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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Lately I have been undertaking a lot of reversion in my life. With the addition of college, I thought that it would be easier to ditch Veganism and consume minimal animal products, such as egg, dairy, and seafood. To tell the truth, it was easier to eat in such a way, and it did save my mother quite a bit of money. However, I was beginning to doubt myself at college, and I therefor withdrew with the belief that I would easily be able to find a career and be happy at that career without a degree. With the extra freedom of my eating choices at home, I became Vegan once again. Soon I decide to go back to college, and I am dreading what I will do about my diet once again.

My mother wishes me to put myself on a meal plan. I - being the sensible person that I am - can not see the justice in putting myself on a meal plan at my college of choice, for they have few options open to a vegetarian, let alone a vegan. Optimal nutrition on such a plan of consumption would not only be incredibly tough to achieve, but it would require salads every single meal, every single day. I like salads, but once you have had one straight week of them, veggies begin to lose their appeal.

Looking at my options, I see that the only sensible thing to do is to buy my own food and keep it at my dorm. Unfortunately, when I work in the cost of my Vegan lifestyle, I again can not justify doing such a blow to my mothers income. She is the one that supports me, and it deeply saddens me to see that a lot of our grocery money goes toward sustaining my Vegan lifestyle. (To give you an example, we purchase about $250 dollars of groceries each shopping period. Between my mother, my brother, and myself, I worked out my cost. About $120 of what is paid is solely in my cart, while about $30 goes toward my brother, and about $100 toward my mothers groceries. Now, working into account the fact that all my brother eats is tuna, rice, tofu, natto, and egg with the occasional fruits, I still wonder if taking up his minimal lifestyle would help with deterring my guilt a little. Sure, he has to take a multivitamin in order to stay optimal in his health, but I also take a multivitamin for my iron and B12. So, would it not be the same?)

At heart, I am a Vegan. I want to help in every way possible. I dread consuming animal products - not because of the health drawbacks so much as I know what consuming animal products means. Right down to the last drop of dairy, I truly despise consuming animal products. Reflected in my vegan lifestyle is also my great capacity to care. I care about others so much that I do not wish to cause them any type of strain. This fact is great, but it also is the source of my current dilemma.

I see my mothers face when the groceries rack up such a high price. She is surprised, upset, and stressed all at once. She achieves the look of, "Wow... Bills, and now the groceries. I am not sure whether I can pay both and have any leftover for myself." This look sends me into a fit of guilt. I often apologize to my mother right after we leave wherever we shop, for I feel so terrible knowing that a lot of her pay goes toward my lifestyle. I confirmed this with a receipt this weekend, which only made me feel even more terrible.

Due to the cost that I put upon my mother, I often receive doubts about my Vegan lifestyle. I know that my beliefs are not negotiable, but I also know that I hate feeling terribly guilty. This guilt has caused me to go from Vegan to pescitarian, from pescitarian to vegan, and now from vegan to totally confused. Right now, I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian, and I am dangling on a thin line towards pescitarian once more. Honestly, it does not feel great when I think about the type of industry that I am supporting when eating any animal product, so I try my best not to consider the drawbacks when I consume. None the less, I know what I am doing all too well, and it does not feel good at all. As such, I am on a mission to get the best nutrition that I can with the lowest possible price. As an added side mission, I am looking for items that are easily cooked using only a rice cooker, for that is the only item I will have within my dorm room.

So the mission(s) begins. I am going to be making a list of items that I am sure to need, and others that I will not require. If anyone has any ideas as to what I can do about my dilemma, please PM me. I thank you all in advance. Please tell me that I am not the only one with this problem?

~Austin Archer~

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What I am wondering Aussyj, is why a vegan diet is costing you so much?

I know that processed foods and meat/cheese replacements can be expensive,

but things like rice, beans, pasta, grains, fruits and vegetables aren't. Tofu isn't either. You can live cheaply as a vegan, and it's better for you to be eating whole foods instead of processed foods anyway.

Before giving up on being vegan, try doing some research on being a vegan on the cheap. There are tons of books out there, and even threads on VB about this very topic.

