Help Me Improve My Low Budget Pescatarian Diet
October 2, 2019 8:26 AM   Subscribe

I live on a low budget diet of brown rice, legumes, vegetables and cheap fruit supplemented with eggs, dairy and canned sardines. I would like to add more protein and improve things overall to improve my health and lose weight.

I do not cook meat but will eat it if other people cook and offer it to me or when I'm eating outside but overall I eat small amounts of meat only a few times a week so it forms a negligible part of my diet.

A friend who saw my food log commented that my diet appears to be low in protein. I have the same concern. My diet is carb heavy (beans/lentils and brown rice) but I do not know how to increase my protein and decrease my carbs without busting my budget given that I don't eat meat. I would prefer not to eat too many eggs per week though I love them.

I am in a hurry in the morning and usually just eat cold cereal with low fat yogurt. I would like to add more protein to breakfast but I do not have time to cook eggs etc. and would like something I can just pour and eat. Am considering adding chia seeds though they appear kind of pricey. Maybe sunflower seeds? Sesame?

Things you should know:
I eat 1-2 cans of sardines per week. I prefer canned salmon but they are more expensive.
I take fish oil everyday so I'm presumably not lacking in Omega 3s.
In-between meal snacks consist of nuts and dried fruit so for breakfast I would like to consider seeds since I already eat a handful of almonds, walnuts etc. per day.
I eat tofu and tempeh but not processed soy like TVP etc.

Any other suggestions for improvements welcome.
posted by whitelotus to Health & Fitness (37 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
If you have a blender, silken-style tofu can be blended into a smoothie. You could make a breakfast smoothie the night before, or a pitcher of them to last a couple days.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:35 AM on October 2, 2019

Chia seeds are a great option. A bag will last forever, they expand quite a lot.

Brown rice is good, but so are many other grains. Farro is particularly nice as a rice substitute. You can also make blends (1/2 quinoa 1/2 rice is a good one) for budget purposes.

Honestly though, you sound like you are doing fine as is assuming you feel healthy, especially given the sardines, beans and eggs already in your diet. Keep in mind a lot of veggies (broccoli, potatoes) are high in protein too, and that western diets are generally much higher in protein than needed.
posted by veery at 8:37 AM on October 2, 2019 [9 favorites]

A simple and cheap way to get more protein is to increase the ratio of beans/lentils to rice. If I'm interpreting it right, about half of the calories from lentils are protein. (100 grams of lentils has 12 grams of non-fiber carbs and 9 grams of protein.) Similarly, for breakfast, a little more yogurt and a little less cereal.

You also seem to have a pretty low-fat diet, so if you prefer the taste of full-fat yogurt - that is, if you have taste buds - you could switch to that. (Nutritionists have traditionally recommended limiting milk fat, but the evidence is very uncertain, so I'd vote for going with what you enjoy.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:38 AM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Is there an Asian grocery store near you? Typically, their canned fish/seafood selections are very,very affordable and have a greater range of flavors, fish types and preparations (grilled eel in curry sauce, for example, for like $1.50 a can)

Also, grocery store rotisserie chickens are usually inexpensive and since it's already cooked, it wouldn't violate your rules. You can use the carcass afterwards to make stock with all the vegetables and legumes you consume.
posted by caveatz at 8:39 AM on October 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Is your friend a registered dietitian? Are you feeling ill? It is highly unlikely that your diet is low in protein. In fact, it is virtually impossible to be protein deficient if you are getting enough calories and not eating junk food. (I'm vegan, and this is a huge subject in the vegan world - the upshot from vegan doctors and dietitians is that it's not something to worry about. Most Americans get far more than the USDA-recommended amount - and too much protein is not good for you.) If you don't believe me, you could use the Cronometer app to record what you're eating and find out how much protein you're really getting. Americans have a weird love affair with protein and tend to think of that and not the many other vitamins, micronutrients, and fiber that Western people are more likely to be deficient in.

Beans, lentils, and brown rice all have protein. In fact, all whole plant foods have protein, including the fruit you're eating. If you want to increase your protein, that's one thing, but you are getting enough. If you are in fact not feeling well, it is probably not because of a lack of protein.

