One thing that’s been bugging me lately is the new “elitism” of being vegan. Elite as in expensive.
Eating vegan, at least at home, should be the easiest and cheapest way to eat. (Dining out is another matter, but since I’m reviewing a cookbook, we’ll focus on home cooked meals.) Even if you’re flat broke, you can still live healthfully off an assortment of dried beans, grains, simple fruits, and salads.
But … if you’re vegan these days, or a vegan wannabe … you’re constantly assaulted by expensive vegan foods! Go to Vegan Cuts, a “money saving site,” and you’ll find three bags of kale chips “on sale” for $16! (Regular price $22.47.) It completely boggles my mind people are buying these, when you can make your own kale chips at home for pennies.
Another example … the “Vegan Tool Box,” said to be “the ultimate veg starter box for anyone interested in becoming vegetarian/vegan.” What is in such a box? An assortment of dried beans, grains, fruits, nuts and nut butters? No – for $100 – yes, $100 – you get: A can of split pea soup. A can of pinto beans. Six kinds of fake meat. One kind of fake cheese. Vegenaise – (yay, love vegenaise! ) A loaf of white bread. Two energy bars. One prepackaged Indian meal (no, not India’s signature beans and lentils, but Bombay Potatoes, obviously keeping the focus on fake meats). Several recipe booklets and one DVD, all of which you can order for free anyway. And a book about puppy mills – yes, PUPPY MILLS – that you can order for one cent (+ shipping) from Amazon.
So … you can take $100 and buy 18 bags of kale chips (13 bags if they’re not on sale), or one Vegan Tool Box, or … you can eat vegan for 25 days with the help of Ellen Jaffe Jones’ book, Eat Vegan on $4 a Day.
This book is perfect for new vegans or vegetarians, OR more experienced ones who need to cut down on their food bill.
Ellen skips the usual song-and-dance about factory farming and the environment and goes straight to her own personal reason for going veg. “If you’re wondering why I started to eat a vegan whole foods diet, it’s simple: I wanted to cheat death.” An investigative reporter, Ellen had an aunt, mother, and two sisters with breast cancer. Additionally, heart disease and diabetes ran rampant in the rest of her family. Ellen knew she had to do something different to beat the family odds and she did – she went veg. Today, she’s a certified personal trainer, a running coach, and a senior who regularly places first in her age category at races.
Next, Ellen gives a number of pages of general tips in reducing your grocery bill. She also gives quite detailed information and charts on cooking dried beans and grains.
Then, the recipes. If you are an experienced cook, some of these recipes may seem a little simple to you. (“Oatmeal!” one reviewer on Amazon scoffed.) But keep in mind this is geared to newer vegs, and I think many recipes are included just to show how many things you can actually make yourself – cheaply. Make your own oatmeal instead of instant oatmeal, make your own chocolately kids cereal instead of buying Cocoa Puffs, make your own polenta, hummus, guacamole, salad dressings … Most of the rest of the recipes are vegan classics, the ones you need to have in your repertoire – tofu scrambles, chili, rice and beans, stir fries, veggie burgers, portabello mushroom burgers, quesadillas, tacos, burritos, vegetable pitas, salads, and smoothies …
Ellen has worked out a cost-per-serving breakdown for each recipe. I don’t know how accurate it is, but certainly all these recipes call for commonly used ingredients and can be made relatively inexpensively.
Another thing I liked about this book is that, with the exception of a few soy crumbles and one container of vegan sour cream, this book totally stays away from the fake meats and “cheezes.”
Again, great for newbies and anyone on a tight food budget. More experienced vegan cooks and those with money to burn won’t be interested in this book, but they’re not Ellen’s target audience anyway.