Are you vegan living on a budget? Whether you're vegan, vegetarian, or just flirting with the idea of trying a plant-based diet, Eat Vegan on $4 a Day by Ellen Jaffe Jones will help penny-pinching veggie enthusiasts try new recipes without breaking the bank. Eating on $4 a day may be laughable, but once you dive into this vegan cookbook, you'll realize how reasonable and sensible this minimal chunk of change can be.
Review by Amber Buening
Before getting into the money-saving recipes, her introduction covers a wide array of cost-effective techniques and ethical positions around veganism. She gives several helpful tips to cut grocery store costs, some obvious like buying store brand items (even store brand organic!), some insightful like only bringing cash (which causes you to limit your purchase to necessities), and some time-consuming like tracking and comparing prices from different stores. However, if you are pressed for time, she has a few helpful tips to condense time-consuming food preparation and price-comparison shopping, explaining the benefits of cooking from scratch and comparing prices.
Jones further explains the damaging health effects of hormones, pesticides and mercury found in many animals and why plant-based diets can save on health care costs, preventing many diseases associated with chemicals found in meat, dairy, eggs, and fish. She states that, "paying for illness is expensive whether the money comes out of your pocket or the government's." She clarifies the complexities behind health research, advertising and policy dollars, marketing and why agencies are not promoting a healthy, plant-based diet when it can solve many of the health problems facing our society today.
Additional health benefits can also be achieved buying organic, local produce. Jones advocates for seasonal food, which can be the cheapest and freshest. Try a local farmer's market, CSA, or Co-op! Can't afford to buy entirely organic produce? Then just make sure to avoid the "Dirty Dozen" most pesticide and chemically covered food, which Jones identifies. By spending a bit more on these twelve organic items, you'll drastically decrease the amount of chemicals ingested and save money in the long run on medical bills.
If you're looking for helpful information on nutrition and how to eat healthy as a vegan, Jones has a great section explaining what different types of food we need and how much of each. She even goes further to explain how to cook these different foods from scratch (ratio of water to legumes/grains and length of cooking time). Struggling to stay on track or make the switch to vegetarianism or veganism? Jones also has some basic advice on how to overcome temptations left by roommates or family members who buy and eat foods that are not included in a vegan diet.
After this lengthy, but helpful, introduction, Jones dishes out recipes (sans pictures) for almost any occasion, noting the price per serving of each meal, which is helpful for the near future, but may become inaccurate as inflation occurs and produce prices increase. Many of these dishes are inexpensive, but some, like certain $3 salad servings, are costly and would be difficult to include in any "$4 a day" budget. For some recipes (but not all), she also lists expiration dates, and unfortunately, some salad dressings only last 4 days. In other words, be aware of price fluctuation and inconsistencies when perusing Eat Vegan on $4 a Day! If you're not sure where to start, try her menu plan – 7 days of meals all costing under $4 a day ($28 for the entire week)!