Tag Archives: cheap vegetarian

Video of our $5 vegetarian food

I make silly videos of almost everything, so I pulled together this pummelvision video of photos Krista took for the $5/person/day project. Are you familiar with pummelvision? I love it because pummelvision does all the work. The only work I have to do is be organized with the photos, and mostly Krista does that for me. It’s great to watch this and re-live the whole month!

If the video moves too fast, you can click through to the photo set and walk down memory lane at your own pace here. And if you missed it when it was happening, you can read all the posts here. I’m still amazed by how the project turned out. We ate some really awesome food for >$5. And now I’m craving some gnocchi.

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day twenty-nine


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.78 yesterday, January 30, 2011.

Uh-oh, only one more day after this! Are you going to miss us?

BREAKFAST

8 ounces TJ’s organic plain yogurt $0.70
1/4 cup cocoa hazelnut granola $0.22
2/3 banana $0.17

LUNCH

tempeh & fried egg sandwich with sprouts & chipotle aioli $1.31
mineola $0.42

DINNER

red bean chipotle burgers on multigrain buns $1.11
baked onion rings $0.85

total $4.78

Whoa, that cocoa hazelnut granola recipe rules! And bonus points for being cheap yet decadent. We wanted to make some homemade organic cane syrup, but it always seems to come down to time. Even though it was not advised, we subbed honey to keep things simple and it still tasted great. I was surprised this was so cheap, hazelnuts and all. We are keeping the serving size small to keep it healthy. If you’re curious about nutrition, Jess calculated the info.

Those burgers were pretty great, too. It is tough to find a good veggie burger recipe. We are trying not to get all of our protein from soy, and trying not to buy so much processed food. There is so much highly processed “health food” and vegetarian products on the market today. It’s great to have that option, but we’re trying to do better as much as we can. I used chickpea flour as my flour of choice for the recipe. They definitely tasted like bean burgers, but they were good, flavorful bean burgers. Good thing we liked them, because I made a double recipe which will be four dinners for our family. At 22 cents a pop, they sure do make Boca Burgers seem like something we won’t need to buy for a very long time.

And holy crap, BAKED ONION RINGS! Those were the highlight of the meal. Maybe not as good as the real deal, but unbelievably close. Thanks, Martha.

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fifteen down, fifteen to go!


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.30 yesterday, January 16, 2011.

BREAKFAST

overnight steel cut oats with raw apple and toasted pecans $0.59

LUNCH

2 large organic carrots $0.16
4 butternut stuffed shells with tomato porcini sauce $1.28

DINNER

chickpea of the sea sandwich on day-old whole grain bread $0.92
blueberry pineapple smoothies $0.86

SNACKS

banana $0.25
1 tablespoon organic peanut butter $0.11
½ cup almond milk (Levi) $0.13

total $4.30

It’s vegan week over at the kitchn, so tonight’s dinner (linked above) and tomorrow’s will both feature recipes from some of the wonderful things they are posting. The chickpea of the sea sandwiches* were simple and everyone agreed it’s a dinner we’d eat again. We added a little kombu seaweed to give it a fishier flavor.

Last time we ate steel cut oats, Caitlin mentioned in the comments that she prepares them the night before by just bringing them to a boil and then covering and letting the oats soak overnight. That reminded me that my friend Emma had posted about her soaked oatmeal, although that version involves adding a bit of yogurt (or other acid medium like kefir, lemon juice, etc.). Apparently people have been soaking oatmeal as long as they’ve been eating it, and the fermentation breaks down the phytic acid that can prevent the absorption of nutrients.

This time we tried the overnight soak where you bring it to a boil the night before, and it was so much easier than the last time we cooked them. I also preferred the texture. I think we’ll try the lemon juice method next time.

*Somehow I misread the recipe and used half as much filling per sandwich, which tasted great as it was! But the price was based on half a serving per sandwich.

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day thirteen


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $3.05 yesterday, January 14, 2011.

BREAKFAST

whole grapefruit $0.25
2 hard boiled eggs $0.34

LUNCH

whole wheat bagel $0.42
4 tablespoons hummus $0.24
3 clementines $0.66

DINNER

1 cup green beans (frozen) $0.26
generous portion homemade potato gnocchi with tomato-porcini sauce $0.70
fresh grated parmesan $0.14

SNACKS
6 ounces stovetop espresso with 1 tablespoon markdown cream $0.04
(We keep sucking at snacks – we are going to try harder to plan and fit in enough snacks.)

total $3.05

We have been talking about making homemade gnocchi for awhile, but I finally got inspired one day when I started watching CHOW’s charming Cooking with Grandma videos. The Cooking with Grandma Paola video had her and her granddaughter making gnocchi together complete with homemade sauce.

