Do you have a cafeteria meal plan at all? Or do you need to strictly rely on your own food? If you are a new vegan and struggling financially, I wouldn't limit myself to just "whole food". For the most part yes it is healthier and tends to be cheaper but it does take time to prepare and effort to plan. As a college student I imagine you are going to be fairly busy and have limited space and time. That said, here are some ideas:
Oats and couscous are two cheaper and healthier whole grains that take little time to prepare. It is literally a matter of adding hot water to a bowl of dry grain and letting it soak a few minutes to get a hot cereal. You can add stuff like bananas, peanut butter, sesame or sunflower seeds, dried fruit, etc. Even canned beans and tomato sauce and some tomatoes with it.
If you can find a good vegan bread or tortillas etc, you can add canned beans over warm bread or in a tortilla with some salsa and leafy greens. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches are very filling too, and I often use fat free refried pinto beans from a can as a spread to go on my morning toast. A tub of hummus is great to keep around for this too, and for raw veggies. Carrots, cauliflower, jicama, raw broccoli are all cheaper vegetables to buy. With a hardy dip/spread they are filling and healthy.
Soy milk tends to be the cheapest of the plant milks (I have found aseptic cartons of soy milk in dollar stores), but any plant milk would be helpful to have around. The smaller shelf stable cartons have about four servings in them and can fit in a mini refrigerator. Sometimes just a warmed glass of plant milk is a nice evening snack.
Bags of roasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds with shell on are also cheaper snacks to have around. I sometimes have those individual boxes of raisins on hand for snacks or to add in hot cereal or a sandwich.
I like to mash some bananas with canned pure pumpkin and add some blackstrap molasses to it all for breakfast or a snack. I can get two or three servings out of that and the rest keeps in the refrigerator.
I've never tried it, but I have heard you can microwave sweet potato and also russet potatoes to get them soft. I LOVE sweet potato with canned black beans, curry powder and ginger powder, and lightly steamed kale. I can picture adding kale to a bowl of water or vegetable broth in the microwave to get it a little softer and cooked.
Back to sandwiches...sliced tomato, avocado, and ground black pepper is great! If you can get hold of vegan mayo (not cheap but a little goes a long way), I like to mash some chickpeas in a bowl with chopped celery and add some vegan mayo and ground black pepper to make a chickpea salad mix. This goes great in a sandwich. There are many variations of this. Tofu also works for this.
Occasionally stuff like Amy's frozen burritos (the vegan ones) or a cliff bar or larabar will do. Garden salads can be made more hearty with the addition of chickpeas, avocado, nuts/seeds, fresh or dried fruit (oranges keep a long time) etc.
In the end, only kindness matters. - Jewel
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