(article by Kelvin Ryan)
Sometimes vegetarian recipes have the reputation of being only for wealthy people who can afford to shop at fancy grocery stores and indulge in special products. It is true that buying organic food and loading up on fake meats marketed toward vegetarians can drive up costs, but the veggie lifestyle does not have to be expensive. Here are some tried and true tips for vegetarian recipes on a limited budget.
1. Find a local produce market. Many cities, and even some small towns, have produce markets that sell fruits, vegetables, and even some staples at significantly reduced prices compared to regular grocers. One trick is to buy items that are in season, as the prices are always lower. Buy turnips in October and strawberries in July.
2. Purchase nuts and legumes in bulk. Peanuts, almonds, lentils, pulses, beans, and other sources of protein are critical in the vegan diet. To get the best deal, find a store that sells these legumes out of bulk bins. This allows customers to buy only the amount they need, and some local shops will even weigh and mark a regular customer’s empty containers for easy refilling. Although dry beans require soaking in advance, it is always cheaper to buy them in bulk than to opt for canned goods.
3. Befriend oatmeal. One of most versatile breakfast foods, oatmeal is unbelievably cheap and can be dressed up to keep it from getting boring. Instead of buying packets of previously sweetened oatmeal, stick with canisters of quick oats. These can sometimes be found for as little as one buck at the dollar store. Simply add in raisins, bananas, honey, cinnamon, or even peanut butter for variety.
4. Limit fake meats, or stick with tofu. With many people becoming vegetarian in recent years, companies are offering more meat substitutes for vegetarian recipes. Most are processed convenience foods that, albeit vegetarian, are not especially healthy. When cooking a vegetarian meal on a budget, one alternative is to use tofu, which is typically more affordable than seitan and other popular meat replacements. Tofu is indispensable because it assumes the flavors around it and can easily be doctored by marinating it in a favorite sauce or other condiment.
5. Bake bread at home. Bread from the bakery is fast and often tasty, but spending three dollars a loaf is not necessary when simple cheap breads can be made at home. Irish soda bread, for example, can be mixed together with little more than self-rising flour and some buttermilk, meaning that multiple loaves can be prepared for the cost of a single store brand loaf.
6. Make vegetarian recipes in advance and freeze them. To benefit from large purchases that often yield savings, a shopper may end up with more ingredients than needed for one meal. Preparing meals on a Sunday for the whole week is a method familiar to many busy moms and working professionals who are pressed for time, but it also saves money. In the case of vegetarian recipes, stews, soups, bean casseroles, and other dishes can be prepared in large batches and refrigerated or frozen for later use. Even some typical convenience foods, like frozen bean burritos, can assembled and bagged for easy microwaving later. Making six burritos at home and freezing them is bound to be cheaper than buying six individual burritos that were made in a factory, and they will taste better too.