Cheap Eats: Fruits

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Ah fruits, nature’s candy! With all the health benefits that come from even the most common of fruits, like an apple, can you really blame Adam and Eve for wanting to take a bite?

Nature’s candy can run up your grocery bill, especially with new “superfoods” that come into vogue every month. There are plenty of satisfying and healthful fruits at the store.  Here is a list to bring with you:

BANANAS

 

Bananas do not last long in my apartment. I have at least one every day in my Easy Morning Protein Shake. They are delightful right out of the peel too and are very easy to transport. Organic bananas run about $1 per pound! That’s usually about $0.20 per banana!

It gets better because they are chock full of benefits:

1. Rich in potassium, which helps alleviate cramps, lowers blood pressure, and lowers your risk for heart disease.
2. Rich in vitamin B-6 (35% of your daily value) and Vitamin C (15% of your daily value)
3. Easy to digest and full of carbohydrates to give you energy without the crash. Bananas are also full of fiber, which helps you stay fuller longer.
4. Contains trace amounts of amino acids.

APPLES
 


Another one of the usual suspects, but mounting research keeps reaffirming the old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are versatile and easy to carry around. You can add them to a dessert, top a salad with some granny smiths, or eat it plain. There are enough varities for everyone to pick a favorite. My personal love is the honeycrisp apple, but at $2.99 a pound there are many more cost-efficient varieties ringing it at around $1.50 a pound. It is best to stick with what is in season locally. Here are just a few benefits of apples:

1. Weight loss and maintenance- the fiber in apples keeps you full and happy!
2. Boost your immune system with a valiant dose of vitamin C. They aren’t quite as good as oranges, but they put up a good fight.
3.Full of antioxidants, the little compounds that help fight free radicals that cause cancer.

FROZEN FRUIT

I love a good blackberry, blueberry, mango, and cherry, but they are often WAY too expensive to have in my fridge every week. The solution? Buy it frozen! I love smoothies and by buying the fruit already frozen it cuts down on the amount of ice I need to use, making a smoothie with a better consistency (hey, I work at a smoothie cart!). Frozen fruits are fresh! And sometimes frozen fruits are even fresher than the fresh produce at the front of the store because immediately after being picked they are frozen. Most stores carry organic varieties too.

 

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I am a problem solver. The most common problem I have heard from anyone trying to maintain a fresh, plant-based diet is the price. Oh the price of organic vegetables, fruits, specialty flours, nuts, pretty much anything that is healthy is going to come with a high price tag. What bothers me more than the price of good food are the health nuts that continue to spew the mantra of “it’s ok if you spend a lot on food because it is an investment in your health.” I totally get this argument and I don’t necessarily disagree with it, but for some of us (ehem recent college graduates) it’s not possible to spend hundreds of dollars on food every month. That’s right it’s IMPOSSIBLE, especially if you want to be fiscally responsible and not add onto your debt load. The solution? I’ve compiled a list of healthy eats, arranged by category, that are the best bang for your buck at the grocery store. Today we take a look at everyone’s favorite: vegetables!

1. Sweet Potato

I have been eating a ridiculous amount of sweet potatoes recently because on top of being cheap (usually between $1-$2/lb) they are SO easy to prepare. Just turn the oven on to 400 degrees, wrap that potato in aluminum foil, wait one hour, and voila, a delicious sweet potato awaits you! I like to add coconut oil to enhance the flavor.

But wait, it gets better! Sweet potatoes contain all sorts of awesome vitamins, like B6 for heart health and magnesium for natural stress-relief. There’s also a serious amount of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and potassium in those tiny little sacks. They are less starchy than a regular potato and they’re SWEET. Make sure you pick up a real sweet potato and not a yam. Sweet potatoes taste better than yams AND are healthy, crazy right?

 

2. Carrots

Ah, the carrot, the poor man’s staple. They are typically around $1/lb and can be used in everything from stews, to chilies  to side dishes, and even eaten raw as a healthy alternative to a chip. I like to cut up carrot sticks and dip them in hummus, mmm mmm! : ) While these suckers are cheap, you will literally turn orange if you eat too many (my cousin Sydney learned this the hard way by age 1).

Carrots contain a sick amount of beta-carotene, that awesome form of vitamin A that helps to regulate skin health, improves vision, and slows  aging. But the carrot isn’t done yet! It also is known to help prevent certain cancers, packs a punch of fiber, and even has a bit of protein. Even my meat-loving dad can’t help but swoon over cooked carrots. However you like them, pick up a bunch, they stay fresh in the refrigerator for a long time. If you have outdoor space grow your own, they are one of the easiest vegetables to maintain.

3. Onions

Truth time: I am a bit obsessed with onions. I think the smell of caramelizing onions is what is wafting around in Heaven. There’s something about the smell that makes me go weak in the knees. Don’t get me wrong, raw onions are delicious too and can really jazz up a salad, but when a caramelized onion touches my lips my brain goes crazy for the slightly sweet vegetable that is about to pass through my digestive system. Onions, onions, opinions!! Add them to a chili, a stew, a soup, a salad, or a sauce and you will NOT be disappointed.

Onion Clip Art

And of course, they are good for you too, they are a vegetable after all ; ). Onions are packed with flavonoids, which act as antioxidants, those amazing entities that bolster our immune systems. Onions also help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and prevent blood clotting. Each type of onion has other specific health benefits.

4. Whatever is in season

Pick vegetables that are in season where you live. The less a vegetable has to travel, the less expensive it is and the more nutrients it contains. Pick out a cheap option, like root vegetables in the winter, and base a recipe off of what you found on sale. Preparing your own meals always cuts down on costs and is the only way you can be certain what you are putting in your mouth. Instead of going out to a restaurant for a date, cook a meal together at home, it’s much more romantic, stimulating and private.  What are some appropriate foods for a date night at home? Now that’s a post for a different time!

