# Buying food on a calorie per dollar basis

When I was in college and money was tight, I used this method of buying food. I would try to get a certain number of calories for every dollar I spent. My thinking was that no matter where the calories came from, at the end of the day I was going to eat within 200-300 calories of my maintenance needs. I would shoot for 1000 calories per dollar spent since I need a little over 4000 a day.

Then I got a job, and didn’t need to do that since I had income.

Now the income is gone, and I need to start doing this again. However most foods that offer the most calories per dollar are unhealthy. Usually they are high in fat and sugar (dessert mixes, sugary drinks).

There are a handful of fairly healthy foods that have a decent calorie per dollar value. Milk is about 1000 calories per dollar. Orange juice sometimes is when half gallons are on sale for \$0.99.

Generally the closest a food is to the original staple, the higher the calorie per dollar. So spaghetti, oats, rice, bread, cereal were all good.

Peanuts might come close if you get the regular kind. Maybe beans too.

Peanut butter, regular butter and maybe some jams offer a good return.

Yay, I’m going to get scurvy and beri beri.

4000 calories a DAY???

The average person to maintain their body weight needs 11 calories per pound.

So if you weight 175, you need 175 X 11 or 1925 calories. This is why people get so fat, because they fall into that, “I need 2000 or more calories.”

Unless you’re participating in 1 hour of cardio per day at least five days a week you are not considered active. And that cardio activity has to raise your heart rate at least 60% of your maximum

But getting back to your question, the food your looking for is rice.

You can also throw in peanut butter, if it’s on sale, you can’t beat it.

Beans are also pretty cheap.

You need one gram of protein per KILOGRAM (not pound) of body weight to get your daily protein needs.

So if I weigh 175lbs that is 79 grams of protein. The rest you can get from fat and/or carbs. (To easily convert just type in “175 pounds in kilos” in Google and it will convert it for you. Of course put your onw weight in)

Note: Rice is not a complete protein. If you eat rice and beans together they make a complete protein.

Only animal products have complete proteins, such as milk products, eggs, meat and blood). But as you see you can combine plant proteins to get complete protein.

Some kinds of soy have been grown that also are complete proteins but these have been specially produced so you have to look for it. Unless the soy says “complete” you can assume it’s not the kind of soy that is a complete protein.

Now is a great time to get vitamins. They always go on sale. You can generally get at Walmart or Walgreens 365 pills for about \$7.00. These are the generic forms of “One-A-Day” brand vitamin. That will give you your vitamins.

But the key is rice…Just make sure you’re adding something to it, to get a complete protein.

(Note: you don’t have to eat the rice and beans at the same time. For instance, you could have rice for lunch and beans for dinner and still get a complete protein)

Eating 11 calories per pound is extremely low. In that situation a woman who weighs 120 would only need 1300 calories a day, when women who weigh 120 usually eat 2000 calories a day. A 180 pound man would only need 2000, and most eat 3000. Multiplying poundage by 15 is a better estimate. Plus I have more muscle mass, 60" shoulders baby so higher metabolic rate. I am fat though, but I’m content with it and not looking to lose weight right now.

Eating 1800 calories a day (what you’d get if you multiply 163x11) is what men ate during the Minnesota starvation experiment. Their maintenance was 3200. It doesn’t say their weight, but 163 is a good ballpark for what most men in 1944 weighed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_Starvation_Experiment

Is that number supposed to be adjusted by lean mass, or something? I mean - a person who weighs 300 pounds compared to 200 doesn’t need 1500 more calories per day if all that extra weight is fat, right?

Incidentally, as to the OP, it certainly doesn’t sound like a staple food, but there’s always some brand of ice cream on sale for half-gallons for 3 or less at my grocery store. I was thinking that the calories/ ratio must be pretty high.

I normally consume 3000-4000 calories a day and have never gone over 150 lbs.

I went through a stressful busy period last month where I was going most of the day without eating and only consuming about 1500 calories a day. I started to get concerned that I was losing weight, but I got on the scale and I was right at 149.

So maybe I only need 1500 calories a day to maintain my weight, but 3000+ hasn’t put on any weight. Maybe I burn it off more than most people.

Everyone is totally different and your weight and height don’t have all that much to do with it. At 100 lbs and not always very active I easily burn 2000 per day. I would be very hungry! on 1300.

To the OP: If I were you I would stick to rice, beans, oatmeal, bread with peanut butter, and animal protein and fat when you can get it (butter, eggs, cottage cheese, whole milk, ground beef are all a good value).

You can fill up on empty calories of the cheap stuff (grains) but make sure you get enough of the stuff that actually has nutrients.

