The Broke Babe’s Guide to Groceries

December 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’m writing to you all now as an official college graduate. WEIRD.

My hopes were to graduate with a job lined up. But hey, life isn’t always rainbows and burritos. So currently I’m working part time and interviewing for bigger things. Fingers crossed something solid comes my way soon.

But I figured it was the perfect time to share my vegan grocery tips with you all. Being a broke college student for the last four years, and a current lady in job limbo, It’s pretty imperative that I stay within some sort of budget when it comes to groceries. Especially with Christmas just having passed. My bank account looks pretty pathetic at the moment.

But when it comes to groceries I can easily walk into Wegmans and drop $200 on organic everything and vegan novelties. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Wegmans, put that on your list of must-do’s; its the grocery Mecca.) But let’s be real, I’d feel super guilty and return it all… Can you return groceries like clothes?

I try to keep my bill to about $50 a week max. A lot of times I spend way less, and there are a few weeks I spend more. But it’s all about balance. And asking yourself, “do I really need this third bag of raw vegan coconut macaroons?” Unfortunately the answer is always no.

So without further adieu here’s what I try to do to save some dollars.

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  1. Keep the staples stacked- Yes, I really mean stacked. Stack those cans of beans and corn and veggies, and pile up those bags of rice, and jars of tomato sauce. I try to buy all organic and low sodium of these things because canned stuff can be pretty raunch. But it’s so cheap. Seriously. like 15 cents more and I can be sure I’m getting some quality organic canned goods. This saves me from having to buy fresh organic corn and veggies all the time. And cuts down on cooking and prep time by a lot! So they’re perfect in a pinch. Buying your staples in bulk will also keep you from resorting to takeout. I’m pretty lazy after a full day of working and errands. So the last thing I want to do when I get home is spend over an hour in the kitchen. Which makes trying to behave and not order takeout painfully difficult. But when the staples are stacked, It takes 2 minutes for me to dump some rice and beans into my rice cooker and in twenty minutes I’ve got dinner.
  2. Weigh your options- Canned, fresh, dried, frozen. The options are endless. But that’s the beauty of it. Think about your use for that particular item, and the best route for buying. For example, peas. I never eat peas. I love them, I just don’t think about them. So if I bought them fresh they’s grow some toxic looking slime in my crisper drawer. So then I immediately know canned or frozen are my best options. But which is cheaper? And how important is sodium to you? For me I don’t freak about it. But for some it’s like the antichrist. So don’t feel like you have to buy fresh all the time if there’s a better option for your uses and wallet!
  3. Shop around- I briefly mentioned my admiration for Wegmans above. It’s safe to say I’m a bit attached. Like a baby bird; Wegmans chews all my food for me and shoots it into my mouth for easy digestion. Well, not quite that graphically. But seriously. Everything is so clean. And pretty. And organized. And I know where everything is. And everyone is so friendly. And I never have to wait in line very long. It’s great. And their prepared sushi bar kills it every time, along with their copious amount of ready to go, hot vegan options! BUT. In my heart I know places like Aldi would save me some money. So I get what I can at Aldi, and then buy my other oddball stuff at Wegmans. Mostly just so I can get my fix, and still call myself a Wegmans girl. Seriously though, it’s like a cult.
  4. Shop seasonally- I’m still not sure where I stand on the whole “buy local vs. support world trade” debate. And I buy stupid amounts of bananas all year long. But buying stuff in season is one of the easiest ways to keep shock value low at the register. Potatoes and starchy root veggies during the fall and winter, berries in the spring, and cucumbers, tomatoes and such in the summer. My mom buys strawberries all year round but I just can’t bring myself to spend $8 on a pint of smooshy lookin’ berries. Plus, it’s more exciting when stuff comes into season- like a delicacy of sorts.
  5. Keep it simple- Stuff like tofu, tempeh, prepared vegan sauces, “superfood” powders, vegan cheese, granola bars, and ice cream is expensive as fu*k. Every now and then like for the holidays, or a special dinner party, sure. Splurge. Buy that $15 package of locally made tree-nut cheese because it’s So. Damn. Good. But not every week. Keeping your meals simple with starches, greens, and some seasonal fruit is the cheapest way to go. It’s when you buy the vegan chicken nuggets at $5 a bag that you run into problems. This is also a great way to cleanse your body. Minimal ingredients means easier digestion, which means your body can spend more time focussing on healing and cleaning. So simple meals aren’t just great for your wallet, but for your mind and body as well!
  6. Designate a grocery day- This one is tough for me. I love the grocery store. It’s my happy place. But it’s when I run to the grocery store 3 or 4 times a week that I end up spending money on things I don’t need. Plan a few fun meals for the week, and grab your staples all at once. Then don’t let yourself return until the next week. It forces you to use up what’s about to go bad in the fridge, and keeps you from buying that coconut yogurt you’re never really going to have a use for (But hey it was on sale, am I right?).
  7. Starchify your meals- Like I said before, focussing on  simple meals is the best way to keep your costs low. And the best way to do that, while also making sure you’re getting enough is to starchify your plate. Make at least half of it some sort of starch (rice, beans, potatoes, pasta, bread) and then the rest of it fruit and veg. The starch is the cheapest thing on the plate, so by eating more of it, you’re going to stretch that box of spinach even further.
  8. Bite the bullet- Buy the bigger size. I suck at this one also. I’ll buy the small bag of rice because I don’t want to spend the $12 or whatever it is on the huge bag. But that’s just silly. Most of the time when you buy in bulk it’s much cheaper. Just make sure you’re comparing the price per unit, and that the units are the same. Then look for the cheapest option. Be careful though, sometimes buying two of the small bags is cheaper for some reason. So just make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Pun most certainly intended.
  9. To go organic or conventional?- It makes me real sad that I can’t afford to buy organic everything. I wish I could. And I am so tired of the people who insist there is no difference. (Seriously! They’re out there! and apparently a good portion of them live in central New York.) But realistically at this point in my life I’d be sacrificing a lot just to buy all organic every week. So I just get what I think is most important. The canned goods for sure. And leafy greens like spinach, kale, romaine. Potatoes when I can find them. Oats and rice, because they’re pretty cheap to buy organic. Any nuts. Dates. And bananas. That sounds like a lot, but most of that stuff is pretty close in price to conventional. Except nuts, which I rarely buy anyways. Just do what you can, and don’t beat yourself up about the rest until you can afford to buy whatever you feel like.
  10. Treat yoself- By buying that nut cheese, or ice cream, or Amy’s pizza once in a blue moon, you won’t feel so deprived of the good stuff. Whenever I buy that stuff I feel like it’s a treat, or a special occasion, which is way more fun than buying that stuff all the time and then fretting about it. And again, by allowing yourself this once in a while stuff, you’re less likely to cave and order $50 worth of Chinese food.

