Victoria Moran’s popular book Main Street Vegan hits big with helpful tips and relatable anecdotes on living the vegan life. Chapter two offers up some particularly useful tips for those who’ve already made the journey to vegetarianism but haven’t yet taken the necessary step to veganism. Moran’s short counsel on moving “on to vegan smoothly and efficiently” is (paraphrased):
- Don’t overcompensate for meatlessness with things like cheese, milk and eggs. Whether you’re doing it out of “health” reasons surrounding protein, or just because you can’t think of any meatless dish worth making that doesn’t have some animal product in it, there’s always a better solution to be had. Learn about plant-based protein and where to get it, check out some vegan cookbooks at the library, or browse blogs to get ideas of how to cook without covering everything in animal products.
- Move away from eggs as soon as you can. Moran is quick to banish the myth that eggs (or chicken, for that matter) are the easy path to “humane” animal exploitation: “More than 97 percent of laying hens are, at this time, kept crowded in tiny cages and denied any vestige of a normal life until they’re killed… I know some egg cartons say ‘free-range’ or ‘cage-free’, but the legislation governing such labeling is weak, and the conditions in these hatcheries can be quite grim”.
- Experiment with plant-based foods and recipes. Get excited to try out new things, even if you might fail at first. We don’t all come pre-built with knowledge of how to effectively use nutritional yeast or how to maximize avocado flavour. Even if you feel like you’re a sucky vegan and should just stick to comfortably numb vegetarianism, push forward because it’s worth it. Thinking you’re a “terrible cook” is no excuse to throw in the towel. It may be hard for people who have been good at everything else all their lives and feel like, if you don’t get it right away you’ll never get it. Accept the learning curve and grow as a human being.
If you’re a vegetarian who needs some help going vegan and you’re looking for more resources, check out my FAQ or send me a message.
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The Cheap Vegan Pantry: What You Need and What Must Go
So you decided to start eating healthy and maybe even vegan but you’re worried about staying on track. One way to guarantee you won’t slip up is to clean out those temptation items and restock the pantry.
So first determine a goal
The Cheap Vegan Goal: The goal of this blog is to provide ways for people to eat healthy and vegan on a low budget. The posts I write tend to be focused on eating whole (non processed) foods affordably while getting the daily recommended nutrients. This pantry guide will reflect that.
What Can Stay
When you’re going through your pantry look at each item and ask yourself these questions:
- Are all ingredients vegan? (list of non-vegan ingredients here)
- Do I know what each of these ingredients are?
- Could I find all of these ingredients in nature?
- Are there less than 10g of sugar in a suggested serving of this food?
- Is this an unprocessed whole food?
- Is this caffeine free?
- Can I cook normally without this food?*
If your answer to all these questions is “yes” then it’s 100% good to go.
If you had to answer “no” to 1 or more of these questions, you need to evaluate if that item is worth keeping. Being truly conscious of what your eating is the first step to eating healthier. Knowing that you don’t know the last 20 items in the oreo’s ingredients list might help you think twice before eating one again.
**If you answered “no” to 3/6 of the questions and you answered “yes” to number 7, chuck it. It’s not like you can never eat those foods again, but keeping them out of your house will help you cut down.
Also Note: Some items such as sugar for baking are a little different. You might want to get rid of white sugar and switch to raw sugar or agave, but you might not find it necessary to eliminate all sugar from your life.
That brings us to alterations. Taking our favorite staples and upgrading them.
- White pasta -> Whole Wheat Pasta or Ezekiel Pasta
- White Flour -> Whole Wheat Flour or Buckwheat Flour
- White Sugar -> Agave Nectar, Raw Sugar, Unsweetened Apple Sauce
- White Rice/Cous Cous -> Brown Rice, Quinoa Seeds
- Vegetable Oil -> Extra Virgin Olive Oil (salad) Virgin Olive Oil (sautee) Canola Oil (high heat)
- Table Salt -> Sea Salt
I’m not going to mislead you, some of these ingredients are slightly more expensive than their less-healthy counterparts, but the extra $1 is worth your health. These are the basic building blocks of all of your meals, save money on the perishable stuff you have to buy weekly.
