New in Review: Fear Foods

I know some people don’t like the term ‘fear foods’. I know we shouldn’t be giving food so much power and control over our lives. But for me, fear foods are just that  — foods I’m still scared of in one way or another, but when I use them to challenge myself, I can take away some of that power.

The thing about my particular list of fear foods is that it’s changed a lot over the years. During the worst of my initial round of ED, I was scared to death of anything with fat in it. I subsisted on black beans, white rice and sugar-free Jell-O. At the beginning of my recovery, there were times that I feared almost any food my parents had me eat, since it took away my control. I remember throwing an apple across the room in anger. It shocks me now that I could be scared of an apple. Other foods have come and gone on my list. I still have fear foods to this day. Today, it’s mostly things I’ve deemed less than ‘clean’. Any added sugar, products with added oils other than coconut or olive oil, preservatives and the biggie for me, gluten and most grains. I eat gluten free not because I’ve been diagnosed with celiac or because I feel better without gluten (though generally I do) but because it’s become a fear of mine.

So for this edition of New in Review, I’m tackling a few fear foods. I can’t promise to take on the biggies but I did try some new-to-me things that still scare me to the point that it took me a few days after buying them to bite the bullet and just eat them.

  • Califia Farms Watermelon Ginger Lime Agua Fresca
Mmm, watermelon.

Mmm, watermelon.

After posting about this a few weeks ago, I honestly thought I’d never get the chance to try it out. But the Whole Foods here is pretty good about stocking new products. So when I spotted this, I knew I had to try it. Of course, I scanned the ingredient list and my heart sank a little when I saw cane sugar on the label. I guess I figured it was 100% fruit juice. Sadly, no, but luckily sugar is 4th on the short ingredient list.

Enough about my clean eating rant. I know you all want to know about the taste. It’s basically like eating a ripe, ice cold watermelon. There’s a little hint of ginger and lime, but the watermelon is the big star. And it’s definitely sweet, so I like to mix just a bit of it with water and shake it up with ice.

Pros: tasty, simple ingredients

Cons: added sugar

  • O’Dough’s Bagel Thins (sprouted whole grain flax)
Bagel thins topped with coconut butter and stevia chocolate chips. Side of Sunwarrior protein 'frosting' and berries.

Bagel thins topped with coconut butter and stevia chocolate chips. Side of Sunwarrior protein ‘frosting’ and berries.

Let me just start out by saying bagels are one of my biggest fear foods. I think the last time I ate a legit bagel was during my freshman year of college. I used to occasionally go to the bagel place in the student center and order a plain blueberry bagel, and eat half of it. I was still terrified of bagels then, but not nearly as much as I am now.

When I saw these at Sprouts, I knew I couldn’t pass them up. First of all, they’re gluten free AND vegan. It’s hard to find bread products that are both. Most have egg in them or other questionable ingredients. These are pretty standard, and healthy. And second of all, they’re bagel thins. I know I wouldn’t be able to get myself to eat a full-size bagel, but getting bagel thins means I can eat a whole bagel in one sitting. Disclaimer: it still took me three days from when I bought them to actually try them. So…the fear is still there.

As for the actual product, I’m on the fence. It toasted up well and is doughy without being overwhelming or too chewy. But the taste is off. For some reason, it has a slight fishy smell and taste, maybe from the flax, but I’m not really sensitive to the flavor of flax. It tastes fine when it’s topped with something, but I don’t think I’d buy these again because of that.

Pros: gluten free and vegan, 100 calories per whole bagel

Cons: weird flavor, they’re made with soy flour (I generally avoid soy) and have a little added sugar

  • The Gluten Free Bistro pizza crust
I love me some (gluten free, vegan) pizza.

I love me some (gluten free, vegan, homemade) pizza.

I already loved TGFB products before I tried this one. I’ve used their frozen dough to make pizza crust and cinnamon rolls, and it’s got a great texture and flavor. But I’d never seen their pre-made crust until a few weeks ago. This is yet another Whole Foods find, but if you check their website, they do sell them at other natural foods stores, and apparently some pizza places use their crust.

