I think there are some important aspects to eating vegan cheaply that would be good to cover before this blog goes along much further. They are as follows:
1. Portion Control.
This goes for people who are vegan or not. What most American's don't realize, or don't care to realize, is that the amount of food we eat daily is usually WAY more that we need. A healthy portion of spaghetti should be a little larger than a tennis ball. Your average spaghetti dinner is usually 2-3 times that size. Vegans are no exception to this. In fact, a lot of vegans think that because we cut out stuff that is high in fat and cholesterol, that we have free reign to finish and entire box of pasta by ourselves. The truth is, we don't need to eat more to get our vitamins and nurtrients, we need to eat better.
But you might be thinking. . .'If I wanted a lecture I'd go to health class'. Ok, ok, so here's my point with all of this: When you eat smaller portions, not only do you eat smarter, your food lasts longer.
2. Use what you already have to guide what you should buy
Before you go grocery shopping, take a good look at what you've already got. Have an unused bag of lentils and some minced garlic? Buy an onion, some frozen or canned vegetables, a few potatoes, and some veggie broth and you've got yourself the makings of some delicious lentil soup that has the potential to last for days.
3. Plan your meals
This kind of goes along with the last one. Before you go grocery shopping, plan out what you would like to eat that week, over the next few days, whatever. This will keep you from overbuying, impulse buying, and also will keep you from having to take multiple trips to the store for one meal.
4. Stock up on fruits and veggies
Really this should be a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised by the number of vegans I've met that have a strange avoidance of raw fruits and vegetables. Buying lots of veggies is especially helpful in the summer and fall when lots of stuff is in season (meaning: inexpensive). I'm constantly eating fruit because it's healthy, filling, and usually not too bad on the wallet (depending on what you get).
Better yet, plant a garden! I haven't done this yet in my adult years (except for a small selection of herbs) but I fully plan on it next year. What's better than free food right in your back yard!? And the wonderful thing about summertime vegetable excess is that blanching and freezing or canning vegetables is relatively easy and can take you well into the winter months.
5. Don't be afraid to have a freezer full of food
If something is on sale and is able to be frozen, buy it. It will already be there when you want to use it later and you get more at a lower price. I am all about bargain hunting when it comes to groceries. Things that I regularly keep in my freezer: frozen veggies and fruit(cheap as hell and always there when you need them), tofu (water packed!), bread, and veggie burgers. In fact, tofu actually can have a better texture and absorb flavoring better if it has been frozen. So buy in bulk!
6. Keep the following staples around if you can: beans or lentils, onions, garlic, whole wheat bread, firm tofu, an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies, crushed red pepper, nutritional yeast, other spices rice, soymilk, some kind of pasta, and margarine/vegetable oil. You can make about 10 different meals out of these ingredients. If you're strapped for ideas but home and hungry, try throwing them together in whatever combo sounds good. It probably will be.
These are the guidelines that I use when I shop and cook, and it does me pretty well. Of course, these aren't set in stone but I think they're pretty wise nonetheless.