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Eat For $12 A Week

23 February 2009 1,917 views No Comment

EAT CHEAPER AND EAT BETTER.  From FoodMatters Documentary contributor Dr. Andrew Saul.

Completely worth the 10 minutes read!!

If you had to dig into your pocket a little to pay your internet service provider this month, this page could help you get your investment back several times over. When I say, “eat well”, I mean “eat healthfully,” not “eat elaborately“. Eating healthfully means a complete but meatless diet of inexpensive, whole foods.  It also means a good tasting, simple diet that you can live with – and will live better with – every day. You will not get fat on these foods, and will easily maintain or reduce to your optimum weight. How many obese vegetarians have you met?

You will find that this diet may not require that you see the doctor as often as you may be used to.  A better, simpler diet means simply better health. Most people go to the doctor when they’re sick.  If you’ve better nutrition, you are less likely to be sick, and if you’re not sick, you probably won’t see the doctor. Now if you don’t choose to really follow, faithfully, the proposed diet’s guidelines, you may have less success than those who do stay away from meat, chemical additives, junk foods and sugar. If you become a “pudding vegetarian”, that is, you eat ANYTHING but meat – lots of starches, desserts, packaged foods, too few fruits and vegetables, no nuts or cheeses – and don’t eat anything GOOD in place of the meat you dropped, well, you’ll not be successful at being healthy. It stands to reason that the vegetarians that doctors see are the sick ones, the unsuccessful ones. The sickly “pudding vegetarians” eat no meat and nothing good, either. Of course they can’t be healthful unless they have the “three sisters” (corn, beans and squash) each day for their complete protein. But these vegetarian failures are the very ones that doctors see, because they are the vegetarians who get sick. If all the “health nuts” that a doctor sees are sick, the doctor naturally concludes that all vegetarians are wasting away.

Not so!  There are tens of thousands of vegetarians all around you, but they don’t make a big deal about it. But veggieaisle800x600they exist, and exist well on their sensible meatless daily fare. It’s just that the healthy vegetarians don’t have any reason to go to the doctor, so they’re not medical statistics.  My wife, children and myself haven’t seen a medical doctor for years, except for childbirth or check-up. We watch out for our own health, and eat right. Is it that much of a surprise that nature does the rest?

Healthful diet equals vegetarian diet. Vegetarian diet equals inexpensive diet. Believe me, it’s considerably cheaper to not have to buy meat at today’s prices. We are vegetarian primarily for our health and personal preferences. Money is not the deciding factor is our being vegetarian, but if you can eat better and save money at the same time, why not?

So vegetarian diet equals inexpensive diet.  And what follows is inexpensive diet:

A Week Of Cheap Eating
Quality budget meals are going to rely on quality, budget foods.  That’s why you have to shop right.  The foods to buy include:

Dry Foods:
Brown rice
Navy, or pea beans
Split green peas
Whole wheat flour
Alfalfa seeds
Mung seeds
Salt (optional)
Yeast (for baking)

Frozen Foods:
Green Beans
Squash (any variety)

Canned Foods:
Tomato puree

Fresh Foods, In Season
Squash, any variety

Jar Foods
Cayenne pepper sauce  (e.g. “Frank’s”)
Vegetable oil
Unsulfured molasses
Honey (optional)

Herb tea
Cider, in season
Grape juice, or other 100% juice of any kind   (optional)

Dairy Foods:
Cottage Cheese
Other cultured Cheeses

This is your shopping list. With the exception of the alfalfa seeds and mung beans, you can find all of the above at a good supermarket. You may need to go to a health food store for seeds to sprout, and if a food co-op has better prices on any of the above, I’d certainly buy those items there, too.

The next portion of this chapter is going to provide commentary on the foods listed, with prices and brands given for examples. The listing of brands will be incomplete, and the prices vary, depending on where and when you buy. This is 1995 information.

Dry Foods Commentary
Brown Rice
(e.g. “Uncle Ben’s Brown Rice” or “Riceland Brown Rice,” etc.)  Two pounds (dry) at $.85/lb
Brown rice is high in protein, carbohydrates, B-vitamins, and roughage. White rice is high in none of these things except carbohydrate alone.  Three-fourths of the world’s people start and finish their day with this one food item. Alone, it’s not enough to live on for optimal health. The entire house doesn’t have to be built of cement to still have a good foundation. Rice, when cooked, expands to about four or five times its dry weight and size. Two pounds of rice will yield a lot of meals.

