Eating clean is no longer an option, it is now the only way to maintain health and vitality. OK, but… People think it’s impossible without breaking the bank. And yet, if you choose wisely, you can fill your basket with healthy, tasty, cheap food.
Here’s a reminder of the 10 clean eating rules on what to slip into your shopping bag:
- Fresh, seasonal and preferably organic fruit and vegetables
- Meat and fish, which must also be from organic farming
- Legumes (lentils, dried beans, chickpeas etc.)
- Seeds and oilseeds (all kinds of nuts, almonds etc.)
- Wholegrain and pseudocereals such as quinoa, for example
- Organic dairy products or those from sensible, ethically-sound dairy farming
- High-quality virgin first cold-pressed plant-based oils when it comes to olive oil, and also camelina, grapeseed and coconut oil. Unstable oils must be kept in the fridge and in an opaque or dark glass bottle to preserve their nutritional qualities.
- Natural sweeteners such as coconut blossom, maple syrup (organic), agave syrup, and also “homemade” natural sweeteners like powdered dried apple and cinnamon
- Superfoods such as spices, seaweed, sprouted seeds (properly stored in the fridge and eaten very soon after preparation), matcha tea (as a hot drink or in baked goods), maca, birch sap and fresh herbs
- Water, in place of everything else! Preferably with a low mineral content (spring water is very good and affordable). Tea and organic herbal infusions too, provided that you drink water more than anything else and don’t drink more than a litre of infusions, because beyond that your iron reserves will be depleted.
Champions across the board: seasonal fruit and vegetables
Don’t seek to eat tomatoes in the middle of winter, avocados from the other side of the world or tropical fruit all year round. For starters, you’ll blow your carbon footprint and your budget too! Your own part of the world (in our case France) is brimming with good seasonal fruit and vegetables, to be eaten at the very moment when they are at their peak. Perhaps you’re not sure how to make the right choice? Then check the label and price tag. Out-of-season fruit and vegetables are just much more expensive than the others.
A clever tip – find the calendar of fruit and vegetables and print it out, stick it up on your fridge and take a look at it before you go grocery shopping. Nature being perfectly orchestrated, plants produce the nutrients they need to adapt to their local environment and the conditions of the season and climate. That’s all you need to get through the seasons in tip-top shape and without breaking the bank! Avoid ready-made salads, ready-grated carrots, ready-prepared cucumbers, etc… All of which cost three to four times as much as loose vegetables in the fruit and vegetable section, and take only a few minutes to make yourself.
So what’s the best idea? Soup, made with seasonal vegetables, switching between different ones as desired so that you don’t get bored of the taste of “everything” soup. Switch from green (broccoli, leeks, spinach) to orange (carrots, pumpkin) and from orange to brown (turnip, parsnip, chestnuts, squash). Chop and freeze vegetables in small freezer bags so that you have everything you need to hand. When the time comes, take them out of the freezer and put them in a large saucepan. Cover with water, add an organic stock cube, some aromatic herbs or a bouquet garni and a large onion and cook for about twenty minutes. Whizz them up in a blender. Then add to the pan with the other vegetables and whizz the mixture up again for a few minutes. The same goes for fruit. Even if bruised, it can be used in compotes, salads, crumbles, homemade tarts and “pan-fried” versions to make healthy, easy desserts. Don’t forget to switch between different toppings for variety. On fruit you can add a pinch of granola, a drizzle of maple syrup or a sprinkling of raw cocoa powder… As soup toppings: crushed hazelnuts, a few shavings of parmesan or raw ham, a pinch of dried seaweed, sprouted seeds, etc… Enjoy!
Dried goods are tasty, and cheap too!
