Plant-Based On A Budget

I am happy to say that in May it will have been two years since I stopped eating meat. It’s truly been one of the best decisions I made for myself and I can honestly say that I don’t believe I will go back to eating meat. Before I became a vegetarian (I’m not vegan and I’m not sure whether or not I will eventually go that route) I would go through phases of cutting out meat before declaring it to be too difficult, giving up and stuffing my face with some sort of underwhelming meat-filled sandwich. After watching Earthlings it all clicked for me (if you want to weep for humanity, watch that documentary) and I decided that I was going to figure out how to do this right. In the last couple of years I have realized that eating a plant-based diet is actually super easy, delicious, healthy and, wait for it, CHEAPER. People always complain that being a veggie is so expensive, but if you skip some of the gimmicky vegetarian foods and do it right, it’s actually more affordable than eating meat! Don’t believe me? Read on.


1 // FROZEN IS YOUR FRIEND

Frozen is not a dirty word and buying several bags of frozen vegetables is not only way cheaper than buying all of the individual components of the bag’s contents fresh, they are also nutritionally just as healthy, if not more so, because they are picked and harvested at their optimal time (unlike other produce which is often picked when it is still unripe and left to ripen artificially). Frozen veggies are a staple on my grocery list and I use them to make stir-fries, curries, roasted vegetables, taco bowls – you name it. Scoop up a few bags on your next grocery trip and I promise you will be amazed at how versatile they are and how fresh the veggies taste.

2 // NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE ORGANIC

Sure, if your name is Gisele Bündchen or Miranda Kerr then you can afford to make sure that everything in your fridge was grown completely organically, watered with unicorn tears and harvested on a new moon at peak ripeness for optimum nutrition. If not, don’t worry, not everything you eat needs to be organic to be healthy. There are certain foods (the dirty dozen), like strawberries, tomatoes and apples, that you should try and buy organic. But you don’t need to exclusively buy your produce from the organic section of the store. There are lots of vegetables and fruit – like avocados, asparagus, onions and cauliflower – that are considered to be clean. The cost of buying organic does quickly add up and if you’re going to shell out, make sure it’s worth it. Sometimes a good wash is all your veggies and fruit need.

3 // BUY IN BULK

Before switching to a vegetarian diet, I always thought the bulk food section of the grocery store was overwhelming. Those big containers filled with beans, nuts and lentils just seemed to not correlate with food to me (they looked more like what you would use as filling for sandbags or pillows). The thing is, you can make a million dishes with beans, nuts and lentils and you can buy bags of them without breaking over $10-$15. Try it and be amazing at how long it will be before you have to grocery shop (although you might want to anyways because you’ll be inspired by all the creative vegetarian dishes you can make).

4 // THE FEWER INGREDIENTS, THE BETTER

Honestly, one of the best parts about eating vegetarian is that it forced me to expand my cooking skills. My family are all omnivores and my boyfriend loves nothing more than a plate of ribs so I knew I couldn’t rely on there being vegetarian food available in the house. My need to cook led me to love cooking and become passionate about vegetarian food! While at first daunting, I have since discovered that the world of vegetarian cuisine is diverse, delicious and so creative. I’ve learned that meat is so not necessary for a meal to be filling and tasty, lots of veggies can stand in for meat (mushrooms, artichokes, eggplant, jackfruit, etc.), and the simpler your meals, the better. You don’t need to go ham with your meals (pun obviously intended). For example, one of my favourite dishes is a marinated tofu bowl. Tofu, sticky rice, carrot, cucumber, seaweed and avocado. Boom. So good and so healthy. Keeping it simple also helps you ensure that your groceries last you longer which saves you money in the long run.

A few of my favourite vegetarian meals.

5 // GET CREATIVE WITH CANNED VEGGIES

Here’s another aisle I never visited before becoming a herbivore! Allow me to let you in on a little secret. You can find almost every vegetable in a can and they only cost a couple of bucks. Tomatoes? Check. Potatoes? Yup. Corn, artichokes, olives, beans, lentils, beets, carrots, peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and mushrooms? Oh, yeah. You can stock up on an armload of inexpensive vegetables that are full of nutrients and last longer than fresh produce. Wins all around.