I’m a total pizza snob. You wouldn’t think a clean eating vegan would love pizza, right? Well, in my case, you’d be wrong. I skip the Daiya and other fake cheeses in favor of plenty of fresh veggie toppings. And when possible, I go for gluten free crust. TGFB’s crust is definitely the healthiest GF+vegan crust ever. It’s made of a mix of 4 GF flours (brown rice, sorghum, buckwheat and coconut) which adds a nice hearty flavor, tapioca starch, unsweetened applesauce, yeast, sugar (just to activate the yeast), xanthan gum, olive oil and garlic salt. No eggs or weird stabilizers needed!

The taste and texture are the best too. I much prefer thin crusts, and this one is thin while still being doughy and soft. It tastes a bit like sourdough, but it blends well with all toppings. And it reheats well the next day in the oven!

Pros: minimal ingredients, whole grain and gluten free, tastes incredible

Cons: a little expensive for just a crust

As for how I’m tackling these fear foods, the verdict is mixed. I used the pizza crust this weekend and got three solid dinners out of it. The juice I bought two weeks ago, and I’ve gotten about 1/4 of the way through it. And I’ve eaten one bagel thin so far…hopefully I can get myself to finish the rest. Luckily, they’re frozen so I don’t have to worry about them going bad before I can finish them. But I’d prefer not to toss them out  — I’ve already done that with far too many things in the past!

Do you have any ‘fear foods’? 

New in Review: Chai & Chocolate

I have a problem. A problem with starting too many post series that I never stick to. I did keep my College Vegan on a Budget series going for several months and obviously I can’t go back to it now as a post-grad. But several other series I had big plans for died an early death.

I’m hoping I can keep this one going for awhile. See, I like product review posts a lot. I read them when I spot a new product on the shelves and I’m wondering if it’s worth a purchase, or if I just bought something and want to see what other people think. Either way, I think they’re informative and fun, so I wanted to bring something like that to AlmostVegGirlie.

I’m calling this new series New in Review, and it will be my honest thoughts about products (not just food!) that I’ve recently tried. Everything I post will be products I bought myself, so no sponsored posts here. And I hope you find them to be interesting!

  • Quinn Kale & Sea Salt popcorn

2014-04-15 16.32.32

I spotted this at Whole Foods, and even though I eat grain free a lot of the time by default, I’ve been craving popcorn lately. Plus it’s gluten free and sounded interesting, so I bought it. When I opened the bag, I was surprised to see that the popcorn was green. Like spinach green. I love all things green, though, so it didn’t scare me away, though some picky people might be thrown off by it. But then, it is made with dried organic kale (and carrot), so it’s basically like salad 😉 

The ingredients list is stellar–non-gmo popcorn kernels (corn is a heavily GM product so non-gmo is important), sunflower oil (healthier than most veggie oils, though coconut oil is best), dried organic kale and carrot (seriously, veggies in popcorn is incredible), sea salt, onion powder and garlic powder. That’s it…just popcorn and spices and a little oil. The best part is how tasty this popcorn is. It’s got a slight veggie flavor but not overpowering, with the perfect amount of saltiness and tang from the spices. And it’s a little addicting, but in a good way, because one serving of popcorn (4 cups) is 150 calories.

Pros: organic/non-gmo, clean ingredients, good flavor

Cons: I wish there was more popcorn!

  • Maybelline Volum’ Express Mega Plush mascara

2014-04-15 16.33.47

I’ve been partial to Maybelline mascaras since I discovered their Illegal Length mascara. My lashes are fairly voluminous, so I’m mostly looking to add length and darkness. I like Maybelline’s mascaras because they last a long time (I use it daily) and are fairly inexpensive and available at regular stores like Target.

This mascara is gel mousse, so the texture is a bit different, but it doesn’t clump at all. It also has a flexible brush, which makes it easier to apply. I prefer washable mascaras so I haven’t tried the waterproof kind, but the washable one is easily removable with soap+water or makeup wipes but it doesn’t smudge either.

