I've had some requests for hints and tips on how to survive when you are running a tight ship. Whether you are a poor uni student, a regular Joe struggling to make ends meet or you're trying to raise a brood, we all fall on tough financial times at some stage. We have all heard the line "I'd go vegan but it's too expensive". Bull. Hopefully this little guide helps you out a little. I must say I do have experience in this area. I spent a lot of time studying my arse off at uni (I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I did everything) and have lived below the poverty line for much of that time. I survived on $180 a fortnight and $105 of that went to rent. Times were certainly tough but I didn't starve to death.
1. My first tip is "Get creative!" You need to get to a point where you can look in your fridge and visualise a meal of the ingredients that you have in there.
2. Never underestimate the value of simplicity. Most veggies can be roasted, stir fried or turned into soup with not too much difficulty. You don't always need an onion, garlic or oil if you don't have them on hand. They will still taste good regardless. A carrot and a stock cube can make a tasty soup. A couple of potatoes and some curry powder with some water and a stock cube can make a filling curry. Those potatoes can also make pretty tasty fries or a baked potato.
3. Markets are amazing. Your local market is where the bargains are at, especially about an hour before closing time on the last day of their trading week. For example, the Central Markets here in Adelaide sell quality fruit and veggies off for $1 for a bag every Saturday at two pm. I still wouldn't even bother shopping at a supermarket for anything other than toilet paper and toothpaste. They are far too expensive. At the Torrens Island markets on Sunday mornings, they sell off boxes of vegetables ridiculously cheap. I often come home with a box of whatever, be it tomatoes, eggplant, capsicum, zucchini, mushrooms... and cook up a whole lot of grub- usually a curry, a risotto, a soup and whatever else the ingredients inspires. I then portion it into containers and then into the freezer it goes. These boxes are usually $2-$5 each and feed me and my partner for a month. The Brickworks is quite cheap on the weekend at about 4 pm, as is the Gepps Cross markets.
3.5 Never shop at supermarkets. They are ridiculously expensive. I find I get four times as much food for the same amount of money by shopping at markets and asian supermarkets.
4. Asian and Indian grocery stores are great sources of cheap beans, nuts, seeds, spices, tofu and gluten. Marinated tofu at an Asian grocer is usually about $1- $2 cheaper than at the supermarket. A giant bag of lentils costs around $2 to $3. Way cheaper than the evil supermarkets.
5. Join a food co-op if you have one local.
6. Grow as much of your own fruit and veg as you can, preferably from seed. If you can't do this, try growing your own herbs. Most grow back, for example, if you chop spring onions off at the base instead of ripping them out they will grow back for years to come. Chilli, sage, rosemary and parsley are all very hardy herbs to grow and very useful in the kitchen. They cost about $2- $3 to purchase as a plant and will last you years depending on your green thumb. Green thumb = water and sunlight.
7. Buy in bulk. Buying beans in bulk will save you so much money in the long run. You can buy a kilo of dry lentils for around $3 which will yield about 10 cups worth when they have been soaked. Nuts can be costly but still cheaper if bought in bulk (about $10 a kilo). Also, think of the smaller things that are cheap, come in large quantities and you can basically live on, like a bag of potatoes, a bag of pasta, a bag of rice, a bag of onions and a bag of carrots and perhaps a bag of oranges or apples. That with some herbs and spices and maybe a few other bits and pieces and you have all of your main meals for about two weeks if you get creative. Those ingredients will cost you between $10 and $15 in total.
Not only will you be saving money in the long run, but you will have so many amazing ingredients on hand just waiting to be explored and eaten. Gaganis on Port Road/ Bacon Road, Hindmarsh, is ridiculously amazing for bulk foods.
8. Curry & Soup are your friends. These can be made simply with very few ingredients and every vegetable can be made into one or the other. Plus, they taste delicious. These are and will always be two of my favourite foods.
9. Clean your house with bicarb soda and vinegar. Both are cheap and very effective. I've even started washing my hair with a Tablespoon of bicarb mixed in some warm water followed by a vinegar rinse of 1 Tablespoon in warm water and my hair and never been so clean, soft and shiney. Google "No Poo" for more info on that.
10. Walk or Ride your bike to as many places as you can. This tip does not only save you pennies but makes your butt look great and gives you major cool points.
11. Make large pots of food and store them in used take away containers or jars in the freezer. You'll end up with quite a variety and it's so handy to have fast food when you are strapped for time and money.
If you have any hints or tips you can leave your fellow vegans, please do so. Spread the love. xx