November 04, 2011

Eat Vegan on $4 a Day; beans-and-greens stir-fry



How many times have you read or heard that eating a healthy, plant-based diet may be ideal, but it's too expensive and time consuming for the average person to handle, and eating a fast-food diet is the inferior but more economical choice. It's too complicated, too much trouble, too expensive to buy all those healthful fruits and vegetables. Ellen Jaffe Jones has made it her mission to teach people "how easy it is to prepare delicious, healthful, inexpensive meals at home."

With a long family history of health problems, as well as personal health issues, Jones chose a plant-based diet to improve her health, and her quest to make a plant-based diet affordable, healthy and delicious for anyone, has led to her to write Eat Vegan on $4 a Day. She says it was press references to Twinkies and boxed mac and cheese as being the only things some people could afford, that finally pushed her over the edge and made her do it; she wants to show people that they can make six servings of delicious, high quality plant-based protein for the cost of just one Twinkie. To accomplish her goal of helping people to eat better while spending less, Jones includes chapters on Financial Planning for Food Shopping, and Plant-Based Nutrition and Cooking 101. She also offers advice on stocking the pantry, and provides daily and weekly menus and costs.

I didn't actually try to replicate any of her meals to see if I could match her costs, but I did try one of the recipes to see if it tasted good — the recipes are very simple and contain common pantry ingredients. I handed the book to my husband and asked him to choose and prepare one dish, and he picked greens-and-beans stir-fry. He used kale instead of collards and broccoli because that's what we had, but otherwise he followed the recipe exactly. It was delicious — the kind of healthy, simple but satisfying food I crave for everyday meals. Not only was it great tasting, it took almost no time to prepare. If you are trying to cook more economically, or more healthfully, you may want to pick up a copy of Ellen Jaffe Jones' book for inspiration and guidance. I'm looking forward to trying more of her delicious, quick-to-prepare, recipes.

For more ideas on how to eat beautifully, healthfully and happily on a strict budget, check out Melody Polakow's blog Melomeals.








Printed with permission.




Here's a video about eating frugally based on Ellen Jaffe's book.

Full disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided to me free of charge by Book Publishing Company. I was not paid to write a review, nor was I required to do so.

28 comments:

  1. I've considered getting this book before because it does sound like it would be a lot of simple, whole foods. This meal looks great! I'll have to check it out again. Thanks for posting about it, Andrea!

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  2. Just met the author and I'd love to have this book. She said it is selling really well, I can see why.

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  3. It's a really great concept to base a cookbook on, that's for sure. Food is only going to get more expensive, so healthy, cost-cutting, vegan options are invaluable. I'm just glad that this exists!

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  4. There is nothing I hate more (well, okay,there probably is) than the "veganism is elitist" argument. I find that absolutely ridiculous and I hope more people find this book. Looks like a nice, easy meal.

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  5. Molly,
    Simple, whole foods describes it pretty well. I think it is similar to the HH cookbook in many ways.

    Bitt,
    I heard the same thing from the publisher — they had to do a second printing. Maybe it's the budget-conscious theme that has people's attention.

    Hannah,
    I agree. It's possible to eat well on a budget if you're willing to do a little cooking with whole foods.

    Foodfeud,
    That argument bugs me, too. But don't you think a lot of people want to be able to buy food in easy-to-prepare packets? And there's the belief that it's hard to cook beans even though you can buy a slow cooker at Goodwill and let the beans cook themselves. I may be guilty of a little laziness myself, sometimes, but I know that it's possible to eat well for low cost.

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  6. As someone who has eaten vegan food for 3.33 a day, I know it is very possible to have amazing meals that don't break the bank.

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  7. Thanks, Andrea and all for your kind words! I hear from so many who have eaten this way for years that they know this is true when they shop in the right places, at the right times and know what to look for. I wrote 10 times more than what got published ;) but the publisher to their credit, wanted to keep it small enough to be affordable, given that it is a book about saving money. With Amazon immediately starting to sell at 40% or more off of the cover price, it is a challenge to get published in an e-book world.

    Bill Clinton's public raving of going vegan to save his life at the time of publishing really helped sales, as well as publicity about increasing disparity between income classes. As a former TV investigative reporter whose mom, aunt & both sisters had breast cancer, I just got tired of seeing so many stories on the news that said you can't eat well on a budget.

    Melomeals: I love your inspiring blog/photos/recipes too! My job as a personal trainer and high school running coach keeps me from photographing food and blogging as much as I would like to. Your photos are beautiful!

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    1. I bought the book. I have it on the nook. I like it but it is impossible to follow on $4.00 a day.

