1,000 Cheap Plant-Based Meals You Can Make in 15 Minutes

veggie wrap 1I’m about to tell you exactly how I eat. Simply, inexpensively, and with endless variety.

Except for salad dressings, I use few recipes. (And even those, I take liberties with!) The first few years in your journey to a whole-foods, plant-based diet, you follow a lot of recipes. (Longtime raw foodies call this “transitional eating.”) It’s normal. In fact, it’s an important phase. It’s instructive, as you experiment with whole foods and ingredients.

You spend a lot of time. Then eating starts to get much easier and simpler. You have many tricks up your sleeve. You are resourceful. Missing an ingredient or two is no problem.

The key to my method is, don’t stress about it. You can’t mess this up! Eating this way is cheap, and it’s also a great way to use a hodgepodge of random plant foods or leftovers in your fridge.

Be inventive and never get stuck in a rut–anything in the produce section fits in this way of eating. I virtually never add salt (even sea salt) to my food. Many of these fillings and sauces have so much flavor, you won’t miss added salt.

Start with a base, add one or more toppings or fillings, and play with sauces or spices. I hope this helps you enjoy the magical world of eating greens, vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds–the nutrient-dense plant kingdom of food!

 

BASE:

Bowl: brown or wild rice, quinoa, millet, lentils, split peas

Salad: romaine, spring greens, bean sprouts, or other sprouts

Wrap: sprouted grain tortilla, collard leaf, organic corn tortillas, nori (seaweed for sushi)

Noodles: spiralized yellow squash or zucchini, gluten-free whole-grain pasta, kelp noodles

 

Brown rice peas freeeFILLINGS / TOPPINGS:

Choose one or more of the following that you have on hand:

Lentils (with taco seasoning), any beans (seasoned however you like), or split peas (thick, day-old split pea soup is good!)

Brown rice, wild rice, quinoa (seasoned however you like

Hummus or baba ganoush (eggplant) spread

Sautéed vegetables (with fajita seasoning): think peppers, onions, tomatoes, parsnips, carrots, turnips

Raw vegetables: think jicama, tomatoes, any sprouts, matchstick carrots or other root vegetables, scallions

Olives of any kind, or olive tapenade

Tahini (sesame seed paste)

Avocados, sliced or mashed

Pumpkin, sunflower, or sesame seeds

Walnuts, pine nuts, sliced almonds, or chopped walnuts or pecans

 

pesto freeSAUCES AND SPICES:

Any salad dressing at all from Ch. 3 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods! They all work! Mix and match, at will!

Salsa of any kind

Pesto sauce (see 12 Steps recipe)

Mustard or Vegannaise

Sauces for Chinese, Thai, Mexican foods (avoid MSG, corn syrup, and other chemical ingredients–these are very inferior to all Ch. 3 dressings)

Have Indian, Italian, Thai, and Mexican organic spice blends on hand.

Always have ginger, turmeric, chili pepper, cayenne, dried parsley, and garlic powder, too. (I avoid pepper, as it is a gastrointestinal irritant.)A few dashes of whatever you feel like, to any of the above, and you’ve completely changed the flavor of the meal, plus added some nutrition!

You can toss into your fillings raw apple cider vinegar or miso (non-GMO) for flavoring.

How to Eat Right On A Budget…….Contest Winners, part 3 of 3

Margareta Jeppesen of Eagle Mountain, Utah, and Hilary Day of Nellysford, Virginia, are our last 2 winners. I think you’ll find their ideas useful. Share them on facebook or pinterest!

Tips from Margareta J., a mom of four who says she lives paycheck to paycheck on one income, eating whole foods:

  1. Go to the health food store and ask for manufacturers’ coupons.
  2. Go online and print manufacturers’ coupons.
  3. Write the manufacturer for coupons.
  4. Download multiple ads and shop from the ones that feature the lowest prices on organics.
  5. Keep your Costco membership current.
  6. Make a trip to Trader Joe’s once a month.
  7. Frequent your local farmers’ markets
  8. Own a deep freezer.
  9. Sell your old unopened, never used, processed boxed good facebook-advertised yard sale to earn money to eat right.

10. If strawberries are $6.99 a lb., buy them frozen at Costco. Get organic when you can afford it, and not when you can’t.

