Meal Prep Monday: Thanksgiving Redux

I’m having fun with these meal prep posts, so I thought I’d make it more of a regular thing here on AlmostVegGirlie!

This week’s edition is a bit of a throwback to Thanksgiving, because I made a couple recipes that are pretty Thanksgiving-y, but the best part is that they don’t require T-day leftovers to make. You can make these recipes whenever you have a craving for some traditional Thanksgiving eats, and they’re pretty adaptable to any diet–vegan, gluten free, grain free and no added sugar!

Groceries

Pantry staple from Natural Grocers and Whole Foods.

Pantry staples from Natural Grocers and Whole Foods.

Luckily I was able to brave the below-freezing temperatures and snow to get to the grocery stores on Friday. I stopped at Natural Grocers for a few things and spent under $20, and then hit up Whole Foods and spent around $55. I finally restocked my bean pasta (I got the mung bean variety this time, and it’s just as good as the black bean), got my new favorite stevia chocolate chips and some weekly staples like no-salt added beans, fresh ground PB and raisins.

Produce from Whole Foods.

Produce from Whole Foods.

Whole Foods had some pretty great deals on produce this week, with avocados 4 for $5 (I got 2), organic pomegranates 2 for $5 (I got 1) and Ataulfo mangoes 2 for $3 (I got 2). And I got my usuals, like bananas, romaine hearts and yams.

Groceries for recipes.

Groceries for recipes.

I also stocked up on some things I needed for recipes I planned on making this weekend. I still have been eating mostly no-sugar-added by default (not saying this will last forever, or even for the 3 weeks I planned on doing it for) as it’s just what I’ve been feeling lately, so I finally bought some date sugar to try out in dessert recipes. I love sweetening things with dates anyway, and date sugar will work better in things that call for cane sugar, so I can’t wait to give it a try.

Meals

Grain free apple cran stuffing, made with the best grain free bread I've ever made.

Grain free apple cran stuffing, made with the best grain free bread I’ve ever made.

The Thanksgiving plate. Thanksgiving veggie burger topped with homemade cranberry chia jam on a bed of spinach. Side of grain free apple cran stuffing.

The Thanksgiving plate. Thanksgiving veggie burger topped with homemade cranberry chia jam on a bed of spinach. Side of grain free apple cran stuffing.

I know I said that Thanksgiving is a not-so-exciting holiday for plant-based eaters, but for some reason I was really craving Thanksgiving flavors this week. It all started when I bookmarked this recipe for paleo-friendly stuffing, and when I realized it could easily be made vegan, I decided to give it a shot. However, I changed it up a lot based on what I had on hand and what I could find in the store, so I’m going to share my recipe here, along with my recipe for a Thanksgiving-inspired veggie burger.

Grain Free Cran Apple Stuffing (vegan, gluten free, grain free, no added sugar)

Bread

1/3 cup almond meal

2 tbsp coconut flour

1 tsp xanthan gum (can sub guar gum)

1/4 cup tapioca starch (can sub arrowroot)

1/2 tsp baking soda

Himalayan pink sea salt, to taste (I only used a pinch)

1 tbsp almond oil (can sub olive oil, or another nut/seed oil)

1/2 cup water

Stuffing

1/4 cup apple-juice sweetened dried cranberries

1/2 6 oz box of 100% apple juice (like the kid’s size apple juice)

almond or coconut oil, for sauteeing

4 stalks celery, diced

1 clove garlic, diced

2 tsp fresh ginger, minced

cinnamon, pink sea salt and other spices, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F (at a higher altitude, heat to 425). Grease a sheet of foil with coconut oil, and place foil on cookie sheet. In a bowl, whisk almond meal, coconut flour, xanthan gum, tapioca starch, baking soda and sea salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together water and almond oil, and stir in with dry ingredients. Keep mixing until ingredients come together and are a bit sticky. Spread dough out onto greased foil, and spread thin, about 1/2 an inch thick. Drizzle a little almond oil on top, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until bread starts to brown. Set aside to cool and harden a little, for about 10 minutes.

