My Tips For Following The Trim Healthy Mama Plan and Using Foodbanks (Extreme Budget THM)
I saw a quote once that said that most people are just four weeks away from being homeless. It’s a scary thought but with jobs for life being a rare thing these days and so much instability in the economy, it might be a lot truer than we would like to believe. A sudden illness, a job loss, need to relocate, a relationship breakdown – all can lead to a sudden financial crisis that leaves you struggling to cover the basics. Then how do you feed yourself, let alone, how do you feed yourself in a vaguely healthy way. Maybe you’ve been following the Trim Healthy Mama plan and found yourself in a financial crisis situation and you don’t want to go off plan, but you have no idea how to carry on? Or maybe you want to try the plan, but don’t think it is possible in your current situation? I hope this post may help you. These are my tips for following the Trim Healthy Mama plan and using food banks (Extreme budget THM)
If you’re in a crisis situation at the moment then there are three things that you can do that will make a big difference, but they are three of the hardest things to do. Firstly, you need to get 8 hours sleep a night. Secondly, you need to get 30 minutes of exercise a day and thirdly you need to eat well and regularly. It seems silly to state these, but self-care goes out the window when things are a struggle yet these three things will help you to stay as strong and healthy as possible and go towards alleviating some of the low mood and even depression that can go with these situations. The Trim Healthy Mama plan is perfect for the eating well part as it is a plan that helps stabilise blood sugars which helps avoid mood swings and will give you energy while you look for work or solutions to your situation. THM is based on good fats and carbohydrates and lots of healthy vegetables – so how do you do this on an extreme budget?
Firstly, if you haven’t yet read the Trim Healthy Mama plan book or you have been trying to follow along online without the books due to your budget, then you really need to be able to get a copy and read it for yourself. Once you have the basics of the plan, you can make it work for yourself – you just need to know what constitutes each meal and how to structure it and then, no mater what your budget, you can work out how to stay on plan. If you haven’t got a copy of the book, see if you can get one from your local library or see if a friend will lend you hers. Maybe try asking to borrow the original book as most people try to get hold of the newer plan book. Both are excellent and either will help you to get on plan. Read it thoroughly then, if you need to return it, make a note of the key components of each meal so that you have a reminder. For now, concentrate on “S” and “E” meals – there’s no need to complicate things! Read Page 65 in the original book or page 27 in the newer plan book for “S” and read page 77 in the original book or page 39 in the newer plan book for “E” Also look at the ‘S’ food list on page 74 in the original book or page 33 in the new plan book and the ‘E’ meals list on page 86 in the original book and page 49 in the new plan book to get an idea of what basic foods to be aiming to get for your family. Keeping things really simple is the key when times are hard.
Another option for the plan book is to get it from Audible. If you are a new Audible customer, then they have a 30 days free trial available at the moment that includes two free credits. If you cancel within the 30 days then you won’t pay a penny (set a reminder in your phone or cancel straight after choosing your books) and the newer plan book is available as one of your free choices. Even if you cancel you get to keep the books forever and they play on an app available on pretty much any phone or device. Sign up for your free books on this link here; Try Audible For Free! or read my blog post about it all here. This is an affiliate link and we do receive compensation for it if you use it, but it doesn’t cost you any extra and will not change the service you receive. More information about our affiliate links is available here. It is a great way to get the plan book for free though! Once you have the book you can make healthy choices with the resources available to you.
If you are in the situation where you are struggling to provide for yourself and your family then food needs to be a priority. I know it is easy to think that the food budget is a place you can pull money from to meet other necessities, but we know that eating well is going to give you the strength to get through this so, as much as you might be tempted, don’t take from the food budget. Make sure that you meal plan, think simple, wholesome foods and think about foods that are in season and local. Think about where you buy your food from, is there a local food co-operative or market where fresh food might be cheaper? Could you bulk buy with another family? Could you buy fresh vegetables cheaply and then can or freeze them for later use? Could you batch cook and freeze for another day? Sit down and look at what you can reasonably afford and what you could get with that money and then shop wisely. Could your shopping be cheaper if you bought from more than one shop or supplier (without increasing your travel costs above the savings)? Is there a local farm where you could source meat or vegetables for a lower price or of a better quality? Would a local farm allow you to work in return for some food? Could you buy value brands rather than premium? This is the time to get creative and ask around.
