Tag Archives: healthy food

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

First off, please, let me apologize that there is still no video on my no electricity required hummus. I thought I would be able to squeeze in the time to get it completed for this week’s posting, but, I underestimated how busy I would be. I have several projects in the works right now that have consumed much more time than I expected and have a deadline before December 1st. So, I will post the video by December 2nd.

One of these projects is a personal one that I have been dreaming and wanting to cross off my bucket list for over 10 years. Ten years ago, I was introduced to the idea of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Every November, people from around the globe come together to write novels of 50,000 words or more. I just loved the idea so much that ever since then, every November, I have tried to accomplish writing a novel. But, every year, I get too busy and let other tasks take priority over it. This year, although I did not start out strong and thought I would give up especially because I am still grieving, but I have decided to give it my all in the last two weeks. I am grateful that I still have time to make the deadline even if it means that I have to prioritize it over other tasks. So, in the meantime, let’s talk about Thanksgiving.

Personally, as someone who loves to cook and eat, I love Thanksgiving. Most of the time, I am either cooking for myself or my nuclear family. Thanksgiving is a time that I get to show my love for family and friends through my cooking. However, I am not having a big Thanksgiving this year. My nearby relatives who always came moved across country earlier this year. So, this year, I am cooking for myself and my Mom (also a Vegetarian). Since there is just the two of us, I want to keep our budget in mind by doing something different this year. Instead of a more traditional Vegetarian twist on Thanksgiving meal, I am going to make our favorite meal: vegetable lasagna. When I post my hummus video, I will share pictures and the recipe that I used for my lasagna.

But, if you are Vegetarian, do not fret just because Thanksgiving is also known as “Turkey Day,” it is easy to enjoy a more traditional Thanksgiving. First off, if you are not doing all of your own cooking and you are visiting friends or family who are not Vegetarian, a lot of the traditional side dishes are naturally Vegetarian (Vegan can be a bit trickier). Secondly, if you are doing the whole dinner, your main center piece can be more traditional without being a heavily processed, soy-based, fake tasting tofurkey. Instead, seek out easy, hearty, filling, whole food recipes like grilled Portobello mushrooms, bean burgers, etc. Here are some ideas from Buzzfeed, with beautiful pictures that will make your mouth water: 22 Delicious Meatless Mains To Make For Thanksgiving

Last year was my first Vegetarian Thanksgiving. It took me a while to come up with the menu because there were so many recipes to be found online. Except for buttermilk in the cornbread muffins, all of the dishes were Vegan. All of the dishes were relatively healthy (no refined sugar or gluten) but they still tasted indulgent, and they were all relatively easy to make. For our main dish, I made Vegan Lentil “Meatloaf” (similar in taste and texture to traditional meatloaf) because I wanted a way to incorporate my Dad’s memory into our celebration. When he was alive, his favorite dish to make our family was meatloaf. It was a great Thanksgiving meal and the turkey was definitely not missed.

 

2013 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu
Appetizer
Kite hill vegan cheese with rice crackers (not pictured)
Main Dish
Lentil “Meatloaf”  
Side Dishes
Vegan Pralined Sweet Potatoes with Orange Juice 
Mash Potatoes (store bought) 
Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar 
Cornbread Muffins (not the exact recipe I used, but similar) 

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

What is your favorite Vegetarian Thanksgiving dish? How do you do Thanksgiving on a budget? I would love to know.

This year, I am also grateful for those of who you stop by my blog. For those of you who celebrate, I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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Moving Forward: A Food Challenge Update

#1: Eating Healthy For You

To be honest, I have never been a huge fan of salads. I know they are a healthy meal and an excellent way to get vegetables in my daily diet so I always buy the supplies. I appreciate people who love salads, but, I always have a hard time finishing everything before it spoils. So, in order to not waste food (and consequently waste money), I no longer insist that I eat salads. I focus on other ways to get my servings of vegetables so I buy greens that I can freeze. For example, I will choose to buy spinach instead of romaine lettuce. To be budget-friendly, before I go shopping, I compare between packaged frozen and fresh. Furthermore, I am careful to look at serving sizes on the package. In appearance, a package of fresh may look like you are getting more but you may be getting more in a smaller package of frozen. Also, the nutrients in frozen can be more because it’s packaged and frozen rightaway. If I find fresh is cheaper per serving, I will rinse it right away and put it into freezer bags. Then, I can be really creative in the way that I use my servings of greens in dishes like soup or pasta. Soup is so awesome on a cold fall day! For example, I made this Rice Lentil Veggie Soup where I included freshly frozen spinach.

