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Vegan MoFo #1: Let’s get this party started as cheaply as possible!

Wooooooo MoFo!  Streamers and glitter and drunk strippers!  Oh wait, I can’t afford any of that stuff.

I don’t want to sound like a broken crybaby record, but i’ve made it clear that I have significantly less money than I did last year.  Things have evened out a little bit, but i’m still in super-thrifty mode to try and build back up our savings, and so I can splurge occasionally and not feel bad about it.   So it only makes sense that my first MoFo post is about being a thrifty vegan!

First of all, I want to squash that stupid myth that veganism is expensive.  IT’S NOT EXPENSIVE. One of the most common excuses for people not eating veg*n is that they can’t afford it.  I’ve never heard a single vegan or vegetarian complain about how expensive their food is, i’ve only heard this from omnivores.  I’m assuming they get this from the fact that things like non-dairy ice cream, tofurkey slices, etc. are costly.  But ALL processed food is costly, if it’s vegan-friendly or not.  And no matter what, meat and cheese are always going to be more expensive than vegan protein sources.  The foods that should be the basis of anyone’s diet are cheap cheap cheap.  I set a weekly budget of $40 for myself, and for one person that is not hard to meet at all.  I don’t even have to keep count when I go to the grocery store, and I almost always go under by at least $5 (and then I can take that $5 and buy myself some chocolate or something).

This is what I got for one week at the store for $29.  We have grapes, organic bulk oatmeal, sweet potatoes, pears, bananas, four cans of beans, a can of tomatoes, a bag of onions, a bag of poatoes, pasta, sugar, spinach, pita bread, and kale.  Obviously I won’t be using all of those onions and potatoes in one week, and I turned the oatmeal into enough granola to last me a month.  I also had some tofu left over from the previous week.

Okay, the grocery shopping tips!

  • Have a plan. If you go into the store with no idea what you’re going to buy, you’re more likely to buy impulse convenience items, and then you might get home and realize that you were out of rice.  Check your pantry for any basics you may be out of, and try to plan out at least a meal or two for the week and get what you need for those meals.
  • Be flexible. If you plan out every single meal for the week or have a huge list of must-haves, you don’t have much wiggle room to take advantage of sales and clearance items.  I love almond milk, hate soymilk, and am indifferent to most other non-dairy milks, but the past two weeks i’ve found great deals on rice and oat milks, so I bought those instead.  Since they’re in the aseptic packaging, I don’t have to worry about them going bad, and that’s something that I won’t have to buy for awhile.  I also found some organic sugar being clearanced out for .99 cents, vs. the normal $3+ a bag.  I pretty much only use sugar for my tea, but at that price, I bought several bags and now i’m good until the holiday baking season hits.  Between just those two items i’ll save about $10 this month, and out of a $160 food budget that’s pretty good!
  • Shop around, but not too much. It’s very unlikely that one store will have everything you want for the right price, but if you’re driving all over town to multiple stores every week, the gas you’ll burn will cancel out the savings.  I only go to two stores, the regular grocery store that I like the best for basics, and the health food store for things like tofu (which is way cheaper than at the other store), big packages of almond milk, bulk items, and the occasional speciality item.  There are other stores in town that might have one or two things I like, but it’s really not worth the time and gas to drive to them.
  • Don’t buy out-of-season produce.  It will be more expensive and won’t taste very good anyway.  Frozen vegetables are an acceptable substitute for most winter recipes
  • Don’t cut out all of the convenience. I’m sure that somewhere there is a perfect person who never gets tired or sick and makes all of their meals from scratch.  Somewhere.  But not here!  Buying yourself a pre-made meal from the grocery store is still cheaper than going out to eat, which is probably what you’ll do if you have nothing ready to go in your house.  Hormel makes a canned vegetarian chili that I think is pretty good and cheap, and all you have to do is heat it up.  Also, if you have a Big Lots near you, you can find some awesome vegan food at closeout prices.  Mine recently had a ton of Thai Kitchen noodle bowls on sake for a dollar, so I bought a bunch for work for those days that I forget to bring my lunch.  Mine also has ELF makeup and travel sized Nature’s Gate travel lotions (.33 cents!), so it’s worth a look.
  • If you can make it yourself, do it. I had a several month long love affair with Sabra hummus.  It is the best commercial hummus in all the world, and it is pricey.  $5 for a little tub!  But even though it’s way better than the hummus I can make myself, I gave it up in favor of making my own, which is cheaper and really fast.  I also make my own bread (generally, I did buy that pita bread since it was cheap and vegan), granola, and often pick one food to mass produce each week (more posts on that later) so I will have something awesome in the fridge all week long.
  • Don’t drink your money! The costs of sodas and fancy coffee drinks and vitamin drinks really adds up.  Get a brita filter and drink your virtually free water, make your coffee at home, or if you hate coffee like me, you can get an iced tea maker ($20) and drink that.

And lastly, check out Robin Robertson’s new book, Vegan on the Cheap.  She has more helpful tips, lots of basic recipes, ways to make recipes with expensive ingredients (like guacamole) cheaper, and each recipe has an estimate of how much it costs per serving.

posted: November 1, 2010
under: lists, pictures, veganmofo

My big money saving plan.

I am all laid up and sad with allergies this morning, so I thought i’d alleviate some of my boredom by sharing this money saving list i’ve been putting together in my head this week. Money problems are like herpes, you see one little red spot and pretty soon it’s invited all of its friends to inflame your life (P.S. I do not have herpes [P.P.S. I have nothing against people who have to live with herpes]). I don’t want anyone to think that we’re about to file bankruptcy or that i’m hinting at something (unless you really have like, a grand you’re not using), but the only way for me to not have no extra money is to clearly stop spending so much of it, so this is what i’ve come up with. It’s a set of rules that is guaranteed to save me money, without totally putting a damper on my consumerism.

