Archive for the ‘Frugal’ Category

I joined a no-sugar challenge group on FB this month and some people commented at the beginning that they spent a lot of money on groceries getting ready to eat healthy.  I haven’t tracked our grocery spending for a long time, but thought surely we don’t spend more than $500/mo., and that is with almost no meal planning, rarely eating out, shopping whenever we feel like it, buying lots of organics, good coffee, and expensive protein powder too.

So here is what we bought and ate during a recent week:

Organic Celery 2.99
Cucumbers 1.16
Avocados 2.58
Garlic 0.39
Ginger 0.8
Lime 1.12
Broccoli (2) 5.18
Bananas 3.4
Organic Spinach 15 oz. 6
Romaine Hearts 2.48
Cherry Tomatoes 2
Onions 1.24
Cheerios 1.99
Grape Nuts 3.69
Brown Rice 4
Wheat Tortillas 1.99
White Rice 1.19
Quinoa 2.96
Dried Black Beans 1.69
Dried Chickpeas 2.49
Tofu 1.99
Tofu 1.99
Soymilk 2.99
Soymilk 2.99
Peanut Butter 3.49
Frozen Veggie Burgers 3.59
Chamomile Tea 3.29
Boullion Cubes 1.59
Water Chestnuts 0.99
Coconut Milk 1.39
Pasta Sauce 1.59
Almonds 3.2
Trail Mix 2.35

Coffee 4
Protein Powder 6
Free Bread 6
Produce from G-Non 15

Total:  $111.78

I generously estimated what coffee and protein powder cost me per week, and also the worth of some gifts from my grandma – day old bread she gets free from a place by her house, and a whole bunch of fruit, lots of which I froze for smoothies.

The following is what I ate for the week, Jane and Nathan generally have variations on the same, with more rice in place of all my salads!


-Coconut milk yogurt w/grape nuts & banana

-Spinach salad w/black beans, salsa, and avocado

-Watermelon & dried apricots

Lentil Soup w/Kale

-Chia Pudding, rice cake w/peanut butter


-Oatmeal w/pb, flax, raspberries and some watermelon

-Lentil Soup w/avocado, then banana and cantaloupe

Orange Tofu w/coconut lime rice & broccoli

-Chia pudding and some rice chex cereal


-Decaf soy latte (gift from grandma)

-Smoothie (generally banana, greens, celery, raw ginger, protein powder, some fresh or frozen fruit, ice, water)

-Quesadillas w/mashed black bean, spinach, salsa, avocado mixture

-Cucumber salad

-More quesadillas for dinner!

-Toast w/pb


-Oatmeal & yogurt w/nectarines & blueberries

Quinoa & Beet Salad


-Toast w/pb

-Random dinner, I think Nathan and Jane ended up going to his mom’s:  Sauerkraut, bowl of grape nuts, chickpeas & rice, yogurt


-Cantaloupe, toast w/pb

-Spinach salad w/quinoa, chickpeas, avocado

-Stir fry w/brown rice, tofu, veggies, peanut sauce

-“Oatmeal Cookie” bowl (healthy almost sugar free dessert):  oatmeal, flax, banana, coconut, pb, cinnamon, touch of maple syrup & few chocolate chips.



-Waffles (we went to a local vegan brunch event – they make the waffles, everyone brings a topping, donation: $5)

-Chickpea/pasta/red sauce dish

-Veggie burger, salad w/quinoa, chickpeas, avocado

-Bowl cereal w/almonds & some chocolate chips


-Oatmeal & cantaloupe

-Scrambled eggs w/foraged morels (we chicken-sat for our neighbor’s backyard chickens so free eggs too!)

-Bowl grape nuts w/banana

-Salad & Veggie burger, leftover chickpeas/pasta/red sauce

-some almonds & crackers


What do you think?  Is this a lot different from how you eat, do you spend a lot on groceries?

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I’ve been craving this recipe since last weekend when we were at my parents’ house and my Dad agreed that packaged lunchmeat is icky, but “what am I supposed to eat for lunch?”.  This was the first thing that came to mind as something he might like instead, and I had planned to make it and bring him a sample today, but of course when I was at the store the other day chickpeas were the one item I forgot.

So now I’m enjoying it all by myself.  Friday night, Nathan went to a friend’s, Jane is sleeping, and I don’t feel the least bit lame for planning to go to bed early.  Looks like I really have come to accept this parent lifestyle.

Anyway, this salad is awesome.  Very easy, very cheap, and easily customizable, hence my lack of specific measurements.  Really all you need is the chickpeas, a crunchy veggie, mayo, and some spices.  Otherwise, you can make is as healthy (lots of veggies, less mayo), creamy, salty, or spicy as you want.