Lower the oven’s heat to 350 F. Once bread has cooled, tear or chop into small chunks, and place in a coconut oil-greased baking dish. In a pan on the stove over medium heat, saute the almond oil with celery and garlic, until softened. Add in spices, dried cranberries and apple juice, and continue to cook until mixture is fragrant and starts to thicken. Remove from heat, and carefully pour over bread chunks. Mix all ingredients gently, then cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes.

So you understand just how good the bread part of this stuffing is, I made a second batch of it the next day, this time sprinkling it with cinnamon and date sugar before baking…and I ate several pieces of it the same day. I don’t know how, but this bread has the doughiness and taste of a regular bread without any grains in it at all! That’s why I love experimenting with grain free baking–it’s so different from regular baking (especially doing it without any eggs) but when I finally figure out something that works, it feels amazing. Total nerd status, but I just love cooking!

I was going to share the recipe for the Thanksgiving veggie burger, but while the taste was spot-on, the texture was not. I’ve yet to make a perfect veggie burger–one that tastes good AND holds together without the use of an egg or breadcrumbs. I definitely don’t mind veggie burger crumbs, but they don’t exactly make a great recipe. I can direct you to the recipe I adapted for mine though, on the Post Punk Kitchen site. That one uses lentils as the base, which I would have done if I wasn’t lazy and had time to cook some lentils from scratch.

What’s your favorite flavor of Thanksgiving (traditional or not)? Any tips for making a good veggie burger that holds together well?

What’s in My Kitchen?

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people who LOVES grocery/fridge/pantry type posts. I like seeing what other people stock up on to give me good ideas and just because I love how differently everyone eats. It’s cool to see that diversity, plus I like to inspire other people to eat more plant-based, so here’s my take on the ‘what’s in my kitchen’ type post!

produce 9-27

Produce

This is a biggie in my weekly grocery budget. I think fresh produce should be the basis of everyone’s diet, and I definitely spend a big chunk of my money on it, but it’s worth it for the amazing taste and the health benefits. However, I’m not one of those people who buys the same fruits and veggies week after week–there are a few things I buy nearly weekly, but I like to switch it up based on what’s in season and what’s on sale. Here’s some of what I’ve been buying lately.

  • bananas, organic or conventional (I buy these as ripe as possible so I can use them right away)
  • lemons and limes
  • berries (Sprouts has some great deals on organic berries, and I try to always buy these organic)
  • figs (a personal favorite)
  • watermelon, depending on availability (I only buy in summer/early fall)
  • frozen fruit, organic (I like cherries frozen better than fresh!)
  • grapes, organic
  • plantains
  • mangoes and pineapple, if on sale
  • avocados, organic or conventional depending on price
  • hot peppers (Hatch chiles, jalapenos, etc.)
  • romaine lettuce, organic
  • baby spinach, organic
  • sweet potatoes or yams, organic
  • celery, organic
  • red cabbage
  • full size carrots, organic

groceries 9-27

Pantry/Fridge Staples

These tend to be things that last a week or longer, so even if they’re a little pricey, they’re worth the price in the long run since I won’t have to restock for awhile. Again, these aren’t weekly buys, and I often switch up brands/flavors of these things depending on what I’m in the mood for or what’s on sale that week.

  • almond or flax milk (I like Good Karma with protein unsweetened flax milk, 365 brand unsweetened vanilla almond milk, Califia Farms toasted coconut unsweetened almond milk)
  • coconut water
  • almond meal, from bulk bins
  • raw cashews, from bulk bins
  • dates and dried figs, from bulk bins
  • raisins, organic
  • hemp seeds, from bulk bins
  • dark chocolate (I’m really loving Fearless chocolate because it’s mostly raw and has simple ingredients)
  • canned no-salt beans (365 organic brand)
  • Whole Foods bread and butter pickles (made in store!)
  • sauerkraut or kimchi
  • raw buckwheat groats, wild rice, quinoa (pre-rinsed)
  • sprouted corn tortillas (Food for Life brand)
  • olives (from Whole Foods olive bar)
  • Living Intentions raw nuts (I love most of their varieties)
  • nutritional yeast, from bulk bins
  • applesauce, unsweetened
  • peanut butter and coconut butter (just the nut, nothing else added)
  • kelp noodles
  • coconut flour and buckwheat flour
  • Larabars (yes, these are a must have and I go through 4-6 bars per week on average!)