Navy, or Pea Beans
(e.g. “Smith’s Navy Beans” or “Jack Rabbit Pea Beans”, etc.)
One pound (dry) at $.79/lb
Also high in protein and carbohydrate.  Use for baked beans, refried beans, bean-burgers, etc.

(e.g. “Smith’s” or “Jack Rabbit” brands, etc.)  Two pounds at $.85/lb
Very high in protein. Expand when cooked as rice does. Make burgers, soup, hash, lentil-loaf, etc. Please see recipe section.

Split Green Peas
(Same brands as before) One pound at $.65/lb
The cheapest green vegetable, best as pea soup. Cooks in several pints of water to make ten servings of hearty soup. Add onion, cloves, salt to taste. Split peas, rice, beans and lentils do take a while to cook (45 min. to 1 1/2 hrs.) so allow plenty of time in preparation, and soak overnight  to reduce cooking time to a minimum. Keep leftover soup in serving-size jars in the refrigerator, so whenever you want an easy meal, just open a jar of soup instead of a can. Canned soup is much more expensive and loaded with salt. Homemade tastes better, too. Pea soup is high in protein and potassium.

Whole Wheat Flour
(e.g. “Robin Hood” or “Pillsbury’s” Whole Wheat Flour, also called Graham Flour) Five pound bag at $1.89
The “staff of life”. Make bread, pizza, rolls, etc. Heavy but healthy, with B-vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Twice as expensive as bleached white flour, but you can live on 1/4 as much. I can eat many slices of white-flour pizza, but only a few pieces of whole wheat pizza will fill me. Good foods support life, including other forms of life as well as ours, so keep whole wheat flour in the refrigerator for best shelf life. For baking, or for a finicky family, you may want to lighten your product and might add some Unbleached White Flour in place of all whole wheat.

Alfalfa Seeds, for sprouting
(at any health-food store) 1/4 lb at $3.95/lb
Don’t be dismayed at the high per-pound price until you count the number of seeds in a pound. A tablespoon of alfalfa seeds makes a wide-mouth jar full of alfalfa sprouts. All you need is water; rinse twice daily. Sprouts are one of the best raw foods you can eat. High in protein, all vitamins especially Vitamin C, and minerals. 1/4 lb. of seeds will last you for several weeks.

Mung Beans, for sprouting
(At any health-food store) 1/2 lb at $2.99/lb
Like alfalfa seeds, generally will found at a health food store. Sprout a tablespoon at a time and eat raw or, in the case of mung beans only, lightly steamed.  Excellent food, traditionally in Chinese dishes. Canned sprouts are expensive, overcooked, and tasteless. As with alfalfa, a small volume of beans makes a large volume of sprouts.

An excellent sourcebook for health and an outstanding guide to cheap, easy sprouting is Survival Into the 21st Century, by Viktoras Kulvinskas, M.S. published by Omangod Press).  It costs about $20 and is well worth it. The author has lived for years on sprouts and fruit… and describes the advantages of doing so in his book.

Salt, to taste
(e.g. house brands or Morton, Sterling, etc.) 1 lb for $.49
Optional, and use sparingly for best health. Salt is important for taste, especially for those folks who think that their cooking is too bland. It’s better to eat your home-made good food with a little salt than to eat commercial, processed food that’s loaded with salt. Soups and bread in particular need salt for most palates. When you add salt to your cooking, remember that it’s still much less than a food processor uses. Salt is a big ingredient in “convenience” foods and restaurant or fast-foods. Iodized salt is preferable to insure some iodine in addition to what’s in your daily multiple vitamin. Most salts contain anti-caking ingredients (chemicals) which rarely are really needed. If you can get pure salt, put a few grains of rice in the salt shaker to prevent caking. The rice grains absorb moisture that causes caking. Iodized salt always has a chemical or two added to “hold” the iodine.  If you eat a lot of sea vegetables or continue to eat seafood, you get quite a bit of iodine that way. Sea salt is good, too, but not as a source of iodine, unless mixed with powdered kelp. Adelle Davis wrote that you can cheaply get iodine in your diet by adding ONE drop of iodine tincture to a half-gallon of orange juice or other fruit juice.

