Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Poor Man Diet: 10 Complementary Foods

Back to the Poor Man Diet.  If you missed last week's post, you should probably read that first.  Otherwise none of this will make any frickin' sense.  In the last post, I talked about 5 of the best choices you can make if you're compromising cost and health.  They're not the healthiest 5 foods in the world, and they're not the cheapest 5 foods in the world... but they're just about the most nutritious foods you can find for the least amount of money.  It's all about compromise.

Today, though, I'm giving you 10 complementary foods.  I've given you a solid base, but it's the complementary foods that can make or break your diet.  If you're eating pop-tarts and ho-ho's on the side, you could be in trouble.  These aren't foods you need to eat every day, and because of that I'm being a little more forgiving on the cost end of things and leaning more towards nutrient-density.  Still, you won't find lobster tail here, or raw oysters, or white truffles... okay nevermind I'll stop blabbering and get on with it... here you are, 10 nutritious complementary foods for your Poor Man Diet.

1. Chicken Thighs
$1.29/lb (bone-in), $1.99/lb (boneless)
You're in luck.  Since everyone has gone chicken boob crazy, that's left chicken butt on the sidelines.  Little does everyone know, chicken thighs are much juicier and more flavorful than breasts... and there's nothing wrong with a little more fat in your life, especially if you're looking to get the most food for your dollar.  In terms of nutrition, they're a great source of protein, B vitamins, and zinc.  Probably your most cost-effective source of meat!

2. Onions
$3.49/3 lb
$0.44/onion (size matters)
One of the most versatile foods in your Poor Man kitchen is onions.  They work with just about everything, whether it's a rice dish, a stir fry, a salad, or meat.  Although they're not particularly dense with vitamins and minerals, they make up for it with a few other interesting benefits.  Onions are allyl propyl disulphide, a compound that has a blood sugar lowering effect; great for diabetics.  They're also really high in antioxidants, including quercetin, which has known anti-cancer properties.  You can eat them liberally.

3. Sweet Potatoes
They're a little more expensive then regular potatoes, but they're just as nutritious (if not more so).  The nutrient breakdown is similar to a white potato, the only major difference being the huge whack of beta-carotene in sweet potatoes.  I honestly don't know where this good-sweet-potato/bad-white-potato nonsense came from... they're both great foods, and they should be an important part of a healthy diet.  As for the sweet ones, bake them, boil them, mash them, roast them with cinnamon and coconut oil... any way you prepare them, they're a yummy treat. 

4. Liver, heart, or other organ meat
$1.11/lb (chicken liver), $2.49/lb (beef liver)
Yuck, right?  I know, personally I have a hard time eating liver; I just can't get used to the pungent flavor.  But liver is by far the most nutrient dense food for your dollar.  It's the best source of vitamins A and B12 you'll find, and it's also very high in iron, zinc, folate, and all the B vitamins.  Luckily, it only takes a little liver to get a nice burst of all these important vitamins and minerals.  Can't get past the taste?  Give beef heart a try... it's not as gross at it sounds; if you put it in a stew it would be indistinguishable from normal beef, I promise.  And the nutritional content is in the same league as liver.  Be brave and try it!  Heart is for lovers <3.

5. Grass-Fed Butter
$2.99/8 oz
Yup, butter is on the list!  It's inexpensive, tasty, and full of good fat (believe it or not).  Grass-fed butter, which you can get in just about every grocery store in America at this point, is not your average butter.  It comes from cows grazed on pasture, not penned up indoors eating corn, and that has a big impact on the nutrient content of the butter.  Grass-fed butter has more vitamin A, K2, and CLA, and it has more flavor than grain-fed butter.  Give Kerrygold a try, you'll never look back.

6. Baby Carrots
Carrots aren't the most nutritious vegetable around, but they're not too shabby.  And considering the price, you've got yourself a winner.  They're a great source of fiber, beta carotene, and they've got a little bit of just about every vitamin and mineral we need.  They're versatile and convenient; you can snack on them as is, throw them in a stir fry, or use them in a stew.

7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
$19.49/3 Liters
But... extra virgin olive oil is so expensive!?!?  Shut it.  It's not.  Every time I go to the grocery store, there's at least one giant container of extra virgin on sale.  It may not be the world's most yummiest olive oil, but it's still decent nonetheless.  It's full of heart-healthy fats, you need it in your life.  Use it in salad dressings, pour it over steamed veggies, or cook with it.  Keep the temperature to a low-medium in cooking though... extra virgin isn't really meant for high heat cooking.

8. In-Season Fruit
Where else can you find something for $Cheap???  No matter the time of year, there's something in season.  In the summer it's berries, in the fall it's apples, in the winter it's oranges, etc etc etc.  Buying a giant bag of whatever it is will get you the most fruit for your dollar.  But buying fruit in season has benefits that go beyond price, too.  Most importantly, it tastes better.  You'll notice that immediately.  But it's also better for the environment and it promotes a more sustainable agricultural system.  We can't afford to be shipping this stuff around the world all the time. And if you happen to live in an area where avocados grow... then god bless you child you don't know what you got.

9. Canned Wild Salmon
Thought wild salmon was out of your price range??  Not when you're buying it canned!  For reasons that are unknown to me, salmon in a can is far more affordable than fresh or frozen.  And it's nearly always wild, not farmed.  The wild type is higher in important omega-3's, and it's full of lots of important vitamins and minerals, like B12 and selenium.  And canned salmon, unlike fresh or frozen, actually has a good amount of calcium... there are little bones in there too.  You won't even taste them.  This stuff works wonders on salads... very super-convenient and tasty.

10. Whole Milk
Only for the dairy-tolerant, of course.  Despite what you've been told, whole milk is your best milk option.  The fats won't kill you.  Besides, you can't afford to be throwing the fat out when you're poor.  Skim milk, on the other hand, is downright scary.  It's an empty food, and it tastes like nothing.  And of course, milk is a great source of calcium, along with fat soluble vitamins like A and D.  Oh, and don't forget B12 and potassium.  Of course, raw, grass-fed milk would be better... but you can't afford that.

Phew!  All done.  Now... with the 5 base foods, and 10 complementary foods, I'd say we've got a pretty solid, nutritious, affordable diet here.  As far as I can tell, I've covered all of the nutritional bases... plenty of protein, healthy fats, and good carbs, as well as adequate vitamins and minerals.

Now that it's all out there, I'd love some feedback.  Do you agree with these?  Are there foods I left out that you feel should have been included?  Do you think I'm a complete moron and should shut down my blog altogether??  Let me hear it in the comments section!


  1. They look like pretty good choices, except for fluid milk, which is so expensive and unnecessary. But, the best cheap food is free food! I hope you'll visit my blog posts this month to see how I am doing it.

  2. Liver is the best thing on there. I don't even consider it a food anymore - it's like a vit. A supplement. Oh man, that makes me miss Denise's lecture

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