Specialty

These are things I don’t buy every week–I usually get them if they’re on sale or I’m really wanting them or need them for a recipe or something.

  • Hail Merry raw tarts (the BEST vegan dessert–and pretty clean, too) and macaroons
  • protein powder (my favorite right now is Garden of Life RAW Meal in Marley Coffee–a Whole Foods exclusive flavor–and I also like Sunwarrior and RawFusion)
  • popcorn (no salt, no oil from Whole Foods)
  • One Degree Organics cereal (I like that these are GF and made from sprouted grains and coconut sugar)
  • dark chocolate chips (Enjoy Life mini chips)
  • sweet potato tortilla chips (Way Better Snacks)
  • raw local honey or maple syrup (from bulk area so it’s cheaper!)
  • spices (pink sea salt, garlic-and-herb-no-salt blend, curry powder, cayenne pepper, garlic gomasio)

If I had to define how I eat, this is what I would say: I eat 99% plant based (other than raw honey), mostly gluten free (I only eat gluten if I go out to eat and I really want something, like a vegan pizza, and I know it won’t really bother me–I’m not celiac, but I feel better without gluten), grain free a lot of the time (I usually only eat psuedograins like buckwheat or quinoa if I eat them at all–probably 2 times per week at the most), produce lover (especially fruit!), tries to eat organic as much as possible, mostly a whole foods eater who still likes cleaner packaged foods, maybe 50% raw foodie and total sweet tooth that I try to tame with stevia, maple syrup, raw honey and coconut sugar. Honestly, I’m feeling better about the way I eat now than I ever have before, and it’s so freeing to be able to enjoy Larabars regularly without feeling guilty because they have so many calories, and to be able to eat intuitively and enjoy my healthy homemade meals 90% of the time as well as eating out and truly loving it. I know that to a lot of people, being vegan, gluten free and mostly grain free might seem restrictive, but it’s what makes me feel my best right now, and I don’t think it’s restrictive at all! For example, my family came up to visit me this weekend and we went out to eat at this awesome, hipster-type restaurant where I got a pizza on gluten free crust with kale, dried figs, mushrooms, garlic and olive oil (and ate 4/6 of it) and then had a gluten free vegan pumpkin cupcake (UNREAL!) without an ounce of guilt. There are still SO many things I can eat, and I’m not as strict with myself when going out to eat–as long as I stick to healthier vegan options, I feel amazing and not guilty at all! I’ve said before that I’d love to give a fully raw lifestyle a try, but I don’t think I could stick to it full time because there are some things I LOVE that I wouldn’t be able to eat on that diet, and honestly, those things are healthy too, just not 100% raw. I think it’s best to have an 80/20 or 90/10 mindset when it comes to eating–eat clean 80-90% of the time, enjoy whatever else you love the other 10-20% of the time and just don’t be so obsessed about food. Food is fun, and tasty, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all. Enjoy it, and move on!

What’s in YOUR kitchen right now? How would you define your eating style? 

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: Stocking Up

A look into my adventures of learning how to budget shop for healthy vegan groceries.

After my refrigerator fiasco of last week (BTW: I got a new fridge out of the deal, score!) I had to throw out a bunch of my food. Normally I don’t mind tossing things that I didn’t love or whatever, but now that I’m buying almost all of my own groceries, it kinda hurts to have to waste so much, especially not by choice. I just didn’t want to risk getting sick! However, I was excited to do a big restock of my fridge and freezer. Yeah, I get excited over grocery trips. Lame, maybe, but I don’t care! Anyways, I went on a couple shopping trips this weekend while I was at home and my dad was nice enough to buy a few things for me so I won’t be counting those things in my budget list, but I am pumped to try them. I got my first ever kabocha squash and after hearing so many amazing things about them I am roasting mine ASAP, and I also got a chocolate raspberry Raw Revolution bar that sounds so good.