It may take some more planning, especially if you are going to live on campus, but it can be done!!!!!

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A few questions:

1. Why can't you pay for your own groceries? Even a weekend job could cover the cost of food and take that burden off your mother.

2. Like synergy asked, why is this costing you so much? What kind of food are you eating that's so expensive?

I would agree that what you're doing is not fair to your mother. Your choice shouldn't be her burden, and if you're old enough for college, you should be old enough to feed yourself. Why don't you look for some on-campus jobs that can work around your class schedule?

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aussyj..........i feed a family of 4 on about $120 a week........eating mostly vegan.....except for hubby....he eats yogurt......hubby does still drink milk.......and the occasional egg..........

i have been able to drastically cut my food bill by cutting out processed foods.

convenience foods suck up a large portion of money.........

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Odd enough, I purchase very few processed foods. The only ones I have purchased in the past month has been one box of veggie burgers and two packages of Vegan Dogs.

The big cost is coming from the veggies and fruits. I buy a lot, because I eat a lot of them. Things like asparagus are not the cheapest of the group, but I do like them. Same with grapefruit.

Anyway, I was hoping for someone to post a cheap shopping list that would be able to get me through two weeks of eating with optimal nutrition. I understand that some would advise me to get a job, and I am looking into that as we speak. Unfortunately, that is a bit hard on a full college schedule.

Thanks for the input so far. I look forward to hearing more thoughts.

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I'm in my last semester of college, and I work a little even though my dad supports me. If I used all of that money to feed myself, that would give me about ten dollars a day to eat with.

Could you replace more expensive fruits and vegetables with cheaper ones? I'm also not really sure what exactly you're buying, so I don't know what to recommend to you. You eat a lot of vegetables, but what sort of protein-rich foods are you eating? When you switch back to a vegan diet, what foods do you replace with what other foods that make your diet so much cheaper? I don't see how a reasonable mix of rice, beans, pasta, grains, fruits, vegetables and tofu could cost so much more.

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It's great to eat fruits and vegetables in abundance, but some (asparagus, as you said) should be treats rather than staples while your money is tight. Also, filling yourself up with beans and pasta will help cut down on your veggie consumption. It would be a temporary accomodation so as to not put out your mom.

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I still think a full college schedule allows time for a job. Many of us here worked our way through college. I worked two jobs as well as pulling a full load. I'm sure others here have done more than that. Once you get out in the "real world" it doesn't get easier...

I don't know what a "shopping period" is for you, but I feed a family of four on less than $100 a week (most weeks) and we eat LOTS of fruits and veggies!

If I had bought a pack of burgers and two packs of veggie dogs last grocery trip, like you did, it would have added $10 to my grocery bill. "A package here and a package there" ADDS UP FAST!

I do buy a LOT in bulk which helps tremendously - my pantry looks like Costco... and I know that doesn't work for everyone.

How much is the college "meal plan"? Do you think you could live cheaper than that? Looking at most of them that I've seen, I think it is possible. And it's very unfair to burden your mother with so much.

I know you talk about "optimal nutrition" and that's great. And it's also possible on cheaper choices. You may like asparagus and grapefruit a LOT - my kids and I do too - but if it's not the cheapest vegetable (or fruit) out there (at least for us) we don't buy it. We buy what's on sale, and what's the best value for our dollar - even if we had to have carrots, beans and spinach three nights in a row, I can make it different every night with cooking methods and seasonings.

College - and being broke - doesn't last forever. Do what you need to do for now, try to eat as cheaply as possible, and when you get out, on your own, then make the decision whether you want to buy the more expensive items or whatever...

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No you're not, honey. Just to give you an idea of my life, I'm a customer service rep, which is not exactly the highest-paying job, and my husband is in college with no job. So we are a (low) one-income family, no savings built up yet, two cars (there is almost literally no public transportation in Buffalo) and college bills rolling in. So yeah, I'm not in college anymore but I empathize with the low budget.

You are lucky if the college does not require you to have a meal plan, as mine did. You may be able to appease your mom by getting the most minimal meal plan offered. Although you do not like salads every day, you may be surprised at the options there, and there will be days when you just will not want to cook. If there are vegetarian groups on campus join them as they can be a mobilized force to change campus dining.

