If you shop smart are flexible and open to new foods and prep your food for the week, eating well does not need to be expensive or so time consuming! Let me explain…
Have An Open Mind and Get Creative.
I made the most delicious dinner yesterday with six small blue potatoes from the farmer’s market, one carmerlized yellow onion and about 1/3 of a bag of frozen organic peas. With onions carmelizing in grapeseed oil with a little salt, thyme and a small Thai chili, I boiled my potatoes and drained them in a colander over the frozen peas. While they sat, I let onions get a tad more brown and finally when all was done, I took my little potato masher, crushed my potatoes and peas in a bowl with a tad salt, tad butter and some olive oil and topped with carmelized onion and chopped parsley (I already had it chopped and stored in fridge for easy breezy access). This delicious meal was fast, super inexpensive at $4 max and comforting. It was also clean food: no additives, no canola or vegetable oil and lots of nutrients, fiber and protein from those peas. Now that’s value!
If you think outside the box, combine whole foods you already enjoy and keep it simple, you too can create fast and tasty meals for pennies on the dollar.
Be Versatile, Buy Bulk and Use Your Freezer.
My porridge with buckwheat groats, flax and hemp seeds is a perfect nutrient and fiber rich base that is not only super filling, loaded with heart healthy oils, and inexpensive but also very versatile. Think a breakfast porridge with toasted pecans, maple syrup and fresh berries or a savory porridge with roasted tomatoes, braised greens, fresh herbs and a fried egg on top. Think using this to make a sweet griddled brunch cake topped with warm jam and ricotta or using the base with greens, beans and other veggies for a hefty veggie burger that is loaded with protein. You can even add a heaping tablespoon or two to your favorite smoothie!
Buy these ingredients in the bulk section for super savings and guess what else? This porridge is completely gluten-free, grain-free and tastes great after freezing so make plenty to always have on hand.
Ask For What You Want.
If you engage your farmer, use all the green tops that come with your carrots, beets, fennel and turnips and buy in bulk, the farmer’s market doesn’t have to be expensive. Cook those greens! Also, at the farmer’s market you don’t have to spend more buying everything certified organic. Engage your farmer and learn about their practices and you will come to find out that many are just as sustainable as a certified organic farm but for financial and other reasons, have chosen not to certify their land.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a few things: Tomatoes for example are super expensive BUT if you don’t mind yours bruised and battered (great for stewing and sauces) then you can get them for so much less if you ask your farmer if they have any because guess what? They usually do and they put them aside for folks just like you but you’ll never know if you don’t ask. This also goes for apples, peaches, avocadoes and apricots and other soft fruits and veggies. A farmer would much rather sell them than feed them to their pigs.
And keep in mikd: Don’t be afraid to ask for a deal on all your farm fresh goodies ONLY if you are buying a lot from one stand. I do not recommend buying one bunch of carrots and asking for a discount because that is not being thoughtful to the expense and labor the farmer exhausts to bring us their bounty BUT if you are buying a few bunches of this, a few of that with some of this and some of that, definitely ask!
Some more tips on shopping the market on a budget courtesy of Food52
Stretch Your Dollar With Animal Protein.
If you still believe that you must eat meat with every meal, you are doing a disservice to your budget and your health but if you must then be smart about it. Eat less and learn how to make it last through the week. One chicken breast can be three chicken salad sandwiches if you add lots of herbs, potato, celery, red onion, carrots and lettuces. Make ragus, soups and stews because you can use more grains and veggies to stretch the dish and favorites like shepherd’s pie and casseroles are perfect budget-friendly meals.
Also, if you are on a budget (or not) never throw away your bones! Make stock to make more meals (soups, pilafs and beans). Less waste + more mindfulness = a little extra for a rainy day.