College Vegan on a Budget: Makin’ Changes

An occasional series on my trials and successes in grocery shopping for myself for the first time while on a college budget.

It’s getting to be that time of year ago–finals week. Okay, technically it’s not for another 4 weeks, but close enough, right? With that being said, these CVB posts will probably be on hiatus soon for the next few months, as I move back home for the summer and hopefully go back to my parents paying for most of my groceries. I’m excited for that, but truth be told, I’ve been having fun and learning a lot doing this budgeting thing and I don’t plan on going crazy with the groceries once my parents are doing the purchasing.

So I’ve been doing a great job at keeping my weekly Whole Foods trips at around $60 or under, but I’ve failed at keeping my whole weekly grocery budget at around $80. I shop at Sprouts on a weekly or every other week basis and keep my costs to around $30 or under, but I get into trouble when I go crazy over their Larabar selection, or when I hit up yet another natural foods store in the same week (as I did last week, going to Natural Grocers and spending $20 on some super-expensive coconut flour bread, dark chocolate and cappuccino Larabars that were on sale) or when I buy food online from iHerb or Amazon (as I did two weeks ago). So for the rest of the semester, I’m going to be limiting those purchases as much as possible, probably only making one more purchase from iHerb to restock my peanut flour. And since I’ll be moving out of my apartment in a month, I need to get rid of some of the pantry staples I have, like beans and flours, so I’ll really be watching my grocery list and eliminating unnecessary purchases.

Sprouts buys.

Sprouts buys.

*=organic

Sprouts

What I Got: ALT  and Uber Larabars, Kit’s bar*, chocolate Kale Krunch* (not planned, but I’d never seen it before and was intrigued), cherry cola Zevia (on sale for only $2.99!), pineapple, Gone Nuts chipotle pistachios, unsweetened applesauce*, avocados x3*, serrano peppers

What I Spent: $32.70

Verdict: The raw nuts and kale chips were the only things not on my list (and the two most expensive by far) but I bought them because I’ve never seen them anywhere else and wanted to try them. I stocked up on the Zevia (a new-to-me flavor) even though I have some others in my pantry because they were a steal at just $3, compared to the usual $5 or $6. The avocados were bought organic because they were the same price as conventional and buying organic whenever possible is always best.

Whole Foods purchases.

Whole Foods purchases.

Whole Foods

What I Got: Gone Raw Thai curry cashews (it’s a problem, I’m obsessed), raw cashew butter (this stuff is AMAZING, and only getting a little bit from the bulk aisle saved me tons of money), bulk unsweetened coconut shreds, bulk white Turkish figs*, Medjool dates*, Veggie-Gos fruit and veggie strips*, canned green olives, Tom’s kids toothpaste (I had a coupon, and have been looking for a more natural toothpaste), cherry chocolate Vega One bar, plain Skinny Crisps (for an upcoming recipe), eggplant*, watermelon (yes!), 1 lb. strawberries (finally we’re getting into berry season), Ataulfo mangos X2 (tastiest mangos ever!), baby spinach*, fair trade vanilla extract (on sale and one of the only clean extracts I could find), Hail Merry raw chocolate tart (another thing I need to stop buying, I love it too much!), bulk fair trade 65% dark chocolate chips*

What I Spent: 60.76

Verdict: I have gotten SO much better at spending less at Whole Foods while still getting a lot. Produce is usually about 1/3 of my total purchase, which is really decent, especially for such great quality and sometimes organic produce. I still got a few fun purchases, but I’ve been better about not buying all my favorite splurges all the time. 

What fruit are you most excited to eat this summer? What’s the best grocery store deal you’ve encountered lately (for me, it’s either the Zevia, or the Larabars I found for under $1 each)?

Wants & Needs

I’m totally guilty of mixing up needs with wants. Especially when it comes to clothes. “Oh, but I need those shoes!” “I really need to buy that cute shirt.” #firstworldproblems. So maybe some of my needs on this list aren’t really needs but they’re definitely a lot more important than the swimsuits on my wishlist or the new food products I want to try.

I still want… this dress from American Eagle.

Adorable, and it's finally on clearance!

Adorable, and it’s finally on clearance!

