In this economy, who’s not concerned about eating healthy on a budget?

If you have made a commitment to a healthy eating schedule, you may be worried that your food bills will skyrocket, but this does not have to be the case.

Organic produce costs more than conventional produce, raw and organic dairy costs more than pasteurized dairy, and organic and grass-fed meats cost more than factory-farmed meats. Eating healthy on a budget can definitely be tough, but it is far from impossible if you follow some of these tips:

  • The number one way to eat healthy and save money is to eat at home as much as possible and to focus on whole foods. Meals prepared at home are almost always better quality and are definitely less expensive than meals out, and whole foods are cheaper and more eco-friendly than packaged foods. Definitely skip going out for tea and coffee. You’ll save a lot of money (and you’ll do your health and the environment a favor) by preparing your own organic and fair trade varieties as home.
  • Consider joining a co-op that allows you to order directly from a natural foods distribution company. Items are typically ordered by the case so it is a good way to buy larger quantities of healthy staple items, canned and jarred goods, and all-natural body care items that you use frequently at discounted prices. You can also purchase large quantities of grains, beans, nuts and seeds this way, and you can split the large quantities with other members of your co-op. You can find out if there may be a food co-op you can join in your area by word-of-mouth or place an ad in your local paper if you would like to start one.
  • Take advantage of sales. Large supermarkets as well as health food stores typically discount numerous items significantly, so buy these when you can. When organic butter and frozen fruit are on sale, for example, stock up and keep them in the freezer. Sales are also a great time to stock up on items that you really enjoy, but may generally avoid buying due to their cost.
  • Buy what you can in bulk; nuts, seeds, grains, and dried beans are best purchased this way. This cuts down on packaging, so it’s better for the environment, but buying in bulk also saves money. Beans in particular are much less expensive if you buy them dried (and soak and cook them yourself) instead of in cans.
  • Be realistic when you’re eating healthy on a budget. Don’t buy all organic produce if you can not afford it. It might make more sense to just buy local conventional fruits and vegetables, and clean them well with a produce wash. The benefit of eating these foods outweighs the negatives. Some supermarkets have their own brand of organic produce that may be more cost-effective than the produce in the typical health food store- compare and save money where you can.
  • Learn to prepare foods that have traditionally been homemade, such as stocks, cultured vegetables and kombucha. These items can be pretty pricey in stores but they are quite inexpensive to make at home, and they are delicious and health-promoting to boot.
  • Remember that your health is very precious, and you have every right to spend a bit more on high quality foods. Poor health as a consequence of not eating well can be terribly costly, so invest in your health by eating well- it is worth every penny!

While researching cardamom for my post about cardamom roasted vegetables, I learned that cardamom is one of the spices that typically flavors the Scandinavian winter-time drink known as Glögg.

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According to Wikipedia, Glögg is the name of mulled (heated and spiced) wine in Sweden and Iceland; it goes by other similar names in Norway, Denmark, Finland and Estonia, and it is called Gluhwein in German-speaking parts of Europe.

Historically speaking, mulled wines like Glögg have been enjoyed for centuries, particularly by folks living in cold regions of the world. Today, Swedes and other Scandinavian dwellers enjoy Glögg at festive occasions in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and it’s often served with pastries.

Now, I am not much of a drinker, but…
1. I had an almost full bottle of red wine left in the refrigerator from Thanksgiving
2. the idea of mulled wine definitely appeals to me
3. I felt like celebrating a little because my recipe for turkey pho is one of the finalists in a contest at Food52 (make sure you vote for me :)
4. how can you not want to try something with a name like glögg?
…so I came up with this version.

This Cranberry Glögg, which I adapted from this recipe, contains more juice than wine, and you are welcome to swap the proportions. You can use more wine and less juice, or no juice at all. I have some lovely apple brandy from a local winery, so I added a little as glögg recipes do sometimes contain brandy; I’ve also seen ones that contain vodka, rum or aquavit.