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Veggie Lentil Rice Soup

#2: Save $ by Shopping Around Before You Step in the Store

Grocery List Creating App = Favado

This app is great for comparing weekly deals among your favorite stores.
You can see a list of all of the weekly deals by store or you can create your list by searching for each item. I found searching was the best way for me because I could find the lowest price on items that I wanted amongst all stores.

Then, once you find the deal for your item, you add each item to your list and it creates a weekly list for you, grouped by store, that you can print out and bring with you.

No need to search ads!

If you live in Northern California, the only downside is that Oliver’s Market is not included. However, I created my list and then compared it to Oliver’s ad online. This will be true for any local grocery chain in your area.

Money maker apps = Snap by Groupon, Shrink, BerryCart, Checkout51, Ibotta, Saving Star

Lots of apps but lots of savings. Each one of these apps give cash back (usually $.25 to $1.00) for making purchases on certain items. It also does not matter if an item is already on sale at the store, it still works. All you do is open the app and scan your receipt. Once you reach a certain amount like $20, they will send you the money. That’s it!

This week, I earned $7.75 in savings.

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#3: Fuel Your Body, Fuel Your Car

One area that I did not realize I would be saving so much money is on gas. As a huge foodie, I would drive out of my own city limits several times a week to go to my favorite restaurants. These trips are anywhere from approximately 20 to 40 miles round trip. Driving is relaxing for me (well, except in rush hour traffic) so the time it took me to drive these places was not a problem for me so I never really considered how much gas I was using per week to go get food. But, I was noticing as I was shopping more locally once a week, that I was using up a lot less gas. So, I decided to calculate this extra expense. I have a car that gets about 20 miles to the gallon. Even if I were to buy gas at its lowest current price of $3.19, if I eat out 3 times a week, that is anywhere from $9.57-$19.14 per week or $38.28-$76.56 per month. Instead, when I plan out my grocery shopping, I would spend about $3.19 per week or $12.76 per month. A huge savings!

If you eat out every day even if you drive to where you eat within your city or town limits (let’s say 5 miles one way, 10 miles round trip), your cost on gas alone if you have a similar mpg would be $11.17 per week or $44.66 per month. This only calculates the price of gas and not the wear and tear that occurs on the car. Do you know how much money you are spending per week or per month just on gas from getting food? There are definitely hidden savings when you start eating at home.

When I realized how much I was spending on gas, it inspired me to start saving on gas. Usually, I stop by the best priced station near my home or I let my gas run down to the point that I need to refill it at the closest station. I always like to save a few cents but, overall, I thought it would be too difficult to truly find the lowest price around. Again, my philosophy is that time is money. But, it does add up eventually and since I found such success with apps, I went searching for one for gas prices. Sure enough, there are some free apps. My favorite is Gas Buddy (see above picture for icon). It is extremely easy to use. You can even get points towards free gas by logging in local gas prices. And, the prices are updated frequently. Now, that I plan ahead for my weekly food consumption, I am planning ahead for gas.

For example: You need to fill up and have $15 to spend

Station A which is on your daily route near your home is $3.59/gallon so you get 4.18 gallons
Use the app, you find Station B which is a few blocks away but not on your daily route is $2.93/gallon so you get 5.12 gallons
A savings of $.66/gallon, you would get almost 1 more gallon!

I will definitely be using this app and not letting my tank near empty so that I can make wiser, more cost effective choices for gas.

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Source: PublicDomainPictures Pixabay.com

#4: Beware Extra Trips

I am really great at finding deals and getting lots of healthy foods for less but I am not the best at keeping track everyday on how much that gets spent on the extra trips. As I have said before, I am a work in progress. And, this week was particularly difficult. Whenever I found some great recipes that I wanted to try or I wanted a treat for when I was feeling down, I went to the store a couple of extra times. I even went out to eat an extra time. When life is overwhelming, I think a lot of us turn to food. And then, not only do our waistlines grow but also our wallets shrink. We ended up spending $111.17 in these extra trips out and to the grocery store. Eek!!!

This week, we spent a total of $271.05 which is $169.04 over my goal of $102.01 per week. Now, I have $40 total for the next two weeks to work with. It will be an exercise in extreme frugality. No eating out. This is a learning process.

Although I am a bit less optimistic than I was going into week 2, I still think I can pull off my challenge without starving in Week 3 and 4. It just gives me an opportunity to be extra creative. Through my successes and failures, I definitely believe I have the tools to improve next month and to keep this going long term. There is no reason not to eat healthy on a budget.

How do you stay healthy while on a budget? I love to get your advice and I will continue to share my tips and tricks. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

 

Disclaimer: I am not paid by anyone to make reviews or recommendations. I simply want to share what products and apps I find useful.

