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5 Foods for the Budget-Conscious Consumer

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We’ve all had times where we need to eat cheap. Many of us enjoy eating out, and, while this is good as an occasional treat, sometimes it isn’t feasible.

So what can you eat when your wallet is a little thin? Hopefully, this list helps when you’re deciding on a dinner that doesn’t break the bank.

Peanut butter

This is a personal favourite of mine and one that has saved me more times than I can count. Often, I’ll grab a jar of peanut butter and some bread if I want to stretch my wallet a little bit further, even if I have enough money to treat myself to more expensive eats.

Peanut butter has protein, calcium, and potassium, and, while it may not be the best choice for healthy food, there is at least a bit of nutrition to it. It’s not as bad other forms of processed food. You can live off it, at least for the short-term.

Spaghetti

Another food that works well when the finances are slim is spaghetti. Add some sauce and you can sustain yourself for really an indefinite amount of time. It’s pretty cool how that works, isn’t it?

I used to live almost solely on a diet of pasta years ago, with the occasional treat when I needed something different. This is maybe the major downside in sticking with spaghetti for sustenance: boredom.

I find throwing in veggies (if you can) adds a hearty twist to the dish and makes it easier to not get tired of what you’re eating. Plus, this adds nourishment to the food. But pasta and sauce is a perfect choice for any person’s budget when it comes to the right mix of food and flavour.

Beans and rice

Easily the blandest choice here, this one requires a bit of creativity and inventiveness to dress up. On their own, they’re really starchy and quite flavourless.

At the same time, there are plenty of nutrients within the pairing, such as potassium; carbohydrates; fibre; protein; calcium; iron; vitamin B6; and magnesium. This is a very healthy choice for the budget-conscious.

But healthy choices aren’t necessarily healthy in unlimited amounts. Anything can be dangerous when overdone, and beans and rice are no exception. There’s a lot of fat and sugar in beans, so watch out if you decide to eat a lot of them.

Canned food

I know, I know. This doesn’t count as a specific food. But it’s a worthy mention, nonetheless. There are so many different foods within this category – from the aforementioned beans to green beans, to canned meats like beef, chilli, and even chicken.

Word to the wise: I don’t recommend canned chilli. I bought it once because I’m lazy like that. When I opened it, I was greeted with a foul smell barely better than the taste and texture. The appearance was just as bad. It looked like dog food.

When I tried to give it to a neighbourhood cat in an attempt to feed the poor thing, it walked away – never to be seen again. Maybe I offended it, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised. And if it’s bad enough for a starving animal, it’s probably even worse for you.

But everything else is fair game, especially canned veggies like green beans, butter beans, corn, and creamed corn. These can add variety to any dish really.

They’re a good add-on to anything, especially beans and rice. Drain the corn and stir it up. These are also extremely easy on anybody’s budget, as can tend to run under a dollar in most stores in the United States (I’m not sure the cost in other countries).

Cereal

I enjoy cereal; it’s toward the top of the list of my favourite foods. It tastes good, can be packed with nutrients (at least as far as processed foods go) – and, if you get generic or bagged versions, it can be rather cheap.

Now, while it’s not as inexpensive as canned goods or spaghetti, it can last a few days at the very least if you go for the larger sizes. Sometimes places have special two-for-one deals. And, like I said, going for the generic and bagged kinds is the best bang for your buck. Definitely a nice treat, if nothing else.

I hope this list helps for when you need to stretch your food budget a bit further but still get your vitamins and minerals. We’ve all been in tight situations where we need to stretch our wallets just a tiny bit further. With these foods and others (as well as some crafty cooking), doing so can be simpler than one might believe.

By Stephanie Knar

Stephanie Knarr recently moved to Pittsburgh, PA from the Harrisburg, PA area. Her writing appears in Harrisburg's local magazine, The Burg, and her work will soon appear in Unwinnable and Five:2:One. Her favourite drink is RC Cola, and her favourite band is probably Animal Collective.

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