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    2. It does take extra effort to eat this cheaply, and it may depend on where you live and the markets you have access to. Melody Polakow wrote a blog about eating on $3.33 a day — you might want to take a look at her blog to see how she did it. http://melomeals.blogspot.com/p/recipes-work-in-progress.html

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    3. Update & answers: All the recipes in my book are based on ingredients you can find at your fav big box store. Now you may not want to shop there, but the reality is, 20% of Americans live below the poverty level and have no other choice. I wanted to show that it could be done with "simple" yet tasty ingredients you can find there. People ask me all the time, "How do you do it." I say (because I worked in TV and then did media consulting for PCRM and others) "The :05 TV soundbite answer is 'beans, grains and greens. Buy in bulk." If you buy the rubber-gasket sealed jars, the bugs stay out and you can store grains and beans for years. I've done this more than 30 years and have avoided my family history of breast cancer that got my mom, aunt and both sisters. I just placed 7th in the my age group in the 1500 meters at the National Senior Games. So yeah, you get plenty of protein. ;)

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  8. Melody,
    You were the first person I thought of when I saw this book. If anyone knows about preparing great vegan food on a budget, it's certainly you! You should write a book on the subject!

    Ellen,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment on my review. As one who's eaten a plant-based diet since 1980, I can appreciate everything you say in your book. It's frustrating to me when I see our diet disparaged for being unattainable by the average person, knowing that it doesn't have to be complicated, expensive or boring! We are indeed brainwashed by advertising, as you note in the book, and it can seem daunting at first, to choose a dietary path in opposition to everything we've been led to believe about food. But it is doable, and books like yours are so helpful.

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    1. Better late than never. ;) I just saw your comment. Thanks! Check out Jason Wrobel's video he did yesterday about my book and his challenge on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3T_tl37TZQ

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  9. This sounds like a great book and timely too. I think it's easy to go broke eating vegan or budget wisely. As a very budget-minded person myself, I have found myself scratching my head when I've run out of my grocery money, but it doesn't seem like my pantry will stretch to the next payday. When that happens, I've inevitably splurged on sauces or spices or more expensive mushrooms, etc. It's definitely okay to snazz up a vegan meal, but you can really stick to a low budget if you eat very simply.

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  10. Sounds like this book has a lot of useful information. I've never been very good at budgeting. But, that's mostly because I've never made it a goal. I agree that the "veganism is expensive" argument is just an excuse for people to discount it without finding out any more about it. People like to stay in their comfort zones and latch onto anything, I find.

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  11. Blessedmama,
    So true. When you think about it though, it's easy to go broke eating ANY diet! Following a budget is a challenge to be sure, but I think we both agree that being vegan isn't the problem!

    Rose,
    I'm not the best budgeter either. But when I have to, I can cook pretty cheaply.

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  12. Thanks for this review, sneak peak. I wondered about the book to buy for others that may feel that veganism is exclusive. Sounds like the recipes are not too difficult, and obviously cheap!

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  13. You're right; that looks like the kind of meal I like to make! Yay for her for writing a book like that - because indeed you can eat cheaply. Looks like a good book.

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  14. Get Skinny,
    I think the book would be good for those leaning towards a plant-based diet and needing guidance, but for hardcore omnivores or those used to the high salt high fat taste of fast food, the recipes might not be alluring enough.

    Claire,
    I think the key is you can eat cheaply and well if you want to.

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  15. When I first started, I didn't think eating vegan was expensive but I thought buying all organic was pretty pricey. Though it's not as bad with all the farmers markets around nowadays. Sounds like a great cookbook, I'll have to check it out. :-)

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  16. Chow vegan,
    Buying organic does add to the cost. I try to buy the dirty dozen organic, and decide about the rest on a piece by piece basis. I also try to buy organic on items where genetic engineering is likely — like soybean products.

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  17. I've also considered getting that book. Thanks for doing the review. I'm going to ask for the book for Christmas. I love simple recipes that don't cost a fortune. The beans and greens stir fry looks delicious!

    I visit Melody's blog a lot. Everything that I've made of hers has been wonderful.

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  18. That is pretty tite. It really is all about saving money these days.

    Rich
    Co-Creator
    http://www.evolvewithflavor.com

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  19. Michelle,
    I agree that Melody does have a creative way of making gourmet food within a strict budget.

    Evolve,
    Yes, saving money on food is challenging, but in today's tight economy, it's a necessity for most people. It's good to know that people like Ellen and Melody have figured out how to do it and are passing that info along.

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  20. I'm glad when people get the message out that being vegan doesn't have to be costly. I do this message a great disservice as I spend WAY too much money on food. But it's partly because I buy a lot organic, partly because I buy too much packaged food, and a lot of it is because I am too tired to go into more than one store sometimes so I end up getting things at WF that I could have gotten cheaper somewhere else.

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  21. If you get two comments from me, it's because after I hit post on the first, it said unable to connect, and I didn't know if I lost it or not. So you can just choose one. :)

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  22. Jenny, Jenny,
    You're right. I think any diet plan can be expensive or frugal, depending on how you shop. It's just that vegan diets often get singled out for being too expensive for average people to maintain, and it's actually possible to eat a plant-based diet very frugally. It takes careful planning and restraint, just like anything. There were times when I shopped very carefully because I had to watch pennies, and times when I didn't. Now I try to shop carefully, but I do splurge now and then.

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  23. i made this for dinner last night! i added blackeyed peas to the mix and it went over well :) thanks for sharing the great dish!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome. Thanks for sharing your recipe additions.

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