Tag Archives: budget

Vegan on a Budget

Brent and I have been entertaining the idea of trying a food stamp challenge: that is living on what the average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP recipient does. This is partly because rising food costs affect us all and are particularly hard on the most vulnerable among us. We’re also interested in demonstrating that being vegan on a budget isn’t impossible or torturous.

The average food stamp recipient gets just $31.50 per week. I realize how much money that is when I think about my favorite oatmeal costing just a few dollars for a supply that will last several weeks. Add the raisins and agave nectar (that will last a little longer than the oats) and you’ve got a nutritious tasty breakfast for a week, for example. I also realize how little money it is when I think about how much Brent and I can spend at a Starbucks.

We’re planning to present you with receipts and nutritional profiles for our meals. I suspect that meeting nutritional requirements will be the most challenging part but I’m prepared for some creative solutions to these problems. We’ll be following B12 and the intake of zinc most closely (since vegans can have trouble getting these nutrients) but iron, calcium and protein will be among the nutrients we follow (for those skeptical carnists among us). Vitamins C, A and D are easy to get if you eat vegetables and leave your house once a day for a few minutes so we’re not too concerned about those but we’ll be watching them anyways.

We’re curious about what you’d like to see as we undertake this challenge. What should our rules reasonably include? Are fruit from local trees and condiments from take-out fair game as ‘free food’ or should we stick to our budgeted foods? Would supplements be cheating if we can budget them? We want to hear from you because you’re the ones we do all this stuff for.

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!

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The Cheese Post 4.0

Here at Turning Veganese, Brent, Melissa and I can agree that cheese is the hardest habit to kick when transitioning from a carnist to vegan lifestyle. We’ve made 3 previous posts about cheeses we’ve tried and whether or not we liked them, were useful, thought the ingredients and nutritional profile were an improvement and if we thought they were a good value. We’ve managed to track down a few more vegan cheeses and wanted to share them with you.

Better than Ricotta by Tofutti was  stunningly similar to ricotta. The ingredients include soy but it’s free of nuts, dairy and gluten so it’s suitable for people with those sensitivities. It’s pretty high in calories, equal to that of regular cheeses so I’ll probably stick with home-made tofu ricotta which is also considerably cheaper compared to the $5.49 or about 30 cents per ounce.

Better than Sour Cream, also by Tofutti is another product that we liked the flavor but found the nutrition lacking and the ingredients highly processed. It also contains soy but is free of nuts and gluten making it suitable for some common food allergies but not others. Making you own at home is probably more budget friendly but this makes a great taco topping in a pinch. Making your own will be a better bet in terms of nutrition and price. It’s priced at $3.49 for 12 ounces.

We Can’t Say it’s Sour Cream by Wayfare Foods had a great calorie profile at 35 calories per ounce and is free from soy, gluten or nuts (except for coconut). The taste and texture were a little confusing. It tasted kind of like sour cream but more like Tofutti’s Better than Cream cheese. The texture was also more like cream cheese than sour cream, even after we mixed the top layer of liquid into the bulk of the product. It cost us $3.99 for 16 ounces making it a better value than Tofutti but I suspect that a lot of people wouldn’t be convinced by the flavor and texture to really enjoy it.

Free & Easy Cheese Sauce mix is more of a flavoring than a cheese substitute but can help make things that are supposed to be cheesy taste like something approaching white cheddar. The ingredients are pretty processed but mostly inoffensive and are suitable for someone with nut, soy or wheat allergies. The container says there are 12 servings in the can but I don’t think you need as much as they say to get the flavor they’re advertising. You can add this to sauces, nut or lentil pate, soy-curl “chicken” salad and anything else that you’d want to have a cheesy kick. With this product, a little goes a long way so it’s a pretty good deal at $6.95 for a 130 gram container.

Nacheez This particular cheese was low in calories (20 per ounce) and the ingredients were relatively unprocessed and inoffensive, though it does contain nuts. It’s a great source of B vitamins, iron and Vitamin C. The flavor is pretty good, though we had to add cayenne to make the ‘spicy’ version spicy enough for our taste. It microwaved well in its glass container turning into a molten pot of awesomesauce that’s great for dip at a party or pouring over your favorite taco recipe. It was a little pricey at $6.99 or 82 cents per ounce.

