Easy superfood dark chocolate bark. (5 minutes!)

chocolate bark vegan pomegranate superfood

I have been making a batch of this chocolate bark every week and keeping it in the fridge, enjoying a few pieces each night as an after dinner treat.  Silky and rich, with tons of different flavor nuances just like a good wine.  With lots of polyphenols and antioxidants, dark chocolate is a healthy treat.  Just make sure you’re eating 70% or higher cacao content to ensure that you’re reaping all the healthy benefits chocolate has to offer.  Cacao has a specific antioxidant, epicatechin, that lowers the risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.  Some researchers even consider epicatechin an essential vitamin.  It reduces inflammation, improves blood flow, and elevates nitric oxide in the blood ( this is what Viagra does- no wonder chocolate is considered a love food) .

This bark is infinitely customizable and only takes about 5 minutes to put together. The one I made today was sesame seed (gives a savory quality to it, almost like chocolate covered pretzels), coconut flake, hemp seeds, pomegranate arils, flaky sea salt, and almonds.  Almonds are my favorite nut to use because they give the biggest crunch payoff.  Get a pretty tin to put it in and it makes a wonderful last minute gift, too.

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Superfood Dark Chocolate Bark.

8 ounces or so (2-3 bars) dark chocolate, preferably 70% or above and organic (I prefer Scharffenbergers (not organic but no-gmo soy lecithin) or Green&Blacks)

Any or all of these healthy toppings:

hemp seeds

coconut flakes (toasted or not)

sesame seeds

almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or cashews

pomegranate arils, freeze dried raspberries or strawberries, dried cherries, goji berries, etc.

flaky sea salt (like Maldon)

Rig a double boiler: fill up a large saucepan halfway with water, then place a heatproof mixing bowl over the pot.  Make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Start the water boiling and chop up your chocolate.  It doesnt have to be super tiny pieces, just a rough chop will do fine.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat (aka the best invention ever) or parchment paper.  Now put all your chocolate in the bowl of your double boiler.  Stir with a rubber spatula until thoroughly melted.  Pour your chocolate onto your lined pan.  Spread the chocolate out with your spatula until it is the thickness you desire.  I like it thin so I spread it out a lot.  Sprinkle all your desired toppings over.  Pop in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden up.  Peel the chocolate carefully off of the silpat/parchment and break into coarse pieces.  Store in the fridge or freezer for a snappier chocolate, or keep at room temperature (no hotter!) in an airtight container.  If you give it as a gift it would be a good idea to seperate the pieces with parchment paper so they dont stick together.

My personal favorite: Scharffenberger 70% cacao.  Their 85% is AMAZING too.  Rich, nuanced chocolatey flavor with NO acrid/bitter flavors that I taste in many dark chocalates from other brands.  Green & Blacks is my second choice, organic, and more widely available.

scharffenberger bittersweet

Enjoy!

Love,

A.

Creamy berry-almond breakfast smoothie.

berry almond butter smoothie

I have been loving this smoothie for breakfast lately!  I love oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast, but sometimes I just want something sweet and creamy.

This smoothie takes 2 minutes to make in the morning (no cutting fruit or anything!) so its ideal for when you’re in a rush but want something good for you too.  It has tons of healthy, filling fats from the almond butter and antioxidants from the berries.

I equally love this smoothie made with a frozen banana instead of the berries.  It is seriously like a milkshake this way- the banana makes it super creamy and sweet.

The hint of almond extract in this is so delicious.  It elevates the other ingredients and makes a basic smoothie a little more fancy.  If you’re not a fan of almond flavor (like my husband), try vanilla extract instead.

Almond breakfast smoothie. (serves 1)

1c unsweetened almond milk

1/2 c frozen berries OR 1 large-ish frozen banana

1 heaping tablespoon almond butter

5 drops stevia OR sweetener of your choice

1/8t almond extract OR 1/2t vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!

Much Love,

A.

