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new vegan, new to this site.

hello, all.

So... after years overweight, and finding myself increasingy repulsed by any sort of animal products, not to mention having a coughing fit every time I have milk on cereal or more than one cup of coffee with milk in it, I have been doing a lot of research into the vegan lifestyle and think it may be just the change I need.  I have some egg- and dairy-free recipes in the vegetarian sections of two of my cookbooks, and this site - so I have some recipes to get started... and a slow cooker, which I have the feeling I will very much love.

Actually, I have been mostly vegetarian for years... I eat very little meat.  When I do, I usually feel really bloated and gross afterward, so why am I doing this to myself?!

The problem is, to adopt a completely vegan diet, I'm really not sure where to start with grocery shopping.  I see beans, lots of fresh veggies, lentils, and brown rice are staples - just slight moderations (vegetable instead of chicken broth) of how I already cook - but what other things should I look at getting to start out with?

Also.... do you use tofu much?  I have never worked with it and have heard it can be tricky.  Next - I drink coffee, and usually use an artificial sweetener.  I will probably switch to rice milk or almond milk, rather than soy, but is there a natural sweetener that would be better than my chemical one? (I use sugar twin).  Thanks!

Hi!  Nice to meet you!!  Welcome to VegWeb!

If your committed to vegan cooking, it can be a bit overwhelming and expensive at first.  But as you get comfortable and your pantry gets stocked with vegan stables it gets much better.  I would start with a menu for a couple of days and get those things and so on and so on.

The key to good vegan health is variety. 

I eat tofu about once a week and there are a million ways to cook it.  Almost always I slice it, lay the slices out on papper towels, wrap it up in a dish towel and stack a plate on top of them.  This drains out the excess water and makes room for marinades, stir fry sauces and such.  I almost exclusively use extra-firm. 

All the best.  We're here for you should you have questions along the way.

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for sweetener use stevia!

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Thank you both. I guess my primary concern is eating a balanced diet with enough protein and calcium (given a possible allergy to peanuts)... especially since I currently have an extremely limited income and a budget of around $100 (maybe a bit more) for food for the whole month.  So, limited prepackaged food for me for the next while.  Last night, I took an inventory of what I already have that I can eat, and actually came up with a decent list.  So.... lots of stew and soup for me for the next few days, and a big pan of lentils and rice, lots of oatmeal (no milk) and will be spending the next week til payday reading recipes and compiling a shopping list.

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Hi minstrel!  I am new to the forums here too but not to being vegan.  I was recently layed off my job and found another one but its only part time with no benefits  :'( so I am quite short on money too.  However, I find it cheaper to eat as a vegan than I ever did when I ate meat, dairy, eggs etc.  At least once you get a good base of foods and spices etc down.

I rarely consume tofu but very occasionally will have tempeh which is a little bit less processed and easier to digest.  My staples are a variety of beans (I love love love beans and find them so versitile...soups, mashed for sandwiches, used in breakfast veggie stir fries, in casseroles etc).  I eat a lot of lentils, black beans, chickpeas, kidneys, fava beans, white, beans.  I buy them in bulk as opposed to canned (you can get a lot more for your money this way).  I will soak a batch of a few kindsovernight and cook them up and then store them in my refrigerator for a week and they are good and ready to go for any recipes I make.  To make them easier to digest I add a little piece of kombu (sea vegetable) while cooking them.  Not sure of the science behind this but it works and provides added iodine.
I drink rice milk (you can make your own too by cooking rice and blending it in blender with water and a sweetener; add some rice or hemp protein powder if you like)  or unsweetened almond milk (can also make your own almond milk as well if you have the equipment to grind the almonds) as well as teas and my coffee and of course water.  Sometimes for breakfasts I will take canned pumpkin (another staple that you can use mixed with beans or oatmeal or whatever) and mix it with rice milk, spices, rice protein powder, ground flaxseed, and stevia for a powerful shake.  I might stir fry bell pepper, apple, and broccoli and round out breakfast with a slice of homemade whole wheat bread.  I also like to make fresh batches of breads to last the week.  Making your own is cheaper and you control what ingredients go into it.  Never assume all loaves of bread from the store are vegan.  