Three packets together, $1.29
Read the yeast label; some dry yeasts may have preservatives in them. It’s good to bake bread regularly, considering the high cost and low quality of almost all commercial breads. If you want to save on yeast, use a sour-dough system: save out a fistful of your risen bread dough and put it in the refrigerator.  Keep it until you bake again later in the week, and then use it instead of yeast. Mix it in with the new flour-water mixture, and it will culture all the new dough to rise. Then save a fistful of that dough, and continue on. You can even freeze dough, so that if you want bread and don’t have the time that day to mix it up, just take some frozen dough out of the freezer as if you’d bought a commercial frozen dough, let it rise and bake. This way, you can prepare dough only once every week or two, and always have fresh baked rolls, bread, pizza or whatever you make with it.

Canned and Frozen Foods Commentary
Frozen vegetables are to be only slightly cooked, or “blanched” and packed without water. Vitamin retention is high. Canned vegetables are cooked longer, packed in water, and more vitamins are usually lost. I would tend to recommend frozen over canned, and fresh over frozen. It is easier and cheaper to buy tomatoes as puree and pumpkin already prepared, and both of these are usually sold canned. It is best to cook all vegetables lightly, if you cook them at all. Save that cooking water for soup: it catches a lot of water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Steaming requires the least amount of water for cooking with the exception of sautéing, (a low-temperature “frying”) in a bit of butter or vegetable oil.

Jar Foods Commentary
Vegetable Oil
(e.g. “Caruso”, “Wesson”, etc.)  Price varies; approx. $2.79 for 24 oz.
Vegetable oil is the vegetarian’s source of fats and maybe a very small amount of vitamin E. You’ll need oil for cooking and baking. We buy whatever oil is the cheapest, and that is usually soy oil. You may wish to use sunflower or olive oils for salads and other special uses, but they will cost somewhat more. If you can get them, cold pressed oils (slightly cloudy but therefore minimally processed) are best because they are least refined.  You may have difficulty finding cold-pressed oils anywhere but at a health food store, and they cost more. Most commercial oils today are refined for clarity, by an extraction procedure which removes nutritious “impurities” which hinder keeping qualities of raw oil. (Remember: good food spoils.) At least oils today are largely free of additives and preservatives. Still, I’d always read the label. Smell oil to be sure it’s not rancid (old and spoiled) and avoid high-temperature frying; these two destructive states make oil valueless as food.

$1.69/lb (any brand; local farm brands are fresher and less refined than national, commercial brands. Raw, dark and cloudy honey is most desirable.)
Honey is a great all-purpose sweetener, and although it costs more than refined white sugar, you use less. Two-thirds to three-quarters cup honey equals one cup sugar; use slightly less liquid in the recipe.

Cayenne Pepper Sauce
$1.59/12 fl. oz. (e.g. “Frank’s”)
In moderation, cayenne is actually beneficial to the body, even the stomach. Mixed up as sauce with vinegar, garlic and salt, it’s our favorite condiment. I’d like to mention that the sweeteners, condiments and spices are all optional, and if you will enjoy your food without them, that’s very good.  Many natural health authorities would agree with you. However, I think it is important that we be sure that our meals taste good, as well as be good for us. There is no point in being a vegetarian and hating it. Without overdoing it, it’s possible to prepare tasty dishes that you and your family and friends will really enjoy, which will have the added advantage of being good nourishment and pure.

Fresh Foods Commentary
These are best when truly cheap and truly fresh. Neither may be possible with today’s high supermarket prices and long-term storage procedures. I think that turns a lot of people off to fresh fruits and vegetables. There is a stirfry800x600fine alternative, though, and that is to grow your own. For just a few dollars worth of seeds, you can easily grow enough lettuce, squash, spinach, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, beets and beans to last the entire summer at least. A 15-foot square garden can produce a tremendous amount of available-anytime fresh food. Even a window box or cold frame will grow quite a bit of lettuce and fresh salad greens through at least half of the year. Crop freezes, shortages, labor disputes, cash-crop market price fluctuations and all those pricehiker’s excuses don’t matter to the self-subsistent home gardener!

