Thursday, May 27, 2010

Guest Post: Robin Robertson, Part 2

The Topic: Cheap Cooking with Vegan on the Cheap

The Dish: So you've taken Robin Robertson's advice from her previous post and upgraded your grocery-shopping technique. Now that the kitchen is stocked and loaded, she's back to arm you with cheap cooking tricks to really make the most of it.

Top Five Savvy Cooking Tips
By Robin Robertson
  1. Big-Batch Cook and Freeze. Once a week, prepare large amounts of a few basic foods, then portion and freeze them for later use. Choose items that can be used throughout the week or portioned and frozen, such as a big pot of brown rice, beans, seitan, marinara sauce, or vegetable stock.
  2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods. From salad dressings to seitan, there are a number of ways to save money when you start making your own convenience items, such as mayonnaise, chutney, and peanut sauce.
  3. The Vegetable Chop. When it's time to chop an onion for soup, chop an extra one and also make chili or stew. If you need to wash two celery ribs for a recipe, take the time to wash the whole bunch and cover and refrigerate the rest until you need it. Peel and mince an entire head of garlic at a time, so it's ready when needed. Store it covered in olive oil in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Wash and spin-dry your lettuce as soon as you get home—it will last longer. If veggies are cut, cleaned, and ready to use, it saves time when you cook. It also encourages us to use and eat more veggies. Carrot and celery sticks, for example, can be stored in zip-top bags in the fridge to enjoy as a healthy snack or to chop up in your next soup. Tightly covered chopped onions will keep refrigerated for up to three days, or frozen for three to four weeks. The same is true for bell peppers.
  4. Get Creative. Use leftovers in creative ways to transform them into a new meal. For example, leftover seitan pot roast can be used in a hash, stew, or skillet meal. Even leftover mashed or baked potatoes can be transformed—use extra cooked spuds to make shepherd's pie, potato pancakes, samosas, stuffed dosas, mac' and cheese, pierogis, potato bread, potato muffins, and more.
  5. Make Your Kitchen a "No-Waste Zone." Save vegetable scraps and odd bits of veggies for stock. Add leftover cooked veggies to salads or put them in the bottom of your soup bowls and pour servings of hot soup over them. If you can't convince someone in your family to simply eat that last apple in the fruit bowl, incorporate it into dinner. A sliced apple or pear makes a great addition to a green salad. Or, you can combine the fruit with other wallflower fruits, such as those grapes and berries or that last banana, and you'll have a nice fruit salad for dessert. If there's not enough to stretch, add a small can of pineapple and some dried cranberries.
Almost-Instant Chickpea Tomato Soup
From Vegan on the Cheap © 2010, John Wiley & Sons.

This rich tomato soup couldn't be easier or more economical. It's also delicious served chilled.

Makes 4 Servings

What You Need:
1-1/2 cups cooked or 1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 or 3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup plain unsweetened soymilk
Salt
Ground cayenne
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro or parsley

What You Do:
  1. In a high-speed blender, combine chickpeas and garlic and process until finely ground.
  2. Add tomatoes, cumin, juice, oil, 1/2 cup soymilk, salt, and cayenne, to taste. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add as much of the remaining 1/2 cup soymilk as needed to achieve desired consistency—not too thin or too thick—and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and cayenne if necessary.
  4. Transfer soup to a large saucepan over medium heat and stir, until hot, about 5 minutes. If serving hot, ladle into bowls, top with minced cilantro, and serve. If serving chilled, let the soup cool to room temperature, then transfer to a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. Then ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cilantro.
The Final Word: Want more of Robin's tips and tricks on being a thriving vegan with very little cash? Well, aren't you lucky! I have one copy of Vegan on the Cheap, and despite my initial inclination to keep it for myself, I'm going to share it with one of my awesome readers. It's easy—just tell me in the comments: What's your top money-saving tip in the kitchen?

65 comments:

  1. My Vitamix (I know it sounds ironic). Yes it is an expensive thing to buy, but nothing will ever go to waste again. any and all veggies can be pureed (and cooked!) in my Vitamix to make amazing soups at a moment's notice. I've also made great tomato sauces and tomato-cream sauces in there. It's really worth the investment. It's my time, money and sanity saver!

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  2. I make my own hummus. And I am a girl who loves her hummus!

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  3. I use Sundays to cook food for the whole week, just like Robin suggests :) it's a great way to start the week and saves me from last minute "let's just eat out" cravings.

