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How to Start Food Budgeting with Less Than $100 A Month

8 Dec

Ally_07.jpgAbout the Author: My name is Ally Kuehn. I am a 21 year old, senior at Ohio University majoring in Applied Nutrition and Dietetics. I am preparing myself to graduate in May 2017. My goals are to become happy and healthier person through nutrition, health and wellness.   Instagram: Kuehnhealth Website: Click Here to see KuehnHealth Blog

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients” Julia Child. Through my own personal experience with food budgeting, I can help you spend $100 or less on groceries each month.  Follow these steps to be successful with food budgeting and creating happy, healthy meals for yourself or loved ones! 

Outlining your financials:  

The first step to successs is to determine how much you currently spend on food each month. Try to include eating out, grocery shopping, coffee, etc.  From
here, you can then calculate your maximum and minimum monthly budget.

Let’s use the $100 budget for purposes of this article.  I go grocery shopping every week and spend about $25 or less each time.  This budget is for one person. Depending on how many people you are shopping for, you might spend a little more. How frequently you shop will depend on your personal schedule- sometimes when my schedule is crazy, I will go every other week and spend around $50.

Creating a grocery list:

The first step is to look online at you go-to grocery store’s website you and find the weekly ads to see what foods are on sale or discounted. This can help decrease your overall cost. I surveyed some friends of mine with various food budgets and food preferences to find out how they make their grocery lists. Some find Pinterest to be very helpful. Some know what foods they like or don’t so they just make a list based upon those preferences. Others just get the items they run out of or pick out two to three new recipes they want to try that have similar ingredients. Pick whatever method you think is the most realistic for you! Then, select the foods that can be used more than once. Know your staple items! Some of mine are eggs, almond milk, multi grain cereal, tortillas and bread. These are items I buy every two weeks to make my trip successful!

I have created a sample grocery list (vegetarian with eggs) that I have used many times in my travels. This is a $50 list (depending on weekly sales) that I use every other week.


Selecting a grocery store or farmers market can play into how much you spend as well. One chain grocery store I have found to offer low cost, high quality ingredients is Aldi’s. Find one that you enjoy going to and also has lower cost options. If you have a grocery store you go to that has a rewards point system, I highly recommend signing up! You can save a lot of money
and earn coupons with reward points. Using coupons is not myth, they really do save you money! Again, also try to stay current with the weekly ad before going to the store.

All the while, don’t forget to keep in mind your overall goal to make healthy choices. It can be easy to just grab processed junk foods. While you might feel that the time you save is worth it, eating all this junk in the long run won’t make you feel better. Healthy food like fruits and vegetables help fill your stomach and can keep you fuller longer! Plus, making healthy choices can improve your overall energy levels and well being!

  • Get creative:

You know the feeling when you look in your closet and you have nothing to wear? This can also take place in the kitchen when you look in the fridge and you feel like you have no food. This is when it’s time for you to use that creative mind you have and be resourceful!

Sometimes it might feel like you have nothing left and you have to go shopping to make a decent meal, but you’d be surprised by the tasty and unique combinations you can come up with what you have left in your fridge/pantry! Try to use what you have before going shopping to avoid unnecessary waste. We want to stick to our original budget plan! So what can you do with those random items? Last week this happened to me and I threw together left overs I had in my fridge. I had rice in my cupboard, canned black beans, corn, green peppers, a veggie burger in the freezer, and salsa. I threw all those in a bowl and made an awesome burrito bowl. Honestly it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time and the fact that it was unplanned made it even better…and the leftovers were just as tasty!

❤ Ally Kuehn



7 Affordable Superfoods Found in Your Local Grocery Store

16 Nov

No one needs to make a pilgrimage to find some of the healthiest plants nature has to offer. These foods can be found at your local grocery store virtually year round, and they won’t break the budget either. Adding a few of these foods to your daily diet will be no problem, and is an easy way to get a wider range of nutrients.