Pros: inexpensive ($7 ish for a tube), goes on smoothly, feels light

Cons: I wish it added length as well as volume

  • Fearless Chocolate

2014-04-15 16.33.18

This is officially my go-to chocolate brand now! So far, I’ve tried 4 flavors: Superfruit, Green Tea Mint, Exploding Coconuts, and Super Seeds Crunch. All of them are good, but the Exploding Coconuts is my favorite so far. It’s got great little chunks of coconut in it! Though I can’t wait to find their new coffee flavor–I love coffee+chocolate!

Fearless Chocolate has one of the simplest ingredients list of any chocolate brand. They’re soy free (no soy lecithin, which is hard to find in chocolate), gluten free, vegan and certified organic & fair trade. Best of all, they’re made with raw cacao instead of cocoa butter, making them purely chocolate, and organic cane sugar is the last ingredient, so the bars aren’t too sweet.

Pros: Basically everything I’m looking for in dark chocolate

Cons: I didn’t love the mint flavor as much as I thought I would, a little pricey

  •  Trader Joes Spiced Chai Tea

2014-04-15 16.33.07

 

I went to Trader Joes for the first time about a month ago, and while I’ve already finished off most of the things I’ve bought, I’ve still got plenty of pink sea salt and this chai tea left.

With the warm days we’ve been having lately, I decided to use these tea bags to make iced tea over the weekend. I cold-brewed them in a pitcher for 10 minutes or so, and then taste-tested. This tea has a great, complex spiced flavor but it isn’t too bold. It also pairs well mixed with a bit of stevia and some coconut-almond milk over ice.

Pros: budget friendly, good flavor

Cons: No TJs near me anymore so I can’t buy more 😦

  • Kevita Probiotic Drinks

2014-04-15 16.31.59

I still haven’t gotten on the kombucha train, but I loooooove Kevita! It’s a little fizzy, sweetened with stevia and comes in a bunch of tasty flavors (I’ve tried the lemon cayenne, strawberry acai coconut, mango coconut & mojita lime mint).

This stuff is about the same price as GT Kombucha (though generally cheaper at Sprouts and Whole Foods when on sale) and it boasts the same probiotic qualities. But there’s no weird aftertaste or floaties that come with some kombuchas. Plus it’s organic and made with reverse osmosis water. It’s almost like a light, refreshing soda but so much better for you and won’t make you all bloated like diet soda does.

My new favorite flavor is the lemon cayenne cleanse–it tastes like lemonade!

Pros: tasty, health benefits, lots of flavors

Cons: a bit expensive when not on sale

What new products have you tried lately? 

Getting Healthy: Part 2

The second in a series of posts about my health issues after eating disorder recovery. You can read the introductory post here

My doctor’s appointment and blood tests were over a month ago, and I finally received the results in the mail. I was anxiously awaiting them, hoping they’d be the key in helping me figure out why my body isn’t working the way it should.

I shouldn’t have put all my hope in the results, though. They came back completely clean, all within normal ranges. On the one hand, this made me happy, because who doesn’t want to have a healthy, functioning body? Everything I was tested for (which was a LOT, they took a lot of blood from me) checked out, including the thyroid test (TSH), which was one thing I was suspecting to be an issue.

Now I’m frustrated and confused. I got a voicemail a week or so ago from my doctor’s office saying I was referred to an endocrinologist. Of course, the timing isn’t great, since I’m moving out of state in two weeks. So if I want to figure this out (and of course I do), I have to find a new doctor once I move and possibly get tested again or get in to see an endocrinologist and have to explain my history. Also the fact that I may have to see an endocrinologist scares me, because that means it’s really a hormonal issue. It’s not something I can cover up anymore and pretend that it’s no big deal. This May will mark one full year without a period. I know some women recovering from an eating disorder go even longer without one, but the fact that I’ve never had one on my own is also a red flag.

I’m not sure where to go from here, and to be perfectly honest, figuring this out isn’t one of my top priorities at the moment. I’m a few weeks away from starting my first full time job, on top of moving to a new place and settling in there and finding a routine and figuring out everything on my own. I’m not planning on finding a doctor as soon as I get there, so this may be put on the back burner for a little while. I know that may not be the best thing for me, but it is what it is. Right now, I have to prioritize my new job and new life over my health.

