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  Topic Review (Newest First)
07-31-2016 03:04 PM
Crochetlove We've gotten really bad about eating out lately, but we used to be really good at meal planning. I always tried to plan meals so that the vegetables in each dish overlapped, so that we didn't end up throwing out uneaten veggies.

We buy all of our staples in bulk or on sale to help save money. We buy pasta on sale, rice in 40 pound bags from an Asian market, and canned goods either on sale or at stores like ALDI that sell them cheap. We were asked at ALDI once if we were donating to a food pantry because there were so many staples in our cart - it was almost embarrassing to tell the cashier that nope, that was just us stocking up on staples for two.

This time of year we get a lot of free fresh produce from friends and family whose gardens are overflowing. Right now our pantry is overflowing with eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, herbs, and corn that we got for free from family. Cooking greens are almost always cheap and add a lot of bulk to a meal - cabbage, collards, turnip greens, etc. A lot of times you can get vegetables with the edible greens still attached, and it's basically like getting free greens.
07-31-2016 01:59 PM
silva What about the Chuka Soba noodles that are baked? They're just wheat flour, tumeric, and water. Pretty much the same as ramen, a bit different texture I guess
I really like the brown rice vermicelli. Cooks like instant ramen.
07-31-2016 01:52 PM
Originally Posted by David3 View Post
All kinds of cool stuff yes! In Asian markets, they usually have an entire aisle dedicated to ramen noodles. Dozens of different kinds, with cool names like "Kung Fu Ramen". Also, if you're feeling meditative, they usually have an aisle with incense and Quan Yin statues.

P.S.: Ramen noodles are ultra-processed and not very healthy. Still, I can't resist the colorful packaging and spiffy names they have. It's like the breakfast cereal aisle at a western market.

Ramen is definitely processed, but it's extremely cheap and flavorful once and a while when you're broke, you can add canned vegetables and voila. Of course it's never a good idea to live off of it.

I got this great recipe from PETA, where you throw away the unhealthy little MSG packet, and instead make a sauce from nut butter, lime juice and soy sauce. It's also good to add fresh cilantro or scallions, and/or hot sauce.
07-31-2016 01:49 PM
Thalassa I agree with everyone on Asian markets. I can get tahini for about three dollars cheaper at a little Middle Eastern market than at a chain store...same brand. Or dry tabouli salad mix, again same brand, maybe fifty cents or a dollar cheaper. I actually laughed once seeing the same tabouli box at Target.

Latino markets too...lots of herbs and seeds, and produce...but you have to be careful with the produce, in my experience, it goes to rot more quickly, buy in small portions at a time.
07-31-2016 10:37 AM
silva Asian markets--
Cheap tofu
tons of different beans, lentils, dal, pulses, grains, and blends of these. Not only cheaper, but due to demand, fresher
Spices- mostly in large quantities, so share with friends.
Black salt- not only to give an egg flavor, but paired with nutritional yeast --frikken amazing!
Jars of ginger garlic paste--just like using fresh garlic, I add to hot pan just for a bit before adding other foods to take the 'raw?' edge off. Very handy!

Frozen foods and shelf stable foods. Lots of very tasty vegan foods for last minute grabs. The one I most love is Babbus kitchen Tamarind Rice- a good sized portion (well, two servings...) for $2.00. I keep trying to replicate, but even with Indian friends recipes have not
Vegetable dumplings, or gyoza. I just love these.

Fresh curry leaves, kafir leaves, bean sprouts, baby bok choy, tumeric, eggplant, and ginger root. All fresh again do to supply and demand. These foods are often old at most reg stores

Henna! I've been using this to cover grays for years. Turns the grey red and looks highlighted. Can be very messy until you get used to it, very cheap, healthy, and vegan
07-31-2016 10:26 AM
Originally Posted by LedBoots View Post
To add to @David3 's great tips, Asian markets have fantastic and less expensive tofu, rice, interesting vegetables, all kinds of cool stuff, very inexpensive.

All kinds of cool stuff yes! In Asian markets, they usually have an entire aisle dedicated to ramen noodles. Dozens of different kinds, with cool names like "Kung Fu Ramen". Also, if you're feeling meditative, they usually have an aisle with incense and Quan Yin statues.

P.S.: Ramen noodles are ultra-processed and not very healthy. Still, I can't resist the colorful packaging and spiffy names they have. It's like the breakfast cereal aisle at a western market.

07-31-2016 03:04 AM
LedBoots To add to @David3 's great tips, Asian markets have fantastic and less expensive tofu, rice, interesting vegetables, all kinds of cool stuff, very inexpensive.
07-30-2016 10:02 PM
David3 Although I prefer to shop at union supermarkets, the non-union markets have very low prices.

The Hispanic and Middle-Eastern markets near me always have beans on sale (usually for less than 50 cents per pound). Same with rice.

Certain vegetables are very affordable. Carrots, onions, and potatoes, for instance, are really cheap.

In my experience, markets in African American communities have very low prices on dark leafy green vegetables (kale, mustard greens).