I know you can’t tell from the picture, but the dress has little birds all over it…cute, right? I’ve been eyeing it since I first saw it in February (side note: I hate how stores stock all their spring clothing in winter when I can’t wear it for another 2 months). It’s finally on clearance…well, if you count 10% a discount. Maybe I’ll wait until it’s even cheaper.

I need… to stop getting sucked in to good deals at Target.

Darn you Target and your amazing items.

Darn you Target and your amazing items.

Who else gets sucked into the black hole that is Target and emerges half an hour later with half the store in your cart? I mean, you’ve gotta admit they have some pretty good clearance offers and even their regular priced stuff is a steal, but it’s an issue when I can’t leave the store without at least one impulse buy. This time, I was planning on just buying contact solution, but I left with a pair of aqua oxfords (to be fair, I’d been wanting them for awhile) and a sample mini-bag of cinnamon nut coffee. But shit, it was 99 cents It was literally only 99 cents and I thought it was cool that they offered samples of their flavored coffee so I didn’t waste $6 on a full size bag. At least I didn’t buy any of those clearance watches I was eyeing…or the mini dipping bowls…or the nail polish.

I want… to have enough extra money to buy all the cool food items I see at Whole Foods.

I could spend all day browsing the aisles of WF, and it’d be even better if I could stock my kitchen with all the foodie products I spot there. Things like fruit-flavored balsamic vinegars and fresh-made juices and endless salad bar lunches and raw cashew gelato and all the fancy chocolate bars. I try to stick with one or two ‘splurges’ per trip (less expensive things like kale chips and raw desserts) but if I ever have the money, I’ll definitely be trying some of those fancier things.

I need… it to stop snowing every week.

Come on Colorado. It’s April, get your act together and stop snowing on a regular basis. It makes me mad and messes up my week. I don’t appreciate it snowing, and then melting the next day, warming up for a day or two and then snowing again. I know that April is technically one of the snowier months, but I’d appreciate it if it’d start feeling like spring most of the time, instead of once a week. Thanks!

I want… an iPhone when my plan expires in December.

Totally jealous of the endless selection of cases for the iPhone.

Totally jealous of the endless selection of cases for the iPhone.

I currently have a Droid, and love it for the most part, but the only reason I got it instead of an iPhone is because my family has T-Mobile and up til now, they didn’t offer any of the iPhones. Well, rumor has it that that’s going to change soon, hopefully before our contract expires, because I really want in on the iPhone trend. Mostly for the cute cases, but also because I’ve heard such good things about the phone.

I need… to figure out my summer plans.

Right now, I know I’m going to be doing another internship at a different local TV station (this time, it’ll be in their weather department, which is where I want to get a job after college) and I’m super excited about that. But after signing up for classes for what’s hopefully my last semester of college in the fall, I realized that I’m still 2 credits short. I’d rather not take an extra semester to finish those up, so I’m probably going to end up doing an online class over the summer. I’ve just gotta figure out which one sounds the most interesting and hopefully easiest.

What are your current wants or needs? Do you have an iPhone, Droid or brick (aka super old phone)?

 

College Vegan on a Budget: A New Low

One college vegan’s mission to save money while still maintaining her clean eating standards.

I’ve really been needing to reign in my spending habits lately. Between a $40 iHerb purchase last week (mostly necessary, but some were impulse buys to get the free shipping), picking up a few personal care items at Target the other day that set me back $30 (including some heavier free weights–woohoo, I’m progressing!) and going out to eat a few times with friends (not a bad things, since I need to get more comfortable with this), the last thing I needed was a giant grocery bill this weekend. And luckily, I was smart with my spending and walked away spending just over $80 for the week. This has become my new weekly goal, so let’s see if I can hit it more often than not!

Sprouts buys under $30.

Sprouts buys under $30.

*=organic

Sprouts

What I Got: dried apple rings, Medjool dates, hazelnuts (for vegan healthy Nutella–stay tuned!), Kevita strawberry acai coconut probiotic drink*, raw cacao powder* (this brand was much cheaper than my fave Navitas Naturals), poppy seeds, cilantro, jalapeno peppers, Wholly Guacamole avocado verde salsa (one of the best salsas I’ve ever had!)

