Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cheap Eats: Banana "Frozen Yogurt"

The Topic: Quite possibly the cheapest, easiest dessert out there by VN Editorial Assistant Anna Peraino

The Dish: Summer is right around the corner, and that means many things: sun, sand, cookouts, watermelon-eating contests, sweating your face off walking to the mailbox, and of course, ice cream. One of the season's most beloved treats can also take a hefty crack at your wallet, with a teeny weeny carton of Coconut Bliss putting you back about $5. Seriously, I can take one of those down in 4.28 minutes. It's science. So how can a savvy vegan enjoy a cold, delicious ice-creamy treat this summer? I have one word for you: bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Now that I've officially annoyed you by getting a Gwen Stefani song stuck in your head, let me get back into your good graces by telling you about this wonderful dessert. Did you know that by blending frozen bananas at a high speed you can make a soft, dreamy frozen yogurt-like dessert? No joke! All you need for this recipe is bananas, a food processor, and some fun mix-ins if you feel so inclined (I listed some of my favorites below). Plus, with bananas being one of the cheapest fruits out there (hello, one dime per fruit!), this dessert will keep that wallet of yours in very good shape. Not to mention it's swimsuit-friendly, since you're skipping out on all the fat and sugar found in traditional (albeit supremely delicious) ice cream.

Banana "Frozen Yogurt"

Serves 2 (or 1, if you're me)

What You Need:
2 or 3 bananas

What You Do:

1. Freeze bananas.
2. In a food processor, throw in frozen bananas and process for about 5 minutes, stopping periodically to scrape sides down. Once your bananas have a fluffy, frozen yogurt-like consistency, you're done!
3. Optional: While your bananas are transforming, throw in some peanut butter, chopped walnuts, cacao nibs, or rum. Or all of them. Or something else. Anything goes!
4. Enjoy your delicious, cheap, and healthy dessert! (Well, healthy unless you added all the mix-ins.)

The Final Word: Summer is a time for splashing and sunning, not for worrying about your bank account. Whip up this frozen treat next time you're jonesing for a dish of something cold and sugary but don't have the cash for the real dairy-free deal (which, if you're a normal person, is every day). Enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Budget Splurges

The Topic: Living Simply but Fabulously with VegNews Associate Publisher Colleen Holland

The Dish: I've never liked to buy stuff, unless I really need it. Having more stuff means more maintenance, more stress, and more money out the door. And then what happens? You forget about the stuff and it just clutters your space and your life. I say buy what you need, but buy quality. Then it lasts a long time and you don't need to think about replacing the (quality) stuff for years to come.

That said, I do have a few splurges that I like to partake in, but I've figured out a way to not have to spend a fortune when doing something nice for myself. Here's my list of must-have budget buys:

1) Massage. Being in a creative business with constant deadlines is stressful. Although I love it, sometimes I need a deep-tissue massage to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Over the years I've received gift certificates from friends and family for fancy spa massages (charging upwards of $150 for a one-hour massage), but I've discovered even better massage at a third of the price. You might not be greeted with chilled mint lemonade and organic chocolate brownies (not vegan anyway!), but I can get an incredible massage at Jin Healing for Women (four locations in San Francisco) for less than $50. Chinese "Foot Spas" are all the rage in Northern California, and you can often get a one-hour body massage and foot soak for $25. Ask friends for recommendations or search Yelp for affordable spa services in your city, and never pay ridiculous massage prices again!

2) Movies. I love going to movies. It's a great way to relax and check out for a few hours, especially with a tub of 1,000-calorie popcorn (I digress). But the $10 ticket is just a hard price to swallow, so I try to hit matinees whenever possible to save a few bucks. And most independent theaters have five-ticket passes, so I always have one of those going for my favorite movie houses and pay only about $6 per flick.

3) Yoga. I am addicted to yoga, but do I really want to pay $20 a class at a fancy downtown studio? The answer is no. After a bit of research, I discovered a local yoga class with a wonderful instructor just minutes from my home. The studio (if you can call it that) is nothing fancy, but 90-minute classes are just $10 each and the small class sizes provide a really nice community atmosphere. And many studios offer weekly free or discounted classes taught by their junior teachers, so just ask around or search online for affordable options.

4) Lunch specials. Sure, nothing beats dining out with friends over an extravagant multi-course meal with wine and dessert. But I secretly have a thing for lunch specials at Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese restaurants. For around $6, you can enjoy a plate of your favorite entrée alongside steamed rice and a bowl of soup. And then you're full for the day! What's even better? Hit a matinee, then a lunch special, then a massage, and you really have it going on.

