Have you heard? Veganism is all the rage these days. It’s how Anne Hathaway got that bangin’ catsuit body, and how former President Bill Clinton saved his life and lost 20 pounds. It’s how I’ve eaten for three and a half years, with a few moments of weakness at fine restaurants and when dessert cravings strike. My mom and I read Skinny Bitch when I was in high school and decided to experiment with a plant-based diet, and we haven’t looked back! These days, it seems lots of conscious-minded friends are also giving veganism a whirl. Even my food hero, Mark Bittman, subscribes to the diet.
This way of eating started my curiosity in food. I was forced to learn how to cook and consider where my food came from. It made me stop and question why and how we eat in general. What makes grilled chicken more socially acceptable than seared tempeh? Since when is dairy a health food? Is it? I’m so grateful that this diet made me open my eyes to new views and new cuisines. However, awareness ain’t always cheap.
This summer I have a minimum-wage job, as well as internship for a startup company (read: unpaid). I’m living in an apartment in New Orleans, my university town, and am on my own for food and beverage. This means I am BROKE. So broke I’ve become that crazy person who only asks for hot water at coffee shops because she brought her own tea bag. So broke I’ll bike six miles to work in the heat and humidity instead of paying $1.25 for public transportation. But broke doesn’t have to mean starving, or worse – unhealthy. Check out my tricks to being a broke vegan:
**7 Tips to Live a Crunchy, Grass-Eating Lifestyle on the Cheap**
1. Pick your indulgences. I’m a firm believer in daily pleasure. My splurge is raw cacao powder for my smoothie every morning. Yours might be a favorite tea, or fancy non-dairy cheese. Put one, only one, extra something special in your shopping cart each week, and know that the price is worth the taste.
2. Buy in bulk. Well of course. Have you ever seen a seemingly economically comfortable person in the bulk bin aisle of your local grocery store? No. Nothing but a bunch of unshowered starving environmentalist types in there. Join ‘em! Buying food in bulk is much cheaper, and even cuter – you get to transfer your bagged goods into your favorite containers once you get home. I’m a sucker for a good mason jar.
3. Frozen produce is often cheaper, and potentially fresher than fresh produce. Frozen convenience foods may not be budget-friendly, but frozen fruits and veggies sure are! Frozen mixed vegetables make stir-fries a snap, and it’s a great way to get your favorite out-of-season fruit. Strawberries and blueberries, for example, are often frozen immediately after they’re picked, which preserves the nutrients and flavor.
4. Focus on whole foods. The majority of your diet should be real food that grows out of the ground without the assistance of heavy processing or chemicals. Think less soy dogs, more tofu. Brown rice instead of fancy loaves of bread. This allows you to save money and preserve your health.
5. Pack a lunch. Another no-brainer. It’s almost always cheaper to prepare your own food than purchase a meal out, and you get to control what goes into your body. No need to worry about sneaky dairy or eggs in your meal, because you made it!
6. Forgo organic if it means you can buy afford more produce. Yes, organic is important for true health. However, sometimes it’s better to just not think about the endocrine disruptors and simply buy the cheaper, non-organic produce.
Suzannah Schneider is a senior at Tulane University. She swears by her morning green smoothie of frozen spinach, a frozen banana, raw cacao powder, almond butter, stevia, water, and cinnamon.