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  4. My top money-saving tip is old-fashioned oatmeal (not instant). I buy it in large quantities and eat it for breakfast every morning. You can jazz it up by adding any fresh or dried fruits, nuts or seeds you have on hand. But it isn't just for breakfast. I also use it when baking muffins, cookies or other desserts. I add to veggie burgers and vegan meatloafs, smoothies and just about anything else that crosses my mind. It's cheap and good for you. What more can you ask?

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  5. I store nuts, seeds and such in the freezer to extend the shelf-life. I also buy spices in bulk and keep them in cute little jars.

    Also, as I run out of something, I make sure to write it down on a piece of paper on the fridge.

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  6. I make my own beans from scratch. I buy 1-2 lb bags of dried beans for $1 and then soak and cook them myself. They taste great and freeze well. :)

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  7. Canned beans are convenient when I'm in a hurry, but if at all possible I cook beans from scratch. This way I can buy organic beans and it still comes out cheaper than canned beans, and - bonus! - beans cooked from scratch also taste much better.

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  8. I add oatmeal to veggie burgers to stretch them further

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  9. Local small farms. I live in an area where there are a lot of small farms and people with lots of gardens. The farmers and people with gardens will put up a tent and place out whatever they have for the day and you can get a lot for very little money (like an overfilled pint of blueberries for only $2.50)and you just leave your money in the box. There's also a "Jam Lady" who grows her own berries and peppers and makes jam, jelly and preserves and sells them for really cheap. When we're done with the jam we clean out the jars and give them back to her.

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  10. I clean and repurpose my glass jars, with tight fitting lids (salsa, sauces, pickles, and the like), for storing almost everything in the frig (frig only not for freezer). That way, I don't have to purchase as much plastic ware or zip baggies. They have the added advantage of not staining the way plastic ware does.

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  11. meal planning by what is in season or readily available. I keep a "stock box" in my freezer for parts of veggies that I wouldn't eat but would make great stock.

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  12. I freeze my leftovers in individual containers and then take those to lunch. I also have a garden and I can a lot. I make homemade jams, tomato juice, marinara, and this year I'm going to can pizza sauce.

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  13. Top kitchen tip: leaving the kitchen. Reducing your food intake shaves your food bill AND helps keep you trim.

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  14. Buy a CSA share if you have local farms nearby that offer them (check out http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ to find one near you!) My husband and I get a full share between the two of us since we're vegan, and it only costs $29/week! It saves us a ton of money on produce over the summer and helps to support a great local, organic farm. :-)

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  15. Make a list and stick to it when shopping. Avoid last minuute impulse purcahses.

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  16. Having my own little garden to save on veggies during the nice weather months, and the farmer's market. Buying in bulk whenever possible (oatmeal, beans, rice, etc.). Cooking my own beans - cook what I need for a recipe the day before, and freeze at least a can-equivalent so I don't have to do it again for a little while! And, I'm going to pick my own fruits this summer and freeze them - I have a food saver vacuum sealer and I use it for fruits, soups, applesauce in the fall, portions of chili, you name it!

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  17. I choose recipes from my cookbooks and make sure recipes overlap with ingredients because I am only cooking for one. This saves me wasted produce and gives me a variety of dishes!
    I also freeze a lot of my dishes.

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  18. Keeping an up to date and detailed list if things I need to get at the store, either staples or for a recipe. I downloaded an app for my phone (it was free for a limited time) and it organizes everything by section, so it's super-convenient when shopping. This way I don't overbuy or waste things that I would have used for a recipe if only I had all the other ingredients.

    I also buy in bulk whenever possible. I wash and reuse jars like a maniac, it makes the insides of my cabinets look funny but it's cheaper and less wasteful!

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  19. n9840153@hotmail.comMay 27, 2010 at 12:17 PM

    I shop at the grocery outlet, best way to save money.

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  20. i make my own granola...it's tastier, and way cheaper than the packaged kind!

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  21. I use oatmeal, uncooked, as cold cereal. So much cheaper, and tasty with soy milk, nuts, raisins, etc. Homemade muesli.

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  22. Anything that seems like it's getting to a point where it will go bad before I use it...FREEZE! Then thaw later and put it in a soup!

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  23. I buy as many ingredients as I can at ethnic stores.
    I use dry beans and cook them myself.
    I make all my own sauces in large batches and freeze.
    I use up leftover vegetables in a stirfry.
    The biggest money saver, by far, is that I bake all my own bread and make all my own pizza doughs. If you want to save money and you want to be sure of what you're eating...make it yourself from scratch!

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  24. I eat salsa just about every day - so I make my own. I can make the batch however big or small I need it, I can experiment with ingredients and heat, and it's a great way to use veggies and fruit (as sweeteners) before they go bad. It's delicious and free of tons of salt, refined sugar, and preservatives!

