(a photo of Jerome, AZ: population 400 and one of my favorite places to live)
The following post was written by E2 team member, Natala.
We get a lot of questions from people who live in small towns asking if they can be plant-strong even if they don’t live near a Whole Foods. You will be glad to know that going plant-strong can be done by anyone, anywhere. In fact right now we have a few people doing 28 day challenges on oil rigs, a few deployed in Afghanistan, a couple living in a very remote part of Asia, a family of 14 living on a very tight budget in a small town and all of those folks are thriving on a plant-strong diet.
My husband and I have been traveling full time for the past three years now. We have lived in small cities of less than 400 people and big cities as well (right now we are in San Francisco).
Every thing we own fits in our car. This means we do not have much kitchen equipment - a knife, a cutting board, a stove top pan and a small pot. That is all.
In every place we have lived we have had absolutely no problem being plant-strong, in fact I’d even say that living in a small city we tend to eat a lot more healthier, simply because there are not some of the speciality products (vegan junk food) around us that are available in some stores. Living in a small city is a wonderful time to really make things simple, and making things simple also means you end up saving a lot of money.
So let’s talk logistics:
1. Make a list of the things your local store does well.
For instance, most stores have a pretty good frozen vegetable section and frozen fruit. Believe it or not frozen can be even fresher than ‘fresh produce’! It is flash frozen in the field and so a lot more is perserved. So if there is a frozen vegetable/fruit section you are in luck! Even if you can’t get fresh produce, more than likely you are better off with the frozen for most of the year anyway.
*On that note- look around for some CSA’s, many small towns have a local CSA in which you can get a big box of produce, generally for a great price.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes are also found in most stores. Potatoes are GREAT and an inexpensive base to any meal.
Brown rice – whole grain brown rice is another great one – the Uncle Ben’s quick boil or success rice are whole grain rices that are pretty inexpensive and found almost anywhere.
Beans – most stores stock low sodium canned beans. However you can also buy them dry and cook them in a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Beans are a great thing to have on hand. You can even freeze them and use them later!
Corn tortillas – these are a great inexpensive thing to have on hand. You can make lots of things with them – from chips for nachos to wraps to tacos! I’ve even made “tortilla” pie – which is a lot of fun.
Whole grain pasta: Most stores have their own brand of whole grain pasta, generally another inexpensive thing.
Lentils – I love lentils, they are inexpensive, and SO versatile! And they take no time to cook.
Canned tomatoes (low sodium) – another great thing to have on hand.
Oats! Oats are great – and you can make so much with them.
Salt free spices/herbs.
Parchment paper – so you don’t have to buy cooking spray!
*If there is something that they don’t carry – ASK! We have done this in a few cities and have had a lot of luck. We were living in a very remote part of North Carolina and the local store did not carry quinoa, so we asked, and a week later they had quinoa. If they know there is someone who will buy it, they are more likely to stock it.
2. Use online sources.
When we’re in really remote places we use Amazon for a lot! We have an Amazon prime membership which costs 79 dollars a year, and we split that with 5 people because you can have 5 people on the account! This means we get free 2 day shipping on groceries. We order things like dry beans, POMI tomatoes, whole grain cereal, non-dairy milk, flax seed, nuts, brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta. Pretty much anything dry you can think of can be found online. And it is usually a much better price than what you can find in the stores.
3. Check out Jeff Novick’s Fast Food DVD:
We love Jeff’s approach to healthy eating and cooking, and his DVD is perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to make simple meals with ingredients you can find anywhere for about 5 dollars a day. Jeff also has a fabulous collection of recipes online found here: http://t.co/wrryqMsb these are all made with ingredients found in any store – cost about 2-3 dollars per meal (makes A LOT) and only require a can opener, scissors and a pot! Jeff is a great resource if you are online as well.
4. Keep things simple.
One of the best things you can do – is to simplify your food life a little. There are 100′s of fabulous taste combinations made with simple ingredients like:
▪ Sweet potato, kale, white beans, brown rice.
▪ White potato, black beans, tomatoes, corn, spinach.
▪ Quinoa, mixed greens, red beans, cauliflower
▪ Brown rice, chickpeas, peas, zucchini, curry powder, turmeric
▪ White beans, fingerling potatoes, brussel sprouts, garlic, kale.
▪ Whole grain pasta, zucchini, brocoli, peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes
▪ Lentils, collard greens, brown rice, artichoke
▪ Potatoes, portobello mushrooms, green beans, spinach, black beans
▪ Whole grain pasta, lentils, strained tomatoes (or tomato puree), garlic, brocoli
▪ Whole grain bread with portobello mushrooms, grilled zucchini and oil free hummus.
▪ Wild rice, onion, red lentils, greens
▪ Brown rice, salsa, frozen southwestern veggie mix, black beans
▪ Sweet potato, topped with black beans
▪ Brown rice, black pepper, asian style veggie mix.
▪ Cauliflower soup – cook cauliflower, blend add chickpeas.
▪ Whole grain pasta cooked and chilled, cucumber, tomato, beans, balsamic vinegar
▪ Mashed chickpeas, onion, garlic, chopped celery, cucumber served on whole grain bread ▪ Lentils, chopped tomato, lettuce, spinach, salsa, served on lettuce or served in corn tortillas
▪ Roasted vegetable mix & quinoa
▪ Beans & brown rice ▪ Spinach salad: strawberries, raisins, balsamic
▪ Chop salad: chopped cucumber, celery, carrots, zucchini, tossed with quinoa.
▪ Big salad: Whatever fresh vegetables you have on top of greens. (the whatever salad!)
▪ *Salad is always a good option if you have fresh vegetables/greens laying around. You can use balsamic vinegar for a dressing, salsa or even just lemon.
▪ Huge plate of steamed vegetables with spices.
▪ Breakfast: oatmeal or quinoa with fruit and ground flaxseed
▪ Breakfast: Rip’s big bowl (of course!)
▪ Looking for an easy dressing? We use low sodium salsa, oil free hummus or balsamic vinegar.
5. Make a list.
We have found that when we make a list we spend far less on groceries, than when we go into a store unprepared. When we go into a store unprepared it feels a little bit like going into battle, we start going up and down aisles and just throwing stuff in the cart because we just want to get out of the store. We have become very systematic about our lists. We put things in categories so that we can only head to the aisles we absolutely need to go to. So our shopping list will start off with “Produce Section” and we put every thing we need to get in the produce section, and then the “Beans/grains Section”.
Living in a small town can present a few challenges, but it definitely can be done! We hope that this helps you a little in your plant-strong journey. Even if you don’t live in a small town, the above tips will help you to save money on your next shopping trip.
Do you live in a small town? What are some of your tips for other people in your situation?