When you’re a broke, health conscious, environmentally friendly vegan, packaged foods are something to avoid whenever possible. Why pay for a plastic bag that will end up in a landfill? Why buy an expensive box designed to make the food look appealing? Buying whole foods, without the packaging, saves money, energy, and the environment. Not to mention packaged foods are usually not the healthiest foods on the planet.
Buying fresh fruits and veggies is probably the most important thing a vegan can do for his or her wallet and health. Fresh vegetables should make up a big portion of a vegan’s diet (actually they should be a big part of everyone’s diet). Fresh fruits should also be eaten often. All health reasons aside, fresh produce is a good economical choice. Veggies are extremely versatile and are easy to work into a variety of dishes, and unused portions can be used for your next recipe. Buying in season helps reduce the cost even more. Of course organic or local produce is the best choice, but conventional is still good, and tons cheaper.
Bulk grains, seeds, nuts, and pastas are environmentally friendly and cheap, due to the lack of packaging and advertising of the product. A pound of bulk rice will be much cheaper than a packaged bag of rice. Bulk items can be used as the basis of your recipes and are usually a good source for carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and many other nutrients. You can also use your own containers when buying in bulk, which cuts back even more on waste.
Avoid buying boxed mixes and pre-flavored foods. Laziness is not a broke vegan’s friend, nor is it a friend to environment. Buying flavored, prepackaged foods is usually costly. You’re paying someone to mix together some ingredients (which are usually not too healthy), and to package them up in a well designed box. Not only do these packaged foods usually lack any sort of life to them, the boxes and bags used to package them just end up in a landfill and take money out of your pocket. The same goes for frozen meals. Instead of buying pre-made foods, learn to mix together all those fresh veggies and grains you bought with your own spices and herbs. Buying and learning to use spices and herbs helps you cut back cost and waste, while adding flavor and life to your foods. You can even buy seasonings in bulk at many health foods stores for pretty cheap, which you can put into your own reusable containers.
Avoiding unneeded snacks also cuts back on costs and waste. Sure we all love some good potato chips, a nice sugary sweet drink, or some chewy chocolate cookies, but do we NEED them? When you’re broke, you get what you need before what you want. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t live a little and get ourselves some food for our souls, but get them moderately. And better yet, learn to make them yourself! Bake some homemade cookies! Make your own potato chips! With enough motivation and knowledge (which every poor vegan should have) you can make any food you want from scratch. That goes for more than just snacks. The food business tends to make it seem like many foods are just too difficult and time consuming to make at home. Start making more foods from scratch and you’ll learn this isn’t true. Sure it might take a little more effort, but a cheaper, healthier, more environmentally friendly, independent lifestyle is worth it.
So to wrap it up, the most important thing a person can do to save money, protect the environment, and eat a healthy diet, is to always try to eat whole, unpackaged, unprocessed foods. Learning to cook foods from scratch is something a poor vegan can’t go without!
On the next broke vegan we’ll talk about…breakfast!