No Murders In The Rue Morgue


If I Had A Million Dollars…
May 22, 2009, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Cheapo, Cooking | Tags: , , , ,

… I would eat elaborate organic salads every day. As it is, my bank account is just barely holding on for dear life, so I find myself falling into the starch trap so familiar to my fellow bums. It makes sense; pasta, rice, potatoes, and bread (and the various configurations thereof) are cheap, so when times are tough, we eat lots of whites and browns, and not a lot of greens. Recognizing this habit in my husband and I, this summer I’m doing what I can to make sure the residents of Casa Sunburn (our humble abode) don’t get scurvy, and I’m starting with salad.

So yeah, buying a lot of fresh, organic produce can be expensive, especially when you take the fullness factor into account (veggies and fruits may fill you up for a while, but they don’t have the staying power of pastas and grains, which will keep you full all day if you eat enough). It’s hard to justify spending $20 on veggies and fruits that will feed you and keep you full for a day or two, when you could spend $20 on pasta, dried beans, rice, and canned tomatoes and feed yourself for a week, easy. However, with a bit of digging around and some smart shopping, you too can deliciously avoid scurvy!

1. My first tip is to shop in bulk wherever possible. Yeah, you can’t get kale in bulk (if only!), but if you save money by buying things like olive oil, pasta, rice, beans, and cereal in bulk (I recently discovered I could get a half litre of locally-grown olive oil from my co-op for under $3 – score!), then you have more available cash to spend on veggies and fruits. While you’re at it, do your best to limit your buying of packaged foods, period. Some things (Earth Balance, Vegenaise) are more indispensable than others, but I find that when I buy only bulk items, I spend a lot less, take home a lot more, and end up with healthier stuff.

2. Scope out what’s seasonal and what’s on sale. Things are cheaper when they’re in season, so take advantage of whatever happens to be plentiful where you are. I find I come home with more stuff if I head into the produce section with an open mind rather than a shopping list. This week, I noticed a decent deal on organic golden beets (my favorites!), so I grabbed a huge bunch. Had I only been looking for apples and cucumber (or whatever), I would have missed my favorite root vegetable!

3. Go to the farmer’s market. I wish I could buy more organic stuff, but with my current personal financial situation, I’ve had to prioritize actually eating vegetables and fruits over eating organic. Yeah, it’s not great, but shit happens. This is relevant to the farmer’s market because whereas the organic vendors at my local market tend to sell at prices comparable to the expensive co-op, the non-certified growers sell for dirt cheap. I’ve gotten $1 kale, $1 asparagus, and all kinds of crazy deals from the non-organic vendors at the market, and unlike the non-organic stuff at the local megamarket, at the very least, I know the non-organic stuff at the market is local (or local-ish). Plus, it’s often more-or-less organic but simply not certified. Plus, did I mention it’s cheap?

4. Shop around. I save lots of money by getting different items at the places where they’re cheapest. I go to the farmer’s market first and get whatever’s cheap there. Then I hit the co-op (which can be pricey) and grab what I can get for cheap there. After that, I hit the produce stands (which are dirt cheap and sometimes have cheap organic stuff too), and if I’m still looking for things, I hit the big, evil discount grocery. The strategy is to hit the expensive places first and snatch up the sale items and cheap but higher-quality stuff. Then you hit the less expensive places where you can get whatever you need for less than at the market or co-op. Yeah, it’s a bit of a pain, but I save a whole lot of money by being willing to walk a bit more.

Anyway, my point is that a bit of legwork can save you money (and, incidentally, can make you feel familiar and grounded within your community, which is nice).

The other thing that can be cheap is learning to love the simple things. Simple things like roasted beets.

I snagged a large bunch of golden beets from the co-op the other day, so today, again too lazy and broke to go out and buy more ingredients, I made a super simple roasted beet salad for lunch.

Roasting veggies is super easy and super delicious. For this salad, I peeled two very large beets, halved them, and then cut the halves into thin (1/8 inch) semicircles. I then tossed them with some olive oil, a touch of balsamic vinegar (on the suggestion of the lovely and wise Jess Sconed), and some salt, threw them in a pan, and chucked them in the oven at 400 degrees for around half an hour. Out of the oven, I put them on a bed of salad greens and topped with a simple olive oil/balsamic vinegar/dijon mustard (seriously, that’s it) dressing, and I got this:

Not bad, eh? The whole deal cost me about $3.50, with some greens and one gigantic beet (plus beet greens) left over. Sure, it’s not loaded with micro greens and pine nuts, but it was satisfying, healthy, easy, and cheap. What’s not to like?

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5 Comments so far
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Ooh, delicious! I think this post works for Too Vegan To Function too, debunking the “veganism is expensive” myth.

Comment by Melisser

Yeah, I’m going to do a dovetail post about being a cheap-ass vegan there too. I just started rambling on this post!

Comment by jordan

I did a list like this not too long ago and it was pretty much exactly the same! I’m still looking for a farmer’s market over here. It’s weird because there are so many farms in this city but I’ve never heard of anything more than a couple of produce stands.

If I ever get brave enough, I may try your no list thing. I often forget things without a list. Ha ha.

Comment by Mo

Veganism can be a lot cheaper if we rethink our “need” for processed stuff like Earth Balance and vegan mayo, too…You might be surprised about what you don’t actually need.

Comment by TJF

You’re right that we certainly don’t need processed foods. I’m not out to tell people that they should be ditching Vegenaise (I love the stuff), but you’re certainly right that eating vegan tends to be cheaper when we just buy whole foods (though not AT Whole Foods – that place is crazy expensive!).

Comment by jordan




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