That’s it! I hope this list was helpful to the rest of you broke a** vegan babes out there. And if you have any more helpful suggestions I’d love for you to leave them in the comments below!

xoxo

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Low Fat, Caffeine Free, Sweet & Spicy Chai

December 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

So I have to tell you, I’m not a perfect vegan. Sometimes I forget when I go out and order a fancy cafe drink that not everyone automatically uses non-dairy milk. I forget that a lot of drinks at cafes aren’t necessarily as homemade as I would wish them to be. Honestly it’s because it’s very rare that I spend money on fancy cafe drinks, so I forget how to order. And even when I think I’ve covered all my bases, I still make rookie mistakes.

About a month ago I went out for fancy cafe drinks with two of my girlfriends, and I thought I would splurge and get a hot chai. Of course I ordered it with soy milk. I was so enchanted by the atmosphere, the amount of chai options to choose from, the friendliness of the barista/ owner, that it didn’t dawn on me until after I took my first sip, that the chai mix probably wasn’t vegan. But I sipped on, considering the precious $4.00 I spent on this delicious drink from another universe. It really was so good. But I couldn’t shake the worry of there being some sneaky form of dairy in my cup.

So when I got home, of course I googled the brand of chai she uses, and to my delight they do carry a vegan line! Unfortunately the one particular flavor of chai I chose was not completely vegan. But I didn’t beat myself up about it. I’m only human, and it wasn’t like I cheated on purpose. And quite frankly, I wouldn’t cheat on purpose after dealing with the consequences of that sneaky dairy.

Later on in the night and throughout the entire next day my digestion was brought to a screeching halt. It was like my intestines just went to sleep. I was so bloated, crampy, and my appetite was just not the same since I had this stagnant matter in my tummy.

So all of this got me to thinking, how easy it would probably be to make my own chai at home. I did think about ordering the vegan flavor I found online, but to be honest I’m a broke betch these days and I feel much better knowing exactly what I’m drinking.

So I got to work with a little research, and luckily the health store in town has an amazing bulk spice section. I really am pretty spoiled. After lots of testing this is what I came up with; and yes it was equally as yummy as the dairy version!

You’ll need:

  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 4 whole black pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp fennel
  • 1 small sliver of fresh ginger, or 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 tbsp Rooibos tea, or other non caffeinated full-bodied tea
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1c almond, or other non-dairy milk
  • 1c water
  • A hand held strainer

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Bring the water and milk to a slow boil, and throw everything but the rooibos, vanilla and coconut sugar into the pot. Turn to low, and let simmer until it becomes fragrant (about 7 minutes).

Pour in the Rooibos and let steep for about 3 more minutes. Stir in vanilla and coconut sugar, and turn the mixture off.

Strain mixture into mug, and garnish with leftover cinnamon stick.

Feel free to alter it to your taste. If you like it spicier, add some more peppercorns and ginger. If you like sweeter, add a bit more coconut sugar and vanilla! I just found that this was the perfect combination for a balanced cup.

xoxo

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