August 20, 2009

Radventure of the Week: Affordable Raw/Vegan Snacks

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.

Addiction alert!

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!

I blended up a batch of Gena's Creamy Avocado Cumin Dressing, which seemed like the best use for a wonky-looking avocado that had seen better days. I massaged about 1.5 tbsp of it into the kale and carrots, and it was so very good.

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!

I'm no raw chef, but I feel like I'm developing a pattern of making a raw recipe and then realizing that it could be repurposed when combined with another raw recipe to create something totally new! Tonight was no exception--my wheels, they are a'turnin'. Stay tuned. :)


Missy said...

I love that all of your snacks are from a store so close to me so I can buy them the next day!! I was definitely surprised at how cheap the banana carob cubes turned out to be! I will be back for more! Your paninis always look so amazing!

Gena said...

Great snack ideas! Will you be my uncookbook publisher?

Anonymous said...

YUMM!! That sandwich looks awesome and I have to try that dressing. So I'm wondering what the deal with goat cheese is...can you eat it on a raw food diet? Is it vegan?

Diana said...

Hayley -

There is such a thing as raw goat cheese (and raw cow's milk cheese, for that matter), so it is possible to eat it on a "raw" diet. However, being an animal product, it's not vegan, so you would have to take that into account if eating raw and/or vegan matters to you. That said, goat cheese is purportedly easier for humans to digest than cow's milk cheese. I don't hold myself to any particular dietary rules, but rather eat what makes me feel best. For me, having some goat cheese, even combined with whole grains, does not bother my digestive system, so I enjoy it when the spirit moves me. :)

Gena -

Of course, if by me you mean you. ;)

melissa said...

great and useful post! I have to check out integral yoga!

I love raweos by blessings. they are kind of pricey, but you get quite a few in a pack.

Hands down the cheapest raw treat I have found are raw chewies at Lifethyme. dates filled with almond butter are also a made at home fav.

Lia said...

Nice post. I JUST started noticing the cost of the produce and apologized and thanked my dad for funding my feeding, still a poor college student. Those Macaroons sound amazing though, Chai...yumm. I also wanna check out the stores you're talking about when I get back to the city...

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

THANK YOU! for talking about a budget. I am a mom, I cannot be spending $5, $10 or more a day on snacks or random things that are not really essential food items. When we were a double income no kid kinda house, we ate, drank, and were merry and did not think about a budget...much less a food budget. Huh, what's that? Times changed, budget changed and mentality changed. We're a mostly raw, mostly vegan family of 3 and it's so expensive to feed a family mostly organic produce, much less think about spending $2.99 on one little snackie bar. way. I really appreciate you bringing this seems no one talks about budgets on blogs. Thank you!

Dori said...

I had high hopes for the carob almond butter cup and was disappointed. And I LOVE carob and almond butter so it is hard to go wrong. I never tried the mint one, I'd like to though!

I love the bulk bins. Especially the carob covered almonds. Mmmmm...

VeggieGirl said...

Carob-almond butter?? DIVIIIINE combination.

Diana said...

melissa -

Yes! Thank you for reminding me of dates stuffed with almond butter! I fully intended to mention them here as an inexpensive at-home snack, but obviously dropped the ball. Glad you pointed it out!


RunToFinish said...

have you heard of Boomi and prana bars they are up to 70% raw

so could you do a post on how you physically feel since you've switched to high raw? I'm just really curiours

Diana said...

RunToFinish -

Yes! I will definitely update everyone with how I feel, and plan on doing so somewhat continuously, even if I don't devote a whole post to the topic exclusively. Expect some thoughts on this early next week! :)

K from ksgoodeats said...

Between the carob cubes, raw macaroons, and wanna be Reese's I'm in love. They all sound and look fantastic!

Broken record?! Haha, have you SEEN my blog ;) I don't blame you for having that sandwich over and over! It looks delicious!

Anonymous said...

All these snacks look delicious, especially those macaroons. I need to find some of these. I tried some raw macaroons from lucky duck taste, they were amazing but way too expensive!!! ;)

Erica said...

Great ideas on the snack front! I love the bulk bins! They have so many great & new treats! Laras also rock! They're filling and not too too expensive!

Come on know you want to go to the twilight convention ;) As lame as it is, I am sort of interested in going. Maybe I am a nerd?

Rosey Rebecca said...

Thanks for the snack post!! I enjoyed reading it and you gave me some good ideas!! :-)

Anonymous said...

Don't sell yourself short!
YOu make some pretty bomb creations! I get tons of inspo from you :)

vincent said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
healthy ashley said...

Ahh, I hate those petitchef spam comments!

Great post! Many of the snacks you covered I've never heard it! Then again you are 10x cooler than me :) Yes, a piece of fruit makes a great afternoon snack... but so boring!

I love he panini!

Enjoy your weekend, Diana!

Jenny said...

what is it about panini-ing something that makes it 1000 x's more amazing? i am addicted to my george foreman

elise said...

ARE you trying to kill me??? no seriously. are you? this carob action is too much.

btw, did you get my text last night? i hope it wasnt too late, but i was at the dove bar in the village - so i totally thought of you! (i swear im not a stalker...haha)

Lainie said...

There is something about a panini that always tastes soooo much better than the original plain sandwich self. Doesn't make much sense, but I've found that to be quite true. Your snacks look awesome!

Michael said...

I am creator of chunks of energy and thanks for you positive comments. Every 2 or 3 chunks of energy you buy from the bulk bins keeps an inky bar wrapper out of your landfill and supports a small Family Business.

One other note we are working very hard to source ingredients and develop relationships with small family farms. I will be traveling to Central America to buy dried fruit ingredients from a small family farms and 100% of the dried fruit is solar dried and has no sugar added, just the fruit.
About our organic raw cacao used in chunks of energy it is:
1. Native heirloom chocolate grown in Educador
2. Species(Ariba Nacional-Fino de Aroma(this variety has one of the finest aroma and flavor profiles)
3. Hand peeled never machine processed
4. Sun Dried not roasted maintaining many nutritional benefits
5. Contains 22%-26% extra fat is imparts a great taste with significant nutritional advantages

Your info on your blog is clear, accurate, insightful and practical.
We are putting a link to your blog from ours.

The Weight Loss Debutante said...

Love, love, love Integral Yoga. Must have walked past you about a million times. lol.
I am the girl holding 2 baskets of healthy stuff for one meal sitting. lol.

•´.¸¸.•¨¯`♥.Erin.♥´¯¨•.¸¸.´• said...

I found your blog by searching for "petit chef malware". I was left a similar comment to the one Vincent left you and signed up with their site, added their button. And then my computer was inundated with malware. I'm curious if you have signed up with and had the same problems?

Diana said...

Erin -

I did not sign up for that site. It didn't sound legit to me, so I ignored it. I'm so sorry it's giving you problems!