Healthy Shopping List on a Student Budget

I believe the true healthy eating is accomplished when it becomes the habit. To build the good habit, it is the best starting at early age. So I believe it is very important for children to be a part of meal preparation; not just healthy cooking, but also healthy shopping, and if possible, growing the food. This early ingraining of healthy habits really help to continue support the wellness even when they leave home — like university/collage time.

salad-dish-1366992-mFor students to eat healthy, they need to know how to cook, but also essentially what to buy in their budget! So here is a guide to help the students, but also can be for anyone, to have healthy food shopping according to own budgets!

This is also an honest, but helpful tips on “How to Eat Healthy” by York University Student on TED >> Click to watch the Video

General Guide:

  • Vegetables are your friends! It is low in cost and high in nutrients
  • Instead of buying frozen food or vegetables, freeze them by yourself (left over can be frozen in one portion, vegetables in season/ or on specials can be bought and steamed to freeze, berries can be freeze directly)
  • Check before heading to the cashier, do you have a colourful shopping basket? — Try to have at least 4 different colours in your shopping basket (green, yellow, red, and orange etc).
  • Whenever possible, chose organic, locally grown food in season especially for fruits, meat, and dairy. — Make a habit of  choose at least one item in organic etc.
  • Go to shopping when you are not hungry or with high cravings – This really helps not to choose fast, ready-made food, junk foods, or other unhealthy food
  • Read the ingredients: Buy the products with foods in ingredients. — “If you cannot pronounce the name of ingredients, then don’t buy them!”

Recommended Guide (underlined ones are especially budget friendly and high in nutrition):

Fresh Vegetables
Dark Green (Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard, Romaine, Collards etc)

Green (Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Green Bell Peppers, Asparagus, Avocado, Cabbage, Celery, Green Beans etc)
Dark Orange/Yellow (Butternut & Acorn Squash, Zucchini, Carrots, Pumpkins, Sweet Potatoes)
Red (Tomatoes, Red Peppers, Beets,)
Starchy (Potatoes, Corn)

Fresh Whole Fruit (Apple, Orange, Pear, Banana, Grape, Pineapple, Mango, Papaya, Kiwi, Melon, Lemon etc)
Berries (Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries etc)

Whole Wheat Bread, Tortillas etc
Brown Rice
Whole Wheat Pasta, Couscous
Millet – millet is much cheaper than quinoa, and you can substitute millet for most of quinoa recipe!

Fresh or Frozen meat
Bones, Organ Meat (Liver, Kidney etc) – learn how to make the gourmet pâté, bone soup etc, these are actually quite exciting food items!
Fresh or Canned Fish
Dairy – Eggs are especially versatile and budget friendly protein
Dried or Canned Beans & Lentils – recommend to cook dried beans in a large quantity,  and freeze them.

Healthy Fats & Oils
Nut Butter without sugar
Nuts & Seeds (Cashews, Pistachios, Walnuts, Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds etc)
Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Butter – for cooling, for salad etc

Fresh or dried herbs (you can also grow your own!)
Apple Cider Vinegar – if you have this and oil, no need of salad dressings!
Condiments: try to make your own as much as you can also read the label

Soffritto – An Instant Aromatic Soup Stock

I learned Soffritto from a Japanese chef, who are trained in Italian Food (her blog, Chisa’s Pastry, in Japanese). Ever since she told me how to make soffritto, this has been my favourite thing to use for soups. Soffritto is a sauteed aromatic vegetables originated in Italian cuisine (and similar things exist in many European cuisine with different name). It can be used as a base of a variety of meal such like soup, stew, source, and casserol.

home-cooking-765656-mWhile she taught me the traditional style, I tend to add a few more aromatic vegetables to give extra taste and nutrients. So in this recipe, I will write the traditional recipe and also my extra vegetable version.

As I mentioned, I like using soffritto for the base of the soup instead of vegetable stock especially when I am making vegetarian or vegan soup. It gives gentle sweetness and delicate yet rich taste that you cannot achieve with regular vegetable stock. A great tip for soffritto is always make it in a large quantity, and freeze in smaller portion for using it later. When you have this in freezer, it makes your dish to be flavourful instantly!

