Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vegan on $4 a Day

A few weeks ago, I received a copy of Ellen Jaffe Jones' new book, Eat Vegan on $4 a Day. The slim book features simple recipes designed to save you a buck or two. And most of the recipes do look pretty cheap to make. But naturally, I was drawn to perhaps the most costly recipe in the book — Chorizo-Flavored Scramble:

The recipe supposedly makes 10 servings, but I only got five servings from it. Maybe I eat a lot, but honestly, the recipe calls for one package of tofu and one 12-ounce package of frozen veggie burger crumbles to beef up the dish's volume. And that's not a lot of food.

Although the recipe claims to cost only 75 cents per serving, I'd say it cost me more like $3 per serving or $15 total since I had to buy vegan bacon, vegan burger crumbles, tofu, and raisins. I already had the rest of the ingredients, like Mexican spices, agave, and soy sauce, in my pantry.

But don't let that turn you away from this book. This recipe, which was super tasty served with corn tortillas, seems to be the expensive exception. Many of the other recipes are so simple, they cost only pennies per serving. The Hearty Potato Soup is made with veggies and soymilk and costs 50 cents per serving, and the easy Billfold Saver Black Bean Burgers (made with beans, oats, nutritional yeast, and veggies) are only 50 cents for eight burgers. Unlike the Chorizo Scramble, most of Ellen's recipes don't call for costly fake meat.

Now, the point of this book is to be a cost-saver, so don't expect gourmet stuff. These are simple "idea" recipes that most experienced vegan cooks could make without a recipe. But I appreciate ideas ... especially ideas that might save me money.

Check back tomorrow for another photo from Eat Vegan on $4 a Day, one that I promise was far cheaper to create than today's scramble.


Alexia @ NamasteYoga said...

looks like a good cookbook when you live on a budget. But 1 package of tofu for 10 servings is not a lot considering i usually eat half a package at one go. i guess it bulks up if u add veggies and a scrambled burger. I have never thought of using raisins in a savoury scramble. Did you like them in it?

T said...

I'm all for cheap recipes! But when I'm being cheap I rarely buy tofu or fake meat products and stick more to grains, potatoes, onions and beans. You can make a ton of cheap recipes just using those.

jessy said...

i was gonna say - that doesn't seem like it would make 10 servings and it didn't sound cheap either, but i'm glad it was delicious! looking forward to tomorrow's eats, too. huzzah, Bianca!

bitt said...

how disappointing. i've never been that into putting a price limit or ingredient limit on recipes, it always seems to make the chef cut corners. i don't get how fake meat can be that cheap either. prices vary too, so I am imagine that one wouldn't really be able to get everything for under $4 everywhere. but if it tastes good, that's a plus. hope there isn't too much soy in the book.

The Health Sleuth said...

ur honesty kicks ass. this book is definitely not for me.

Agnes said...

Portion size and serving size are different things. Thus "Supersize Me" was born. Serving size generally reflects standard measurements--ounces or cups, etc.. If you ate a whole bagel, you'd be eating more than one serving because a typical serving of bread/cereals is about an ounce, and most bagels weigh more than that. A serving of tofu is usally 3 oz. There'd be 4 servings in a 12-ounce package. A serving of crumbles is about 1/2 cup. There'd be 6 servings in a package. That adds up to 10 servings of these higher protein foods. I'd guess a half cup of this scramble is probably comparable to 2 scrambled eggs, protein-wise. Standard serving size info is helpful for those who track their nutritional data. I don't know about this book, but many cookbooks stick close to it. In the real world, most people eat more than one serving at a time. Depending on the foods chosen to eat alongside this scramble, one might be satisfied with a smaller portion. But if you're just eating it by itself, you'll probably eat a bigger portion.
I can find tofu cheap at the Asian markets, but burger crumbles are usually more expensive in the regular grocery stores. I typically use them in smaller amounts in soups and stews, rarely as a main component of a recipe. Crumbles are a more processed food than tofu.
I like raisins in savory foods. That's not unusual in Mexican or South American dishes. Picadillo might be a good dish for using veggie crumbles. Does she have that recipe in the book? Mole sauce often has raisins. Empanadas too. Okay. Now I'm hungry. Heh.
Thanks for the review, Bianca. I'll have to wander over to Amazon and check it out.

Ellen Jaffe Jones said...

My publisher tells me (I'm the author) when you play with fire, you're gonna get burned, and that I should only focus on the positive. I'm off to do a number of VegFests and talks the next few weeks, but this popped up in my Google alerts and I couldn't let it go. The reviews of my talks at VegFests have been so kind, so glowing.

As a former TV investigative reporter for 18 years, then financial consultant, I've spent the last 3 years crunching the numbers, living on the floors of Walmart and big box stores. I've tracked prices, taken lots of pictures of them and as the book says, it was a gutsy snapshot in time at the time of publication. It was an attempt to combat the many stories I see daily on the news that say you can't eat well on a budget.

Yes, you found about the only recipe that had fake meat in it. Most of the other reviews have glowed about how basic, easy and incredibly cheap my recipes are. The one you chose was a "transitional recipe." The original title of my book was "Eat Well on $4 a Day," but the publisher wanted to change it as the word "vegan" (thanks Bill Clinton) became increasingly associated with positive health. This recipe was one of those designed to reach the "Walmart" crowd who would turn their noses up at the word "vegan." As one Amazon review said, most of my recipes use basic ingredients, no dehydrators required.

That I got T. Colin Campbell (The China Study), Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Ruth Heidrich, Rory Freedman to write cover endorsements, along with Dr. Neal Barnard whose incredibly kind foreword says I'm the "perfect person" to write this book is, well, interesting.

Based on what they wrote in my book, they've written a different opinion than expressed here. I am not a gourmet chef, I tell my audiences. This is how I've lived my life for the better part of 30 years and have dodged genes that gave my mom, aunt and both sisters breast cancer and much more. This book is about the real cost of poor food you not only save money at the store, as well as at by avoiding diseases that send you to the hospital.

I would encourage you to read some of the more positive reviews on Amazon before rushing to judgement. I worked so long and hard on this. And in the true spirit of vegan sharing and compassion, I also encourage people to come to my Facebook page for more resources, information and sharing. Thanks! Ellen Jaffe Jones

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. As someone that is soon to start eating plant based I believe this book might be right up my alley.

One thing your review might have benefitted from was some recommendations of books.

Anonymous said...

Didn't sound like a negative review to me, Ellen. Maybe you're just a little sensitive from the Amazon reviews. I have the book and we love it.