Vegan on a budget!

Forest Nymph

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I'm a full-time college student right now and while I've been enjoying myself lately, the truth is I want to save some money so I can spend a week in Berkeley for the Direct Action Everywhere conference after the semester ends, plus my normal summer transition needs.

So....I already know how to do things like make deodorant and toothpaste, to save money that way.

HOWEVER - this is the crazy part - I want to try to get my food budget to $25 a week. I've done things like this before but not for months on end. That's what makes it crazy, not doing it for a week or two, but doing it for four months...

SO I need help, friends, in planning groceries and menus so that I'm not eating the same exact thing every week. The surest way to blow a food budget is to feel starved or bored.

If anyone can provide insight in how to make this easier, let me know!
 

amberfunk

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For starters I'll suggest this website https://www.budgetbytes.com/ . She does have a vegan section and the vegetarian section is easily made vegan. She does most of her recipes for only a few dollars. If you have an aldi by you that's where to get your milk from if you drink it. When I'm saving money on food I'll buy mostly beans, rice, pasta and veggies. I make everything myself from scratch most of the time to save money though it is time consuming. Frozen veggies are sometimes cheaper than fresh veggies. Buy what's in season as it's usually cheaper. A quick look online will give you a table for what's in season. Tofu is generally cheap and pretty filling and so versatile. I eat half a block in one sitting by myself so one package lasts for two meals. A bag of vital wheat gluten (to make seitan) is around $5 but will last for two to three weeks depending on how often you use it and it's very filling.

Before you actually go to the store try to get an idea of what you want to eat. Look at the local sales ads and see if anything is on sale. Plan your route of shopping and bring a list so you don't have to go out again and get something you forgot. Also never go shopping hungry. You'll wind up buying more than is needed.

Here's some cheap recipes that are filling:

Red beans and rice. A really good recipe will take a couple of hours but you can cut it down by soaking the kidney beans over night or longer. Add the beans to a pot along with chopped green pepper, chopped onion, creole seasoning (or some cayenne if you like it hot if not leave them out), garlic powder, paprika and some vegetable stock. Boil it for an hour (roiling boil) add water in as needed. Then simmer it for at least another hour to an hour and a half. Mash the beans with a hand masher as you go. Serve on top of cooked rice. This will last a few meals. If you don't have that much time you can always buy canned kidney beans, rinse them and cook them with the pepper, onion and spices for half an hour.

Scalloped potatoes. Slice some potatoes put them in a baking dish and set the oven for 425. In a bowl add some almond milk (or whatever you prefer just make sure there's no vanilla), nutritional yeast, thyme, garlic powder, paprika and mix it all up. Pour some olive oil (or grapeseed) over the potatoes and then the mixture. Feel free to top with more seasoning. Bake for about 30 minutes covered and then 15 uncovered to brown the top. Makes enough for two to three servings depending on how many potatoes you use.

Rice bowls. Add a bunch of cooked veggies on top and some tofu or cooked beans. Use soy sauce, stir fry sauce or some seasonings if so inclined. It's a quick and filling meal if you make the beans before hand ( if using dry which is cheaper).

I can of course offer more recipes if needed. I have a bunch of budget friendly meals on the brain. Just let me know.
 
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Forest Nymph

Forest Nymph

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For starters I'll suggest this website https://www.budgetbytes.com/ . She does have a vegan section and the vegetarian section is easily made vegan. She does most of her recipes for only a few dollars. If you have an aldi by you that's where to get your milk from if you drink it. When I'm saving money on food I'll buy mostly beans, rice, pasta and veggies. I make everything myself from scratch most of the time to save money though it is time consuming. Frozen veggies are sometimes cheaper than fresh veggies. Buy what's in season as it's usually cheaper. A quick look online will give you a table for what's in season. Tofu is generally cheap and pretty filling and so versatile. I eat half a block in one sitting by myself so one package lasts for two meals. A bag of vital wheat gluten (to make seitan) is around $5 but will last for two to three weeks depending on how often you use it and it's very filling.

Before you actually go to the store try to get an idea of what you want to eat. Look at the local sales ads and see if anything is on sale. Plan your route of shopping and bring a list so you don't have to go out again and get something you forgot. Also never go shopping hungry. You'll wind up buying more than is needed.

Here's some cheap recipes that are filling:

Red beans and rice. A really good recipe will take a couple of hours but you can cut it down by soaking the kidney beans over night or longer. Add the beans to a pot along with chopped green pepper, chopped onion, creole seasoning (or some cayenne if you like it hot if not leave them out), garlic powder, paprika and some vegetable stock. Boil it for an hour (roiling boil) add water in as needed. Then simmer it for at least another hour to an hour and a half. Mash the beans with a hand masher as you go. Serve on top of cooked rice. This will last a few meals. If you don't have that much time you can always buy canned kidney beans, rinse them and cook them with the pepper, onion and spices for half an hour.