11. When the end of the month comes, live on beans and brown rice. Cook big batches of dry beans and freeze them in smaller quantities. Rice and beans go great with quinoa, broccoli, cauliflower, and tomatoes, that are cheap and delicious.

12. The GreenSmoothieGirl Readers’ Favorites Volume 1 and 2 books are budget friendly.

13. When you make something, write down how much all the ingredients cost. Decide how much you want to make it next time based on that. A $5-$7 meal gets made a lot, a $9 meal happens twice a month, and anything over that, I can’t afford.

14. RAISE A GARDEN! Cheaper, no pesticides, and much tastier! You don’t have to build a fancy box thing. All you need is dirt and non-GMO seeds.

15. Stay out of the mall. Spend your small discretionary income on your health, in the form of good nutrition, instead of “stuff.”

16. I take GreenSmoothieGirl recipes to parties and talk to everyone. The more people I can get eating organic, whole foods, the more the cost of those items will go down. Even and especially my friends on food stamps!

Tips from Hilary D.:

1. Quinoa is one of the few perfect proteins in the plant world, and it’s cheap. I make a quinoa salad with chopped home grown tomatoes, diced avocado, diced onion and a handful of pumpkin seeds, mixed together with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil. I’ve also mixed quinoa in the tomato paste that I use on homemade pizza. It looks a little like ground sausage when it’s in the sauce, and it tastes great on a pizza!

2. For finicky eaters, put the fruits or vegetables that the kids (or hubby) don’t want to eat in your smoothies. My husband doesn’t like bananas with brown spots. But he can’t see what they look like in the smoothies.

3. Don’t ever pay for tomatoes at the store. Grow your own! A tomato plant costs as much as a package of tomatoes that are gone in one sitting. Too many tomatoes? Can them, or make tomato sauce and freeze it. You can also dice them and freeze them for winter recipes. They go with EVERYTHING! Any fruits or vegetables that you can grow at home are real money savers.

4. Eat weeds. Dandelion greens and plantain are bitter, but wood sorrel (the “clover” with yellow flowers”) adds a nice lemony flavor to smoothies and salads. I’ve even used it to make “green lemonade” in the blender, strained and sweetened with stevia. Goose foot and chickweed both have a nicer mild flavor that works well in smoothies and salads. Chickweed has the added bonus of being high in magnesium, which is deficient in the unhealthy fast food diet. I can harvest loads of chickweed from my vacant lot and freeze it for green smoothies all winter long. Purslane, the succulent, red-stemmed weed that grows in sidewalk cracks, is delicious chopped up with potatoes, and celery with a (vegan) mayonnaise dressing. It gives the potato salad a nice mild peppery bite. In the late spring, the daylilies are in bloom all over the countryside. The unopened flower buds are delicious sauteed in coconut oil.

5. I love wheat grass smoothies. Wheat grass is one of nature’s true super foods and it’s cheap when you make your own. I bought a 50 lb. bag of organic hard red winter wheat for sprouting. It’s kept me in wheat grass smoothies for 2 years. No need to buy an expensive juicer. Just cut the wheat grass, wash it, and put it in your blender for a minute. Then just strain it with an ordinary kitchen sieve. Then add your favorite fruits with some chia and ground flax seed (and perhaps some weeds, and a slice of an organic red beet for color).  It makes a beautiful and healthy drink.

P.S. Save the pulp from the sieve to mix in with the dog’s dinner. It’s good for the dog, and won’t cause the familiar “barfing” when Fido eats grass outside.

How to Eat Right On A Budget—Contest Winners, part 2 of 3

Enjoy the ideas of Joanna Keilson  of Cary, North Carolina, on how she feeds her family with limited funds!

Tips from Joanna Keilson of Cary, North Carolina:

1. Identify the foods that are healthy, that work for your body, that you actually LIKE. Keep a list, and capitalize on that list. Take 60 seconds on Google to learn to use them in a variety of ways, or learn about the nutritional profile.

2. Buy those foods you like, in bulk. Ask grocery stores for a discount if you buy a case.

3. Use cash when you grocery shop. You’ll spend less if you bring only the amount you need to spend.

4. Never go to the grocery store hungry!

5. Put 2-3 stores on your shopping circuit, not just one. I recommend three stops, if you have these where you live: a health food store like Whole Foods Market, a regular store like Kroger with a decent produce section, and a club store like Costco. This allows you to comparison-shop and know where the best deals are. Sometimes a second trip to a store you’ve been at earlier, on the way home, is warranted.

