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 Post subject: Meal Planning?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2014 4:46 pm 
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Tofu Pup

Joined: Thu Sep 19, 2013 6:59 am
Posts: 4
Not sure if this is the correct board for this. If not, I will take it elsewhere.

So I've been trying to plan my meals to save on money. I live on a limited income so I can't afford to buy willy-nilly. It seems that whenever I plan my meals I end up spending a lot. I haven't totaled it but I'm really sure that I could spend a lot less.

I am new to veganism and trying to teach myself to cook so I've been trying to factor that into my planning but a lot of cookbooks have recipes for families when I'm just cooking for one. I thought about freezing some of it but I just wasn't sure and I didn't want to play with the recipe without knowing what I was doing. /whine

Anyway, do you guys have any tips or guidelines about planning meals cheaply?

Thanks for your help!


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 Post subject: Re: Meal Planning?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:39 pm 
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Making Threats to Punks Again
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Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2010 5:46 am
Posts: 1115
Location: Sweden
Check out this tread.

Soups and stews are usually good ways to use up bits of leftover vegetables. If you plan something that doesn't use a whole container of something (or half a bell pepper or whatever), plan something else that uses it too. I cook for myself and often halve recipes (meaning I'll often have half a can of tomatoes or beans to use up in something else), or freeze leftovers. Most things freeze fine and I'm sure I've seen a thread about freezer friendly recipes here. Buying things things that are in season will usually be cheaper (which for me means lots of tubers in winter, find a seasonal guide for your area). Do you already have a stocked kitchen or are you working more from scratch? Spices are a big initial investment (vegans tend to use a lot of different ones) so I'd suggest making several recipes with similar spices and slowly add more.


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 Post subject: Re: Meal Planning?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2014 8:59 pm 
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Vegan Vegan Vegan Vegan Vegan
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Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 2:55 pm
Posts: 4575
Location: The land of maple syrup and beavers.
I haven't been doing much meal planning the last few months, but when I did I found too much rigidity and meals with drastically different ingredients bogged down the system for me. Expecting to have a couple pantry staple nights at the end of the week helped because I would have a plan in place but if there was a lots of leftovers, those ingredients would keep for the next week, or I could base my meals around what produce was on the clearance cart at the grocery store that day. If I always have canned tomatoes, brown rice, tvp and canned beans around I can use the scratch and dent veggies for inspiration.

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 Post subject: Re: Meal Planning?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:08 pm 
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Flat Chesty McNoBoobs
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Joined: Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:41 am
Posts: 7661
Location: Portland
I started and updated the linked thread above, but I think meal planning deserves its own thread.

My boyfriend and I started meal planning, and it's been working really well for us. It's allowed us to waste a lot less food and reduce our grocery budget. Before, we'd been running to the grocery store a couple of times a week or more, since we wouldn't decide what we wanted to eat further than a day in advance. We only really plan dinners, though, since we eat leftovers for lunches, and we pretty much always have the same thing for breakfast. We tend to schedule lots of meals that use similar or overlapping ingredients. For example, we usually make 2 or 3 meals using broccoli (like Isa's bbq broccoli & seitan, broccoli with tofu & black beans on rice) during the week. That sounds super obvious, but we were wasting a lot of ingredients and money by making recipes with completely different ingredients every night of the week. With our current system, we stock the same basics in terms of spices, condiments, canned goods, etc. and don't have bits of leftover stuff that goes bad because it doesn't get used. If we have some leftover ingredient, chances are it will/can get used up in the next couple of days. It also allows us to buy big-ass bags of things we use a lot of like carrots, beats, black beans, etc. which saves us a fair bit of money.

If you're interested, our dinners for this week are:

Monday: tofu, broccoli, & black beans on rice (with nutritional yeast, braggs, and sriracha)

Tuesday: Chickpea noodle soup

Wednesday: Black eyed peas and greens on rice.

Thursday: BBQ Broccoli & Seitan from Isa Does It with roasted sweet potato, beets, and carrots.