Hopefully I can provide more updates in the next couple of months, but for now, I’m going to be focusing on moving and starting a job.

Have you ever prioritized something else over your health?

Adventures in Raw: Products I Love

As I’ve been transitioning into and experimenting with a raw foods based diet, I’ve been discovering new products I never knew existed even when I became vegan almost 2 years ago. I’m even finding new-to-me fruits and veggies at the store and it’s making me realize that veganism and even raw foodism isn’t limiting at all–there are millions of possibilities when it comes to food, without relying on animal products.

I’m definitely not a LFRV, so I still include some raw fat and protein sources and I want to share some of those here, as well as produce and seasonings I’ve found to be helpful in transitioning to raw.

Fats

  • Avocados: I can’t believe I used to only eat these in guacamole! Fresh-made guac is still a favorite of mine (my recipe: 1 avocado, juice of half a lime, sprinkle of sea salt, half of a chopped jalapeno, optional cilantro) but I also love taking half of an avocado and drizzling it with raw honey, cinnamon and sea salt. I also want to try out Veggie Nook’s raw coconut-crusted avocado ‘fries’! Avocado is a concentrated source of unsaturated fats, and when added to a salad, can boost the absorption of lycopene and beta-carotene. Even though LFRVs eat overt fats (like avocadoes) rarely, I try to eat a fat or fat-based raw dressing with my salads to boost the vitamin absorption.
  • Cashews: Cashews, though labeled raw, are never truly raw because raw cashews can be poisonous, but I always buy my cashews with the raw label because they are less processed and closer to being raw. Cashews are lower in fat than most nuts, but still provide plenty of monounsaturated fats, and add a creamy texture to raw desserts and dressings. I soak them before using them, and then blend them to make raw cheesecakes or raw dressings and sauces.
Raw key lime cheesecake with a soaked cashews base.

Raw key lime cheesecake with a soaked cashews base.

  • Almonds: Almonds are also a good source of heart-healthy fats, but they also provide trace minerals such as manganese and copper, which are beneficial to a raw diet. They’re also a great source of plant-based protein. I use them in making raw brownies, raw granola and raw almond butter.
  • Coconut: Possibly my favorite raw source of fat, other than cashews. I used to be scared of coconut’s high concentration of saturated fats, but the fat in coconuts is a lot different than animal fats. It’s also much healthier than vegetable-based oils like canola and soy and is very versatile. I use coconut oil in some raw desserts and it makes a quick dressing, coconut butter is great with dates and other fruit, coconut flour is high in fiber and makes a good thickener in smoothies and coconut flakes are amazing for raw coconut bacon!
  • Flax crackers: These are a really great alternative to wheat-based crackers and since they come in a variety of flavors (plus you can make them at home with a dehydrator or oven turned low), they can be paired with almost any dip or sauce. I love the Food on Purpose brand sold at Whole Foods (they’re made in NM, so they may only be sold in nearby states) and the Flackers brand which are on Amazon. They’ve got way more fiber and protein than traditional crackers and are a good source of omega-3s.

Produce

  • Greens: Leafy greens should be an essential part of anyone’s diet, but especially a raw foodie’s. It’s great to get a variety of greens to load up on certain vitamins and minerals, but if you prefer some over others, that’s okay! I personally love spinach, romaine lettuce, kale and bok choy. They make great bases for salads and also work well in green smoothies blended with fruit.
  • Bananas: The staple of many raw foodies, these are often eaten in abundance on a raw food diet, but don’t have to be. They provide a lot of potassium and a feeling of fullness, which helps on a lower fat raw diet where you don’t have many fats to fill you up. I prefer freezing my bananas and then blending them into banana ‘ice cream’.
cacao banana softserve with raw mocha brownie bites and coconut flakes

Cacao banana ‘ice cream’ (made with frozen banana, cacao powder, lucuma powder, 1/2 packet raw vanilla protein powder) topped with homemade mocha raw brownie bites and coconut flakes.