07-30-2016 07:50 PM
Thalassa I make sure I have dry pinto beans and/or dried split peas, oatmeal, rice, some kind of whole grain pasta, peanut butter, a container of nutritional yeast, and there's a pasta sauce called Francisco Rinaldi, the tomato basil is fortified with algal oil for omega 3/DHA.

I prefer to keep bulbs of garlic, it's not like they're expensive, but garlic powder can work wonders. Make a nutritional yeast cheese sauce with flour and oil roux, a cup of soy milk, a half cup of nooch, a squirt of mustard, a generous amount of tumeric, and garlic powder and there you go. I also recommend adding salt - if you put it over pasta you can dress it up with red pepper flakes, Tabasco sauce, or black pepper.

I also made sauce for pasta once out of vegan mayo, an avacado, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt/pepper.

It helps to keep some veggies canned. ..I tend to buy canned diced tomatoes, mushrooms, and green beans. The tomato and mushroom can be sautéed with fresh kale (99 cents a head at my grocery) and garlic or garlic powder, and enjoyed with tofu or chickpeas. Can also add sautéed onion.

The green beans are good with baked or boiled potatoes, or mixed in Oriental Ramen (Top Ramen, not Maruchan, is vegan).

Other good things to do are scavenging apples or lemons or oranges if you have neighbors who want to share, I have one who tells me to pick up apples that drop on the ground if I see one or two.

I definitely eat more expensive things, but keeping these things around helps. So does picking certain items up at the dollar store, keeping frozen fruit, buying vegan faux meats on sale and freezing some of them, and using mostly oil instead of vegan butter. I think tahini is also a great item to keep around to add flavor and nutrition, or make a homemade dressing.

I find that investment in certain pricey items can be helpful. For example cold pressed flax seed oil adds Omega 3s to your Ramen or pasta dish when you are out of walnuts or other sources. I have a bottle that's lasted me for months, because I don't use it every day. Same with sesame oil, I mostly only use a spoonful when I make sesame tahini dressing.

Drink tea or coffee instead of soda, drink tap water, keep left overs in washed out old pasta sauce or peanut butter jars, learn how to make things with spices and sauces and tofu or seitan instead of always buying the pre-made version, freeze bread then toast it when it's thawed so it tastes better, that's all I have got, I'm not always frugal.
05-09-2016 07:44 AM
ficbot It is hard for me because my husband is so picky. He is happy eating sandwiches for dinner every day :-)

I rely a lot on frozen veggies, and I flash-freeze beans too. Then I can just throw a handful of whatever into a bowl of rice or pasta or soup.
05-03-2016 09:42 AM
ocrob37 I am impressed with everyone's shopping abilities. I think I actually spend more money now. I try to buy organic and it can be expensive. I like the convenience of canned beans. I recently had to replace all of my spices and it was fairly expensive. I am a very simple eater so I can eat the same things all of the time. I do actually try to save money on beets and buy them in bunches instead of pre packaged. They have be expensive.
05-03-2016 05:49 AM
BlackBoxed I'm amazing at throwing things together, I'm terrible at trying to plan that out in advance. Often I see a recipe, get excited, say I'm going to make it... then I forget and find a new recipe I want to try. Sadly the pre-planning just doesn't seem to be my thing. Luckily I don't buy fresh produce or things with a quick expiry date and I can walk to pick up fresh produce since there's a market down the street. That being said I am doing no-buy where I'm only allowed to buy fresh produce and almond milk. So far it's been a success.
05-03-2016 04:49 AM
Spudulika I enjoy being frugal and I'm well practiced (despite the odd cupboard of shame items that slip past) at buying bulk foods and doing batch cooking for the freezer, though I also enjoy treats and our shopping costs have crept up from £160 a month to £200 a month because I'm buying more fun food lately - fresh herbs, sauces and seasonings and other things that make the beans and the grains taste good.

I recently bought several packs of spring rolls and put them in the freezer because they were on special offer. I haven't had vegetable spring rolls for the longest time, I can't even remember. I know full well that those kinds of special offers work out actually quite expensive, as they encourage me to buy much more than I need of something that's actually got quite a high mark up, and they only save you 50p or something silly, so I do try not to get tempted too often.

As for planning, I go through phases. I'm being quite structured at the moment and I hope it sticks. I've got the best part of the rest of the month pretty much covered including meals I've already cooked that are in the freezer:

Mushroom & Lentil Bolognaise - 2 x 2 portions
Chilli sin Carne al Mole - 3 x 2 portions
Leek & Butter Bean Patties - 2 packs x 4
Refried Beans (for fajitas) - 2 x 2 servings

Then there's a bunch of tofu in the fridge to go with noodles, some packets of soya based sausage mix (over half the price of sausages from the freezer) for sausage and mash, and a couple of bags of cashews (I get the toasted and salted 'snacking' cashews as they're cheaper than the ones from the ingredients isle) for nut roast (I make one loaf and freeze about two thirds for later).
05-03-2016 04:06 AM
Naturebound I forgot to mention, though I may spend more on groceries sometimes due to the amount of produce I consume, I make up for it by rarely buying toiletry/cleaning supplies. I don't wear makeup or hair products, don't use deodorant or perfume, don't buy commercial cleaning supplies for the most part except laundry detergent and dish liquid soap (make much of my own stuff).