I thought perhaps buying porcini mushrooms would break the bank. I headed downtown to Buck’s in search of mushrooms. God, I just love that place. There is always something amazing to discover. Not only did they have my mushrooms, but they showed me all these dried mushroom powders you can buy to add flavor to dishes and threw in a free sample of the espresso salt I was oohing and ahhing over. Can’t wait to try that!

The porcinis were the most expensive thing I’ve bought since we started this, but the $6.30 was for a triple batch of sauce, so after a momentary “Whoa!” I realized everything would be okay. It is funny how quickly my perspective of what is expensive for food has dramatically changed.

I knew this recipe was going to be cheap, but I can’t believe how cheap it turned out. We are now almost through that $1.98 10-pound bag of potatoes. I think the richness of this cheap meal comes from all the time and love that goes into making it, and those amazing porcini mushrooms. Even if you buy gnocchi, I highly recommend making that sauce.

COST BREAKDOWN

GNOCCHI

4 pounds russet potatoes $0.79
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour $0.50
2 cups Tomato-Porcini Sauce $2.74
2 tablespoons unsalted butter $0.16

We froze half the gnocchi (uncooked) for another night, and split the other half between the 3 of us.

total = $4.19
for the half we ate = $2.10
split between 3 people = $0.70 each

TOMATO-PORCINI SAUCE

2 cups loosely packed dried porcini mushrooms $6.30
1/2 bunch Italian parsley $0.50
6 large garlic cloves $0.06
1/2 small yellow onion $0.10
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil $0.52
2 tablespoons unsalted butter $0.16
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste $0.60

total $8.24
makes 6 cups
$1.37 per cup


washing the mushrooms


chopping the Italian parsley, onion, and garlic


ricing the potatoes


adding flour


kneading


the hardest part = rolling out, cutting, and shaping the dough


when they are almost done, they pop up and float on the top

Now to plan another dinner featuring the sauce, since we have 5 more cups!

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day twelve


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $3.85 yesterday, January 13, 2011.

BREAKFAST

1 cup cooked organic quinoa $0.36
1/4 cup almond milk $0.06
1 tablespoon brown sugar $0.02

LUNCH

whole wheat bagel $0.42
3 tablespoons hummus $0.18
2 clementines $0.44

DINNER

2 slices whole wheat pizza with artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, feta, red onion $1.12

DESSERT

root beer float $0.75

SNACKS

8 ounces plain yogurt with peach lavender butter $0.50

total $3.85

Day twelve was the first day breakfast wasn’t so delicious. Over time I’ve come to really enjoy quinoa as part of a dinner, when topped with other delicious ingredients. But I guess doctoring it up as a breakfast with a little cinnamon, brown sugar, and non-dairy milk isn’t going to cut it. I think we will have to try, try again with raisins and nuts for a little more texture. Or perhaps a poached egg.

And happy Friday to all you Monday through Friday-ers. Yesterday was the beginning of my weekend, which meant we had run out of our planned meals. Dinner ended up being after 9pm. I guarantee you we would have ordered a pizza tonight if it weren’t for the project. We had some pizza sauce and mozzarella in the fridge that were about to spoil, so we decided to count those as freebies and see what we could come up with between Trader Joe’s (home of the pre-made pizza dough) and Grocery Outlet (hoping for more cheap almond milk). We had $9.10 left for the day.

Our really decadent, under budget pizza:

whole wheat Trader Joe’s pizza dough $1.29
leftover sauce and mozzarella
1/6 a red onion $0.05
4 ounces grape tomatoes $0.62
1/2 can artichoke hearts $0.99
1/4 of a $1.62 hunk of reduced fat feta $0.41

That works out to be $3.36 total or $1.12 per person for a third a pie! Even if we had purchased mozzarella and sauce, this could have been a cheap gourmet pizza.

Our 75 cent root beer floats were made possible by Grocery Outlet and their $1.49 pint of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla. And also their 25 cent cans of Barq’s. Sure, we could have gotten a cheap 2 liter somewhere else, but then we’d have a lot more leftover root beer tempting us from the fridge.

We did plan on eating less sugar this month, but didn’t specify exact restrictions. Dessert only once a week makes us appreciate it so much more we’ll leave you with a root beer float photo essay.