Mozzarisella is something I’ve been excited about because I’ve been seeing rave reviews. It comes packaged like Teese and has a softer texture. The ingredients are not particularly objectionable but the cheese has no particular nutritional value. When we actually got to tasting it, I found it had an oddly chemical flavor and Brent’s remark was that it was “like sucking on a garden hose”. We might have gotten a bad batch but I don’t think I’ll be buying it again. Even at a sale price of $7.95 ($2 less than retail) it wasn’t worth it for 7 ounces.

Parmela has a standout list of ingredients and a nutritional profile and flavor to match. I think the packaging is a great addition because it’ll look nice on your table at a fancy party when you’re serving pasta but I think it’s a little pricey at $3.99 or $1.60 per ounce. I’ll probably stick to Parma by Eat in the Raw. Parma also contains nuts so neither is suitable for those with nut allergies.

Vegan Queso by Food for Lovers does not contain nuts like Nacheez but does contain gluten so this is suitable for people with nut allergies but not for those who are sensitive to gluten. It’s very close in flavor, ingredients and nutrition to Nacheez and is similarly great for use as a dip or a topping for enchiladas or your favorite TexMex cuisine. A little cayenne and a microwave is all it needs! It’s sold at $5.99 or 50 cents per ounce which is a better deal as long as you’re not sensitive to gluten.

So we’ve shown you some more of the cheeses we’ve managed to get our hands on and  hope you’ll get to try and decide for yourself. Also let us know your favorites and if we haven’t tried them, we’ll give it a spin.

This is Brent and Christie, signing off!

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Lazy Vegan: Bachelorette Chow!

A while back, Brent posted about what he calls bachelor chow. It turns out I have a lady version of this dish. Mine is fairly straightforward and has a nutritional profile that my needs and just happens to compliment Brent’s version well. Before I was vegan this included tilapia but that was quickly and easily replaced with less expensive, cholesterol-free chickpeas. That’s most of what you’ll need:
1 tin of chickpeas, drained OR 1 cup of chickpeas, soaked and pressure cooked
1 10 ounce or 1 lb. bag of frozen vegetables (I prefer mixes with broccoli, carrots and peas or beans)
whatever combination of hot sauce, tamari or soy sauce and teryaki sauce or mushroom sauce does it for you
1 tsp olive oil

I put the chickpeas into a pan with the olive oil and often some flake red pepper or cayenne and fry the chickpeas until they get all steamy! I add the frozen veggies and stir-fry until they’re hot and then add sauces to taste. This is a versatile budget friendly meal that’s pretty family friendly. When I make this for me and Brent, I’ll use 2 10 ounce bags of vegetables or a 1 pound bag. It usually comes out to less than $5 for dinner for 2, less if you start with dried chickpeas. Fresh, frozen or dried black-eyed peas (sometimes called cow peas), lima beans, edamame or green peas are great for when you want a change.

What’s your super quick and easy meal for days when you don’t really want to cook?

This is Christie, signing off!

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Sprouts! … and a giveaway!!!

Sprouts are the freshest greens you can have in your house on a regular basis and for pennies. All you need is a jar, a rubber band, a piece of screen and some organic seeds for sprouting. I’m using mung beans (left) and a spicy sprouting mix (right) that I got from my local farmer’s market. You don’t need a lot, they get big fast. Place the screen over the mouth of the jar and wrap the rubber band around it to hold the screen in place.

Every day, at least once a day and preferably twice a day you’ll need to rinse the sprouts. To do this you’ll fill the jar with enough water to cover the spouts and empty it through the screen and into the sink. Do this 2-3 times. Don’t worry if they get stuck in the screen. They’ll be fine.

Somebody accidentally ate the spicy sprouts before she remembered she needed them for a photo opportunity but here are the mung beans below.

YUM! That tablespoon or so of mung beans made a whole jar of sprouts. Cheap, easy and delicious! This is actually a giveaway. When I bought the screen I had to buy a HUGE roll so I want to part with some. We need at least 30 entrants or September 30 (whichever comes first) and all you have to do is the following:

1. like and follow our blog

2. like us on FaceBook

3. comment below on what you favorite kind of sprouts are and your favorite way to eat them (mine is Mung bean sprouts in pad thai!)

Then I’ll ask each of the randomly selected winners (3 in total) to email us their address and I’ll send you 2 bright shiny pieces of screen for your own jar of sprouts! Thanks to Somer at Good Clean Food for the brilliant idea!

This is Christie, signing off!