That being said, I'm surprised you spend so much money on your own groceries. Vegan foods tend to be cheaper, not more expensive. UNLESS you are purchasing lots of convenience foods, like soy cheese, veggie burgers, etc.

Here are my tips, and my shopping list of things you may want to have.


1. LEARN TO COOK. I'm not talking about throwing something in the microwave. Learn how to chop vegetables, cook them, soak beans, steam rice, stir-fry, etc. Cooking saves you so much money on eating out and on convenience foods.

2. If you can do the transportation, do your produce and basics shopping at Aldi or Save-a-Lot. Buy your more specialized items (like soymilk) at a larger grocery store or health food store. The double trip sounds like a pain, but the amount of money you save is crazy.

3. Watch out for coupons online, in the paper, and on packaging. Use coupons only if it was something you were going to buy anyway.

4. Minimalize impulse purchases. Make a list and stick to it.

5. Consider what something costs both per pound and per serving. Per pound is usually listed in small type next to the sticker in the store, but you may also want to consider if a lot of the item will be wasted, or how much of it you will eat at a time. For me, generally anything over $2.00 per pound better have a lot of servings in one pound!

6. I don't buy organic. I would love to, but it is just too expensive. I have purchased an all-natural vegetable & fruit wash at my grocery store and use it to wash my produce.

7. Buy store brands when you can, though sometimes I find a brand-name that is on sale. Whatever is the least expensive reigns supreme.

8. Scour garage and rummage sales for items you can use to cook, if you do not already have items. You may be able to find some great appliances too. I am not a big appliance person (I don't even own a toaster) but I use my rice cooker, slow cooker, and George Foreman grill almost every day. I also recommend a nonstick skillet, a larger pot with a lid, a small pot with a lid, a sharp non-serrated knife, a large bowl (for soaking beans) - if you can find one with a lid, so much the better - and a couple of wooden spoons. I can get by with just these things in my kitchen.

9. Read cookbooks or the internet and get a feel for the kitchen. You will be amazed what you can come up with once you get some experience.

I know it sounds like I am counting pennies in my list, but pennies add up to dollars.

I made up this shopping list with a college student in mind. When I was in college, the last thing I wanted to do is bake, so I didn't include any flours, sugars, or other baking ingredients. These should be enough to allow you to prepare some healthy, quick, inexpensive meals. If you can get your hands on spices, natural sugars, etc, go for it, but they would not be strictly necessary. If your mom has large containers of spices see if you can get some small amounts to take with you to college. A little goes a long way.


- Dried beans. Beans are the best. They are high protein, high fiber, and make really satisfying meals. They are so inexpensive you can get all kinds. Dark and light red kidney beans, soy beans, lentils, split peas, pintos, black beans, northern, navy, lima beans, and chickpeas. They do take time to prepare and you will need to have the right cooking equipment. I usually keep a few cans of canned beans on hand for when I am running late, but they are much more expensive than dried. Lentils are great because they cook so quickly. You can boil them with rice and they will both be done at the same time for a one-pot dinner.

- Rice!! Rice is your friend. It tastes so good and is incredibly cheap. White rice in large bags is the cheapest and quickest to cook. When I can afford it I purchase brown rice since it is healthier.

- Pasta. I find spaghetti and linguini are usually the least expensive, but I have pretty shapes ready for special meals. Again, whole wheat pasta is a bit better for you but usually too expensive for me.

- Soy milk, in aseptic packages so you don't need to stock them in your tiny fridge. Also, soy milk tends to be cheaper in the aseptic packages anyway. I find WestSoy provides the best deal. I often find in my supermarket that they mark down soymilk near the sell-by date at clearance prices of $1.00 per box. You do not want to skimp on the soy milk, even though it is a "health food". It is nutritious and works great in cooking.

- Tofu. Again, get it aseptic if you can. Much more expensive in the refrigerated section, you don't have to store it in your tiny fridge, and you can buy larger quantities less often since the sell-by is much longer than fresh tofu.

