When seeking to lower your grocery budget, using items from your freezer can be a great way to spend less money and still eat well.
My weekly shopping trip didn’t yield much in terms of finding supermarket markdowns. But, what I did find, was being sold at fantastically low prices.
Five, 8-ounce packages of organic, white, button mushrooms were just 90¢ each. I also discovered two bags of romaine lettuce and a couple of pounds of spring mix. That spring mix was an amazing find at just 90¢ for a pound of organic greens. Since I eat two, huge salads every day, that kind of thing makes my vegan heart soar!
I dug into our winter stores this week, relying on my freezer and pantry to fill out most of my menu. My freezer is always full at the beginning of the cold weather season. I have carefully set aside excess produce, freezing it for later use. I’m always glad that I have food in the freezer when the winds and snow are blowing outside.
As always, a cost analysis of each recipe is included. Remember, my prices are based on what I paid for ingredients. Your costs will vary.
Later in the week, I did manage to score some vegan egg nog for just 79¢ and bread marked down to 49¢ per loaf. I put most of the bread in the freezer, since I had just baked bread the day before. But, I left a loaf of it on the counter for making a special treat.
The eggnog and bread became the perfect marriage for French toast. We each ate three or four slices. The kids loved it, though I found it a little too sweet for my taste.
Although you may find our lack of imagination when it comes to breakfast boring, we enjoy daily familiarity and the repetitive nature doesn’t bother us at all.
The addition of French toast this week was a rare diversion from our regular menu. This recipe came together really quickly and it made me wonder why we don’t go to the trouble of making a vegan version of this American favorite more often.
- Vegan Eggnog French Toast – Cost: $2.50 (Bread, Eggnog, Vanilla, Cinnamon). We topped our slices with cinnamon and sugar.
- Oatmeal, Milk, Blueberries, Sugar – $3.00
- Cream of Wheat, Milk, Cinnamon, Sugar – $2.00
Total Cost of Breakfast: $7.50
Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and dinner dishes often overlap in our home, with leftovers serving for lunch the next day. I also make two or three different homemade soups every week. We often eat a bowl of soup and a piece of fruit for lunch. Finally, I baked bread from scratch for sandwiches throughout the week.
My vegetable soup recipe, literally, changes every week. I throw leftover vegetables to a large pot, season them, add water or broth and simmer the whole concoction for about 30 minutes. I’ve done it this way for years. Not only does it keep me from needlessly throwing out food, it is quite a surprise as it tastes slightly different from week to week.
The only cost of this soup is limited a few extra veggies like potatoes, carrots, celery, or onion and some homemade stock. It, honestly, depends on what I had left in the fridge. Some weeks, I had a lot of material to work with and other weeks, I need to scrounge in the freezer or fridge for more produce to add to the pot.
Curried Butternut Squash Soup – Cost: $5.50 (Onion, Garlic, Squash, Coconut Milk, Homemade Broth, Spices)
Vegetable soup – Cost: $2.00 – (Leftover Veggies, Homemade Stock – and a few fresh veggies thrown in for good measure).
Total Cost of Soups: $7.50
Lentils: When I run out of time and ideas for meals, the lentils come out of the pantry. These amazing, little beans, are chock full of protein and fiber and cook in just twenty minutes. Not only that, they are incredibly inexpensive. I find them all the time at Dollar Tree for $1.00 a pound, but more recently scored them for about 60¢ a pound at GFS in a five pound bag.
A pound of dried lentils measures at about 2 1/4 cups. To cook, add just 3 1/2 cups of water to a pound of dried lentils, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 15-20 minutes. The final yield is 5-6 cups.
I generally cook two pounds at one time in a large six quart pan. This is enough to feed my family for four meals. When you do the math, at $1.20 for two pounds, that’s 30¢ of lentils per meal. Now, that’s a great way to save money on your grocery bills!
Plant-Based Burgers: I have featured the Quarter Pound Beet Burger recipe countless times in our $50 menu series. It’s a creation of my dear friend, Faith Scott and a family favorite and I deliberately throw an extra beet in the oven when I am roasting so that I can use it in this recipe.
