Healthy Cheap-Skate options.
Following on my ramble from the other day – there is a notion in the healthy living realm that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is easy and affordable. I disagree with this entirely – a healthy lifestyle is one SO worth striving for…. BUT it takes quite a bit of effort, and no, it doesn’t come cheap.
If you want to be healthy, you have to eat well, yes? Good quality food demands the price it is worth…. like anything in life, you get what you pay for. I think our health should be our biggest investment – I saw something the other day that went along the lines of – “So you think organic food is expensive? You should check out the going rate for cancer treatment!” Enough said.
I’m a cheapskate, I won’t lie. I have to be – we’re a single income family on a tight budget…. but you can still eat really well on a budget, it’s no excuse. Any way, I thought I would highlight a few staple ingredients in my house that are full of health-giving benefits, while also going easy on the old wallet.
Dates are one of nature’s finest candies – sweet, chewy delicious. Rich in iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, copper and magnesium, these little babies are also and instant energy pick-me-up. The most amazing of dates (in my opinion) are the Medjool, which are perfect for delicious raw desserts and snacking, these, however are NOT the cheapest variety out. I look for cheaper bulk packs of varieties such as Iranian, Shalaby or Helwah… My best advice is to check out a local Middle Eastern grocery store – there are some amazing bargains to be found, believe me. As always, be aware and read your ingredient labels.
Date paste is a super simple sweetener you can make by soaking dates in water, and then blending to create a thick, rich mix perfect for adding to baking (add sweetness and moisture) smoothies, or just smearing on bread/fruit. Cover dates in water and soak over night, or at least for a few hours. Drain the water off, but keep it aside. Pulse dates in a food processor, adding just enough soaking water to produce a thick spread.
I use date paste to sweeten home made milks and smoothies. This is tahini “milk” - which is another great Healthy Cheap-Skate option. All you do is blend 1/2C tahini with 3C water, a pinch of sea salt and a big dollop of date paste. Delish. Tahini is so cheap compared with expensive nut butters (particularly in Australia), plus being a paste it makes it really easy to digest, and is fabulous for those with nut allergies. Tahini contains B Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B15, and is really high in calcium.
Oats. Wonderful oats. Cheap, filling, and the amount of recipes you can create with them (sweet or savoury) is too many to count. Fibre, protein, calcium, low GI - and delicious.
A good old fashioned bowl of porridge (or oatmeal) is probably one of the healthiest and cheapest starts to the day you could get, but I’ve got a few other ideas for you. For a fancy-type granola, which is sure to impress try my Spiced Pumpkin variety….. if you have a toddler, these “Flat-Cakes” (flax and oat) are so simple and you can get creative with the toppings….. or this Coconut Oat snack bar recipe is a snap to whip up from simple pantry ingredients – just make sure you own a food processor!
Most grains are cheap – I love bulk bin stores…. less packaging, buy any amount you like, save money. Barley, brown rice, buckwheat, wheat berries, oats, millet, and bulgar are all grains that I can purchase organic for under $5 a kilogram… that’s pretty good nutritional bang for your buck. I’ve been experimenting with making Zarathustra bread, which is a 5000 year old concept of an unyeasted bread made from crushed, sprouted grains. Basically, you soak wheat berries (or any other grain) with sesame seeds for a few days, drain, blend and bake at a very low temperature (or dehydrate) into a “bread.” Consider the word “bread” very loosely.
These are made with raw, sprouted buckwheat, sesame seeds, sea salt, cinnamon and goji berries. Dense and heavy? Yes. Delicious, yes, surprisingly good after a dousing of tahini. Good eats, on the cheap – I’m a big fan.
What are YOUR go-to meals/ingredients for when the budget is tight?