Almond + Pecan Crunch

February 12, 2010

It doesn’t matter which of my friends I speak with, where they live, or what their occupations are, everyone, EVERYONE is watching their pocketbook. Which, might be a silly thing to say….shouldn’t we ALL be doing that ALL the time (even if we are feeling flush?)

D and I are no exception; already 2010 and the economy that welcomed it have thrown us a few curve balls and what with a full training/racing schedule, a 5th Wedding Anniversary trip to plan, and rent to pay, we are making our lists, checking them twice, and truly finding ways to curb spending. We shop local sales, visit vintage shops, evaluate the seasons for needs vs wants, and create elaborate dates at home instead of heading out to indulge in our usual foodie habits on the weekends. Our NetFlix account has been quite helpful. And, of course, so is our trail running habit. Free, gorgeous, and peaceful we head for the hills when we have time or desire to let loose. Lots cheaper than a trip to the spa, we even set up our own massage table afterwards and trade leg rubs. Hey! If it means that we can spend this summer in Greece then count me IN!

There are some things that we just aren’t willing to sacrifice on – everyone has a few of these things, I am sure. No matter how hard times become, we are not willing to sacrifice on high quality, nutritional and (often) organic foods.

Anyone that has ever walked into a natural grocer knows that it is a literal haven of edibles. A produce selection that makes one believe they have arrived at the bounty itself, cheeses, wines, and luxury items that are so absent from other grocery store shelves that they have come to be associated with true indulgence. Grains, legumes, and ingredients that are native to continents half a world away. All, at your fingertips.

This being said, its easy to lose your mind (or at least mine) and all of those saved pennies as you peruse shelves. BUT, if you shop wisely, you can truly eat well, be well, and naturally so. A couple of tips for natural foodies on a budget:

Shop often, and at several stores: different stores: traditional grocery stores are carrying more and more organics/natural foods. And, since they are larger, less boutique-y chains, can occasionally afford to offer produce, and natural products for less than their haute-route competitors. Read your sale weeklies!

Skip the prepared foods, but a snazzy pot instead: then, head for the bulk aisle and “bulk up” on interesting legumes, grains, nuts and fruits. The real trick to these cheaper menu options is allowing them to soak, or just checking out their cooking times/water contents. OR, use a rice cooker! Make boiling grains more interesting by adding broth, spices, whathaveyou.

All apples are NOT created equal: read your produce labels! Buy produce that was grown close to home – it will be less expensive, fresher, and more sustainably delivered to you than its (likely Californian) counterparts.

MAKE IT: many of the prepared/processed foods that we find to be so intriguing at the natural foods store are also the most expensive. Crackers, cookies, baked goods, and pre-prepared meals are pricey! Use online resources to find recipes to make your favorites and save yourself a few bucks. (Not to mention, a few pounds — by not having processed snacks around 24/7 you’ll reach for fruit or nuts instead!)

On our way home from one of our free trail-running dates last week, we stopped at WholeFoods for a little snack (3.5 hours on trails = STARVING.) We bypassed the prepared foods aisles, swinging into bulk to save some dough on our impulse buys and came across a new “almond crunch” product. Drool led us to the checkout. DE-LI-CIOUS. As soon as the bag was devoured, I announced to Derek that I could do this particular splurge justice. So, I went home, and did just that.

This snack is perfect for car rides, post-running snacks, even to slip into your bike bag or (in our case) trail running pack for races. The balance of salty + sweet will sate you, and the ingredients are simple (read: you don’t need a culinary degree to figure this one out!)

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