Protein aside, if you are looking to improve your diet, you can't go wrong with more vegetables.
posted by FencingGal at 8:40 AM on October 2, 2019 [37 favorites]

Is your low-fat yogurt a Greek yogurt? Greek yogurt has a surprising amount of protein in it, the brand I buy has 12 grams per 5 ounce serving. If you're not already eating Greek yogurt definitely that's a good switch.
posted by muddgirl at 8:40 AM on October 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

One of my favorite breakfasts is sliced apple with some almond or peanut butter smeared on it, sprinkled with cinnamon and hemp or flax seed. Cottage cheese is also fairly high in protein. However, there's a lot of conflicting information about how much protein the average joe or jane needs in their diet. Yours sounds like it already has an ample supply, but that's my subjective opinion.
posted by missmobtown at 8:43 AM on October 2, 2019

[standard I-am-not-a-MD/RD/whatever and don't know what your health issues are]

Chia/sunflower/sesame/etc seeds are not very high in protein so it does not seem they would meet your goal.

Hard boiled eggs last a while so if you can schedule the time you can boil a bunch at once and it would be faster than the cold cereal + yogurt as they don't require a bowl or utensils or sitting down or dishes etc.

I naturally don't know the prices of things wherever you are located however vital wheat gluten and pea protein powder are both very cheap for me.

You could switch to higher-protein cold cereal, or if your yogurt is sweetened get plain instead.
posted by ToddBurson at 8:49 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Chia seeds or hemp hearts and some decent protein powder are worth the cost. You only need a spoonful at a time for a serving. When I get a container of chia seeds, it lasts me a while, and you can find good deals on Amazon. Chia seeds are also great in overnight oats for a low effort morning meal.

When I know I'm not going to want to cook but need healthy food in the AM, the night before I make a protein shake with some frozen fruit/spinach/chia seeds or hemp hearts/peanut butter/protein powder and just put it in the fridge overnight. I have never been able to drink straight protein powder + water or ice without other real food ingredients, even though it's more cost effective. Also, I usually only use about 1/2 the serving recommended on protein powder containers - ie just 1 scoop instead of 2 - and the shakes still keep me full, so a container lasts me longer.

I agree with the posters above though...unless you're not feeling well, or you have a very high activity level and keep unintentionally losing weight or something like that, it already sounds like your diet is already quite balanced and you probably aren't deficient in protein. If you find yourself getting hungry too quickly maybe add a little more fat in for satiety. I'm not a nutrition professional/just my opinion.
posted by zdravo at 8:54 AM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

FencingGal said what I came to say. I eat mostly vegan/vegetarian and was a vegetarian for 20+ years. Everyone was concerned about my protein levels only because I didn't eat meat. Meat-eating Americans really do have a "weird love affair" with protein. Track your meals if you're concerned (FencingGal recommended Cronometer which is very detailed so try using it for a month to see what you're really getting nutrient-wise), but your diet as listed seems pretty great.

I don't eat much brown rice these days as I've substituted it for quinoa. Makes my meals feel lighter and it's high in protein. I eat it with black beans instead of rice, and tuck it into my vegetable bowls and salads.

As for a breakfast suggestion, try a wasa cracker with some crunchy peanut butter on it in addition to your yogurt. Filling and quick.
posted by vivzan at 8:58 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd be wary of your friend's advice unless s/he is an expert, food is pretty tricky, even for experts. Do you feel strong and healthy? Are you able to exercise without feeling tired out all day the next day? If yes I think you're good.

However, to tackle the could look at which legumes and pulses you're eating and try swapping some for higher protein beans - pinto beans instead of lentils, for example, and see if that helps with whatever symptoms you are experiencing.

For a higher protein breakfast than cold cereal+ yoghurt try overnight oats - add a milk (dairy/almond/coconut/etc.), yogurt, dry oats at a 1-1-1 ratio (like 1/3 cup each), keep in fridge in a bowl or jar, eat in the morning. I stir in peanut butter and then add some banana. You can add chia to that for micronutrients but I don't think it will help with your protein content much.