  • Berries: These are the superfoods of the fruit world, and for good reason! Blueberries are especially full of antioxidants and having anti-aging benefits, raspberries are very high in fiber, strawberries provide 150% DV for vitamin C and blackberries are high in folic acid and manganese. Other berries, like acai and goji, are also nutritional powerhouses and generally come in powdered or dried form, but all berries are amazing little fruits!
  • Zucchini: Zucchini has a lot of uses in the raw food world, from ‘noodles’ to hummus. I’ve even made a raw cheesecake with zucchini in it (recipe below–and trust me, you couldn’t taste it). Its neutral flavor lends itself to working well in many dishes, and it pairs well with bolder flavors.
  • Kelp: Kelp and other sea veggies are usually a hidden treasure of Asian cuisine that many raw foodists rely on to get enough trace minerals. Kelp in particular is a great source of iodine, and since many health-conscious people choose sea salts over table salt, they may be missing out on iodine without sea veggies in their diet. Kelp flakes are a great way to season without using salt, and kelp noodles are a rice-noodle like substitute that I personally love!
Raw kelp noodle pad Thai at Tasty Harmony.

Raw kelp noodle pad Thai at Tasty Harmony.

Protein

  • Sunwarrior (warrior blend) protein powder: Raw vegan protein powder isn’t just a dream–it’s a reality with Sunwarrior’s warrior blend. Their protein blend is made up of raw pea, hemp and cranberry proteins (so it’s grain free too!) and is sweetened only with stevia, making it a lot healthier than a lot of other protein powders out there. I love that one scoop is just 80 calories but provides 15 grams of protein, which really boosts my protein intake on raw days. It’s a bit high in sodium but that comes from some sea salt and the raw proteins. I prefer the chocolate flavor and love it in smoothies, chia puddings and blended with frozen bananas for a higher protein raw ice cream.
  • Sprouted beans and lentils: On a truly raw, 80-10-10 style vegan diet, protein is only consumed through fruits and greens, but a lot of raw vegans and other vegans like to sprout legumes to make them easier to digest. I have yet to sprout my own beans, but I really want to make some sprouted lentil burgers soon!
  • Sprouted quinoa/buckwheat/wild rice: These pseudograins are way more nutrient packed than wheat, and provide more protein than many other gluten free grains. They’re all technically seeds, making them okay for a grain free diet and when sprouted, are even easier to digest. I like sprouted quinoa for salads, and I usually soak raw buckwheat groats before I make them into granola in the dehydrator.

And now onto the raw cheesecake recipe! I don’t have a picture for it right now, but mine looks a lot like this picture I found on Tastespace. I’ve already made a raw key lime pie cheesecake and I wanted to do a take on a classic chocolate cheesecake, but with a nutrient boost from the zucchini. It adds no flavor but a great creamy texture and secret nutrition!

Raw chocolate cheesecake from Tastespace.

Raw chocolate cheesecake ,photo from Tastespace. (my own recipe)

Raw Chocolate Cheesecake (vegan, gluten free, raw, grain free)

1 cup almonds (can sub walnuts)

drizzle coconut oil

2 tbsp +4 tbsp raw cacao or carob powder

1/4 cup raisins

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours

3 tbsp maple syrup (can sub coconut nectar for truly raw version)

1/2 small zucchini, chopped

sea salt, to taste

In a food processor or high powered blender, process almonds until crumbly. Add in coconut oil, 2 tbsp cacao powder and raisins until mixture forms a sticky ball. You may need to add a bit (up to 2 tbsp) water or additional raisins. Place this crust mixture into a lined 8″ cake pan and set in freezer for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, blend cashews, maple syrup, zucchini, 4 tbsp cacao powder and sea salt in food processor. Blend or process until as smooth as possible.  Add additional sweetener or cacao as desired. Pour cheesecake mixture onto crust and return to freezer for a few hours or overnight. Remove from freezer for a few minutes before serving and top with fresh berries. Makes 8 small slices. 

What are your favorite sources of raw fats, produce and protein? 

