This month we review a book that shows that eating healthful vegan food does not have to cost more than $4 a day.
eat vegan on $4 a day:
A GAME PLAN
FOR THE BUDGET-CONSCIOUS COOK
By Ellen Jaffe Jones
Book Publishing Company, 2011
Cookbook author Ellen Jaffe Jones gives vegan food shopping a dramatic money-saving makeover and proves the naysayers wrong when they promote the myth that eating healthy is too expensive. Ellen does it for $4 a day and shows readers how they, too, can eat well, eat vegan, and reap the benefits while applying her cost-saving tips and recipes.
Multiple careers and a family history of health challenges helped shape Ellen's vegan path. Careers in TV investigative reporting, Wall Street financial consulting, media-consulting, and finally teaching vegan cooking made her aware of how the major food companies and the US government market so-called money-saving foods that are neither money saving, nor healthful.
Twinkies were the final motivator that led her to dispel the myth that eating healthy costs more. "I saw one too many news stories in which supermarket shoppers were asked how far a daily food-stamp allotment of $6 would get them, and they replied that they would only be able to afford foods like Twinkies and boxed macaroni and cheese," she writes.
Perusing an issue of Arthritis Today spurred Ellen's awakening when she saw that 50 pages out of 90 were advertisements for pharmaceuticals and medical treatments, and not one page promoted a whole-foods plant-based diet that could actually prevent and reverse the diseases these drugs were advertised to alleviate.
Ellen agrees that the choice of buying organic is good, but more thrifty is buying from local farmers or CSAs. A plethora of money-saving tips begin with cooking from scratch, choosing a wide variety of foods, and being open to trying new foods and flavors. For economical shopping, she advises making a shopping list and sticking to it to avoid impulse buying. Nine other money-saving tips follow to guide the savvy shopper.
Plant-based Nutrition and Cooking 101 focuses not only on nutrition, but also provides helpful information and cooking charts for beans and whole grains that are excellent sources of protein and calcium. Suggestions for stocking the pantry emphasize dried beans, whole grains, and dried herbs and spices that can be purchased in bulk at considerable savings.
A weekly menu plan featuring her recipes and their cost reveal a few surprises with meals as low as $2.25 per person. Ellen says, "You can see how easy it is to get expensive meat and junk food out of your kitchen and replace them with less costly, more nutritious alternatives. You are sure to get all kinds of ideas as you go along--and you'll be amazed at how much money you will save and how much better you will feel."
Breakfast recipes emphasize cooked whole grains like oats, barley, rye, triticale, wheat, bulgur, and millet prepared simply and enhanced with fresh or frozen fruit and a sprinkle of nuts. The cost per person is an astounding 25 cents to $1 per serving. Other options include Scrambles and an enticingly easy Sweet Potato Muffin recipe that can be prepared in just one bowl.
Ellen's hearty soups average about 50 cents a serving and offer fresh and easy from-scratch recipes like Simple Blender Soup and Out-of-the-red Beet Soup that you can have on the table within minutes. Remember the tale of Stone Soup? This Stone-Broke Soup fills the old soup kettle with vegetables and grains and perks them up with dried basil, marjoram, thyme, and bay leaf. When preparing this recipe with children, the author has them find two round smooth stones, scrubs them well, and adds them to the pot, just like the storybook tale. She wisely removes them before serving.
Salad and salad dressing recipes offer a multitude of choices while keeping the cost savings at the forefront. Hearty Entrees feature stick-to-the-ribs dishes like chili, stews, casseroles, and stir-fry choices along with sandwiches and burgers. Many of the recipe titles will elicit a chuckle with their clever word plays like Penne for Pennies, Billfold-Saver Black Bean Burgers, and Penny-Pincher Pitas
Pennywise Spreads and Sides offer hearty favorites like guac or hummus but feature some unique dishes like Wok-Sautéed Greens flavored with chili paste and lime juice. Appealing and fun to eat are Sweet Potato Skins stuffed with vegan cheese, walnuts, and garlic and topped with a seasoned herb mixture. The dish's final destination before reaching the table is a short visit under the broiler to brown the tops.
Dessert lovers will find a host of delights to satisfy a sweet tooth. No less than 10 smoothies deliver a tall glass of fruits, greens, and nut butters that keep the price affordable at 50 cents to $1.50 per serving. For special occasions there is Chocolate Surprise Cake or Carrot Cake to Live For. Packed with fruits and vegetables and made with no added fat, these desserts are a great way to sneak healthful ingredients into foods that kids will love to eat.
Emphasizing the dollar-savings theme throughout, book designer John Wincek includes a shaded bar beneath each recipe title to show the number of servings and the cost per serving. Concluding the book is the helpful Resources listing online sellers of beans, grains, seeds, and pantry staples.
eat vegan on $4 a day is an exceptional book that stays true to its cost-saving, healthy-eating vegan message from beginning to end. This book motivates readers to cook from scratch because the recipes are so easy and tempting, and the ingredients are so available and affordable. This is a gem of a cookbook for everyone, rich or poor, vegan or not, because it will inspire people to embrace home cooking. Most of all, this compact book provides convincing evidence that eating healthful food does not have to cost more than $4 a day.