If you want to lose weight, and you find you're constantly getting hungry, you could try adding a bit of fat to your recipes (olive oil, ghee, etc.) to see if that helps cut down on cravings. Ultimately lowering your portion size should for most people help slow or stop weight gain or produce weight loss although again, bodies are tricky things. For me when I was on a pure beans and rice diet, I did gain weight, and I think it was because it did set off a little craving cycle. I switched to having the rice part at dinner only (bean salads for lunch) and that helped.

From reading your description of your eating, I would actually target the dried fruits as maybe being a weight culprit - they are dense in calories and sugar and for me set off a lot of cravings. I personally have to watch the number of calories I consume in nuts and seeds too as I have a tendency to eat too many.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:02 AM on October 2, 2019

One more thing: if you're relatively new to being a pescatarian, it will seem that everyone will have an opinion on what you're not eating and want to challenge you on it. It's best to do your own thing, and if you're really concerned, gather your own research on your diet. Not that you have to defend yourself, although sometimes it will feel that way, but for having confidence in your choices.
posted by vivzan at 9:02 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hi. I am an Actual Dietitian who sees nothing concerning in your diet.

Seeds are great, so feel free to add them, but chia seeds aren’t a great source of protein if that’s your interest. Sunflower seeds are a bit better and pumpkin or hemp seeds better still.

But really, you’re fine.
posted by obfuscation at 9:03 AM on October 2, 2019 [20 favorites]

You eat beans, sardines and eggs so you are probably getting adequate protein. There is a theory that you can improve nutrition by eating complementary foods that provide better proteins together. Protein Combining Peanut butter, nuts and cheese are easy ways to add protein, if you still feel like you want to try it.
posted by theora55 at 9:05 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you're lacking energy (and, frankly, want to make it taste nicer) pour plenty of oil onto your brown rice and lentils. But like everyone else, I don't see a big lack of protein here.
posted by ambrosen at 9:40 AM on October 2, 2019

My dietician recommended Greek yogurt, up to 1 cup of blueberries (I buy frozen, cheaper that way, just nuke for 30 seconds before adding the yogurt), and 2 TBS of walnuts, or a little peanut butter, for healthy fat & extra protein.

I've made smoothies with yogurt, splash of lowfat milk, 1/2 a banana (save the other half in a baggie, unpeeled, it will be fine), 2 TBS of peanut butter, and a good amount of frozen blueberries. It comes out like a frozen blueberry milkshake, so good and tasty. Super easy because it's dumping stuff in, no chopping required, and the banana gives it a little sweetness. Blueberries, and any berries, are low in carbs, and the frozen bags of berries aren't too expensive, given that you aren't buying meat.

Have a friend who turned pescatarian earlier this year, and she also eats sardines. She loves dried and smoked fish as a snack, and smoked oysters on crackers. I put a dab of hot sauce on my smoked oysters.

I've found cheaper almond butter at my grocery store, their store brand, and Target also has a brand that's not too pricey, as far as almond butter goes, and it can last a while because you only eat a little at a time. If you want to switch out from using peanut butter here and there.

Used to live with a vegetarian, who was almost vegan (ate cheese here and there, as well as honey), and we used to eat a lot of lentils, cooked with onion and carrot, then served with sauerkraut on the side, and mashed potatoes (you can use less mashed potatoes, or a little brown rice). Farro is a really good grain, I feel like it tastes between chewy barley and brown rice, and has a ton of protein, as well as lots of fiber. I will often make a batch at the beginning of the week, then scoop out a portion at breakfast. I do the same with red lentils, once a week, sauté a small onion, add some ginger (fresh or powdered), a bunch of curry powder (as much as you like, up to 1 TBS on the high end), 1 cup of red lentils, and enough water to cover. I cook mine for 30 minutes or more, as I like 'em mushy and when they sit overnight, absorb any leftover liquid (or you can drain them).

So I'll eat some farro, top with the curried red lentils, and microwave that, and serve with 2 poached eggs. I poach my eggs for 3 1/2 minutes, and will put the water on to heat while I'm drinking coffee or puttering around doing dishes. The farro/lentil mix only takes about 90 seconds to heat up, the poached eggs go on top, and maybe some hot sauce. It fills me up for a very long time. You can also do this at supper. Eggs are optional, of course, I do this maybe 3 times a week.

