Vegetarian on a budget? Is that even possible??

7

October 10, 2011 by Zuri

Right now, my diet is a disaster.  Tonight’s lunch was a salad and a can of Chef Boyardee’s Nacho Mac n Cheese.  I’m really sick to death (literally!) of highly processed convenience foods, junk food, fast food and heavy cooking.  I have no energy, constantly feel sick and nauseous, and mentally out of sorts.  I have “diet goals” or “food goals”, but at the moment I’ve got no actual plan on how to achieve them.

I’ve always been fascinated with vegetarianism, veganism, and raw foodism.  Since college, I’ve admired how someone could have the willpower to remove something from their diet that I found so tasty and so integral – meat.  I’m not a beef eater, mind you.  I avoid beef like the plague (eating it tends to make me feel queasy), and don’t eat pork all that often.  I do eat chicken and I love fish and seafood.  I don’t drink milk – I’ve switched out for soymilk – but I adore cheese.  I really like fruits and vegetables, not so much legumes, and nuts I have a lot of difficulty with.  For all intents and purposes, this is not the best footing on which to start any kind of drastic dietary change!

I’d like to try a predominantly vegetarian diet – perhaps even the Vegetarian until Dinner term that I’ve heard bandied about on some sites – and cut most of the meat out of my diet.  I figure, it’s a start.  I’ve poked around, read blogs, looked up recipes (vegetarian, vegan AND raw), and tried my best to educate myself on what whats, wheres and whys of making the change.  I realize, as well, that as someone who has minimal experience (read: none) in the kitchen, I’ll have to learn to cook, on top of learning the underlying nutrition.  I’m willing to take up that challenge.  Unfortunately, I’ve run into a snag…

…that snag is my wallet.

I’m on a fixed income and food stamps.  As much as I want to make changes, I’m having trouble budgeting both for the produce and other groceries for vegetarian cooking, and still buying meat and other necessities for my partner.  I’ve tried to go to the local farmer’s market, but they’re pretty limited in what items they offer.  I’m not even interested in buying processed vegetarian foods, like veggie burgers or tofu dogs.  I want to be able to cook these items on my own.  I just can’t seem to put together a budget that fits my needs.  It’s terribly frustrating.

QUESTION OF THE DAY:

Do any of you out there in vegetarian blog land have any suggestions on how to budget for the beginner vegetarian, without falling into the processed food trap?  What’s the best way for me to get started on this road to dietary change?  Where does a total beginner start?

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7 thoughts on “Vegetarian on a budget? Is that even possible??

  1. Lindsay says:

    Oh yes, I can advise! 🙂 The best thing to do, IMO, is to not even try for meat substitutes. Use beans, lentils, and mushrooms for that umami taste. Eggs, cheese, and yogurt are things to incorporate, too. Try new vegetables, like parsnips or brussels sprouts, and eat as much seasonal food as you can. A lot of people who grow gardens would just about pay you to take zucchini off their hands in the summer.

    When I make vegetarian beans, here’s what I do:

    Ingredients:

    1 pound beans of your choice (black beans, red beans, and mayacoba benans are cheap and easy to get — even try the bulk section of your grocery store)
    1 medium onion, chopped small
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 large or 2 small bay leavees
    2 T olive oil
    1 tsp dried oregano leaves
    hot pepper to taste — dried red chili flakes are cheap

    Soak the beans overnight or for 24 hours, whichecer’s easiest.
    Drain and rinse the beans, picking out any stones

    Get a large soup pot, not a pan with a handle
    Blop the olive oil in the bottom of the pot and turn the heat on to 7, or medium high.
    When the oil is warm and runny but well before it smokes, put the garlic and onion in the pot and let it saute. It’s done when the onions are translucent and soft, and the garlic is browning and smells delicious.
    Add 6-8 cups of water — start with 6. You can also use vegetable broth for an even richer taste.
    Add the beans. Make sure the liquid covers the beans by 1.5 times — if that makes any sense.
    Add the bay leaves, oregano, and hot pepper.
    Simmer on low, maybe 3-5, until the beans are tender and fully cooked. This usually takes 4-ish hours, depending on the beans. (Honestly, the slow cooker is a good call for this)
    When the beans are done, pull out the bay leaves and add salt to taste — don’t put salt in at the beginning! Only at the end!

    Serve with cheese, tortillas, sour cream, cilantro, rice, salad … whatever you want!@

  2. Lindsay says:

    Also try vegetable tacos — roast or saute red and green bell peppers, zucchini, and onions together and use the mixture as the base of your tacos.

    Hummus! It’s cheapish at Costco, and easyish to make; easy with a Cuisinart.

    I also have a really yummy Mediterranean chickpea recipe involving onions, cilantro, and feta cheese if you want it.

    Pesto sauce, yum. If you ahve someone who has way too much basil.

    Ummm … if you like Indian food, that’s got a jillion great, cheap vegetarian dishes — they involve cheap things like potatoes, peas, chickpeas, lentils, tomatoes, cheese you can make yourself, spinach … yum.

  3. Lindsay says:

    And one more really good one (okay, two) that’s easy and cheap this time of year:

    Sweet Potato Disks

    * Get and peel as many sweet potatoes as you want to serve — I figure one per person.
    * 1 egg white, 2 if you’re making a lot of these
    * 1 cup plain yogurt
    * 2 tsp cinnamon
    * Sugar to taste

    Slice the potatoes into rounds, making them about 1/4 inch thick. Honestly, the size doesn’t matter as much as being even and consistent with the size does., Just make them all about the same thickness.
    Crack an egg and separate the white from the yolk. I can explain if you want — it’s not too hard, just use the egg shell halves and kind of ppour the egg yokl back and forth. Ask if you want help. 🙂
    Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and then spray the foil with PAM or whatever pan spray you have.
    Beat the egg yolk a bit, and then dip each disk in the egg white.
    Lay the disks on the cookie sheet.
    Bake at 400 degrees until the disks are browned and puffy and soft.
    Mix the cinnamon into the yogurt, and then add sugar until you think it’s sweet enough. Serve the sweet potato disks with the yogurt as a dipping sauce.

  4. Lindsay says:

    And finally — acorn squash. It’s cheap this time of year.

    Get at least one acorn squash, if not two.
    Cut the squash in half — you’ll probably want a big knife to do this with.
    Scrape out the seeds and strings in the middle.
    Poke the inside with a fork in a few places, but don’t puncture the outside skin. You jsut want the goodness to seep into the squash.
    Put a scoop of butter/margarine/whatever in the middle hollow, and then put a smallish scoop of brown sugar in.
    Put the squash in a baking dish — you can cover it with foil, but I don’t.
    Bake at 400 degrees until the squash is fully tender, about 40-60 minutes depending on size.

    Serve exactly as is — melty sugar in the middle and all. Scoop out the squash/butter/sugar with a spoon and enjoy. Yum …

    • Murdercakes says:

      Thanks, Lindsay! I already like a lot of vegetables, even ones like brussels sprouts! Beans are an acquired taste for me, I’m trying to learn to like them. I have a slow cooker, but no food processor yet. I’ve got a blender? Not sure if that’ll help. Oh, and I love hummus! I should probably check for a membership at Costco, BJs or wherever, I think there’s one nearby. Thanks for the comments!

  5. Lindsay says:

    And one more comment: For learning how to cook, the best book ever is The Joy of Cooking. It’s a cookbook supreme: teaches about ingredients, about cooking, and has recipes. The newest editions have lots of vegetarian recipes.

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