Preserving raw foods, two ways to make living the lifestyle CHEAP!

If you’ve read my books, you know that I promote ways of making a whole-foods, high-raw, plant-based diet very affordable, especially the #1 and #2 highest-impact methods:

  1. Plant a garden and use everything in it (see Ch. 5 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods).
  2. Have a full-sized freezer in your garage and use it to stock greens from your garden, and fruits when they’re in season, against the winter.

Check out my garden, photo from yesterday–in this space, I have cucumber and squash plants in front, with kale and collards showing behind that.

In my freezer, the top shelf shows gallon bags of quinoa, brown rice, and cashew pieces. Behind that, I have walnuts, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.   Second shelf, lots of peaches that I’ve chopped in sandwich baggies for smoothies, greens, alfalfa/clover sprouting mix, almonds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and Costco mixed berries.

Third row down, lots of collards, chard, turnip and beet greens, amaranth, kale, and a little squash and strawberry leaves, plus edible greens I didn’t plant, like milkweed and morning glory. These are all frozen for wintertime green smoothies. I trust this more than any swine flu vaccine to keep us healthy!

Fourth row, frozen strawberries for Hot Pink Smoothie and bread for kids’ lunches.   In the door are jars of tomatoes–I don’t blanch them, just blend till chunky and freeze, for later use in soups and salsas.   Digestive enzymes on the top row, which I keep in my purse for any time I eat a meal that isn’t 60-80% raw.   Lots of baggies of peaches (chopped in eighths, anywhere I can find a nook or cranny).   I will be packing greens into QUART size bags, now, and utilizing all the extra space.   There’s still plenty of space in this freezer!

Someone left my freezer open a crack last weekend and lots of stuff defrosted.   So I threw everything in boxes and took it all into the grocery store near my house in a grocery cart.   Walked into their deep-freeze (which is utilized about 10%), unloaded my boxes, and went home to clean the freezer out after it defrosted.   Dragged my date back there that night (it was Saturday!) to haul it all back out and take it home and load it back into the freezer.   Just acted like I owned the place, past half a dozen employees, haha.   (Don’t try this at home without asking permission! I asked the owner once several years ago if I could use the freezer now and then for a day, and have taken that liberty a few times since then, when I defrost my freezer.)

national study on grocery budgeting

How much does the average family spend on groceries?   Nationwide, according to the USDA, here it is:


Two adults:

$361 thrifty / $459 low-cost / $569 moderate / $711 liberal


Two adults and 2 kids under 11:

$603 thrifty / $779 low-cost / $974 moderate / $1,182 liberal


Spending for my own family, which includes 4 kids, two of whom are teenagers and all of whom play at least one competitive sport, puts me in the THRIFTY to LOW-COST range.


So much for these excuses for not eating nutritious whole foods:


“I can’t because I’m a busy, single, working mom.”

“It’s too expensive.”


Truly, I believe that the reason nutrition hasn’t gone out the window since I’ve been a single mother is that I had good habits and a repertoire of recipes and ideas in place.   These are what I try to give you with my 12 Steps program.  


And I don’t overspend on groceries (I spend about $800/mo.) because what I spend on produce is offset by what I DON’T spend on processed/packaged food and meat.   While I do like a bargain, I don’t have the time or the interest to clip coupons, drive all over town, or obsess about the budget.   Also, while 12 Steps gives lots of tips, the top two that save me loads of money are (1) summer gardening, and (2) my large freezer that allows me to store produce, seeds, nuts, and more.


See for more info about these nationwide averages.

The Essential GreenSmoothieGirl Library . . . last part

For those wanting to grow a garden (the #1 way to save money eating a plant-based diet), these are my “bibles”–click on the link if you want to pick it up at Amazon:


Marian Morash’s The Victory Garden Cookbook is the definitive garden how-to, with hundreds of recipes on how to use each of those garden vegetables–I use this recipe book constantly, except when someone borrows it, falls in love with it, and doesn’t return it!



Eliot Coleman’s Four Seasons Harvest was a breakthrough for me, showing how to grow a winter garden even outdoors in a cold climate



Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening has taken the home gardening world by storm.   That’s because this is the very best way to grow a garden, maximizing space and minimizing work.

fall/winter planting: get heirloom garden seeds

If you garden, you should use nonhybridized, untreated, non-genetically modified seeds, known as “heirloom.”   Much of what you get at the local nursery has been chemically treated or mildly radiated to not produce offspring (so the seeds cannot be stored for more than one season).   Or their genetic components have been changed, so that we don’t know what deleterious effects that will have on our environment or our health.

I like, not just because their seeds are untreated, unhybridized (many of the varieties dating back well over 100 years), and non-genetically modified, but also because they have a huge variety and good prices.   When I first read Eliot Coleman’s Four-Season Harvest, I got very excited about winter gardening.   I wanted to plant all the greens, like mache, that would grow even at zero degrees in my winter grow boxes.   But I couldn’t find mache anywhere, locally.   It, and every other variety of greens I read about in Coleman’s book, can be found at   For instance, New Zealand spinach, which isn’t really spinach, but similar, with a lot of vertical growing capacity up against my fence–and it doesn’t bolt in the heat.

If you’re going to plant this fall and/or winter, though, order now. takes several weeks to fulfill orders.

For more information about how long you can store seeds, those of you who do food storage, this is a good source:

beet cake, and pink smoothie, here I come

Ten and the Giant Beet

Look what I pulled out of my garden!    Tennyson is holding  a beet, the size of a cantaloupe, now washed, peeled, and cut into chunks in my freezer.   I love fall, when we can pull all the produce out of the garden and put it in jars (fermented) or in the freezer against the winter.   I hope if you’re not gardening this year, you get ready to do it next year (or plant now for a late fall/early spring overwintered crop).    It’s the #1 way to save money eating a plant-based diet.   And #2, of course, is owning a large freezer to stock up on garden and local, seasonal produce.

(See beet recipes in Ch. 5 of 12 Steps, plus the beet cake and pink smoothie recipes in your Jump-Start Basic recipe collection.)

What do YOU spend on groceries?

I have wondered this for years and was so interested and enlightened to learn, on a Yahoo group I belong to, what others spend on groceries in a month.   Only a handful answered the question, but the answers ranged widely, from $1,000/mo. for a family of 4, to $400/mo. for a family of 7.

Unless you’re new and not a subscriber to 12 Steps to Whole Foods, you know that part of my passion for teaching families to eat a health-promoting, plant-based diet, is helping them do so INEXPENSIVELY, within a budget, since the moms who are teaching the kids are usually in the stage of life where money is a scarce resource and must be accounted for carefully.

Maybe it’s a taboo subject, but if so, I’ll try to  pave the way  with some self-disclosure:  my family of 6 spends $800/mo. on groceries, on average (less in the summer, more in the winter).   It’s also important to note that all of  my kids are athletes and big eaters, two of them teenagers.   (Shouldn’t a teenager count as 2 people?!)

We save by gardening, participating in a CSA, buying in bulk and stocking up, and preparing meals from scratch.   We preserve and freeze food in our basement cold storage, second fridge, and upright freezer. As you probably are now aware, we eat whole foods and don’t buy meat, dairy, or boxed/canned processed foods.   All of the budget is whole plant foods except for the occasional church social, extended-family, or after-soccer-game food assignment.  We grow organic, but we don’t always buy organic.   We splurge by going to Sweet Tomatoes once a week, and I’m actually not counting that in the budget.

Please write here what you spend, and give any tips on how you save and how you splurge within that budget (and what percentage of your grocery budget is whole foods).  I think women (or the money manager in the home) will find this fascinating and helpful.   I know I will.