P.s. Kids are into it too 😉

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Walnut meat taco salad (with from-scratch catalina!)

vegan taco salad walnut meat

When I was growing up, my mom would sometimes make this taco salad of iceberg lettuce with ground beef, cheddar cheese, veggies, and nacho cheese doritos crunched up all over the top.  Then it was all tossed with Kraft Catalina.  It was one of my favorite meals!  Not authentic at all but the sweet dressing + the savory meat, chips and cheese + the crunch of the veggies was heaven.

I had a lot of tomatoes from the garden so I made a pico de gallo, and I had a pot of black beans in the fridge, which inspired me to make this much healthier version of my mom’s classic, complete with homemade catalina.  If youre not a fan of catalina dressing, a simple lime vinaigrette like I used in this post would also be good here.

There are quite a few components to this salad, but it is not hard and doesn’t take too long.  I made it on a day when my husband was home so I didnt have littles hanging all over me while trying to get it all together. 😉  You can also always sub in pre made guac, pico, and dressing for less chopping work!

Vegan Taco Salad (serves about 4)

1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped

2c shredded red cabbage

Pico De Gallo:

3 large tomatoes

1/2 medium to large yellow onion

1 lime

1/2 bunch of cilantro

1 jalapeno

Guac:

1 jalapeno

1/2 bunch cilantro

1 green onion

3 avocados

1 lime

Raw Walnut Taco “Meat”

2c walnuts

1T cumin

1t smoked paprika

1.5t chili powder

2T tamari/soy sauce

Catalina Dressing:

1/2c organic ketchup

1/2c coconut sugar

1/2c red wine vinegar

1/2c onion

1t paprika

1/2t (vegan)worcestershire sauce

1c avocado oil

s+p

 

cashew sour cream (optional)

tortilla chips (OMG YOU GUYS I DIDNT HAVE ANY IN THE HOUSE!!!  What is a taco salad without CHIPS!!  I almost sent my husband to the store to get some but I was hungry and the salad was still really good without them.)

 

First make your taco meat.  Whiz the walnuts and spices + tamari in the food processor until it resembles ground beef (smallish crumbly pieces)  Taste a bit and season more to your liking.  Set aside.  Wipe out the food processor.

Then make the pico.  Chop up 1/2 the onion, the tomatoes, 1 jalapeño and 1/2 of your bunch of cilantro.  Mix together and add the juice of 1 lime + salt and pepper.

Now make your catalina.  Blend all ingredients until smooth and season to taste.  I added a squeeze of lemon after tasting it.

Next make your guac.  Scoop out your avocados into the food processor.  Take the other 1/2 of your bunch of cilantro and add that too.  Add in 1 green onion, roughly chopped, the juice of a lime, and a roughly chopped jalapeño.  Pulse until it reaches your desired consistency.  Season to taste with s+p.

To assemble:

Place lettuce in bowl, then on top: cabbage, pico, beans, walnut meat, tortilla chips.  Drizzle with some catalina.  Toss to coat and add more dressing if desired.  Top with the guac, cashew sour cream, sliced jalapenos, and green onions.  Serve immediately- it gets soggy relatively fast.

Much love, A.

P.S.-These are the last of my tomatoes!

homegrown tomatoes

Kelp noodle pad thai (raw vegan) + a fully raw meal plan.

raw vegan gluten free pad thai kelp noodle

I’ve been wanting to try kelp noodles for a while now, but it was something that I held back on for fear it might taste funky.  It is made out of kelp, you know.  I’m happy to report that kelp noodles are completely neutral in taste.  They are slightly crunchy in texture, but not weird and rubbery like shirataki noodles (blegh).  The longer that you let them sit with the sauce, the softer they will become.  I made a Thai inspired coconut milk sauce for them and added lots of raw veggies, avocado (duh) and served it all in a cabbage leaf.  Simple and beautiful.  I take extra care in how I present meals to my daughter because I want her to eat as much fruit and veggies as I can get her to!  I have found over and over that the prettier/cuter/more fun you make food for kids, the more likely they are to eat a variety of healthy foods.  This is especially true if you give them a little bowl of dipping sauce.  Kids LOVE to dip veggies.  We eat with our EYES before any food reaches our mouths.

