Dining/ Economy/ Nutrition/ Veganism

Veganism on a budget

Being vegan can be a great way to save money without compromising on variety or quality of foods. Whether you’ve been affected by the recession or you need to increase your savings the vegan diet can be a great starting point to spending less but getting more. Unless you’ve got expensive tastes, always going for the best quality of the rarest foods, you can easily cut down on your food bill by going vegan.
1. Buy in season
One of my late-summer favorites is raspberries and plain soy yogurt – a sweet and cooling snack. But with the colder weather of autumn comes a sharp increase in  raspberry prices. This is because they’re no longer in season. And so raspberries now have to be shipped in, traveling great distances, increasing your carbon footprint. And usually the berries you get aren’t as sweet or juicy as they’ve been picked when under ripe to ensure they’ll survive the journey to your plate. No longer as appetizing and no longer as affordable. To get this not-so-fresh raspberry in my local supermarket I’m expected to pay twice what I did in the summer. Instead in fall and winter I opt for an orange, clementine or some yummy chestnuts for an especially cold night. By choosing what’s in season you’re always going to be paying less so get to know what’s fresh when for where you live.
2. Avoid process foods
Processed foods can conjure up images of a Big Mac, sugary breakfast cereals or white breads made from refined flour. But for a vegan processed foods can more often take up the form of “fake” foods – egg-free mayonnaise, tofu ice cream, vegan hot dogs or soy cheese. By having a diet that focuses heavily on processed foods you’re increasing your risk of disease, you’re also putting strain on your digestive system. Even if you can find processed foods with low calorie and low sodium count as well as trans-fat free the price tag associated with such foods often takes a serious dent out of your food budget. This isn’t to say never have them, but you need to learn to treat processed foods for what they are – an occasional treat. By doing this you’re sure to keep your body and your wallet healthy.
3. Fresh is best
If you haven’t already found one, explore your local neighborhood and see if there’s a local farmers market where prices are considerably less than in the supermarket. Farmer’s markets have the wonderful addition of spoiling shoppers for choice – as you move from stall to stall you can compare quality and price of what’s on offer. If organic is important to you you can also have a chat about  how the food was grown, direct from the source. If you haven’t got a farmer’s market nearby you can start your own garden. Helping you save while also helping you get in touch with Mother Earth. Even if you don’t have the space or you’re not sure how green your thumb is you can start out with a small herb garden to add fresh flavors to your favorite dishes.
4. Learn to love eating in
Cooking at home and brown-bagging it at lunch can be a huge help when trying to limit how much you spend on food. When eating out a simple salad can become a comparatively serious drain on your finances. Not everyone has the time or energy to make dinner every night – if this is the case and you live with a partner or have housemates share the responsibility of cooking. By taking turns to cook you might just discover some new tastes you’d never though of before. You’re also able to split the food bill with those who are splitting the cooking. If you live alone of you don’t have someone to share the cooking, get in the habit of cooking for two. One meal for today, the second meal to freeze and eat in a few days or weeks time when you can’t be bothered to cook. When it comes to lunches your options can be limited depending on where you work. But you’re likely to fall into one of two traps – no variety or no good foods. A roasted veg and hummus sandwich may be delicious the first time you buy one, but if this is your only option for a vegan lunch on-the-go you’re bound to get bored of it sooner or later. If you’re really unlucky you might have only deep fried potato or over salted nuts as your only choices. Not something to be going for day in and day out. If time is an issue either make pot of curry, soup or lentils that will last the week or wrap up your dinner leftovers from the night before for a quick lunch with no additional effort needed.  By eating in more often you’re not only saving money you’re also more in control of what types of food you’re eating. And when you do go out for a meal it will feel like a special occasion.
5. Appearance isn’t everything
When shopping for only foods that look good you can often spend more than if you were willing to try out a less attractive but just as nutritious option. In the UK supermarkets had a history of only selling the nicest looking produce. All fruits and vegetables looked just as you’d expect they should. However, by limiting the options to the visual ideal they were forced to charge their shoppers more for the work needed to separate the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’. When the recession hit the country last year most supermarket chains launched a ‘basics’ range. The vegetables may not have been picture-perfect but when they were chopped up and added to a meal they were just as nutritious and you couldn’t tell the difference. These ‘basic’ ranges were also considerably more affordable. So long as you’re getting fresh foods, although they may not be very pretty doesn’t mean they won’t be delicious.
Unless you’re acutely limited by budget, you may not always want to scrimp on food. An occasional splurge should be  factored into your budget so you’re able to indulge yourself now and again.

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