This is our Cheap Superfoods List Part One designed with two goals in mind. The first is to save money for those on a tight budget, and the second, is to select the best emergency food provisions to have in your pantry backstock.
In these unstable times, when supply chain issues, as well as inflation, appear to be more and more common worldwide, it can be a good idea to create a stash of dietary essentials.
These are our top picks divided into specific categories covering some of the basic foods, herbs, condiments and supplement sources. (Not listed in order of importance.)
1) Category - Herbal Adaptogen
2) Category - Sprouting Seed
3) Category - Grain
4) Category - Superfruit
5) Category - Nuts and Seeds
6) Category - Green Superfood
7) Category - Condiment
8) Category - Oil/Fat
9) Category - Fermented Food
10) Category - Green Herbs
If we were to choose one herbal adaptogen, this would be the Ayurvedic herb known as tulsi or holy basil. Cost-wise the bulk herb is very affordable. When fresh leaves are dried, one pound of tulsi is A LOT of tulsi.
One of the things we really love about holy basil is that it is very easy to grow from seed directly in the ground or as a potted herb. Leaves can be picked fresh or dried for later use. Furthermore, it makes a delicious tasting tea containing botanical compounds that are known for their energizing yet calming influence.
One of the benefits of growing sprouts or microgreens is the large quantity you get from just a small amount of seeds. They make a great backup produce resource if you happen to live in an urban environment, on a sailboat or don't happen to have space for a garden.
While there are many types of sprout varieties, alfalfa sprouting seed is currently the cheapest option. Still highly nutritious and full of enzymatic life-force, fresh alfalfa sprouts can be a great emergency fresh food supply if needed. Pounds of sealed seeds can be stored in a cool dark location and have a very long shelf life.
One of the best grains to purchase in bulk quantities is millet. It is the most inexpensive grain around and a gluten-free variety to boot. Millet is likewise a fast-cooking type and also features many nutritional benefits.
Cooked millet offers attributes as a nourishing digestive healer, bowel regulator, prebiotic food and is a good source of the B vitamins niacin and thiamine.
Our superfruit of choice is amla, also known as amalaki in Ayurveda. It is often consumed as a dried powder and makes a great natural vitamin C supplement mixed into water or blended drinks.
Amalaki is a highly respected top herbal rasayana known to support digestion and cleansing processes. While you can buy pre-ground amla fruit in powdered form, we recommend getting the whole dried brown pieces and grinding them fresh in a high-speed blending device. Powders can be less shelf-stable for long-term storage purposes.
As far as nuts and seeds go, sunflower seeds are still the absolute cheapest variety widely available in bulk quantities.
They are a good source of lecithin, selenium and high in vitamin E. A one-ounce serving (or 3T) of raw sunflower seeds, according to nutrition data, offers about 47% of the daily recommended intake for vitamin E, based on an adult 2,000-calorie diet.
While you can toast them in the oven or air-fryer, we prefer to soak and dehydrate sunflower seeds with seasonings for a crunchy snack or salad topping.
Spirulina is a type of microalgae coined the "Best Food for the Future" because of its excellent capacity at producing high-quality condensed complete protein and essential nutrients more efficiently than most other plant-based food sources. It is one of our top 10 superfoods, containing an average of 4-5 grams of protein per tablespoon.
As an energizing as well as detoxifying source of numerous other phytonutrients, antioxidants, essential vitamins and minerals, spirulina powder is an ideal superfood supplement to have in your emergency food supply. Since you only need a small serving, a pound or two of powder can go a long way nutrition-wise in times of potential food shortages.
Salt is of course one of those essentials that is good to have for seasoning foods. Pink Himalayan salt is a much better alternative to common refined table salt, a chemically isolated sodium chloride we largely recommend avoiding for health reasons.
While both are made up of mostly sodium, pink salt doesn't go through a refining process and therefore contains minerals and trace elements that exist within a unique crystalline form that's easier to efficiently utilize.
While pink salt is frequently available as finely ground salt, mini rock crystals are also commonly sold. These can be ground fresh with ceramic table grinders onto meals or in recipes.
We personally like to stock up on unrefined virgin coconut oil because it will last for many years at cooler temperatures and typically does not go rancid like other unrefined oils. It makes a great medium heat cooking fat and can also be used straight in recipes or blended drinks to add a fatty element.
While we also like a good emergency backup of bulk extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil is a slightly less expensive option. It is naturally high in medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs that are easily digested and utilized as an energy burning fuel source. The unrefined virgin oil is likewise high in antimicrobial MCT known as lauric acid.
Seed cheese is a delicious vegan cultured cheese that can be made from sunflower seeds, one of the cheapest seed varieties previously discussed. The process of fermenting seed-based cheeses involves soaking, straining and blending the seeds with a small amount (1/4t or less per quart jar) of probiotic powder as a starter culture to initially inoculate the ferment.
Seed cheese makes a great plant-based alternative to dairy and similar to when making dairy milk cheese, the whey is drained out allowing the curds to thicken to either a ricotta-type consistency or a firm sliceable cheese. Fermented seed cheese is a great probiotic food beneficial for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
Aromatic green herbs, like thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano, are handy to have growing in your garden for continual harvesting. For those that live in urban settings, they are easy to grow as potted plants on kitchen window sills, porches or balconies.
Buying your own aromatic green herb seed packs or plant starters can be one of the best and most cost-effective ways to keep these prized fragrant botanicals in your daily diet. Not only do they add flavor and aroma to many culinary dishes, but they are also useful for numerous medicinal purposes.