- Store-brand Saltine or animal crackers, just for spur-of-the-moment snacks. I have found that many brands are vegan and they should not cost you more than $1 per pound.

- Canned spaghetti sauce. Buy it plain, it is much more versatile this way.

- Frozen fruits and vegetables. Get a few bags of frozen store-brand veggies to keep your veggie intake and nutrients up. Do NOT get veggies with special sauces included as they charge you a premium. You can purchase a bag of mixed fruits or frozen strawberries inexpensively, and use them for smoothies in the morning or a healthy dessert.

- Canned vegetables. Some veggies can well, some don't. I like to have mixed vegetables for soup, canned corn, diced tomatoes, and mushrooms.

- Onions. Onions are used in almost everything. And they keep for a very long time in dry conditions. Garlic too.

- Canola oil. You will need oil to cook things in. I buy olive oil, but use it sparingly. Canola oil is much cheaper and still healthy. You can use it spoon for spoon in some recipes instead of margarine.

- Oatmeal. For breakfasts.

- Canned soups. Again, buy the store brand, and buy the concentrated soups, not the large cans with "chunky" soup.

- Instant mashed potatoes. These can be fixed in about 5 minutes, are high in potassium, and I have made some absolutely gourmet items from them. They can be stored almost indefinitely.

- Bread. I purchase whole wheat bread. I can get it for about $1.69 at my local store, compared to $1.00 for the white bread, but in my opinion the whole wheat bread is so much heartier and tastier, it is worth it. This is up to you. It is not vital to get bread; many of my below meal ideas do not require bread.

- Cornmeal. This is the only "baking" item I am including here. Because it is healthy, and makes an easy breakfast. You just boil some water, throw a little cornmeal in it, and then eat with soy milk. Yum!

- Peanut butter. Unfortunately if you are on a budget natural peanut butter is out.

- Tea. Do not buy soda if you are on a budget, especially from the vending machine. It is bad for you anyway. I purchase green and black teas and make iced tea from them.

With these items, you can make things like:

- Cornmeal mush, oatmeal, or hot rice in milk for breakfast

- Tofu scrambles (with onions and canned/frozen vegetables)

- Shepherd's pie (Mashed potatoes, canned/frozen veggies, tofu, maybe sprinkle some crushed Saltines on top for crunch)

- Chili (diced tomatoes or tomato sauce, onions, beans/lentils) with rice

- Veggie stir fries (Canned/frozen veggies, canola oil, tofu, rice)

- All types of soups (tomato soup, black bean soup, vegetable soup, lentil soup, split pea soup, soy cream of broccoli...)

- Pasta with marinara sauce (pasta, tomato sauce, onions and veggies)

- Red or black beans & rice (rice, tomato sauce, red kidney or black beans)

- Homemade refried beans with seared onions (just take some leftover beans, mash them in a skillet with a bit of oil - delicious!)

- Creamed veggies over rice (take a bit of soy milk & cornmeal, mix together in a skillet until bubbly, add veggies, pour over rice)

- Peanut butter sandwiches

- Peanut noodles (Peanut butter thinned with a bit of canola oil, tossed with spaghetti with thinly sliced onions over the top, and of course veggies)

- Pasta fagiole (Pasta tossed with sauteed onions and any white beans you can find, like butter beans, cannelini or garbanzo beans, tomato sauce optional)

- Baked beans (beans, canola oil, tomato sauce, any spices you have on hand)


- Soy sauce, to flavor rice and sauces

- Dried TVP, to make chili or add to pasta sauce

- Orange juice concentrate to store in the freezer, for recipes and drinking

- Vegan margarine

- Fresh apples, oranges, bananas, celery, and carrots

- Tortillas (for burritos)

- Salsa

- Any condiment or spice that you particularly like. I like oregano, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, and cinnamon. I use barbeque sauce in quite a few dishes.

And finally, it's hard to keep up a balanced diet when you're a college student, so make sure you get a variety of the frozen and canned vegetables and take a multivitamin every day.

Good luck dude!

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The meal plans at the college I am going to attend are around $3,200+ a year, which accounts for fifteen meals a week, excluding Sundays. Once figured in, it is actually cheaper to buy my own groceries even if I were spending $150 each time that I went shopping.

