I am such a fan of Tara Parker-Pope, probably because I don’t know very much about health and biology, so the way she explains these topics in such a relevant and easy to understand manner makes me think of her as something like a trusted doctor family member whom you can always call when something’s up.
In her “Well” blog, Parker-Pope reblogs from another wellness-centered site, Divine Caroline, to discuss the Healthy Foods for Under $1. In this kudos-giving spirit, I wanted to regurgitate that article, too, which is terrific, and also drop in my favorites that were missing from the list. I encourage you to chime in with some of your own, too.
It already hits many of my favorite buy-in-bulk carbs, like oats and garbanzo beans, and cheap antioxidant-rich vegetables like beets and broccoli. I really like how it touches on how whole foods, stuff that typically has less packaging and branding, often gives you a better bang for your buck, and nutritional value to boot. For example, buying steel-cut oats or whole rolled oats instead of individual packets of instant oatmeal not only gives you a more nutritious breakfast, but these canisters of grain really, really last. I’d like to add that the bulk sizes minimizes packaging waste, too.
Here’s a few more grocery items that have those three virtues: frugality, nutrition and earth-friendliness.
Cabbage. I love cabbage, red or green, as the post before this one can attest, and while browsing my local Associated Market yesterday, it was on sale for 49 cents a pound. Need I say more?
Brown Rice. The article mentions wild rice and that it “won’t cost you much more than white rice,” but sadly, I have yet to see that being the case in my neighborhood. Wild rice tends to be sold in expensive small bags tucked inside small cardboard boxes, too often with MSG-laden spice packets. Until that’s not the story, I’ll happily settle for brown rice. Brown rice has much of the same vitamins and minerals quoted for wild rice, as well as its “mild nutty flavor.” It can be short-grain (which my friends used for their prize-winning risotto), and long-grain, as with my five-pound sack of fragrant Thai Jasmine brown rice.
Carrots. My favorite way to cook carrots lately is by coating big, unpeeled hunks of them in olive oil and throwing them into a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes (turning once). They’re divine afterward. It might even be easier than carefully peeling and chopping carrots into sticks, too. But however you like them, carrots are cheap, versatile, and highly healthy. Plus, everyone loves them, which is kind of rare with this list.
Popcorn Kernels. These are sold in bags for a much better value, too, and once you figure out how to pop them in a heavy-bottomed skillet (which is often on the back of the package), then you have a quick, hot, old-fashioned snack that’s really fun to make (I’m talking beware the ones that decide to fly across the room as they fluff up even after you’ve poured them into a bowl). Microwave packets and JiffyPop, begone.
Dried Black Beans. Compared to garbanzo beans, black beans require much less soaking and cooking time to become tender when you start off with them dry. If you can remember to submerge a pot of them in water before you go to bed, or as you leave for work, then you’ll be rewarded with a lot of protein for very little cash. These dry beans typically run you less than a dollar a pound, and that’s for protein. Oh, and they expand to almost twice their size once cooked.
Not that it’s a problem, really, but I’ve gotten a little overzealous when soaking them in the past, and have dealt with the issue of what to do with approximately a gallon of black beans. So I boiled them down to ready-to-use tenderness (a little less than an hour), and throughout the week made black beans and rice, black bean and chopped fresh veggie salad, and black bean “hummus” so I wouldn’t get sick of the little buggers cooked in any one way.