Friday, April 4, 2008

To Market, To Market

It's that time again.

I've completed my April menus and scheduled my monthly shopping trip, during which I'll spend over an hour schlepping up and down every aisle that contains unprocessed or minimally processed foods.

You'll recognize me in the checkout line. I'll be the one with the mountain of bulk foods -- raw nuts, dried beans, miscellaneous grains, honey -- and half the contents of the produce bins. You'll see a quart of plain, full-fat yogurt (the reduced fat varieties are full of sugar), several bags of frozen berries, dark coffee beans, balsamic vinegar, sundried tomatoes, and canned chipotles.

The clerk will stare at me in disbelief. "What do you do with all this stuff?"

"I cook."

Gingerroot...beep...bean sprouts...beep...tahini...beep

The total will be about $200. Two weeks from now, I'll come back and spend another $70 on fresh produce, and that'll cover our groceries for the month.

Vegetarianism has a reputation for being expensive. I suppose if you're accustomed to filling your cart with pork chops and SlimFast, and one day you decide to pick up some fresh tangelos, arugula, strawberries, and broccoli to serve on the side, you might suffer a bit of sticker shock.

Here's the key to inexpensive flegan eating: Put the other stuff back. If it's not a whole, plant-based food, your body doesn't need it. Neither does your wallet.

I've always been a frugal shopper, so I grew worried as our garden petered out last October. How could my budget cover enough produce to sustain a flegan diet? However, I was pleased to discover that, sans meat and most dairy, my grocery bill wasn't hard to stomach after all.

Here are a few other things you can do to keep your reciept reasonable:

1) Cook your own meals. Cooking, like karate or horseback riding, is a skill anyone can learn. Sure, some people are naturals, but anyone can become competent. Time needn't be an issue. Try a search for meatless, quick & easy recipes at Cooking Light.

2) Eat seasonally. Winter tomatoes and strawberries aren't worth eating, let alone paying for.

3) Buy in bulk. Dry beans can be cooked and frozen, replacing canned beans. Whole grains are cheaper and more varied by the pound than by the box. Bulk nuts and dried fruits will save you even more over the packaged brands.

3) Finally, if you really want to go whole hog(less), put in a garden and dig yourself a root cellar like the one that's going in at In the Night Farm.

More on that later.

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