  1. Ground Flax Seeds– A good source of Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber; just add a couple tablespoons to smoothies, stir-fries, salads, oatmeal, or anything you can think of. Ground flax seed acts as a binder and adds a thickness to concoctions; very good for thickening sauces.  Ground flax seeds can be used as a substitute for fat or eggs in most recipes also. 3 Tbsp. of ground flax seed can replace 1 Tbsp. of fat or oil. 1 Tbsp. of ground flax seed plus 3 Tbsp. of water can replace 1 egg. Substituting ground flax seeds can save you from those extra calories. Not only is it versatile and nutritious, but it is also somewhat cheap. A 12 oz. box of Hodgson Mill’s Flax Seed can cost you around $3 and can last for practically over a year in the fridge. Note that you should not buy flax oil because the refining process takes some of the nutrients and fiber away.
  2. White Button Mushrooms– You don’t have to go on a hike to find these little guys in your store. They provide a good source of the antioxidant amino acid ergothioneine, B vitamins, copper, and selenium. You should always wash and cook mushrooms before consuming them. The toxin agaratine is present in raw white mushrooms but it is diminished after cooking for a few minutes.
  3. Spinach– I will point out that Popeye was exaggerating the benefits of spinach but he had the right idea. Green leafy vegetables like spinach are some of the most powerful protectors from cancers and heart disease. Spinach is a good source of Vitamins A,C,K and folate and can be easily added to a salad. Wilting spinach leaves with diced tomatoes in a pan is also another easy tasty option.
  4. Peanut Butter– Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios usually get the spotlight for being the healthiest nuts. Allow me to shed a little light on peanuts. Even though peanuts are technically a legume, they share some of the same benefits that nuts have. All nuts are a good source of protein and minerals such as magnesium, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, zinc and copper. Not only that but a handful of nuts can suppress an appetite  and can help lower cholesterol, inflammation  and lower the risk of heart disease. You can get these same great benefits too without paying as much by choosing natural peanut butter. Natural peanut butter made without hydrogenated oils or any extra oil is the best choice; just crushed up peanuts. A 28oz jar of Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter is a little less than $5. There will be a separated layer of peanut oil on top of the peanut butter but you just have to stir it  and keep in the refrigerator to make it smooth.
  5. Black beans– High in protein, antioxidants, folate, and a good source of minerals. You can buy the raw beans and soak them overnight or buy them in a can. Not only do beans store well in the pantry, but they are relatively cheap as well. A 15oz. can of black beans will be less than 90 cents. Be sure to buy the brand that doesn’t add extra syrup, and sugar to its can of beans. Black beans can be added to leafy salads, stir-fry, or add to sauteed onions and garlic with some chili powder and cumin to have a filling for wrap.  Always rinse canned beans before using to wash away the salt and the black syrup.
  6. Kale– Another green leafy vegetable packed with cancer fighting phytonutrients and a good source of Vitamins A, C, K, and manganese and calcium. Not exactly the tastiest thing you’ll ever eat. Adding kale to a salad or wrap usually hides the sour taste, or if you’re daring you can add it to a smoothie.
  7. Beets– Very high in antioxidants and also is another good source of folate. You can buy whole beets or get them in the can. Adding beet slices to a salad or a smoothie is an easy way to incorporate beets into a diet.

Written By: Joshua Reid, Kent State University Dietetic’s Student

Mini Grocery Store Tour!

2 Sep

Ever get lost in the grocery store and have a difficult time deciding on what is healthy or not? Here is a short preview of Colleen’s actual in person grocery store tour-

In her real in person tour Colleen will give helpful tips on what to look for and what to put back on the shelf for 30 minutes. She will hit all the sections such as produce, meats, seafood, dairy, cereals, breads, the all natural section and more. After leaving this tour you will have a new sense of direction when grocery shopping. Go to or email colleen at if you would like to sign up for a tour in the Cleveland/Akron Ohio area!


A Breakfast for Champions!