5) Antiques. I adore antiques. And buying vintage is good on the pocketbook and the planet, as you're not buying new. Plus, those 19th century French chairs have already lasted 100+ years, so you know they're not going to fall apart anytime soon. So where do you find good deals on vintage finds? Flea markets, estate sales, and antique stores—but always remember to bargain. Shop owners expect everyone to ask for at least 10 percent off and have marked up the prices accordingly, so be sure to take advantage of the built-in discount. 

The Final Word: Living on a budget does not mean you have to sacrifice your quality of life. I enjoy the satisfaction of living within my means but splurging every once in a while on things that bring me joy without breaking the bank.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hello, Tailor!

The Topic: Saving money while staying stylish with VegNews Managing Editor Elizabeth Castoria

The Dish: I am what you call short. At 5'3", most people tower over me, stepstools are a constant fixture in my kitchen for reaching the top-shelf goodies, and I can stand up straight in most airplanes right under the luggage compartment. I'm not bragging here, per se, but just try to restrain your envy when you learn that finding a pair of (non-capri!) pants that doesn't completely cover my feet is something that happens with the frequency of leap years.

What do my stubby legs have to do with saving money? So glad you asked! You see, when the vertically inept among us go looking for clothes, it can be a bit tricky. Pants are typically miles too long, skirts hit at awkward lengths, and don't even get me started on jackets. As is true for any Savvy Vegan, my first shopping stop is almost always a thrift store, which is great for the environment and my wallet, but tends to limit sizes further. But! There's good news: Tailors exist. And they can alter things.

This means that my pants need no longer be oddly rolled up inside themselves and stuck there with masking tape (which definitely happened more than it should have in high school). The gorgeous silk-free dress that is exactly what I was hoping to wear to an event, but happens to only be available in extra large? No problem! (This is precisely what happened with the dress I wore to the Genesis Awards this year!)

The Final Word: Finding a tailor in your area means that every $10 non-wool suit in your local thrift store is fair game, and the alterations are likely to cost less than buying a new item off the rack. Even if you're not of the diminuitive sort, the world of stylish vegan wear opens right up when you stop worrying about an errant hem.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Budget Vegan Books

The Topic: Buying your favorite vegan books with VegNews Associate Editor Jennifer Chen.

The Dish: Whenever I go to a bookstore, I head straight to the cookbook section and visually stuff myself silly with the recipes I read in vegan cookbooks. I don't know about you, but suddenly I want to buy every single book in sight. Vegan desserts! Dinner party menus! A whole book about waffles! But if I shell out my entire paycheck for cookbooks, I won't have cash for the actual groceries to make said delicious recipes. What's a budget gal to do? 

1. Make a list, check it twice. I keep a list on my iPhone of only the books I really want (as in, I will actually make the recipes at home). When I'm at my local used book shop, I can pull out my list and grab the books that I already know I want instead of going Supermarket Sweep-style and shoving the entire cooking section into a giant cart.

2. Half Price Veggie Books. This Amazon.com online shop has more than just cookbooks. From Quantum Wellness by Kathy Freston, Moby's book about Teany, to The Face on Your Plate, you can find top reads for 50 percent or more off.

3. Power of Powell's Books. If you've ever been to this bibliophile heaven, you understand the power of Powell's Books. The place is packed with new, used, and out-of-print editions of every book you could ever think of. Seriously. If you don't live in Portland, just hop online and sign up for the monthly newsletter and get offers for free shipping, sale prices, and exclusive deals. Even better, you can sell your books to them and they pay for the shipping!

4. Get used, get thrifty. My best scores have always come from my local bookstores or Out of the Closet thrift shops. I scored a hardcover copy of The Kind Diet for a friend's birthday for $15, snagged a copy of 1,000 Vegan Recipes for $13, and even found The Conscious Cook for $16. Go local, scour, and save.

5. Make your own cookbook. The best holiday gift I ever got was from my friend Diana. She made me a vegan cookbook by handwriting some of our favorite vegan recipes in a nice notebook. She pasted other recipes and left me room to add in my own favorites. Having her Italian mother's recipe for marinara sauce? Check. Having fun little notes in the margins from my friend? Priceless.

The Final Word: You can easily satisfy your love for books and saving cash. And with the extra dough from selling your books, you can whip up two fancy cupcake recipes from your gently used copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.