Food Budget Challenge Week One: 4 Discoveries

It has only been a few days into my Food Budget Challenges but I wanted to share some of the discoveries that I have made so far.

Discovery #1

One trick to save money on groceries that I have heard often is to meal plan. I think this is a good strategy. However, my strategy for this week was to find the cheapest healthy ingredients and, then, figure out what I was going to make with these ingredients. But, I am a bit excited because it will help me to expand my repertoire of foods and recipes. For example, I have rarely eaten eggplant in restaurants but have never cooked it at home. However, Sprouts Farmers Market was having a sale of $.88 per eggplant. So, I bought it. I ended up making an amazing pasta dish that I will definitely make and eat again. I will definitely post the recipe later on too. It was rather simple and made eight servings so it lasted a while for my two person household.

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Discovery #2

I love discovering new items. This week I found a new favorite at Trader Joe’s: frozen Fettuccine Alfredo. I have an intolerance to garlic and so a lot of Americanized Italian food is not a possibility for me to eat. But, as I discovered when I went to Italy last year, Italians tend to use a lot less and, a lot of the time, they use no garlic at all. So, when I saw that Trader Joe’s imported their Fettuccine Alfredo from Italy, I was excited to look at their ingredient list. No garlic! It has been such a long time since I have had Alfredo that I knew I had to deviate from my list and splurge on this item.

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The Fettuccine Alfredo was $3.99 for about 3 servings. Each serving was 370 calories. This would be a perfect economical dish for a busy single person because it is microwaveable and the package contained 5 little nests of frozen fettuccine with the Alfredo in little chunks so you could easily separate the bag into individual freezer bags of 2 nests each. If you purchased 2 bags, that is 5 meals for $1.60. Add in some frozen veggies to those bags and it would be a more balanced meal and still be under $2.

After grocery shopping, I could not wait to try the Fettuccine Alfredo so I made it for dinner that night. I made it according to the package directions for the stovetop but added in one serving (½ cup) of canned pumpkin ($1.99, 3.5 servings) and ½ package of their frozen organic broccoli ($2.49, 5 servings) at the end and cooked it for a few more minutes on low heat. Since I did it on the stovetop, I cooked the broccoli separately first. It was delicious! The pumpkin made it feel like an indulgent fall treat. After plating, I added a little sprinkle of parmesan cheese. We had gotten so busy with shopping that we had skipped lunch that day so we ate it all that night. Split in 2, it was about 607 calories per person but this could have easily been 4 servings.

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$3.99 for Fettuccine + $1.25 for organic frozen broccoli + about $.55 organic canned pumpkin = approximately $5.80 ($2.90 per person)

 Discovery #3

As I said previously, I tend to overeat when I am going through difficult times. So, I knew I would be tempted to eat all of my snacks. And then, the bulk items would not be saving me money but making me fatter more quickly. A solution I found was to put serving sizes of the snacks (especially the ones that I would be more likely to eat lots of in one sitting) into Ziploc bags. This way I will not be tempted to eat as much and I will maintain my savings.

Discovery #4

I love tradition and rituals, not only the ones that lead to healthy lifestyle like meditating over lemon water (see previous post) but also ones that bring people together. So, I have a ritual with my Mom that we go out for bagels and hot chai and then sit in the park on Sunday mornings. It is a way for us to connect once a week despite how busy we might be the rest of the time. It is also our cheat day so we do not feel bad about eating an unhealthy meal. But, now that we are trying to stick within the Low-Cost Plan, we are more aware of the price tag for our little outing. We wanted to get the same emotional benefit without spending close to $20. Last Sunday, instead of buying hot chai with almond milk, we bought one Venti iced tea from Starbucks and brought a second cup to share. Then, we bought one bagel to split and brought another snack from home. We spent around $5. A savings of nearly $15! Plus, we saved some empty calories as well. We enjoyed our time together at the park just as much. I also kept the Venti cup to help me drink more water throughout the day. I have good intentions in the morning to drink water but my other glasses do not hold as much liquid so I will forget to fill it again. Now, I get three times the water in one glass. We are also limiting our “coffee runs” to once a week.

We also like to have dinner or lunch out once a week. We often spend upwards of $40-45 for one meal. When our weekly budget for the rest of the month will be $102.01, this is simply out of the question. My goal for this week is to discover a place where we can have the fun of going out without the hefty price tag. I would like to see if we can spend $10-15.

