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Plant-based on a Budget

When people transition to a plant-based, total vegetarian, vegan - or any other name for it, it can be as complicated as the non-lacto, ovo 100% vegetarian confusion that is on the web! But the best option, really, is to keep it simple. And when you're living on a single income, really simple is an understatement.

When I first decided to transition my kids and I (my husband at the time was not on board) it was a bit hectic. First I tried all the elaborate recipes I could find online, I scoured the isles of Barnes & Noble for cook books, and I purchased things I could never pronounce (tem-pay?). After a while, I got burnt out on faux meat and went to ol'-faithful. Enter, the Haystack. It was a childhood favorite at many-a-potluck, and a Friday evening regular at the cafe in college.

And I'll admit, haystacks are still my go-to-in-a-bind-quick-meal, but not because of the nostalgic yumminess, but because it packs a mean nutritional punch. With protein from the beans, fresh greens, tomatoes, raw onion and other great taco salad toppings, you can devour a complete protein and a handful of vitamins and minerals in a single meal. So besides having haystacks at least once a week, I plan meals around ingredients my family enjoys, and also can be used in multiple dishes. So here's how my family can eat on just a $20/week budget for groceries - thanks to bit of creativity.

Keep in mind, we always eat loads of fruit (or drink a smoothie) first thing, and only have 2 meals in the day - no unnecessary snacking. I also usually purchase organic produce except cabbage, eggplant, broccoli, carrots & bananas.

Shopping List:

$1.50 - Brown Rice

$4.00 - Beans

$2.00 - Tortilla Chips

$2.50 - Potatoes

$11.00 - Fresh fruit & veggies ($1.00ea bananas, apples, cantaloupe, kale (2), tomatoes, carrots, broccoli ($1.50), pineapple ($2) ,cabbage (.50))

I usually save a bit of money on beans because my kiddos are only 8 & 4 so 1 Ib can last us at least 2 - 3 dishes.

My pantry staples include - flour, oats, honey, raw nuts & seeds, nutritional yeast, raisins, vegetarian bouillon cubes, onions & garlic. Of course to replenish these it will cost more than $20, but these items are very handy for making cheese sauces and dips, soup, & quick breakfasts' (like pancakes, oatmeal, milk & oat-shakes).

So now you have our grocery list. What do some typical meals look like?

Mon: Bkfst - Sliced pineapple; oatmeal w/fresh almond milk & honey.

Dinner - Caribbean rice & peas (black beans) w/green salad

Tue: Bkfst - Green smoothie w/frozen, banana, kale, pineapple; "Fried" rice (w/onions, broccoli, kale, carrots & pineapple)

Dinner - Curry potatoes & garbanzo beans w/steamed cabbage

Wed: Bkfst - Sliced apples & bananas; Hash-browns & lentil patties

Dinner - Haystacks: tortilla chips, re-fried bean (puree pintos in blender), shredded cabbage, tomato, onion & optional cheeze sauce

Thur:Bkfst - Milk shake - almonds, oats and frozen bananas w/baked potato fries;

Dinner - Lentil soup w/broccoli & carrots

Fri: Bkfst - Green smoothie; Dinner - Scalloped potatoes, black beans, w/ carrot salad (raisins & sunflower seed dressing)

I like to buy cantaloupe, pineapple & papaya when on sale because they really stretch. I also stock up on berries and mangoes when they're in season so that I can freeze them and use them in smoothies when they're not in season. And when all else fails - we use bananas! Add a little carob powder and you have a creamy "chocolate" shake.

If you're low on nuts you can make your cheese sauce with a little non-dairy milk and steamed, mashed potatoes.

Here's to a full belly and a full wallet!

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