Pantry staples.

Whole Foods

This is all the stuff I bought for myself to restock my fridge, freezer and pantry. I missed a few things, but I’ll be making a trip back next weekend for some extras. (*=organic)

What I Got: kale*, garnet yams*, black grapes*, black figs*, brussel sprouts, baby carrots*, Jazz apples, bulk nutritional yeast (nooooooch!), raisins*, unsweetened vanilla almond milk*, sprouted tofu*, bulk maple almonds (ob-sessed), garbanzo beans*, virgin unrefined coconut oil*, harissa hummus, pineapple upside down Larabar, frozen sweet potato puffs, kelp noodles, NadaMoo! mint chocolate coconut milk ice cream, dry roasted edamame, pumpkin puree in a box*, Justin’s vanilla almond butter squeeze packs, olive bar olives, black bean dip, fresh guacamole, hot sauce dressing (ummm, yes please), Truvia

Fridge and freezer stuff.

What It Cost Me: $81.84 (pretty good for having some higher priced items in there)

Verdict: So glad it came in under $100. I had to do a bunch of restocking since my fridge was basically empty, but I got a bunch of things that will last me a while like the nooch, coconut oil, hummus and sweet potato puffs. I only spent over $5 on 3 items, which is a great way to save money. Those more expensive items add up!

Produce (minus apples and yams).

Now I’m all restocked and ready to go for another week here at my apartment! I’ll be doing some meal prep throughout the week and will hopefully come back sometime with some recipes for you to try out. Tonight I’m making socca pizza for the first time…with a twist!

How much produce do you buy every week? What’s your favorite dip/dressing?

College Vegan on a Budget: Bulk Bonanza

Part of an ongoing series of my adventures in learning how to grocery shop on a budget, almost exclusively at health food type stores.

I’m back with another budgeting post after a weekend grocery haul and I can proudly say that I spent a lot less than last time. Like, I spent less than half the amount I did last time! This girl is definitely learning how to budget. Or maybe it’s just because I was extremely limited in funds this time around, with just over $50 to spend. Luckily I didn’t have to make any major purchases since my lovely mom was nice enough to buy me some much-needed items last weekend so this was mostly a fill-in type trip for things I am about to run out of or needed for recipes.

This week, I happened to do a lot of bulk buying. This is a great thing for budgets–you can just stock up on what you need, and generally things in bulk cost less ounce for ounce than things that are prepackaged. The bulk bins at Whole Foods and Sprouts have saved me a ton of money on must-try items like coconut flour, flavored nuts and nutritional yeast. Now let’s check out the goods!

Check out all the bulk bin bags!

Sprouts

I just stopped in for a few items I was hoping they’d have for less than Whole Foods, and they delivered. Well, kinda. The unsweetened coconut shreds I bought actually turned out to be a bit cheaper at WF, which kinda made me mad but I’ll know next time!

What I Got: Let’s Do Organic reduced fat unsweetened coconut shreds, So Delicious Greek-style vanilla coconut yogurt (finally they had this flavor!)

What It Cost Me: $4.99 (I paid with a 5 dollar bill, woo for having cash for little purchases)

Verdict: If only every shopping trip could be this cheap!

Whole Foods

I whittled down my original list to just a handful of must-have items and I did really well with sticking with my budget. I actually ended up with just under $10 left, which is awesome. I got 15 items here pretty cheaply, because I bought a bunch of bulk stuff and did some price comparisons for similar items.

What I Got: bulk almond flour, bulk raw macadamia nuts (I only bought about 1/8 of a pound, so they were super cheap), bulk nooch, bulk spelt flour (I was going to buy packaged buckwheat flour but it was $5 and this was just $2 per pound and pretty comparable, nutrition wise), vegan semisweet chocolate chips, Navitas Naturals raw cacao powder (a splurge at $10, but worth it), 2 Justin’s vanilla almond butter squeeze packs, 2 Vega One protein powder samples (running low on protein powder but didn’t have enough money to buy a full container), Hail Merry raw vanilla almonds (super cheap at just $3 for a raw product!), bulk loose spinach, Hannah yams (these look like regular potatoes but they’re apparently sweet potato-like), vegan cookie from bakery area, black figs (on sale for $3.99/pound, I got half a pound!). 

