VeganMoFo, Day 27: Frugal vegans prep their own ingredients.

October 27th, 2009 8:43 pm by Kelly Garbato

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Okay, so this might seem like a rather obvious tip, but it’s been a long, exhausting day, and I just have to do this one last thing before I can retire to bed with a pint of Purely Decadent and the remote control. I will have a perfect VeganMoFo III record, dammit!

So, where were we? Ingredient prep. When you purchase ingredients that have been prepared beforehand – for example, lettuce that’s already been shredded, pre-mixed spices, growth-stunted carrots, etc. – you’re paying not just for the price of the food, but also for the additional handling and processing, as well as the added convenience to you, the consumer. Sometimes the cost is negligible; other times, the markup can be significant. By purchasing raw, unprocessed ingredients and preparing them yourself, you can save a little extra money every week. Time spent in the kitchen translates to cash in the wallet.

For example:

– Baby carrots usually cost more per pound than full-sized carrots. Whereas you have to peel, wash and slice large carrots, baby carrots just require a quick bath in the kitchen sink before they’re ready to eat. Luckily, peeling carrots: not that hard. Just invest $5 in an ergonomic peeler, and you’re good to go.

– A whole head of lettuce is cheaper than bags of shredded lettuce or pre-made salad. Again, lettuce isn’t that hard to prepare for use. However, unless you’re able to consume a whole head before it goes bad, bagged lettuce might prove less expensive in the long run. On the downside: all that wasted packaging.

– Corn that has been pre-husked and tethered in plastic to a Styrofoam board: just don’t do it. Seriously, no.

– Spice mixes are sometimes (but not always) marked up more than the cost of their individual spices. Before you buy a seasoning blend, ask yourself if it’s something you could make on your own. The most egregious example of this I’ve seen is a newer phenomenon: cinnamon and sugar packaged together in a blend. I bet I could teach my smartest dog-kid to combine 1 part cinnamon with 1 part sugar in a small tupperware container and shake ’til mixed. Hell, I do it in a half-groggy morning stupor once every few weeks – and I don’t function well before 10 AM.

– Ditto: fruit and nut mixes. Take, for example, Wal-Mart’s store brand bags of dried mixed berries: they’re mostly cranberries, with a few cherries and blueberries sprinkled in – but the mixed berry blend costs 50% more than a bag of straight cranberries. Welch’s pulls the same stunt with its mixed dried fruit (70% raisins; some are golden, but still!), as does Planters et al. with their nut blends. Most of the time, the least expensive ingredients are overrepresented in blends, yet the price charged to consumers reflects the higher-end components. You can save not a little money by purchasing the ingredients separately and creating your own fruit and/or nut blend. Added bonus: no picking out raisins or Macadamia nuts!

– Also, try to stay away from pre-packaged, pre-prepared salads, fruit or otherwise. We’re kind of straying into the “make it from scratch” area here (a topic I’ll be addressing separately), but you can also save money (and again, packaging) by purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables separately and then preparing and mixing them into salads yourself. The fruit salad in your grocer’s cooler section has a shelf life inversely proportional to its retail markup. And all that plastic, oy vey!

Probably there are dozens more examples of this, but I think you get the idea.

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Photo via Flickr user Chris Daniel; the revelation of baby carrots’ homosexual agenda via Stephen Colbert.

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3 Responses to “VeganMoFo, Day 27: Frugal vegans prep their own ingredients.”

  1. Shannon Says:

    I’ve also read that baby carrots are treated with a bleach or chlorine solution so they last longer. Eeeeeeewwwwww!

  2. Kelly G. Says:

    I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but that makes sense. Yuck.

  3. The Return of “Frugal Vegans…” & delicious-ness, Hoarded » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] VeganMoFo, Day 27: Frugal vegans prep their own ingredients. […]

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