Dieting, CHEAP

Yes, cheap! I want to lose some weight - specifically, about 20-25lbs, maybe a little more/less depending on how I look and feel when I get there.

Anyhow, I also just graduated from college, am not making much money, and have a high rent b/c I live in Boston, land of the ridiculously high rents.

I tried to do Atkins for a while, but it was way too expensive, so I just want to starte eating lower fat foods and things that are just healthier than easy mac.

I’ve been exercising, but I need to change my eating habits too. My favorite foods are things that are fried or drenched in some kind of creamy sauce…mmmm…
I’m not a huge fan of pasta (find it boring, on the whole), but I like rice. Also, I’ll be walking distance from a Whole Foods market, so I can buy things in bulk.

Any advice on how to do this cheaply? Also, note that I’m trying to make actual changes in my daily eating habits, not just a quick fix. I need foods that I will not get sick of quickly, and I like things with flavor.

Thanks! Mmmmm…food…I’m hungry!

Cut back on the creamy sauces and switch to the low-fat or non-fat versions of everything. Bear in mind that some things, like peanut butter, maintain “quality” in their low-fat versions by adding sugar, which doesn’t help much.

Deep-six the deep-fried food. Try stir-frying with water instead of oil.

Make as much of your own food as possible.

Whenever possible, cut the amount of fat called for in a recipe by half. If the recipe still works, cut the fat in half again. Repeat until the recipe fails due to not having enough fat, then go back to the last version that worked.

I would suggest a greater emphasis on portion control as well as fat content - read the backs of boxes, and start measuring out portions the way they are meant to be. Invest in a scale for weighing out portions - a digital scale can be had for $30.

I agree, cook your own meals - go to the library and take out books on healthy cooking, and work from there. Cooking Light is a favorite for me.

I agree on cooking with less fat - I’ve heard that the recommendation for a healthy diet is max of 30% of calories from fat. That is over the day, though, so you can balance out the fatty foods with the lighter foods if you want to splurge. Keep fat in your diet - too little fat can damage your body as well as too much. Try to work with the healthy fats - nuts & nut butters are probably the best. Go for natural peanut butter - made from just nuts - and this is where the portion control can come in. It’s amazing how much flavor there is in just 1 tablespoon of peanut butter!

Frozen veggies can be just as nutritious as fresh - and cheaper. Skim milk and frozen fruit can make a quick breakfast smoothie.


Good suggestions=)

You can also stirfry in defatted chicken broth=)

Whole foods is good=) get rice, lentils, and assorted types of beans in bulk=)

A good dish is a mix of beans and rice, each cooked separately and a half cup of each mixed and added to a small ramekin [small single serving baking dish, you can get them at dollar stores fairly cheaply if you dont mind if they are holiday themed for bizaare dates, i have christmas ones i use in july=)] with a dollop of medium salsa added, and a sort of dip made in the center with an egg cracked into it and a good hefty pinch of grated cheddar cheese on top baked until the egg is cooked to the doneness you like. Makes a nice light meal, breakfast, lunch or dinner, and combines nicely with a salad=) Decently good in fiber, tasty, relatively cheap=) does have fat in it…

Raw vegies, hardboiled eggs, cheese and homemade hummus with pita on the side, hummus is fairly simple to make and you can google recipes for it. It does require you invest in a jar of tahina [sesame seed paste] but a little of that goes a long way=) and other ingredients are olive oil and lemon juice, both in small amounts=) and a package of 6 or 8 small pita is fairly cheap and keep sin the fridge=) and they do make nice whole grain pitas=) and for dessert you can add a dish of half unflavored whole milk live culture yoghurt mixed 1:1 with applesauce with a dash of cinnamon=)

You might look into South Beach, if you found Atkins helpful. There is a two week low-carb induction period similar to Atkins, except that you can substitute beans or lentils for meat, which makes it much easier to do cheaply. The Prevention Magazine site has a free overview of the diet.

After the first two weeks you can add whole grains and fruits back in. If you find a source for bulk grains and buy whatever fruits and vegetables are cheap that week, you really can do it for a reasonable amount of money.

I should note that the South Beach books provide menus, but they tend to be more than a bit luxurious. You don’t have to cook that way to be on the diet. If you want to invest in a cookbook, you might want to look into and Indian or vegetarian book–lots of flavor, inexpensive and healthy ingredients.

