And now for my favorite subject: food! Last week we reviewed various ways to save money in the kitchen (and the New York Times concurred); today we will get down to specifics from farm (or store) to table.
It is truly possible to enjoy nutritious and chemical-free foods on the cheap. Cutting costs on what you buy doesn’t have to mean cutting out flavor or health. Sure, mac-n-cheese is a deal, but there’s a whole bundle of fresh foods that are so much tastier and better for you ‘outside the box.’
Before farmers’ markets gear up again (May in our neighborhood,) we are dependent on the local grocery store to provide our weekly rations of produce (along with CSA’s.) As noted before, buying what’s in season is most economical and at its peak for freshness.
Cabbage is in abundance now in all colors. Prices range anywhere from $1-2 per pound and can be stretched into many savory dishes. Cabbage contains numerous antioxidant compounds and is a great immune booster. It helps block breast cancer in women, and is said to reduce men’s colon cancer by over 50% when eaten more than once per week.
Sweet Potatoes, my new favorite food (I can hear Mom lol!) Ranging from $1.50-2 per pound, sweet potatoes are a nutrition powerhouse. Rich in beta-carotene, potassium, fiber and vitamins C and E, sweet potatoes are lower on the glycemic index than white potatoes and are a great substitute for those trying to control their blood sugar.
Bananas – here is one exception to the ‘buy local rule’, unless, of course, you live in the tropics. Like sweet potatoes, bananas are also rich in potassium and fiber, plus magnesium. They soothe the stomach and help detoxify the body. Cost: 80-99 cents/ lb.
Spinach – one of the healthiest foods on earth, along with its other ‘green counterparts,’ like kale, chard and collards. For around $2, a bunch will provide vitamins A, C, and K; iron, fiber, and calcium – 25% of our daily value in just one cup.
Broccoli – abundant in antioxidants, and therefore a strong cancer fighter. Rich in cholesterol reducing fiber (20% in one cup), broccoli also promotes bone and digestive health and contains more vitamin C than citrus. Prices range from $1-2/pound.
Beans! Now here is the real deal. Beans are an excellent source of protein, high in fiber and low in fat. They are loaded with several B vitamins – great for reducing stress – and also offer calcium and iron. One cup of dried goes a long way cooked and can be used in everything from soups and salads to brownies (I feel another recipe coming…and there are more here) All that for approximately $1.40-2/pound in bulk.
Whole grains. If you’ve been substituting brown rice for white, you have no doubt enjoyed the pleasures of its texture and flavor, not to mention the nutrients (but I will;-) Now branch out into other grain territory from wild rice (high in B vitamins, fiber and potassium,) to quinoa – a distant cousin of spinach! Quinoa contains more iron and protein than other grains and is a cinch to cook. Oats are also a great value and known for their cholesterol reducing benefits. Most grains range in price from $.79-1.50 per pound and double in size when cooked. You can buy it in pasta form, too.
Eggs! Eggs are an egg-cellent deal and one of the most versatile of all whole foods. They provide a whopping amount of iron, zinc and B-12; in addition to being a healthy substitute for saturated fat-based protein sources. Eggs are high in choline – good for keeping us alert, our brains sharp, and memory, uh, I forget. But not all eggs are created equal. Try to find eggs which are labeled ‘cage-free,’ ‘organic,’ and come from pasture raised poultry. Even at $4-5/dozen, that equates to about 40 cents for two.
Eating Well offers recipes using many of these fresh foods while keeping the budget in check.