I had mine in a salad over some spinach, but of course in a wrap or sandwich would be great too.

Vegan Chickpea “Chicken” Salad Recipe

– 1 15 oz. can chickpeas (about 2 1/2 cups)

– 2 large celery stalks, diced

– 1/4 cup sweet onion, diced

– 1 big pickle, diced

– 2 big spoonfuls vegan mayonnaise (I use Vegenaise but have heard Earth Balance is very good also).

– 1 big spoonful tahini (I was running out of mayo and thought this would be a good sub, but you can use all mayo too!)

-1 T nutritional yeast

– few shakes garlic powder

– few shakes mustard powder

– little shake cayenne

– salt & pepper to taste


1.  Drain & rinse chickpeas, then put in pot with water and boil for about 15 minutes, so they’re soft & easy to mash.

2.  Chop veggies, mix in mayo & spices.

3.  Drain warm chickpeas again and mash in pot with potato masher or fork, then mix in with veggies & mayo.


P.s. I have to include some baby updates too.  Jane has learned how to “hug” and it is so, so sweet.  You’ll say “Janey give Mama a hug!” and she’ll lay her head down sideways on your chest.  She’s never been a cuddler so it’s really extra sweet =).  Also, my parents gave us their piano (which really hasn’t been used since I moved out a decade ago) and we finally got it moved to our house…  I haven’t played much at all, but Jane does every day:

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This is a salad my mom has been making for a long time, and is just about the only thing at our family get togethers that isn’t all about meat/cheese/mayo.

There’s something really addicting about it – the toasted nuts are so yummy and it has just enough sugar and ramen to make it feel indulgent, even though you’re eating loads of raw veggies at the same time.

Vegan Asian Cabbage Salad

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 T + 1 ¼ tsp. white vinegar

1/3 cup sugar

1 T soy sauce


1 package Ramen noodles (broken apart)*

2 T sunflower seeds

¼ cup slivered almonds


1 bag coleslaw salad mix (or 6 cups shredded cabbage)

1 cup shredded carrots

¼ cup diced onions


1.  Combine first four ingredients and refrigerate for an hour – make sure sugar is mixed in well before pouring on salad.

2.  Bake noodles, sunflower seeds, and almonds in a shallow pan at 350 for 10 minutes or until golden brown

3.  Put everything in large bowl and mix with dressing just before serving. (Don’t combine nut mixture with veggies until just before serving either, the ramen will get soggy just from sitting with the veggies.)

*The oriental flavor of ramen is the only vegan flavor.  You can save the spice packet and use later to make soup.


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Food Club!

I read about the food club concept awhile ago in some newspaper article:  Get a group of people (around 6?) to commit to being in the club and meeting once a month or however often.

You rotate hosting and whoever hosts cooks for the group, then everyone else makes a dish already divided into containers for the other members to take home.

It’s a pretty sweet deal – you cook one big batch of something, then get treated to dinner and take home several containers of food to eat.

Plus you get to try out recipes you might not have experimented with in the first place – everyone in our group includes a recipe card along with their dish.

This is great for me because I rarely cook for myself and when it comes time for a potluck I bring the same few basic dishes because I hate searching online through a million recipes and then wondering how it’ll turn out.

So, I started a food club with four other girls I know through Compassionate Action For Animals – we’ve met three times so far and it’s tons of fun, I was lucky to find people who are interested in cooking and won’t flake out.

Just wanted to share, if it might be an inspiration for anyone looking for something frugal and social to do!


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Everything I read says it’s sooo expensive to have kids.

I don’t believe this has to be true, but right now I can only speak with any credibility on what the costs are to prepare for having a baby. 

As of yesterday I’m officially full term, and we’re ready (in terms of material things at least!) 

Here’s a breakdown of our baby related expenses so far:

The Big Ones:

Medical Costs:  $1800.  (Out of pocket max + deductible)

Doula:  $600. 

The Small Ones That Really Add Up:

Cloth Diapers & Accessories:  $300.  This includes diaper covers, pre-folds, cloth wipes, diaper pail (a.k.a. plain garbage pail from Target), and washable liner bags.  I got some diapers off craigslist, but got overwhelmed with looking so ended up buying most of them new from Peapods and Green Mountain Diapers

Maternity Clothes:  $200.  I actually spent more than this but subtracted a little based on the average amount I spent on clothes in pre-pregnancy months (not very much!).  My maternity wardrobe consists of all my regular pants held up by a BeBand, a pair of leggings from Motherhood Maternity, 4 dresses, 7 tops, 3 t-shirts, and 2 nursing bras that I may return if they don’t fit well post-partum.  None of the tops or dresses were “maternity” specific and I’ll be able to wear them after baby, so the real cost is a little subjective.