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cheap & easy hummus

Hummus is popular stuff around these parts. We usually eat it on sandwiches, bagels, or as a dip for cut up veggies. Awhile back I had someone tell me they priced it out and it was cheaper to buy it at the store. I didn’t believe it for a second, but I have always made hummus by dumping a little of this and a little of that until it tastes just right. So I measured it out this time. Well, you tell me, can you get 3 cups of hummus for cheaper than $2.72 at your local store?

Make 3 cups or 48 tablespoons.

one clove garlic, minced $0.01
2 (15.5 ounce) cans chickpeas $1.60
1/4 cup tahini $0.80
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons lemon juice $0.05 (price for bottled)
2 tablespoons olive oil $0.26
salt to taste

Total cost $2.72 or 6 cents per tablespoon.

Directions, puree in a food processor until smooth. If your canned beans are especially dry, you may need to add more water or lemon juice to get the right consistency.

Favorite variations: fold in chopped roasted red bell pepper or your favorite olives.

Of course, my version is designed to be a little lighter and a little cheaper by using water in place of some of the fat. Tahini will be your most expensive ingredient. This price was based on a 16 ounce jar of tahini I found on sale for $5.59. I can usually find it here in Olympia for $6 to $8 for a 16 ounce jar. What’s a jar of tahini run you? Or do you make your own?

Wow, a 6 cent gram of protein? Here’s the complete nutrition breakdown per tablespoon.

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day ten


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Ten days down! That means we’re one-third into our 30 day project. I can already tell I’m going to miss this when it’s over.

Here’s what we ate for $4.24 yesterday, January 11, 2011.

BREAKFAST

banana & steel cut oatmeal brulee $0.22

LUNCH

leftover blue cheese & pear grilled mini sandwiches $1.44
3 clementines $0.66

DINNER

shaksouka* split 3-ways $1.12
3 small pieces raisin bread $0.57

SNACKS

2 large organic carrots $0.16
6 ounces stove top espresso with 1/3 cup frothed soy milk $0.07 (still using free coffee beans)

total $4.24

I can’t believe that fancified breakfast was possibly our cheapest yet. If I had known it was only going to come in at 22 cents a serving, I would have thrown in some pecans or walnuts. I got the idea from two peas and their pod. In the evening, Jess doubled that recipe and portioned it into seven ramekins. In the morning I sliced up some banana, layering a third a banana over each ramekin. Then I sprinkled 2 teaspoons of brown sugar on top and put them under the broiler for a couple minutes, watching carefully to pull them out before they burn. We recommend doing this right before serving as the bananas don’t hold up well in the fridge.

At 86 cents a pound bulk, steel cut oats cost 30 cents per dry cup.

And then there was dinner. Ahhh, dinner.

There seems to be a lot of different ways to spell this food: shaksouka, shaksuka, shakshuka, shakshouka. Everyone seems to agree it is Middle Eastern dish primarily made of tomato and egg, and it is cheap. Other than spices, the costs were:

1 tablespoon olive oil $0.13
1 small onion, diced small $0.20
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped $0.03
1 28-ounce can organic diced tomatoes $1.99
6 eggs $1.02

total: $3.37 or $1.12 per serving when split between the three of us.

I really think it could use some heat, and we had even purchased some peppers and forgot to use them. We did remember to add a little parsley from our own plant.

* Somehow Serious Eats left the tomatoes off the recipe. A little googling and I figured out it takes a 28 ounce can of tomatoes. We splurged on organic, the whole meal was so cheap.

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day eight


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.57 yesterday, January 9, 2011.

BREAKFAST

whole grapefruit $0.50
multi-grain bagel $0.47
3 tablespoons green onion cream cheese $0.24
6 ounces stove top espresso with 1/3 cup frothed soy milk $0.07 (still using free coffee beans)

LUNCH

chocolate blueberry smoothie with hemp protein $0.83

DINNER

baked yam $0.53
honey baked lentils $0.32
honey roasted organic carrots $0.19
1-1/2 tablespoons sour cream $0.09

SNACKS

bottle of beer $1.33 (Levi is at his dad’s today, so sadly he didn’t get one)

total $4.57

Perhaps we’re getting a little cocky, having a beer on $5 a day. We were running around shopping for four days worth of food as we head into the work week and didn’t have time for any snacks. We did have a brief field trip to our friend’s house for some free eggs and a visit to the ladies who laid them.

See the ladies in action, complete with a soundtrack thanks to Jess.

We got 3 dozen eggs since our friend is fostering some homeless hens and has an abundance. Hooray! We’ll probably still count the co-op price for eggs since they’re so cheap and to keep our totals relevant to people who don’t have the hook-up. It’s sure nice to have some local food in the mix.

