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Tips & Tricks for the Busy, Built, and Budget Vegan

Tips & Tricks for the Busy, Built, and Budget Vegan

Maneuvering my budget as a graduate student in New York City has had its fair share of challenges. The day I spent $16 on a cocktail will live in infamy. There was also the time I exited the Subway station instead of transferring trains, forcing me make the novice second swipe to re-enter. I avoid eye contact with Hamilton ads. I walk on the other side of the street when passing the Bloomingdales Outlet. Everyone has their own New York City strategies. 

But there is one aspect of my lifestyle that I won't compromise on, even on a budget: my dietary values. I have mastered $5-a-meal veganism, and am excited to share my story.

Veganism has a stigma. It seems easy to cast off veganism as another women’s diet craze, as unrealistic and unhealthy for the athlete, and financially unfeasible. I have debunked all of these myths, and have inquired within my personal vegan community to find out their own top strategies for living vegan.

So why make the switch?  Veganism is not only switch towards better health when done properly, but it also dramatically reduces your carbon footprint, and, yes, saves you money! To demonstrate this, I’ll walk you through my own typical routine:

Savannah’s Veganism on A Budget

Step One – Buy in bulk and buy smart!

Thrive Market offers the best-selling natural and organic products at wholesale prices through a $60/year membership. Think Costco meets Whole Foods online, and for every paid membership Thrive donates one membership to a low-income American family.

Always purchase your grains, nuts, cereals, and cans in bulk. When purchasing, focus on versatile ingredients that can act as a “base” for many different meals.

Below I have listed my typical bulk list, provided by Thrive Market

·      Bob’s Red Mill Organic Whole Grain Quinoa ($10.95 per 32 oz bag)

·      Nature’s Earthly Choice Italian Pearled Farro ($4.45 per 32 oz bag)

·      Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quick Cooking Rolled Oats ($3.95 per 32 oz bag)

·      Organic Peanut Butter or Justine’s Classic Almond Butter (Special Free Gift from Thrive Market)

·      Certified BPA-Free and Organic Canned Vegetables: Black Beans, Chickpeas, Sweet Potato Puree ($3.95 or less per 2-pack)

·      Soups: Amy’s Organic Lentil, Organic Split Pea, and Organic Spicy Chili ($4.95 per 2-pack); and Tasty Bite Punjab Eggplant ($2.95)

·      Pacific Foods Organic Unsweetened Almond Beverage ($2.95 per carton)

All of these items listed came to a grand total of $19.27, including shipping & handling. I was able to include a 15% discount as a first-time customer, and gained $10 in Thrive Market Credit by simply inviting 5 of my friends! 

Step Two – Always Get Your Whole Foods from Your Local Farmer’s Market

After purchasing my staples, I depend on my farmer’s market for my seasonal fruits and vegetables. Farmer’s markets are often much cheaper and typically offer more reliable, fresher products. And lastly, I find there is much more inherent value in creating a stake within my community and getting to know the farmers and the fruits of their labor within my region.   

Step Three – Plan ahead!

In graduate school, lunch is often fast, and sometimes, few and far between. The nearby salad bar or sub joint may seem like a satisfying quick fix, but it will snag your wallet and cause incredible waste. An average, quality-ingredient lunch runs around $8-10, leading to $40-50 out of your pocket each week, and 100 million pieces of lunchtime trash are thrown away every 24 hours (statistics based on analysis of U.S. census, school lunch program and Environmental Protection Agency data – ecolunchboxes.com).

All these yummy snacks and more can be found at Thrive Market

In order to both save money, maintain my health, and reduce my personal impact on landfill waste, I cook a week’s worth of quinoa or farro on Sunday, and then plan my lunches within reusable glass containers each night. Using my pre-cooked grains as my base, I diversify with toppings, with the overarching goal of maintaining my healthy balance of protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and good fats.

·      Mediterannean? I’ll enjoy my quinoa and farro with crushed red pepper, chickpeas, olives, and roasted summer vegetables from the market.

·      Mexican today? I’ll throw in some black beans, sautéed spinach, crushed red pepper, and avocado. Mediterranean? How about chickpeas, hummus, olives, and roasted summer vegetables. 

Erin Schrode's Veganism for the Go

Congressional candidates are always running around, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise your values! Erin Schrode recently ran within Marin County, California, and before that, she is a leader in the non-profit she co-founded, Turning Green, a national non-profit organization devoted to education and advocacy around environmentally sustainable and socially responsible choices for individuals, schools, and communities. Her student-led movement focuses on eliminating toxic exposure and creating eco-awareness. Her work has led to her consulting and speaking in 70 different countries, and in front of a variety of organizations and corporations, including Apple, IKEA, the US State Department, the Coca-Cola Company, Chipotle, United Nations, EPA and more. The White House called Erin “a dynamic, passionate and ambitious young woman committed to creating big change everywhere she goes.”

Here are some of Erin’s quick tips on how to maintain veganism on even your busiest days:

  1.  Eat the bounty of the season. Local farmers markets have the best prices on seasonal fruits and veggies.
  2. Buy in bulk! Nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes - these are staples in a vegan diet. The bulk section is economical, eco-friendly (less packaging) and fresher.
  3. Don't think you need every "Fake" this or "replacement" that, which are often very pricey and mere fads. Whole foods are the way to go. 

Dr. Jairo Garcia’s veganism on the run

As both a marathon runner and City of Atlanta’s Climate Policy Director, Jairo defies the belief that veganism can’t be healthy for athletes. Tips for getting the necessary nutrients to fuel your next workout:

  1.  Protein’s reputation may be bigger than its worth. As a runner, Jairo requires constant iron and protein in order to get from workout to workout. But don't get tunnel vision that the only sources are meat and dairy There are so many plant-based sources of protein that don't have all the cholesterol, chemicals, and sustainability-concerns that are packaged into animal products. Just a few include: green peas, quinoa (the "perfect protein"), nuts and nut butter, beans, chickpeas, tempeh and tofu, hemp, and chia seeds. And yes, I said hemp. Consuming this sustainable and protein-packed nutrient will not get you high. In fact, hemp milk is a great dairy-free, nutrient-packed way to add protein to your diet, and is lower in calories than skim milk.  
  2. Dr. Garcia has another tip for adding iron to the vegan athlete's diet: use an iron-skillet! The skillet will enrich iron into all foods cooked on it.
I don’t eat animals, but you bet I eat like one!
— Dr. Jairo Garcia, City of Atlanta

As Michael Pollan says best, "Eat whole foods. Mostly plants." If you would like to learn more about how to cook vegan, or incorporate a more mindful diet into your lifestyle, I highly recommend the reading and documentaries below:

Cows Mooving Over for Almond Milk

Cows Mooving Over for Almond Milk