There are limitless perks of eating more plants, including being affordable, so long as you eat a whole foods diet instead of packaged foods. If you’re a vegan on a budget, you’re in luck because there are plentiful amounts of affordable meals you can make from vegetables and grains that are also incredibly satisfying.
Vegetables and grains are full of fiber and nutrients that provide both satiety and balance to the body to help keep you fuller longer. They’re also simple to prepare and inexpensive, even if you’re new to cooking. Here’s what you need to do to make tasty, affordable meals from vegetables and grains without going hungry or becoming bored with your meals:
1. Stock Up On Bulk Grains
One of the best ways to save the most money on grains is to buy them in bulk. The same goes for legumes and beans. Buying grains in bulk will help you buy just enough for your meals each week, all at a fraction of the cost of what you’d have to pay for a variety of grains from whole packages in a bag or box. You could get seven different types of grains to have each day of the week and pay about 10 percent of what you’d pay for seven different packages of grains out of a box or bag from the aisles.
2. Pick Familiar and Unfamiliar Grains
While you’re choosing what grains to have, it’s a good idea to pick three or four that you’ve had before and that you enjoy. Then choose three or four that you’ve never had before to prevent becoming bored and to get in a variety of nutrients. Purchase enough just for two or three servings (about ¾ cup) so you can try out a different one each day. Great options to try include: rolled or steel cut oats, quinoa (red, black, and white varieties), freekah, chia and flax (technically seeds), barley, rye, amaranth, millet, and rice (brown, black, and wild).
3. Eat the Same Grain Throughout The Day
If you’re preparing oatmeal in the morning, go ahead and prepare the whole batch you bought to serve as a side grain at lunch, which you could season savory-style or just stir it into your cooked vegetables. Maybe the next day you could prepare rice in the morning, serve it as porridge for breakfast with some almond milk, and then have it as a side at lunch or dinner with your vegetables. Also, make use of grain salads for lunch to help keep you full, energized, and nourished throughout the day. By preparing your grains to have all day first thing in the morning, you’ll save time and ensure nothing goes to waste. You can also prepare the next day’s grain the night before in a rice cooker or slow cooker to make things even easier. This will also teach you to flavor your grains differently at each meal so you never get bored or end up eating them the same each time.
4. Purchase Organic Vegetables
I know you’re wondering why you should purchase organic if you’re on a budget, but hear me out: organic vegetables give you more nutrition and they taste better. Don’t waste your money on vegetables that are coated in pesticides which provide very little nutrition and have that chemical taste on their outer skins. I suggest buying whatever items are on sale that are organic, so you can try new things and utilize your dollars the best way possible. Of course, some nutrient-dense vegetables like kale, broccoli, and spinach should always make an appearance in your week, so definitely make room in your budget to purchase organic versions of those however possible.
5. Don’t Forget Frozen
You can actually find inexpensive organic vegetables in frozen form, so don’t turn these down thinking they’re lower in nutrients. These vegetables are flash frozen right after harvest, so they have potential to be even more nutritious than fresh vegetables are, depending on the time at which you purchase them. Plus, frozen vegetables (and fruits for that matter) can be kept in your freezer for months on end, so if you do happen to get tired of one variety, you can easily opt for something else without worrying it will go to waste. Frozen vegetables are nearly half the cost per ounce of what fresh vegetables cost and should be a part of every frugal eater’s meal plan.
6. Utilize Flavor
Of course since you’ll be eating all these healthy vegetables and grains, it’s highly likely that you’re not going to enjoy them plain. That would be rather bland, right? To remedy this, all you need to do is add some flavor such as spices, herbs, high quality salt in small amounts, pepper, and healthy condiments like apple cider vinegar, mustard, and tamari. If you can’t purchase all of these at once, just buy what organic spices you can for now. Most of these are very inexpensive if you buy a generic, organic brand over name brands. Keep turmeric, Italian seasoning, black pepper, pink salt, cinnamon, ginger, and some curry powder on hand to cook your meals with. Other great ideas that are low in cost are fresh lemons to add flavor, vanilla extract for morning porridge, and apple cider vinegar and mustard to make an inexpensive, tasty vegan dressing.
7. Visit a Farmer’s Market
If you can, always buy your vegetables from a farmer’s market when they’re in season. Not only is it much cheaper, but it’s also easier to find produce without pesticides, even if it’s not certified organic. Speak to the farmers you purchase from and find out about their growing policy. Shopping at a farmer’s market is one of the best ways to save money, along with belonging to a food co-op or CSA if you get the chance to do so.
Being on a budget definitely doesn’t equal deprivation. If you’re unsure of what recipe to make, check out these five delicious vegan meals made from vegetables and grains to get you started:
1. Mediterranean Spartan Strength Millet (Gluten-Free)
2.Beef-Style Vegan Stew
3. Brown Rice Salad With Dill
4. Raw Zucchini Noodles with Tomato Basil Sauce and Portobello Meatless Balls
5. Quinoa, Apricot, and Oat Muffin Clusters
What’s your favorite way to pair vegetables and grains?
Lead image source: Can You Follow a Vegan Paleo Diet and Get Enough Protein?