I will always recommend to those on a budget is beans. Dried or canned. While eating vegetarian may not always be your family’s first choice, it is definitely a great economical choice to get you through a tight time. Add beans to a soup, chili, eat them with brown rice, rolled up in a tortilla, the options are really unlimited. Throw some dried beans in the crock pot with herbs and spices and you have an easy meal prepared when you get home in the evening.

3. Whole Grain Bread: Bread is a staple in most American kitchens and don’t feel like you have to give it up if money is tight. I think it is a good purchase because it is very versatile. I would simply recommend switching to whole grain breads. Whole grain bread is more nutritionally dense than white bread, meaning it contains more vitamins and minerals. But most importantly whole grain bread is higher in fiber than white bread, and fiber keeps you filling full longer (something very important when meals are limited).

4. Frozen Fruits & Veggies: Frozen produce is almost always more affordable than fresh, especially if you are wanting to purchase something that is out of season. Contrary to what many people believe frozen produce is just as healthy as fresh. The original article just mentions frozen veggies but I would throw fruit in there also. The more color you are getting on your plate the better!

5. Canned Fruits & Veggies: Canned produce (just like frozen) is often misunderstood and thought to be less nutritious, but this is not the case. Canned fruits and veggies contain the same vitamin and minerals as fresh (and frozen) and are often times half to one-third the price of fresh produce. If you are worried about the extra sodium in canned foods you can simply use a colander and rinse them off before consuming. Another great attribute of canned produce is it will last a lot longer on your shelf than fresh.

6. Milk: While milk may be one of the more expensive items on this list it is a product that is always worth spending on. Milk contains 9 essential vitamins and minerals (including calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D) that are vital to a growing kid and important for adults too. Remember that the date on a carton of milk is the “Sell By Date” not the expiration date; so your milk is still safe to drink for a few days after. If you see a good price on milk remember you can also freeze extra cartons for up to a year.

This is my take on foods to buy when money is tight. And the great thing is you can actually make all these items fit into a healthy MyPlate diet.

These are my recommendations, do you have any foods you would add or change?


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