Can’t Eat Healthy on a Budget? Think Again! Tips to Help : Guest Author Nomi Shannon

Tuesday May 29 | BY |
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On food budgets both large and small, one can eat poorly or one can eat well.

Since many of us are experiencing income reductions, following are some simple guidelines to reinforce your healthy high-raw or all-raw diet on a reduced budget. I’ve also included a few survival tips as I’ve become very interested in smart survival methods for healthy eaters!

Find Good Sources of Healthy Foods: Find out the best places to obtain ingredients in your area. Always check out the seasonal produce and sales. Take advantage of them. Apples, oranges, bananas, carrots and cabbage are available year round and usually affordable.

Pool Your Efforts: Get together with a group to purchase your food. Belonging to a food co-op saves money. Sometimes large groups can arrange for wholesale prices. You will especially notice savings on the more exotic or expensive items like tropical fruits, nuts and nut butters. Consider simplifying even more and foregoing the more exotic and expensive items.

Consider Reduced-Price Produce: It’s often still good. Maybe not pretty, but usually very ripe and ready to eat on the same day as purchase. Produce departments are likely to mark down very ripe and spotted bananas, which are perfect for freezing to use in smoothies and desserts. Likewise, very ripe and soft fruit gets bruised then marked down, but it’s edible and a good buy. Young coconuts can be purchased in many cities for sixty to seventy cents each, and comprise a meal by themselves. Check in Asian markets for young coconuts, inexpensive pea sprouts and other interesting greens.

Don’t waste anything. If there’s one inch of red pepper left, save it for raw soup. Root vegetables are inexpensive, last quite awhile in the refrigerator and are full of nutrients, minerals and fiber. If you eat cooked food, they are an excellent choice for baking or steaming. Served raw either grated or turned into pasta with a saladacco (spiral slicer), they become a gourmet item. Look for parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, parsley root, and celery root, and don’t forget beets and carrots.

Limit meals to one item. Eat monomeals four or five times a week; for example, just melon or just apples or just greens at one meal. Not only can you take advantage of local produce and sales prices this way, but you also save time in food prep and while gaining lots of digestive energy! For example, for awhile I was finding luscious white nectarines everywhere and was eating many of them, taking advantage of the season, their ripeness and their good price.

Cut back. Most Americans eat too much. According to a study in the August 1996 issue of Scientific American, we spend $33 billion annually on weight-loss products and schemes. The message here is: cut back on your quantities. (This advice does not apply to children, they need calories, fat and protein for proper growth and development.)

Figure per-pound prices. Don’t be put off by the high per-pound price of mixed greens (called mesclun in some areas). Even at $6.99 a pound, a good-sized bag will cost less than half of that. Greens are light. Be sure they are dry when purchased, as then they will weigh less and keep longer. One helpful tip especially if you are buying for one or two people, is to compare the salad bar by weight prices with the price per pound of the greens over in the produce department. Sometimes you can do better to buy your greens at the salad bar.

Use the pulp. If you juice regularly, feed some of the pulp to your pets mixed in with their other food. It adds a lot of bulk/fiber to their diet and helps them to feel full, but doesn’t stuff them with calories and fat. You can also put some of your pulp into salad. Carrot pulp is especially good for this. Pulp is also a great addition to dehydrated crackers.

Learn about local forage. Unless you live in the high desert, there is almost always edible food in the woods and fields around you, probably even in your yard. A good illustrated book is helpful. I like Edible Wild Plants by Thomas Elias and Peter Dykeman, and there are many others. Try to find a book that specializes in your area. Another excellent thing to do is locate a master herbalist that specializes in wild edible foods. Get a group of friends together and learn how to forage in your area. This is great fun for the whole family, can supplement your purchased food, and even save your life in times of crisis. All this past winter and spring I picked bowls-full of mustard greens on my daily walks near my home. Later in the season, I picked the yellow blossoms. And, even when the heat of summer began, I could still find mustard greens in the shade and along streams. Over 1/3 of my greens intake for several months was foraged mustard. Perhaps it is my imagination, but I notice higher energy levels when I eat foraged greens rather than store-bought ones.

Grow your own sprouts. It is extremely economical to grow your own sprouts—not just the jar-grown variety, but the type grown in soil in nursery flats or cafeteria trays. The most highly nutritious sprouts are sunflower, buckwheat and pea shoots. If you decide to sprout at home, consider also growing baby lettuce greens at the same time. Other delicious sprouts to grow include: cabbage, turnip, peas, radish, mustard, spinach and kale. My book, The Raw Gourmet, has general instructions and growing charts. I also recommend The Sprout Garden by Mark Braunstein for more in-depth sprouting information. Quite possibly by growing sunflower, buckwheat, pea and other sprouts at home, you are getting the very best food known to man in the least expensive way possible. It will cost you only pennies for a pound of high protein, high chlorophyll, high vitamin, high mineral and high enzyme food. If you are interested in preparing for survival purposes, you will need to store soil, flats, seeds and any other equipment you may need for your crops. Or, look into the various types of sprouters that allow you to grow the sprouts that you normally grow in the soil hydroponically. In times of true crisis, other than what you can forage, sprouts would most likely be the only fresh food you would be able to obtain.