As long as you make sure you’re not living on starch and sugar and have some oj a couple times a month, this is a pefectly healthy way to eat.

He said he was in college. IME, human males from the age of about 12 until the age of about 25 need enormous amounts of food just to keep breathing, if they’re even moderately active. They just have very high metabolic rates. When they hit about 25, though, their metabolic rates slow, and this is when many men start gaining weight, or, if they were already a bit plump, start really packing on the pounds.

To answer the question, though, you shouldn’t look at just calories per dollar, but nutrition, as well. Brown rice is an excellent food for humans, though it’s not nutritionally complete. Cabbage is very cheap, and I think it’s got vitamin C in it (not sure).

Basically, the more processed a food is, the more it’s likely to cost, and it’s likely to be less nutritious as well.

I’d buy a large economy bag of beans, whatever kind you can tolerate. Sometimes you can find huge sacks in Hispanic markets, or you can find them sold in bulk. Every night, after dinner, clean up the kitchen and put the next day’s ration of beans in a bowl or pot to soak. If you have a slowcooker, that’s an excellent way to cook beans. I always chop up some onion and celery and put that in with the beans, sometimes I cook the veggies until soft in a little vegetable oil first, sometimes I don’t. If you can find ham hocks at a reasonable price, they’re very good flavoring for the beans. I will throw away the skin and fat, though, because I shouldn’t eat it. If your diet is VERY lean otherwise, you might want to eat that skin and fat, because it’s tasty, and because ham hocks don’t have much real meat on them. Or use some chicken bullion to cook the beans in, that adds a lot of flavor without costing too much. Throw some rice in with the beans about half an hour for white rice and an hour for brown before serving, to give the rice time to cook without overcooking. This is assuming that you are also using regular rice, not Minute Rice, which is more expensive. Rice can also be bought in bulk or in large economy sized bags. By buying and using bulk beans and rice, it’s possible to eat fairly cheaply while still getting enough protein. I like rice and beans, but I can only tolerate it for about 5 days out of 7. So make potatoes on the other days. They aren’t as nutritionally complete, but they’re cheap and filling.

For meat options, look for chicken leg quarters. Sometimes the stores will practically give these quarters away, because the breasts and wings command a premium price, but the back half of the chicken is not nearly so much in demand. Debone the meat, dice, and make a stirfry with lots of veggies, served over rice. Simmer the skin and bones, and save that stock for making rice and beans.

Further to that, if you just brown the chicken pieces (I do it with thighs) and softly cook some onion, garlic, carrots, chillies, whatever, then throw in lots of rice and top the pot up with water, then leave it until the rice is cooked, you’ll end up with a huge pot of very tasty chicken and rice that will do you a few meals. You can get a pack of 10 chicken thighs for a couple of quid here, I can’t imagine it would be much more expensive there, and they’re fairly high in calories if you leave the skin on.

Quinoa is almost a complete food, potatoes with the skins left on are fairly decent nutrient wise. A bottle of lemon juice can keep you from scurvy [I believe it is 1 tbsp per day to keep scurvey away], beans with rice is almost complete [i think it is missing something and needs a fat of either animal or vegetable to digest properly]

Beans, rice, potatoes, onions, celery, carrots are all pretty cheap, as are winter squashes like hubbards, apples are fairly cheap as long as you get the fairly generic macintosh/red or golden delicious, lemon juice, as for meat - chicken and canned tuna can be pretty cheap on sale and if it is in season you can go fishing. You can even go out and buy some seeds and grow stuff on a windowsill like tomatoes and herbs, radishes and lettuces [radishes have like a 19 day growth, very fast.]

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ponders number of calories burned

This is a minor irksome point with me. The current RDA for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, yielding 64 grams protein for a 175 pound person. However, the RDA overestimates the amount of protein needed as it assumes people are not eating a balanced diet and thus may be lacking in essential amino acids; if you eat healthily with a wide range of foods, this figure should be south of 0.8 g/kg. As an aside, animal studies have suggested that excessive protein intake can have deleterious long term effects. Because the average American diet contains far more protein than we actually need (even for athletes), buying protein supplements at best amounts to flushing your money down the toilet.

That aside, to the OP: I do a similar calculation, albeit unconsciously. If any single item on my grocery bill exceeds \$3 or so, I scrutinize whether I actually need the item. More often than not, multi-dollar items are usually packaged foods. Ergo, they are not staples or produce, which pack far more calories per dollar than mostly anything that comes in a box.

Look around your neighborhood and see if anyone has a full lemon tree. If you find one, knock and ask if you can have some (I’m assuming you’re not scary looking). Odds are good they’ll be happy to give some away.