Okay, my friends, I'm going to attempt to start blogging again about frugal eats like I did in April. We've got to start getting ready for a big trip to see my family in Seattle, and the prospect of buying four plane tickets is making me a little woozy. (All this saving and not too much spending is making that dollar amount look pretty wicked.) To make myself feel a little better, and to attempt to remind people that healthy eating is not all that expensive if you put forth a little effort, my frugal eats series is going to be up in full force over the next couple of months. I won't write articles on cheap eats every day, mind you, but I am thinking about it. (And most of my recipes are going to be relatively budget-friendly.)
To start out with, let's talk about kelp noodles. I've seen them marketed as kelp and sea tangle noodles, depending on the source, but they're both basically the same thing--raw (or lightly processed) peeled kelp and sodium alginate (which is a seaweed derivative). Lately I have noticed in reading more paleo-, primal-, and raw vegan-friendly blogs is that these "noodles" are pretty popular. And I've also noticed that if you shop at Wegmans or Whole Foods exclusively they can get pretty wickedly expensive. Sorry, but I'll pass if a package costs me $4-6. (I don't need noodles that much.)
Enter my local international market. (To the rescue--again!) After finding out that kelp noodles are fairly common in Korean markets, I headed over to Global Food to check out the Asian section of the refrigerator case. Bingo. I found several brands of kelp noodles, all for under $2.50. I picked out the least expensive--12 oz for $1.49--and took a package home with me.
Straight out of the package, kelp noodles have a bit of the texture of a raw cucumber. Slightly toothsome and relatively bland, but refreshing. I was a little concerned about the texture, to be honest, as it was a little crunchy for my taste in noodles. However, after I tossed the noodles with a Thai curry still in the skillet and warmed them slightly in the sauce, the kelp softened just enough to become a really delicious addition to our meal. (This is especially helpful considering all grains are out for now.) Since that first experiment I've used them mostly in Asian-inspired cooking, and have not once been disappointed.
Moral of the story--as ever--is to shop smartly. Most interesting things you can get somewhere like Whole Foods can be found elsewhere for a good deal less money, and often at similar quality. (Word to the wise on this one--do not order on Amazon. I haven't found inexpensive kelp noodles there, and really--compared to the $1.50/package at the international grocery I wouldn't expect to find anything near that price.)
PS: Have you entered the great cookbook giveaway of 2011 yet? You only have a few more days!