Stock up. Stock up one time on pantry essentials, then replenish as needed. Buying in bulk saves money if you buy wisely. Purchase only food that you know you will use. If you live far from a reasonable source for these items, remember too that the more you order at one time from a mail order company, the less per pound the shipping will cost.

Dehydrate: If you own a dehydrator (if you don’t, perhaps now is a good time to buy one), make up simple flax seed crackers in quantity and replenish when the stock gets low. Each time I make flax seed crackers I do them up differently but here’s the basic recipe:

  • Take 5-6 cups of brown or golden flax seeds and add 5-6 cups of pure water. Allow to stand at room temperature for 4-6 hours.
  • Then, fill your blender container (to the top) with some or all of the following: pureed tomatoes-3-5 cups, rehydrated sun dried tomatoes 1 cup, lemon juice from 1 lemon plus a bit of lemon rind, 2-3 whole onions, 6-10 garlic cloves, and any other spices or herbs you think that you will enjoy.
  • Stir the flax seeds and this mixture together. Do not blend as you do not want to break open the flax seeds. That will cause them to start becoming spoiled before they can finish dehydrating. Flax seed oil is very volatile. It spoils quite quickly. I love the taste of caraway seeds so I add in 4-6 tablespoonfuls of whole caraway seeds to the mixture, but you might prefer fresh or dried cayenne, Italian herbs, bits of chopped olive, etc…
  • Spread mixture on teflex trays about 1/4 inch thick or less.
  • Set your dehydrator at about 140 until the crackers are warm to the touch on top, then lower the temperature to 115-120. When dry on top, score crackers to the size you want (I usually do 2 X 2 inches).
  • Flip crackers over, and carefully lift the teflex sheets off, leaving the crackers to finish drying on the screen mesh that come with the trays. Be sure your crackers are utterly dry throughout so that they won’t spoil. Run the dehydrator for an extra half-day if need to be, just to be sure. They will not get overdone.
  • Store in an airtight container, like a jar with a tight lid or zip lock plastic bags.

Note: There is a great deal of misinformation going around the Internet and even in some books about correct dehydrating temperatures. Some individuals are setting the thermostat as low as 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This low temperature invites mold to set in long before the food is dehydrated. The truth is, the food never reaches the temperature at which the dehydrator is set. To use conventional cooking as an illustration: When you set your Christmas turkey to roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, many hours later it would be done at 170 degrees. Likewise with the dehydrator. Setting the thermostat above 115 degrees does not heat the food up to that temperature. You can get all fancy and buy a thermometer if you want, but I just check the crackers by touching them. When they are quite warm and dry that is when I lower the temperature. Certainly cold, wet crackers will take many hours before they even begin to heat up. There is no reason to worry about killing enzymes until they are warm and dry. Do not make the mistake of running your dehydrator at only 90 degrees. You’ll create unhealthy food.

Some basic pantry essentials are:

  • raw tahini
  • raw nut butters
  • sunflower seeds (hulled)
  • nuts such as walnut or almond
  • flax seeds
  • olive oil
  • nama shoyu or sea salt
  • olives
  • sea weeds: dulse, kelp
  • sprouting items
  • Your favorite dried herbs and spices
  • Carob powder
  • Dried fruit such as dates and apricots

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Picture courtesy NoHoDamon via

Nomi Shannon

Nomi Shannon

Nomi Shannon is an award winning author and world renowned coach. Her best selling book, The Raw Gourmet, has sold over 200,000 copies. Her second book, Raw Food Celebrations (with S.Duruz), is flying off the shelves at bookstores worldwide. Since 2008, Nomi has received numerous Best of Raw Awards for: Best Raw Educator, Favorite Raw Chef and Favorite Raw Book (for The Raw Gourmet, Raw Food Celebrations, and best in Media for What Do Raw Fooders Eat) as well as best Blog, best Online Store and her personal favorite, Funniest Raw Woman.

She’s not only a certified Hippocrates Health Educator; she actually ran The Hippocrates Health Institute’s Certification Course back in the early 1990’s. Raw since 1987, Nomi has been featured in Alive magazine, Get Fresh, San Diego North County Times, and Galveston News, as well as numerous radio shows and other media.

