12 Tips for Squeezing the Most Nutrient Rich Food From Your Dollar

As I shared last week, I have new motivation in seeking to feed my family well within a lower budget. This is part of the reason I was interested in hosting the Nourishing Frugal Food Event, starting this Friday (looking forward to seeing what people have to share with everyone). But I have chosen not to look at it from the perspective of what’s cheapest in the stores, but rather, asking myself how to get the most nutrition with the money I have.

These tips won’t keep your budget as low as when you buy low quality meat, fats, vegetables, and grains. It’s almost always cheaper to buy poorly produced food (it’s produced that way for the simple reason that it is more cost efficient). The following 12 practices help me keep my nourishing budget reasonable, without sacrificing nutrition and health.

Squeezing the Most Nutrient Rich Food From Your Dollar

1-Buy Frugal Organic Vegetables

Carrots, onions, celery, garlic, kale, chard, zucchini, cabbage, broccoli are not top dollar vegetables in the produce section, but they are packed with nutrition. Variety is always good, but I won’t miss any nutritionally advantages by sticking with the basics most of the time. Expensive vegetables will be a treat, not the norm.

2-Don’t Waste Anything

I think that most of us could cut down our kitchen costs if we made sure we didn’t let anything go to waste. Bacon grease? Save it and saute eggs, potatoes, or veggies for soups in it. It tastes wonderful. Chicken bones? Never throw away, but save for making broth. They are full of gelatin and calcium. Leftovers? Have a leftover night, or like us, eat for lunch the next day. If you skim fat from broths, these also can be used to cooking.

We do pretty well in this area, but I am going to be making new efforts as well. Stephanie had a great post on how she stretched a chicken. This is very similar to what I do as well. I am also currently researching some new ways in how to not waste anything in the kitchen, I will give an update when I have started some of these new ventures.

3-Buy Local Pastured Eggs

I buy local eggs from a friend. They are cheaper than most eggs in the store, and they are packed with so much more nutrition. Check out this post for more info. I spend less money on eggs, and they give me more than their weight in nutrition.

4-Concentrate on Traditional Ethnic Cooking

Ethnic cooking often stretches meat into filling, nourishing meals. We love all types of ethnic cooking anyway, so this won’t be a hardship. Remember, our health is a priority, so we will be cooking with adequate amounts of meat protein, we just don’t always need it to be a huge amount. Read point 6 to hear how broth helps you get the most out of your meat protein.

5- Love Those Beans

Everybody knows that beans and rice are the superstar of frugal and healthy cooking. I don’t need to say much about these little guys except that we love them, and know that we can make all sorts of filling, nutritionally rich meals with them for little money.

6-Make Broth

Sally Fallon advises, in Nourishing Traditions,
“Make stock at least once a week. Meat stocks have formed the basis of nourishing peasant diets for millennial. They cost very little to make,..are very nourishing and have a protein-sparing effect. That means that you can get by with very little meat in the diet when you use properly made stock for soups and stews. Use congealed fat from stocks for cooking and leftover meat for soups, meat salads, and other dishes.”

7-Eat Liver

Yuck, I know. The thought has been hard to get used to myself. But I am slowly adjusting my tastebuds to this new food for me. It is easier than I thought and last time I made it, I really enjoyed it.

Yes, you heard right, enjoyed it.

You do have to have a good recipe, in my opinion, and you do have to get used to it if you don’t normally eat it, but it’s worth it. My toddler loves it and I don’t want her to grow out of liking it because I never serve it.

It would take a whole post to tell why liver is so wonderful, I will just be concise and say that liver is one of the most nutrient rich meats that you can eat. It contains many very vital nutrients in higher amounts. It is also much cheaper per pound than any other meat I can get. So it costs less money to get a whole lot more nutrition. Just make sure you don’t get conventionally produced liver, but go for the organically raised, or better yet, pastured chicken livers.

8-Concentrate on Bread and Whole grain Sides

I love muffins, crackers, and other baked goods. But they are more expensive and often don’t deliver a significant increase in nutrition. They also take more time to make. Making simple whole wheat bread is not only easier, but much cheaper as well. While I am sure I will still make muffins and other treats, I will concentrate on bread as a cheaper alternative.

Along the same lines, I find that making whole grain side dishes are also very frugal in comparison to baked goods. Rice, millet, barley, etc, can be very cheap to cook up as a side dish.

9-Prepare Food Focused on Increasing Nutritional Value

Soaking grains, legumes, and nuts is going to give me more bang for my buck. Remember the point is not just how I make the most food for the least amount of money. The point is getting the most nutrition out of my dollar. If I soak my grains, I will digest more nutrients from my food.

