Most people are feeling the budget crunch, more so as grocery bills can’t be trimmed beyond a point. But saving shouldn’t shortchange you nutritionally. Though prices vary across cities and outlets, all these are better value than a burger, a kathi roll or chips and cola:
1. Potatoes: Just don’t fry them! About 200g (Rs4-6) makes a good-sized portion.
2. Tomatoes: Rs10 buys a kilo.
3. Oats: High in heart-healthy soluble fibre, and a quick, tasty breakfast at Rs7 or so.
4. Eggs: Once equated with cholesterol, they’re now back on the good food list, at Rs3 each.
5. Lentils: Beans and dals are great protein options. A serving of rajma (about 30g) is just Rs2-3. Ditto for soy protein. Sprouts, even from a shop, cost about Rs20 for a 200g bag.
6. Spinach: Rs10 buys a big bunch of saag or other leafy greens, packed with nutrients.
7. Bananas: They are high in fibre and potassium. Cost: Rs3-4 each.
8. Dairy: At Rs5-6 for a glass of toned milk, you have no reason to risk osteoporosis. Making dahi and paneer at home cuts costs by half too.
9. Unpolished rice: Brown rice costs Rs80-100 a kg, while red rice costs Rs70-90 a kg. Both are worth developing a taste for.
10. Nuts: They seem pricey, but a serving is just a spoonful.
Sanitize your kitchen without soap
Meats and seafood can give you tapeworms, toxoplasmosis or trichinosis. You cook them, but the juices splatter. Don’t scrub all surfaces with antibacterial soap (see where it says “Not for internal use”). Prepare vegetarian food before non-vegetarian, and clean up with vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide, sprayed one after the other (no need to rinse).
Eat (almost) organic—on a budget
• Some foods store more pesticides than others. The environmental working group (EWG) lists peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes among them.
• Also consider veggies and fruit similar to the ones above. Apricots are a lot like nectarines. Worried about potatoes? Think about sweet potatoes too.
• If you eat it daily, it pays to go organic (say you buy carrots each week, but just one box of strawberries a year...)
• Grow your own! You can plant tomatoes, brinjal and greens in pots on your balcony.
• When organic vegetables and fruits are not affordable or available, wash and scrub conventionally grown produce under running water for 30 seconds.
• Some veggies are less vulnerable to pesticides. Don’t pay extra for organic avocado, corn, onion, yam, cauliflower, Brussels sprout, banana, watermelon or broccoli.
• Use your organic budget for poultry and dairy that’s free from added hormones and antibiotics (or mad cow disease).
• Save your money when it comes to seafood. Your main worries there are mercury and contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that organics aren’t proof against.
Are you a locavore?
The New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2007 “Word of the Year” was locavoreb: Someone who tries to eat only food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius. It’s cheaper, boosts the local economy, and is healthier than produce that took weeks to reach a shop shelf.