Food Budget Challenge

I have been neglecting my blog and other social media for a few weeks now. When I started my blog, I had good intentions. I have many ideas and sources to share but the process of writing it all out has been challenging because I have been going through a difficult time in my life. My dog, Lizzy, who had been my constant companion for the last 16½ years passed away last week. She had been plugging along like she always had and then her health declined rapidly. I will be posting a little tribute video that I made from photos I had taken of her on my phone. There are many more over many more years but those physical photographs that are currently in storage.

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She’s Inspiring…

For Lizzy’s whole life she was a trooper. When she was just a puppy, she was diagnosed with several skeletal issues. Our vet told us to be prepared to not see her live passed age five. She easily surpassed this milestone and, then, when she was fifteen, she was diagnosed with several organ issues. This time, our vet told us to be prepared for her to not live more than six months. She ended up living to 16½ so I was grateful for every extra day that I got with her but it still does not make the sting of losing her any less. However, she taught me to be grateful for every moment and to not let pain or any other obstacle overwhelm your life (she never once, until the end, let her pain show). However, these past few months, I have been focused on helping her so I neglected my self-care. Now, to honor her memory, I have decided to refocus my energies on being healthy. So, I decided to take on a personal challenge:

Food Budget Challenge! 

Often times when I am having difficult times in my life, I overeat and I do not eat the healthiest of foods. So, as a way to not overeat, I wanted to go on a diet, a wallet diet. I want to save money while in no way willing to sacrifice quality or nutrition. For a long time, I have been under the assumption that living in California meant that eating well and eating cheaply could not go together but I have been inspired by many bloggers and experts in the area to give it a shot. A further challenge is that we have difficulty buying in bulk or extreme couponing because we have a relatively small kitchen and a small refrigerator with no extra storage space.

In Comparison 

I know my blog is about living healthy on a budget but, when it comes to food, I am still a work in progress. So, I wanted a guideline as to what a reasonable food budget might look like for my family. I live with one female adult. So, I took my estimations from “USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food Report for August 2014.” According to them, a family of 2 (male and female) between 19-50 years on the Thrifty Plan was $390.00 for the month and $497.30 for the Low-Cost Plan. By the end of the first month, I want my total food costs to be below the Low-Cost Plan. Then, next month and into the future, I want my target to be below the Thrifty Plan. Furthermore, my plan during this time is to share recipes as well as any tips and tricks that I pick up along the way.

 Starting Off…Week One Shopping 

I started this last week by combing through the ads that were sent in the mail. Based on the items I found in the ads and cross-referencing these with ads online from Oliver’s Market (a local chain grocery store), I created a list for the week. I wrote down all of the items plus their sale price. I also included any other items that I knew we would need for the week. Then, we went shopping at Costco and Trader Joe’s. I wanted to go to Costco and Trader Joe’s first because I wanted to see if the items on sale at the other stores were more or less than these two stores since I was unable to find prices at these two stores online. Some items were less expensive per ounce at Costco and others were more expensive. It was good to have my list to compare. The main items that were cheaper at Costco were POM Pomegranate Juice, Organic Strawberry Jam, organic pasta, and organic cereal. The items that were cheaper at Trader Joe’s were frozen vegetables, sunflower nut butter, and bread. Then, I went to Oliver’s and Sprouts Farmers Market. It was a lot of stores to visit and more expensive the first week but that was because we had not gone regular grocery shopping in months. We were either eating out or going to the grocery store to buy a few items every day. So, our cabinets and fridge were pretty sparse. But, we felt pretty accomplished for the space we have, the time it took, and the quality as well as quantity of items we purchased.

Grand Total 

For week one, we spent a grand total of $191.27 this is including prices for other food items that we had bought previous weeks but had not eaten a substantial amount of yet. This means that we have $306.03 left to spend for this month on groceries. This will average to about $102.01 per week. I am fairly confident that we will make within this budget because of how many staple items we bought this week that will last for the month.

Tips and Tricks! 

One of the tricks that I have discovered so far is definitely creating the list based on the ads. This worked very well but it was time consuming. I have the time right now but this may not be possible in the future. So, I discovered some free apps that are supposed to make this easier. I am going to be trying them out this month to see how they go. I will report back on how successful I was using them and if I will continue to use them in the future. These apps are: Grocery IQ, Shopkick, Favado, Ibotta, SavingStar, Checkout 51, and SnipSnap. I also started following some bloggers who do couponing that seemed promising. I believe that saving money
is important but also that time is money. So, in order to make the savings worth the time, it has to be easy and quick.

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I will be posting throughout the month both my successes and the lessons learned from any failures. I definitely think it is possible to make healthy choices while also being aware of budget.

Do you have any tips and tricks? I would love to hear them.