College Vegan on a Budget: Doubling Up

One in a series of posts about how I stay on a budget while getting my fill of healthy, vegan foods from higher-end stores.

As it is the week before Thanksgiving break (hollllllla!) I was in a bit of a pickle. I was running out of some things I need weekly (almond butter, kale, nuts, olives, almond milk) but I didn’t want to make a big stock-up trip and end up wasting money on things I won’t be able to use up in a week or be able to keep around until after break. I knew I couldn’t really live on what was left in my fridge unless I wanted to be totally restrictive and veggie-less for the week so I made the trip to Whole Foods…twice! Yeah, crazy, I know, but one of those times I went with my mom when she came up with the rest of my family for the weekend and the other time was a semi-emergency trip.

All this stuff should last me through this Thursday, and some of it I should be able to take home with me over Thanksgiving or just leave here without risking food poisoning. And I didn’t spend too much, which is a total win!

*=organic

New find, just in time for the holidays! And it’s fair trade!

Whole Foods (trip 1)

What I Got: dark chocolate covered raisins* (a fear food of mine I wanted to challenge–they had pretty clean ingredients so I went for it), Justin’s vanilla almond butter squeeze pack (ran out of AB, needed a quick fix for a couple of days), Garden of Life RAW vanilla chai protein powder (OMG, so good, look for a review of it soon), Theo peppermint dark chocolate bar (splurge, but it’s worth it for good chocolate)

What It Cost Me: $32.15 (I had a $5 off coupon for the protein powder, score!)

Verdict: I could have maybe skipped the chocolate and the raisins, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could go outside my comfort zone and buy a couple items I’ve been wanting for awhile but haven’t been brave enough to try. The protein powder was a total leap of faith (I’ve had the brand before, but a different flavor) but it was worth the money–great taste, good nutritional profile, awesome ingredients. 

My bigger Whole Foods haul, with plenty of produce and staples.

Whole Foods (trip 2)

What I Got: Pacific Naturals vanilla unsweetened almond milk*, Rising Moon garlic merlot pasta sauce (my favorite brand for sauce)*, Made in Nature dried pineapple and apple* (on sale!), Truvia, Farmer’s Market boxed pumpkin*, Maranatha maple almond butter (new favorite AB), maple covered almonds, Nada Moo! mint chocolate coconut milk ice cream, Celestial Seasonings vanilla red rooibos tea, green kale* (also on sale), 2 small bananas, green figs*, bulk olives

What It Cost Me: $47.23 (not bad!)

Verdict: I am so happy I stayed just under $80 for this week’s groceries (this is a new goal of mine for every week) and I got a lot of good stuff I was out of so this was a much-needed trip. Even better, we went at night so the store was not crowded at all!

Like I said above, I want to try to stick to a budget of $80 a week on groceries (I think I can do it!) and this week showed that I can do it, even buying more expensive items like the protein powder and vegan ice cream. I know there are certain things I don’t want to give up, because the higher price is worth the health benefits and taste, but I also know there are ways I can keep whittling down my budget to consistently stay around the $80 mark each week.

If you use protein powder, do you buy it online or from a store? What are some things you can’t live without every week?

College Vegan on a Budget: The Big 1-0-0

This is part 2 in an ongoing series about shopping on a college girl budget, trying to keep my expensive vegan tastes in check. 

Okay, as you might be able to tell from the title, I spent $100 on groceries over the weekend. Well, $100.59 to be exact, but who’s counting? Oh right, my wallet is. To be fair, though, I had a few items on my list that were ‘necessaries’ but sadly, on the pricier side. But, I’m willing to pay the price for healthy foods.

Take maple syrup, for instance. I ran out of it over a week ago, so I had to stock up soon. At Sprouts, I saw some lower calorie, sugar free maple syrup. Curious, I checked out the label. It was made from xylitol, caramel coloring, maple flavoring and a few other ingredients. So, not as bad as normal fake sugar-free syrups, but no where near real maple syrup. By real, of course, I mean 100% maple syrup, either grade A or grade B. The good stuff. This xylitol syrup was $4, a relative steal for a maple replacement. But I decided against it, because lately I’ve been trying to go for the real thing, and not worry as much about the calorie count. As long as it’s natural, it’s good. So at Whole Foods, I grimaced a little paying $7.99 for a bottle of grade A maple, but it’ll be worth it for the rich taste and natural sugar source. And a little goes a long way, so it’ll last me (hopefully) 3 weeks.