Along that same line, I am going to start sprouting grains, and seeds again. This will increase many nutrients and won’t cost me anything more but a little time. Sprouting increases vitamin c and vitamin b content, and the carotene content increases dramatically. It also has the same effect as soaking your grains, and reduces or eliminates phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors present in all seeds. It also breaks down complex sugars that causes gas, and inactivates carcinogens found in grains called aflatoxins. Last, but not least, enzymes that support proper digestion is produced during the sprouting process.

If I was able to drink dairy, I would culture these products for higher nutrient content and health benefits. What I can do, and will do, is culture vegetables. This will give me important lactobacilli (beneficial bacteria) and promote healthy flora for intestinal health, and increase enzymes helpful for proper digestion, and increase vitamin levels.

Doing these things will help me get more nutrition from the foods I eat. So more nutrients will be eaten, without increasing my food budget.

10-Don’t Buy Packaged Food

I choose to minimize buying packaged food as much as possible. We rarely buy packaged food as it is, but it does cost much more money to buy premade and packaged food instead of making it ourselves, so we will continue this practice.

11-Seek Co-op or Bulk Options

When berries are in season around here, I pick and freeze large amounts. We buy a quarter of a cow at a time, for high quality meat at a low price. We also find that buying grains in bulk is much cheaper, especially through a co-op. We often buy 25 pounds. Buying Coconut milk and coconut water or juice is also significantly cheaper when bought through a co-op. Doing these things really helps get us more nourishing food for our money.

12-Don’t Overeat

My husband and I are not light eaters and manage to pack away large amounts of food on a regular basis, so I am not suggesting that you eat Barbie sized portions. I don’t think that’s healthy. But overeating has consequences beyond your waistline; it makes it hard to stay within your budget. Your digestive tract also takes a hard hit when you overeat.

Eat nourishing food, and enough to keep you full, but don’t stuff yourself all the time, and you will have food leftover for tomorrow! And a more happy digestive tract. Once again, the goal is to be healthy, going to an extreme the other way will also not help your health, or your budget in the end either. Balance is the key.

So there is the starting point of eating nourishing food on a lower budget. I am sure I will add new ideas and skills as I continue to explore this vast topic.

What about you? How have you sought balance in cooking nourishing food for less?

This post is part of Tammy’s Kitchen Tip Tuesday and Works for Me Wednesday.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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Comments

  1. lindsay edmonds says

    Great ideas Kimi! I am all for not wasting anything…that is so true! I store leftovers in the freezer if we can’t get to it right away.

  2. laurel says

    Something that has really saved me a lot of money, while still eating well, is to really focus on eating seasonally. Buying what is being locally grown insures that the food is at its freshest, tastes the best, and, also it the cheapest!
    We eat a mostly vegetarian diet, which also stretches our food dollar…we focus our money on fresh grains and fruits and vegetables, buying locally whenever possible.
    I enjoyed this post and am looking forward to the carnival!

  3. BarbaraLee says

    I am looking forward to reading your blog.
    Even though I make my own bread I have yet to make a good wheat bread. I am hoping that your site will be able to solve that problem.

  4. Anonymous says

    Something that has really helped us is our local CSA we participate in. It is the same farm that we get our milk and eggs from so it’s not even an additional trip in the car.

    Shopping at our local farmer’s market has helped as well. I go every week and I’ve noticed now that I’m a regular for 3 years running I tend to get little extra’s here and there from farmer’s that know I’m there every week and often bringing someone along with me πŸ™‚

    Soup is something I am currently trying to work into our diet more. We make our own broth and such so why not. It’s inexpensive, extremely nutritious, and everyone in the family likes it!

    The biggest thing for my family, though, was to get over the fear of trying something new. I’ll eat anything πŸ™‚ My husband will not…I’ve had to gently nudge him along and help he re-think and see what he eats from a new perspective.

    http://www.tryingtraditional.wordpress.com

  5. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home says

    That’s a great list, Kimi!

    I also caught the info in NT about broth being protein sparing, which was a huge motivator in starting to make it much more often last winter. Because we buy high quality meat, we just can’t buy as much as I would like, so we eat a lot of broth!

    Good reminder about sprouted foods. I tend to forget to make sprouts, even though we really enjoy them, and it’s such a super cheap way to boost our nutrition. One thing I’ve been doing lately is spouting my grain to make sprouted flour, for simple homemade tortillas, etc. It tastes great, is easier to work with than soaked flour, and the nutrient content is great, so I’m really happy with doing that lately (plus, whole grain berries are currently cheaper than flour- a plus!).