All dry goods are full of nutrients. For starters, legumes such as baked beans, lentils, split peas and kidney beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein. Wholegrain cereals and pseudocereals such as rice, quinoa, bulghur, and also wholegrain or buckwheat pasta, as well as polenta, make an excellent filling staple. This is so provided that they are not the only thing you eat, and that you serve them with a legume (rice and lentils or rice and red beans). Plus they have a very long shelf life (and unopened packets or boxes can last well beyond the best before date). Once opened, the packaging must be well sealed to prevent infestation by food mites and bugs. Let’s take a closer look at rice and pasta. Rice is high in fibre and very nutritious, especially the wholegrain variety. Perfect for those who cut gluten out of their diet, it lends itself to all sorts of recipes, as a side dish for legumes, pan-fried vegetables, etc. It can be turned into a bake, served with stuffed tomatoes or used as a base for an array of risottos. Pasta, if considered a premium foodstuff, can be served with fresh vegetables, high-quality cheese or mushrooms.
Six kitchen cupboard (or fridge) essentials
Be sure to always have them in addition to your seasonal fruit and vegetables. They constitute a healthy, tasty staple food.
They are affordable and can be fried (or soft-boiled, breaded and then fried) or baked with smoked salmon, shavings of parmesan, bits of raw-cured ham or chorizo so that you don’t get tired of them. Eggs are a great source of protein, high in omega 3 and 6, trace elements and vitamins, and no longer thought to raise levels of bad cholesterol – quite the opposite. It is safe to eat one egg a day (100 grams of egg = more than 12 grams of protein).
Keeping the freezer stocked with white fish, calamari and scallops bought when on offer and in season is a very good idea. Don’t be afraid to consider tinned fish, too (sardines, mackerel and tuna) because it is very cheap and retains almost all of its nutrients. That way you can enjoy fish three or four times a week. Be intrepid and give smoked trout a try if salmon is a bit expensive and, most importantly, give it a miss rather than going for poor-quality salmon full of GMOs.
Chicken or turkey
As luck would have it, white meat is cheaper and healthier (less fatty and less acidifying). Opt for chicken or turkey thighs or fillets, and eat them on rotation with fish and eggs. These proteins can be paired with homemade tomato sauces or exotic spices to take you on a journey from Asia (in Thai soups or pad Thai, for example) to Morocco (in tagines). Don’t forget to see that you always have some in the freezer, in individual freezer bags, because one portion is more than enough to make dinner for two. Remember, the protein is the side dish to the vegetables or cereals, not the other way round!
They don’t appeal as much for soup bases (where courgettes take their place), but they are still good in bakes or fried in a small amount of oil, mashed with grated cheese, clarified butter or standard organic butter, a little sautéed garlic and parsley. Served with an egg and a green salad (for acid-alkaline balance), they constitute a balanced and very affordable meal.
ORGANIC puff pastry, shortcrust pastry and shortbread pastry!
Ideally you should make pastry yourself, but rather than give in to the temptation of ready meals or ordering fast food, it is much healthier to use ready-to-roll organic pastry to put together quiches, savoury or sweet tarts, pies (for which you’ll need two crusts), homemade pizzas, flammkuchen etc. Team it with a base of eggs, cream and milk, pan-fried vegetables, onions and tomato sauce (homemade and from the freezer when out of season). Always season with salt (or gomasio, a mixture of salt and buckwheat), and pepper paired with turmeric (inseparable as they are). Before serving, drizzle with olive, walnut, hazelnut or camelina oil, as desired.
Buy it fresh, pull it apart, wash it, dry it off and put it in a large airtight box with a sheet of paper towel scrunched into a ball to absorb excess moisture. Then make a habit of adding salad to all your meals to give a touch of alkalinity to your meat and fish dishes, which have an “acid” component.
Now that your clean, cheap shopping is done, consider meal planning in advance. It’s a nice, effective way to save money. Do your shopping based on your meal plan and you can already work out how to repurpose your leftovers. For example, if you buy a large chicken it can be served roasted on day 1, in a preserved lemon and olive tagine or chicken basquaise on day 2, and in Caesar salad on day 3. Lastly, don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. That way you will be led more by your mind than your stomach, and will resist impulse buys!