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Fast, Good and Cheap, Vegan-Style    

Rarely in life is anything fast, good and cheap, films and food included. Usually, you have to pick  two out of the three. Food is often fast and good (as in healthy and tasty), but then it’s not cheap. Or else it’s fast and cheap but not good. Or cheap and good but not fast.

So what do we do when life circumstances are such that we need all three? That’s when we add a fourth element: smart.

You’re working overtime, trying to make your money and time go as far as you can. Make your food do the same. The tiniest bit of forethought can reap great rewards. Try it just for this week and see how you do.

Plan your meals in 15 minutes. Before you go to the supermarket this week, sit down for just 15 minutes at your computer, log onto Vegweb, the PPK or another great recipe database and start strategizing. You can do it now if you want, using some of the ideas below. Just be sure to save or print out the recipes and add ingredients to your shopping list.

Choose two focus foods and build your meals around them. Make it something hearty and sustaining like a bean, legume, or quinoa.

Buy them in bulk to save money and shopping trips. Dried beans are cheaper and safer (no BPA in the can lining), but that means factoring in (inactive) cooking time. Dry beans (not legumes) will also require soaking time for a few hours or overnight.

Cook them in bulk so that you have enough to use in several meals. Find two 30-60 minute chunks of time this week to be around while your focus food simmers.

Here are a few examples of the many simple, tasty things you can do with focus foods:

Lentil mash

The group L.O.V.E. has a great page on being vegan on a budget that includes a recipe for lentil mash. It has just a few simple ingredients, so it’s not much work, but do calculate in 30-40 minutes of simmer time.

Scroll down on this page to find the lentil mash recipe and ideas for how to use it in lentil burgers, sloppy Js, and stuffed peppers.

Chickpeas (aka Garbanzo Beans)

Never soaked and cooked dried chickpeas before? Here’s how.

This “Tuna” Salad is super easy and would go well in a pita or on a bed of lettuce.

Doesn’t get much easier than this kale and chickpea mash–and rave reviews too!

Rice and Garbanzo Beans qualifies as healthy college food–easy as ramen but good for you!

Baked Tofu

Famed vegan cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz uses this simple recipe.

Put the baked tofu in a sandwich with mustard, mayo, lettuce and tomatoes.

Chop it up and put it in a salad.

Add it to a dish like Ginger Peanut Soba Noodles.

Quinoa

There is no great mystery to cooking quinoa. Just use two parts water to one part quinoa. I use a rice cooker to make it a no-brainer. Cook more than you need and refrigerate the rest. Use it instead of rice for an extra protein kick in:

-bean ‘n rice dishes instead of rice
-a wrap with raw veggies and salad dressing
-this Quick & High Protein salad, which includes chickpeas

Here’s another quickie quinoa recipe:
Super Easy Rice Cooker Quinoa with Kale and Cranberries

Find something that intrigues you? Go head and save/print the recipe and add the ingredients to your shopping list. You will feel so great, sailing through the store with purpose and eating meals that are fast, cheap, and good.