“Eating vegan doesn’t have to be expensive. See how to have a full day of healthy vegan meals for under $4! Follow these recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert at a grand total of $3.75” – Ellen Jaffe Jones
Table Of Contents
What if I told you being vegan doesn’t have to be expensive? What if I told you how to make a healthy vegan meal for less than a dollar? What if I told you that you can eat vegan on $4 a day?
Well that’s what I’m telling you. In this post… below…
One of the primary purposes of Bite Size Vegan is to help people make the decision to go vegan by increasing accessibility to reliable information and resources.
But making the decision to go vegan isn’t the same as knowing how. One common barrier to making the change is figuring out how to afford healthy vegan food. [tweet this]
In my first Vegan On A Budget video, we covered how and where to shop as well as some other tactics and tips for reducing your grocery bill. Today, we’ll get into some concrete examples of low-cost meal creation.
The recipes are from the guide “Eat Vegan On $4 A Day” by motivational speaker, personal trainer, running coach, author, vegan lifestyle coach and healthy cooking instructor, Ellen Jafffe Jones, who has generously allowed me to share some of her budgeting brilliance with you in this video. I highly recommend checking out her book—there are links below for you to grab your own copy or to find out if your local library has it in stock.
So let’s see what kind of vegan goodness we can get for under $4!
On a technical note, the exact cost of ingredients will of course vary widely depending on where you shop, where you live, and what’s in season. The prices I mention are in US dollars and based on Ellen’s averaging of in-season items.
If you live in an area with little or no access to fresh produce or have very limited finances, I’ll also provide additional resources on the blog post and later in the video.
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup medium-grind bulgur
- 2/3 cup chopped dates
- Pinch salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Plain or vanilla soymilk or rice milk (optional)
Instructions: Bring water, bulgur, dates, and salt to a boil while stirring. Reduce to low and cook until tender. Then add in everything else!
Lunch: Ellen’s Billfold Saver Black Bean Burger [ 50¢/serving ] on whole wheat or whole grain bread [<25¢/serving ] topped off with a Tropical Salad [ $1.25/serving]
Let’s tackle the burgers first. Making your own vegan meat and dairy alternatives is a great way to save costs as well as have fresher and less-processed ingredients. These burgers can be kept in the fridge or freezer so you can make a large batch all at once to save time.
- 2 slices whole wheat bread
- 1¾ cups cooked or canned black beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup rolled oats (not instant)
- ¼ cup finely chopped carrot
- ¼ cup finely chopped white button mushrooms
- ¼ cup finely chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons salsa, plus more if needed
- 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil (opt.)
Instructions: Lightly toast your bread and break it into smaller pieces. You can then run these through a food processor or blender or make it crispy enough so you can pop it in a plastic bag or under a paper towel and go to town making crumbs. Many markets and stores offer day-old breads at a discount that are already closer to the crispy ideal.
Mash your beans with a fork or potato masher, leaving some chunks. Mix in everything else but the oil, adding more salsa till you get a desired consistency. Separate into patties—smaller ones will stay together more easily. Cook your first batch on medium heat for 10 minutes per side, or until lightly browned, in a skillet with 1tsp vegetable oil.
If you’re wanting to cut oil, try baking in a toaster oven or actual oven at around 350°F/177°C (you may need to add more “liquid” to combat crumbliness—The Engine 2 Team suggests vegetable broth, the liquid from canned beans, plant mylk or a pureed pumpkin, butternut or potatoes ) or grilling them BBQ style. You can find the link to their full burger recipe below
- 8 leaves romaine lettuce
- 2 mangoes,* peeled, seeded, and chopped (3 to 4 cups)
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened flaked coconut
- *substitute in-season fruit or thawed frozen fruit
Instructions: Tear your lettuce leaves in half and lay down the darker top portions. Tear the bottoms into smaller pieces and mix with everything else in a bowl, and spoon the mixture into your lettuce boats. Feel free to substitute in-season fruit and/or use thawed frozen fruit.
- ½ cup dried kidney beans, picked over, rinsed, and soaked
- ½ cup dried great northern or cannellini beans, picked over, rinsed, and soaked
- 6 cups water
- 8 to 10 large tomatoes, finely chopped, or 1 can (28 ounces) unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- ¼ head napa or green cabbage, chopped
- ½ cup cut green beans, fresh or frozen
- 2 tablespoons vegetable broth powder
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 ounces whole wheat pasta shells, elbow macaroni, or other small pasta
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Instructions: Pre-soak your beans (if dried) for 8-12 hours, then bring to a boil with water over medium to high heat. Reduce to medium-low and cook 1 hour. Stir in everything else but the pasta and parsley and cook 30 minutes or till tender, stirring occasionally. Then add in pasta and cook another 10 minutes or until tender and add in your parsley.
- 1 cup semisweet nondairy chocolate chips
- 1½ cup vanilla soymilk
- 1 package (12 ounces) low-fat or no-fat firm or extra-firm silken tofu
- 1/3 cup maple syrup (optional)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions: Microwave your chocolate chips and plant mylk for 1 minute in a microwave safe bowl, or on the stovetop for about 5 minutes or until the chips are shiny. Let sit for 2 minutes then place in a blender or processor and add in the remaining ingredients. Process until smooth then pour into glasses or small containers and chill in the fridge for 2 hours or freezer for 30 minutes.
And there you have a sample day of healthy vegan eating for under $4.
Given that the majority of medical costs arise from preventable diet and lifestyle-induced diseases, a balanced vegan diet can also save you thousands in medical bills, not to mention time, travel, worry, and heartbreak. [tweet this]
A global shift to veganism would save trillions in medical costs. Just think, if the money tied up in health care instead went into providing education on sound nutrition, and programs to bring fresh, whole foods into food deserts.
Our system is broken in more ways than one—we’re not only killing trillions of beings every year, but also our planet, ourselves, and our children. It more important than ever to make veganism as accessible as possible.
And there are individuals, organizations and movements working towards this goal, through urban rooftop gardens, community agriculture programs in food deserts, programs connecting local gardeners with food pantries to provide fresh produce to those in need, phenomenal nonprofits like A Well Fed World working to relieve both “the suffering of people hungry from lack of food, and the suffering of animals used and abused for food” and grassroots groups like the Brown Paper Bag Movement, walking the streets to bring vegan food to the homeless.
See the bottom of this post for assistance finding fresh, real food or to get involved helping others. You can also see this video to learn how to grow your own food at home and my interview with two sisters sharing how they make veganism work in Venezuela with unique challenges to the food system.
I hope this video has been helpful. Let me know your thoughts and any additional tips you may have the comments. Many thanks again to Ellen Jaffe Jones for so generously allowing me to share her recipes. You can connect with her at the links below to find out all the other amazing things she’s written, accomplished, and what she’s currently working on.
If you liked this money-saving nugget, do give the video a thumbs-up and share it around to help other access affordable vegan food, and subscribe for more vegan content every week.
Now go live vegan, help others do the same, and I’ll see you soon.
— Emily Moran Barwick