High Quality, Healthy Vegan Diet for $3.33 A Day
Hello everyone! I’m so honored to do a guest post on CSL. My name is Melody Polakow and due to being laid off from my job as a vegan and raw foods chef in December, I am living on a very strict budget of $3.33 a day or around $100 a month for myself and two teen sons who live with me part time. I have always been a frugal cook by nature and grew up eating a vegetarian diet based on whole foods, fruits and vegetables. (Thanks mom!)
Eating high quality, healthy vegan food on a budget is very do-able, but it might require a shift in thinking when it comes to how you plan menus, shop and prepare your meals. There are several important steps I recommend if you want lessen your grocery bill without sacrificing the quality, taste and variety at the dinner table.
The first step is taking an inventory of what you already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer. I wrote everything down and started to plan meals around what I had on hand. I was fortunate to have had an abundance to start and that enabled me to only spend $1.80 a day or $50.00 in February. You can check out my starting pantry list here.
Everyone’s tastes are different, but here are some staples that I have found to be very useful: (Obviously, this is a very large list and most people do not have all of these on hand. Pick and choose which ingredients you use the most and build from there!)
Dry and Canned Goods
Whole grain pasta
Wheat berries (if you grind your own flour)
Various dried spices
Vegetable broth cubes
White whole wheat flour
Roasted red peppers
Sunflower seeds (keep in freezer)
Raw cashews, almonds, walnuts (keep in freezer)
Sunflower, pumpkin, sesame seeds (keep in freezer)
Chia seeds (keep in freezer)
Toasted sesame oil
Concentrated lemon juice
Steel cut oats
Golden flax seeds (keep in freezer and grind in coffee grinder) or
Golden flax meal (keep in freezer)
Active dry yeast (buy in bulk and keep in freezer)
Ok, so now that you have taken inventory you can start to plan your meals around what you have on hand or on several basic staples.
What has been working for me is to base the bulk of our meals on legumes and whole grains. I cook up a pound of dried beans and 2 cups of dried whole grain and use them in a variety of ways throughout the week.
For instance, a pound of lentils ($1.29) will yield around 6 cups of cooked. 2 cups will be turned into veggie burgers, 1 cup will be turned into meatballs, 2 cups will be used in our breakfast muffins and 1 cup will be turned into a soup.
I usually cook 2 lbs of different legumes each week. Chickpeas can be turned into hummus, pasta sauce, sandwich spreads, burgers, eaten in salads, in Indian food and in soups. I often freeze 2 1 cup portions of the beans right after cooking to ensure they will remain fresh later in the week.
The vegetables/fruits I have on hand most of time are kale, collards (I can get HUGE bunches for $1.29 at my local Market Basket in Portsmouth, NH), carrots, onions, garlic, celery, cabbage, cilantro, bananas, limes/lemons, frozen strawberries and sometimes apples. I look in our grocery circulars every week to see which fruits/veggies are on sale and plan my meals around them in addition to my staples. I was very excited to get a pineapple for $1.99 and find broccoli for $.99/lb today at a store I rarely shop at due to their high prices.
I have been baking all of my own bread. It is not as daunting as it sounds because I do an ever simpler version of No Knead Bread.
We enjoy pulling some out and making fresh English muffins (on the stove) to use as a buns for our veggie burger.
I hope that some of these tips have helped you! I am going to close with this easy recipe:
Raw Thai Noodle Bowl
-3 large collards, chopped finely OR 2 spiralized zucchini (enough to -produce 4 c of veggies)
-1 medium carrot, shaved into noodle shapes
-2 c mushrooms, sliced and marinated in Braggs hot pepper and black pepper
-1 clove garlic
-2 inches ginger
-4 T dried coconut
-1 t toasted sesame oil (optional)
-Siracha to taste (or cayenne)
-juice of 1 large lime
-Braggs to taste
-3-4 c water
-stevia or other sweetener to taste
-1 c cilantro
-fresh mint/basil (optional but VERY good)
1. Chop the collards. I like to chiffonade then so they will be somewhat “noodle like”. I used a julienne peeler to peel the carrots into noodles.
2. In a blender place the garlic, ginger, coconut, sesame oil, siracha, lime juice, Braggs and water. Blend for several minutes (to get it warm) Add stevia or sweetener to taste. Pour over veggies and top with chopped cilantro, mint, basil and sesame seeds. Taste and adjust seasonings. I like to warm mine gently on the stove and I added a lot of hot sauce, so it really warms me up.
Nutritional Info based on 2 servings
266 calories, 7 g protein, 21 g fat, 17 g carbohydrates
Thanks for reading,