Mexican cooking uses pumpkin seeds to thicken some of their dishes. A great green molé sauce is a can or jar of salsa verde, some toasted and ground pumpkin seeds, onion, a little broth or water, and simmer for a little while. Romesco sauce uses nuts also, think you can buy it jarred, but I usually make my own, using jarred roasted red peppers, almonds, garlic, olive oil, canned diced tomatoes, and all ground up and roasted for 10-15 minutes on a rimmed baking sheet at 350 F (think there are toasted bread crumbs in there, as well as olive oil). You can thicken any sauce with ground nuts. Serve over rice, or rice & beans. I like the romesco sauce over polenta. So if I make a big batch of polenta, I add a little cream cheese & parm cheese, and a pat of butter. Then I pour into a square pan or a bowl, after I've served out what I am going to eat that meal, and the leftovers reheat very easily, topped with the romesco sauce, very tasty. I use Indian Head Stone Ground cornmeal, and a sack of that is very inexpensive.

But yeah, lots of beans, nuts, legumes, some fish here and there, know many people who follow a similar diet, and they seem okay (and a lot skinnier than I am, a meat eater who loves butter and all kinds of fatty things like ice cream and sour cream).
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:42 AM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Clarification:
I rely on brown rice mainly because it's the cheapest whole grain I can find. There have been more affluent periods when I could afford to swap in better quality options like quinoa or buy canned salmon but this isn't the case at the moment. I eat regular low-fat yogurt because it's cheaper than the Greek yogurt but maybe if I reduce the portion of cereal I can stretch the breakfast budget? I will buy sunflower and pumpkin seeds to add to my cereal as suggested. I forgot to mention I also eat full-fat cheese occasionally in addition to the yogurt everyday. The beans, rice and vegetables are cooked in olive oil.

I have been eating this way for years and am still alive obviously but people like my friend (not a dietician btw) tend to get freaked out when they realize how little meat I actually eat. I do not actually feel ill or have any obvious problems but would like to find out if I would be more energetic or thinner with more protein in my diet. I would check out the Chronometer app.

I considered the rotisserie chicken thing before but I felt actually buying meat myself as opposed to people offering it to me would violate my no-meat rules.

The weight issues are unlikely to be due to the dried fruit (blueberries etc) in the handful a day nut mix because I eat small prepackaged portions. I never eat more than two portions a day (usually one) because plain nut/fruit mixes are not tasty and the amount is quite small. I am however, sedentary, middle-aged (with the corresponding slower metabolism) and have a huge weakness for gelato when I'm out and about.
posted by whitelotus at 9:51 AM on October 2, 2019

If you are having weight issues cutting out the nuts and seeds would help. They are also more expensive than beans/rice (at least by me). A handful of almonds/walnuts/etc might be a larger "meal" than the yogurt+cereal for example since they are a very concentrated source of energy.
posted by ToddBurson at 9:58 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: More about fruit: I eat two pieces of fresh fruit per day which I feel is quite reasonable. Usually oranges and apples and other cheap fruits like bananas. This is in addition to the daily nut handful with a teaspoon or two of dried fruit.
posted by whitelotus at 10:03 AM on October 2, 2019

Buckwheat is a high protein and affordable change of pace when it comes to your choice of whole grain, assuming you have access to somewhere that sells it in reasonable quantities.
posted by ambrosen at 10:08 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

My weight dropped a lot when I quit using oil (yes, it's possible). Oil is expensive, extremely high in calories, and provides almost no nutrients. It's basically like sugar - a highly processed substance made from a whole food. So that would be a way to cut the calories in your diet without making it more expensive. A tablespoon of oil has more calories than a half a cup of brown rice and isn't nearly as filling. Quitting oil isn't for everyone, but if you search "no oil cooking," you'll find a lot of people do this.
posted by FencingGal at 10:14 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

For breakfast consider overnight oats. You can make a batch that will keep for a few days in the fridge. Add yogurt, grated apples and whatever seeds and/or nuts work for you.

If weight is a concern consider more veg. It is not clear how many portions of veg you eat in any given day. Various root vegetables and members of the cabbage family are economical. They add different textures, fibre and and play nicely with various spices to make things more interesting.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2019

You can also get protein from veggies, especially greens. There's protein in peas, spinach, kale, edamame, lima beans (aka butter beans), broccoli, etc. You can get bags of frozen peas and frozen shelled edamame - they're super-convenient to add to any savory dish.