Scalloped potatoes. Slice some potatoes put them in a baking dish and set the oven for 425. In a bowl add some almond milk (or whatever you prefer just make sure there's no vanilla), nutritional yeast, thyme, garlic powder, paprika and mix it all up. Pour some olive oil (or grapeseed) over the potatoes and then the mixture. Feel free to top with more seasoning. Bake for about 30 minutes covered and then 15 uncovered to brown the top. Makes enough for two to three servings depending on how many potatoes you use.

Rice bowls. Add a bunch of cooked veggies on top and some tofu or cooked beans. Use soy sauce, stir fry sauce or some seasonings if so inclined. It's a quick and filling meal if you make the beans before hand ( if using dry which is cheaper).

I can of course offer more recipes if needed. I have a bunch of budget friendly meals on the brain. Just let me know.

Thank you so much! I'm really happy about the red beans and rice and the scalloped potatoes! I think what I'm going to do now while I'm still "spending" is stock up on spices and things like tahini, so I have base ingredients to make cheap meals in the long term (like you mentioned with vital wheat gluten, tahini is also a pricey investment but worth it in the long term) ...

Please list any great recipes you have. I found these helpful and inspiring. :)
 

amberfunk

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Thank you. I'm glad you like them. Here's a couple more for you.

Garlicly lentils and greens. (original recipe was with rapini but it's usually on the expensive side and greens are cheaper) Cook some onion in oil (or earth balance) until softened (you can use fresh garlic if you have the extra money for it or just use powered). Add in the garlic powder and green lentils. Add in some vegetable broth until the lentils are just covered and simmer until the broth is gone. Add some more broth and cook until tender. Then add in tomato paste, more broth if needed and greens (i like the bitterness of mustard greens with this, gives it a great taste combo).

Spagghetti with garbanzo bean balls. Drain and rinse a can of garbanzo beans. Put them in a bowl and mash them as much as you can. Season with oregano, basil, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. Mix with italian breadcrumbs and one flax egg. Add some broth to the mix just enough to get it to stick together in ball form (i use beefless bouillon cubes). Bake them in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes until a little brown on the outside. Make your sauce with crushed tomato sauce, spices as used with the balls, (you can sautee some onion and green pepper in the pot before you add the tomato sauce for extra flavor). Make your pasta. Put the balls in the sauce when browned. Serve with nutritional yeast on top.
 
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Samshine

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I spend around $25 (just under £20 to me). I bulk cook and freeze portions of food!

Each week I'll batch make either veggie/lentil soup, veggie curry with chickpeas etc. Eat on day of making, put a portion in the fridge for the next day, and freeze the remaining couple portions for later in the week/next week.

For lunch I'll have a sandwich or pasta (batch cook a couple days at a time) chucking in everything from veg/beans/etc.

Breakfast is normally a smoothie or eating the fruit as is. Sometimes toast and nut butter.

Fav smoothie: banana, bit of coconut milk, coco powder, topped up with ice. Like a chocolate milkshake! I add hemp seed powder etc for some extra goodness.

Snack on fruit/veggies. Add in one or two treats each week like humus, flapjacks etc.

Always buy a couple packs of biscuits to have with a cup of tea in the evening :)

For me the key to keeping cost down is buying tonnes of veg, a couple types of fruit, bread, and then replenishing cupboard items as required. E.g. pasta one week, need lentils the next etc. So long as you have spices you can keep things exciting. I treat myself a bit at the weekend spending a longer in the kitchen and being creative, but rarely eat out and make good use of my freezer to minimise waste.

Its also time effective, which is a huge bonus for me!

If I get bored of the prepped meals I'll make something else out of the left over veg and cupboard items, and its no waste as my prepped meal can go in the freezer and it adds variety to my next week.

Hope that helps!
 
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hopeful

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Homemade bread is extra delicious and inexpensive. Peanut butter makes a nice, inexpensive, but pretty healthy toping. Not so novel, but I thought I would add it in.

Also, using scraps of veggies for a soup broth base.
 
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hopeful

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Windrose, that's funny! I should change it to a hopeful mood!

I hadn't thought of using overripe tomatoes for vegetable stock, but I bet it would be good! :)
 
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mikek

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I'm a full-time college student right now and while I've been enjoying myself lately, the truth is I want to save some money so I can spend a week in Berkeley for the Direct Action Everywhere conference after the semester ends, plus my normal summer transition needs.

So....I already know how to do things like make deodorant and toothpaste, to save money that way.

HOWEVER - this is the crazy part - I want to try to get my food budget to $25 a week. I've done things like this before but not for months on end. That's what makes it crazy, not doing it for a week or two, but doing it for four months...

SO I need help, friends, in planning groceries and menus so that I'm not eating the same exact thing every week. The surest way to blow a food budget is to feel starved or bored.

If anyone can provide insight in how to make this easier, let me know!

for the saving money part - grow your own veg?
i've just got back into doing it recently. last year i bought no veg from April to November.
 
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Forest Nymph

Forest Nymph

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for the saving money part - grow your own veg?
i've just got back into doing it recently. last year i bought no veg from April to November.