3 Aug

Has anyone ever told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? It sounds cliché, but it is the truth! Your body has been fasting all night long, and it is important to break this fast with breakfast! You may think that skipping breakfast could aid in weight loss, but you are wrong. It will most likely aid in your weight gain. Your body goes into starvation mode when you skip breakfast, and when you finally do decide to eat, your body will conserve all those calories. This happens because your body does not know when it will be fed again. In a way your body has turned on to a survival mode, like the cavemen who lived hundreds of years ago. The cavemen would sometimes have irregular meals, because they would have to catch their own food. When they did eat, the calories would be conserved and stored. This is a miraculous process which the body can do for us, however we are not cavemen, so let’s not skip meals!

Also, when you skip breakfast you tend to be more hungry during lunch and dinnertime. By the time you come home from work after having no breakfast, and a wimpy lunch, you are probably are starving! This leads to quick and rash food choices. Most of the time these food choices are not the best choices, and you may consume a lot of this particular food, (such as potato chips or cookies). These bad food choices lead to weight gain, because you are eating these high calorie foods along with your normal dinner, (or a poor choice dinner such as fast food).

The best breakfast options involve fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, whole grains, high fiber and protein, low in sugar and no fast foods.

Ponder these important questions if you are not eating breakfast every morning: Why am I not eating breakfast? Do I overeat at lunch and/or dinner? What hinders me from not eating breakfast? What are some ways that I can overcome these obstacles? 

Here are some healthy breakfast options:

  • Steel-cut oatmeal, ground flax seed, blueberries, sliced almonds
  • A high fiber cereal such as Kashi go-lean crunch with skim or low-fat milk
  • A Fresh Fruit salad
  • Low-fat yogurt with berries and low-fat granola
  • Scrambled egg whites with sliced red bell peppers, onions, broccoli and crushed pepper with whole gain toast
  • Whole grain english muffin with natural peanut butter, pears and skim or low-fat milk
  • High protein energy bar
  • Fruit smoothie with frozen fruits and low-fat soy milk or water
  • Low-fat cottage cheese with peaches
  • Grab portable fruit such as apples, bananas, pears for an on the go breakfast

“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.”
John Gunther

What to Eat at the Park?

12 Jul

Whether it be the Amusement Park, the Lake Park, or the Zoo Park your best bet is to ALWAYS pack a lunch or picnic! 

Reasons why you should always pack a lunch for the Park:

  1. You will save money.
  2. You will not be tempted by the horrible park food such as hot dogs, chicken fingers, hamburgers, ice cream and french fries.
  3. It is fun to pack a picnic and share it with your family or that special someone.
  4. Packing your lunch can give you freedom to bring things that are not offered at the Park.
  5. Although it may take some prep time to pack before hand, you are helping your family and friends by encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

What you should pack for the Park:

  1. A large salad full of leafy greens, colorful peppers, broccoli, carrots and any other vegetables that you love. With a side of homemade non-oil salad dressing
  2. A variety of fruit such as apples, bananas, strawberries, peaches
  3. Whole wheat bread and a lower fat white cheese such as mozzarella cheese to make a sandwich. 
  4. Bottled water
  5. 100% juice boxes
  6. Hummus and whole wheat pita bread or sliced veggies to dip such as carrots or peppers
  7. Whole wheat pasta salad
  8. Nuts (no salt added), dried fruit (no sugar added), granola bars
  9. Maybe some red wine for a romantic picnic
  10. For something sweet pack some organic dark chocolate if you wish!

Amusement park usually let you back in the park if you get a stamp on the way out. So get a stamp on the way out for lunch time and head out to your car where you packed your lunch under some ice! This way everything will be cold, crisp and refreshing. This is absolutely divine after spending the whole first half of the day standing in long lines for those rides! A hot hamburger and french fries does not sound appetizing to me with 90 degree weather. A fresh salad and cool water will refuel you 100 times better for the second half of the day! 

The same goes for Zoo parks, you can leave the park to go to your car. Most zoos have picnic tables or a grassy area outside the entrance that you could have your picnic. 