Also, regarding the cost of greek yogurt vs regular, take a look at the serving size. Often the serving size on the greek yogurt is smaller (since it's essentially just plain yogurt that's been strained of its extra liquid). So per serving, it's possible the the greek yogurt is a better deal - as long as you trim your serving size accordingly.

I hope you're buying the larger tubs of yogurt, as those are also usually cheaper than the single serving cups.

You may also want to look at intermittent fasting for weight loss. I've found that skipping breakfast (and eating a smaller, later lunch) has the added benefit of saving money as well as calories.

Take a week or two and track your nutrition in MyFitnessPal or elsewhere, so have a better idea of the protein and other nutrients you're actually eating.
posted by hydra77 at 10:23 AM on October 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

If you are eating eggs, sardines, and lentils then you should be fine on protein. The average daily requirement for protein is around 50g. A couple of eggs is nearly 1/4 of your daily dose. Throw in a can of sardines and a couple of glasses of milk and you are there.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:30 AM on October 2, 2019

Hi, I'm a vegetarian and have been for all my life. I'm trying to lose a little weight and increase my protein intake as well. Here are my hacks so far:

- I swap out rice for whole mung beans. South asian grocery stores stock whole mung beans for about $1.75/lb for a 5 lb bag (sadly the largest they carry) near where I live, which is pound for pound a bit more than brown rice in the giant 20lb sacks - but not much more. Mung beans take the same ratio of water to boil in as brown rice does, and the cook time is slightly longer to get it mushy enough that it tastes absolutely brilliant as a rice substitute rather than like beans. Mung beans have 24g protein per 100g compared to 5g for brown rice, and way more of other nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and potassium.

- Plain yogurt is life! Think outside of sweet: It is an excellent accompaniment to spicy and savory foods. Mix it in with spiced roasted veggies. Substitute it for creamy dressings, ranch dip, etc by adding a little salt + herbs + spices. Cook plain oatmeal in very little water, add yogurt till creamy, and throw in some salted peanuts + pinch of paprika + fried onions + chives... makes a decadent porridge. Or leave out the oatmeal altogether for a less toothsome but still delicious snack.

- All fish are fantastic in coconut milk curry. (I don't personally eat this curry but it has always been a big hit.) Fry chopped onions, ginger, garlic, salt, and curry spices. Add in fish - filet or sliced or whatever - and pan fry it, covered, flipping just once. Once it's flaky, add in coconut milk, mix, and simmer until bubbly. Done! East Asian grocery stores have the freshest fish for cheap. Coconut milk cans should run you no more than $2 per for the good one (Chaokoh). Serve with mushy-cooked mung beans!
posted by MiraK at 10:36 AM on October 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Buckwheat soba noodles can be found in the Asian section of many big grocery stores. Very filling and high nutrient. Add in vegetables of choice.

Soba, poached egg, chipotle chile powder, shredded cheddar
Soba, tuna, sesame oil, chili lime spice
soba, peanut butter, chili lime spice (trader Joe's)
posted by effluvia at 11:06 AM on October 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Your diet seems really healthy and protein-rich, I don't think you have a protein problem at all. Whole grains have lots of protein, pulses are full of protein and fiber, and sardines are more sustainable than salmon and as rich in protein. Such good choices all over, you are good. The only thing I'd look at is the cereal, and also, you should be eating more veg and fruit.
You really don't need a fish-oil supplement, so think of how to use the money you spend on that for something more important, like fruit.
If you have a blender, you can enhance your breakfast yogurt by blending in a fruit and some fiber. I blend kefir, carbonated water, seeds and salt and pepper for breakfast because I like it savory, you could add any fruit to make it sweet. I eat the fruit on the side. You don't really need a blender, sometimes I just do it with a fork. Or use an immersion blender.
More about the fruit and veg: can you look for what is cheap at your retailer? Just as an example: people forget that an onion is a cheap vegetable that is full of vitamins and minerals and you can make a lot of delicious food with it. I just bought 4 onions for less than half a US dollar. Lettuce is not very nourishing, but a salad dressing with a finely chopped shallot is a game changer. Yesterday, raspberries were suddenly really cheap at my local store, and lettuce + raspberries + a dressing with fresh spring onions was a very tasty vitamin boost at dinner.
Right now, apples are in season and cheap. Make a Danish apple "pie": cook the apples with a bit of sugar and vanilla (how much sugar depends on the apple). When soft and mushy, cover with breadcrumbs roasted in a bit of sugar or honey. You decide how sugary your breadcrumbs should be, use wholemeal or rye for healthier options. Eat with whipped cream or a dollop of yogurt.
Later this year you might like a salad with oranges, fennel and olives. Or endive and grapefruit.
Greens are another thing you could work with. On a low budget, frozen spinach is a winner. Lots of nutrients, low effort, low price. Make Saag Paneer, or just add spinach to everything. Or look at recipes called "Florentine"-something. Or make Spanakopita.
posted by mumimor at 11:54 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have been eating this way for years and am still alive obviously but people like my friend (not a dietician btw) tend to get freaked out when they realize how little meat I actually eat

