The cost of good food is a hotly debated issue, including between the two of us. We know we're fortunate - our kitchen contains superfoods and our fruit and veg in all its forms is almost exclusively organic. Good food is, and has always been essential to us. But we have experienced less 'fluid' times when non-essentials had to go, not just non-essentials such as Sky TV subscriptions and the like. We also took the somewhat daunting decision of letting go of our car, in the belief that we could find ways of managing without one. Thanks at times to the kindness of others, coupled with a positive and creative mindset, we did manage without our car and we continue to do so.
Creativity plays a big role too in our approach to food and on several occasions it's enabled us to produce some exquisite, nutritious meals for very little cost. We like to keep inspired and if anything we do proves to be inspiring for others, then so much the better.
We didn't set out to make the above a 'budget' lunch, but on estimating the overall cost (this is one portion and we each had two) we reckoned it cost little more than £1.00. It's a simple but refreshing, hydrating and tasty meal comprising a kohlrabi, a couple of apples, sprouted lentils and a creamy mint dressing.
The kohlrabi was bought from a local food co-op meaning in this case, that it was organically grown and inexpensive. It's worth looking out for farm shops, or food cooperatives; the people behind them are often passionate about making really good food as available as possible, and you get to buy the quantities you want, instead of arriving home with pre-determined amounts in plastic packaging.
The apples were being sold off at the Co-op. They were perfectly good but had reached their sell-by date. This is typically the only instance in which we buy apples from afar a field as New Zealand... It can hardly be acceptable for them to end up as food waste and thrown away. Increasingly we do our shopping where plastic packaging is very minimal, but if we do go to supermarkets and buy items such as these, we remove the plastic right there and leave it at the store. It's worth adding that the response from sales assistants has been consistently positive!
The lentils were inexpensive and sprouted at home. Sprouting requires a little bit of knowledge and practice, but it really is very easy to do, and the sprouting process intensifies the nutritional values of a bean, seed or grain, making it a highly nutritious addition to any meal for no more than the small cost of the dry ingredients. It's getting easier to find dried beans in zero waste shops and other stores that are conscious about excess packaging. Beans and lentils have been staples in diets across the globe for centuries and are a superb source of plant protein and fibre and confer some striking health benefits. Whether cooked or sprouted, it is a really good idea to eat them with frequency!
The mint for the dressing was from the garden. If there's a foolproof edible plant, it must surely be mint. Growing it is very easy, in fact sometimes the biggest problem with mint is calming down its rampant tendencies! Growing it in a pot is a good idea, and doesn't require much space. A mint dressing is extra welcome on a hot day and was thoroughly appreciated on this occasion.
The other ingredients in the dressing were a date, lemon juice and water, a couple of thick slices of courgette and a small handful of hemp seeds. The latter two create the creamy-ness. Hemp seeds come at various prices, depending on where they're bought, but they're typically an inexpensive seed, despite being a little 'trendy'. They deserve some positive attention; they provided the oil in this dressing which is a good balance of omega 3 and 6 oils. By using seeds or nuts in place of oil, not only is the dressing more creamy, it also contains a range of nutrients that are simply not present in noteworthy quantities, or not present at all in the oils extracted from these wholefoods, specifically the other macro nutrients: protein and some carbohydrate.
And the question of preparation time? Well, in this case, the meal was ready in minutes, which was in fact the motivating factor as one of us was becoming impatient with hunger! It certainly pays to only have good food in the house when hunger strikes as, at that point, good intentions hold much less sway.
So are we saying that good food is always affordable? Sadly not; we know that pre-packaged, processed foods can sometimes be cheaper, more immediately satiating, (if not especially nutritious) and almost certainly more convenient than putting together a recipe of natural ingredients. We know our nation's food provision is seriously skewed in a direction that is frankly harmful to us, whilst persuading us that we are being released from the burden and time-constraints of preparing meals from scratch. But we're encouraged by the growing numbers of people, many of them young people, who are taking an interest and pride in preparing good quality meals. This need not be the sole preserve of the wealthy. 'Good quality' doesn't inevitably mean expensive if the quality you seek is food that is good for the mind and body...
Next time you see a dandelion, don't pull it up and throw it away as an unwanted weed; take it home and get creative with a recipe (one that helps to level out the bitterness of the leaves). Dandelions are potently nourishing, all parts of it are edible and they're free! Some of the best quality foods on the planet cost nothing, we just need to learn how to recognise and appreciate them.