And of course if you are at the lake for the day, nothing is better than having a cooler full of goodies to enjoy throughout the day. Grab some fruit here and there. For lunch pick a nice picnic table to enjoy the refreshing lunch you have packed for your friends and family. I was at the lake last weekend, and was appalled by what I saw. Parents buying nachos, hot dogs, Large sodas, huge pizza slices, processed ice cream bars. The concession stand at lake and pools are over priced and “under nutriented” ok I just made that word up. But seriously, I wanted to go up to those parents and ask them why they were feeding not only their kids but their kid’s friends that crap. It would be so much cheaper to just pack a healthy lunch, and so much more healthful. Not to mention those children are learning habits that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. Start feeding them nachos now, and they will want them at the lake/pool every other time after that, and into their adulthood. Parents need to start taking their children’s health as a priority and not convenience as a priority. 

Make your next Park experience more enjoyable and PACK your healthy lunch the next time you and your family head to the Park! I know I did!

CEDAR POINT entrance with my friend Mary!

Which ride to choose first? Millennium Force front seat!

Mary and I are pumped for our lunch!!

Look at my yummy salad!

We stopped at our local Earth Fare grocery store in the morning before the trip and bought our lunch there. I made this salad in less than 5 minutes and threw everything in the color with some ice. Simple as that!

Cooler of cold Fruit and Water!

A Nutrient Packed Day: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Dessert

13 May

A healthy, balanced diet consists of whole grains, heart healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and beans, low-fat dairy products, is low in cholesterol, low in fat, low in sodium, high fiber and high in protein. Do you ever wonder, “how can I put all these things together into an actual menu?”

Use this menu I have created as a reference. I have included everything that you need for a daily balanced diet! Each dish has 5 ingredients or less. I bought everything here for 50 dollars.


Do not EVER skip breakfast! Try making this lightning fast smoothie. It contains blueberries which are very high in antioxidants (which fight cancer), ground flax seeds which are very high in omega-3 fatty acids (which are very good for brain and heart health), and soy milk which is low in fat. You want to always get the ground flax seed. If you are buying whole flax seeds, you are wasting your money! The whole seeds cannot be digested or used by your body, and to be frank, they came out in the same form as you put them in!

Blueberry Cereal Smoothie

Serves 1


  • 3/4 cup frozen blueberries (no sugar added)
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed meal


  • Place blueberries, soy milk and flax seed meal in blender
  • Blend
  • Serve!

A quick lunch is a must to make, because we do not have much time in the evening or the morning to prep. It it takes too long to prep, we will be tempted to skip making it and go out somewhere for lunch. Save yourself the money and make this quick sandwich. Whole wheat bread which is high in fiber, avocados which are high in the heart healthy monounsaturated fats, spinach which are good sources of iron, Vitamin C, and antioxidants, tomatoes which are high in lycopene which is an antioxidant that can prevent cancer, and Dijon mustard which is low in fat and high in flavor! Pair this sandwich along with an Apple and a glass of skim milk and you are all set!

ALT (Avocado/Lettuce/Tomato) Sandwich

Serves 1


  • 2 slice WHOLE WHEAT bread
  • 1/4 ripe avocado chopped
  • 1/2 medium tomato chopped
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard


  • Place mustard on one slice of bread, place 1/2 cup of spinach leaves on one slice of bread, place tomato slices on one slice of bread, place avocado one piece of bread.
  • Put together sandwiches by closing two pieces together slowly, then press gently to compress sandwich.
DINNER: A quick, easy and flavorful dinner is a must! If you have this recipe planned for dinner, you will not even think twice about ordering a pizza. Pair this recipe with a mixed lettuce salad with oil and vinegar as a side, and a glass of skim milk. This recipe contains whole grain tortillas that are high in fiber, black beans that are high in fiber and protein, salsa, tomato sauce and corn which are high in flavor and low in sodium and fat. You can add mozzarella cheese to this if you would like. If you cannot find no-salt added beans or corn be sure to rinse them under water to remove the sodium. You can see if salt is added by looking at the ingredients on the back of the can.
Vegetarian Tortilla Pie

Serves 6-8


  • 1 jar (11-12 oz) Medium Salsa
  • 1 can 8 oz low-sodium tomato sauce
  • 1 can no-salt added black beans
  • 1 can no-salt added whole kernel corn drained
  • 9 whole wheat flour tortillas


  • preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together salsa, tomato sauce, beans and corn.
  • Place 3 tortillas down on a large cookie sheet. Spread mixture evenly over tortilla. Cover each with a tortilla and repeat on next layer. Top with a final tortilla on each.
  • Back pie until cheese has melted and filling is hot, 10-12 minutes.
DESSERT: Ever wonder how you can indulge in something, but have it also contain some important nutrients, and have it be a good choice? This dessert contains greek yogurt, which has no fat, high in calcium and protein, natural vanilla wafers which do not have the trans fat that the regular vanilla wafers have, bananas which are high in potassium, fiber and natural sugars, and dark chocolate chips which are known for the antioxidant effects.

Greek Yogurt Surprise!

Serves 10-15


  • 8 -4 oz cups Non-Fat Honey Greek Yogurt
  • 2-Boxes Madagascar Vanilla Wafers
  • 8-Large Bananas
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips


  • Open yogurt containers and mix yogurt in a bowl.
  • Cut all bananas into small slices.
  • Pour wafers into a bowl and smash them until crushed.
  • Get a clear large bowl for the layering process. Start with the cookies on the bottom, then yogurt, then bananas, repeat three about three times. End with cookies on top. Then sprinkle chocolate chips on the very top!
  • Cover and refrigerate for a couple hours.

My West Side Market Excursion!

30 Apr

Since you guys wanted me to write more about shopping on a budget, here it is! Read about my trip to the West Side Market, what I bought, the prices and how I will use the food in meals for 2 people this week!


“The West Side Market is Cleveland’s oldest and most trusted market! Today the market is home to over 100 vendors of great ethnic diversity. You can find not only fine meats and fresh vegetables, but also fresh seafood, baked goods, dairy and cheese products, and even fresh flowers. There are also booths that sell ready-to-eat foods, herbs, candy and nuts. Tourists from all over the world tour the market every year drawn by television programs produced by the Travel Channel and Food Network featuring segments on the West Side Market. Last year it is estimated that over a million people visited the market.” Visit the website for more information:


Believe it or not this was my first time going to the market! Since I was in Cleveland this Saturday morning for a 5K race, I decided to stop and get my weekly groceries! I had a great time! I could spend all day long in there! But that is just me, I like shopping for groceries more than I like shopping for clothes! The prices come very cheap due to the competitive nature of vendors with other vendors. You will not find these prices in the grocery store, nor will you find the freshness. On my trip I did make a few expensive purchases such as a half pound of Fresh Yellowfin Tuna which was over $8.00, but I still stayed within my budget. I am a vegetarian, but I do eat tuna, salmon and some other non-shell fish seafood….so I suppose you could call me a Pescetarian. I also bought some really yummy feta cheese spread (olive and also sun-dried tomato spread) which was $6.00 for a ½lb, and some Lebanese whole wheat spinach wraps which were about $3.00 each. If you buy specialty items already made by vendors then the prices can tend to be a little higher, and if the seafood is rare then that will also be a little higher. The other seafood such as tilapia was a great price. I totaled about $70.00, which is not too bad, my budget for the week is from $50-70! Most of the vendors accepted my EBT (food stamps) card, which was great to hear! Below is a picture of everything I bought! I made a menu, but I plan on having some left overs after the 5 days for the weekend.


Here is a price list of everything.

Click here: Prices groceries

Here is a sample menu (for 2) of what I will be having this week.

Click here: Menu- west side market

Think Healthy Food is Too Expensive? Think Again!

26 Apr

Ok sure, sometimes healthy food can be expensive, but only if you are NOT a smart shopper! Look for sales of fruits at your grocery store, buy fruits and vegetables that are in season for the cheapest prices. Healthy grains such as brown rice, pasta and healthy legumes such as lentils come at very cheap prices. Frozen vegetables are cheaper than fresh, last longer and have the same nutritional value. You can also save money by only buying organic fruits and vegetables that have thin skins such as peaches for example. You do not really need to buy organic when the outer skin is thick like bananas. But no one can argue that unhealthy foods like chips, soda pop (more expensive than water), fast food (this adds up much faster in the long run), candy bars, frozen dinners and prepackaged foods are not any cheaper (if not more expensive) than fruits, veggies and making things from scratch! Not to mention these unhealthy items I listed are million times worse for you due to high sodium, high fat, high sugar content and empty of other important nutrients.

