Vegetarian Advice: Eating Veg On A Tight Budget

How To Maintain a Vegetarian Diet Living On A Tight Budget

Tight Budget

How does one maintain the vegetarian lifestyle living on a tight budget? I don't earn a lot of money. - K.W.

Savvy Vegetarian Advice:

Dear K. W.,

That's an excellent question, which concerns most vegetarians, and thank you for asking!

I hope you mean fresh organic veggies, fruit and grains, and not chips, soft drinks, frozen and canned food, microwave meals, and take-out!

By avoiding convenience foods, all of which are expensive, and not big on nutrition, you should be able to eat reasonably well. If you're on social assistance, food stamps, etc, that may limit your choices, but natural food stores, co-ops and farmers markets will often take food stamps, or may trade food for labor.

I know from experience, it's possible to have an excellent vegetarian diet on a low budget. You'll also eat much better. It's a lot more work, though - you have to think and plan more, and be a creative opportunist.

That's the catch. All of the above takes time, which you may not have much of, if you're like most people.

Here are a few time saving tips:

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  • A pressure cooker to cook beans and other foods - yes, expensive, but one of the best vegetarian investments you'll ever make. A good one costs about $100, and will last 20 years or more. Are you due for a gift from someone who can afford it?
  • Get a good chef's knife with a sharpener, to chop veggies, and learn how to use it. Otherwise prepping veggies is time consuming and difficult, the main reason most people can't be bothered. But being a healthy vegetarian or vegan means eating vegetables!
  • Good chef's knives range in price from $30 to $120, and will last your lifetime. I bought one for $50 (a fortune to me at the time) when I was married, about a hundred years ago. Victorinox sells an 8 inch chef's knife for about $30, and it's highly recommended by Cooks Illustrated - I love it! Forshner and Oxo are the cheapest of the recommended brands - you should be able to find them all online.
  • Get one excellent all purpose vegetarian or vegan cookbook, with a large, informative ingredient section, nutrition information, cooking methods, and a vast array of delicious recipes for a varied vegetarian diet. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman comes to mind. Or Everything Vegan by Jolinda Hackett. Find used cookbooks in excellent condition online for half the price. See Savvy Veg's cookbook reviews for more suggestions
  • Make extra, and freeze for later: beans, grains, soups, stews, breads, etc,. Left over food isn't quite as nutritious or tasty as freshly made, but it beats most of the alternatives. I know very few people who have time to cook three meals a day from scratch!
  • If your budget allows, buy some bread, yogurt, sprouts, and other basics, such as canned beans, tomatoes, and frozen veg to supplement what you make yourself. You will pay three or four times more (except for frozen veg which are often cheaper than fresh), but the time saved for other activities, such as earning money, may be worth it to you. Getting these things through a food co-op will save quite a bit, but the trade off again, is your time.
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Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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