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Raw Vegan Crackers 2.0

Brent and I manage to juice more often and that’s fine with me. I’m writing this because our cracker recipe has gotten more complicated and more delicious! Our juice varies but usually involves some combination of spinach, kale, parsley, mint, basil, apples, oranges, lemon, ginger root, carrots, celery, mango, beets and cucumber. When we don’t have time to make crackers, we just throw the pulp into a baggie and freeze it.

The ratios don’t matter much, but you’ll find the stronger flavors will come out (celery in particular) in the crackers and will complement the spices well. If you’re not using any sweet fruits or vegetables, you might consider adding a little molasses. Typically we juice everything that we can make into crackers (which is just about everything except for cucumber) and then empty the pulp into our blender. If you’ve made enough juice for one person you’ll add the following (and this doubles nicely)
1/3 cup of flax meal
2-4 teaspoons of soy sauce or suitable substitute
2-3 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp flake red pepper
water as needed
We blend this up until the consistency is uniform and somewhere between a batter and a dough. Taste it and adjust the seasonings. It took me a while to get used to the idea of eating this raw or dehydrated so I understand if you’re wary. We use a spatula to spread it into the non-stick trays that go with our dehydrator and let it go overnight.

Sometimes I sprinkle sesame seeds on top but this isn’t necessary. You’ll have to put some pressure on each seed to make sure they don’t fall off once the crackers are dry. It’ll take some time adjusting the thickness of the dough when you spread it out in your dehydrator but you’ll end up with light crispy crackers that are great for you and awesome with hummus, bean dip or spinach artichoke dip. We store them in a giant plastic bag to keep the Miami humidity from softening them.

This is Brent and Christie, signing off!

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Gadgets for Budgets!

I managed to find a used soy-milk maker for $30 bucks (SoyQuick, retails for about $120) on eBay a few weeks ago and we’re pretty excited about the end products. It’s definitely a device that can help your budget and keep you from heading to the store late at night for a carton of milk.

The first step fr this particular machine is to soak and wash the soybeans. We soaked for 8 hours (instructions call for at least 4 hours to overnight). Ours needs about 1/2 cup of beans.

The next step is to fill the basin to the fill line with water (we used distilled water) and the cup with beans and then we put it on the counter and pressed the button. It heated the water and ground up the beans and before we even expected it, we had made our own soy-milk. It was incredibly easy and as you can see the machine is kind of deadly looking: perfect for my favorite guy to make his contribution to kitchen life.

The end product consists of 2 things: a cup of spent beans (above) and the milk itself (below). Not all of the beans got ground so we might use a little less than 1/2 cup next time and see if the milk is as awesome, maybe a heaping 1/3 cup.

Based on our preliminary work with the machine, our *very* conservative estimate is that we can get about 3 gallons of soy-milk from a 26 ounce bag of organic soybeans that we bought for just under $5. That’s a STEAL! You can also use almonds, cashews, flax seeds (which I’m particularly excited about) or whatever kind of beans, seeds or nuts make your day. If you’ve got an allergy and can’t risk cross contamination, this might be your bag. I’m also excited to add carob, cocoa and maca to flavor our milks and add extra nutrients.

I’m also trying to figure out what to do with the ‘waste’ product from making soy-milk which is the cup of spent beans. I’m hoping that they can be incorporated with the pulp that results from making vegetable juice to make crackers that are vegan, gluten-free and loaded with fiber instead of calories.

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!

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The Cheese Post 2.0

CREAM CHEESE CHALLENGE!
This edition of the Cheese Post focuses on the breakfast favorite: cream cheese. I’m reviewing 4 different varieties of cream cheese and hope it informs your decisions. We have reviewed other vegan cheeses in the Cheese Post 1.1 and hope you’ll give it a look.

Follow Your Heart This cream cheese mostly had processed ingredients and about 90 calories per 2 tablespoon serving. This variety is reminiscent of just about everything else Follow Your Heart makes. That’s a good thing. This is definitely a the most accurate representation of cream cheese flavor and has a great spreadable texture. It was $4.50 for 8 ounces. I think this one is the most convincing for serving to omnivores, but I wouldn’t buy it for myself.

Galaxy Vegan cream cheese from Galaxy had 90 calories for every 2 tablespoons you put on your plate. It tasted more like unsalted butter than cream cheese. It has a little protein and some calcium but not enough to make it worth the effort or money. The texture is okay but the flavor bordered on off putting. If I wanted butter, I would buy Earth Balance. It was just over $4 for 8 ounces. I don’t think I’ll be buying it again.