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  25. I always make my own breakfast & lunch to take to work. It saves tons of money in Manhattan.

    Whole grain hot cereal, shredded coconut, soy milk, maple syrup and ground flax seed.

    Brown rice and organic veggies with some pesto is super cheap, super quick and super yummy!

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  26. Live in the bulk food section of your store.
    A rice cooker and a pressure cooker are great tools for the kitchen. Rice cooker is good for almost any grains. The pressure cooker is a hughe time save. I scored a new one cheaply off CraigsList.

    Buy local and from local farmers. We gathered a group in our neighborhood to commit to weekly vegetable basket purchases from a local, organic farmer. Delivered fresh and right to our neighborhood every week - no time lost driving or shopping!

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  27. Eating a primarily whole foods-based diet is the very best money-saving tip in the kitchen! Thanks for the giveaway!

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  28. I (i.e. my husband) grow my own veggies, herbs, and lemons. I also make my lunch sandwiches for a whole week and freeze them. I make a large casserole on Fridays that lasts the whole week for dinners. I shop at my local farmer's market.

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  29. To not waste ingredients and let food go bad, I like to make a dish each Sunday where I can toss in any leftover veggies - like a pizza, or pasta toss, or stir-fry.

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  30. Hmmm...utilizing a natural foods buying-in-bulk club (Azure Standard) and investing in a CSA subscription help keep me out of the grocery store - which really helps my budget!

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  31. I cook 2 or 3 large batches of different foods at the weekends so my husband and I can eat a different variety of healthy, vegan meals during the week. After getting home late and exhausted from work, the last thing we want to do is cook, so we get to pick from a few yummy dishes instead of having to resort to unhealthy take-aways or processed foods!

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  32. Planning! Making a list of recipes for the week and buying just what's needed saves money. I can also then buy larger packages of ingredients and select several recipes for the week that use that item.

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  33. I bring simple salads for lunch everyday! Lettuce, cherry tomatoes, peppers, carrots etc. are pretty cheap in comparison to eating prepared vegan meals or going out! Then I can splurge a little on dinner ;)

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  34. Thanks for a great post, and for the opportunity to win Robin Robertson's new book. My top money-saving tip? No processed foods! Like so many of the other cooks commenting here, I cook from scratch. Even though canned beans aren't that expensive, dried beans are a tenth of the cost and so much better when cooked at home. From washing and chopping greens myself (rather than buying bags of prewashed greens) to making my own jam -- it all adds up!

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  35. Top tip: a container garden on your porch or balcony for your most used plant foods isn't a ton of work because it is small and will shave the price of buying those items organic right off of your food bill. Plus, gardening is meditative, which will reduce your stress levels, which will reduce your inclination to overeat :)

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  36. I just learned about this blog from Robin Robertson's blog. THANK YOU! Just what I need! My number one money saving tip in the kitchen is to get to the point where you feel you need to go grocery shopping, and then WAIT another 2-3 days. It forces me to use up what I already have in the fridge and pantry. Sometimes the combinations are very strange, but at least I'm using what I've already paid for.

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  37. I use the cook big batch and freeze technique every week. My extra technique tip is to use the FoodSaver to vacuum seal everything. I wholeheartedly recommend the large mason jar attachment so you don't need expensive FoodSaver containers. I use mason jars as big as a half-gallon to store leftovers. They can be frozen or refrigerated as needed, but they'll keep MUCH longer and fresher.

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  38. Buy from the discount produce shelf - even if you can't use an entire bag of slighty smooshy fruit, you can cut them up and freeze them for smoothies.

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  39. I like to make a batch of granola, chop veggies, and make a fruit salad at the beginning of each week to save time and energy. I also include Farmers' Market day as a weekly excursion. I will definitely be making grocery lists and searching for coupons now that life is changing. However, I will still splurge on that ever-so-good deal at the local health foods store like 4/ $5 half-cup blackberries or 3/$1 mangoes like this week. I think that today will be smoothie day for lunch!

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  40. Freezing veggies, washing ziplocks for reuse, composting, planning recipes around what we have, buying bulk from the co-op in lieu of pre-processed foods.

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  41. juicing or composting my veggie scraps! Also, when I have a bunch of veggies that are reaching the end of their time, I cut everything up and either roast them or make a stew or stir fry with whatever I have on hand. It is always yummy!

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  42. All great ideas. I posted lists on the fridge but never had them with me when passing a store. Now I put my smart phone on the counter when cooking, add needed items to lists on the phone which is ALWAYS with me.