What I have for below you is 5 days worth of food for two on a budget of 50$! It can be done, because I did it! Everything I got is either low in fat, high in fiber, low in cholesterol or a combo, and includes a variety of fruits and vegetables. I am a vegetarian, so I eat no meat! I only had 50 dollars left in my budget for food, so I went to the store and bought these items. I then made a menu from them. 

Here is what I bought!

List and approx prices and items: Click below


Sample Menu: (I always have a stash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar always on hand!) I drink at least 1 liter of water a day as well! Approx. 1200-1800 calories per day: Click below


Eating healthy on a budget

26 Aug

Contrary to popular belief eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. If you have a hard time finding cheap healthy items at the store, here is a list of cheaper food items to get you started. You don’t have to put processed foods in your body just because you are on a budget.

Brown rice
Beans-garbonzo, pinto, black, kidney
Sweet Potatoes
Russet Potatoes
Canned Tuna



Low sodium canned soups

Whole wheat pasta

Canned marinara sauce
Whole wheat bread
Whole wheat pita bread
Frozen vegetables
Romaine lettuce head
Baby carrots
Pearl barley-dry
Fat free yogurt
Natural peanut butter
Canned salmon
Frozen fruit
Popcorn kernels
Bulgar wheat

Try to avoid frozen connivence foods like frozen dinners. They are super high in sodium. Try collecting coupons to save extra on organic foods. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. (for September: Apples, Eggplants, Grapes, Lettuce, Persimmon, Pomegranate, Pumpkins, Spinach, Tomatoes). Make sure you are meal planning to avoid any tempting quick unhealthy dinners. Never go to the grocery store hungry. Shop without your children if possible.

Meal Planning Made Easy

25 Aug

Think meal planning is crazy and too time consuming?? Think again! I believe meal planning is one of the most important things your can do for yourself and your family. Meal planning is not only for families but also for singles and college students. It takes a little time to make one each week, but it will save you the stress during the week. Stop wasting your money by buying foods you don’t need and might not eat, cut out fast food completely, shrink your waistline! This post will painlessly guide you through the meal planning process! It’s worth the time to slow down and plan nutritious meals. Then, sit down and enjoy them with your friends and families!

Here is a blank sample template of what you can use to start your meal planning

Have staples in your pantry such as flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, vanilla, beans, rice, broth, canned vegetables, basil, pepper, salt, garlic, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, cumin, fennel, ginger, nutmeg, chili powder, mustard ketchup, olive oil and vinegar.

Pick a day to go shopping each week. Sunday usually works best for me, because I could prep the food the same day. Follow these steps for easy meal planning:

  1. On the spreadsheet given above cross out the days you know you will not be eating at home or packing.
  2. Sit down and gather your favorite cook books and recipe websites. Choose a recipe for each dinner. Choose a basic lunch items (example: Whole wheat bread, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, organic turkey breast, carrot sticks, almond butter. For a sandwich and carrots everyday) and a simple breakfast items (example: Box of raisin bran, fat free milk, yogurt, whole wheat bread, natural jam preserves, oatmeal) needed for the week or choose recipes for breakfast and lunch if you prefer for some days. Also include 2 healthy snacks.
  3. Write down the recipes on the dinner slot, lunch and breakfast in their designated slot on the spreadsheet.
  4. Write down all the ingredients needed on a notepad.
  5. Check kitchen for things that you already have. Write the complete list on spreadsheet.
  6. Go shopping
  7. Unload and start prep work.
  8. Cut up all vegetables and fruits accordingly. Make all the sauces for the recipes and store them with labels. Try to prepare as much as you can this day, to avoid preparing much on the day it is being cooked.

Here are some websites that can also help you kickstart your meal planning!

Stay tuned on tips for healthy recipes and healthy snacks for your meal planning!!