This week, I’ll be splitting up my purchases not just by store, but by splurge vs. staple. The staples are things that I kinda needed, or that will last me for awhile and are therefore worth their price. The splurges might be inexpensive, but I tried to keep them to a minimum this week and I think I was fairly successful.

All this, for just under $20. This is why I love Sprouts!

I consider Sprouts to be like TJs for Colorado. Okay, so I’ve never been to a TJs (and I’m incredibly jealous of all of you who have regular access to one) but Sprouts is probably a similar concept. They have their in-house brand along with similar products to what Whole Foods has, but generally a lot cheaper. Their produce and bulk sections are a real steal. I got strawberries for $2.50, a plantain for 99 cents and some organic coconut sugar for under $5. Good deal, considering those things can go for much more in other stores.

Splurges: Larabars (I do need ’em for busy days, but they’re a bit pricey), vegan Greek yogurt, Nature’s Path maple cereal (I already had some cereal at my apartment, but I wanted to try this kind)

Staples: strawberries, dried mango, plantain (time for homemade plantain chips!), coconut sugar (perfect for baking)

What It Cost Me: $19.95. 

Verdict: Definitely a money-saver. The cereal was kind of expensive, but I think I’ll enjoy it and it’ll last a while since I mix cereals.

Whole Foods

My bulk and produce stuff. This time the figs were cheap!

I actually did okay at Whole Foods, despite spending $80. Trust me, it could have been more. Luckily, they were having a sale on all bulk items (score!) and a lot of their produce was cheap. I got kale for $1.99, figs for $3 (unlike the $6 they were last time) and 3 sweet potatoes for under $3. However, where I got in trouble was buying protein powder. I’m not someone who’s content with generic, cheap soy-based protein powder. I like my protein powder to be more natural, and plant-based. I had a $5 off coupon for some raw protein powder, so I decided to suck it up and buy some. It ended up only costing me $20 with the coupon, which is a steal for a high-quality protein powder!

Some of this week’s more fun stuff!

Splurges: maple flavoring (I was going to go for vanilla extract, but that was over $1 more), maple syrup (a necessity, but also very expensive), grawnola (totally have been wanting to try this for awhile), bulk maple almonds, organic ketchup (I could have gone for the cheaper store brand, but this one had less sugar), canned coconut milk (I want to try making my own coconut whipped cream), Theo mint chocolate bar (can’t live without chocolate, and this will last me a week and a half), Justin’s vanilla almond butter squeeze packs (they were only 80 cents each this week!), Garden of Life RAW protein powder (expensive but worth it)

My staples, for baking, cooking and just eating!

Staples: u/s vanilla almond milk (I bought the cheapest brand, which happened to be Almond Breeze this week), pumpkin seeds in bulk (they literally cost me 67 cents!), organic canned pumpkin (I scored the last can!), semisweet chocolate chips, Earth Balance coconut spread (I wanted to get extra virgin coconut oil, but they were out and I had a coupon), bulk olives, black figs (so much cheaper this time), kale (duh!), garnet yams

What it Cost Me: $80.64 (ouch!)

Verdict: I will be watching my spending more closely next time, but I also won’t have as many big purchases, like the maple syrup and protein powder. Everything else was under $5 each. 

I know that I can’t and won’t be spending this much every week, but sometimes it’s just worth it to get a few really good, healthy, high quality items. Luckily, a lot of the stuff I bought today will last awhile, so they won’t be weekly purchases.

What are your weekly shopping staples? Are you willing to pay more for certain things (like good chocolate, protein powder, etc.)?

College Vegan on a Budget: The Newbie

This is a new series I’m testing out and it’s all about shopping on a college girl budget, as a vegan who has healthy (and expensive) tastes. Enjoy!

