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Guest Blogger: Vegans Eat Plants – How to be Vegan on a Budget

24 Feb

We all change at our own pace. One such vegan has changed blogs. You may know her as a contributing author on Mojo Central, but Cat McDonald has moved to Vegans Eat Plants.

A little about Cat, Cat McDonald is a content strategist and tree hugger seeking clarity, community, and organic produce. Below is her article on how to be vegan on a budget, who can’t use this info? Please feel free to share this article and follow Cat on her adventure through her blog, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Welcome back Cat!

How to Be Vegan on a Budget

You need to figure out how to be vegan on a budget. Because if you can’t afford it, you won’t keep it up.

When you first go vegan, you’ll probably go wild exploring new foods, but then you might look at your wallet and feel oh so sad. Take a deep breath, because here’s what I know: Being vegan does not have to break the bank.

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Make a list

Plan your meals in advance and make a list of what you’ll get in which stores. And remember to bring your list with you when you shop! Use the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists to help you decide which produce you plan to buy organic. Decide in advance the maximum total amount you’ll spend.

Compare prices on staples and shop around.
In the course of a week, I’ll usually make the rounds to different grocery stores, trying my best to stick to buying only the things that are priced best in that store.

In my area, Trader Joe’s has great prices on oils, coffee, tea, mushrooms, frozen fruit, and nuts. Whole Foods has the best organic produce (particularly in the winter months when the farmers markets are inactive) and fairly good prices and on quality staples like olive oil, canned coconut milk, and non-dairy milks. And my local food co-op has the best prices on bulk items like nutritional yeast, spices, flours, pulses, beans, and grains.

Visit international markets for select “specialty” items.
I get my seaweed, umeboshi plums, Thai basil, sesame seeds, rice noodles, and more at local Asian markets. I get some frozen fruits, spices, and other staples at Latin supermarkets.

Buy farm market produce in season.
First, do a quick walk-through to see what looks good and which stands offer the best value. Bring cash. Stick to your list, but flex if you can swap out an item out if you find a better deal.

Buy only as much as you’ll eat.
You might have to shop more often. If, like many Americans, you’re used to shopping once every week or two, this will be an adjustment. Tubers such as sweet potatoes last a week, maybe two, but you’ll want to eat fresh fruits and green produce within two to four days of purchasing them. Over time, you’ll get better at judging how much you’ll really need.

If you’re working a lot or if you have a baby in the house, try using a delivery service like Safeway’s Peapod.

Brown bag it.
You’ll have more control over your menu and your spending when you commit to making your own lunches.

Invest in a nice (lead-free) lunch box and a few lock-tight glass containers to make your lunch spill-proof. You really don’t want your lunch spilling all over your morning newspaper!

Make your own.
Although it’s easy enough, it does take time and forethought to cook beans. So I keep canned beans on hand for when I’m pressed for time. But when I do have time, I soak beans overnight, cook them in the slow cooker, and freeze any extra for future use.

It’s also economical to make your own vegetable stock. During the week, collect your carrot ends, kale trimmings, teeny garlic cloves and other trimmings in good condition in a container in the fridge. And then on the weekend, throw them on the stove with chopped up onion and celery, cover with fresh cool water. Simmer for a couple hours.

Make extra and freeze for later.
Make plenty of vegetable stock, cooked beans, spaghetti sauce, and the like. These come in handy when you’re pressed for time. Be sure to label and data it before you put it in the freezer!

Do you have other tips on how to eat vegan on a budget? Leave a comment below!