If you have a food processor, then soffritto is so easy to make!

Ingredients for the Basic Soffritto (for 4 servings of Soup)

  • 2 medium Onion
  • 2 stalks Celery
  • 1 large Carrot
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Sea salt and pepper

Direction: chop all the vegetables finely or use food processor to make them into fine pieces (finer pieces are much easier to use for sauce). In a pan, place the olive oil and add all the vegetables, salt and pepper and gently saute in low medium heat. Cover the top to help the vegetables not to dry out, mix occasionally  and continue saute until all are soft, melting, golden colour. (note: Try not to brown the vegetables)

Extra Vegetable Soffritto (for 4 servings of Soup)

  • 1 medium Onion
  • 1 stalk of Celery
  • 1 medium Carrot
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 2 leaves of Cabbage
  • a handful Parsley
  • 1/2 medium Parsnip
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Sea salt and pepper

Direction is same as above.

When you use soffritto, you can simply use this as a replacement of any “onion” in the ingredients (such like for soup, pasta sauce, risotto, chili, etc). Check my Rhubarb “Tomato” Sauce for one idea of using soffritto.

Sandwich Ideas for Busy People

September has started! This fall, I hope you to try not to say “busy” as an excuse of healthy eating including your daily lunches! 

Here are some ideas of easy, tasty sandwiches with healthy ingredients. Sandwich is one of the easiest items that you can bring to office or school, and it can be prepared quickly in a morning! Especially these recipes below does not need to use oven; just cut, spread and put them together! It may be faster than waiting on the long line at the “fast food” restaurant at lunch time. You will surprise how much money you save on your lunch too! 

This recipe is for busy people who do not cook often. So we will utilize the premade condiments such as pesto and olive tapenade. To make it even healthier, have fun with making your own condiments on weekend, too!

Some tips for making the sandwich relatively fast yet healthy are:

  1. Use “heavy” bread like multi-grain, rye, or whole-wheat bread, and not fluffy one: get the one with a lot of nuts and seeds so the bread itself is packed with nutrients and fiber, yet low in glycemic index. Gluten free bread and wrap are also good alternatives. 
  2. Check the ingredients on your condiments well: try to get the freshly made condiments, and the one with as little synthetic ingredients as possible! Especially avoid on high fructose corn syrup, monosodim glutamate and food colourings.
  3. Use the left over dinner well: if you are cooking chicken, grilled vegetables, or guacamole for dinner, then cook a little extra! Many things can be changed into a nice sandwich!
  4. Do your shopping wisely & widely: on a weekend, you can do a fun trip to the farmer’s market, local bakery, and local deli to get fresh homemade products. Even if you buy a high end products, most likely you will save money by not buying lunch everyday!
  5. Bring additional veggie sticks: veggie sticks are easy to prepare and can add extra nutrients to your lunch. Bring them with your favourite hummus, nut butter, etc

I will introduce 5-day worth of sandwiches. The ingredients are listed in the order from the bottom to top.

Day 1: “Triple A” Sandwich (Avocado+Alfalfa+Anchovy fillet)

Ingredients: bread + pesto (spread on the bottom part of bread) + avocado (sliced) + tomato (sliced) + anchovy fillet (one is usually enough)+ alfalfa + bread

Day 2: Goat cheese, Beets, and Arugula Sandwich

Ingredients: bread (bread with walnuts would be a good choice with this sandwich) + goat cheese (chèvre type, spread on the bottom part of bread) + *pickled beets (sliced) + arugula + baby spinach + sprouts (sunflower, alfalfa etc) + olive tapenade (spread on the top part of bread) + bread

*note: roasted beets would be ideal, but if you don’t have the time to make one day before or on weekend, then use the pickled beets instead.

