Our favourite spider-man Toby McGuire, performing sensation Beyoncé, Olympic gold medallist Carl Lewis and heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson; what do all these people have in common? Yes, they are celebrities. They are attractive and get physically fitter as the list goes on. Most unexpectedly, they are on that plant-life, good-life vegan diet. Oh yeah, and they are all stinking rich.
Now living a satisfyingly healthy life on just the fruits of the earth is all well and good if you pocket a fortune, but what about us humble civilians? There is an estimated 150,000 vegans in the UK, and I can count myself as a proud member of this rapidly blossoming bunch. I am also an equally proud student, with limited funds and a lacking desire to empty my pocket on just food – despite its focal role in keeping me alive (priorities).
Let’s start with the basics. As the NHS website helpfully advises, a healthy diet consists of:
- Fruit & Vegetables
- Starchy foods
- Dairy foods
- Small amounts of high fat and/or sugar foods
The one thing that doesn’t have to change in the leap from a carnist lifestyle to that of a vegan are fruits and vegetables – well, except you end up eating a lot more of them. When thinking of saving, buying in bulk is usually the advice given, but not here. Fresh produce goes off, and there is nothing worse than peeling a banana to reveal a black sponge of grossness, or looking at that sad bunch of wilted lettuce in the fridge. Buy enough for around four to five days at a time; variety is the spice of life, so switch it up. Pomegranates are a superb choice and switch that orange for some grapefruit (they pump up your metabolism too, supposedly). Pop into Eat Your Greens on Sidwell Street (in Exeter); it’s a greengrocers with great value for money, and with each purchase you get entered into a raffle to win a whole bunch of fruit and veg!
Now for the starch; this too doesn’t vary much in most diet choices (minus the gluten free crowd). Wholemeal is perfect for getting in that iron. Breakfast cereals, fortified with B12, are great for your nutrition too. Try the Branflakes from Tesco (only 84p) with some almond (or soy) milk and garnished with a fruit of your choice – bananas are always a good shout.
‘But how do you get your protein?’ The question every veg-head has to face. Becoming vegan has made me so much more knowledgeable on all the things that are in and that you can get out of food. While meat alternatives, such as Quorn and Linda McCartney’s, are delicious, they are also expensive, with vegan Quorn products being especially difficult to find. I’ve only spotted a rare four per pack vegan Quorn ‘chicken’ burgers, in Seasons, for a whopping £3.17. This is where eating a lot more vegetables comes in, as lentils, peas and beans are great sources of protein and calcium. I suggest whacking some chickpeas and kidney beans into meals when you can. You can buy these and make meals with them in bulk – making two or more meals in just one cooking session is great for the savings.
Now to the things I’ve found extremely hard – sweets and chocolate. Everything sweet seems to have gelatine and everything else some form of milk in it. I’ve even been betrayed by my beloved Pringles in all their milk powdered deliciousness. While it is lovely popping into The Plant Café, The Glorious Art House or Herbies for some dairy free goodies, this can be costly (and requires constantly leaving the house). The 40p or 3 for £1 fizzy laces at any superstore – think Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Tesco – are a perfect means to gain that sugary high. Or if you are feeling up for deserts, why not try baking. Now vegan baking can be a hard nut to crack, but it can be mastered (I promise). You save money on having to buy those fresh eggs, with a long lasting supply of baking powder in just one container, and the use of almond milk (or soy) which lasts for about a month. The internet is overflowing with recipes, so why not explore the world of baking as a bit of light procrastination.
Veganism on a budget is all about knowing your food, what goes into your food and what you are getting out of it. Just start with a good supply of the basic spices and tined goodies and all should follow from there. You are not limited, you are experimenting; and it’s great procrastination from work!
Hidden (or not so hidden) budget vegan treasure: Cous Cous
I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I’ve only just awakened to the value of cous cous. It took me seven years as a vegetarian to fully plunge into the plant-life and discover this hidden gem. It’s tasty, it’s versatile, and it’s cheap (just 70p in Tesco)! A standalone meal as a salad infused with peppers, onions, spices and hummus or as a side with a stew, what is there not to love about this rice-on-steroids dish?