high protein grains like quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat groats , amaranth, and oat bran or rice bran are good too.  They are a bit more expensiive (except the oatbran) but a little goes a long way.  Certainly all are cheaper in the long run than commercial boxed cereals that dont last long and arent filling and frankly taste like cardboard.
Nutritional yeast flakes provide both vitamin B12 and a fair amount of protein as well.  You can sprinkle them in pastas, grains, veggies etc or make a "cheese" sauce with them.  Again a little goes a long way.  Two tablespoons provides 8 grams of protein right off the bat.
Cheaper veggies...fresh leafy greans (not bagged), green bell peppers, celery, carrots, bok choy, cucumbers.  Fruits are trickier.  I only eat out maybe three or four times a year and cook a LOT (I managed this even while in college studying four hours a day and working eight hours and exercising one hour so it is doable) so while I spend a little more on food it all evens out because I dont eat out which is also very expensive.  In warmer weather I ride my bike to work and leave the car at home.  Anything I can think of to save money.  I understand how hard it is to function in this insane economy when money is so tight.  I better wrap it up here but I hope this helps.  I love hmemade soups too by the way and they are very filling and last a long time if you make a batch.  Crockpots are my best friend too.  Hope it all works out for you!

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I apologize for my numerous spelling and grammatical errors.  :-[ I am having trouble posting on this site as the screen seems to want to jump around and I cant see my words.  Does anyone else have this problem? 

ps I dont use sweeteners too often but when I do I use maple sugar (a good organic one) or agave nectar (although this is expensive so reserve for you best dishes) or stevia (also expensive but 1/8 tspn is all you need for a serving as its powerful so lasts a long time).  Sometimes I just end up using plain table sugar if I absolutely have to and cant afford the good stuff.  Or I go without.  Fresh fruit added often does the trick.  Spices like cinammon or nutmeg or cloves etc often help too and these are relatively cheap to buy.

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I forgot one more thing...calcium.  I make sure to get mine daily from not only fortified plant milks (some have more calcium and protein content than others...compare rice, almond, oat, hemp, and soy milks)  but also blackstrap molasses (just one or two tablespoons provides over 200mg) that also serves as a sweetener so double purpose.  And I eat leafy greens daily which provide calcium and iron (bok choy, spinach, broccoli etc).  If you are into soy that provides a good bit, and there is even a coconut yogurt (not flavored coconut but actual coconut yogurt which tastes and has a consistancy closest to the real thing in my opinion; I cant stomach soy yogurt but some people like it).  Coconut yogurt is expensive though and I only rarely eat it for a treat.  I do supplement with calcium and vitamin D (be careful as D3 is not vegan but made from animal sources while D2 is vegan) as I am in surgical menopause and live in a northern climate and already have low bone density due to an eating disorder history.  Nuts provide some calcium as well, especially almonds.  I eat a serving or two of nuts or nut butter three to four times a week in my diet.  Hope this helps!

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wow, thanks Naturebound!  Sorry to hear you got laid off :(  that's tough.  I've been looking for work for 6 months now, had only 3 interviews with no results.  The joy of small towns!  The worst of it is, if I do get an interview elsewhere, I can't get funding to go to it, so I'm stuck in this cycle.  And can we say boredom!!  Ugh.  Well, on the bright side... I have lots and lots of time to learn to cook better.  There is one bright side.  This community has a LOT of fruit production, so come better weather, lots of natural foods will be easily available, locally produced, and relatively affordable.  Plus, I will be able to almost guarantee a job at one of the packing plants, having worked that job for 5 years, 2 of them for this particular outfit.

Yes.... I am having the same problem with the site.  It's not so bad if the messages are short, but the longer ones are troublesome.  I looked for a simple text editor but there doesn't appear to be that option?

A few of the things I make already (like my potato soup) I can make vegan with some simple substitutions, rice milk and vegan margarine, vegetable instead of chicken broth - but I am very frustrated by the so-called vegetarian sections in my cookbooks.  Many of these "vegetarian" recipes contain chicken broth.... ??? How exactly is that vegetarian?  And nearly all contain eggs or cheese - already going to be the hardest foods for me to give up, but account for a good part of my weight problem ;)  And coffee... I know some vegans don't drink it, but I'm not willing to part with it, just yet.  I've found about a dozen or so recipes I already have... oddly enough, I found most of them in a children's healthy cooking book!

Otherwise, I am seeing lots of stir frys, rice and beans, rice and tomatoes, pasta and marinara sauce or just plain tomatoes, bean soups, veggie stews, breakfast potato scrambles (I found one using crumbled tofu) with salsa, oatmeal, and lentils and rice, at least for the first while.  I actually don't mind oatmeal even plain, but with applesauce will be better.  One of these days I should make some more - I tried my own applesauce, it was a little too heavy on the cinnamon but really yummy.

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