Kelp noodle pad Thai. (serves 2)

1 package kelp noodles, soaked in cool water for 15 minutes and then drained well

1/4-1/2c coconut milk, depending on how thick you’d like it

3T almond butter (you could use peanut if you prefer)

2T tamari (or soy sauce)

1 finely diced jalapeno with seeds (adjust to your liking)

1T maple syrup

1T minced ginger

Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon

1t white miso (optional)

Whisk all ingredients except kelp noodles together.  Pour sauce over noodles and let sit while you prepare the veggies:

2 leaves red cabbage, left whole

1-2 carrots (I used one julienned orange carrot and one yellow carrot cut into slices)

3 stalks celery, cut on the diagonal

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips

1/2 an avocado, cut into thin slices

Thai basil and cilantro, as much as desire, roughly chopped

Green onion.

Raw sesame seeds

Mix all veggies except avocado with the kelp noodle mixture, reserving some veggies to garnish the plate if desired.  Divide kelp noodle and veggie mixture evenly between the two cabbage cups.  Arrange avocados on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Now devour and be happy!

My husband and I will be doing FullyRawKristina’s 21 day raw vegan challenge so instead of a meal plan this week I will just post our grocery list.  Why 21 days?  It takes 21 days to make a habit.

165 bananas@.19cents ea=31.35

1 case young coconuts@8.99ea

2 pineapples@2.99ea=5.98

4 pounds of medjool dates @7.99/2lbs=15.98

3 (3 lb) bags of a peach-strawberry-mango frozen fruit blend@6.50ea=19.5

1 (3 lb) bag frozen mixed berry blend@9.99

10 hachiya persimmons=3.00

1 case pomegranates@12.50/case

10 pounds braeburn apples@1.63/lb=16.13

1 large bag baby kale=4.50

21 heads assorted lettuce @ 2.00 each=42

9 cases mangoes @ 3.99 each=35.91

2 pounds baby spinach @3.50/lb=7.00

2 heads celery@1.25ea=2.50

10 cucumbers@2.99/5=5.98

10 zucchini @.85/lb=5.32

20 kiwis=3.00

2 jicamas=3.00

2 dragonfruit@4.99/lb=10.00

2 large red bell peppers=4.25

unlimited oranges from our orange tree in the backyard=FREE

TOTAL=247.28!  About 100 more than my regular cooked vegan food budget but I would say worth it.  All quality produce and the mangos, apples, and bananas should last into next week too.  I could have cut down the budget by not buying the extras like dragonfruit and pomegranates, but I wanted to have something fun to look forward to.

It sounds like a lot but raw foods are lower in CALORIES and higher in WATER than cooked foods.  That is why they digest faster and easier!  That means you have to eat a much larger volume of them to get enough calories/nutrition.

This morning I made a apple cranberry pomegranate orange juice that was unbelievably delicious.  I usually make smoothies because I like to eat whole foods and create less waste, but fresh cranberry juice?  Yes please!  Link to recipe HERE.fully raw kristina wine apple cranberry pomegranate orange juice

Butternut squash soup. (vegan + gluten free)

butternut squash apple soup vegan dairy free

Butternut squash always reminds me of fall.  I grew some over the summer at my Nanas house and they were so easy and produced heavily.  They were a gorgeous glowing orange, seriously brighter than any I have seen in the store.  See?

organic homegrown butternut squash

They also store very well too.  I have been keeping them in my garage where it is cold and dark, and they have lasted well for about 3 months.  I had one last squash kicking around the garage so I decided to use it for dinner last night in a creamy pureed soup.  I usually use a very basic recipe from Cooks Illustrated (with a few swaps to veganize it) but this time I added some apples because my little asked for a sweeter soup.  If you prefer a totally savory soup, omit apples and add .5 pound of squash.  This soup is very simple and lets the butternut flavor really shine through.  *PLEASE for the love of god do not buy pre-cut cubes of butternut squash.  They are dry and stringy and bland and make for an awful soup.  With such few ingredients, it is imperative that you use the best.  Organic squash has a better and deeper flavor in my opinion.  I know cutting a hard squash takes a little time, but it’s so worth it. (If youre scared you’ll cut your hand off, watch this Martha Stewart how to video.)