But what do you do when there is no food budget at all? When there is no income but you still have to eat?
If you have no food budget at all then you need to act quickly. First of all, look to see what you have in your cupboards, freezer, pantry and drawers. Now is the time to take a full inventory and work out what healthy meals you can make from the food available. It may mean eating “weird” meals for a bit, but needs must! If you have exhausted your own food stores then, if you are part of a church, go to your pastor or leader and let them know the situation and ask if they can help or if they can refer you to a food bank. If not, then go to your local church – it is usually a great place to start and they should be helpful and non judgemental. A food bank is usually a place run by a charity or a church, that takes donations of food and redistributes them to individuals, couples and families in times of crisis. Some have a limit on how often you can have a parcel or how many you can have, others will support you through your time of crisis. Find out what the “rules” are with your food bank and what happens if you are still struggling and their help ends.
Food banks are great as they will provide you with several days worth of food at a time and it is free. The biggest problem with this is that often you have no say in what you are given as it is based on donations so it might all be sugar laden and off plan. Many food banks are now getting really good at working with health needs so you could try explaining that you are “gluten-free” or “Sugar free” for health reasons and see if they can work with that. If they can’t, some have a small budget for these circumstances and will help you to buy the things that you need that fit with your dietary requirements. If they do this for you, be careful what you purchase – be as careful with their money as you would be your own and try to get as much good, nutritious food for the money as you can.
If your food bank is able to work with your needs then things to look for would be tinned fish, oats, canned vegetables with no sugar in the water, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables and meat (although these are not often stocked as they just don’t keep fresh for long). These would make simple meals like oatmeal for breakfast, fish and salad for lunch and meat and vegetables for tea. It might not be that interesting, but it is healthy and nutritious and sometimes that is far more important.
If your food bank can’t work with you or their help is limited, then what can you do?
Firstly, swallow your pride. I know it hurts, but it is necessary. Let the people around you know what the situation is and that you are struggling. If you need immediate help, tell them. Don’t go without food for fear of what they will think – if the tables were turned how would you react? See if they know of any places or organisations that can help you. It is amazing how many places and small charities there are in your area that you are unaware of until you need to use them. Most will help you for free and you can always give back by volunteering with them. Volunteering when you are unemployed looks really good on your CV or resume too and shows your willingness to work – which might help you to get another job. If you are struggling due to ill-health or through caring for a loved one, see if there are any organisations in your area for carers and see what help they can give. There may be carer support groups that could advise and support you or your own doctor may be able to refer you for help.
If none of these apply to you or you need some more ideas, then you need to start thinking creatively! If you have access to the internet, either at home or through free WiFi, then get researching what is in your neighbourhood. Free WiFi is often available at libraries, schools, hospitals, coffee shops and even local petrol stations. Try to find the one that will let you surf the web for free, like the library, but if not, go for the cheapest option and stay as long as possible. Look online for luncheon clubs, church pot luck suppers, soup runs, other food banks and junk food cafes. Contact any that look like they might be suitable, check if you qualify or if there is a charge, explain your situation and ask if you can go. See if they have gluten-free or sugar-free options or just make sure you are clued up on what sort of things you could eat at a pot luck supper and then make wise choices. At the moment, wise choices that may be slightly off plan are better than being completely off plan. If you have children, could they join a breakfast club or have free school meals? This seems to vary by area so look and see what is possible – every meal you don’t need to provide is one less on your budget and frees up money to spend on as nutritious an evening meal for everyone as possible.
While you’re online, also research if there are any benefits, food stamps, emergency help or grants available to you. If you are online at the library they may even be able to help guide you on this one and you may be surprised at what is out there. Again, it may mean swallowing your pride, but you know that you would help someone else in need – this is just your time to be helped. You can always give back again in the future when your situation is resolved.
Other things you could try include seeing if a friend could invite you for a meal one day a week so that is one less main meal to think about? You can always return the favour when you are back on your feet again. Or you could provide one part of the meal and her provide another? This would lower costs and could make a fun supper club! This is even better if they are a Trim Healthy Mama friend!
If your church provides meals, then could you help with the cooking in return for taking any leftovers home with you? Always carry a Tupperware container (other brands are available 😉 ) so you can always take healthy leftovers home from any event.
