12 top tips for cooking vegan on a budget

Woman Chopping food ingredients

A lot of people mistakenly assume that being vegan is expensive, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. Below are a few tips and tricks to keep food costs down, without sacrificing flavour or variety.

Cook from scratch

Regardless of your diet, it isn’t really possible to eat affordably if you buy ready-made, jars of sauce or premium brand meal deals. These products go hand-in-hand with ‘convenience’, but cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be overly complicated or arduous. In fact, the majority of the meals I make take 30 minutes or less, and the points below help show how…

Always have tinned tomatoes handy

I feel I’ve nothing in the house when I run out of tinned tomatoes. I buy the chopped kind, and prefer the low-cost packs of four you get from supermarkets – home brands tend to be cheaper, so I stick with those. When you have a can of tomatoes you can make a great tomato sauce, and a great tomato sauce is the foundation of lots of meals: spag bol and pastas like arrabiata or puttanesca (without the anchovies), veggie/bean chilli, tacos, burritos or nachos, curries and pizza sauce. All you need is a little oil, onions and garlic, plus herbs and spices to alter the mood… Cumin, coriander and chilli/paprika/cayenne pepper take you to Mexico; oregano, basil and thyme place you in Italy, whereas ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, curry powder and garam masala transport you to India. Alter the garlic and heat to suit your taste, and perfect your own signature sauce!

DIY dips

Store-bought hummus, salsa and guacamole are not cheap, but you can make your own at home for a fraction of the price and exactly to your liking. We have lots of recipes at Veganuary.com, and you can have fun experimenting with bean dips and cashew mayonnaises when you feel more confident. Homemade dips are also a great thing to take along to parties; not a huge outlay for you and people really appreciate the effort.

Buy dry

Lentils and mung beans are great for dahls and curries, and are a super cheap way to add bulk (and protein and iron) to soups and stews. I always have big bags of them in the cupboard, as you can basically make a soup or curry out of anything. I give them a rinse in cold water and chuck them straight in, letting them cook in the sauce. You can lower costs even further by buying dry beans, but if you don’t have the time or inclination for that (you need to soak them), then you’ll be pleased to know that I have discovered how to keep canned bean costs low (see below). I also buy 1kg bags of rice, quinoa and bulgur wheat, as I enjoy mixing up my carbs and proteins, and changing the texture of meals. You can get these fairly cheap.

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