Healthy and Cheap
“Do we eat turnips?” I sent a text to my sister-in-law.
“No!” was her response.
“Well, we do now.” was my response back to her.
I was standing at the produce auction, eyeing up a 20 lb bag of turnips. It was $3! $3! That’s 15 cents a pound, I don’t know any food that you can get for that cheap.
Now, truth be told, I am frugal enough that I do not want to waste $3. So I could be stuck with lots of turnips and out $3. No worries. I am always able to resell what I don’t use because I get it so cheap. So I bought them.
In the past several years, I have transformed our household and my kitchen to healthier and local foods. I’m a little weird and obsessive about it. And it’s fun for me, so I am often posting photos, yes of produce, on Facebook. I’m just so amazed at my finds sometimes. Oh and by the way, turnips taste like cauliflower, so if you like cauliflower, you’ll probably like them.
Once you get into a routine, it’s easy and it’s fun. Now when I go to my regular grocery store, I usually don’t even go into the produce department, and the produce that they have usually doesn’t taste as good to me. And it’s more expensive!
How to Eat Healthy and Cheap
- Be willing to try new things. This one is going to be key. Because if you can learn to like what is in season, it will be cheaper. Of course, tomatoes are expensive in the middle of the winter. That’s not when they grow! But just like my turnip experience, you might be pleasantly surprised. Eliminate mental barriers.
- Channel my grandmother. My grandmother came of age during the Great Depression. You know what that means? She never wasted anything. Anything. So don’t waste anything. Eat it anyway. Sure, I make things that I don’t like and that I won’t ever make again. But I hardly ever make something that is totally inedible, right? My 8-year-old often says, “this isn’t my favorite.” Well, guess what? Not everything can be your favorite. Eat it or go hungry, lol. Throwing food away is the same as throwing money away.
- Poke around Pinterest for produce recipes. Or buy used cookbooks at local used book sales. This has been a real game-changer for me. I don’t like kale in soups or pretty much anything else. But, I do actually like kale chips. If it’s healthy or a superfood, try it several different ways before you give up.
- Learn what grows in what season in your area. If you want tomatoes in January, you’re going to sacrifice quality, taste, and price. But, if kale grows in your area in January, there you go! By importing produce from around the world into our grocers, we’ve lost touch with what is local and seasonal. I’ve learned that I would much rather have fresh kale chips in January than buying watermelon from thousands of miles away that has no flavor. Even though your initial thought might be “I like watermelon more than I like kale.”
- Learn how to store produce for maximum potential longevity. Some families use a root cellar. And canning is making a comeback. I personally prefer to just blanch, freeze and vacuum seal. Learning to preserve will allow you to buy larger quantities at lower prices.
- Consider gardening. Sure, there’s a joke meme floating around Facebook that says something like “growing your own tomatoes is the best way to spend 3 months to save $2 on tomatoes.” I enjoy gardening, and you might too. My kids don’t like it, which is a bonus. I get ME TIME. Plus, honestly, I have more produce than I can even save and I give tons away. Much more than $2 worth. You can even do container gardens, rooftop gardens, or urban gardens. Gardening in small spaces is a huge gardening trend right now. Hydroponics is huge and you can grow tomatoes anywhere. I grew tomatoes in my kitchen!
- See if your area has produce auctions. If they do, learn how to shop one. I’ve done extensive explaining of how I shop at a produce auction.
- Find the produce wholesalers in your area. Restaurants, stores, markets….they have to be buying it someplace if they are not growing their own. Ask. Find out where and what you need to do to become a customer. In addition to the produce auctions around here, I know many moms who go “down to the docks” in South Philly and buy wholesale there. Eliminate the middleman–save money!
- Consider ethnic stores. The ethnicity will depend on where you live. Where I live, there is a large Mexican population. For some reason, the jalapenos, tomatoes, poblanos, and cilantro are much cheaper at the little Mexican markets than in my local grocery store. I have heard the same about stores in Asian communities in big cities. These stores can save you money and expand our horizons on new items and new recipes. I only recently started eating poblanos and now I cook with them often. And Mexican street corn has become one of my favorite side dishes.
- Be creative and have fun. Experiment with new recipes. Treat yourself to some new cooking tools. Ask for a Spiralizer or some of the other fun stuff out there. Involve the kids. Make it fun. Let them help choose. Involve them in the gardening, on outings to farms. If they are still young, buy books and play food for them.
Yes, these pictures are all of the items that I have purchased. Purple carrots and purple cauliflower! It’s really fun for kids and for me. And who knew I liked radishes? Those are icicle radishes.
Good luck and have fun!