Fortifying Your Real Food Budget: 4 Cheap Herbs that Pack a Powerful Punch
If I had to guess, I’d say one of your new year resolutions was to lower your grocery budget.
Would I be right?
Just before Christmas I gave birth to my fifth child. Not surprisingly, my husband and I quickly discovered our family vehicle no longer supported the new family size. Soon we found ourselves carving out room in our budget for a new van. Guess which budget category took the hardest blow?
That’s right, the grocery budget. Can you relate?
As I’ve been adjusting to my drastically reduced real food budget, my biggest concern was ensuring my family’s overall nutrition didn’t take a blow as well. Although many budget-friendly foods – beans, brown rice, oatmeal, etc – are very healthy in and of themselves, I wasn’t convinced they would be enough to keep us in good health.
I’m already a huge proponent of living an herbal lifestyle. Incorporating herbs into everyday recipes is a great way to keep the family healthy. But did you know it’s also a vital way to up the ante of nutrients while staying well within a tight grocery budget?
Herbs provide a better nutritional bang for your buck than any other food. For me specifically, I’ve found I can cut out more expensive, organic produce and replace it with cheap herbs that pack an even greater nutritional punch.
Here are my top four favorites:
1. Italian Parsley
The unsung hero of the culinary world, fresh parsley can be found in every grocery and is likely the cheapest green thing you can find. But this simple plant is not just for garnish. Parsley is abundant in chlorophyll, which binds with heavy-metals, neutralizes toxins, and removes both from the body. Parsley also stimulates cell growth and improves liver function all while complimenting your immune system with it’s antimicrobial properties.
Parsley boasts of high amounts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin A and Vitamin C. I love the flavor of this herb in my Broccoli Herb soup.
Point blank, you either love this herb or you hate it. I once read an article that reported some individuals may actually be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro! (source)
If you happen to be a lover of cilantro you’re in luck. This is one super cheap herb that’s just brimming with nutritional value. Known as Chinese Parsley, cilantro boasts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A and all the B vitamins, too. I use cilantro in my homemade guacamole (which isn’t very budget-friendly…) but it’s also a great addition to the old pot o’ beans.
My most favorite nutritional herb is nettle. It hides well in any dish and packs a ridiculous nutritional punch. And did I mention it’s cheap? If you can’t find it growing wild in your backyard you can buy it for pennies at your local herb shop or online.
Most individuals know alfalfa only as animal feed (read: cheap food). But this herb offers much more. Alfalfa has a very deep tap root, growing to depths of up to 40 feet! This unique characteristic means alfalfa is rich in trace minerals not commonly found in other plants like niacin, boron, chromium, and selenium. Lastly, alfalfa possesses eight essential amino acids needed by the body to build protein while containing the highest amount of chlorophyll of any plant.
Fresh alfalfa sprouts are delicious but I prefer fully-grown alfalfa in it’s dried powdered form in yummy homemade treats, like Coconut Alfalfa Balls.
Fresh? Or Dried?
As a rule, fresh herbs are always better than dried, provided you purchase from a high-quality source.
If you’re buying dried herbs, keep in mind they begin to lose their nutritional value as soon as they are picked. Select dried herbs that are bright in color, store them in a cool, dry place and use them within one year. (Read more about where to buy the best dried herbs, here.)
At the End of the Day…
As you look to cut corners in your real food budget this year, consider using herbs to meet your nutritional needs without breaking the bank. They can easily be incorporated into your budget-friendly meals, allowing you to spend less while acquiring more vitality than ever before.
To your health!
Main image courtesy of Wong Mei Teng.