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup.

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 yellow onion, chopped fine

2.5 pounds (about 1 large or 2 small squash) peeled, de-seeded and cubed butternut squash, seeds reserved to roast for garnish

3-4 cups vegetable broth

2 red or yellow apples, peeled, cored and chopped

1/3 cup raw unsalted cashews (optional but makes it creamy)

Few sprigs of thyme, tied together with kitchen twine

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Fresh sage leaves and thinly sliced shallot, for garnish (optional)

Melt the coconut oil in a heavy bottomed large dutch oven or pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is softened, about 7 minutes.  Add the apples, 3c of broth, thyme, nutmeg, and cashews.  Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, spread your seeds out on a baking sheet (either nonstick or lined with parchment) and roast at 375F for 10 minutes or until browned.  Then, heat up a few tablespoons of oil in a pan and drop in the sage leaves in an even layer with a tiny bit of salt.  Cook without stirring for a few minutes or until crisped around the edges.  Remove and add your thinly sliced shallots to the pan and cook until caramelized.  Set garnishes aside.

Turn off the heat on the soup and uncover.  Remove the thyme and discard.  Transfer soup to a blender and puree till smooth.  Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.  You might want to squeeze a tiny bit of lemon juice to brighten it up a bit, depending on your taste.  If too thick, thin out soup with left over cup of broth.  Pour into bowls and top with the sage leaves, roasted seeds and caramelized shallots.  I topped mine with a bit of leftover cashew cream I had, too (1 cup cashews soaked overnight and blended with 1/4 to 1/2c of water and a tad bit of lemon juice).  Goes great with a little toasted bread and a kale salad!

Four 10 minute or less healthy, delicious breakfasts (vegan, gluten free)

So many people tell me they skip breakfast mostly because they don’t have time.  Some people also seem to think that if they skip breakfast they will lose weight.  Not sure where that one came from… This is a shame because breakfast is the most important meal of the day and its so delicious.  I think especially if you are going to school all day or staying at home with kids, a breakfast is needed to help you focus and keep your energy levels high. These are my go to breakfasts when I need something fast and they are what I eat for breakfast 90% of the time.  AND they are all little child-approved (a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old)

1.  FRUIT!

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Fresh whole ripe raw fruit is THE simplest and best thing you can eat for breakfast.  Loaded with anti-aging antioxidants, hydration, and simple carbs your body needs+craves, fruit is the perfect fuel to start your day.  Fruit also requires very little energy to digest, allowing your to use that energy for better things such as healing itself and helping you think!  DONT BE AFRAID OF THE SUGAR IN FRUIT.  The human body is designed to run on simple sugars!  Every single cell in your body NEEDS it in order to function.  Everything gets broken down to a simple sugar anyway!  /end rant.  Apples, *bananas, persimmons, grapes, and oranges are all great grab and go fruits.  Or take a few minutes and chop up some mango or melon.  Pair with some nuts or coconut yogurt if you feel like you need more.

*ALSO: people seem to think bananas are constipating.  This is because they are eating them while yellow.  Bananas are ripe when the have little black spots and NO green on the tip.  If you eat them unripe it will hurt your digestion.