And if you’re wondering whether we are really hemp protein kind of gals, we’re not. We don’t really buy powdered food, and it’s not really a bargain food. We have a stock pile of free samples from festivals and things we go to, and decided to throw it into our smoothie. We couldn’t taste it at all, so I guess it was pretty good.

Man, have I missed smoothies with all this cold weather. Here’s the recipe, which benefits in price from the local, organic blueberries we painstakingly picked at a you-pick farm this summer for $2.25 a pound:

CHOCOLATE BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE

1 banana $0.25
1/2 cup frozen organic blueberries $0.28
1 tablespoon cocoa $0.08
1 cup plain soy milk $0.22
1/2 a free hemp protein packet (optional)

Instructions: blend thoroughly. You can increase the cocoa a bit for a little more chocolate. The banana and blueberries provide plenty of sweet.

And the lentil recipe was recommended by our friend Lisa. We decided to serve it over a baked yam, which didn’t make for the prettiest dinner, but it sure was good. Here’s the cost breakdown:

HONEY BAKED LENTILS

1 cup lentils $1.23
2 cups water
2 cloves minced garlic $0.02
2 teaspoons ground or fresh ginger (we used leftover fresh, unknown cost)
2 tablespoons olive oil $0.26
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce $0.06
2 tablespoons honey $0.12
1 small onion, chopped $0.20
salt and pepper to taste

$1.89 total
6 servings = $0.32 per serving

You just combine the ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Lentils definitely win in terms of easy and cheap food. They were really cheap despite the fact that we were somehow charged more than the bulk bin was marked. I’m not too concerned, though, because as we finished up our shopping we turned to each other wide-eyed at how much less we are spending on four days worth of food.

I can’t wait to cook some of the new recipes we’re going to try this week!

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day seven


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Woohoo, day seven! We’ve been eating for under $5 per person/per day for an entire week.

Here’s what we ate for $4.05 yesterday, January 8, 2011.

BREAKFAST

malted almond milk mocha with whipped cream $0.54

organic hulled barley with avocado, pico de gallo & a poached egg $0.60

LUNCH

leftover vegan chipotle corn chowder $0.72

DINNER

BBQ tofu sandwiches with caramelized onion and cabbage $1.29

yam fries $0.40

SNACKS

8 ounces lowfat vanilla yogurt $0.50

total $4.05

There’s nothing quite like a lazy Saturday morning when the three of us are all home. I got up and started cooking the barley we had soaked overnight and decided to make us malted mochas. I tried to do it on the cheap, and seem to have succeeded. Here’s the recipe I came up with per serving:

malted almond milk mocha for one

1/2 cup almond milk $0.25
1/3 ounce unsweetened chocolate (1/3 a baking square) $0.12
1 tablespoon sugar $0.02
1 teaspoon cocoa $0.03
1 tablespoon malt powder $0.06
1 six ounce serving from a stove top espresso maker (still using the free beans)
1 1/2 tablespoons cream, whipped with a tiny splash of vanilla $0.06

total: $0.54 per serving

Heat the milk, chocolate, and sugar over medium heat, stirring frequently as the chocolate melts. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to low, add the cocoa and malt powder and whisk thoroughly. Allow it to simmer while you prepare the coffee and whip the cream.

Pour the coffee and cocoa mixture together in a mug and top with whipped cream.

It can be challenging to whip a small amount of cream. I whipped a tiny amount just for the 3 of us for the sake of keeping the fat down and calculating the cost. For small single servings you can shake cream in a small mason jar and get close to whipped cream if you are very determined.

Now onto the subject of BARLEY. None of the three of us had ever eaten barley outside of soup. And none of us had ever encountered hulled barley. When that was all they carried at our co-op, we had to consult the kitchn to find out if it could be used in place of pearl. Basically, pearl barley is to hulled barley as white rice is to brown.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that we decided to eat barley on the recommendation of Oprah. I fully expected to just tolerate eating it, but it just so happens that it is delicious. That breakfast was a big hit. Levi said he would be happy to eat it every single day. I didn’t break down the recipe because all the ingredients are in the title and all of them except the barley have been calculated before. We got a little shy of 3/4 cup dry organic hulled barley for 49 cents. It’s even cheaper when you consider that it triples when you cook it. Woops, almost forgot the money shot:

And here’s the cost breakdown for dinner:

BBQ Tofu Sandwiches

kaiser rolls $0.33
BBQ sauce $0.91
14 ounces extra firm tofu $1.99
1 large onion $0.25
1 tablespoon olive oil $0.13
7 ounces cabbage $0.26

total: $3.87
3 servings at $1.29 per serving

yam fries

1 tablespoon olive oil $0.13
1 large yam $1.08

total: $1.21
3 servings at 40 cents per serving

THOUGHTS:

– One of the best things about this project is that we eat dinner at the table every single night.

