Is An Bord Snip pointing its scissors at you? If so, nothing will keep those blades at bay more effectively than looking and feeling fabulous. No cash? Why not invest your last pennies in the kind of human energy fortunes are made of? Life force lurks in the lowliest of lentils and when you are feeling vibrant, you'll be ready for anything Snip – or other performance artists – may care to fling at you. It is possible to eat cheaply and well when the wolf is howling at your door. He may even start to drool at the fragrant aromas emanating from your kitchen. Savvy shopping and making meals from scratch are magical keys. So is selecting food from lower down the food chain where the grub is cheaper but more nutritious. And vegetables don't scream. I find my local weekend farmers' market an excellent hunting ground for organically grown produce. Being lazy, I usually don't make it down there until mid-to-late afternoon, when I am frequently rewarded for my indolence by knock-down special offers on lonely fruit and veg that have yet to find a good home. I also find the smaller, family-run stalls wonderful for cheap, freshly-picked, locally-grown greens and herbs sold with a smile. 🙂 On days when money is running out and fresh is more important to me than organic, I can be found idling on Moore Street, soaking up tradition and five peppers for a Euro, luv. I just scrub the produce very well using Veggi Wash and eat it raw, or as close to raw as possible, to preserve what nutritional value exists, as over-cooking depletes energising vitamins and enzymes from even the most beautiful organically grown produce. If you have a favourite local health food shop (and you do, don't you?!) there are lots of health-enhancing bargains to be found there. Lentils, beans, grains, nuts and seeds provide great quality protein and, laced with herbs and spices, make wonderfully tasty dishes for very little outlay. Traditional cuisines worldwide rely on these staples. Play with Indian, Middle Eastern, North African, South American, and other plant-based recipes and you'll never be bored. Pulses, grains and seeds can also be sprouted to create nutritional dynamos fairly bursting with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and life-force. Start adding raw sprouted foods to your salads, sandwiches, soups and smoothies and feel your energy levels soar into the stratosphere. The Hopsack sells a wide variety of sprouts to suit every palate. I prefer leafy sprouts, such as alfalfa, broccoli and micro greens; other people enjoy spicy lentil mixes and beansprouts. If you discover which ones you like, you can then grow your own for pennies, either from dedicated seed mixes like the BioSnacky range, or from the same beans, whole lentils, grains and seeds you cook with. BioSnacky also sell germinators to make the job a little easier. A dessertspoon of seeds yields about a jar of sprouts, so they are ultra-economical. Do go organic when sprouting, though; organic grains, pulses and seeds are not much dearer but they grow better and are a lot more nutritious. Please ask the nice Hopsackers for advice on how to sprout and never, ever sprout kidney beans. They are poisonous raw. Gluten-free products can often be pricey but I've discovered a few things in The Hopsack to fill a gluten-free eater's day with sunshine. Doves Farm gluten-free cookies in Lemon or Hazelnut (with a hint of orange) are a delectable treat at â¬2.49 a packet, and even cheaper are Doves Farm gluten-free flours. A 1kg bag of white flour will set you back â¬2.85 – and how many bikkies are contained therein…? A bag of brown bread flour costs â¬3.15 and will definitely stretch to two, hot, freshly-baked loaves. (Wolfie is salivating now…) And if you have no problem with gluten, the shop also sells a wide range of wheat, spelt and other flours to service your baking talent! One more thing. If you haven't yet tasted The Hopsack's own-brand peanut butter you have been born to endless night. Freshly ground in the shop from aflatoxin-tested, air-roasted peanuts, it costs â¬1.59 a jar and is the Best Peanut Butter in the World (take it from a hard taskmistress!). Although it is salt-free and contains no added oil, it is rich, buttery, creamy and crunchy and once eaten is never forgotten. When you become addicted, simply bring your own (larger!) jar down to the shop and get it refilled on the cheap. I've realised there are so many great value products in The Hopsack that I can't fit them all in! So I've decided to revisit this topic in my next blog. In the meantime, the most priceless (in both senses of the word!) thing the Hopsack lovelies have to offer you is good advice. And that is yours for the taking any time you like! Did you know? Another cheapo product, blackstrap molasses, can help reverse grey hair in some people. Meridian Organic Blackstrap Molasses (unsulphured) costs â¬1.49 for a 350g jar.