As inflation rises and wages continue to stagnate the price of vegan processed food has recently become more and more noticeable to me.
I have been grateful for the fact so-called “budget” supermarkets have been embracing veganism too for this very reason – I will be visiting Iceland very soon, and I reviewed a new vegan-friendly line from Farmfoods a while ago – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/02/05/farmfoods-veggie-kitchen-products-reviewed/
However, of equal concern has been the rise and rise of recipes on social media that call for about 25 different ingredients – including many hard to get or quite pricey ones.
Of course, there are a few simple replacers we can use for some ingredients – vegetable oil works as well as olive oil, table salt as well as Himalayan Pink Salt and so on.
When I mentioned my concerns on Facebook, I was inundated with recipe ideas and suggestions for cheap vegan-friendly ingredients.
Obviously, I wondered about the prices of meat in comparison. I haven’t eaten animals for 30 years, so I honestly had no idea how much a body costs. I was shocked – life really is cheap. Cheese for £1 a block, 50 mini-sausage rolls for £1, a whole chicken for £3, eight tinned hot dogs for 50p…. This was all in my local Tesco Express, but no wonder people see veganism as a “middle-class thing”.
It’s easy for us to say “but isn’t it worth it to save lives?” But that’s a very patronising attitude towards someone in food poverty who is really struggling to make ends meet – the reality for many families today.
Put simply, there aren’t enough budget vegan-friendly items on sale.
Vegan-friendly ingredients, however, are another thing. Vegetables – especially if you eat seasonally (something I recommend for the good of the environment too) can be very inexpensive.
However, the “from scratch” approach is much more budget-friendly – and it isn’t necessarily as time-consuming as one may think. You can get a kilogram of Textured Vegetable Protein mince for a fiver from Amazon, but my local health food shop sells it and the chunks loose – so you can scoop as much as you need pick ‘n’ mix style. The pictured chilli I made was produced using this – it’s much cheaper than a packet of frozen soya mince from the supermarket – I just hydrate it for five minutes in vegetable stock (water from boiled veg counts as stock too). I gently fried two carrots and a large onion in garlic and cayenne pepper and then added passata. I added a tin of drained kidney beans, chilli powder and then broccoli and mushrooms (any veg will do. Tasted for spice levels and cooked for 20 minutes.
I did enough to keep for a second evening meal – maybe with a jacket potato this time. The passata was 35p for a carton, the beans 30p for a tin, the spices and veg were in my store cupboard. A really useful media link is https://cookingonabootstrap.com/category/vegan-recipes/website
Writer Jack Monroe has the prices in pence of each recipe and has a section of the site dedicated to vegan recipes – the link will take you straight there.
There are cookbooks aimed at the budget vegan too, such as https://wordery.com/students-go-vegan-cookbook-carole-raymond-9780307336538?currency=GBP>rck=TFFaVzRkM1BPK2pGc0lVTlN6NVVIQ0NpM2tCcFNkcXIxL2hPaU1zYmxKMllXLy9lMFdlYkVhR0pPUDFLZE1PZ0ZKZlo1d2Z4K2JpY0FTYXZvbjNWTEE9PQ&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvcjq8piJ2gIVyLftCh0mdA5JEAQYASABEgIDbfD_BwE
I also bought a steamer basket from Wilkos to cook veg in a healthier manner. At £4.50, it was much cheaper than buying a steamer itself. You put the vegetables in the basket, stand it in boiling water, and Bob’s your uncle. Well, he would be if I could adult properly. The first time I used it, I nearly burnt the kitchen out as I let the pan boil dry – a bad, dangerous and smelly mistake. But, hey, we live and learn – or learn while being burnt to death!
Dahls, soups, home-made burgers (I struggle with getting them to bind, I will admit) and spag bog were all suggestions from friends and group members on Facebook. Stew and dumplings was a favourite too. But, make a spag bog on Monday, add chilli powder the next day and you have a slightly different offering for the next night. It was also pointed out that Poundland sells cashews for £1 – well worth remembering for making nut cheese recipes.
One social media comment that did spark my interest was from Alison Hawtin, who said: ”I just made a soup…roasted a cheap butternut squash and some garlic, cooked some leftover carrot and celery sticks on the hob with water, added some dried herbs and then whizzed this up. Added to the deskinned squash, mashed in a pan, add more water and/or soya milk and salt/pepper and Bob’s your uncle!”
I used to use a similar soup recipe years ago – I didn’t even whisk it up – just cooked it in a pan as a kind of chunky soup. I got the recipe from a punk zine- there used to be a lot of cheap vegan punk recipe ideas.
Another tip is, of course, to look for reduced items – or visit markets at the end of the day – I used the latter idea as a student in Leicester in the 1990s. The market traders would often try to get rid of produce at a reduced rate late in the day. But supermarkets often shift salad bags cheaply – also damaged tins etc – all perfectly useable.
EM Charlie’s stew and dumplings post also resonated with me: “Completely wholesome and balanced and delicious! My favourite meal! Red lentils (dried), celery, carrots, onion, leek (or basically any veggie that you enjoy), butter beans (or any bean) simmer for 40 mins with 2 veggie stock cubes, then combine half the amount of vegetable suet to flour with water for dumplings and add in balls to the stew. Let simmer for another 20 minutes. Serve with optional crusty bread and butter! Will last for 3-4 meals minimum.
Again, I used to make a variation of this years ago.
I guess I have become lazy since buying a freezer and having a greater choice of processed foods to hand. But I now aim to reduce my intake of such products (except for review purposes ha ha) and rein in my food bill. I see it as a healthy challenge. It should also help to improve my relationship with the food I eat.