Do you have a market near you that you could go to at closing time? Many sell off “damaged” bruised or over ripe vegetables and fruit at closing time and this could mean huge savings for you. You just have to be organised enough to be ready to cook, freeze or otherwise prepare anything you get so that nothing goes to waste. If you know of others who are struggling, you could take it in turns to go and share what you get. Divide and conquer 😀
Could you club together with another family or two and buy a whole animal from a farmer or butcher? If you have the space to store it, this can be a very economical way to get meat and can last for a very long time.
Long term, could you grow any of your own food? There are many vegetables and fruits that take little space and can be grown quickly. Lettuce can be gown in a tub on the windowsill and the young leaves cut for salad. These will then grow again quite quickly for repeated servings. Boiled or roasted radishes make an excellent substitute for potatoes in stews and pot roasts and they take just four weeks from sowing to harvesting. They need very little space and you can keep sowing them for successive crops. A small, cheap cut of meat, some stock and a lot of radishes in a slow cooker make a delicious on plan meal for very little cost. Other vegetables you could grow include zucchini, cucumbers, sweet peppers, tomatoes, chillies, berries, salad leaves, and much more. Have a look online at what can be sown now, look for cheap seeds at the supermarket and give it a try. It’s another way to get creative and do something practical about the problem and can actually be fun for the family to be part of.
If you are able to get funds from a food bank, church, charity or a grant of some description, then what are the best foods to buy?
Personally, I would go for simple things like eggs, meat (look for cheaper cuts like chicken thighs and stewing cuts of beef), vegetables, salad, tinned fish and cheap on plan pulses and beans. Try to make sure you have a selection of herbs and spices available too – these can transform the most basic of meals into something that tastes really fancy. Plain chicken thighs with boiled vegetables become a lot more interesting when you roast them all together with herbs and spices like paprika and chilli or a little bit of lemon zest and mixed herbs. You can buy herbs and spices cheaply at the supermarket or at “Bag and Save” places. Just buy small amounts and keep them in bags in an airtight container so they don’t go to waste. Herbs are also really easy to grow from cuttings, so if you know someone with a rosemary or mint plant, ask if you can have a small piece, root it in water and then pot it up on your windowsill or plant it in your garden. Fresh herbs make a massive difference to your meals.
For meat, look for cheaper cuts and look for frozen, misshapen meat and fish pieces. Here you can buy odd shapes and off cuts for half the price and it doesn’t really matter what it looks like when it is cooked – as long as it tastes good! If you’re worried what your family will think, cut the pieces up so that they all look the same and then stew them. Frozen vegetables and meat are often far cheaper than fresh and they are just as nutritious, in many case they are more nutritious as they are frozen immediately, preserving all their goodness. They help to cut down on waste too as you can just use as much as you need for each meal.
A basic meal plan for extreme budget Trim Healthy Mama would probably be quite repetitive and simple but nutritious. Breakfast could be oatmeal, either plain or with some berries (frozen are cheap and you only need a small amount). Oatmeal is a great choice as it gets an E meal in nice and early, gives you energy for the day ahead and oatmeal is known to be calming and soothing – something you need if stress levels are high. It is also extremely economical for the whole family as oats are so low-priced.
At lunchtime you can keep it quite simple. Two of our favourites are tinned tuna with a small amount of low-fat mayonnaise over a sweet potato for an E meal or fried eggs on a bed of mixed vegetables for an S meal.
Snacks can be fruit, cheese, peanut butter, crackers, vegetable sticks, nuts – whatever is cheapest for you.
For your evening meal, meat and vegetables is easiest and cheapest. Roasted together in the oven with herbs, cooked in the slow cooker with stock to make a stew, meat grilled and vegetables boiled as a side – there are so many options, choose what works well for you. You could also look at some of the E meal options that involve dried beans and pulses as these are very filling for the whole family and extra portions can be frozen for another meal or eaten as lunch the next day.
If you have access to the internet and use Pinterest, start looking at budget Trim Healthy Mama meals and see which ones would work best for you and your family. You can build your own recipe book in a notebook and keep the meals that cost the least for you in there for ideas.
I hope this has been helpful to you and given you some ideas. If you have more ideas, please share them below in the comments to help us all. If you have read this because this is your situation, then know that I understand and I am with you on this journey. It’s not easy, but you will get through it and be all the stronger for it.
We can do this!