Friday: Rice pilaf with tempeh and squash and spinach.

Saturday: Tofu scramble with veggies & Roasted potatoes.

Sunday: Curry vegetables and tofu on rice.

You can see we have some recipes that rely on the same stuff, and then a couple meals at the end of the week that allow us to use up whatever stuff we've got still lying around.

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 Post subject: Re: Meal Planning?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:26 pm 
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So Totally Yiffy
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Joined: Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:24 pm
Posts: 36
Location: Seattle, WA
I have tried to use pepperplate.com to do my meal planning. It is a very effective tool, but you have to enter all your own recipes which can be a bit daunting. Lately I've just been printing off homemade planners from Excel. *shrug* whatever works.

Not sure where you are at financially but there are meal plans you can buy that take out all the guesswork and WILL save you money, if you are lazy like me! https://www.getmealplans.com/ is one. 5 bucks a week and comes complete with recipes and shopping lists. Food is geared to no oil, low fat, etc, so depending on what you are looking for, this may or may not be good for you. I tried it for 1 week and liked it well enough. Main reason I did not continue with it is because I personally just don't care for the chef. Too gimmicky - too much spam. Not to mention she seems rather unoriginal, and unprofessional based on some things I've seen - though that's besides the point for this topic I guess, apologies. Bottom line is: it DID save me money, about $15-20 in that week.

My biggest problem right now is that I am a tad addicted to Isa recipes and have gotten a little carried away. What I really need to do is just buckle down and make stricter lists instead of "oh my god I need to cook this meal now!"

I'm with you on the budget thing. I spend far too much on groceries.

What would be really cool is if several people banded together, made meal plans and posted them like jordanpattern did, though that requires everyone interested having the same cookbooks... Still though, that would be awesome! We could do Isa Meal Plans!

Isa Meal plans... now that's something I'd pay big bucks for! hehe

Best of luck to you.


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 Post subject: Re: Meal Planning?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 3:05 pm 
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Making Threats to Punks Again
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Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2010 5:46 am
Posts: 1115
Location: Sweden
Another thing I do is always buy frozen berries and broccoli (except for maybe in high summer when they're in season and possibly local-ish).


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 Post subject: Re: Meal Planning?
PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 12:03 pm 
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Mispronounces Daiya

Joined: Sat Mar 23, 2013 10:49 am
Posts: 1445
Location: Las Vegas, NV
I was really rigid with planning and have since eased back a bit. I planned out every meal for the upcoming week to make sure I had whatever produce I needed, but then there were some days of late work or plain "I just don't feel like eating that syndrome." So now before I grocery shop I plan for maybe 4 or 5 days of meals, and for the other 2 days I either wing it with leftovers or just buy what's on sale at the store, ie, "oh eggplant's on sale? I'll do something with that one day."

As far as cutting down costs, the above approach usually assures me of no wasted veggies. I also try to take advantage of what's in season and plan so that if I'm buying a particular veggie, because there are only 2 of us, that veggie makes an appearance in 2 meals. I rely on dried beans more than canned and keep staples on hand. I use coupons. I freeze meals and cooked beans in individual servings.
Finally, I strategize what I buy where. For instance, vital wheat gluten is hella cheap at Winco (sort of a Costco-ish store but no membership - crazy crazy crazy awesome bulk section) compared to other stores. So, I save the VWG buying for that trip versus a Whole Foods trip, and I will buy some even if my supply isn't dire per se, just so I have some when I need it.


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 Post subject: Re: Meal Planning?
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:02 pm 
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Tofu Pup

Joined: Sun Jan 05, 2014 8:36 pm
Posts: 3
Location: Houston, Texas
So meal planning is tough. I can't do it because I seem to live a life of chaos and my meal plans seem to fail but I can tell you how to cook smart without blowing $$ and saving some time. I'll explain how I do it with two recipes and hopefully my tips will make sense.