This recipe is incredibly forgiving and freeze exceptionally well. I was out of subbed several ingredients and they still turned out tasting absolutely smashing! I had a lot of leftover rice, so I used extra rice instead of the quinoa. I was also out of spinach and grapes (a child, who shall remain unnamed, ate them for lunch). Such is the life of a mother with sons. LOL!
I doubled the recipe and it yielded 16 burgers, enough to feed us for four nights. The entire batch of burgers cost just $3.00 to make.
Baked Potatoes and mushroom gravy – Cost: $3.00 (Ingredients: Roasted Potatoes, Mushrooms, flour, homemade broth, spices).
Quarter Pound Beet Burgers (Pictured below with the Creole green beans) – Cost: $3.00 (Black beans, beets, oats, leftover cooked rice, spices).
Lentil Barbecue Sandwiches – Cost of lentil filling: $2.00 (Ingredients: lentils, spices, barbecue sauce, pickles).
Taco Salad – Cost: $6.00 – (Ingredients: Lentils, spices, olives, corn, tomatoes, salsa, avocado, chips, homemade dressing).
Creamed Vegetables over toast – Cost of creamed vegetables: $4.50 – (Ingredients: Mixed Italian Blend Vegetables, Onion, Flour, Plant-based Milk, Nutritional Yeast, Spices.)
Total Cost of Main Dishes: $18.50
What’s life without side dishes?
Bread: This week, I was in the mood to bake bread. So, I made four loaves and a batch of buns for burgers. I threw a couple of loaves in the freezer for next week.
We severely limit the use of oil in our home and this bread is one of the few times you’ll ever see me cook with it. I’ve yet to find a way to make whole wheat bread without adding any oil.
I’ve had a grain mill for twenty years and use it to grind wheat kernels into flour. I buy wheat kernels, beans, rice, and oats in fifty pound bags from an Amish community an hour’s drive from our home.
Muffins: Leftover applesauce was given a starring role in muffins. The applesauce was homemade from our apple tree, making the cost of a dozen muffins just a dollar for twenty-two, small muffins.
Green Beans: Growing up, I begged my mother to make Creole greens beans. I loved the salty flavor of the onion mixed with bacon. After becoming vegan, I kind of missed my childhood favorite. So, I created my own version. With the addition of liquid smoke, you’ll never even miss the meat.
Zucchini: If you’re like me, and you’ve got shredded zucchini lurking in the corners of your freezer, fritters are quick, cheap, and easy to make. I cook them on a non-stick griddle with no added oil. I like my fritters topped with salsa. Although homemade marinara is also a good choice.
I get seriously (and I do mean seriously) large zucchini from the farmers market for less than $1.00 each. I promptly shred and freeze many of them. The cost of these fritters is so minimal, because of the low price of the main ingredient. For pennies, you can load your plate and enjoy a taste of summer in the middle of winter.
Zucchini fritters – Cost: $1.00 (Ingredients: zucchini, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, onion, spices)
Applesauce muffins – Cost: $1.00 (Ingredients: applesauce, flour, plant-based milk, vanilla, vinegar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, spices).
Creole Green Beans – Cost: $3.00 (Ingredients: Green Beans, Tomato, Onion, Garlic, Liquid Smoke, Soy Sauce, Spices).
Homemade bread – Cost: $4.00 (Ingredients: whole wheat flour, white flour, water, sugar, yeast, oil, salt).
Spring Mix and Romaine Salads – Cost: $5.00 (Ingredients: Lettuce, Walnuts, and whatever leftovers I can find thrown on top along with homemade dressing).
Total Cost of Side Dishes: $14.00
We generally reserve sugar for the weekends. This week, we had a special surprise. I teach public speaking to a wonderful group of high school students. One of my students, Justin, made me a gluten free, vegan apple pie, sweetened with agave nectar and gave it to me after class on Friday!
He made my day! What a delicious (and thoughtful) treat! Yes, it tasted as good as it looks in the photo.