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  43. Favorite money-saving tips are using all the food in the fridge before it goes bad!! AND using my vitamix to make things from scratch as much as possible.

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  44. Buy in bulk! I get my grains, spices, and baking essentials from the bulk bins at my co-op and save so much money over buying the packaged versions.

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  45. i bake my own bread, make my own hummus, and love leftovers...

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  46. i make my own tofu and soymilk...

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  47. When I make desserts, I make double the amount and freeze some for later. Then when someone's special occasion comes up and I don't have time to bake, I still save money with homemade goodies.

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  48. I always make sure I have some cooked brown rice in the fridge. It's so easy to just add an extra cup of rice when your cooking and stash it away.

    so when I get home late I can always make a quick wrap, burrito or speedy stir-fry without any effort.

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  49. i use a foodsaver and vacuum pack a lot of my foods!

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  50. Utilizing the bulk bins at the grocery store is a great way to save money and reduce excess packaging. I love the variety of lentils, beans, grains, and nuts that they offer, and the prices are great. I start the week by making a few big batches of beans, keep some in the refrigerator and some in the freezer for later use. I don't have to concern myself with the BPA in the lining of cans, and the beans are sodium-free, organic, and totally delicious.

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  51. I think one of my top tips is...my freezer! I love it b/c I never have to waste anything! If I use half an onion, or half a jar of tomatoes, I can just throw the other half in a freezer bag, label it and pull it out when I need it later! I have had the great idea to keep a running list on my freezer and cross off as I use, but most of the time...it isn't entirely up to date!

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  52. No packaged foods, cook my own beans, make my own almond milk and eat all the leftovers!

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  53. Years ago, I bought a bunch of smallish plastic containers, about 1 serving size. Now I freeze all leftovers I don't want to eat right away in these little containers with tiny post-it labels. On busy days, I have a little freezer buffet to choose from...and I don't throw away (i.e., waste) food!

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  54. I try to use everything! Any scraps from vegetables I use to make soups. However, I have not mastered the freezing of leftovers. They never thaw well : (

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  55. Make everything from scratch--everything!

    Courtney

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  56. Our best savings is menu planning! We're simultaneously trying to lose weight and save money, so this little (and rather fun) tactic serves both purposes. Menu items are determined in advance, and all needed groceries are noted on our grocery list (more on that in a minute). We also try out lots of new recipes, thanks to being testers for Isa's upcoming book and just plain liking to cook, so are always adding to a varied and interesting menu. About that grocery list: I've been using one for nearly 10 years and I KNOW it makes a big difference in savings. Mine is a half-sheet with commonly purchased grocery items already listed, so all we have to do is check or circle what's needed.

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  57. Hummus made from any organic canned beans can be made in a food processor & spread on totilias, chips, crackers, etc.It will keep in the fridge for 3 days, so you have a ready-made meal. Happy, healthy eating!!!

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  58. I use many of the tricks of the other savvy people above! I make as much as possible from scratch. Buy in bulk, use dried beans instead of cans. Tab off recipes in new cookbooks so I actually use them! Cook several meals on Sunday nights for the week's meals and to freeze (especially soup, which is so much better from scratch than out of a can). Overlap my recipe ingredients so nothing goes to waste. Shop the local farmers market. Possibly the best decision I've made is to invest in a food processor -- I am able to make so many more things homemade (soup, hummus, sauce, pesto, dips) and save tons of money!

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  59. bulk steel cut oats are delicious and super cheap! i also try to only buy produce thats on sale and then come up with a recipe to use it in.

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  60. When the refrigerator is really full (e.g., after a farmers' mkt trip), I make a list of veggies & other items to post on the door, so nothing gets lost & rediscovered too late to eat!

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  61. I like to cook my own beans. $1 for the equivalent of 3-4 cans. I also like to cook a few different meals and keep them in the refrig for the week.

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  62. I am a college student and would love this cookbook. I shop lots of sales, buy beans in bulk, and try to eat whole foods which are cheaper than fake soy meats and cheeses. This cookbook looks great!

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  63. This past year or so we have started shoppin at Grocery Outlet. Have come across so many great deals like chocolate hemp milk for under a buck,50 cent soy yogurts, cheap GF baking mixes, All sorts of Amy's items & other vegan organic goodies. Costco also has some good deals we just got a several lb. bag of Quinoa for like $8. We use our Excalibur Dehydrator (cook less in the summer) to make flax chips & kale chips which are so much more affordable than buying at the store.

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  64. Try not to take my kids to the grocery store - they ask for way too many extras! I also make much of what I eat from scratch. Takes time, but save SO much money!

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