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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.