Anyway, I do appreciate all of your help, everyone. I understand that this dilemma is quite a stupid one to begin with, but I am sure that someone else in the world has gone through it.

Tonight, I think I am going to head over to our regular shopping spot and begin calculating where it is all of my cost is coming from, and what I can do about lowering the cost. I still look forward to hearing all of your replies.

Remember, I will be in a dorm. Cooking methods will be light.

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You might be able to work part time whilst at college. That's what I'm doing - I have two part time jobs and am still getting high marks at uni. It means my social life suffers a bit, but I'd prefer that than not eat properly.

You could try eating fruit and veg that is in season. That way it will be cheaper and better for the environment too. Root veg is usually cheap and you might be able to find others on sale. Also I agree with Mskedi.

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My dorm has a small oven, electric stove, and microwave. I think most colleges have some sort of cooking area for students. It might not be the best, and if you share a dorm with a bunch of football players like me, the cleanest, but it certainly broadens your options. Check with the school and see if they have something like that where you'll be living.

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I do what TNS does, I buy the fruits and veggies that are on sale, i love asparagus too, but its not cheap, at least not here.

i buy the bagged grapefruits instead of loose, they are cheaper and just as good.

check the sale flyers each week and go with whats on sale for fruits veggies.

good luck!

oh and i also worked while in college, i had to.

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6,445 Posts
Well you have had a stack of good advice

Try and get the system to work for you at collage .That is make an appointment with your student representative . Explain the situation , and that you want to make an appointment with the head of catering . Then talk it over with the head of catering and none of this stuff about the student rep will talk it over without you there make certain you are there to spell out you (and others ) dietary requirements .

Maybe post a notice on some noticed board to see that there might be others of you (there is bound to be ) then go and see the student rep .

Have no fear

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Cojo, I would like to thank you greatly for the time that you put into helping a fellow veg out. Sometimes it seems that pleas for help get thrown out of proportion on the boards, and it is posts like yours that reassure me of why I came to the Boards in the first place. Your post helped me a lot already.

Now, I did go - as I said I would - to try and write down prices and a list of what I could easily eat in college on a cheap diet. Let me know what you think, and also if you have any recommendations of your own. So far, I have gotten the list down to about $60, and I am continuing to look it over for even more possible cutbacks. Here is the list in all of its glory:

3 pound bag of Apples ($3.50)

5 pound bag of Grapefruit ($3.00)

Garlic ($2.00 for a jar that will last quite a while.)

Celery ($1.48)

Carrots ($1.66 for a bag of whole carrots.)

Cucumbers (2 for about $1.20)

Lettuce (2.56 for enough to last quite a few salads.)

Peppers (A four pack for $4.00)

Tomatoes (About six small for $2.00)

Bananas (A good lump for about $1.50)

Potatoes (I can get 4 medium for about $1.40)

Spinach ($2.08 for a bag of spinach.)

Onion (A large for $1.00)

Skippy Natural Peanut Butter ($1.65)

2 small cans of cut asparagus ($1.50)

2 small cans of sweet peas ($1.00)

1 bag of frozen peas ($1.88)

1 bag frozen Corn ($1.88)

1 bag frozen broccoli ($1.88)

1 bag of frozen snap peas ($2.98)

1 bag of Frozen Lima Beans ($1.38)

Rice Noodles ($1.18)

Hummus ($3.26)

2 cans of water chestnuts ($1.20)

1 can baby corn ($1.00)

Seaweed (I can get a lot for $2.00)

2 cans of tomato paste ($0.70)

1 can diced tomatoes ($0.88)

1 can of stewed tomatoes ($0.88)

3 small cans of tomato sauce, for soups and quick lunches ($1.00)

2 cans of tomato soup ($1.20)

Green Tea ($2.12)

Kashi 7 Grain Puff Cereal ($2.00)

A Good Vegan Whole Wheat Bread (Around $1.50, I suppose. I would most likely get two loafs, equaling $3.00 total.)

