Vegan Cooking, Frugality, and Building a Pantry

Aside from cooking, one of my favorite things is finding creative ways to be frugal and save money. I often hear people lament that home cooking or healthy cooking is too expensive. I haven’t highlighted the inexpensive nature of many of my recipes in the past, but I’d like to start doing that from now on to show you just how affordable it can be. The key to affordable cooking and cutting your grocery bill is building up a pantry, and using expensive ingredients in moderation. We’re just a two person family living in a small apartment, so if the word pantry conjures up an image of massive reserves and deep freezers you need not be concerned. In our 475 square foot apartment I’ve managed to build up quite an arsenal of dry goods, canned goods, and spices.

Dry goods are an important part of any pantry, vegan or otherwise. If you’re just beginning to build a pantry I would recommend starting with dry goods. I try to buy dry goods at Costco or local ethnic groceries in my neighborhood where they tend to be the least expensive.

Canned goods are a big part of my pantry, of course dried beans are actually less expensive- but I find that for the time involved the price difference isn’t big enough for me to make it worthwhile. This is mostly because we are a small family, if I were cooking for six or more people then I would take advantage of dried beans.

Spices are the most expensive part of your pantry, but if you shop wisely they will pay for themselves in no time.  It’s important to think about the cost per use when buying foods, many shoppers might see cumin for $4.99 and find that expensive, yet they wouldn’t hesitate to buy a $2 coffee. Try to remember that one small container of cumin will probably last at least a year, and the cost per use may be less than 5 cents. If you go the bulk root on spices then the cost per use will be even lower. I feel that buying many different spices is worthwhile because it enables you to make other basic inexpensive ingredients taste delicious and highly varied. Definitely check out any local ethnic groceries in your area, spices are nearly always cheaper there. If you need some help starting your spice pantry I would recommend beginning with the following:

Chili Powder

Basil

Oregano

Onion Powder

Red Pepper Flakes

Dill

Cumin

Arabic 7 Spice

Chinese 5 Spice

Madras Curry Powder

Vegetable Bouillon

A Note On Proper Storage

Pantry moths are the bane of my existence, they can destroy a beautifully cultivated pantry in the blink of an eye. I had this happen a few years ago and I lost my whole pantry of dry goods. Because of that, I now store almost everything in glass containers. I’m a huge fan of ball jars, I buy quite a few at a time (buy them online, they’re always overpriced in cookery stores) because they’re so multipurpose. We use them as our drinking glasses, I use them for dry food storage and also canning. I also buy very large jars of pickles at bulk shopping stores, and then wash them out for storage/re-use. You can also purchase large glass containers that are specifically made for storing pantry items. This is a worthwhile investment, and it’s a one time purchase and it has the added bonus of making your stock of food look beautiful.

So I hope you all enjoy the slightly new direction of the blog, I was inspired to include more price information based on questions I have gotten from readers and friends, as well as comments about how little I spend on groceries each month. Happy Cooking!