This is...not a reason to change your diet. I know with the paleo/keto trends many people are convinced all over again that you need all the meat but plenty of us are living just fine on none at all.

I've lost a few vanity pounds on my mostly vegan diet, btw, just by eating a bit less.
posted by noxperpetua at 11:58 AM on October 2, 2019 [7 favorites]

So I'd look at increasing your fat intake, especially in dairy, and keep an eye on your sugar intake. I was pescatarian for a long time (still am, mostly). In the past few years I've made a few shifts: I've moved to full fat dairy and tried to be more aware of sugar, both as added sugar (ice cream is my weakness) and the sugar that's in fruit and such (though I'm less worried about the sugar in an apple versus candy). I'm not sure how often you're getting those gelatos, but cereal can be sweet, and add in a few servings of fresh fruit and dried fruit and the sugar that's in dairy... that kind of sugar intake has me wanting more carbs and more sweet stuff. I think we all started buying low or lower fat foods during the low fat craze of the 80s and 90s. I now consume whole milk and yogurt and sometimes use cream rather than whole milk in my caffeinated beverages. You might eat fewer carbs if you have more tasty fat in your meals, and you might find you crave sugar a bit less. You don't need to switch to Greek yogurt; full fat versions of the same yogurt you buy now should cost about the same.

Some specific ideas that may or may not work for you:

Given that you eat a can of sardines a week, maybe you could skip the daily fish or cut back if you want to save some money? (I'm saying that not knowing if you have a specific reason to take it).

Also how about hummus? You can buy it, or make it if you have a food processor or really good blender. I just had a red pepper with hummus and it was super tasty.

For breakfast: full fat yogurt mixed with some walnut pieces and fruit pieces (apple is great but takes more time, so maybe half a banana) is so tasty. You could add in some ground flax for some extra omega 3s if you skip the fish oil, and buy some whey protein if you'd like to add in protein. Or, if you want to go the smoothie path: try blending some frozen or fresh fruit (but not too much - I do half a banana and some blueberries), full fat yogurt, and some greens (either fresh or frozen), along with chia or ground flax if you want and some whey powder.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:02 PM on October 2, 2019

I am however, sedentary, middle-aged (with the corresponding slower metabolism)

Also, as one middle-aged person to another: It's not too late to start moving more, and it is pretty urgent. I'm not saying to do this for weight loss, but I suspect you know this is a more urgent health issue than protein consumption. Take some brisk walks and start doing some stretching or yoga or other body weight exercises to start (things you can do at home for free). We lose muscle mass if we don't work our muscles, and that can lead to all sorts of problems later in life.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:06 PM on October 2, 2019 [8 favorites]

For the price of the nuts and dried fruit, you could *probably* get a bag of frozen haddock or tilapia fillets at Costco, Walmart, maybe a local budget grocer, and you’d get way more nutrition for the calories. Baked, grilled, fried, with or without spices, in curries, there are lots of ways to eat it. (And you wouldn’t feel like snacking as much.)