Day 3: Smoked Salmon Sandwich

Ingredients: bread (German rye bread would be a good choice with this sandwich)+ tzatziki (spread on the bottom part of bread) + cucumber (sliced) + avocado (sliced) + smoked salmon + sprouts + fresh dill + tzatziki (spread on the top part of bread) + bread

Day 4: Pâté and Avocado Sandwich

Ingredients: bread + pâté (spread on the bottom part of bread) + cucumber + avocado + alfalfa + fresh coriander + graded carrot + pâté (spread on the top part of bread) + bread

Day 5: Mediterranean Style Sandwich

Ingredients: bread + hummus (spread on the bottom part of bread) + **roasted peppers + sun-dried tomato + baby spinach + baba ghanoush (spread on the top part of bread) + bread

**note: roasted peppers can be bought in a jar, or you can use left over grilled vegetables!


Simple Canning Method

A few years back, I learned how to make traditional Italian tomato source from 92 years old Italian neighbour of mine. She also taught me a simple way to can the sauce with using an oven. Now around this time of the year, we make a pot full of tomato source from our own garden tomatoes and canning them for the winter.  Today I am going to share you this simple and easy canning method. I found this method to be much safer and much easier then using boiling water.

Hope you can start enjoying the local food all year by canning by your own!

What you need:

  • Clean glass jars and lids
  • Oven, preheat at 200F
  • Cooking gloves
  • Things to be canned (has to be still hot)
  • Labels


  1. In a preheated oven, place empty, clean glass jars (without lids) for 20-30 minutes. Check the jars, in a beginning the jar may fog a bit, but as you continue heat them up, it will become all clear, and when it is all clear, then it is ready to use.
  2. Take out a jar with cooking glove on, and put the things you want to can inside the jar and close the lid tightly. Put back the jar in the oven (temperature is still at 200F)
  3. When you finish canning all of the jars and put them back inside the oven, turn the oven to “OFF”. Let it cool by itself for a several hours (or over night). Because of this temperature change, it creates a vacuum, and lids are now tightly sealed.
  4. Label them with contents, dates it was made etc and keep them in cooler place until you use them!

Oven heat (dry heat) can be also used as a sterilization for the glass wear. To kill the most resistant organisms, make sure to heat the glasses for 60 min.

Note: you do not need to use a canning method for fermented food.

Traditional Kelp Soup Stock

I think one of the nutritious food items that is so hard to introduce in Canadian daily meal is KELP (Kombu in Japanese). Here in Toronto is especially so faraway from the ocean, that smell of “sea” is somewhat foreign to people.

Making a soup stock is one idea of using kelp in quite paritable way! The bonus is it is super simple!  

This is a traditional way of taking soup stock from kelp in Japan. We use this in any type of soup, hot-pot, and cook with vegetables (nimono). When you mix this stock in soup (such as miso soup, chicken noodle, stew etc),  you will hardly know there is kelp in it. So I think this would be a good way to introduce kelp to children, too!

Kelp Soup Stock 1 (cold-water extracted)


  • Dried kelp, about 4′ x 8′ (about 30g) 
  • Filtered water, 1L
Wipe the surface of kelp with a dry cloth to clean (never wash it!). Put kelp in water and extract it for 10-12 hours. Take kelp out and use the soup stock. You can also eat or cook this kelp!
In Japanese home, we usually prepare the stock in the morning to use it for dinner, or just prepare it overnight. Kelp is also an alkalizing food because of its rich mineral contents, so it is recommended to drink a glass of this stock first thing in a morning!


Kelp Soup Stock 2 (hot-water extracted)


  • Dried kelp, about 4′ x 8′ (about 30g) 
  • Filtered water, 1L
This is a quicker way of taking broth. Wipe the surface of kelp with a dry cloth to clean (never wash it!). In a large pot, put kelp and water and soak for 30 min. Place this pot on medium heat, slowly bring it to boil, and just before boiling, take kelp out of soup stock. Again, you can also eat or cook this kelp!
You can also add dried Shiitake mushroom in the soup to add more flavour + nutrient (Shiitake is a great immune enhancer). You can add 5 dried Shiitake mushroom in a large pot with kelp and water for soaking 30 min. Place this pot on medium heat, slowly bring it to boil, and just before boiling, take kelp out of soup stock but leave the Shiitake mushroom in the stock. Reduce the heat to low-medium, simmer for another 30 min.
Here is a little highlight for the benefit of Kelp
  • good source of minerals including: iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium, boron, and iron (important for healthy thyroid gland and bone)
  • Good source of vitamins including: b vitamins, vitaminC and E
  • Cancer prevention: has ability to induce apoptoses (cell death) in cancer cells
  • Remove radioactive substances: Sodium alginate in kelp (as well as in other seaweeds) reduce absorption of radioactive strontium by the intestine.
  • Anti-inflammatory: kelp contains fucoidan, a powerful anti-inflammatory

