Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Eating Healthy on a Budget, Part 1

If Jeff Novick can cook for a family of four on $100 per week, using convenience foods, then we can do it for less, cooking from scratch, right ladies?

Starting at the bottom of the Fuhrman food pyramid, I will discuss in a 4-part series, ways incorporate veggies, fruits, legumes, and grains, nuts and seeds into our diets without spending a fortune. Today, let's address vegetables.

Greens are generous! You get a lot of bang out of them for just a little buck. They are worth the investment no matter how much you pay for them. But that's no reason to pay premium price at the grocery store. Greens are easy to grow, even in winter.With just a couple fluorescent lights placed within 6 inches of the leaves, they be cultivated even during the coldest months. Since they need no pollinating, it doesn't really matter whether they are outdoors or not, so long as they have fertile soil and adequate water and light. You can read my full post on growing greens here.

In my climate (Idaho), I can grow greens in the garden from April to November. They are so prolific during their peak that I can feed my family PLUS freeze bags of leaves to use in smoothies all winter AND dehydrate a lot for later use. I powder my dried greens using the blender, then spoon the powder into smoothies, soups or oatmeal. By adding dried sprouts and grain grasses to the mix, I can have a canister of my own SuperGreens for just pennies.

Speaking of sprouts and grain grasses... these count as vegetables, too, because they are green and growing, even though they may have started as a nut, seed, grain or legume. My favorite sprouts are raw sunflower seeds, which are less than $1 per pound bought in bulk. A quarter cup of seeds can yield a cup of sprouts, which can be ground in a food processor and added to cooked beans to make a tasty and satisfying "meat" patty. They have enough body to them (unlike alfalfa spouts) to make a great snack, as well. And they are excellent tossed into salads and soups to add power to your meal. I really like to make Sunburgers, a recipe from Living Foods.

2 c. sunflower seeds, soaked 6-8 hours
1/2 c. carrots, chopped
1/2 c. celery, chopped
3green onions, sliced
1 redbell pepper, sliced
1/4 c. fresh basil
1/4 c. fresh parsley
Braggs to taste

Process all ingredients in a food processor.Make patties and dehydrate at 105 degrees for 12-24 hours. Turn patties halfway through drying. 
Note: sometimes I skip the drying and just heap the mixture onto a bed of greens for a great salad!

Another favorite money-saving trick of mine is to buy less popular greens. Kale is a buzz word in the health community, but plain old green cabbage does not receive as much attention, therefore it it costs less per pound. Since the heads are so dense, one cabbage lasts several meals. Two of my favorite cabbage recipes are Cafe Rio Salad and Strawberry Slaw:

Cafe Rio Salad
(Make any quantity you want)

Equal parts chopped cabbage and romaine
Any add-ins: black beans, corn, bell peppers, chayote squash, olives, tomatoes, jicama, etc.
Cilantro Lime Dressing, below, whirled in the blender (adapted from Robyn Openshaw):
  • 3 tomatillos, husked
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 c.cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded
  • 4 green onions
  • dash of salt

You can't beat the taste of the Cilantro-Lime Dressing. But for something sweet, quick and simple, try this:

Strawberry Slaw

1 pkg. shredded cabbage
A few dried cranberries
Strawberry Tarragon Dressing, below, whirled in the blender (adapted from Chef Del Sroufe in Forks Over Knives)
  • 4 c. strawberries (may be frozen)
  • 1/2 c. rice vinegar
  • 2-3 Tb. agave
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 Tb. dried tarragon
  • dash of salt 
Greens are just the beginning of saving money. The same rules apply to other vegetables: grow them, and freeze or dry them during the height of summer. Pumpkins, squash, and root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots and beets keep well in a cold basement or garage, through the winter to provide hearty, filling vegetables during the cold months when you tend to eat heavier. You might also consider joining a co-op, like Bountiful Baskets, or visiting your local farmer's market to get bulk produce at lower prices.

Happy savings! Watch for part 2 of this series, which will focus on fruits!
To your health and happiness,


  1. Thank you thank you! :-) We are planning to implement the plant based diet completely, even my husband has agreed to it!

  2. Good thing that you go for that plant based diet Camille, it's like hitting two birds in one stone, eating healthy on a budget! :)