When dramatically increasing one's weekly intake of fresh produce and raw/vegan meals, it's easy to start feeling like we'll soon eat our way bankrupt. As someone who is very budget-conscious (perhaps to a fault), you can bet that I'm keeping close tabs on how much I spend on food each week now that the majority of my meals are made of raw produce.
As satisfied as I have been with a high-raw, vegan diet, I am still not immune to the siren call of a 4 o'clock snack time. It may be just a residual habit or boredom eating, but I like to have a little somethin'-somethin' between lunch and dinner. I prefer to remain blind to the ever-present cookies or souvenir-type treats someone reliably plops by the microwave in my office every week, but that means that I also hold myself responsible to keep better choices on hand that I'm equally excited to eat. I mean, I could have a piece of fruit (bananas are 3/$1 at the fruit stand near my office) or a juice, I suppose, but that's no fun. Not to my sweet tooth, at least.
Lara Bars are not outrageously expensive at $1.29 each (Whole Foods' price), making them a good standby for convenient raw, vegan snackage, so I use them as a benchmark for the forthcoming comparisons. Browsing at Integral Yoga today (a health food store that could easily relieve me of all my money if I allowed it), I got a few ideas for treat-like snacks that are are raw and/or vegan but won't break the bank.
As much as I love whole, unprocessed foods, sometimes snacktime just screams "cookie" or "baked goods" to me. The above organic Raw Cacao-Goji Energy Chunks from the bulk bins at Integral Yoga kind of fit the bill there. They're rich, chocolatey and sweet, but are made of ingredients you needn't think twice about. The above serving set me back about $1.50, but because they came from the bulk section, I was in control of the quantity and therefore the price. Bulk bins are advantageous to both the budget and portion control, especially since it's not like you're getting a better deal by buying more at once.
And then there's the raw macaroon, of course.
I found these little packages of locally-made macaroons in a surprising variety of flavors for $2.99 each, so I decided to give Chai Spice a try. Yes, $1 per cookie is expensive, but again, I was able to buy such a small portion (not in bulk, though) that the price stayed low and besides, who's saying I have to eat all three at once? (Wink.) More on this in a second.
As for the Land of Check-Out Line Impulse Buys, I succumbed to these Reese's wannabes for $1.09 each.
Vegan, though not raw, these treats came in three flavors: Carob Mint Creme Cup, Carob Almond Butter Cup and Carob Peanut Butter Cup (which I didn't buy because I'm avoiding peanuts/PB when possible, as peanuts are a legume, not a nut, and therefore harder to digest). Not the most virtuous of snacks, nor the most sustaining, but this is just further proof that there are plenty of treats and candies out there for those of us sticking to a high-raw, vegan diet most of the time. It's also proof that one could easily be a very unhealthy vegan! "I'm vegan" does not = "I'm healthy," so it's still important to read ingredient labels and mind our sweets intake, just as we should on the Standard American Diet.
I just wanted to highlight a few of these finds, since even a short through a browse through a specialty shop like Integral Yoga or One Lucky Duck will make it obvious that one could go broke quickly buying pre-made raw and/or vegan treats such as ice cream and bakery substitutes all the time. Many of the raw "cookies," snack-type bars and "crackers" will easily set you back $7-$10 for just a serving or two.
My favorite trick is to take a bit of a more expensive treat and bulk it up with less expensive accoutrements for a snack that's ultimately less expensive but more exciting to the palate. For example, for dessert tonight I had one of my Chai Spice macaroons alongside a giant Turkish fig (so much better dried than fresh!) and a couple of prunes.
If you have any access at all to a store that sells food in bulk, I strongly encourage you to explore it! It's great fun and will save you big dinero in the long run. The prunes only cost me $1.95 for a 1/4 pound, which doesn't sound like much on paper, but it was a pretty big pile of prunes, trust me! And organic, to boot.
You will also find every nut known to man in bulk (TWSS), so adding a handful of raw almonds or cashews to a snack/dessert increases the satisfaction factor and keeps the cost down as well. Raw cashews, for example, cost about $7-$9 per pound--that's a ton of cashews! I have been known to stretch just 1/4 lb of cashews across 4-5 meals, so that doesn't break down to much bank per serving. The good fat in nuts means a little goes a long way toward staying full!
Anyway, that's my little impromptu penny-pincher gone raw/organic/vegan/hippie speech. I also have a couple pictures of dinner to share. Wanna see? No? Too bad.
Broken record much? With all the amazing zucchini/summer squash and eggplant in season, I cannot lay off making grilled veggie paninis. Tragically, I am out of goat cheese, so I had to make do with spreading both slices of bread with hummus instead. Torture, I know.
And again, I had a wee massaged kale salad on the side. I did change up the dressing a tad, though!
So very good that I couldn't help but plop another dollop onto the side of my plate for sandwich-dipping purposes. You must try this recipe!