Spring Sprouts: Kitchen Garden

Spring is just around the corner!

Spring is an exciting time for the gardeners and I hope you to experience that this spring through growing and harvesting your own sprouts!

As you may heard about, the health benefit of sprouts is more than just amazing. Sprouts are considered as a “living” foods or biogenic (in Greek, life generating) foods. Because the sprouts need a full nutrients and energies to grow, the nutrients in sprouts are anywhere 50 to 400% greater than nuts and seeds and sprouts contain higher quality of protein. Also sprouts have a rich supply of enzymes; thus easy to digest, assimilated, and metabolized by the body!

Last year, I did a week project with kids for them to create own sprout garden in a jar. They rinse the sprouts everyday, watch them grow, and we created a big salad to nourish us in the end. I believe making your own sprout is a wholesome, joyous activity for the spring!

Sprouting in a Jar

You will need:

  • wide mouth glass jar
  • cheesecloth to cover the top of the jar
  • rubber band
  • uncooked nuts, seeds, and/or legumes (wheat, rye, mung beans, aduki beans, sunflower seeds, fenugreek, alfalfa etc)
  • clean water
  1. In a clean glass jar, put any of the single or mix of nuts, seeds and/or legumes (please note sprouts becomes 4-5 times bigger, so leave the enough space for sprouts to grow in a jar). Add enough clean water to cover the seeds and soak for one day.
  2. Cover the top of the jar with cheesecloth and fasten with a rubber band, place in a darker place (by placing the seeds in darker place, it mimics the seeds growing in a soil, and this process maximize the biogenic energy).
  3. Next morning, discard the water in a jar through the cheesecloth, and rinse with fresh clean water few times to make sure get rid of all the phytates (natural insecticide that is on the skin of seeds) in the first soaking water. After the first day, the seeds do not need to be soaked in a water, but just a little amount of water through rinsing is enough to grow. So after a few good rinse, just place the jar back in the darker place.
  4. At night, rinse the seeds 2 times, and place the jar back in the darker place.
  5. Next morning and night continue rinsing 2 times and place the jar back in the darker place.
  6. You will be able to eat sprouts anywhere in 4 days to a week. It is best to eat sprouts on the day they are ready, but you can also store them in a fridge if needed.

“Nothing is so rewarding, so tremendously beneficial in relation to the small amount of effort required, as the sprouting…requiring only a simple rinse morning and night…”–The Essene Way Biogenic Living

Using this space, I want to thank my sprouting teacher, Paul Hall!

Recommended further reading on sprouting:

Herbs for Chicken Soup

I was making a chicken soup today, and thought it’ll be great to share some of the herbs you can add in your chicken soup (or any food, of cause) which can help you fighting a cold! I will list by its actions:

  • Antiviral: onion, garlic, ginger, thyme, summer savory, oregano, cinnamon, licorice, turmeric, sage
  • Antibacterial: garlic, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric
  • Sore throat: sage, thyme, ginger
  • Stuffy nose: thyme, coriander, rosemary, garlic, fenugreek, licorice
  • Improve immune system: ginger, licorice, oregano, rosemary, shiitake mushroom
  • Cough: cayenne, ginger, fennel, anise, cardamon (spasmodic cough)
  • Chills: ginger, cayenne

As you can see, your kitchen herbs are quite a wonderful medicine! I recommend you to try tasting the herbs a bit, and learn the taste, so you can start to imagine what food it may go well together. Enjoy cooking!

Note: there are more herbs that are indicated to specific symptoms. It is always better to get some professional advise.