There are some fresh vegetables that you can buy nearly year-round at fairly low cost: carrots, onions, potatoes, cabbage and usually celery.  These can be eaten lightly cooked or raw, except for potatoes. Squash, broccoli, greens and corn can be bought fresh in season at very low prices. Out of season, frozen vegetables may be cheaper and even better quality than stored or trucked-in fresh ones. You may be better off getting your fresh fruits at a roadside stand, farmer’s market or orchard. Prices are usually somewhat lower, and the fruit fresher when you buy directly from the producer. Apples are a good example. I’ve seen red or golden delicious apples for well over $1.00/lb in a supermarket, and there are very few apples in a pound!  At the same time of the year, at an orchard not far from the city, most apple varieties are seldom more than $10 a bushel.  A bushel would price out at only a fraction as much money per pound. If you have any backyard at all, the trees to plant are fruit trees. Dwarf varieties are easy to maintain and to pick, are ornamental, and provide a great low- or no-cost fruit source.

Dairy Foods Commentary
(unsalted contains no artificial coloring, e.g. “Land 0′ Lakes” at $1.79/lb)
Over the last 15 years, the price of butter has actually come down, and now more than ever belongs on the “eat cheap” list. Butter to a vegetarian is an important article of diet for fats and for good taste. Sauté vegetables – just plain old beans or zucchini, for instance – in butter and a dash of soy sauce and see how tasty they are.

Cottage Cheese
Two pounds at $1.79/lb (preservative-free, uncolored brands only)
Cottage cheese is about the cheapest cheese there is, and also among the most efficient sources of calcium and protein for your body. Cottage cheese, like yogurt, is very digestible and contains many beneficial enzymes. We eat a good bit of cottage cheese, and so do our kids. Plain yogurt is also inexpensive, if you buy it in the quart-size container. In my opinion, cottage cheese tends to be somewhat less mucus-forming than yogurt.  Other cheeses such as aged Cheddar, Swiss, Provolone, Mozzarella and Muenster are also very good if somewhat more costly. Sometimes you can place a bulk order through your local health food store or supermarket and get really low per pound cheese prices. Some stores will charge very little mark-up on such special orders for good customers. You might try getting together with a few friends and sharing the amount, because cheese commonly ships in 15 to 30 pound blocks or boxes.

Even if you buy a few pounds of cheese as you need it at the grocery store, it is still overall a good value. There is no waste due to trimming or cooking, as with meat.  A couple with two kids might go through 3 to 5 pounds of cheese a week; if you were a meat eater you’d certainly go through more meat than that, at the same or higher per pound cost.  A few ounces of cheese is also more filling than the same amount of meat. Cheese can really dress up a vegetarian meal.  It is also a good transition food and can temporarily replace meat on your road to a low- or no-dairy diet, if you wish.

Beverages Commentary
Various Blends of Herbal Teas
24 bags for around $2 to $3.  (”Magic Mountain”, “Celestial Seasonings”, etc.)
More and more grocery stores carry herbal teas all the time, and health food stores always have many varieties. Herb tea is very pleasant, very inexpensive, and very easy to prepare. Most are caffeine free, and all keep indefinitely. Try getting two cups of tea from one bag. If you have a tea ball or strainer, you can purchase herb tea in bulk packs and save even more money.

When speaking of tea as a beverage, we are talking about everyday, commercial mixtures of teas to drink for taste, not for therapy. Still, in moderation, many herbs are undeniably helpful healers, and an herbology book will tell you which are good for what ailments. Catnip and chamomile are settling to the body and good before bedtime. Peppermint and spearmint teas calm the stomach. Raspberry leaf tea is given to pregnant women and is known to ease labor and delivery. Boneset helps do what its name implies: mend and strengthen bones. There are many more uses of the herbs which date back hundreds and even thousands of years in history. You may find that your taste preferences lead you to the herb tea that will best benefit you. Nature is like that sometimes! Validate your instincts by checking The Herb Book (Lust, 1974).