The wife and I are also trying to dump 25 pounds each or so. We have found that spicy foods, which we both love, make portion control much easier. Lots of rice, accented with veggies and hot peppers, for example. We also upped our walking, doing a mile or so around the block after dinner. So far, so good.

Spices are your friend. :smiley:

Ohh, good call. I love spicy food, but like you and your wife, I also find that it makes it easier to not gorge on something.

Also, portion control is definetly something I need to work on. Though, I made the lovely discovery this morning that even if I eat just a regular (tiny looking) portion size of oatmeal instead of two packets, I stay full just as long. That’s good to know. I like to eat, and eat often, and hate feeling hungry.
Thanks for all the meal ideas! I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to food, so don’t hold back any tasty, low fat food oddities you love.

Any ideas for easy snacks? Stuff I can bring to work with me to nibble on during the day. Today I have pea pods.

Snacks are easy. Spices again, of course. We are very fond of air-popped popcorn, spiced with cayenne pepper. Or try adding oregano and garlic powder. Yum.

Veggie sticks are good to munch on…the texture and crunch makes them more “fulfilling” somehow. Take a shaker of spices to work, and shake them on anything.

We both like pepperoncini abd antipasto mixes, which have a nice vinegary tang. Pickles are always good.

If you are buying rice go for brown rice - very little if any taste difference and not stripped of nutrients.

I try to combine a carb and protein for my snacks. Lately I’ve been having a banana and two hard boiled eggs (whites only) for breakfast.

For my snack this afternoon I have some sort of fruit and cottage cheese.

I eat fairly clean and have been losing a little weight myself lately. When I look in my lunchbag I find it hard to believe that I have so much to eat and am still taking off the weight. Of course lifting weights and doing some sort of cardio helps tremendously.

Stay away from those idiotic diets such as Atkins. The weight loss rarely is lasting and you can actually harm yourself.

As others have mentioned, portion control is the key. You can eat anything you want, but you have to make the conscious choice to reduce the portion size and eat in moderation at every meal.

If you know someone in Weight Watchers, borrow their point book and…er…memorize it. With this program, I’ve lost 15 pounds, my wife has lost 25 pounds, my sister has lost 55 pounds and my niece has lost 75. And it is staying off. You need to change your lifestyle, not indulge in a fad diet.

Water, water, and more water. Keep water with you and drink it at all times. Don’t spend huge wads of money on bottled; drink tap, either straight or filtered. If you hate water, get the flavored carbonated waters from Walmart or Target. They’re especially good for weaning yourself off soda, because they’re sweet and bubbly and some flavors have an acidic tang to them. They have no calories or sodium, and they’re generally cheaper than buying soda. The water serves two purposes; it helps prevent water retention that can make you look bulkier than you are, and it keeps you full so you eat smaller portions.

Keep a bowl of cut-up salad base (I tend towards romaine and red onion) in the fridge all the time, along with cheese and nuts and leftover meat from your dinner. Then you always have a fast, easy, healthy option for meals or snacks, which tends to cut down on the times you say “screw it” and grab some McDonalds or eat a box of Easy Mac for dinner or gobble down a bunch of crap waiting for dinner to cook.

Learn about the things you can do with a whole chicken–you can often buy an entire chicken for the same price as a pound of boneless, skinless breast. Invest a few bucks in a pair of poultry shears, and with a bit of practice you can cut one up in less than five minutes. I’m partial to roast chicken, where you butterfly it, rub it with a bit of mayo, season, pop it in the oven, and forget it for an hour or two. Eat some of it that night, some more for lunch the next day, pull the meat off the bones and make soup or chicken salad or top a green salad. You’ve got several meals for minimal money and work. (Since it’s just you, you might consider cutting chickie in two and freezing half.)

You always, always need some protein in your snacks, or you’re going to be snacking again in half an hour. At home, I really like to top popcorn (airpopped or stove-top, none of that expensive, greasy microwave stuff) with garlic salt, a teensy sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon, and some almond slices. The popcorn gives it bulk without a lot of calories, so it’s more satisfying than just eating a handful of almonds. The almonds add dimension to the flavor, so the initial snacking experience is more satisfying, and the protein keeps me satisfied for several hours. I also like popcorn with just about any sort of cheese sprinkled on. I’m specially fond of cheddar and pepper jack, but mozzerella or parmesan is good too.

It’s all about replacing things.

When I crave ice cream, I try to have a yogurt instead. Not frozen yogurt, which is usually full of sugar anyway, but a cup of no-fat, no-sugar yogurt from the fridge. It satisfies the desire for something cold and smooshy.