6. Join a co-op near you who delivers to you. Google to find out what’s close.

7. Shop your local farmer’s market. The middle man is cut out, and you’re eating local produce, reducing your carbon footprint.

8. Lots of food in your fridge, but none of it seems to go together? Use recipematcher.com or another online tool to find creative ways to use whatever’s in your fridge!

9. When something’s on sale and can be frozen, stock up and put it in the freezer, ready to use in small, washed portions.

10. Don’t buy ready-made things when it’s easy to do it at home. Know the cost differentials, and plan your time and buying accordingly. For instance, it’s probably not worth it to buy fruit and vegetables already cut up. Cut them yourself. However, it’s probably worth it to buy whole-grain breads rather than make your own, unless bread-baking is a hobby of yours.

11. Read the ingredient list. Pay less attention to fat or calorie content than what is actually in your food. If you spend all your time trying to find low-calorie, low-fat everything, you will likely pay more than you need to, causing you to buy more to fill you. For example, coconuts, avocados, and nuts and seeds are high in calories and fat but are very good for you and are a great way to fill you without breaking your wallet, because you need to eat less of them than other things to satiate you.

12. Save by eating less, and stop before you are full. You might be surprised that you need to eat less than you think, even if you are slim). There are people in other countries who live on 1,300 calories a day and are healthy and lean.

Note from Robyn: Interesting that Joanna would talk about this, her #12. In the U.S., people eat 1,200 to 1,300 calories only when they’re “on a diet.” Most of the world does live on 1,200 to 1,300 calories a day. I will blog on this controversial topic soon, and the #1 thing on GreenSmoothieGirl.com that gets me hate mail.

NEW CONTEST! 3 will win $100! What crazy place did you get a super-healthy meal?

judi-blog-2Kale Quinoa Salad in Phoenix Airport

 

Take a photo of a place in your hometown of a super-healthy meal you had, in a place you’d never expect to be able to get a good, plant-based, mostly raw, and/or nutrient dense meal!  The 3 best entries win $100 in free stuff from the GSG store (and shipping’s on me, too).

 

Check out this photo of a quick meal I got in an Atlanta airport BBQ restaurant, of all places, last month.

 

And a kale quinoa salad I bought in the Phoenix airport on my way home.

 

Contest 2 carrot juiceAnd a photo of my friend Shari I was traveling with, holding my 16 oz. of celery and carrot juice, that I got in the Detroit Airport.

sign at Green Lake WI place serving green smoothies-1I’m also sharing, here, photos of a place our webmaster, Jason, found in Green Lake, Wisconsin, on his vacation last week. His wife, Linda, and little boy Levi enjoyed a green smoothie of peas, cucumbers, broccoli and spinach in a mainstream place you’d never guess would have such a great option.

I will keep this contest open for 3 weeks, to give you time to scout out your town, and take me some decent camera or cell phone photos.

I want to train those who come to my lecture tour next year, to know what to look for, so that it’s not particularly hard to find great stuff to eat, even while traveling.

contest 2 linda

 

Whether or not you’re one of the 3 winners, by submitting an entry, you’re agreeing to let me post your photo/story on the blog and/or show it in my PowerPoint on speaking tour next year. Write us with the photos, your name and hometown, and the WHAT and WHERE of your photos!

 

How to Eat Right On a Budget—Contest Winners, part 1 of 3

contest winners 2Congratulations to our contest winners, submitting their best ideas that help them “Eat Right On a Budget!”  Here are two of the lucky winners who get $50 of free GreenSmoothieGirl stuff, and free shipping. My next blog entry will announce my second contest, where five winners get $50, too! Watch for that next. And after that, I’m running the tips by three more winners and frugal whole-foods enthusiasts. Today we start by running Jennifer Hayes’ of Fruitland, Idaho, and Amy Lowright’s, of Boulder, Colorado—enjoy!

