November 4, 2010

Mofo Day the Fourth

As promised I will explain how I do my meal planning and shopping for the month. Hopefully this helpful for new vegans or people on a budget. I get paid twice a month so I go shopping on those days and plan to buy enough food for the spaces in between. Don't despair, if you have a fridge, I assure you the produce will keep!
STEP #1 So first thing I do is check out my pantry and fridge to see how bad I was at using up everything. I did pretty good this last month (empty jars!), here's my pantry:

And you don't get to see the fridge, cause I'm sure its uncleaned ;)

I check to see if I have any soon-to-expire or weird ingredients that don't go with anything else and I write them down. I'm going to pick out some dishes to use those up right away. I also keep a running list in my kitchen of essential ingredients that I run out of such as : flour, spices, sugar etc.

Here's a few tips for the pantry:
- If you throw stuff out or it expires in your cupboard you're losing money!
- Buy in bulk and store in old jars that you save and wash
- Make sauces or condiments but only if it's really cheaper to do so
- Don't buy specialty ingredients for one dish. If there's a special spice required for a certain dish look up some more you can use it for
-Cook dried beans when possible. I don't soak ahead of time, I just put them in my crockpot for 3-5 hours, it's really really easy. You can save TONS of money this way.
-Buy frozen veggies for certain types of dishes like stews and casseroles, they can be cheaper and they won't go bad!
-Make your own stuff, the more the better! Like foccacia, gnocchi, hummus,etc. Homemade seitan especially will save you cash. I use Bryanna Clark Grogan's recipe for turkey style seitan most of the time.
-Buy your spices in bulk too, they really gouge you on those little jars.
STEP #2 Plan the majority of if not all your meals. This is helpful in so many ways:
-You know for sure you have enough stuff in your pantry to get you through the month!
-If you have a list of meals you can make, so you don't have to rack your brain as you clutch at your poor hungry tummy while staring in the fridge
-You'll be less tempted to eat out because you have yummy stuff you can make!
-You can plan for quick meals if you know you will be short on time

So, first I grab "the stack":

Then I figure out how many days I will need meals til my next payday. For this period of time it is 14 days. Make sure you include recipes that use up your stuff in the pantry and even weird condiments you have. For example, I have sauerkraut and pickles in the fridge, so I just need some homemade seitan to make Reuben sandwiches.

I make a little list and make spots to list 14 dinners. I also make a section for lunches. I only put about 7 because my BF eats leftovers from the previous days dinner 95% of the time and sometimes I eat free lunch at work.(lunch=salad unfortunately) The rest of the lunches are for weekends. I also listed 4 breakfasts because there are two weekends and then a few brekkie ideas for quick weekday grub. And there is snacks section cause we like snacks after stumbling home from the bar, haha.

Oh you can also see on top that I listed the stuff from the pantry/fridge that needed to be used.
As far as recipe sources, cookbooks are great, but blogs are awesome too. Especially right now because of MOFO. I get a lot of recipes from blogs, the PPK, Vegweb (searchable ingredients!) and cookbooks. I also make a lot of things that don't really require recipes (baked tofu, potatoes and sauteed veggies for example).

For cookbooks I like Vegan Brunch, Veganomicon, 1000 Vegan Recipes and A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. I particularly like that last one because just perusing it gives me an idea of good seasonal ingredients even if I don't use the recipes themselves.
STEP #3 Next I make a list of ingredients for when I'm shopping to make it easier. I list headings like "Produce" or "Freezer" so I can have some direction in the manic hell that is the grocery store. I do most of my shopping at the store that I have concluded was mostly the cheapest and had the best bulk bins. I also stop by whole foods for usually 1-3 ingredients that I can't find at the regular supermarket. I DO NOT do all my shopping there because it doubles my food bill.
You can see on my list I did put a few "convenience" items. I listed salsa because the fresh tomatoes are crap this time of year and I have been supplementing a cheap brand of salsa with my green tomatoes from my garden :) I also put Cheeze on the list because my BF requests pizza this month and we can strech one bag of Daiya pretty far. Of course you can always use a homemade substitute!

As far as organics you can use this guide to choose which ones to drop your cash on:

I tend to buy about half and half...just because of money constraints. Also don't choose ahead of time the side veggies and fruits for your meals unless it's crucial to a recipe, check out at the store what's in season or what's cheapest.
Don't forget, if your store honors bag refunds, bring your own!
And the last big rule for shopping is DON'T DEVIATE FROM THE LIST! If there is one item outrageously on sale or something that is okay as long as you will use or freeze it, but try to stick to your list because impulse buys will kill you!
I hope this helps people with their shopping and shows people that veganism does not mean spending tons of money! I am the world's least organized person so if I can take an hour to plan my meals, you can too! I know it really helps me from freaking out over what to make every night and my BF and I cut our grocery bill in half doing this. Just don't lose your list of dinners, haha. Happy Cooking ;)

PS Here is my cat trying to kill squirrels and crows with his mind powers from inside:

Yeah, good luck with that, Guthrie.


  1. What great tips- I am so unorganized when it comes to meal planning! I usually ask family members what they're in the mood to eat, but the answer I mostly get is "I dunno." LOL

  2. Yeah I hate that least tell me what to buy! This is a new thing for me in the last 6 months and it works really well!

  3. Great tips and ideas. I'm always feeling unorganized when it comes to cooking my meals and if I planned my meals in advance I think that would help a lot.

  4. This is a very similar process to what I do. My plan is usually for every 7 days instead of 14, but the planning meals thing is a crucial component. Plus it's fun to draw up a menu, and eliminates potential stress :)

  5. Very impressive. Daiya does last and do wonders. I am a sister list lover!

  6. Okay so right after I said, "Don't lost the list" I totally lost the list. Luckily I had taken a photo of it for the blog... Mofo saves the day!!!