What I Spent: $36.87 (under budget…yay!)

Verdict: I was really smart about my Whole Foods trip this time around. I bought in bulk to save some money, weighed my bulk items to estimate how much they’d cost me and didn’t buy anything not on the list. Yes, there were some things I took note of that I wanted to buy another time–like, ahem, raw macaroons!–but I didn’t feel like I needed to get them since I know they’ll be there when I have more money to spend. 

I am definitely getting better at this budgeting thing. It feels fun to me now, instead of like a chore. I love doing comparison shopping and balancing out my purchases so they don’t end up surprising me at the register. And I’m learning the difference between splurges and staples, which is something that used to get me all the time. Some weeks, there’ll be more room for splurges and other times I’ve gotta stick with the list. And I feel like this week, I struck the perfect balance between getting the basics that I need and getting to try new-to-me items, like the almond flour and yams and almonds.

Do you like to buy things from the bulk section? What tips do you have for budget shopping?

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.)?

WIAW: Staples and Goals

Happy Wednesday, everyone! It’s also Lady Gaga’s birthday…can you tell I’m obsessed 😀 Ummmm yeah, so it’s also almost April and Easter–crazy stuff! In just a little over a month, I’ll be done with my sophomore year of college. I think my mom was right in saying that time flies by once you’re an ‘adult’–I still don’t feel like an adult, but I’m already going to be turning 20 in 4 months. Wow, where’d my childhood go?

Instead of reminiscing, let’s take a look at this week’s meals. With the change of seasons, extra daylight and amazing weather, I’ve been changing up my eats somewhat lately so I want to share some of my latest staples, plus an update of the goals I made for March.

Voluminous overnight oats topped with pretzel sticks, peanut flour paste, kettle corn, raisins and drizzle raw honey.

Okay, so overnight oats have been a staple in my life since last summer, but lately I’ve been loving on the sweet and salty combo. My go-to toppings are crushed pretzel sticks, almond peanut cashew butter, raisins and a little raw organic honey. I mixed it up on Monday when my peanut flour order came in (I can’t tell you how excited I was to see the package in the mail–can you say addicted?) by subbing PF paste for the nut butter and also adding in a little Whole Foods kettle corn. So. Good.

It looks like soda, but it's not and it's wayyyyy better!

I’ve professed my love for Starbucks’ unsweetened iced coffee a lot lately–but can you blame me? It’s just so refreshing! Now, I’m not hardcore enough to be able to drink it sans any sweetener–I just bring my own Truvia packets and stir away. That way, I can control the sweetness and it’s a natural sweetener so it’s healthier. My former favorite summer drink from the ‘bucks was their light Frapps, but this may be my new drink for the warmer months.

Fresh spinach and red cabbage salad topped with crumbled southwestern Sunshine burger and vegan Caesar dressing.

Usually my dorm room meals are sadly lacking in the veggie department. I usually have some baby carrots and edamame stocked in the fridge, and sweet potatoes of course, but I rarely have greens. After spring break, I had some leftover spinach, so I decided to bring it back up with me. Best decision ever! Now I’ve been able to enjoy a salad for dinner some nights. I’ve been really loving topping the spinach with a crumbled veggie burger. I haven’t had a Sunshine burger in several months but my mom happened to leave me some so I was able to have them again. I think they’re becoming my go-to veggie burger brand, because of how simple yet nutrient-packed they are.

Return of the snack plate: crushed Late July chips (summertime blues and sea salt by the seashore), Whole Foods kettle corn, raw kale chip crumbs, dried fruit (mango, pineapple, raisins and stuffed date), vegan pepperoni slices.

I rediscovered my obsession with snack plates over spring break, and I brought it back with me to school. Lately, I’ve been having combos similar to the one above. They’re the perfect snack for an indecisive person like me. I just love having a variety of flavors and textures to choose from.

Why didn't I try this earlier?