I’ve never really grocery shopped for myself before. Yes, I’m a college junior and have been “on my own” (with my parents help) the past 2 years, but until now I never had the means to go grocery shopping. Sure, sometimes when I was home and had access to a car I’d pick up a couple splurges for myself at Whole Foods, but I never had to pay for staples and such. Now that I have a car and am living off campus with a full kitchen, grocery shopping is a necessity. I can’t always rely on my mom to get me what I need every two weeks, so I’m having to start grocery shopping for myself. Call me a nerd, but I’ve always had fun doing it! But now, it’s serious business–I have a budget I have to stick to. This week, it was $50 (plus $20 in cash that my mom gave me). Could I do it? Let’s see how my weekend shopping trips turned out!

So excited about the chiles, the coconut flour and the coconut Greek yogurts!

Sprouts

Can I just say that I love this place? Seriously, I can’t wait til the Sunflower Market back home turns into a Sprouts because it’s such a great alternative to WF. Now that I’m back at school, though, I have access to Sprouts which is great for my tastes and my budget.

I looked up their weekly deals and sales before I headed out so I knew what I should stock up on based on my not-so set-in-stone shopping list. And I tried to tell myself to stick to that list, but being the first time I’ve ever bought a lot of stuff on my own, I was like a kid in a candy store. I kept seeing all these things I wanted to try and I ended up getting a few things not on the list, but it didn’t turn out too expensive.

What I Got: fresh roasted Hatch chiles (made in store that morning!),  2 red mangoes , whole raw cashews in bulk, coconut flour in bulk (excited to try it), dried mango slices (nothing added!), 2 So Delicious coconut milk Greek yogurts (yay!) and a Luna Fiber bar. 

What It Cost Me: $15.43 (I used cash)

Verdict: I will try to shop here more often (even though it’s a little out of the way) because I got a lot of great stuff pretty cheaply. And they have a lot of products Whole Foods doesn’t stock, like the fiber bars, coconut flour and vegan Greek yogurts.

Oh peanut flour, how I’ve missed you!

Whole Foods

Ah yes, my favorite store! Unfortunately, it doesn’t always love me back. When my parents take me there, a typical stock-up trip can cost $60 or more. Since I was just planning on getting a few fill-in items, I figured I wouldn’t have to worry. Just to be safe, I kept my cell phone’s calculator handy so I could add up totals as I went along (and I’ll be doing this from now on).

Again, though, I went a little too crazy and bought several things not on my list. Good for my foodie curiosity, bad for my budget. But you live and learn.

What I Got: fresh black figs, raw agave nectar, maple almonds (got a little too many of these…), nooch (always necessary), kelp noodles, dark chocolate chunks (ran out and couldn’t live without ’em for a week!), frozen edamame (running low), frozen pineapple, PB2 (impulse buy…I was missing peanut flour, which I haven’t had in a couple months), vegan cookie, coconut milk caramel from checkout counter.

What It Cost Me: $39.32 (yikes!)

Verdict: I will definitely be sticking to the list in the future at WF! Too many impulse buys add up, especially the PB2 which was $6! I also need to be careful with the bulk stuff, since it can be expensive. I ended up with a bunch of almonds, and while I’ll definitely eat them, they weren’t cheap. Also, the figs were supposed to be $3.99 for a pound, but somehow ended up costing me almost $6  even though they weighed a little over half a pound (maybe they were priced wrong?). Definitely need to read labels more closely and avoid buying multiple things that cost $5 or more. The other items were really cheap, so if I had been more careful, I could have stayed under $30.

Obviously, I am such a beginner here when it comes to budget shopping. I wasn’t able to use any coupons, which could have saved me, and while I did try to avoid buying all the things I’ve been dying to have or try, I need to make more of an effort to do that. I will definitely use up all the items, but in the future I need to be more conscious of cost and if I really need it or if I can wait a couple weeks. However, I am excited to try all the new-to-me items!

Do you have experience budget shopping? What is your biggest grocery shopping splurge?