Published On: Fri, Feb 24th, 2017

12 top tips for cooking vegan on a budget

Being vegan doesn’t mean spending a fortune on food – Clea Grady from Veganuary shares her money-saving tips. 

A lot of people mistakenly assume that being vegan is expensive, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. Below are a few tips and tricks to keep food costs down, without sacrificing flavour or variety.

Cook from scratch

Regardless of your diet, it isn’t really possible to eat affordably if you buy ready-made, jars of sauce or premium brand meal deals. These products go hand-in-hand with ‘convenience’, but cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be overly complicated or arduous. In fact, the majority of the meals I make take 30 minutes or less, and the points below help show how…

Always have tinned tomatoes handy

I feel I’ve nothing in the house when I run out of tinned tomatoes. I buy the chopped kind, and prefer the low-cost packs of four you get from supermarkets – home brands tend to be cheaper, so I stick with those. When you have a can of tomatoes you can make a great tomato sauce, and a great tomato sauce is the foundation of lots of meals: spag bol and pastas like arrabiata or puttanesca (without the anchovies), veggie/bean chilli, tacos, burritos or nachos, curries and pizza sauce. All you need is a little oil, onions and garlic, plus herbs and spices to alter the mood… Cumin, coriander and chilli/paprika/cayenne pepper take you to Mexico; oregano, basil and thyme place you in Italy, whereas ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, curry powder and garam masala transport you to India. Alter the garlic and heat to suit your taste, and perfect your own signature sauce!

DIY dips

Store-bought hummus, salsa and guacamole are not cheap, but you can make your own at home for a fraction of the price and exactly to your liking. We have lots of recipes at Veganuary.com, and you can have fun experimenting with bean dips and cashew mayonnaises when you feel more confident. Homemade dips are also a great thing to take along to parties; not a huge outlay for you and people really appreciate the effort.

Buy dry

Lentils and mung beans are great for dahls and curries, and are a super cheap way to add bulk (and protein and iron) to soups and stews. I always have big bags of them in the cupboard, as you can basically make a soup or curry out of anything. I give them a rinse in cold water and chuck them straight in, letting them cook in the sauce. You can lower costs even further by buying dry beans, but if you don’t have the time or inclination for that (you need to soak them), then you’ll be pleased to know that I have discovered how to keep canned bean costs low (see below). I also buy 1kg bags of rice, quinoa and bulgur wheat, as I enjoy mixing up my carbs and proteins, and changing the texture of meals. You can get these fairly cheap.

Buy in bulk

If you have the space, then bulk-buying store cupboard essentials is a brilliant way to save dosh. This is one of the great things about the internet, as you can scan shopping sites for bargains and save it for next time.

Local Veg Boxes

I am a massive fan of these! So much easier and fresher than supermarket veggies, and typically with the added advantage of less plastic and better organic options. I tried one of the big veg box companies, but found it a bit inconvenient and fairly expensive. After a bit of Googling, I found a local greengrocer that does a much cheaper version. They’re worth their weight in gold and they are my saving grace in the lead-up to pay day.

Shop around

Not all pricing is created equal, and you will find similar products in different shops at different prices. For example, the little shop round the corner from me sells tins of chickpeas for only 39p, so that’s where I buy chickpeas; but I can get cans of other beans cheaper at the supermarket, so I get them when I do my online shop. Similarly, I find ‘basic’ veg (broccoli, cauliflower etc.) is often cheaper at the supermarket, but the seasonal stuff (asparagus, sprouts etc.) is usually cheaper at my local grocer.

Ethnic supermarkets

You can find all sorts of vegan gems at lower cost at your local ethnic supermarket. Think jackfruit, tofu and tempeh, as well as cool stuff like rice paper, noodles, spice mixes and big bottles of soy and chilli sauces.

Make big  dinners

I am the queen of the leftover lunch! Cooking up a big dinner means I don’t have half-used tins of beans and so on hanging around (which may go to waste), and also means I have lunch sorted for the next day. If I don’t fancy the same thing two days running, then I might make the leftover cold rice from a veggie chilli into a rice salad for lunch, and then make burritos for dinner by filling wraps with the chilli.

10 Remember the basics

Simple meals rock! Baked spuds, beans on toast and tomato soup are popular for a reason; easy, healthy, cheap and loved by all the family. They’re my ‘I’m too tired to think’ meals and the perfect comfort food.

11 Don’t snub frozen veg

Flash frozen vegetables retain huge amount of their nutrients, and are usually much cheaper than buying fresh. Frozen spinach is fantastic for curries, there are some great stir-fry mixes available now, and no roast dinner would be complete without frozen peas! Another top tip for smoothie fans is to use frozen berries. You don’t have to worry about them going off and they work out far cheaper.

12 Look out for budget recipes

New recipe ideas stop you getting stuck in a rut. We have lots of these in our ‘On a Budget’ section at Veganuary.com/recipes, and food bloggers, like Jack Monroe, are brilliant for inspiration (even just their pics on Instagram). Jack took part in Veganuary 2016 and has over 100 vegan recipes at cookingonabootsrap.com; the majority of which only cost 50p per person!

Visit Veganuary.com for more tips and help.

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