Note that if you don’t want a very alcoholic drink, you can boil the mixture so that some (or most/all) of the alcohol cooks off. Most recipes tell you to keep the temperature very low so this doesn’t happen, but it is up to you. If you do want it to be alcoholic but you find that you’ve heated it too much, you can always add a splash of brandy or one of the other forms of alcohol before serving.

On the flip side, if you want a completely alcohol-free version, you can make a glogg-like drink just with juice. I think it would be nice with a mixture of cranberry juice and pear or apple cider, for example. Pomegranate juice might also be great. If you are using only juice and no alcohol, you really won’t need the additional sweetener (unless you’re using unsweetened cranberry juice, which is incredibly tart on its own).

In order to really taste the spices, it’s important to let all the flavors infuse for a while. Though I didn’t use one, a crockpot might be a good way to go with this recipe; you can leave it on low for quite a while (a day or so) before serving and I think it would just get better and better.

Recipe For Cranberry Glögg

Ingredients:

*4 cups unsweetened organic cranberry juice
*2 cups red wine
*1/2 cup brandy
*1/2 cup organic brown sugar or raw sugar or honey
*5 cloves
*10 cardamom seeds/pods
*2 cinnamon sticks
*one 1 inch piece of ginger, smashed with the side of a knive
*1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/2 orange peel (dried or fresh)-optional
7-10 dried figs, cut in half- optional
1/2 cup blanched almonds-optional

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a large pot and warm over very low heat for about an hour. Turn heat off and allow to sit at room temperature, covered, for several hours or overnight. Reheat over low heat before serving. Serve each cup with some of the dried fruit and the optional almonds.

holiday-food-festThis glogg recipe is my contribution to Holiday Food Fest; this week’s theme is “Holiday Cocktails, Mocktails and Appetizers”, and it’s hosted by Amy of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free! Make sure to check out Amy’s site for links to all the other great Holiday Food Fest posts!

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I love slow cooked pulled pork, and it’s quite simple to make in a crockpot. Many pulled pork recipes call for bottled barbecue sauce, though, and it’s tough to find a brand that doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup (which we should all stay away from).

This recipe features a much less sweet, yet tangy and delicious, homemade sauce based on apple cider. If you don’t have hard cider on hand, use an additional 12 oz. of regular sweet cider instead. Get the recipe started in the morning and it will be ready in all its glory by the evening, though it’s even better reheated on the next and subsequent days.

For the healthiest pulled pork, use organic, pastured pork in this recipe.

Apple Cider Pulled Pork

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

*1 1/2 cups sweet apple cider plus 1 1/2 cups hard apple cider (or just use 3 cups of sweet cider
*1 cup organic or low sugar ketchup (look for one without high fructose corn syrup)
*1/2 cup brown sugar
*1 Tb. cumin
*1 Tb. paprika
*1 Tb. garlic powder
*3 Tb. hot sauce
*4 onions, peeled and sliced
*4 pounds pork shoulder, preferably organic (you will want to remove the layer of fat on the pork; I find it easiest to do this once it has cooked and before you shred it, but you can do it before you cook it, if you like)

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, mix together both ciders, ketchup, brown sugar, cumin, paprika, garlic power and hot sauce.

2. Place half of the onions in the bottom of a 4 1/2- to 6-quart crockpot/slow cooker.

3. Put the pork shoulder on top of the onions and pour the sauce over the pork. Top with the rest of the onions.

4. Cover slow cooker with lid and cook pork mixture on high for 4 hours (or on low for 8 hours), or until pork is very tender.

5. With tongs, carefully transfer pork to large bowl. Turn crockpot to high, cover, and heat sauce to boiling to thicken and reduce slightly (alternatively, this can be done in a pan on the stove).

6. While sauce boils, use 2 forks to pull pork into shreds. Return shredded pork to crockpot with the sauce and allow to cook for an additional 30 minutes on the high setting.

7. Serve pulled pork with or without whole grain sandwich buns; I love it with braised greens, cole slaw and/or cranberry chutney!