Now that you’ve tossed and exchanged, here are some cheap vegan basics:
Must Have Shopping List!
- Nutritional Yeast - A great source of vitamin B12, a great unique flavor, great for satisfying those cheesy cravings.
- Cashews and Walnuts - Nuts are a great source of protein and cashews are in a lot of vegan recipes, especially raw vegans. Walnuts are a vegan source of Omega 3s and are great in salads and stir fry. Having some nuts to throw in to a meal is always a good choice, not to mention a quick fix when you want a snack.
- Brown Rice
- Whole Wheat Pasta
- Quinoa - Learn more about quinoa here.
- Beans - Beans are a great source of protein, fiber, and iron. Stock up on a variety of beans/legumes so you can see what works for you and keep what you like. If you’re not a big fan of beans learn to like them by using some Cheap Vegan tricks found here.
- Whole Wheat Flour
- Herbs and Spices - Here are the basic must haves: Basil*, Cilantro*, Oregano*, Thyme*, Cumin, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper/Crushed Red Pepper, Chilli Powder, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder (**spices are expensive, growing an herb garden with these plants will definitely save you money and add class your meals)
- (Extra) Virgin Olive Oil - Oil is expensive. Buy a giant bottle of Olive Oil at BJs or Costco and then refill an olive oil drizzler to cut down on waste and save money.
- Unsweetened Apple Sauce - Use as a sweetener or an egg replacer in baking.
- Granola - Can be used as a snack, breakfast, or even dessert. Granola is a great staple to keeping you full and is a nice replacement for a sweet treat.
- Vegetable Bouillon Cubes - Great flavor booster.
- Ener-G Egg Replacer - Great for baking, pancakes, and an emergency thickener.
- Corn Starch - A must have thickener for all types of sauces and soups.
- B-12 Vegetarian Supplement - B12 is very important for vegans to keep track of since you can only find it in animal food sources. Many cereals and drinks are fortified with B-12 but it’s good to take a vegan daily vitamin to be sure you’re getting enough.
- Onions and Garlic
- Oat Meal - Use in baking or for breakfast.
- Potatoes - Preferably small red, purple, or other colorful potatoes.
- Sea Salt
- Hot Sauce - If all else fails during your kitchen experiments, it’s always nice to have some Cholula on hand to spice up a meal.
Next Step: Buying Food to Match Your New Basics
While you’re at the grocery store keep the same questions in mind. If you would have thrown it out when you renovated your pantry, don’t buy it now! Eventually you’ll learn what works for you. And always…
- Buy store brands to save money.
- Try to buy unprocessed whole foods. You’ll find that cooking with only whole foods is surprisingly cheaper than buying processed or pre-made food.
- If you’re budget is truly tight, don’t waste money on fake meats and other processed vegan foods. They’re usually more expensive. Try making your own home made.
- Shop often to ensure you are getting fresh foods and not throwing away your wasted food and money! Always remember, it’s worth your time to eat well.
Even if you’re not vegan, these are still dope cleaning eating options to consider next time you go grocery shopping! Give your body a nice (nutrient-rich) break some days. Your mind will become so sharp. More energy. Clarity. Health is wealth.
These are good tips for someone who is trying to budget to save up for something like a vacation, their education, a large present for someone they love. Quite a few of these tips can’t apply to low-income/poor vegans, especially the recommendation of buying and regularly using nuts, regularly purchasing a multivitamin supplement, extra virgin olive oil, agave nectar, or limiting your purchases to “what can be found in nature” (as well as appealing to the naturalistic fallacy).
Seeing this chickpea flour omelette gave me an intense craving for savoury breakfast foods and a sheer disappointment that I haven’t gone grocery shopping for nutritional yeast in a good couple of months. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a breakfast recipe with spinach, onion, and bell pepper, why not give this a try? It has a few more ingredients and more needed effort than most posts on this blog. I’d recommend swapping out the gluten free flours unless you have a gluten allergy, skipping the chili powder (especially if you don’t have any), and making this recipe in bulk if you can instead of breakfast for one.