That's a fantastic idea but I'm a full time college student who lives in a campus apartment for older students. No place to grow anything lol. I live near the community forest but I don't know that it's ideal for sneaking around and planting vegetables.

I need to get serious about only buying from the bulk bins at the grocery store or co-op with my own containers, plus things like jars of peanut butter and bags of plain ramen. There's also a local tofu shop that makes delicious tofu.

My problem is my habits. I became vegan while living in Los Angeles and working full-time. I'm used to eating mostly whatever I want. As a college student that's a terrible strategy if I want money for anything else, or if I don't want to starve for a few weeks in the future.
 
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Forest Nymph

Forest Nymph

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Homemade bread is extra delicious and inexpensive. Peanut butter makes a nice, inexpensive, but pretty healthy toping. Not so novel, but I thought I would add it in.

Also, using scraps of veggies for a soup broth base.

PB is my best friend, other than nooch, avocados and Sriracha. I put PB in oatmeal, and make a savory ramen dish with a sauce of peanut butter, lime juice, liquid aminos or soy sauce, and said Sriracha. I've never made homemade bread. I'm so used to buying Ezekiel bread which costs five dollars a loaf. It's delicious and healthy but much more pricey than making rice or noodles.
 
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Forest Nymph

Forest Nymph

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Hopeful , l was checking out your Imoge and find it funny you have "no mood" posted..Hopeful?
BTW l save all end cuts of veggies and scraps and boil them down to make vegetable stock...even over ripe tomatoes!

Good plan. I compost, but instead of composting I'll start freezing my veg ends for stock. Thanks!
 
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Forest Nymph

Forest Nymph

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I spend around $25 (just under £20 to me). I bulk cook and freeze portions of food!

Each week I'll batch make either veggie/lentil soup, veggie curry with chickpeas etc. Eat on day of making, put a portion in the fridge for the next day, and freeze the remaining couple portions for later in the week/next week.

For lunch I'll have a sandwich or pasta (batch cook a couple days at a time) chucking in everything from veg/beans/etc.

Breakfast is normally a smoothie or eating the fruit as is. Sometimes toast and nut butter.

Fav smoothie: banana, bit of coconut milk, coco powder, topped up with ice. Like a chocolate milkshake! I add hemp seed powder etc for some extra goodness.

Snack on fruit/veggies. Add in one or two treats each week like humus, flapjacks etc.

Always buy a couple packs of biscuits to have with a cup of tea in the evening :)

For me the key to keeping cost down is buying tonnes of veg, a couple types of fruit, bread, and then replenishing cupboard items as required. E.g. pasta one week, need lentils the next etc. So long as you have spices you can keep things exciting. I treat myself a bit at the weekend spending a longer in the kitchen and being creative, but rarely eat out and make good use of my freezer to minimise waste.

Its also time effective, which is a huge bonus for me!

If I get bored of the prepped meals I'll make something else out of the left over veg and cupboard items, and its no waste as my prepped meal can go in the freezer and it adds variety to my next week.

Hope that helps!

Yeah this helps I have had weeks of my life where I ate on 10 dollars but they were miserable and at the end of the week I was HUNGRY like literally dreaming that I could have more food on the last day before bed ....that's kind of insane, that's what I'm trying to avoid.

I want to find a happy medium where I'm not spending most of my money on food, but am also not so bored or the cupboard so empty that I'm eating oatmeal without soy milk and the same pot of beans for four days.
 

mikek

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dried pasta is £2.90 for a 3kg pack at Tesco in the UK. (must be cheaper in the U.S. - everything else is!)
Lasts ages. Prob works out about 10p a meal.

Fresh veg must be cheap in Cali??
 

Nicky

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Check out the recipes on https://cookingonabootstrap.com... she's a famous thrifty blogging chef in the UK. She went vegan a year ago so her recent stuff is all good.
I've only tried one or two but must have about 50 of her recipes pinned to try out.

Good luck! You can totally do it
 
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mikek

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I've just done some sums.

A typical meal here:
Portion of pasta. Estimate 50 to 100g of dried pasta, say 100g. @ £2.90/3kg = 9.6p (same price as 1 olive!)
1/2 jar pasta sauce = 50p
2/5 pack tofu = £2.50 x 0.4 = £1
2/5 cabbage = 65p x 0.4 = 26p
bit of olive oil for frying the tofu, say 5p

Total = £1.90 per meal

if i substitute 2 x Linda McCartney sausages for the tofu, that shaves 50p off the cost to equal £1.40.

the annoying thing is that you need money to save money.
EG the pasta sauce i like is sometimes at 1/2 price. I try to buy 20 or 30 jars when it is, but if i'm skint then i can't.
Same with coffee. It just needs to be stuff that keeps.

A vaiant on the above meal would be cheap pack to noodles (the packs with the flavour packet inside) instead of the pasta & pasta sauce.
Noodles are 25p here, so tofu, oil, noodles & veg would be £1.56 per meal

So the 3 meals above add up to a grand total of £4.86. That's my best effort, but i'm sure someone used to buying for a family on a budget could likely do better.