2.  SMOOTHIES.

Kind of an extension of fruit, but…most days I make smoothies.  They are just so easy and fast.  Minimal cleanup (I usually end up drinking right out of the blender ha.  sue me!) and super healthy.  You can make them in 5 minutes, pour in a cup and be out the door.  My favorite way is to juice up 8 or so oranges right into my blender (with a manual citrus juicer) and then pull out whatever fruit is in my freezer (organic frozen fruit is super cheap at Costco) and thrown in a few handfuls, then blend.  Favorite combos include:

  • ORANGE JULIUS

3-4c OJ + 1-2c mango + 1 vanilla bean or 1t vanilla extract

  • RASPBERRY CRUSH

3c OJ + 1C frozen raspberries

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  • SIMPLE GREEN

1 banana + 1c coconut water (or reg water or almond milk) +2c greens+ 1c mango

  • CHOCOLATE THICKSHAKE (so bomb.  better than a dairy ice cream shake)

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2 frozen nanas + 2T cocoa powder + 2c almond or coco milk + 1T almond butter + 1t vanilla extract + 2 medjool dates (optional) + tiny pinch salt (optional)

3.  CHIA PUDDING

If you havent made chia pudding yet you NEED to.  Seriously, it is so so good.  Creamy and hits the spot for a sweet craving.  Chia seeds are great for you!  They are brimming with omega-3s (way more than salmon), fiber, calcium (3x as much as milk), are easy to digest. Make a batch the night before and it’ll be ready for you in the morning.  Grab and go!

  • VANILLA CHIA PUDDING


3T chia seeds + 1c non dairy milk + sweetener of choice to taste + 1t vanilla extract

I usually whiz my almond milk in the blender with 2 dates and a vanilla bean till its completely smooth, then pour into a mason jar.  Add the chia seeds and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE (dancing may or may not be going on during this step) Make sure that you shake very well otherwise your chia will clump and be all gross and weird.  By the way, if this happens, you can always dump the whole thing back in the blender and blend till smooth.  You can add whatever else you want of course…like…cinnamon, chocolate, coconut, cardamom, berries, etc..whatever you desire!  I like to top with cinnamon so it tastes like rice pudding.

Chocolate chia pudding, blended:

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yes, yes it is a delicious chocolate party in your mouth.

4.  OATMEAL

Oatmeal cooks up in about 5 minutes, is cheap, hot, and filling, and is the perfect vehicle for toppings.  I heart it!  I buy a huge bag of quick cooking steel-cut oats from Costco for $8.  I keep it in the freezer and it lasts me about 6 months.  I top with frozen berries, ground flax for omegas, a little sprinkle of raw sugar, sprinkle of cinnamon and a pinch of salt.  The kids love it too.  If you get bored there are millions of recipes of baked oatmeal, overnight oatmeal, apple pie oatmeal, crockpot oatmeal…you get the picture.

So there you have it kids!  Please for the love of God please start getting something good in you in the morning.  If I sound like your mom, it’s because I am one 😉

Love, A.

Quality food on the cheap: part II

So last time I laid out some guidelines for buying food on a budget.  Now its time to break down in detail the method I shared in the last post.  This example is for the week of 12/2 – 12/8 (Mon-Sun)

First, I pull up the ads for this week on my computer.  I check a handful of local stores to see if any sales are worth getting excited about.  This week, there wasn’t.  Then I figure out how many meals I need to prepare that week. This week its 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 6 dinners.  I don’t plan lunches as I always have plenty of leftovers from dinner/ingredients to whip up something quick.  For breakfasts I roughly approximate what I will eat and how much fruit I will need (fruit = breakfast of choice.  I am a smoothie QUEEN)

Next I look in my fridge/pantry and see what is languishing around needing to be used asap.  This week I had russet potatoes, spinach, a sweet potato, lettuce, sprouted tofu and sugar snap peas.  I had seen @veggiephile (on instagram) make stuffed sweet potatoes with kale and cannellini beans that looked fantastic; therefore stuffed sweet potatoes with spinach+white beans and a salad is one dinner.  The tofu was begging to be stir fried with the snap peas; buy a few more veggies + rice.  2/6 dinners complete!  For the rest, I flipped through some cookbooks (Cooks Illustrated is my fave!  NOT vegan but very adaptable and recipes always come out amazing) and online to gather inspiration.  This is what I came up with:

