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Aspiring Vegan - A Little Help?

After much consideration, documentary watching, and reading of literature, I can't really be ignorant about what I'm putting in my mouth anymore. However, I'm having a few problems.

1) I want to create a diet for weight loss, based around vegan meals, but have no idea of where to start and how to make this balanced (being that I have weight to lose is code for my current diet ISN'T balanced)!
2) I'm a student, a poor "starving" student with a budget, I can't really afford the ingredients mentioned in some of the higher-end vegan books.
3) I'm a lazy lazy cook. Easy, basic foods, are my lifeline (*cough* part of the reason that fast food always finds its way into my car :P)

Any advice or meal plan ideas? I'm a planner so be as specific as you want to be when it comes to meals :)

Thank you!! - Sarah  :)>>>

I absolutely love love love PETA's Vegan College Cookbook!

The recipes in it are simple, and don't have overcomplicated ingredients. I don't live in the dorms, I have an apartment, so I have access to a stove, toaster, lots of cooking tools, but it's based around just having a microwave, so it's super easy preparation.
The great thing is that while the recipes and food is simple. it's delicious, and very easy to customize and add to if you are so inclined.

Here's the link:
http://www.amazon.com/PETAs-Vegan-College-Cookbook-Delicious/dp/1402218850

Seriously, do yourself a favor and pick it up!

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http://tofu-n-sproutz.blogspot.com/ she is currently talking about cooking on a budget

my blog has some easy peasy recipes: www.veganluvies.blogspot.com

eat simple:

bean burritos or even bean + rice burritos

pasta

salad

tofu stifrys

chickpea salad sandwiches

scrambled tofu

veggie burgers

vewgweb has tons of easy recipes keep looking :)

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while the recipes in the "higher-end" type of books make things interesting, that type of cooking isn't necessary for a balanced diet. i can't say that what i did in college ensured i got enough of every nutrient, but i got the food groups:

a salad as a meal - whatever lettuce, dressing, other veggies happen to be cheap. i think it's a good idea to 'invest' in getting some variety of stuff for it, because it'll keep the salad interesting and unlike the gross restaurant-style iceberg-carrots-cabbage stuff. Even a more expensive type of ingredient like avocado can be spread out over ~ 4 salads. I think raw veggies are better for both budget and dieting because cooked vegetable loss volume, so you'll have to eat more (-> spend more) to feel full.

for fruit, bananas are generally inexpensive and roughly the same price/quality all year, instead of keeping track what's in season and on sale. Cheaper seasonal stuff like apples, pears, and oranges are good too.

for a heavier meal, i have to say... beans and rice. as far as balance goes, legume + grain + possibly more vegetables if you can do it. If you have a kitchen, cooking beans from scratch is cheaper than canned and not very labor intensive (as long as the pot doesn't boil over, you don't really have to do much), and you can freeze extra for later. A pound of beans makes about 3-4 cans worth, and doing it from scratch means you can keep it low salt or season to taste. An added vegetable can be whatever happens to be on sale, or frozen mixed vegetables (not the tastiest, but it works, and is often sold in 2- or 3-lb packages). If there are "ethnic" markets near where you live, they might be worth checking out because they can have pretty cheap vegetables, including "fancier" ones called for in cookbooks. e.g. Asian markets near me sell shiitake mushrooms for $3/lb (around the same if not better than white mushrooms), whereas health food stores sell them for 8-12$/lb.

If you live near one and know someone with a membership, Costco has apparently vegan whole grain bread that comes in two packs, and is pretty reasonable in price. If you have one, you can keep it in a freezer so that it won't spoil and you can just toast a couple slices at a time.

To keep things interesting, condiments and spices. They're a bit of an investment at first, but usually go far and not too calorically significant. Some brands of spices/herbs are waay cheaper than others, too. The little jars in the aisle at the grocery store (McCormick, etc) are more expensive, larger containers (like Delish) or bags at the end of the aisle are usually cheaper.

As far as specific recipes, a lot of the highly-rated vegan cookbooks aren't about minimalism but more about showing how varied/nice/interesting vegan cooking is. A book specific to your needs like Jesse mentioned or vegweb recipes will probably be closer to what you're looking for. though fake meat/dairy stuff is fun, it isn't necessary for a good diet, is generally more expensive than eating more whole foods, and in some cases is just extra calories that don't need to be there. However, getting something like that once in a while can be a nice treat and can be spread out (tofutti cream cheese lasts forever).

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Hey FB i see those Delish spices at Vons... They seem sketch, just because they're so cheap... Is there really a difference in quality? i'm totally confused why some spices are so cheap and some are so expensive?!?

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Thank you for all the replies, I didn't expect to get so many helpful suggestions.

Amymylove - Apparently there's a vegan $21 a week challenge going on right now in a few blogs so I'm going to continue to watch those for some ideas, thank you for link me to tofu-n-sproutz.

TheLovelyJesse - That cookbook looks awesome, I'll have to buy it from the larger bookstore when I'm back in the city over the next couple weeks.

FaunaBlues - Thank you for all the great information, doing salad as one of my meals and then a heartier beans and rice type dish sound like a really great base for a meal plan!

Amymylove - I think the spices thing has more to do with the brand name and packaging? I could be wrong and would love to hear someone elses answer to this.

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FB's suggestions are great, as always! My 100% grad student household has survived for long periods of time on veggies+beans+grains=soup, with the leftovers frozen for days we didn't have time to cook. Also, eating fewer of those meat and dairy analogs will save you wasted calories as well as money!

This blog also has some great ideas and a few recipes for eating vegan & healthy on the cheap: http://melomeals.blogspot.com/

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