Nomi is known for teaching people proven steps to keeping — or regaining — vibrant health. Her website offers breakthrough information, product reviews, delicious recipes, an ezine and an online course — all free of charge. She also offers online coaching courses, her books, raw kitchen equipment, DVDs, phone consultations and live classes. Since there’s conflicting information about what the “best” raw food diet is, many raw fooders wonder what to eat. Nomi shows people a simple path to thriving on raw food and leaving the confusion behind. Just as important, she empowers people to whip up delicious meals quickly and easily, turning newbies into thriving home chefs practically overnight.


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  1. There was time in my life where I ate 100% raw, had practically no income, and was living in an old broken down trailer. It was challenging, but also rewarding to learn how to forage and find free food.

    Now that my circumstances have changed I make time from my busy work schedule as often as I can to get out in nature and often come home with miner’s lettuce, dandelion, stingy nettle, and other wild edibles. Foraging can be a great way to combine acquiring food with getting exercise and fresh air.

  2. Pam says:

    LOVED this article. I was surprised at the information on dehydrating temperature not needing to be so low. I still have a lot to learn about that, and want to learn from Naomi. I’m passing this post on, for sure.

  3. Chris says:

    I’ve read that it’s best to grind the flax seeds in order to extract the nourishment it provides otherwise the seeds go right through us. And, now I read otherwise. Am never sure which way to go with this.

  4. Lance says:

    The one idea I haven’t tried yet which you mentioned is growing your own sprouts. I think the initial time investment is what keeps me from it, but you’ve inspired me to give this a try!

    I was also curious to get your thoughts on low-cost ways to help alkalize the body. I’ve read about taking aluminum free baking soda. This brand by Bob’s Red Mill seems to be one of the best values I’ve found:

    It’s certainly cost effective! Are there any other low cost supplement type approaches (like baking soda) that you think are worthwhile?

  5. IH says:

    @ Lance #3: Growing your sprouts doesn’t have to be time consuming. At least the ones in the jar. All you need is a big Mason jar with a sprouting lid that I have seen in all the health food stores where I shop. It is also very inexpensive even if you buy the best quality seeds. I use Nomi Shannon’s guidelines that are outlined in her book “the raw gourmet” and I find that it takes little to no time to rinse a jar twice a day. We usually sprout 1 to 2 jars. Procedure: 1. soak for a number of hours, depending the seed, 2. Rinse, 3. Let the seeds sprout for the number of days indicated depending again on what you are sprouting and rinse twice a day. I put my jars in a sink colander so that I can put them on an angle. This allows them to drain to the max.

    Hope this helps

  6. JoAnn says:

    Yes, I was wondering the same as Chris about the flax seed. I always grind mine when I go to use them. I have a dehydrator that all you do is plug it in. It is from the DAK company. Will that still work? There is no way to know what temp. it reaches unless I place a thermometer on the trays. Thanks

  7. Candice says:

    Along the lines of mono-meals, just eating simply has saved me a lot of money. I used to make a lot of gourmet raw meals,but tend to stick to mono-meals, salads, smoothies, and juices. It’s faster and less expensive.

    Also, I eat more seeds and fewer nuts. Seeds are generally less expensive and often more nutritious.

    Great tips!

  8. Bryan says:

    Good info.

    I think if you are soaking the flax seeds it is different, though I am not sure how the oil stays in the seed and water goopifying (can’t remember how to spell the correct term)stuff comes out.

    I did not know that the sunflower seeds were higher on the scale than some of the typical sprouts. I like sunflower sprouts better too. Woot!

    I moved to a place that should have good foraging, but am a bit paranoid due to all the cotton that is grown around here (pesticide over spray) and a major artillery range that has been used for decades (probably some nasty stuff in the water)

  9. zyxomma says:

    Nomi, thanks. According to Gabriel Cousens, for many dehydrated foods, the first two hours are at 150 degrees F., then the temp is lowered to keep it live. The first two hours in the dehydrator cuts the moisture, which also means no mold growth.

    If it’s possible, after dehydrating your food, put it in the sun for 10 or 15 minutes. Dehydrating emulates sun-drying, so a little solar energy in the finished product does it good.

    Health and peace.

  10. susan says:

    trading with neighbors is a great way to save money. Today i took a few banana pecan muffins over to my older neighbor who gave me a couple of eggplants, peppers and green onions. next week he said he’ll share his bumper crop of bananas. I also saved the life of an innocent garden snake that he was convinced was a pygmy rattler, we shared stories under a ficus tree so it was also a nice way visit.

  11. Liz H. says:

    Just wanted to say on the baking soda front. Even Arm & Hammer doesn’t contain aluminum. In today’s world, it’s baking powder you need to check carefully, not baking soda.

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