Tips from Jennifer Hayes of Fruitland, Idaho (I guess you can eat whole foods even in a small town with no Whole Foods Market):

  1. Have a budget! Then you have a plan that allows you to know how you can get what you want, and money doesn’t slip away to things that don’t matter. With a budget, I think about what I’m buying and if it’s worth the money.
  2. Have a plan, a menu. This, too, keeps you on task.
  3. Look for sales, coupons, and promotions online, in print, and word of mouth among friends.
  4. Buy in bulk, split costs with others.
  5. Barter or trade for items you want.
  6. Put your desires out there. Tell people what you want and those things tend to actualize.

    grain mill 2
    You can use a grain mill to make your own flours from grains and beans
  7. Watch websites like freecycle, craiglist, KSL, certain facebook groups, etc., where some people will list if they have extra produce they want to get rid of, sometimes free.
  8. Have a grain mill, to make your own flours with grains and beans.
  9. Find an elderly person and garden in their backyard; they may want some produce in exchange. [Note from Robyn: I did this, too, when I was a married college student living in an apartment.]
  10. 10. If you can make it, don’t buy it. This includes, for us, breads, crackers, tortillas, snacks, desserts, dips, salad dressings, yogurt. This also gives you far more control over your food, avoiding hybridized and GMO and refined products you may not even know are there.
  11. Serve green smoothies every day. There’s no waste involved! Make popsicles of leftover smoothie.
  12. say no to processed foodsBeans are cheap. Eat them a lot. They, and grains, can be sprouted.
  13. Pass up processed foods, even if they’re cheap. The resulting health care needed is expensive.
  14. Eat a lot of oatmeal.
  15. Make your own household items like cleaners, and self-care items. Coconut oil, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, saves you money and eliminates toxicities.
  16. Have a one year food storage, or at least three months! When you can buy something cheap, stock up. (Having a budget and allowing for food storage helps you build up a great storage.)

Tips from Amy Lowright of Boulder, Colorado:

  1. Buy everything you can in the bulk section of the natural foods store. I buy beans, rice, quinoa, hemp seeds, chia seeds, nuts, greens, Bragg’s liquid aminos, oats, lentils, dates, spices, and flours from the bulk section at natural grocery stores.  I store things in leftover jars and restock as needed. This especially helps me if I’m particularly broke one week, or waiting for a paycheck; I can go purchase enough for just one or two meals if necessary, usually for under a dollar per meal. It’s also a great approach if you want to try something new. Buying a package of hemp seeds can be a waste of money if it turns out you don’t like them, but buying a couple of tablespoons from the bulk section isn’t a huge loss.

    Buy in bulk to save money
    Buy in bulk to save money
  2. Find your staples: I know that foods like bananas, spinach, lentils, and carrots are always budget friendly and easy to combine with anything for a cheap, healthy meal.
  3. Limit your packaged and processed foods:  Most packaged foods cost more and usually have a whole food alternative, or can easily be made by hand. Plus these foods usually don’t provide enough nutrition for what you’re spending, vs. whole food alternatives. Ask yourself if you really need it, or if it’s something you could replace or make yourself at home.
  4. hommade hummus 2Pre-prep meals: I spend a couple of hours every weekend cooking a big pot of quinoa or brown rice, lentils or beans, and washing and cutting up veggies for the week. If I have a long day during the week, I’m less likely to eat out, or eat junk, if I already made something that’s in my fridge.
  5. Throw some steamed veggies into your already cooked quinoa and lentils, season it, and you have a quick, healthy meal ready. It’s also perfect to pack for lunches.
  6. Splurge when on the items that matter, you’ll save more money in the long run. High speed blenders (Vitamix or Blendtec) last years and save tons of time for making smoothies in the morning. The amount of money that you will spend on cheap blenders that die quickly, and the time it takes to blend, makes the cost well worth it if you’re able. My nice food processor, high-speed blender, and pressure cooker have definitely paid for themselves. I’m more likely to eat healthy now that I have the proper equipment to make my own meals from scratch.
  7. Do It Yourself! Packaged foods like hummus, peanut butter, energy bars, granola, crackers, etc. are infinitely cheaper and healthier to make yourself. Many don’t take much time, and are fun for kids to make.
  8. Shop at ethnic food stores: If you’re looking for some curry, seaweed, coconut, greens, ginger, onions, interesting produce, and more—it’s bound to be cheaper at an ethnic grocery store.

wrapsCheap and easy meals:

  • Grain + protein + veggie bowl: This is my go-to for lunches or quick dinners when I don’t feel like being creative. I usually cook quinoa or brown rice, beans or lentils, and sautee whatever veggies I have on hand. Mix it all up with some spices and you’re set.
  • Wraps: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from eating on a budget, it’s that you can put nearly anything into a wrap and it will be delicious and easy. Find cheap rice paper wrappers, large lettuce leaves, whole wheat tortillas, corn tortillas, or make your own. Throw in leftover beans and veggies, tempeh, sweet potatoes, whatever. I like to grill mine a bit to get them crispy.
  • Overnight oats: there are tons of recipes online for this, and infinite possibilities.

