Let’s talk about health and budgeting.
Vibrant health can absolutely be achieved on a budget! However, there are a few things that you’re going to have to remember to get that health while staying on budget.
Obviously, super-healthy food can be expensive. It’s going to be cheaper to have oatmeal with bananas in the morning than a green smoothie, but some of us want that hit of greens in the morning. Store-bought greens can be expensive, but one great thing about using a blender is that you can forage for your greens and utilize things like lawn grass and blackberry leaves without being turned off by the look or the prickles. Foraging for your greens will automatically bring your greens cost down. You can always attempt to forage exclusively for greens, but sometimes it’s winter or everything close-by gets sprayed with chemicals, so I really suggest just trying to lessen your costs.
Add oats to your smoothies! Oats are one of the cheaper ingredients in smoothies, so use that to your advantage. 1/4 cup of dry GF rolled oats is 75 calories and 13 cents. I add some oats to every smoothie I make for some extra calories and to displace the cost of pricier items.
Really pack that calorie punch with some sunflower seeds! I know, many people are fearful of calories, but if you’re looking to use a smoothie as a meal, it needs to be a lot of calories, or it won’t sustain you for any length of time. Also, frugal people commonly use peanut butter to get some extra calories, but I (as well as many others) have problems with peanuts. Most other nuts and seeds are expensive, but the cheapest one is sunflower seeds (bonus, it tastes similar to peanut butter and grinds up beautifully). Sunflower seed butter gets expensive, too, so what I do is about once a month or so, I buy a 5-lb bag of raw, shelled sunflower seeds. This only costs me about $15, and I can toss them in a lot of things. 1/4 cup sunflower seeds is 190 calories and 22 cents.
If you buy everything, it’s going to be difficult to use both greens and berries in the same smoothie (and remain under $1). To get around this, focus on greens instead of fruit in your smoothies. That’s actually healthier anyway, because most people eat fruit rather than vegetables as a snack. You can get in multiple leaves of kale for the cost of 1/2 cup of frozen berries (and fresh fruit is basically out of the question for a severe budget). If you absolutely must have some fruit, just use a little for flavor, and try to use a potent fruit (like blueberries) to get as much flavor for as little coin as possible.
Sweeteners are expensive! Refined sugar is dirt cheap, but you pay a price in health for that. As far as healthy sweeteners, pure maple syrup is very expensive (about 22+ cents per Tbsp). Off-brand stevia (which is mostly erythritol), is only 2 cents per Tbsp. In many sweets, I like to add a little maple syrup (like a single Tbsp) for the depth of flavor, but I use stevia to sweeten the dish. The same holds true in smoothies. Whenever a smoothie recipe calls for maple syrup/honey/agave, I add a Tbsp of stevia instead. So far, this hasn’t ever failed me in smoothies.
Use water, not milk! To blend a smoothie, you need some liquid. A lot of recipes call for milk/plant milk/juice. For 1/2 cup of plant milk/juice, it’s about 30 cents. Cut this cost out by using water instead. If a smoothie really needs that milky flavor, I add 1 Tbsp of unsweetened coconut shreds for only 4 cents. Think about it: to make coconut milk, you blend some coconut with water and then strain the coconut out; it’s the same with any kind of plant milk. If I want my smoothie really milky and rich, I add up to 4 Tbsp of coconut shreds. Even when I do this, I only spend half as much in coconut shreds as I would in milk.
Even with all these tips in mind, many meal-replacement smoothies come out to between $1 and $1.50. It can be a real challenge to get so many calories in a super-healthy smoothie for under $1.
I don’t know how this smoothie tastes, but here’s a recipe for a smoothie that fits all the parameters above (It’s based on a PB&J smoothie, so it’s probably pretty good):
-1/2 cup oats
-1/4 cup sunflower seeds
-1/2 leaf of kale (or use more of a milder green)
-1/4 cup blueberries
-2 Tbsp coconut shreds
-2 Tbsp flax meal
-just a touch of salt (reduces the bitterness of the kale and brings out the nuttiness of the sunflower seeds)
This smoothie is about 500 calories and is 89 cents.