I was on a Facebook page today where a week’s worth of vegan dinners was posted. The article encouraged that ingredients for the entire week of entrees would cost just $30. I began to read through the extensive list of comments on the proposed menu and came across a post by a woman named Rebecca. She lamented that the menu was just way too expensive for her budget. She had several hungry children and teens to feed. She feared that if she used all her money each week for the listed ingredients, then the only thing her children would get for breakfast would be a banana. Going to the store every other day was not feasible. She was discouraged.
I immediately identified with her plight. She’s right! At a cost of $30 per week for entrees – my budget would need to be a whopping $720 per month – and that, apparently does not include the cost of breakfast and lunch. Should eating “well” really cost our family upwards of $900 per month?! My monthly food budget is exactly half of that amount.
I immediately responded to Rebecca with some encouragement. If you are in a similar situation, or just want to feed your family more whole, real food, let me share you the same, real, achievable, and time-saving ideas that I gave Rebecca.
1. We get oatmeal and cream of wheat in 25 or 50 pound bags. Store it away from moisture in an airtight container. It is shelf-stable for up to a year. Add a few nuts, raisins, and a little frozen fruit to the oatmeal and you have something that will "hold them" a while.
2. We always eat air-popped popcorn for a mid-morning snack.
3. I never purchase any of the vegan "meats" or pre-made items. They are too expensive and processed. But, tofu is rather inexpensive - I get 20 oz. from our Chinese store for about $1.70 each.
4. We do a baked potato bar once a week. Make a couple of fillings, like vegan creamed peas or taco lentils, add some salsa, homemade guacamole, a few chopped nuts, homemade hummus, or homemade vegan "cheese" sauce, and you have a feast! Cheap AND filling.
5. Buy seasonally. Apples and oranges are in season right now and we are eating a TON of them!
6. GLEAN - my friends know that I will gladly take their extra garden produce at the end of the year and freeze it for later use.
7. Plan a menu every single week - based on what you have in the house and what is on sale. Plan meals around the sales flyers.
8. BULK COOK! I can't say this strongly enough. Beans and brown rice can be made ahead and frozen. Know what you have on-hand so you don't purchase what you don't need
I hope this is helpful to you. I would be happy to field any of your questions on serving real food on a lean budget.