I am pretty poor right now as I finish up my undergraduate degree. I spend most of my money on school, then rent, then food. I don’t think a lot of people really take the time to budget their food or analyze how it’s being spent. I go to multiple types of stores to maximize my savings while introducing diversity to the foods I buy. For tofu, soy milk, noodles, and frozen junk food, I like to hit up the Asian markets. For canned goods and baking supplies, I go to Aldi. For bulk dried items, specialty vegan foods, and general “hippie nonsense” staples, I go to Whole Foods or the lovely Market District in UA. And for everything else, I make a weekly trip to my local Giant Eagle, coupons and reusable bags in hand. It seems like a lot of running around, but I never shop more than once or twice a week, and the savings I gain seem to outweigh the inconvenience.
In an effort to start budgeting my money and nutrition more thoroughly, I’ve started calculating food costs for some new and favorite recipes. Keep in mind, I am living in Central Ohio, where the cost of living is pretty low. These figures might be helpful for others to understand how much money they are spending on food and the value received from it nutritionally!
First up is this recipe for Creamy Lentil Lasagna (via VegWeb). I have a large quantity of dried lentils kicking around my pantry and I thought this would be a good place to use them. I ate a slice of this the night I made it, then put a few individual portions in tupperware for lunch and froze the rest. I’m a single lady, so 12+ servings of lasagna is going to last me a very, very long time.
You can find the recipe here, and here’s the cost breakdown:
*whole wheat lasagna noodles: $2.50 @ .75 box (1.875)
mushrooms $1.50 @ .5 container (.75)
sauce $1.39 one jar (1.39)
green peppers (2) $2.23 @ .75 (1.67)
*earth balance margarine $4.49 @ 3/34 (.39)
*soy milk $2.89 @ .25 (.75)
*nutritional yeast $.10
$10/12 = $.83 per serving
Even rounding up, $.83 per serving is pretty good. Paired with a slice of nice bread (free, because my bartender roomie brings it home after close) and a glass of wine or water, you have a very economical dinner. A slice for lunch with a small spinach salad is also very satisfying and filling. Specialty vegan items like Earth Balance and whole wheat noodles add up, but when paired with relatively inexpensive ingredients, it doesn’t inflate your price too much. I make an effort to buy organic ingredients (designated by the star*) but when I compared $4 pasta sauce to $1.30 pasta sauce, I had to go cheapo. Next week, I’ll be comparing the price for enchilada casserole!