One tip is to make a big batch of something that can be used multiple ways. One of my favorite recipes is here: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/slow_ ... chili.html

First time I made it I used canned beans instead of dry and the chipotles and mustard seeds can be pricy if you don't know where to get them and it was way too expensive for basically a pot of beans. So here's what I do. I buy mustard seeds in bulk at an ethnic grocery and a large can of chipotles. I also use dried beans and buy the cardamom from Whole Foods or a spice shop bulk section since I don't use it often so I get just a tiny bit. I also use a low sodium veggie stock concentrate. When I make the chili I chop the whole can of chipotles and it makes about three extra portions that I put in little baggies in the freezer. Then I make three little more baggies where I combine the spices so the next time I make it, some of the measuring and chopping is done--I grab the baggies and get cooking. Then I make the chili and serve it over baked sweet potatoes. I then bag up quart size freezer bags of it about halfway to 3/4 full and put in the freezer. I eat this over rice, over a hot dog, make chili mac, have it with cornbread, etc...it heats up easy from the freezer into a saucepan on the stove. I suppose you could even freeze it into a muffin tin, put your frozen chili muffins in a gallon size freezer bag and use two frozen muffin portions to reheat per meal. You could also make a big pot of lentils and freeze them and find different ways to cook them like above. Look up some "cook once, eat twice" or "cook once, eat all week recipes." The cost is higher to make it upfront but spread out the cost by eating it every other week from the freezer and it's worth it. I make it about once every two months. I have a rotation of recipes I make in the crockpot and freeze. I'll do 2 pounds of garbanzos and make a recipe like hummus or a bean salad and bag the rest instead of buying canned, the next week I'll make a curry and freeze the rest, then I'll make pasta sauce with lots of onions and mushrooms and freeze it, make black beans, pintos, lentils, peanut sauce, etc. My goal is one fresh meal and five more meals or "cans" of beans or "jars" of sauces frozen each time. So that's the no preservatives freezer pantry plan. It feeds my husband and I, you can stretch it longer or invite friends over for dinner. :)

How does your dry pantry look? I'll never forget when I was starting out and how impossible stocking my pantry seemed. Here's how I would handle that now with a recipe from Isa Does It. The Chipotle Sausage Hash looks AWESOME but has some ingredients a person new to cooking or veganism might not have like vegan sausage, tahini, nutritional yeast, and white miso and they can be expensive so you need to know you'll use them more than once. So it would take me about three weeks to build up my pantry for this. I'd start with the veggie sausage and chipotle for week 1 and slice up some of the sausage and use it in rice and beans and bank the rest in fridge or freezer. I'd also chop up chipotles, make the chili above and bank a 1/2 cup portion of chopped chipotle in the freezer for the hash. Chopping chipotles is a messy job--I'm only willing to do every now and then. In week 2 I'd buy the tahini and make hummus for a dip, sandwich, etc. In week 3 I'd buy just a little nutritional yeast from the bulk section at Whole Foods (or a whole container if I think I'll use it more) and buy the white miso. I would make a soup that week with the white miso and probably frozen veggies cuz they are cheaper and I would find another recipe that also uses the nut. yeast. The hash is something I'd make for Sunday breakfast so the day before I'd make the tahini dressing from the hash recipe (I'd make it while making lunch or dinner and something's boiling or baking) and I'd maybe even double it cuz it looks good and can be used on more things. Then on Sunday morning I'd make the whole hash recipe (although it looks easy enough to make a half batch if you want). I'm also super lazy and would use frozen already chopped hash potatoes. With the leftover hash I'd put it in a tortilla with smashed beans for a burrito for lunch the next day or just put into a tortilla and make a taco out of it to use up leftovers. (I can turn almost anything leftover into a taco.)

So yeah, super long post--hope it helps. In the very early days of the internet back in the 90's someone posted a meal plan about their crockpot and their dorm fridge and it helped me save a lot of $$ and above is how I kinda evolved with that. I wish I would have saved a hard copy of the plan and I wish I could personally thank the dorm room crockpotter because their post really helped me cook a lot better for myself. It's all about a big pot of something healthy and cheap and learning to stretch it out a few different ways.


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