Each year November comes around and I am so excited to shout out about all things vegan, plant-based, eco-friendly and everything just all-round good for the planet. This year, more than ever, access to healthy food has been a major issue for some. The global pandemic has definitely made things tougher for a lot of people, whether that is financially, physically or emotionally.
There is a great misconception that following a plant-based lifestyle is expensive and difficult.
While I appreciate the privileged position I am in to be able to try new and exciting vegan products as they launch and have the ability to choose my meals, I know that this is not the case for everyone. Yet, it can still be a simple transition to make, with the right guidance and education.
2020 has been a great year for cookbooks and one that stands out in particular in raising awareness for living and eating plant-based on a budget is the fabulous cookbook from Toni aka @plantbasedonabudget and Michelle from @vegan.
Their joint cookbook is called The Friendly Vegan Cookbook, and it is exactly that.
It has an informative intro with helpful swaps for those transitioning to a plant-based diet and where to find different sources of nutrients and key store cupboard staples. Turning the pages of the main recipe section, you’ll notice that they use “normal” ingredients; flour, vegan butter/margarine, sugar, vegetables, tins of food… all of which are fairly inexpensive. Yet, they talk about the recipes and present them in such delicious ways that you’d be challenged to not find a recipe to tickle your fancy.
If you’re looking for a more creative and equally as delicious book, Niki aka @rebelrecipes has just released her second cookbook aimed at younger people and educating them in going (a bit more) plant-based: Be More Vegan.
While this book may have a few “fancier” ingredients and a few spices, the majority of Niki’s recipes focus on wholefoods – which are namely fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. From hearty warming curries to vibrant spring rolls, delicious burgers and sweet treats, it’s a great book for anyone looking to try out a few simpler recipes.
For a third book recommendation, I just had to mention Jack Monroe from Cooking On A Bootstrap.
I’ve listened to a few interviews with Jack about her personal financial struggles and the tough time she had feeding her family filling, healthy and delicious meals. I have to point out that not all of her recipes are plant-based, but a lot of them are, as this was what she found to be cheaper! One top tip of hers that spring to mind is using stewed tea in place of red wine in sauces for that depth of flavour. All of her recipes come with a price tag per portion a attached, which is great indicator of just how inexpensive it can be – Vegan Rainbow Dhansak Curry for 31p!
From cookbooks to actionable steps that you can take in the kitchen to make veganism a little more accessible – The Vegan Society’s theme for 2020 and their “Live Vegan for Less” campaign.
- Beans: beans, chickpeas, lentils that come in a tin are all so cheap (and much cheaper than meat). Use these in curries or stews as the protein source or add them into burgers, falafels and other sacks. You can even make them into sweet blondies or cookie dough.
- Dried beans: you can also buy beans, chickpeas and lentils dried. It often works out cheaper, but there are a few more steps involved. they require soaking for several hours before cooking through for an hour or so until tender and then they are ready to eat.
- Waste less: food waste costs us so much money on a global scale but also on a personal scale. Planning meals in advance can reduce on food waste and having a few favourite recipes under your belt that can use ay leftovers is a great idea: my Any-Veg White Bea Curry is a great one for this. Also think of ways to use up the whole of the fruit or vegetable: I love to add apple peel to a tray with some oil, cinnamon and sugar and bake until crisp. And don’t get me started on cauliflower leaf crisps!
- Supermarket own brand: while I love the amazing brands out there, I appreciate they are sometimes more expensive, so take a look at own-brand varieties. Own-brand plant-based yoghurt, milk or cheese can be great and a lot of the own-brand biscuits taste exactly the same: like Oreos, chocolate bourbons, oaty cookies (check that they are “accidentally vegan” as not all of them are). Shop for own-brand tinned beans, baked beans and even their dark chocolate will probably be dairy-free!
- Eat seasonally: there is a lot that can be said for eating seasonally. Fruits and vegetables are often much cheaper when they are in season. We just saw lots of figs on the shelves recently and persimmon are on offer. Going into winter, take advantage of all the potatoes and root vegetables like carrots, swedes and onions. When it is summer, go all out for the fresh berries but this time of year they tend to be more expensive. As well as being financially better for you, choosing to eat seasonally is also better for the planet.
- Stock up on spices: you don’t need to have a full spice/dried herb cupboard but having a few basic ones will really amplify your meals; and a little goes a long way. My favourites are smoked paprika, ground cumin, cinnamon and dried mixed herbs, but choose the ones that you use the most – and don’t forget the salt and pepper. A lot of people think vegan food is bland, but it’s probably unseasoned.
- Store cupboard: as well as tins of beans, legumes and other wonderful things, it’s great to have a few basic ingredients to add flavour to your dishes. These aren’t necessarily only for a vegan lifestyle but things like soy sauce, tomato sauce, mayonnaise… all of which you can find vegan or naturally vegan.
These are just a few simple reminders of inexpensive ways to shop and life a more plant-based lifestyle, but it doesn’t stop there.
Remember that a lot of things already in your home are naturally vegan (flour, sugar etc) and don’t feel like you have to use coconut sugar or spelt flour – which are more expensive. While I love all of these alternatives, it’s important to go back to basics because ultimately having lots of part-time vegans makes a much bigger impact than only a handful of full-time ones.
And don’t be afraid to slip up: no one is perfect and so in the same way, there is not “the perfect vegan.”
Let me know your thoughts below – anything and everything! Are you vegan already? Are you thinking about including few more plant-based meals into your week? Are you plant-curious?
p.s. find the recipe for these Chocolate Stuffed Dates 3 Ways here.