Friday Tips

Check out this great post titled “23 Things I Think New Parents Should Know” by a friend of a friend!  Every point is so right on!.

Vegan Goodness:

Today we ate:

  • Our regular smoothies for all three of us.
  • Breakfast: A special breakfast out at Veggie Galaxy.  Mom and dad each had vegan omelet s, and LP had pancakes with berries and coconut whipped cream (as well as lots of mom’s breakfast potatoes)
  • LP also had some “cheerios” for a snack after breakfast, while we were at the park.
  • Lunch: Sugar snap peas dipped in our own vegan ranch, followed by a bowl of rice crispies for mom.  We were all still pretty full from breakfast!
  • LP enjoyed some crackers and tofutti cream cheese for a post-nap snack
  • Dinner: Garlic and Greens Pasta from Color Me Vegan.  We used dandelion greens and arugula from our CSA share to make this delicious and easy pasta dish!

Money Matters:
During the month of June we have a bigger budget than we will in July.  This is partially because I am still working, and there are costs that come with that (transportation, classroom materials, meeting co-workers for weekly Friday breakfast, etc.)  So, rather than be completely limited by our “Year of Family” budget, we are simply trying to be more aware of our spending this month, and trying to cut down on “extras.”

Today we spent the following:

  • $30.95 for a “start of summer splurge” at Veggie Galaxy, an amazing vegetarian/vegan diner in Cambridge!
  • $51.50 for a belated Father’s Day gift for the G-man – a cartload of bread making tools!

Friday Tips for Living Vegan and Living Cheap:

Make it yourself!

When I first had my own kitchen, in my own apartment, during my second year in college I immediately started scouring cookbooks for all the amazing food I would make.  I followed recipes religiously, and I remember searching high and low at the grocery store down the street for white pepper and arugula (which I couldn’t find because I didn’t know what it looked like) to use in my first batch of tomato soup.  After a while, the novelty wore off and,while I still enjoyed cooking things occasionally, I often made meals from canned beans, frozen fish fillets, jarred sauces and lots and lots of cheese.  Cooking this way at home was still a lot cheaper than eating out, and since my parents were footing the grocery bill I didn’t think twice about it.

Well, times have changed a lot for me (and the G-man).  In the past two years since he has been home full-time with LP we have found that one of the best ways to keep our grocery bill (which my parents no longer pay, obviously!) low was to prepare things ourselves that we had previously bought in a more prepared form.  As the G-man has developed his cooking skills, we have really discovered we can not only save a ton of money, but also eat really, really well when we make things ourselves!  Here are just a few examples of the items we save money on by making them ourselves:

Beans: We don’t buy beans in cans anymore.  We buy them dried at the regular old grocery story (Foodmaster, Stop & Shop) and soak and cook them.  We invested in a pressure cooker quite a while ago, and it is great for cooking beans!  Right now I am making a batch of navy beans, and they only needed to cook for about 15 minutes (6 minutes at pressure).  We make about 6 cups at a time, and then freeze them in containers to use for later.  It is super convenient, super cheap and we also avoid all the salt in canned beans.  Also, there are tons of resources on the web that will tell you the cooking times for different beans!

Bread:  The G-man has gotten really, really, into making bread.  He makes some fantastic baguettes, bagels and other types, but every week he makes a loaf or two of whole wheat bread.  There is not a lot of active time involved, and he has the timing all figured out so that he can make it in a day without disrupting his or LP’s schedule.  Bread was always something that we spent a lot of money on because I only wanted good quality stuff (not just squishy sandwich bread) which often costs more.  When the G-man makes his amazing whole-wheat sandwich bread now he uses a great recipe from Vegan Dad.  When I was in charge of bread making I was not quite so ambitious – I just used our bread machine, which I LOVED because it was so easy and quick.  Either way, we saves a lot of money over time by making our own.

Veggies: Well, we do grow some veggies, but we really buy what we eat.  However, we buy our fruits and veggies in their regular form, and then we cut and prepare them ourselves.  Now, I know many people have the money to buy pre-chopped and washed veggies, fruits and salads, and when you are short on time or energy that can be the best thing to do.  For us, however, part of keeping the grocery bill down is chopping and washing ourselves.  We tend to buy heads of lettuce rather than pre-washed salad mix, whole butternut squashes, cauliflower heads, and bell peppers rather than pre-cut one, etc.  We also try and do a lot of vegetable prep on the weekend, which usually involves chopping and washing big batches of greens and then sticking them in bags to store in the fridge or freezer.  When we first started doing this I complained a lot, and often procrastinated, but now that we have been in the habit for a while, it just feels like a normal thing to do!

Fun or “Convenience” Foods: The first time I realized that I could make my own tempeh or tofu bacon instead of buying the packaged stuff at the store, I was elated!  It was so much cheaper, and I could adjust the flavors the way I wanted.  I had the same reaction when I started making my own stir-fry sauces and marinades, my own veggie burgers, etc.  All of these items are things I found recipes for, and then played around with until I found flavor combos I liked.  There is something really fun about having a dinner of a veggie burger, or vegan BLT and knowing that it is not a splurge on convenience foods, but instead a normal part of the cooking rotation that you made.  And if you think learning how to make these items made me happy, you should have seen me once I made my own vegan ice cream (which is notoriously expensive at the store!) using the coconut ice cream recipe from Veganomicon!

Making things for yourself is both enjoyable and a great cost-saving measure.  But the level at which you do it is different for everyone.  We certainly started making more foods ourselves when one of us was home with a child, because we did have more time for cooking.  Some folks might just make their own “convenience” foods, but stick with the easy canned beans.  The trick is to find a combination that works for you and your family and keeps you happy and healthy!

Gotta go – the navy beans just finished up!


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