When I need crunch, instead of a bowl of chips, I’ll have a dry bowl of cereal. Yeah, carrots are better, but I’ll turn orange soon.

I also love frozen juice pops. You can buy the plastic holders at the dollar store.

I’ve been in the same boat for a while, and I’ve learned how to change it up now and then, which keeps me interested in what I’m eating–and do it without spending a ton of money to always have different foods around. Stock up on something you can eat for a week, then go shopping for something else. Sometimes, I’ll go on a Mexican food kick and eat tortillas full of either fat-free refried beans, spiced chicken, or ground turkey with lots of lettuce, tomatoes, and salsa. Beans are cheap, as is ground turkey if you buy it in a tube (like sausage). Skip or scrimp on the cheese, and if you must have sour cream, go fat-free. And once I’ve got the right ingredients, I’ll eat Mexican food for a week…then switch to something else.

I mentioned one of my favorite tricks there–substitute ground turkey for ground beef in everything. You’ll barely notice the difference in most recipies, and it’s much better for you.

I also recommend breakfast cereal with fat-free yogurt. Grape-Nuts, granola, Kashi crunch, or other fiber-filled cereals can look pricey but last for several breakfasts. The crunchiness of the cereal and the thickness of the yogurt make it feel like a substantial breakfast. Add a little of whatever fruit is on sale this week, and it’s soooo good.

Walk everywhere. Don’t drink your calories. Learn to love taking the stairs and skim milk. You’ll feel better…good luck!

Umm, just in case nobody told you this, you don’t need to drink 8 glasses of water a day. Some, yes. Quarts, no.

I, myself, drink no actual water on a daily basis, and haven’t died of dehydration yet.

The water-drinking isn’t about staying hydrated, it’s about keeping your tummy full without loading up on calories or spending a lot of money.

Especially if you spice things up. Millit’s burrito trick is one we use all the time. Lots of lettuce, ground turkey (extra-spicy), a little lite cheese, sliced olives, tomato chunks, and a tom of home-made salsa. You can pig out, eat three of them, and come in under 500 calories for the entire meal. Then I am usually so stuffed that I can skip breakfast the next morning. Do this trick at lunch on a weekend, and skip dinner.

The key, however, is to not make a habit of doing this. You need to condition your body to a new level of caloric intake, and jacking it around too much just spikes your hunger for snacks and stuff that isn’t that good for you!

Whole Foods can be expensive for many items, but spices are a real bargain there. Refill bottles that you already have - or buy new ones for a buck or two - and you’ll pay anywhere from a quarter to maybe a dollar for spices that cost $3-4+ in other stores.

Ok, that is making me hungry! :slight_smile:

Great ideas, everyone! Thanks!

“Cheap Diet” and “Whole Foods” do not belong in the same sentence IMO.

Yes, Whole Foods may have some things in bulk that are cheaper than buying pre-packaged. But c’mon, are you going to go to Whole Foods, buy the bulk stuff, then go to a standard grocery store to buy a tomato or some ground turkey? Whole Foods is an amazingly expensive place to shop. I once decided to buy a chicken there because I had to pick up some cheese or some such thing that my standard grocery store didn’t carry, and I didn’t want to make 2 trips. At a normal store, a roast chicken costs maybe $6. $7 or $8 if you get a big one. This damn thing was $25. I had NO CLUE it would be that much, and nearly handed it back to the butcher when I saw the price tag. Instead, I decided to try it. Maybe it would be the best roast chicken I ever ate in my life? Nope. Tasted just like the grocery store one.

Anyway, /rant off. If you really want to save some cash, look into a food coop, or find a normal grocery store that has a bulk section. You’ll save loads of cash right there. Also, even if your local grocery store doesn’t have a bulk section, check the prices on the prepackaged stuff. A 2# bag of beans is cheap, no matter where you buy it.

Actually, yes I can do that. Whole Foods is literally a block away from where I’ll be living as of next Tuesday, so I can walk or stop there on my way home from work whenever I want. And the “real” grocery store (I believe it’s a Star Market, but it might be Shaws) is only a few stops on the T. Plus, I don’t have a car, so I always use the T, bus, or my own two feet to carry groceries. Two smaller trips are actually better for me than one, trying to drag everything home at once.

I do understand your point, however - if both markets weren’t so close, it would not really be an option.