Tortillas (If I can find good and cheap vegan-friendly ones. I would guess around 1.50 as well?)

TOTAL: Around $63 for two weeks of food.

Below I have listed items that I will require, but will last long enough that I should not need to buy them every time.

Dry Beans (I can easily find these in cheap bulk-bags. Tonight I found four good sized bags for under $4.00.)

Oats (It is what is for breakfast! Fortunately, I can find a pretty good amount of these for about $2.00)

Malto-Meal (Yummy and nutritious! A lot of this costs only about $2.00)

Flax (I sprinkle it on in my morning breakfasts often, but it last for a while. About $2.00 - $4.00 for a box from hodgson mills. I am not certain on the exact price.)

Rice (A 20 pound bag for $10.00. I call that economically well! It would last me quite a while, even if I had it at every meal.)

Natto (I can find about 8 packets of this for around $4.00. Not should how long they would last, but surely at least 2 weeks.)

Miso (I already have a ton, and it lasts me a long... long time...)

Nutritional Yeast (I love it, but I rarely use it. I have had mine for about 3 months now, and it still has quite a bit in it. Unfortunately, it is not the good and fortified Red Starr brand, which I plan to start buying, and will most likely last a shorter time due to only being 5 oz. I hear that they sell Nutritional Yeast in bulk now, so I will look into that.)

Soybeans (If you are wondering why you did not see tofu or soymilk on my list, it is because I make my own. My father got me my long wanted gift for Christmas: A soymilk maker with a tofu kit. The tofu and soymilk are different than store bought, but they certainly save on money. I can get about 5 pounds of soybeans for around $3.00 at one of the Asian markets near campus. I do miss Silk and its fortified goodness, but I just can't justify the price. *Sigh*)

A vegan margarine (Unknown price, but Earthbalance always lasted me forever!)

On a side note: The current multivitamin I have lasts 3 months, and I take it every other day (So... 6 months?) I also have a calcium supplement. I paid for these items, and I will continue to do so as well, for I do not believe that they are the responsibility of anyone else. I chose Veganism, so I will pay for the needed supplements.

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AussieJ, I think your list sounds good - mine was the least I would need to make meals if I were in a dorm. You don't say what kind of amenities are in your dorm, or how far away you are from a grocery store...if you can only make infrequent trips make sure you load up on canned and frozen veggies as well as fresh ones.

Just out of curiosity, what are you going to do with the seaweed? I know you can make sushi out of seaweed but it doesn't seem like you'd have all the ingredients on your list for that...?

I personally would make my own hummus as it is relatively easy to make. It's basically chickpeas (canned or dry-soaked) blended with oil, lemon juice, and soy sauce or tahini. Just blend it together.

Depending on what you are using the bagged spinach for you may want to get frozen as it's cheaper and actually easier to work with. Salads, fresh spinach. Fillings for pastas, etc, buy frozen. If you are buying fresh spinach try to buy it in bunches, not in bags. It is both cheaper, fresher, and less likely to be infected with E. Coli. Personally I'm not a big fan of canned asparagus, I prefer frozen, but in soups it would be fine.

Other than that, I really like your list.

I would second that it if you could get a part-time job to help your mom it would really ease the eye-rolling. $30 per week is not hard to make - just one Saturday afternoon.

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i agree with cojo... try purchasing some frozen and canned fruits and veggies.. they are less expensive, although they are not fresh fruits and veggies they do serve their purpose.

i would also say only get what you really need, not what is nice to have around. i go for 2 or a stretch of 3 weeks on vegan food for around $26, i get a lot of soup pouches, boxes of vegan mac and cheese that i will use one box for 3 meals, frozen veggies for stir fry, and pasta. if you are placing a burden on your mother by spending that much on groceries a week, you could do her the courtesy of cutting back a bit. i am also a full time college student, and i work a full time job... and i agree it is not enjoyable and it is not easy to get things done.. but you can make it work.

i also understand you not wanting to purchase a meal plan with no veggie options.. the school i am going to next year require you to purchase a meal plan, but they have absoutley nothing for veggies, so i will appeal the meal plan purchase. can you do something like that at your school? **** luck AussyJ!
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