Also, I eat out maybe six times per year on average so I save money there. If I go camping or visit people out of state or travel I bring food I prepare ahead or grocery shop wherever I am going and store in a motel room with a refrigerator/microwave. I also buy most of my clothing second hand, though I do go all out and spend money on quality hiking boots/shoes that are vegan. I have two pairs of quality hemp hikers and Garmont vegan Kiowa hiking shoes that have so far lasted me almost five years.
05-03-2016 03:57 AM
Naturebound I am the queen of food planning lol. In fact it is something I have worked for years to overcome, as I tend to plan down to the most minute detail and usually months in advance. I am actually trying to work on finding a balance between spontaneous eating and being flexible, but having a plan too. Much of it stems from years of anorexia and needing to keep a tight reign on food/eating. Funny thing is, when I was in an intensive eating disorder treatment in 2009, they had me start keeping a weekly meal plan. And that's when the meal planning addiction started. I have a template table of breakfasts, lunches, dinners for Mnday - Sunday. I have about four weeks of meals planned out currently. Each week I plan another week and do a grocery list for the next week's menu. I tend to rotate breakfasts and have two different breakfasts for one week (Tu/Thu/Sun and Mon/Wed/Fri and a special Saturday breakfast for my partner and I). Lunches are the same for the whole week since mostly I eat at work and make a big batch of something. Dinners are all different though I might use leftovers for a second meal. Yes it does keep me strict about what I buy and I do save some money. I also tend to get overwhelmed when plans change but I have gotten more flexible over the years. I like to keep extra food in the house just in case, or to accommodate guests etc.

I do tend to eat healthier and include more variety this way because I can see overall what I will be eating for the week and get a good idea of nutrient content etc. I try to include occasional desserts/treats in there too, and room for changes. I am fairly strict about sticking to my grocery list, but occasionally will buy something different. If I travel I might look for specialty items in bigger city areas.

I also have a huge collection of cookbooks and also printouts in five 3 ring binder notebooks from all the recipes I have collected online (or from cookbook pages I printed at the library lol) over the years as a vegan. I go through them periodically when meal planning. Often though I make up my own meals and don't use cookbooks. They are more of a guide for ideas. Rarely do I follow a strict recipe.

I buy a lot of stuff in bulk...beans, rice, oats, nuts, flax or chia seeds, couscous, millet, buckwheat groats, nutritional yeast, dates, etc. I bring my own mesh bags to use in place of plastic. Any way I can eliminate extra packaging helps. I don't buy every single item organic. For sure the dirty dozen fruits/veggies, tofu, that sort of thing.
05-03-2016 02:41 AM
silva I consider my pantry shelves a saving account because I can go a month with only buying fresh produce if I need to scrimp. Lots of dried beans, grains, flours.
I'm in walking of an Aldi and have often found gourmet like jarred things they get on special and then discount for a fraction of what they'd cost elsewhere. I know what time and day to shop and stock on things like hot cherry peppers, organic cans of chili beans, seasoned beans, for .35 cents
I have master lists for things I get for every store I shop. There are certain things I buy at the discount store, or Aldi, Trader Joe so when I'm there I can scan the list and see if I want to add to add to my need list to prevent another trip, or buying higher at another store.
When I changed jobs and moved I lived on things like lentil kofta- lentil and bulgar pate- that i used as I base for many meals. I still make that a lot. Bean soups and stews with carrots, potatos, greens. Vegetable miso soups. Seitan (bobs vital gluten is definitly a discount store item!). Homemade hummus. Fat free refried beans.

I bring paper towels that I dry my lunch ware with home to use.
I better go to work....
05-02-2016 11:11 PM
Planning Meals to Save Money

I'll be honest, I just wrote a post about this, but I'm honestly wondering how much of our community actually does it. I do, every week just about. I keep pretty close tabs on what's in the kitchen at all times, and try to plan my meals around seasonal stuff and things I've stocked up on from bulk bins and the like. Having a MASSIVE collection of cookbooks and experimenting with recipe adaptations all the time helps the enthusiasm here, as I always know exactly how much I need of everything.

When we started, it took food for three down from a little over $500 a month to just over $280 a month. I do splurge a little here and there on things like artichokes, asparagus, heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market, fresh picked blueberries from the local stand (they're expensive as hell but picked that day so they're so worth it!) and specialty pickles made from local farms, but all in all I live pretty frugal.

What do you guys do to save money, and how do you plan your meals if you do? If you don't how do you decide what to eat/save money on food? Do you have a rotating set of recipes you use? Are you just spontaneous? Do you use any of the techniques I mentioned in my post? I really would love to see a discussion here, we might all find something we can use.

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