6 // FREQUENT FARMER’S MARKETS

There’s nothing more reassuring than meeting the people who are growing your food. The people who have planted the seeds, watered the roots and nurtured the soil to ensure that the food you’re buying is top quality and optimally nutritious. Farmer’s markets are a great way to find new vegetables, fruits and spices you’ve never tried before, all the while conversing with those who are the most knowledgeable about produce. Prices are usually reasonable and you also get the satisfaction of knowing you are supporting local farmers. It’s really a fun experience shopping at the farmer’s market!

I hope you find these tips to be helpful! Are any of you transitioning to a more plant-based diet? How are you finding it? Let’s talk veggie stuff in the comments!

xoxo,

Alicia

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Cheap & Easy | Protein-Packed Vegetable ‘Noodle’ Stir-fry

As a student, there are times when I have to cut my grocery bill way, way down in order to afford life. When I can’t afford to splurge on the more exotic items I want (hello Coconut Bliss Naked Coconut Ice Cream and bubbly wine), I have a couple of go-to recipes that I turn to throughout the week to make sure that I’m not, quite literally, eating through my money. One delightful perk of my new-found vegetarianism is how cheap my meals can be if I just focus on whole foods. When you’re buying nothing but fresh produce and canned lentils, you can watch your grocery bills go from $60+ to quite often less than $30 in the blink of an eye. Still, no one wants to eat nothing but plain, raw veggies all day, so a little creativity is needed to transform them into delicious and nutritious meals that will leave you totally full for hours, while still craving seconds because it’s just that tasty. This particular recipe is chock full of satiating protein which will leave you satisfied until your next meal – without the bloat that comes from gulping down a steak. It’s also delicious, free of refined carbs and can be whipped up in 20 minutes. Read on to find out how to make this plant-based plate of heaven.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Large Carrot
  • 2 Large Zucchinis
  • 1/2 Can Beans (I love chickpeas, pinto beans, and black beans the most but the choice is yours!)
  • 1 Cup Extra Firm Tofu (chopped into cubes)
  • 1/2 Cup Tempeh (chopped)
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 1 Can Diced Tomatoes
  • 2 Slices Vegan Cheese
  • * 1 tbsp Peanut Butter (or almond/cashew butter)
  • 2 tbsp Garlic Powder 
  • 1 tbsp Onion Powder
  • Chili Powder (to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • 1/3 Cup Soya Sauce 
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil

DIRECTIONS
1 // Wash and peel the carrot and zucchini. Use a spiralizer (follow the directions depending on which model you have) to cut both vegetables into long, noodle-like strands. Set aside.

2 // Grease a skillet with a little bit of coconut or olive oil and add the vegetable ‘noodles’. Cook on medium heat.

3 // Rinse your beans or lentils and add them to your noodles along with all of your chosen spices. The spices I have listed here are my favorite, but feel free to get creative with flavours of your choice – for example, curry, turmeric, cayenne etc. Toss the ingredients and turn the heat slightly down.

4 // Add the diced tomato, tofu and tempeh to the stir-fry, along with the soya sauce and sesame oil. Stir all of the ingredients together. 

5 // At this point there will be a lot of liquid in your stir-fry because all of the moisture will be cooking out of the vegetable noodles and tomato. One way to thicken it up is to add a bit of peanut butter (or any nut butter). This will also give the dish extra protein and enhance the Asian-inspired flavours. It’s totally optional but I really enjoy the creamy consistency and rich, nutty flavour it gives the stir-fry.

6 // Continue to simmer the mixture on low-heat until all of the extra juices have been reduced. Feel free to add some vegan cheese for a little extra flavour and creaminess! 

7 // Serve on its own or with some brown rice or quinoa for even more bite and protein. This dish is extremely filling (contrary to the popular belief that vegetarian and vegan meals leave you feeling hungry) and this recipe makes enough for two or three portions. Again, this recipe is totally customizable depending on your tastes. Swap out the spices and vegetables for your favorites. Don’t like carrots? Spiralize sweet potato or parsnips instead! Not a fan of tofu? Add some seitan and cut up portobello mushrooms! 

I have really enjoyed cooking vegetarian meals and I find that because they do not have meat, the extra effort and creativity that goes into creating these dishes makes them even more delicious then some of the carnivorous meals I enjoyed in the past. It’s also nice not feeling bloated or lethargic after every meal! Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a vegetarian or vegan, keeping at least some of your meals completely plant-based throughout the week will have a powerfully positive effect on your health – as well as your cooking prowess! 

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think! Also, as always, I’m always snooping around for new veggie recipes, so please give me a shout my herbivore friends! 

xoxo,

Alicia