What I Spent: $26.86

Verdict: Again, Sprouts can be a big money saver. The salsa was literally $1–and it’s the best $1 I’ve ever spent! They have the cheapest nothing-added dried fruit and nut selection and their produce is dirt cheap, but is just as good as anywhere else. 

Whole Foods haul under $55.

Whole Foods haul under $55.

Whole Foods

What I Got: Kale Krunch cheezy chipotle kale chips*, 365 brand light coconut milk x2*, cashew butter, liquid smoke (for eggplant “bacon”), WFM brand almond oil, Hail Merry vanilla maple almonds, Hail Merry raw chocolate macaroons and chocolate tart, raspberry balsamic vinegar, Thai curry cashew mix, raw cashew pieces (on sale!), raw vegan brownie, pineapple chunks (also on sale), eggplant*

What I Spent: $53.47

Verdict: One of my cheapest Whole Foods trips for weekly staples ever! I even bought a few splurge-y items (ahem, raw desserts!) but still stayed under $60 and got a lot of things that will last awhile and stuff I needed for recipes I want to try out. 

What’s the best salsa you’ve ever had? What new recipes have you been trying out? 

College Vegan on a Budget: Under $50

A series about shopping for vegan groceries on a college budget, without compromising my values or health standards.

Another budget post? Yep, I’m just having a lot of fun doing these things and most importantly, I’m definitely improving on my budgeting skills. At least when it comes to grocery shopping. I needed another pair of jeans, so I hit up my city’s (lame) mall and ended up spending over $60 on a pair of burgundy jeggings at Hollister and a set of headbands at American Eagle. I didn’t need the headbands but they were so calling my name 😉 So obviously I’m still not great at saying ‘no’ when clothes shopping but what can you do when you’re a fashionista? Plus I justified it by saying I haven’t shopped for clothes in almost 3 months, so I was in desperate need (and still am) of some new pieces to freshen up my closet.

Anyways, this post is about groceries, not clothes. I was able to spend under $50 this weekend, and I shopped at two stores! This just goes to show that you can buy healthy, vegan foods at specialty stores and not burn a hole in your wallet. Obviously this was more of a stock-up-on-a-few-extras type of trip but it’s inspired me to try to pare down my regular shopping trips as well. I’m making a plan not to buy more than 1 or 2 special items a week–these things add up and I can’t afford to be buying multiple things over $5 or $6 each trip. So if one week I need more maple syrup, I’ll forgo buying some fancy nut butter or coconut aminos or whatever (I still want to buy those, BTW, but it’s $7 per bottle). I know that most of these more expensive items last longer, which is great, but I still can’t be buying them right and left.

My Sprouts mini-haul of the week.

Sprouts

What I Got: Medjool dates (much cheaper than at WF), plantain, garlic*, Bob’s Red Mill garbanzo bean flour (socca, here I come!), Metromint chocolate mint water, raw cashews, pomegranate, dried apple rings

What It Cost Me: $22.80

Verdict: I just really love Sprouts for their produce deals. The plantain was 99 cents, the pomegranate was $2.50 (and huge!), and the dried fruit is pretty cheap for having no added sugars or oils. There were a few more things I was planning on buying but decided not to to save money. But next time, I am definitely trying Zico pineapple coconut water!

 

Yummy Whole Foods buys.

Whole Foods

What I Got: Kaia sprouted party mix pumpkin seeds*, Chocolove peppermint dark chocolate bar, bulk cacao nibs, bulk almond flour, bulk maple pecans, 365 full fat coconut milk*, Vegan tropical protein powder, bulk olives, vegan chocolate mousse, sweet stuffed squash

What It Cost Me: $25.50

Verdict: The bulk bins save me again! I only have to buy what I need, so I end up saving a ton. Buying almond flour prepackaged costs about $8, but getting a quarter of a pound only cost me $1.20. And cacao nibs are usually very expensive but I got a small amount for just 98 cents! I prefer buying this way because I only make single lady meals, so I want my foods to stay fresh and by buying only what I need, I know it’ll stay fresh when I need it. 

I am super proud of my budgeting skills this week and I know I can make future shopping trips this cheap by watching what I’m spending my money on.

Do you do better at budgeting your grocery shopping or clothes shopping? What’s your policy on ‘splurge’ items?

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.)?