MON 

BREAKFAST: OJ smoothie (fresh oj and whatever frozen fruit from the freezer)

DINNER: Stuffed sweet potatoes (celery, onions, dried cherries, pecans, spinach) + large salad

TUES

BREAKFAST:  Tangerine + Raspberry smoothie

DINNER:  visiting family

WEDNS

BREAKFAST:  Green juice (apple + carrot + spinach + lemon)

DINNER: Tofu stir fry (snap peas, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, onion, sprouted tofu, tangerine sauce) + rice

THURS

BREAKFAST:  OJ smoothie

DINNER: Veggie chili + salad

FRI

BREAKFAST:  pomegrate juice + chia pudding

DINNER:  oven fries with chimichurri + large salad

SAT

BREAKFAST: grapefruit juice + oatmeal w berries and flax

DINNER:  polenta with rosemary mushrooms + salad

SUN

BREAKFAST: miso soup + rice

DINNER: Pasta bolognese (obviously I omit dairy from this recipe) + salad

Depending on how I feel that day, I definitely switch up my breakfasts, but I like to roughly figure out how much food to get.  I almost always stick dinner plans, which makes it so much easier to plan and prep ahead.  Although to be honest sometimes there’s a “I’m so sick of cooking im going to scream if I have to step foot in the kitchen again” kind of night.  Being a mom can burn you out sometimes!  Anyways…Sunday and Thursday dinners get made ahead in the morning or even the day before.  I love veggie chili as it is so warm, filling and easy to make ahead.  Plus it lasts for days in the fridge, scoop out some and reheat at any time.

Then I compile my list, first writing down ingredients I need for my recipes and then giving my fridge and pantry a once over to see if there is anything else I need to stock back up on.  At this point you may or may not have a baby who enjoys pulling things out of the fridge and causing general mayhem at your feet.

caught in the act

Mmmm hmmm.  Caught red-handed.

Here’s the list for this week, and the cost of everything on it.  Everything is organic except for a few items which are denoted by a *.  Prices are in the ( ).

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FARMERS MARKET (39)

(5) crimini mushrooms x 1 lb

(6) oranges x 10 lbs

(2) purple broccoli x 1 large head

(2) sweet potatoes x 2

(1) zucchini x 4

(1) green bell peppers x 3 small

(.50) parsley x 1 head

(.50) cilantro x 1 head

(.50) green onions x 1 bunch

(2) carrots x 5 large

(4.50) apples x 6

(2) grapes x 2 lbs

(3) pomegranates x 3

(2) cucumbers x 4 small

(3) hachiya persimmons x 4 (ooey gooey and great baby food)

(6) lettuce x 3 large heads

COSTCO (29.50)

(3.50) *onions x 5 lbs

(14) quinoa, kale, almond veggie patties x 1 large box

(5) edamame x 1 huge box (for snacks)

(7) frozen peaches/mango/strawberry blend

(4) *garlic x 1 big bag

TRADER JOES (9.68)

(2) bananas x 1 large hand

(3) *coconut milk x 3 cans

(1.69) *red lentils

(2.99) *Candy Cane Joes O’s x 1 box… uhh, obviously NOT healthy but they are only here once a year and they’re soooo good.  YOLO!

yum

nom nom nom…I need to make my own!  I saw a few recipes floating around….

GRAND TOTAL: 82.18

This feeds my family of 2 adults, a five-year old, and a one year old for a week.  Obviously some ingredients were already in my pantry, but a lot of things I got this week will stretch into other weeks too (frozen fruit, big bags of onion and garlic, lentils, and coco milk) so it evens out.  Buying in bulk helps to cut down my costs a lot.

Love, A.

