HOW TO: EAT VEGAN ON A BUDGET! from MAIN STREET VEGAN
Think a vegan diet means you’ll be racking up huge tabs at Whole Foods just to be able to eat? Think again. Victoria Moran, author of Main Street Vegan (on sale now!) offers some tips on affordable vegan staples to stock up on at any grocery store:
Let’s talk about what I call the Five Fitness Groups- vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds- and which foods within each group are the best value. In the vegetable group, greens provide the most nutritional bang for your buck. It’s good to eat a variety of these, but you can compare prices at the market and see when Swiss chard is a good buy and when spinach is better. Don’t skimp here, though: these greens are your lifeline. In terms of other veggies, carrots, turnips, yams, potatoes, cabbage, and onions are almost always cheap, and all produce costs less when it’s in season.
Fruit is a good buy in the summer, especially if it’s at its peak of ripeness and just went to the quick sale table. In winter, I always get persimmons, my totally favorite fruit, on the quick sale. Many stores don’t realize that persimmons aren’t edible till they’re so soft that many people think they’re rotten. Mangoes are also best when they’re very ripe, a stage that says “gotta move those” to produce managers, so you can often get perfect ones for a song.
Apples and citrus are reasonably priced when they’re in season, especially if you buy them in bags. (Bagged apples are less perfect, but we’re over perfections, right?) Bananas are never expensive, and when they’re about to go, you can peel and freeze them for smoothies. berries, arguably the most nutritious of all fruits, can be pricy. I was over the moon when I discovered that Wyman’s frozen, organic, wild blueberries- a super antioxidant food- cost less than non-organic fresh blueberries.
Legumes warm the frugal heart. Canned beans don’t cost much, and the ones in the bags are dirt cheap. When you think of how much you’ll get after you’ve soaked and cooked them, red beans, kidney beans, navy beans, black beans, split peas, lentils, and the like are almost free.
Whole grains, flours, and pasta are bargains, too. The refined ones are cheaper still, but they don’t give you much for your money besides calories and some questionable “enrichment” with a few synthetic vitamins. brown rice, barley, millet, cracked wheat, and oats are really inexpensive, especially when you purchase them in bulk.
Nuts and seeds are more costly, but you’ll only be eating a couple of ounces a day, and buying from the bulk bins can save you a bundle. Sunflower seeds are usually the cheapest, and they’re really versatile, making appetizing seed pates and some of the tastiest sprouts around. When purchasing walnuts, raw cashes, and some other nuts, you can buy pieces, as opposed to whole, shelled nuts, to save a third or more on the cost.
Where vegan eating can get expensive is in the tempting array of packaged stuff. But remember- we stay healthier with less processed food, even plant-based processed foods. Tell yourself you’re skipping them for your health if it’s too depressing to think that you’re bypassing them for budgetary reasons. Obviously, you’re going to buy a few things in packages- tofu, tomato sauce, pasta, crackers- but it’s amazing how well you can eat from earth to table. And some prepared and prepackaged foods, although pricier than the grains, beans, and veggies you prepare yourself, are still affordable. Stick with these if you’re on a budget. Most of us weren’t buying caviar and Kobe beef before, and we don’t have to go for the vegan equivalent now.