My bar obsession is still going strong. My current favorites are the Clif Mojo white chocolate macadamia trail mix bar, KIND peanut butter & strawberry bar, Pure chocolate brownie bar…and Larabars? Yes, I actually just tried my first one yesterday and wow! Why have I never tried these before? I love that they have so few ingredients, yet taste exactly what they’re named for. I guess I never tried them because of their low protein content (this flavor has 5 grams, though, and a few others have 6 grams, which is decent) and their high calories/fat. Since I’m working on feeling safer with higher calorie and fat things as long as they’re healthful, I decided to buy one, specifically the cappuccino flavor since I love anything coffee-flavored. It was perfect, especially paired with some dark chocolate chips! Now I can’t wait to try more Larabar flavors. I’m addicted!

Lovin' on the bright colors: belted coral ruffled tank (Hollister), pink plaid scarf (American Eagle), jeggings (American Eagle), various bracelets.

Not a food staple, obviously, but with spring and the warm weather, I’ve been really loving wearing brighter colors. I am not someone to shy away from color, even in the winter, but spring and summer bring out the color-lover in me even more. I love how the tank top pops against the dark jeans, and coordinates nicely with the scarf.

Now onto the goal updating. I actually think I did pretty well with most of them, and it inspired me to make a few more for April!

  • Eat more veggies: Check! This WIAW doesn’t showcase many, but I definitely got in my veggies  a lot over spring break, and have been doing pretty well with my limited groceries back at school. Some of the veggies I’ve been enjoying include spinach, kale chips, yams, carrots, red cabbage and grilled asparagus. I’m excited to eat my veggie quota again during the summer!
  • Summer internship: I’m happy to announce that I landed an internship with a TV station back at home. I’m super excited to start working and it’ll be a great opportunity. It’s unpaid, of course, but amazing work experience.
  • Cook more: I definitely accomplished this over spring break. Of course, it’s basically impossible to cook while at school since all I have is a microwave, but I’ve been making do. When I was home for break, I made quite a few things and even shared 4 new recipes.
  • Budgeting: This was one area I didn’t really do too well on. I got paid right before spring break, and all I could think of doing was going on a major clothes shopping spree. So that’s what I did, and while I don’t regret it, I wish I had planned out my spending more wisely. I also really need to work on my grocery shopping budget, since I’ll be doing more of that myself next semester and I need to not blow all my money at Whole Foods Paycheck.
  • Avoid food ruts: Spring break helped me do this, since I had so many more food options, but I’m still doing well with this goal even with fewer groceries at my disposal.

With my success at goal-making and accomplishing this month, I wanted to set a couple new ones for next month.

  • Eat more. This goes back to my honest post a couple weeks ago, but it’s something I need to be consciously working on. I don’t want to lose all the progress I’ve been making in my ED recovery, so this is a non-negotiable goal. However, it’s still extremely hard. Most days I’m never super-hungry, so it’s difficult to eat more than I have been, but I’ve just gotta buck up and do it.
  • Don’t get burned out. Yes, summer is just around the corner. Yes, finals and final projects are too. I’m in the home stretch, and I can almost taste freedom. However, I’m also starting to get really burned out with school. I need to keep my motivation going for the next few weeks so I can finish this semester out strong.
  • Focus on eating more “whole foods”. Obviously, this doesn’t mean just stuff from Whole Foods, as much as I love that store. I’ve been reading a lot lately on how processed soy products are really not that healthy, and I want to cut them out of my diet. I’m not cutting out soy completely–just the more processed stuff. I’ll still be eating edamame, tempeh, tofu (0n occasion) and Clif Mojo bars, because they’re all either organic or more whole/natural forms of soy and therefore a lot healthier. Yes, things like soy bacon and other fake meats are tasty sometimes, but I’m going to work on finding better, “whole foods” versions to replace them with, like Sunshine burgers which are only made with veggies, seeds, brown rice, beans and spices; and beans, quinoa, etc. I don’t think all processed things are bad, but I’ll be buying things that have as few ingredients as possible, or at least all pronounceable, healthy ingredients.

Do you have any goals for April? What’s one of your food staples right now?