How to Do Vegan on a Budget
The Thrifty Yogi
How to Do Vegan on a Budget
by Laura Miller-Jones
I don’t mind telling you that this is one topic that I am an expert on. My daddy came from the Missouri Ozarks and we grew up dirt poor. He was also the person who turned me into a great cook. It’s funny how less is often more in the creative food preparation process. Sometimes the people with the most available to them eat the worst diet…an opened can or box is fast and easy…not cheap though, and certainly not optimal in nutrition ( and yes, there is such a thing as vegan juck food!). When you are poor you pretty much catch it or grow it. We ate any green we could find…also, cabbages, carrots, corn, tomatoes, green onions, radishes, buckwheat , barley, and peppers. All grew plentifully. We canned and ate a lot of piccalilli relish (green tomatoes and all of the other end of the season garden vegetables), corn relish, and “hallelujah” wild strawberry, blackberry, and gooseberry jam made with honey or sugar, which we traded BL liquor for. We also traded liquor for salt, coffee, flour, lemons, cloth, and other such necessities. My Grand-daddy, my daddy, and my uncles shot squirrel, rabbit, and sometimes deer…when they could hit them (they were mainly bootleggers which explains why they usually couldn’t hit them…that’s another story though!)…We lived along the Mississippi River and it was full of catfish, which is what we usually ate. The squirrel and catfish pretty much explain why I became a vegetarian as soon as I learned to spit things out. Okay, enough about my credentials for budget queen. Let’s talk about how this information can help us to buy what we need to build a nutritious and satisfying vegan diet…cooked. raw, or a combination of both in varying ratios. My diet is about 80% raw to 20% cooked (post-Ali). I had to built up to that ratio though. I used to be about 50%/50% (pre-Ali). I tend to eat more cooked food during the colder months as well. I am pretty working class (school teacher) with a HUGE family. This is how I pull it off. For the sake of simplicity, this article will assume a fully vegan household. If yours is not you can add things (cheese, chicken, etc. ) to the basic vegan dish to satisfy each diet preference. There are a ton of vegan websites that offer fabulous vegan/ vegan raw recipes that your whole family will enjoy. Try looking on “Pinterest” for fantastic recipes ideas. If you are raw vegan, it’s all about the dips and sauces…when you find some you like you can start makinbg up your own using the basics you’ve learned. I usually start with a tofunaisse base and add on. I learned from Ali how to replace the nuts and oils with sprouted tofu, frozen peas, lightly steamed carrots, tomatoes, etc. to get a creamy dip without the fat. A few sunflower seeds thrown in will add a lot of taste for a little fat and not a lot of $.
Good news!!!… summer is the CHEAPEST time of year to eat raw. In the summer, there is a ton of fresh produce. Most of the produce that’s grown is harvested during the summer. This means the supply seriously increases and the prices seriously decrease to the lowest prices you will find in the year. This makes summer the perfect time eat up raw fruits and vegetables in your fabulous vegan, diet for health, and long life diet! In the colder months you can eat the lower priced winter produce (check out the best produce buys by month below!!! …Fabulous!) like cabbage, carrots, yams and sweet potatoes, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, kale, and frozen peas and corn, tomatoes, and other produce you bought in bulk over the summer for freezing (don’t forget this)! Then, to fill the diet out and to fill you up, you can add brown rice (rice is the least expensive grain), barley, oats, and beans. If you want to stay raw you can sprout the grains and beans , and soak the oats overnight for a raw porridge in the morning.
The following is a list of the least expensive fruits and vegetables by month. Copy this list out…you are going to love me for this list!
broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas, tangelos, tangerines, turnips
broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas, tangelos, turnips
artichokes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, pineapples, radishes, rutabagas, turnips
artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, pineapples, radishes, rhubarb, peas
apricots, artichokes, asparagus, cherries, lettuce, mangoes, okra, pineapples, radishes, rhubarb, peas, strawberries, swiss chard, zucchini
apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, corn, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, peaches, strawberries, swiss chard, watermelon, zucchini
apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, green beans, kiwi, kohlrabi, lettuce, mangoes, okra, peaches, peppers plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini
acorn squash, apples, apricots, blueberries, butternut squash, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, figs, green beans, kiwi, kohlrabi, lettuce, mangoes, okra, peaches, peppers plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, winter squash, zucchini
Shopping at the Farmer’s Market
Most small farmers use organic growing methods which mean you often get the healthiest product at the Farmer’s Market….and they don’t travel far so you also get it fresher and faster. If you like to eat good food, the farmers market is the place for you. There’s nothing yummier than fruits picked when ripe from the trees which are also higher in nutrients. Also important to note is that when you shop at the farmer’s markets you support small local farmers.
Local farmers markets are not always less expensive than the stores. The best time of year to find farmer’s market bargains is during the spring and summer. But while they often not less expensive, they are competitively priced, and far fresher.
You can look on-line for farmer’s markets in your area. ***If you shop farmer’s markets later in the day right before the market closes, you can get the best discounts. Since most vendors don’t want to take home their products, they’re more willing to wheel and deal with you…they will often sell even cheaper if you are willing to take a larger quantity off their hands….great for canning, making jam with, and freezing for winter months!
Beans and Grains
The least expensive beans, grains and legumes are rice, oats, beans, peas, and lentils. If they are purchased in bulk the price comes down even more. If these are stored in a cool, dry place you can bulk buy enough to last you for an entire year. Before you begin, you will need to determine what your needs will be and then make a shopping list. Look into restaurant supply stores like Smart and Final. Some of these stores may be open to the public and may allow you to buy large quantities of an item for less than it would cost you in a grocery store, without requiring a membership to a bulk shopping club. Check your phone book or look on-line to see if such a store is available in your area. Remember to call first and find out if they are open to the public and if they have a minimum quantity purchase requirement.
Sam’s Club and Costco (these type stores require a membership fee of about $100.00 a year…make sure to consider this in your cost/ savings decision) have fifty pound sacks of rice for about $25 and fifty pound sacks of Pinto beans for about $12.50. Wal-Mart often has excellent prices and also a section in which they sell larger quantities of items, which may be a better value. In addition, when an item goes on sale for a very cheap price, consider purchasing large quantities of that item. Walmart often carries larger size bulk foods (5-10 pound bags) for really great prices. Make sure these bulk foods are stored in airtight containers to deter insects and to keep moisture out. Always rotate your stock. It isn’t useful to buy staples in bulk if they’ve gone stale, you can’t find them, or don’t use them (sorry for stating the obvious :/) . Have an organized system so you know what you have, and make sure to use up older items first before using new ones so nothing expires. The initial shopping and preparation is a bit time consuming but you’ll be set for the year and will then only need to take care of fresh food shopping.
Good Luck fellow yogis!!! You can do this…you health is worth it!!! (Remember the heart chakra rule…be kind to yourself!) Live a healthy life.
With love and fruit stains on our mouths!!! … xoxox, Laura
I also recommend buying by the case from a farmer you create a connection with. I have been getting 25 lb cases of organic grapes, apples and oranges from an organic farmer at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market for a few years now and it comes down to a very reasonable price for a really high quality fresh produce.
Another idea is to start going to the Wholesale Produce Market with a friend and buying bulk produce. I go to the Wholesale Produce Market in Downtown LA and I get some of my groceries there.
Always shop seasonal and if you are on a low budget make rice, millet, bananas and potatoes the main source of calories in your diet. Love and Blessings