“I can’t afford to eat right”

Eating healthy on a budgetI was cycling in the canyon with my friend Kara last week, and she was telling me about being raised by a single mom on a very fixed budget. Kara was one of several children, and she said to me, “My mom was a rock star. She fed us all healthy food, because it was cheap.”

Wait…..what?  I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the excuse, “I can’t eat that healthy stuff. I can feed my whole family super-cheap on Wonder Bread, Malt-O-Meal cereal, baloney, and the Dollar Menu.”

For how long? Until medical bills dwarf your teeny grocery budget? (And how do you factor MISERY into the financial equation?) But we’ll leave that argument alone. It’s indirect. Let’s tackle the idea very directly, that the cheapest foods are the unhealthy ones.

Here are CHEAP WHOLE FOODS Kara was raised on, and I’ve mixed into the list the ones I was raised on, too:

  1. Rolled oats (oatmeal)
  2. All kinds of beans
  3. Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  4. Greens and tomatoes, peppers, etc. from the garden (fresh, and frozen in a used freezer)
  5. Apples and bananas
  6. Homemade whole wheat bread (use organic wheat, or better yet, spelt or Kamut)
  7. Fruit trees (freeze the fruit when it’s in season)
  8. Nuts and seeds from co-ops

This isn’t necessarily “high raw,” I realize. But it’s a HECKUVA LOT BETTER than the white bread, mayo, and baloney diet.

money cookingIt really is not true that the only way to live cheap is to eat processed food. My parents lived on a military income with EIGHT CHILDREN, through the Carter Administration when they had to buy a house with a 15% interest rate. They were “house poor” for many years.

I never knew we were poor. I never had Christmas or birthday gifts that totaled more than $25. Except, every year, ONE kid had a “splurge” year and my parents spent $75-$100. We were breathless with anticipation, wondering if THIS was “my year.” The two years in my lifetime that it was ME, I got a silver trumpet one time, and a cake decorating kit and supplies the second time.

(I got paid to professionally decorate cakes, when I was in junior high school. I read all kinds of books on it and made really gorgeous, detailed, sugary creations. I also worked at McDonald’s. My goodness, how life changes.)

My mother raised a family of 10 people, in an expensive suburb of Washington D.C., on a salary of less than $50,000 a year. There were times when I was growing up that we had just one car. We never had a new car. Our cars were always embarrassing. Ancient station wagons or vans. I never had a new item of clothing until 9th grade, and then it was from a discount store’s clearance rack. Until then, everything I owned was from garage sales. Every Saturday was garage sale day, starting at 6 a.m.!

I guess it can be done. We had a huge garden (we each had to pull 100 weeds every morning as a summer chore), a bunch of fruit trees they planted every time we moved, and we ate lots of grains and beans and vegetables and fruits.

Meat was very, very rare. Soup was very, very common. There was a big green salad every night for dinner.

12 steps meals plannerIn every section of 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and in the 12 Steps Menu Planner, I give you lots of ideas to save time and money. Our 20 testers for the Menu Planner told me they spent about $100-$150/week for a family of 4. That’s what those on a tight budget told me they had to spend!

say no to bad dietSome people live at Whole Foods Market on little packages of things that weigh 8 ounces. That’s a very, very expensive way to live on whole foods. My own lifestyle has shifted towards that, as I travel a lot and kids are leaving home. But I eliminated my son’s life-threatening health problems, and I dropped 70 lbs., on a whole-foods diet when I fed a family of 6 on never more than$45,000/year.

The point is, there are much less expensive ways to do it. You can do it. No matter what your budget! Be smart. Garden. Join a co-op. Look for deals. Own a big freezer in the garage. Bake bread. Make soup. Make salads. Make green smoothies.

Say no to the Standard American Diet dominated by genetically modified, processed, packaged foods. There is NOTHING good for you there. Convenience is not worth the tradeoffs.