    And good plug on the fermented foods… I’m hoping to do a bit of experimenting this month before my garden takes off, so that I can use the recipes and techniques I’ve learned to preserve some of our summer harvest.

    Can’t wait for the carnival!!! πŸ™‚

  6. Playful Professional says

    I just recently discovered a love for beans, all kinds. They really can fill up any meal and give you some great protein and flavor.

  7. Crafty P says

    I love your blog- great info and recipes! I need to look into finding some fresh eggs nearby. I loved your egg post… I think that’s what got me hooked! I’ll be linking to you on my blog and look forward to Friday!

  8. jessica says

    i haven’t read Nourishing Traditions, so was wondering what is a “properly made broth”…is there a certain amount of time you have to let the bones boil for?

  9. Kimi Harris says

    Jessica,
    I am planning on doing a post about broth once the weather gets a little cooler (I still make broth through the summer, but I didn’t imagine many people wanted to think about hot soups right now!). But simmering broth for a longer amount of time does help get more nutrition from your bones (I do 12-24 hours). Also adding vinegar (raw apple cider vinegar) helps draw out the calcium from the bones as well. It’s not to complicated. πŸ™‚

  10. Lauren says

    Do you have a tried and true beef liver recipe?

    Going for the less glamorous organic veggies is such a great tip! πŸ™‚ My food bill has plunged significantly since going all natural low carb, so spending your rice and bread money on high quality protein sources can also be a great trick to getting more nourishment and satisfaction for your buck.

  11. Kimi Harris says

    Lauren,

    LOL, not really….but I do recommend eating fried liver with a lot of sauted livers! And ketchup is nice too.

    Kimi

  12. Lisa says

    Do you have any idea how long broth keeps? Or have any suggestions on ways to store it. Seems like I always wind up with a lot of broth and too little time to use it up.

  13. Kimi Harris says

    Lisa,

    Here is some great advice from James Peterson in his book Splendid Soups

    ” You can refrigerate the broth for 5 days without it spoiling. To keep it longer, just bring it to a simmer on top of the stove for ten minutes, let it cool, and then refrigerate it for up to another 5 days. You can repeat this trick indefinitely. If you do decide to freeze broth, store it in quantities that you’re likely to need”

    We personally rarely get the chance to freeze any because we make soups so often. But I find it very nice to have some in the freezer. πŸ™‚

  14. Carrie at NaturalMomsTalkRadio says

    When it comes to sprouting grains, I find that my blood sugar is more stable meaning I’ll feel less hungry. I can eat oatmeal and be hungry 30 minutes later. Not so when it’s soaked! It will fill me up all morning.

    This is such an obvious difference to me. Not only does it save money but my body is telling me that one way is giving me more nutrition.

  15. emily says

    Kimi,
    Will you please explain how to sprout grains and beans, I’m not sure how to do this. Thanks a ton!

    • KimiHarris says

      Hi Emily,

      If you go to my Nourishing Foundations page, you will see a few links to help you out. πŸ™‚

  16. says

    This is such a perfect list. (I say that because I do everything on here.)

    I will take it one step above that: I buy farm fresh local (2 blocks away) un-pastured eggs.

    I like to live life on the edge but I still keep within a set of rules with these types of eggs:

    1. I don’t take chances with my young boy even though both of us have strong immune systems. Therefore, he will get store bought eggs when he wants them (which is extremely rare).

    2. I do the float test. I will cook all eggs thoroughly that are touching the bottom (even if it is just one end). If I get a batch that is really fresh and really young (I am sitting and watching the chicken laying them out), I might go over-easy on the eggs.

    3. Anything requiring raw eggs (such as hollandaise sauce or yuk hoe, Korean seasoned raw beef with raw egg on top), I will always go with store bought/pastured eggs.

    • KimiHarris says

      Hey Joseph,

      I think you are meaning” pasteurized eggs” which refers to eggs that have been heated to kill bacteria. “Pastured” (or free range) eggs refer to chickens have access to the outdoors. πŸ™‚ Pastured eggs are what I recommend, when it’s possible to get them.

  17. says

    Do you think you could disguise liver in something like tacos? My boyfriend would probably never eat liver if he knew it was there, but he might not notice if it was mixed in with something else πŸ™‚ Great post! I also try to choose nutrient dense foods. Luckily the most nutritious veggies are often the cheapest!! πŸ™‚

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  1. […] some ideas. Also, check out the first nourishing frugal food carnival I did almost a year ago.Β  12 Tips for Squeezing the most Nutrient Dense Food out of Your Budget is another post with some ideas for you. Finally, check out some excellent, sage advice from our […]

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