Tag Archives: cheap vegetarian

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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day five


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.35 yesterday, January 6, 2011.

BREAKFAST

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

LUNCH

vegan chipotle corn chowder $0.72
organic cameo apple $0.52

DINNER

3 pinto bean tacos with cabbage, avocado, pico de gallo, cotija & lime $1.21

DESSERT (crazy, right?)

a Cadbury Caramello bar split 3 ways $0.42

SNACKS
8 ounces yogurt $0.72
banana $0.25
coffee with 1/3 cup almond milk $0.08 for the milk (and the coffee was free)

total: $4.35

THOUGHTS:

Dessert, OMG. It is kind of embarrassing how excited everyone was to have dessert just 5 days in. I mean I basically took an artsy still life photo of a Caramello bar, right? Levi was in one of his hysterical moods, and had us cracking up with, “This must have MDMA in it because I’m feeling severe bursts of euphoria.”

Gee, do you think we eat too much sugar? I think one of the missions of the project is well on its way to being accomplished.

And DINNER. We eat tacos pretty regularly around here. I know it to be a cheap dinner. And still, we were all pretty amazed that it was just over a dollar for 3 tacos that tasted that good. Here is the cost breakdown:

9 small corn tortillas $0.45
1 clove garlic $0.01
¼ onion $0.05
beans $0.69
4 oz cabbage $0.15
avocado $0.79
pico de gallo freebie
2 oz cotija cheese $1.25
1/2 lime $0.25

total: $3.64
per serving (3 tacos): $1.21

The pico de gallo was the only thing I couldn’t calculate a price on. You may have noticed I’ve started to try to calculate many of our staples and even the leftover stuff we need to use up. We got that pico from Grocery Outlet, and it was cheap. My best guess is we each used less than a quarter’s worth, so that still makes 3 delicious tacos for under a buck-fifty.

Canned refried beans are nasty. I’m just going to put that out there. I am forever indebted to my friends Jordan and Melanie for teaching me how to doctor up beans for tacos. It makes all the difference in the world. So I am going to pass that wisdom on to you, dear readers, and tell you what we do with a plain old can o’ pinto beans.

Rinse the beans and set aside. Finely dice 1/4 of an onion and a clove of garlic. Heat a small pot over medium high heat and add a couple teaspoons of canola oil. Sauté the onion until soft and translucent, then add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more. Add the beans, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, Goya Adobo or salt to taste, and enough water so that the water is just a bit below the top of the beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook at a low boil. Use a masher on the beans as they cook. They are ready when the beans are soft and creamy, but leave some texture.

Yes, this is a lot more work than opening a can, but it is pretty simple and so worth it. One can is enough for 2 or 3 people, so make larger batches accordingly. Often we do a can of black beans and a can of pinto beans and save the leftovers for another meal.

Also, can I just note that it took me five days to realize I can use my kitchen scale to portion out ingredients and calculate their cost a lot more easily? We finally caved and bought a kitchen scale this year for canning, and it is proving to be a really handy tool to have around.

Oh, and extra points to Levi for peeling apart and counting the cloves in the giant head of garlic we bought for 33 cents. He got 28. So a penny a clove.

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vegan chipotle corn chowder

This is one of the standby dinners we make once or twice a month. Apparently I haven’t made it in awhile because Levi announced that he couldn’t wait to eat it as he pestered me to get cracking on dinner.

Makes 8 servings

one recipe creamy vegan base, below
1 tablespoon olive oil
large onion, chopped
large red or orange bell pepper, chopped
4 cups water
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
32 ounces frozen corn
1 – 2 tablespoons pureed chipotles in adobo, to taste*

Prepare the creamy vegan base.

Heat a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, and once hot saute the onions until they are golden and soft, 7-10 minutes. Add the bell pepper and saute another minute. Next, add the water and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.

Add the corn, chipotle, and creamy vegan base to the stockpot. Return to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened, about 10-15 minutes.

Use a potato masher to break up the potatoes some. Transfer about half the chowder into a blender. Remove the center of the lid to vent, covering with a folded towel. Puree until smooth, and return to the stockpot. (An immersion blender doesn’t work as well for this step.) Stir to combine and serve.

creamy vegan base

2 cups water
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons corn starch

Place all ingredients in a blender and allow to soak while you prepare the rest of your recipe. Just before adding the base, blend until smooth. No chunks of almond should remain. This may take up to two minutes.

* You can puree cans of chipotles in adobo in a food processor and store in a jar for an extended period of time. If you don’t want to puree them for other uses, just blend 1 – 3 peppers from a can of chipotles in adobo along with the creamy base.

Full nutrition information here, calculated via the sparkpeople.com recipe calculator.

This cost us 72 cents per serving based on our purchase of a 20 cent onion, a $1.50 orange bell pepper, 38 cents for the potatoes (an ultra cheap 10 pound bag), $1.89 for corn, $1.56 for bulk almonds, and 25 cents for fresh lime juice. The tomato paste was leftover from our chili, and everything else we keep on hand.

As I’m analyzing this, I discovered our checker must have messed up when weighing our bulk almonds. This quarter of a cup said it was .39 pounds and $1.56. The ones we bought for a previous recipe were 50 cents for twice as much.

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day three


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.86 yesterday, January 4, 2011.

BREAKFAST

pumpkin & caramelized banana baked oatmeal again, that’s the last of it! $0.37

LUNCH

seitan mole chili $1.30
2 large organic carrots, $0.19

DINNER

faux Philly cheesesteaks on poppyseed kaiser rolls $2.19

giant serving of coleslaw $0.33

SNACKS

banana $0.25
hard boiled egg $0.17
leftover coffee with ¼ cup almond milk $0.06

Can we just say that night 3 was rough? This was one of those nights when we definitely would have gotten take-out if we could have. We were both running on sleep deficits and I’m pretty sure we’re all going through a little sugar withdrawal from switching over from holiday eating to very little extra sugar in our diets. We may just have to find room for dessert in the budget before the week is out.

I asked Levi his thoughts after eating on the cheap for 3 days. Did he feel deprived? He laughed at the idea. We have been eating pretty damn good for $5/person/day. So far.

And here is a visual of his reaction to our faux cheesesteak dinner:


Let’s see if this is any good.


Ohhhh yeah, that’s good.

Stuff:

– We are all sad to see that amazing pumpkin oatmeal run out, but we came up with our own baked oatmeal recipe to share with you tomorrow.
– I realized we are generally pretty good about making enough food for 6 people for dinner and saving it for lunch.
– The faux Philly cheesesteaks were inspired by one of our other scores from our trip to Grocery Outlet:

Yves brand fake deli slices are probably the only fake meat product we buy on a regular basis because they make really easy sandwiches to send in school lunches. We’d never tried this fake beef, and while they weren’t all that great on their own the dinner was a huge hit. The cost breaks down to 80 cents for four slices of that, kaiser rolls from the Fred Meyer bakery at 3 for a dollar, 2 ounces of discounted smoked cheese for 62 cents, and 18 cents worth of onion and 26 worth of green bell pepper on each sandwich. We planned on using red bell pepper but couldn’t afford it. We did not miss the red bell pepper.

Look at us, really pushing the limit of our budget. I hope to hit exactly $5 before the month is out.

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