Apple Cider
($1.79 to $2.89/gal.)
Fresh cider is a raw food, full of minerals and raw food enzymes. I think it is one of the finest foods you can drink. Beware of supermarket “fresh pressed” cider that reads in small print on the label, “preserved with 1/10th of one percent sorbic acid” or any other preservative. Real cider is just pressed apples, cloudy, dark and perishable. Buy it fresh, read the label, and keep it cold. You can freeze cider if you are sure to leave 1/5 of the container unfilled to allow for freezing expansion (”head room”). I can easily drink three gallons of cider a week by myself. You might think that you’d get the “runs” if you did that… and you might at first. As your body gets healthier through daily natural vegetarian diet, you’ll find that it won’t need to have the “runs” to clean itself out anymore, because it is already clean inside. Cider, diluted half and half with water, is ideal for juice fasting.

Other 100% Juices, Canned or Bottled
(e.g. “Juicy Juice”, Pineapple Juice, Apple Juice, Tomato Juice, “V-8,” etc., prices ranging from roughly $1.50 to $2.00 for 24 to 48 fl. oz.)
When you can’t get fresh, canned or bottled pure juices are the next best. Some frozen concentrates are good too, but watch for added sugar.  Insist that the label says juice or 100% juices or pure juice, and nothing else. “Juice Cocktails” and “Juice Drinks” are not even close to all juice; they’re mostly sugar water. If you’re going to pay nearly as much anyway for water and sugar and coloring, why not spend the extra $.30 or $.40 per can or bottle and get real juice?

What Was Left Out On This Listing
Eggs are certainly better than meat, but are shunned by many natural health authorities. Metabolism of large amounts of eggs seems to toxify the digestion and body, they say. An egg or two used in cooking seems reasonable to me, but we rarely make a meal on eggs in our family. Some persons avoid eggs because they feel they could have been taking lives from potential chicks. Some persons avoid eggs because they fear heart trouble. This last reason is actually the weakest of the lot, for although eggs contain cholesterol, they also contain lecithin. Lecithin is an emulsifier (something that breaks up fats), naturally occurring in yolk, which helps keep cholesterol from becoming a problem in the body. If you didn’t eat any cholesterol your body would make it anyway. Persons wanting to cut down on harmful fats should cut out meat, not butter and eggs, as their first choice. Cut out eggs, too, if you choose, but for a better reason than cholesterol fears. Studies have found no significant relationship between a few eggs per week and any disease. Eggs are also very cheap. Thirty years ago, a dozen small eggs was very nearly as much as the same dozen today. Only with eggs, and perhaps home electronics products, has price effectively declined as much as with eggs. If money is tight and you have a house full of teenagers to feed, buy them to insure meatless, complete protein.

I’ve said little about spices because some people think we’re better off with our food the way it is, and other people think spices are important for flavor and palatability in our food. Most folks have spices and use them in cooking and baking as they see fit, and I doubt if much worry is needed about them.  We use oregano, garlic powder, nutmeg, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, basil and many other herbs or spices in our home food

Milk is absent in this listing because cheese is present in this listing. Everything good in milk is concentrated in cheese, and the enzymes, culture, bacteria, etc. in cheese make it a more efficient and often more agreeable source of nutrients for the body. Cheese contains very little water as opposed to milk. If you can get fresh raw milk, as we could when I worked on a dairy farm, I’d certainly drink it. We raised our babies on it (after Mom’s, of course.)

Here, Then, Is Your Eat Cheaper, Eat Better Shopping List: Good Food For Two People for One Week:

Group One: Dry Foods

Brown Rice 2 lbs.        @ $0.85/lb     $1.70
Navy or Pea Beans         @ $0.79/lb      0.79
Lentils 2 lbs.           @ $.85/lb       1.70
Split Peas 1 lb.          @ $.65/lb        .65
Whole Wheat
Flour 5 lbs.  @ $1.99         1.99

Alfalfa Seeds   1/4 lb    @ $3.95/lb      1.00
Baking Yeast 3 pkts.     @ 3 for $1.29   1.29
Mung Beans 1/2 lb         @ $2.99/lb.     1.50
Salt  1 oz.               @ $0.49/lb      0.03 (not a misprint!)

Subtotal:            $10.65

Group Two: Canned and/or Frozen Foods and Fresh Foods in Season

4 packages frozen squash @ $.69 ea = $1.56
(Spend any extra food budget money on fresh fruits and vegetables!)

