Living Vegan In Charlotte, NC

Frugal Vegan: Choosing Wisely


Aunt Matilda Says, “Stop and Think About The Food You Buy!”

Every now and then it’s good to reassess and take stock.

And in doing so I’ve found I’m a very different sort of Frugal Vegan than I was a few years ago.

Then, my main concern was saving every penny I could. (I had, after all, decided to start my own real estate business during the great Charlotte Depression/Real Estate Catastrophe. When former high rolling commercial brokers could be seen panhandling outside the office buildings and shopping malls they helped develop and leased. And the only real game left in town was short sales, foreclosures, and auctions.)

I was also at a point in my veganism when it was ALL ABOUT THE ANIMALS.

And, finally, although I’d been a decent vegetarian cook, I was only just learning to cook vegan foods and making my very first dals.

Flash forward to today ….

Money is no longer so tight – although I still love a good bargain.

In addition to the suffering of animals, I am now also concerned about my health, the environment, eating organic, and eating local.

I’ve also become a dedicated cook and vegan foodie.

So now, being a Frugal Vegan means something different to me than six years ago.

Less about buying food at rock-bottom prices and mind-blowing coupon shopping hauls.

Shopping is a different thing altogether these days. Stores have gotten wise to couponing techniques. I’m also buying more whole foods, shopping outside the supermarket (farmer’s markets, The Produce Box), and cooking from scratch.

Now, being a Frugal Vegan is more about choosing wisely.

I take into consideration three questions when I shop for vegan foods.

One, How much does it cost?

Two, Do I like it?

Three, Is it healthy?

Let’s visit my Great Aunt Matilda, a recent Reducetarian, to see just how this works.

The Product: A Box of New Orleans-Style Black Beans and Rice

How much did you pay?” I ask.

Great Aunt Matilda beams proudly. “One single quarter! I always buy them on sale with a double coupon!”

Wow – that is cheap!  I move on to the next question. “Do you like this, Aunt Matilda?”

Great Aunt Matilda purses her lips as she thinks about it. “Well, it tastes a bit like flavored cardboard, and the looks of it always reminds me of mouse turds served over maggots, but it’s easy to cook. All I have to do is add water. And it’s not like any of my nieces or nephews or grandchildren except for you ever do as much as bring me a casserole.”

Hmmm. One final question – is it healthy? I flip the box over to look at the nutritional information and —-whoa, the sodium! No wonder Great Aunt Matilda is known for having legs a piano would envy.

Summary: Great Aunt Matilda tolerates this boxed mix more than likes it, and it’s not healthy for someone with high blood pressure and water edema. So even though she buys this for only $.25, it’s not a wise use of her money.

Next item: Almond Breeze

How much did you pay for this, Aunt Matilda?”

“Oh, I think all those milks are always on sale for around $3.”

“Do you like it?”

“I do like the taste! I use it twice a day in my hot tea and in the morning with my bran cereal.”

Is it healthy? Let’s see, it’s unsweetened, only 30 calories per glass. Plus it’s fortified with calcium – 45% of the RDA – and Vitamin D – 25% of the RDA.

Summary: Great Aunt Matilda buys Almond Breeze more or less on sale, she uses it every day in her tea and cereal, and she likes the taste. It’s also pretty healthy – she chooses the unsweetened version – so that makes this a wise decision. If she wants to save more money, perhaps she could drink other brands of almond milk when they are on sale, or look for coupons. If she wants to place more of a priority on health, perhaps she could investigate an organic brand.



Next Item: Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream

I don’t have to ask how much it costs. I see it at Harris Teeter all the time – $5.99 for one pint – and it never seems to go on sale (although the dairy versions do, frequently).

I also know that, although it is non-dairy, it still isn’t supremely healthy. Something like 200 calories for a mere half-cup. And I doubt Aunt Matilda – or anyone, really – stops at half a cup.

Do you like this, Aunt Matilda?”

“Do I like this? DO I LIKE THIS?” Great Aunt Matilda throws her hands in the air and rolls her eyes heavenward. “Ah am 80 years old. Ah have very few joys left to me in this life. My evening tipple and correcting people’s grammar and flirting with young Mr. Grace at the department store and Ben & Jerry’s! Do not take away an old woman’s few joys!


I could mention she has a few more pleasures in life, such as the pile of thrillers from the library sitting by her La-Z-Girl chair, her cat Beelzebub (Bubba for short), or her much watched copy of Magic Mike.

I could also mention that if she wanted to save money, or improve her health, she could limit her intake of Ben & Jerry’s, saving it for a special treat once or twice a week and eating frozen sorbet or fresh fruit (healthier and cheaper) for dessert the other days.

However, as the saying goes, my mama only raised one fool and it wasn’t me. So I don’t mention any of the above, but come to the conclusion that, in Great Aunt Matilda’s mind at least, Ben & Jerry’s is a wise decision.

So you see how this works. Consider all your values, and make sure the food you purchase supports them.

And everyone will have different values, depending on where they are at their current stage in life.

You may be going through a financial hardship and your top priority might be saving as much money as possible. (Keep in mind, though, that food isn’t a bargain if you don’t enjoy eating it!)

Someone else might choose health as their top value, even if the foods they buy are a little more expensive. (Keep in mind that spending a little more on healthy food is considerably cheaper than doctor visits, hospitalizations, and medications!)

And for all of us somewhere in between, there are a number of Frugal Vegan steps you can take to lower your food costs or inexpensively up the health quotient of the food you eat. In the next few weeks I’ll be taking you through my own pantry, sharing some choices I’ve decided to make (as well owning up to a few what-the-heck-was-I-thinking mistakes).


Don’t worry. Aunt Matilda will simmer down soon.

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2 Responses »

  1. Ha! Love the post – props to Aunt Matilda. I certainly could do with pausing and asking myself those questions sometimes. By the way – vegan Ben and Jerry’s goes from upwards of $12.95 here in Australia :S

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