Sheese This particular cream cheese had a very strong soy flavor. The ingredients were similar to the other varieties of cheese made by Sheese. It was 80 calories for 2 tablespoons and cost $6.50 for 9 ounces, making it the most expensive variety we tried and also the most difficult to find. Don’t worry, I don’t think you’re missing out.

Tofutti This particular cream cheese, “Better than Cream Cheese”, is milder in flavor than some of the others but definitely tastes like cream cheese. It’s got a good texture. The ingredients are okay; most are processed and have almost no nutritional value. It’s 60 calories per serving (2 tablespoons). It cost just under $4 for 8 ounces. This one is definitely mine and Brent’s favorite.

None of the cream cheeses offered much in terms of protein, vitamins or minerals. We liked Tofutti because it was lower in calories than the others, was a decent representation of the traditional spread and is the cheapest.

This wraps up the second edition of vegan cheese reviews. Good luck finding your favorites!

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!

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Your Own WHAT!?

Something that’s easier to do than you think is to have your own garden. I may live in sunny Miami with a lengthy growing season but my apartment is high above the ground where the growing usually happens. This is an awesome project if you have kids or something that can improve your cooking just because you’ve got a fresh ingredient. I’ve got two 24 inch planters on my balcony each with basil (Thai and traditional) bell pepper, eggplant, and cherry tomato plants (cherry is an easier to manage size).

This is a good combo for spaces with lots of sun but there’s something for every kitchen window (plus there’s nothing wrong with a basil scented kitchen, am I right?). If you don’t have the dedication or sun to spend months growing whole plants, consider growing your own sprouts.

All you need is some screen or cheesecloth, a jar and some organic seeds. This is my adzuki beans 7 days ago (above). These babies (below) will end up on a salad I’ll eat tomorrow for lunch but they can also end up in a sandwich or in stir fry. You can’t have pad thai without mung bean sprouts as long as I’m around. This was 7 days of emptying the water from this jar (without removing the screen), rinsing 3 or 4 times with distilled water, and then devouring the freshest greens you’ll find without dirt! Be careful to keep them clean: if your hands are dirty you risk contaminating them with E. coli or worse. They should smell sweet and herbal (especially if you grow mustard greens or broccoli for spicy sprouts) as they sprout, not sour or musty.

Fun fact: you haven’t tasted a tomato until you’ve tasted one that has never been refrigerated. They lose a lot of flavor when they get cold. I hope this is an incentive for you who have never tried a really fresh tomato. Additional fun fact: sprouted seeds are rich in essential amino acids. These are the amino acids that your body can’t make itself and you have to get from your food. These are high nutrient, cholesterol free, low calorie and great to cook with or just as a snack. Good luck with that green thumb!

This is Christie, signing off!

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Has everybody gone crackers?

I like to make juice. Like… serious health conscious vegetable juice. If that’s your bag, this post is for you.

Tonight I made some juice from 6 carrots, 1 apple, 1 peeled lemon, one beet and a generous chunk of fresh ginger. In the early days of enjoying my frosty beverages I was thinking of things to do with the leftover pulp.

What’s leftover after you juice the veggies and fruits is a lot of soluble and insoluble fiber and nutrients that didn’t get mooshed out in the juicing. I hate wasting things. It’s partly my inner hippie, my years of farm living, and some personal issues I can’t get into on the internet. Anyways, this is what I use to make my home-made crackers. As far as I know, pretty much any fruits and veggies will do except for cucumber, sorry. Just think about the combo and how it will taste when paired with hummus or whatever. This recipe is for carrot sesame crackers.

Take the pulp and pick out any large chunks. To the pulp, add the following (amounts don’t need to be exact)

1 heaping tbsp tahini (this is where the sesame comes from)

2 heaping tbsp flax meal

a few dashes of tamari or soy sauce (or just regular salt if you’re soy-free)

Moosh it with your hands until you can mold it into a ball that’s at least somewhat doughy. Spread it out into your food dehydrator on one of the plastic sheets intended for fruit leather and such and dry overnight. My dehydrator doesn’t have heat settings or a timer so I can’t be more specific than that. It works, that’s all I know. You can also spread it out on a wax paper lined baking sheet and covered in tin foil. Bake them at 200F/90C for 30-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the dough. Check it frequently to be sure it doesn’t burn.