Portland Farmer’s Market

Cheap Eats: Vegetables

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Coconut oil is one of the healthiest foods on earth. Click here for a concise article from my favorite health advocate, Dr. Joseph Mercola, about its many health benefits. It can be used as a substitute for butter or olive oil. Do not be scared away by the high amount of saturated fat in coconut oil, it is used in your body in a vastly different way than saturated fats from foods like cheese, meat, or a decadent chocolate cake.

So coconut oil can used to make everything from a chocolate fudge to a healthy quinoa salad, but did you know it also makes one of the best lotions? Recently, while I was cooking with this awesome oil, I noticed that when I rubbed some of the oil on my hands it didn’t feel greasy like butter, but instead it left my hands feeling clean and soft. After doing some research I found that many use it as a natural moisturizer. It is organic, sustainable, eco-friendly, and cheaper than most lotions. The oil leaves a faint smell of coconut as well as nourishment on your skin. There are recipes for homemade lotions all over the internet, but for coconut oil all you have to do is…

Grab your favorite variety of coconut oil (preferably fresh pressed or cold pressed), use a spoon to scoop a tbs and lather all over your body. Your skin with feel luscious, smooth, and look radiant.

Best of all it’s quick, sustainable, and good for you!

Coconut Oil: Unexpected Use #1

Going “No Poo”

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For many women their hair is part of their identity. Finding the right shampoo or hairdresser is equivalent to finding Mr. Right; once you find something that works you want to stick with it.

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So when my wonderful friend Mara suggested I stray from my routine and go “no poo,” I was a bit hesitant. I love the smell of shampoo and I didn’t want my hair to smell bad, be dirty, or lose it’s luscious softness.

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But then I learned that shampoo (even natural or organic shampoos) have a ton of chemicals. Worse yet I began to read about how your skin ABSORBS these chemicals into your blood stream. YIKES! I reluctantly decided it was time to give this “no poo” technique a try.

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I had heard the horror stories: “my hair became so matted I couldn’t brush it,” “I had to cut off my hair it was so damaged,” “my hair looks awful!” They terrified me, but I was determined to try it for myself since Mara raved about the results. She claimed she didn’t need to wash her hair as much and it gave her a sense of freedom. She used baking soda as a shampoo and apple cider vinegar as a conditioner. Mara has gorgeous curls and my hair is slightly wavy, so I had doubts about having the same result as her.

At first my hair was REALLY dry and I was starting to worry I had made a serious mistake. After two weeks I began to get the ratios correct and my hair was starting to look and feel great again. A month in I had a very unfortunate cococnut oil mishap:

I used coconut oil as a conditioner. It felt like it wasn’t rinsing out (even after 10 minutes of scrubbing) because it wasn’t! My hair dried in these gross greasy clumps. No big deal right? Well that night I got called for an interview for the following morning, alright, now there was a problem. I mean my hair was so greasy it looked like it hadn’t been washed in months. I woke up early so I could wash it again before the interview. No change. So I tied it in a tight bun and tried not to let it bother me. When I got to the interview I looked in a mirror and realized my hair was still glistening and not in a good way. Needless to say I didn’t get the job and it took a week to fully wash it out. DO NOT use coconut oil on its own as a conditioner.

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Apple cider vinegar is the best natural conditioner. I use a few drops of essential oil afterward to give myself that delicious shampoo smell

Recipes For Going “No Poo”

  • Shampoo: dilute 1 TBS baking soda with 6 oz water*
  • Conditioner: 2 TBS apple cider vinegar, let sit on hair for 1 minute, rinse
  • Post Conditioner: 2-3 drops essential oil (like lavender), drop in palm of hand and spread over hair, let sit for 1-2 minute, rinse

*The baking soda will not feel like shampoo, it will have the consistency of water. Use a shampoo bottle or water bottle to mix the baking soda with water and dispense onto hair. Start with the crown of your head at the roots, using your fingertips to massage into scalp. Then work the sides of your head. Follow with the back, being careful not to put too much on your locks as it will dry them out. Rinse.

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Going “no poo” is cheap, natural, and good for the environment. After the first 1-2 months you will likely realize your hair has never felt as soft, that you can go longer between hair washes, and that your hair can hold hairstyles better. The horror stories are usually from people that have quit before they were a month in.

Repurposing Toilet Paper Rolls

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I love anything that has to do with repurposing or recycling. I won a recycling scholarship in my senior year of high school by writing a persuasive essay about our duty to recycle, no joke. Waste has always bothered me and so, I look for new ways to use old objects.

Toilet paper rolls are one of those pesky things, that you can recycle, but you wish there was another purpose for them because you will always have many of them lying around (probably for the rest of your life). We’ve all see those commercials for roll-less toilet paper, you know the one with the toilet paper rolls falling out of the elevators? Well I like my toilet paper on rolls, they keep my toilet paper rolling smoothly and there is always a brand on sale, but the problem of the left over roll remains.

When I first got to Portland I shared a house with my boyfriend and two other women. One day I noticed a bag full of rolls, I had to know what they were saving those rolls for! Sasha guided me out to the garden and my life was forever changed.

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How to use toilet paper rolls for seedling planting:

You will need:

  • toilet paper rolls
  • plastic container
  • dirt
  • seeds
  • water
  • patience

Instructions:

  1. Cut a hole in the plastic container to allow water to drain out.
  2. Line the plastic container with dirt.
  3. Pack bottom of toilet paper roll with dirt, layer seeds in tube, then cover with dirt.
  4. Water and wait for them to grow.
  5. When seedlings have sprouted, transfer to larger plot.