Ever heard someone say they used to be vegan but that it got too expensive? I’ve never understood that one. What on earth were these people eating, vegan foie gras? Sure, it’s possible to rack up a huge grocery bill trying all the brand-name delicacies but some of the cheapest (and healthiest) food items are 100% animal free. Try these ten tips to keep costs down and tiny tummies happy.
Discover what folks all over the world know: nothing beats rice and beans! Nutritious and inexpensive, there is no end to the variety of types and preparations.
Get a pressure cooker. This will save time and energy costs. Because the pressure allows the temperature to become much higher than in an unsealed pot, cooking time is reduced and so is your energy bill! Some of the newer models can sell for upwards of 60 dollars but it will pay for itself in savings in just a few months. OR you can find an older, stove-top, 3-valve model at a thrift store for just a few bucks. Another way to reduce the cooking time for beans is to soak them for a few hours in the fridge before heating. Just remember to change the water.
Try your hand at hummus! It’s a vegan staple, family fave, and a fun veggie camouflage for kids. It also has a huge retail mark up. I like to make hummus with leftover garbanzo stew and just a bit of tahini but even if you just popped open a can and put it in the blender with a clove of garlic, a pinch of salt, and a few drops of lemon juice you’d still have a delicious spread at a fraction of the cost of the store-bought stuff. And it’s another one of those items that allows for endless creativity and personal touches as far as flavors go.
Pasta is fast, easy food that kids love and can be very inexpensive. It’s also a great vehicle for veggies and other nutritious foods you’d like to sneak past discriminating palates. Try it with unexpected combinations and more nutritious toppers like stir-fried veggies with peanut butter or a heap of veggie chili.
Rather than store bought vegan ice cream, try this homemade frozen treat which is far less expensive and so much more nutritious: Peel and chop bananas before putting them in the freezer. Once frozen, blend alone or with other flavors (cocoa powder, coconut milk, other fresh or frozen fruits for example) for a delicious treat.
Whole grain flours made of oats, brown rice, and flax seeds (to name just a few) are great for nutritious baking as well as hot cereals and baby food but they can be pricey when purchased pre-ground and packaged. Skip the middle man and grind them in a spice mill or coffee grinder for a fraction of the cost. Just remember to clean out any coffee grounds or your little animal rights activists may protest their afternoon nap.
Modify your menu for great deals. Try to buy lower cost fruits and veggies or those that are on sale and adapt dinner accordingly. There are tons of recipe sites and even mobile apps which offer searches based on ingredients. And when there’s a really great sale, stock up! There are some ingredients (garlic, onions, and peppers for example) that keep well in the freezer. This can be especially nice later if they’re already chopped when you stash them. And others (squash, melons, potatoes and other tubers to name a few) hold up pretty well, sometimes for up to a few weeks.
Buying TVP from the bulk goods section of a health food store is MUCH less expensive than buying the meatless crumbles from the frozen food section of the grocery store. Homemade seitan is also much cheaper than store-bought mock meats and is something older kids will have fun helping with.
Buy nuts from the bulk goods sections of local markets if you have that option. If you’re in an area that only offers the big chain stores, you’ll find that nuts in the baking section are less expensive than those sold with snacks or produce.
Always check the dollar store before going grocery shopping. Dollar stores sometimes have a surprising selection of foodstuffs and condiments at a much lower price than the grocery store. Our favorite is Dollar Tree which carries Hampton Creek’s “Just Mayo” vegan spread. And if it’s not at your local store, you can order it online.