The rich color and sweetness comes from the carrots and beets, slightly savory from the soy and nutty from the tahini and flax. You might also get some bite from the ginger! They’re great with home-made hummus, soy or nut cheese, salsa, cheesy bean dip, spinach artichoke dip, guacamole or whatever it is that blows your skirt up.

Here are my finished crackers: low calorie, preservative free, low glycemic index due to no added sugar or processed flour, high flavor and incredibly filling (remember… lots of soluble and insoluble fiber.) You can also customize them adding whatever your heart desires. Pulp from spinach mango juice makes great spinach sun dried tomato crackers: it’s a favorite when mango comes into season here in Florida in the spring. I’ve also been known to make spinach pizza crust. They will keep in a plastic baggie in your fridge for 3-4 days.

This is Christie, signing off… to finish off last night’s hummus with my fresh crackers.

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Beans, beans, the musical, magical fruit! … and hummus.

People often tell me that being vegan is too expensive or they can’t fit it in their budget. Being vegan can be really expensive if you eat a lot of prepared foods but cooking from scratch makes vegan meals cheaper and healthier. I’ve recently been converted to dry beans. These are the reasons why.


1. Dry beans are cheaper. A 1 pound bag of beans costs about as much as 1 can of beans and makes 3-4 cans volume of beans. I pay $0.79-$2.79 for a 1 pound bag and $0.89-$3.19 for a can. Jeepers H Crackers, that’s ridiculous! You can’t even get chicken that cheap. Check out my before (above) and after (below) pictures of some soaked chickpeas.


2. It saves space. A bag of dried beans take up less room in your kitchen than the 3-4 cans of beans you might otherwise purchase. They’re also lighter to carry around and won’t hurt if you drop the bag on your foot or head from a high shelf. (I’m a klutz… don’t judge me.) This is a pound of beans beside a can of beans.


3. It also saves space in landfills and energy costs for transportation. The empty plastic bag from beans versus 3-4 BPA-plastic lined tin cans with paper labels means less energy allocated to transporting and recycling and less space in garbage dumps.
4. There’s WAY more variety in the dried beans section of my supermarket than the canned beans section. I like variety.
5. Dried beans don’t contain preservatives or salt. You can also control what you add to the beans. I use distilled water but only because I’m not sure if my municipality uses hexafluorosilicic acid (an industrial waste derived from the production of aluminum metal and phosphoric acid) to fluoridate local tap water. I’d rather not add diluted industrial waste to my food. Yeah, I’m weird like that.
6. Dried beans taste better and aren’t as mooshy as canned. I find I have to add canned beans last in chili recipes because they fall apart when you stir them. Dried beans are firm enough to stand up to vigorous mixing and haven’t lost their flavor to the liquid they’re canned in.
7. There’s also more control with cooking. If I’m only going to be cooking for a couple of people and still want to use 3 different kinds of beans, that’s all I’ll have to prepare. No opened tins with plastic over them in my fridge potentially waiting to spoil and be wasted. 1 cup of dried beans translates to about 1 can.
8. Dried beans are incredibly easy to prepare. There’s no can opener and no sharp edges on the lid or can for you, your little ones or your family pet (who inevitably will get into your garbage pail…) to cut themselves on. I set them in a bowl in my kitchen sink the night before. I see the bowl when I put my dishes from breakfast in the sink the next morning. I am then reminded to fill the bowl with water, cover it and go to work. When I get home, my beans are ready to start cooking. What I’m saying is. if you can put water into a bowl, you can use dried beans.

So you might be wondering what I’m going to do with that HUGE bowl of chickpeas. This post is really about hummus. All you need is the following:
1 cup of dry chickpeas, soaked OR 1 can of drained chickpeas (save some of the liquid from soaking or the can)
juice from 1 lemon
3-8 garlic cloves
1 heaping tbsp tahini (optional but recommended)

I’m adding a generous handful of fresh basil and sundried tomato… for fun. You can add anything: roasted red peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, cucumber and dill… whatever.

Put it all in your blender or food processor and blend until you like the texture. If you need more liquid, add some of the liquor from the soaking or from the can. Voila! Hummus. I sprinkle mine with some smoked paprika powder and ate it with my own sesame ginger carrot crackers. Yeah, I make my own crackers.  Wanna learn how to make those too?  Some day… some day.

I wish you could taste how delicious this hummus is. The spicy basil and garlic are amazing with the mellow sundried tomato on the backdrop of creamy chickpeas and tahini. Let me know what combo you dream up for hummus and tell me how you like it. I want to make MOAR!

This is Christie, signing off.

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