Quality food on the cheap: part I

A statement that I hear quite often is, “I wish I could eat healthier.  But it’s just too expensive/I don’t have time to cook.”  Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, and cooking doesn’t require Master Chef skills and lengthy prep time.  This is especially true if you are blessed to live somewhere with a temperate climate where fresh fruits and veg are abundant.  (If you live in the tropics I’m extremely jealous.  *le sigh*)  All it takes is getting a little smarter and investing more time in budgeting and planning.

I know, I know, the word “budget” tends to elicit groans and headaches.  When I first started, I felt that way too.  But it’s not hard or time-consuming, especially after you’ve done it a few times.  I take about half an hour max on a Saturday and bust out my whole meal plan, grocery list, and budget for the week.

The guidelines (read: customize to your lifestyle/needs) below are really just a brief outline of simple tips that help me.  In the next post I’ll give an example of a week of planning and meals for my family of 2 adults+2 kids.

1.  Set aside a certain day or time every week that you can sit down and plan for the week.  This is key to actually following through.

2.  Figure out what places you can get quality produce on the cheap.  In my area, that’s my farmer’s market, Costco, Trader Joe’s, and local supermarket/coop.  Farmers markets offer the absolute lowest prices on quality organic produce 90% of the time.  You can often get deals from the farmer if you ask.  If you go about 30 mins before the market ends, there are often huge mark-downs from farmers trying to sell what they have left.

3.  Know your prices.  I’m not advocating keeping a binder with spreadsheets of price comparisons like the people on Extreme Couponing, but just have a general idea in your head of things that are ALWAYS cheaper at a specific store.  Ex: I always buy bananas at Trader Joes (19 cents each for conventional, 29 cents each for organic) and I always buy dates at Costco (8 dollars for 2 pounds).

4.  Look at the ads.  When I was first starting out I always looked at the grocery store ads before starting my meal planning.  Most places have online ads and by looking at them you can begin to shape what you are going to eat that week by whats on sale (which is also usually whats in season-a bonus because its healthier/fresher)  I keep a little notebook and jot down whats on sale and for what price.

5.  Find or think up recipes, and keep in mind whats on sale when you decide on which to use.  I write down a hard plan for dinner, and am looser with lunch and breakfast plans since I know I’ll usually have leftovers and will always have fruit and veg for a smoothie or juice.  Keep in mind the time window you’ll have to get dinner on the table and plan accordingly.  Ex: Tuesdays and Thursdays I get home late and just want to get something on the damn table and not wash a bazillion dishes.  I prep food the day before or in the morning so there’s minimal cleaning and prep.  A few fave food blogs: celineeatsavocados , puremamas , ohsheglows , minimalistbaker ,  onehungrymami .

6. Make your list.  Write down the ingredients that you’ll need for your recipes/plans and allow for some snacks.  Approximate how much money each item will cost, and add it up at the end to get a loose idea of how much you will be spending.

7.  Get shopping!  Usual days for me are Sundays and Wednesdays, whatever you prefer is great.  Also:  clean your fridge out before you go!  Easier to put away stuff when you get home and you might find something on your list that you forgot you had. (why hello carrots stuffed in the back drawer and forgotten)  Things that are easily seen will get used instead of rotting.

8.  Post your meal plan on the fridge for easy reference during the week.

9.  Whenever possible, grow your own food or find it!  Gardening cuts WAY down on my grocery expenses.  I grow lettuce, kale, radishes, carrots, herbs, and onions/garlic in the winter along with my orange and tangerine tree.  In the summer, I grow tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, cucumbers and basil plus my plum and cherry tree.  All the things I grow are super easy and I grow most of them in pots (ie you don’t need a backyard to grow food!)  I also live near a bike path with fruit trees planted along it.  Check out fallingfruit.org to look in your area for public fruit trees that you can pick.

Hope this helps!  On Thursday I will post part 2 for an example meal plan + grocery list and what it cost for a week of food.  Please leave a comment if you have any questions/suggestions etc.

Much love, A.