Jar Foods
unprocessed (raw) 1/2lb.     @ $1.69/lb                $.85
Vegetable Oil 8 oz           @ $2.79 for 24 fl. oz.     .94

Dairy Foods
Butter, unsalted 1/4 lb      @ $1.89/lb             .48
Cottage Cheese 2 lbs         @ $1.49/lb            2.98

Water      no additional charge
Herb Tea 1 pkg. of 16 bags   @ $2.49              $2.49
Cider 1 gal.                 @ $2.89              $2.89
(or other natural juice, on sale,
which may still cost more)
$12.19 sub total

$22.84 TOTAL

Remember now, this is for two people.

Looking at this shopping list, you might raise such objections as the following:

1) Why so little money for fresh, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables?  Where will your Vitamin A and C come from?

This is a stripped-down shopping list, and fruits and vegetables are not cheap unless you (or a friend) have a garden. ”Vegetarian” does not necessarily mean “only vegetables”. In fact, many vegetarian failures are not happy or healthy with their diet because they ate just vegetables. The dry foods listed are high in protein, more filling, and generally very nutritious. Overall, this shopping list will provide outstanding poverty-priced meals. You will get many of your vitamins from the sprouted alfalfa, particularly vitamins A and C. If the season permits, you would want to grow your own lettuce, spinach, zucchini squash, radishes, carrots and beans. These are very easy vegetables to grow. Enough seeds for a whole summer may cost you under five dollars at a discount store, and if you divide that over the weeks you’ll be eating from the garden, that’ll raise the grocery bill to about $23.30 a week. For two people.

I do think everyone, including a budget-vegetarian, should take a good multiple vitamin every single day, and a vitamin C tablet in addition.  When you look at the cost of life insurance (or a cemetery plot, for that matter) I think you will agree that vitamin supplements are about the cheapest form of insurance you can buy.  I’ve seen really low priced vitamins for two cents per tablet.  You are now at $24 a week.  Divide by two and you still can bring it all in at 12 bucks apiece.

2) You left out several food items on the actual shopping list that you indicated as very beneficial earlier.  Why?

For economy. Cayenne pepper sauce and other spices or herbs, molasses, tomato puree, other vegetables and fruits, and additional fruit and vegetable juices are all very good, of course. We eat them all; we also spend somewhat more than $12 a week. What I am trying to do here is show that you can stay alive and really quite healthy on very little money or food. I’m not interested in hearing about the inadequacies of food stamp allowances, nor about senior citizens starving to death on Social Security while eating dog food. Just because you are poor doesn’t mean you have to be malnourished. Oddly enough, it is often people with money who are malnourished. You can spend a fortune at the supermarket check-out each week and still eat badly. Either way, it pays to know how to eat the cheapest and the best.

If you can spend a little more each week on food – that is, real food, and not packaged, processed convenience money wasters – then please do so. To feed one person on $12 a week means to feed a family of four on $48 a week…and that sounds slightly more like a normal figure to most people, I imagine.  You may find that the per-person cost per week goes down somewhat, for it is more efficient to shop and cook for more than one.  Honestly, we save a pile of money eating like this. My son, and a professor friend of mine, calculate that during our 18 year marriage (with two growing kids), my wife and I have saved well over $30,000. Er, actually, we spent it. On our house!

3) You did not include the cost of high-potency vitamin supplementation.

That is correct. With this diet, or any other, I would take four grams (4,000 mg.) or more of vitamin C a day, divided up among the three meals and between them. I would also take a good, high-potency, natural multivitamin. This is the minimum that I do take. I usually take a calcium/magnesium tablet or two and 600-800 IU of vitamin E daily, also. Approximate cost per day, all totaled, is about 40 cents or less than $3.00 a week per person.  That is an expense that needs budgeting, yet it is far cheaper than medical care. I would like to emphasize that if you really sprout, and eat, 1/4 pound of alfalfa seeds and 1/2 pound of mung beans a week, your vitamin and mineral intake will be outstanding. Don’t stay only with alfalfa and mung, though. Lentils and whole wheat grains sprout easily and provide better variety of nutrients, textures, and tastes. Alfalfa is given as an easy example to start with.

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