It has occurred to me that I haven’t covered the very basics of basics when it comes to saving money as a vegetarian. It is such a simple thing, however one that through some form of ignorance or laziness (probably more the latter than the former) I haven’t really used until I got here. If I would have discovered it sooner it would have saved me a lot of money. How would you like a healthy and nutritious lunch, every day of the week, for roughly $5? No, no, no, I don’t mean $5 a day, I mean $5 for the WHOLE WEEK. Or how about a heart healthy breakfast for about $6 a month and the only additional cost would be condiments? Um… YEAH. There is no way I could even attempt my current budget without these three wonderful dried foods:
The down on dirty on oatmeal is that plain, bulk oatmeal (yes, even organic) is amazingly cheap. I used to eat either toast or cereal for breakfast, but those boxes of cereal can cost $5 a week! I was always running out. Furthermore, I do have a bread machine. I have spent about 3 years perfecting my bread machine skills. However, even homemade bread can run up to around $4 a week. By switching over to oatmeal, I’ve gone from about $4/week to $6 a month, which is like getting my breakfast for free. According to the Dietary Council of California, oatmeal is a fantastic source of cholesterol lowering soluble fiber, and is not bad on the protein content scale. One cup of oatmeal (about ½ dried) contains about 150 calories, and 6 grams of protein. Combine that with some flaxseed, honey, peanut butter, and a glass of milk on the side, and you have a very healthy breakfast.
I’m sure as a vegetarian you have heard of the benefits of rice and beans. Complete protein, yadda, yadda, yadda. So yay, cheap protein! According to Being Latino, this is because brown rice has amino acids which are very helpful for the production and maintenance of muscles, as well as antibodies, skin, hair, eyesight and the nervous system. Like oatmeal, rice and beans contain quite a lot of fiber, which is a struggle to get on a high protein, low cost diet.
If you are leery of cooking your own dried beans, like I was, no worries as it is pretty easy. I always cook all of my rice and beans on the weekends, put them into a big container, and eat them throughout the week. If you have a freezer this is even easier to do, as you can make various beany dishes, freeze them, and have cheap frozen dinners. To cook a batch of beans, simply soak the beans for 24 hours. They should expand. A LOT. Then empty the water, put the beans and some new water in a pot, and boil until the beans are soft. This usually takes about a half to a full hour.
This Week in Updates
A hard week for me. I need both olive oil and honey, which is about $20 right off the bat. I decided to try and see the costs of shopping purely at the natural food co-op, and suffered a loss of $2 on my grapefruit fix. This caused me to hand back a red power Odewalla smoothie I had my eye on (go willpower but I wanted to cry!) However, my grapefruit from Safeway were particularly bad this week, and so I ended up not eating half of them. It’s not saving money if you have to throw half of your produce away. Thus, we’re going to eat these this week and see if the extra $2 is worth it. Amazingly, I am now incredibly addicted to grapefruit with honey. Who would have thought?
However, the 99 cents purchase I made last week on cilantro turned out to be absolutely amazing. This stuff can go on anything! What a difference fresh spices can make. Do I sense a future blog post in the making? For sure!
I am still struggling a little with finding healthy snacks. Preferably I want to have something with protein, and I’ve been trying for 2 weeks to have $4 or so for some chocolate soymilk to stash in emergencies. No dice again this week. A friend suggested dried soybeans, but the natural co-op here didn’t have any, even if I could afford them. To try and stop myself from eating the hordes of free girl scout cookies that have appeared at work, I am popping popcorn on the stove in bulk to carry around. It’s not very caloric, but it may hit the spot until I get home and eat my very large dinners of eggs, cottage cheese, and grapefruit. To those who may think that sounds small, if you combine four eggs, greens, and cottage cheese, the resulting omelet fills your whole plate.
The Recipe: Spicy Cilantro Rice and Beans
(I admit this isn’t my picture. It’s from Earth Diet. I forgot to snap one! But this almost looks like it, except I add a hella lot more cilantro)
Veggie of Choice (in my case, kale)
Make it fancy: Slice some avocado on the Side and/or top with corn
Fry up the Kale. Add to already cooked and heated rice and beans. Tear up (because who takes the time to chop stuff?) lots of cilantro. Mix in the cilantro and Siracha to taste. Enjoy!