Monday, June 11, 2007


Today I am going to give some of my favourite money/time saving and healthy-eating tips. I need to take my own advice and eat fewer sweets (which I have been good about but sometimes I just want to put chocolate in my face) but that's for another blog, another day.

Healthy Eating and Money-Saving

This isn't about low-carb this (can we get over that, yet?) or low-calorie that. These are just a few tips to eat more whole fruits and vegetables and to maybe save a buck or two. Whatever method of cooking (or un-cooking)you are using, I hope this is helpful. Whether or not you are vegan or vegetarian, I hope this helps.

*First step to eating more fruits and vegetables is to GET SOME! Obvious alert-
You are more likely to eat an apple or a nice salad if it is available to you and within reach. Stock up on produce and leave it in sight.

Regular grocery stores will have everything you need as far as common produce goes, but why not try a farmer's market or flea market? You don't have to be "granola" to support local produce. I do my fair share of Publix-shopping. However, when I have the chance I like to go to the flea market and get produce. It is closer to home and you are helping a smaller business most of the time. Closer to home means fewer fossil fuels used AND more nutrient retention. It is also usually more cost-effective. Case in point, yesterday I got:
2 green bell peppers-$1
2 red bell peppers- $1.50
1 pint blueberries-$2
3 HUGE onions-$2 (which equals about 6 regular size onions)

You can also get fruits and vegetables by dumpster-diving. Many fruits and vegetables are thrown out because of expiration dates but are perfectly good. Some are organic and some are even packaged in plastic. Don't be freaked out! Grocery stores hate when you do this so go at night, be safe and don't say I sent you. I am too chicken to do it. Here's a link to the Freegan Kitchen. They do vegan cooking with free food.

*You are more likely to eat veggies that are ready-to-eat. Do not spend extra money on pre-cut anything. It's more expensive, often not as fresh, and wasteful in packaging. Prep Veggies and Fruits yourself! This way you can cut what you want, exactly as much as you want. Obviously I cannot suggest a method for each bit of produce but here are some basic veggies used here in the States.

Greens (bok choy, kale, collards, etc)- Cut inedible fibrous parts off (for kale and collard, this is the stem/vein that runs the length of the leaf) and place in a large sink or bowl full of water. Agitate and let sit. Magically...they float. Sediment sinks to the bottom. Cut to the size you want. I keep mine in a plastic bag with a paper towel at the bottom but I use them fairly quickly. Let them breathe a little. Invest in a salad spinner! You can get one for cheap at dollar stores or thrift stores and they really do dry your leaves off! Some fancy ones run kind of high. I would save my money for something else because my $2-3 one works fine.
Zucchini/Squash-Wash and cut rough stem off. If prepping zucchini, you can leave the skin on. If using a butternut squash you may want to remove the tough skin..although many methods of cooking involve keeping the skin on.
Asparagus-Cut fibrous ends off, wash, store.
Leeks- Cut all or most of the green part off, cut in half lengthwise, and place in water (like the greens). Leeks are very "dirty" vegetables and dirt can get in the layers. If cleaned correctly, they are delicious.
Hot Peppers- Are these technically fruit? Wash and dry. It is very important to use latex or other food-service gloves when handling peppers. Even mild peppers, when coming into contact with your skin, can cause a burn, especially on your face. And don't even think about touching your eyes. I once cut jalapenos, washed my hands several times-even with baking soda and soap- I changed my contacts and it felt like someone stabbed my eyes. DO NOT DO THAT. Anyway, cut the stems off and cut lengthwise. Most of the heat is in the seeds and the white membrane part. You can store prepped peppers in the freezer. Once again- USE GLOVES and wash your knife and cutting board very well.