  1. No bottled drinks!  I mostly drink tea and water, but occasionally I will get a bottle of Vitamin Water or a bottle of Yerba (expensive), and rarely, a soda.  If I only get two bottled drinks a week, and they cost $1.50 each, that’s $3 a week.
  2. $40 a week grocery budget, including the Farmer’s Market.  I will go to the ATM every Saturday to get cash for the market like I always do, and that’s my food money.  That’s not too restrictive for one person, but it will keep me from nickel and diming my money away on expensive processed foods that I can do without.
  3. No soy yogurt!  Soy yogurt + banana is my breakfast of choice, but the yogurts cost $0.80-1.20 each (they are sometimes on sale), and that adds up if i’m eating one almost every day.  This is the only specific food i’m banning from myself, as I rarely buy things like tofurky slices, vegan ice cream, etc. on anything close to a regular basis.
  4. No new (or new to me) clothes, even if they’re on the clearance rack.  I often justify buying new clothes because they’re on sale.  I really don’t need new clothes, I haven’t donated any in a long time so I have a glut of clothes.  I have jeans in a wide range of sizes, I could gain or lose 10 pounds tomorrow and still not need new pants.
  5. No dvds, even if they’re only a few bucks.  We have a large dvd collection, so large that Brian and I weeded out over 50 movies and t.v. shows and I still barely have room for them.  So not only do I not have the spare money, I really don’t have the space.  We never buy t.v. shows on dvd brand new, but even on sale that’s still $15-25 per set.  And I have plenty of t.v. shows to watch!  This got tested hardcore today, as Amazon has the Daria series for $27.  But I remained strong.
  6. Remembering the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’.  I need food, pet food, and Chester’s pills (he’s currently ingesting about $40 a month in liver and thyroid supplements) and some gas money.  I do not need sports headphones, new cookbooks, or to go out to dinner.

That might sound very un-fun, but part of the reason for making up these rules for myself is so I have money for other things.  Like going to the $5 movies (saw Machete last night), and throwing my underbums at going to see Ted Leo at the end of the month.

That’s all I can think of, but if anyone has any other suggestions of things that you probably don’t think drain your wallet but do, let me know.

posted: September 9, 2010
under: life, lists

Things I’ve Bought That I Love: Summer 2010 Edition!

[insert lame excuses for not blogging here]

At this current time, I am still in love with summer.  In a few more weeks, it’ll be too sticky and hot to even look outside during the day, but for now, I am enjoying biking and gardening and even (gasp) going to work and running errands.  So what have I bought that is making summer totally fucking awesome?

My regular bike (which is just Brian’s sisters old bike) is in storage, so I put out the word that I was looking for a bike to use until I got mine back, and that I was willing to do a little tuning up on it.  I braced myself to get offered crap (because really, what can you expect when you ask for something for nothing?), so imagine my surprise when a family friend offered up this sweet thing.  It had been hanging in his garage for ten years, unused!  At first he said it was just a loaner and wouldn’t even sell it, but I guess he changed his mind, possibly because he found out it cost me $130 to get it back on the road (totally worth it).  Green isn’t my favorite color, and it has someone’s name carved all over it, but whatever!  We put a basket on the back and now I can ride it to the grocery store and the health food store and use my vinyl bags and feel extra smug!

I went to St. Louis on a day trip and discovered that the Whole Foods sells Chicago Diner cake!  I’ve eaten at the Chicago Diner twice, but never got dessert (I was full and both times was going somewhere un-cake-carrying-friendly immediately afterwards), so I was super excited!   So excited, I got two pieces of cake and a piece of cheesecake.  All of them were amazingly delicious (but I learned i’m not big on cheesecake), and i’m really glad that St. Louis is so far away so I can’t freebase cake all the time.

These shoes!  My Sketchers slides were literally falling apart, and I needed a new pair of slip on shoes.  Something comfortable and simple that I can get dirty and wear until they also fall apart.  Well, I saw these and squeaked and bought them!  And I normally don’t give a crap about shoes!  They’re by Draven, and these particular shoes don’t seem to be available anymore, but they still have a good selection of vegan shoes!  I wouldn’t garden in them, but they’re fairly comfortable and I can wear them to work, so that’s all that matters.

I also bought these, so now i’m set on shoes for the next two years.

Okay, I bought this bag months ago, but I would be an awful person if I didn’t post the bag that kittee made for me!  I’ve been rocking the same $20 denim purse for five years, and I decided it was finally time to retire it.  I also decided that I wanted a bag big enough to shove my laptop in, so I asked kittee to do a commission for me and she did!  She asked lots of questions, and even told me I could return the bag if I didn’t like it, but I love it!  Kittee has a few pre-made bags in her etsy store, if you want your own.

And finally, some summer jams.  I like to listen to sad bastard music in the winter, really energetic stuff in the spring, but when it gets hot I like things that are still upbeat but a little more mellow.  These both came out in March, but they are excellent for a laid back summer!  The concept of an album where one band covers one other band seems kind of lame, but The Bird and The Bee do it really well.  And really, you can’t do bad with Hall and Oates!  Or maybe you hate the eighties and awesomeness so you’re not really familiar with Hall and Oates, in which case, get acquainted!

posted: June 7, 2010
under: food, lists, pictures, products

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