– Is it possible that today was the first day we ate tofu? It’s okay to admit you thought we’d have to eat a ton of soy. We kind of did, too.

– In case you were concerned our super cheap almond milk was a fluke, we scored more for even cheaper by using a combination of those coupons that spit out of little machines on the grocery aisles and the ones that get spit out along with your receipt when you check out. And today we found a half-gallon of Silk soy milk for $1.79 after another in-store coupon. That will be even cheaper per cup, at 22 cents.

In our first week we ate every single meal and snack for $28.95 per person. We came in $6.05 under budget. When you consider that is 17% of our budget, that is a lot. We are kind of blown away by how well we ate this week.

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day six


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $3.94 yesterday, January 7, 2011.

BREAKFAST

the last of the peanut butter & banana baked oatmeal $0.43
tiny dollop of homemade blackberry jam (from our preserves)

LUNCH

multigrain bagel $0.47
3 tablespoons low fat green onion cream cheese $0.24
minneola $0.66

DINNER

southwestern corn frittata $1.24
cabbage, jicama & carrot slaw with lime dressing $0.36

SNACKS

8 ounces plain yogurt with peach lavender preserves $0.50

stovetop espresso with a tablespoon of markdown cream $0.04 (still using the free coffee)

total $3.94

Here’s the breakdown on the dinner ingredients:

8 large eggs $1.36
2 cups bulk organic frozen corn $1.66
1 cup grated cheddar $0.25
4 ounce can diced chiles $1
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro $0.13
4 6-inch-diameter corn tortillas $0.20
1.5 tablespoons olive oil $0.19
1-1/4 cups chopped onion $0.15

We added the diced green chiles since the cheese we had on hand was cheddar, and I do believe it added a lot of flavor to the recipe. We scored a big 2 pound loaf of Tillamook cheddar for $3.99 awhile back and I’m wondering if will last us the entire month.

– It turns out that organic bulk corn from the co-op is significantly more expensive than the cheap grocery store stuff, but boy could we taste the difference. It was so fresh and the sweetness of the corn really gave the frittata a little something extra. Oh, by the way, the dinner was a huge hit.

– On the other hand, limes at the co-op are sold by the pound and end up a little cheaper than the ones we’ve been buying at the grocery store lately.

– We still haven’t scored the organic yogurt we want, but we did manage to snag some 32 ounce containers of plain yogurt on sale for $2. We compared the value to the various 6 ounce individual containers that were on sale. The cheapest containers were 50 cents (cheaper than what we had been eating), but when we looked at the nutrition information they had tons of sugar. All the fabulous high protein, low sugar Greek yogurts cost a lot more. So we went with the big plain tubs and Jess carefully portioned us out 8 ounce containers with our own fruit on the bottom – some of our peach lavender butter. Oh my god, it was amazing.

We confessed to each other that we’d been craving something a little more than almond milk in our coffee, and then lo and behold the marked down cream called out to us at the grocery store. At $1.29 for a pint, it works out to 4 cents a tablespoon.

-In case you were wondering, why yes we do eat a lot of food with a southwestern flair. Also, while I don’t want to be redundant, a lot of what saves money is using up the food we buy. This dinner was inspired by leftover tortillas, eggs, and cabbage.

-I would eat green onions just about everyday if I could. If you haven’t tried adding a bunch of green onions to a package of cream cheese, you should. Our chive plant is officially not able to keep up with our need, so they are sitting this round out. Meanwhile, the dwarf Meyer lemon tree is blooming. Go figure.

-Yes, all this documenting and planning and weighing (and calculating and photographing and blogging) is a ton of work. We look kind of insane when we are shopping with our little pad and pen and my cell phone as a calculator. And standing in front of the olive oil for a full five minutes trying to figure out the best deal and weighing whether or not it is worth a little extra for the extra virgin variety. The answer is yes, we thought it was worth a little extra. And as promised, when a staple ran out we calculated it out: thirteen cents per tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

– Calculating the cost of cilantro = hardcore.

– Today I already noticed a difference in our bank account, and that really surprised and excited me. I look forward to all the money we will save in a month. And we are eating really, really well. I’m also amazed that we not only manage to eat a ton of produce, but we’ve even gotten some organic stuff here and there.

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