Fruit Most fruit is ready-to-eat but if you want, you can prep:

Apples for apples/peanut butter or to eat plain. Core with a corer or just slice pieces off like I do. Sprinkle with a little orange or lemon juice to keep from browning. Keep skin on for more nutrients or peel for picky eaters.
Oranges by cutting off the rind and cutting into pith-free segments. Here is a great tutorial. It takes a couple minutes but it is so worth it. No pith, no rind, no membranes.
Grapes/Cherries De-stem, wash, rinse well and store in bag. Use a cherry pitter if you have one. I don't.
Melons Wash melon with soap and water. Dry. Cut both ends off so you have a steady flat surface. You can do this several ways but I like to cut in half (scooping out seeds if it is a cantaloupe- which in the US are actually not real cantaloupes but musk melons. Thank you Alton, Brown) and cut into "smiles" or chunks. You can also cut off the rind completely and work from there.

Be Sneaky- Puree vegetables into sauces for those "picky" eaters. "Hide" vegetables in the food.
*Will your kids (or your partner!?) know there is some cooked puree of carrot in the spaghetti sauce?
*Will they know there are flax seeds in the bread or even the muffin? (Always grind flax seeds for nutrition intake. You don't get the benefits of the Omega-3's unless they are ground. Flax seeds can be used as a binder in many baked goods. Use a coffee grinder and add flax seeds to water to replace eggs.)
*If you eat soy or dairy yogurt, put some dried fruit or granola on top. You are getting fruits and whole grains.
*Mix in some zucchini or eggplant in with your lasagna.
*Make veggie pizza


$$$ Saving Money/Time $$$
If I am anything, it is thrifty. I use improve kitchen utensils, buy the 2-for-1 specials. If there is a deal in the store, I will take it. This goes for things besides food so sometimes I "save" on stuff I won't use, therefore wasting money. Don't do that, ok?

Saving money food-wise:
Make your own vegetable stock: keep discarded bits and pieces of vegetables throughout the week in a container in the fridge/freezer. At the end of the week, add some water and seasonings and cook it down. This is what we do at the cafe and this was also mentioned on PPK. You can use things a little past their prime, but nothing you wouldn't want in a soup. You are eating it for goodness sake.

Shop at "Ethnic" Markets. You can REALLY save money here. The Ethnic section of your grocery store is great for emergencies. You love it, it takes care of you when you need coconut milk or those boxes of Pad Thai that aren't really great but that are ok when you want "Dinner in 15 Minutes". But it is also somewhat a rip. These items are considered "specialty" items at a regular grocery store.
Shop at the local Asian and Hispanic Markets. You will find rice noodles, bok choy, ginger, garlic, spices, coconut milk, masa (for tamales), soy sauce, nori, and all sorts of wonderful items. They are almost always cheaper (sometimes 1/2 the grocery store price or less) and there is more variety. They are also mostly family-owned, so you are helping support someone in your community.

Plant an Herb Garden- I have covered this before but you can get a decent crop of herbs just out of pots. This will save you money in the long run and the smells of the fresh herbs alone are worth it!

Use Utensils for More than One Thing-Your strainer can be the bottom part of a tofu press (so can your cutting board). Your knife can smash garlic. Your coffee grinder can grind spices and flax seeds. Your boozing roommate can hand over the bottle of cheap whiskey and you can use that as a rolling pin (for some things). Also, tell him or her the rent is late and that you are sick of doing their laundry.

Employ the Kids-I do not have kids that are people, but if you do, you can save time by having them knead the seitan, pick off the cilantro leaves, stir the pot, or whatever.

I am done for the day, but I hope these helped. Feel Free to add your own tips in the comment section.


jess (of Get Sconed!) said...

These are really helpful tips - especially for parents, great work.

For those who have them available - see if you can save money with a csa share - even splitting one with someone - you'd be buying directly from farmer's and often, saving gas yourself, because you can find some that deliver to your home.

I shop a lot at farmer's markets, and while I can and do save money at them, you have to be careful when you're budgetting. However, some things, such as zucchini, have recently been as low as 50 cents for one the size of half of my entire arm - that can feed me for a week! at least!

I also do my share of meal planning/budgetting, and always make sure there's a grain, protein and veggie on the menu if I can. I stock up on dried goods when they're on sale, so I always know just in case, there's rice/quinoa/millet, soy sauce and greens for dinner..etc.

KleoPatra said...

More great tips and hints. THANKS!!