If you can find a deal - try a price-matching app, don’t know if there’s Flipp where you are? - you could try smoked fish (like smoked mackerel) with eggs for breakfast. That’ll keep you going for ages without needing a snack. (For more deals, grocers mark things down when they’re close to their expiration date. Perfectly fine to eat - just freeze it. There’s couponing, too. That’s how I’d get the more expensive fish and/or higher-fat/protein dairy like cottage cheese or Greek yogurt.)

Protein and fat are more satiating than carbs. With that said, a potato has a satiety index of 100%. Have a baked one (or, a sweet potato) with Greek yogurt and some sautéed green onions, very nice and filling.

For another breakfast - do you like baked beans? A can (generic brand) near me is like 70-90 cents CAD and has 2-3 portions, store remainder in Tupperware and have it a few days of the week (on toast, with butter, with or without a boiled egg).

More filling meals in general will reduce reliance on snacks. (Cereal for breakfast would leave me hangry for the rest of the day.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:19 PM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I eat regular low-fat yogurt because it's cheaper than the Greek yogurt but maybe if I reduce the portion of cereal I can stretch the breakfast budget?

If you have the time, kitchen, and inclination, yogurt can be a DIY moneysaver.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:01 PM on October 2, 2019

I have been eating this way for years and am still alive obviously but people like my friend (not a dietician btw) tend to get freaked out when they realize how little meat I actually eat

<3 People are dumb.

If hundreds of millions of people around the world can live and thrive on staple grains, legumes, and vegetables, so can you.


Another breakfast tip: bircher muesli, which is just oats soaked in apple juice for 15 minutes while you get dressed with some seeds on top.

Another another breakfast tip: miso soup with tofu (miso is an initial $ outlay but not v expensive per use)

ANOTHER breakfast tip: make wholemeal scones on the weekend and keep them in the freezer, bake one for 20 min in the morning while getting ready (esp easy if you have a toaster oven).

ANOTHER breakfast tip if you have time to meal prep for breakfasts: sub cereal for homemade granola full of nuts and seeds: cheaper, healthier, more filling.

Cereal makes me hungry about an hour later, something I used to do when eating like you (budget vegetarian grad student) was buy wheat bran in bulk and mix it in with yogurt.

Honestly it sounds like you are doing great by cooking whole foods for yourself rather than eating the Standard American Diet of processed snacks, meat, and sugar water. I often don't / didn't have the willpower to live like you do so, honestly, kudos!!!
posted by athirstforsalt at 10:05 PM on October 2, 2019

Response by poster: Thank you for all the answers! You've given me some interesting ideas and will be going through carefully and making a grocery list.

ambrosen: The grocery store sells raw buckwheat groats and I'm fascinated by them but I'm not quite sure how to eat them for breakfast. Google says they can be eaten raw if soaked overnight but I'm not sure if I'm bold enough to eat them without cooking.
posted by whitelotus at 10:09 PM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The grocery store sells raw buckwheat groats and I'm fascinated by them but I'm not quite sure how to eat them for breakfast. Google says they can be eaten raw if soaked overnight but I'm not sure if I'm bold enough to eat them without cooking.

Please let me tell you about one of my all-time favorite breakfasts (largely inspired by answers to my question about stuff to eat with yogurt):

* soak raw buckwheat groats overnight
* in the morning, stir some fruit into your yogurt (I like to microwave frozen raspberries)
* drain your groats and dump them into the yogurt
* chop up a few almonds and walnuts and toss them on
* add a few drops of honey or maple syrup if you want, but I usually don't bother
* enjoy!

It is really, really good, and really filling, and truly requires no cooking. It's a lot like steel-cut oats - just nice tasty grains that are still toothsome but soft enough to eat.

Also, if you can get them from the bulk section, you can get just a little bit to try, and then you're not out a lot of money if you don't like them.
posted by kristi at 8:20 PM on October 7, 2019

Response by poster: kristi: Thank you! That was really useful and I'm all excited about buying the buckwheat now. :) Now if I can figure out how to work in the frozen strawberries...
posted by whitelotus at 6:39 AM on October 8, 2019

Response by poster: Forgot to say, I have no microwave so will have to defrost the strawberries overnight...
posted by whitelotus at 6:51 AM on October 8, 2019

« Older Help me build my Japan Itinerary   |   Coding bootcamp or at-home DIY? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.