Dresser:  $125.  A large, newly refinished, solid wood, great condition dresser from craigslist, delivered free of charge from about 50 miles away.  We looked around for awhile, including at places like Ashley Furniture and Slumberland, which were selling same size crappy particle board dressers for $300+, plus $80 delivery charge.  We also sold some furniture on craigslist to convert the 2nd bedroom to a baby room, maybe $100 worth, so the real cost of this is subjective also. 

Baby Prep Classes:  $115.  We took one class we had to pay $55 for and the rest through the awesome non-profit Childbirth Collective, which is donation based. 

Other Random Stuff:  Consigned bouncy chair & some clothes ($15), Glider from craigslist ($10), Adorable Froggie Hamper ($20 – I’m not completely immune to falling for cutesy baby decorations!) , Diaper Bag from craigslist ($25), Moby Wrap ($40), Books – The Birth Partner and Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth ($20, both recommended!), Pink Curtain ($20, which will serve as a closet door instead of the ugly heavy dark wood foldout one that was there). 

Grand Total:  $3,300

If we skipped the doula and some of the nicer and not completely necessary items, we could’ve saved about $1,000.  But, we are neither extreme minimalists nor dirt poor, so we spent more than we needed to. 

All other major baby items (crib, car seat and stroller, changing table, bassinet, clothes)  were gifts or hand-me-downs. 

My biggest piece of advice for saving money on baby stuff:  Get as much as you can used, then register for the rest at somewhere like Target where it’s easy for people to buy off the registry AND easy to return registry items.  Then be sure to return anything that you don’t really need! 

$3,300 is a lot of money for us, but worth it for what people say will probably be the most important event in our lives. 

Most women, even those way, way in debt, are wearing well over $3,300 on their left hands and probably spent many times that paying for the day the ring got put there. 

So, comparatively, I feel like our money has been well spent and that we haven’t strayed too far from our frugal values. 


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Our grocery shopping is done mostly at Cub Foods, with trips to the local co-op almost weekly for certain items, sometimes picking up a few things at Target if convenient.  In the summer most produce comes from the farmers’ market. 

And, the occasional fun trip to Trader Joe’s.  There isn’t one close to us or either of our offices, so we usually go there when we’re out in the ‘burbs visiting my parents or something.  I always considered it a fun stop for specialty foods, which is sort of how they market themselves, but I’ve realized after more visits that they really have excellent deals on quality staples.  (Trader Joe’s is fairly new to the twin cities, maybe the last 5 years or so?  I didn’t grow up with it.)

Some examples:

-O.J. with Calcium added:  $2.  Regularly $3.50 for generic Cub brand. 

-Frozen fruit.  Varies with type, but I’ve never seen cheaper frozen blueberries.  At least a couple dollars less than regular stores.  I always stock on up those, mango, and pineapple for smoothies. 

-Healthy bread!  It’s hard to find a loaf in the entire bread aisle at Cub with no high fructose corn syrup.  They do sell Ezekiel brand in their “health” section, but it’s $5 – $6, and just as expensive at the co-op.  TJ’s not only sells the Ezekiel brand for a couple bucks less, but they make their own brand of sprouted and other healthy breads for about $3. 

-Tofutti Cuties (soy ice cream sandwiches):  $2.69.  They run at least $2 more than that at Cub.

-Frozen dinners.  I don’t eat packaged food often, but it’s nice to have on hand.  TJ’s makes an all natural, vegan pad thai with tofu for $2.29.  One dinner is 600 calories with 840g sodium and 18g protein, so if I mix it all with some frozen veggies and eat half it’s a great meal in a pinch.  An “all natural” frozen dinner like that would be at least $2 more at other stores. 

I could go on….  cereal, almond butter, chips and salsa, olive oil, dark chocolate bars, even all natural soap are great deals at Trader Joe’s!

Based on the incomplete list above I’d estimate savings of $40 per month if I went and stocked up on some of the basics we buy regularly at Cub, etc. 

And let’s not even get started on how much I’d save if I was still a wino and bought their “three buck chuck”, instead of the equally shitty wine available for $7 at regular liquor stores! 

Just by writing this I’ve convinced myself to go there at least once a month to stock up on staples.  Also, it’s just a great place to shop.  The service has always been friendly, it’s a smaller space with way fewer crappy, unhealthy products than a big box store, many products are clearly labeled “vegan” or “gluten free”, you can put together great gift baskets there, they always have free coffee and samples… AND there is a liquor store attached!

Two drawbacks are the small produce section with lots of packaged products, and the lack of a bulk foods section. But hey, TJ’s can’t be everything, I still have the local co-op for those things.


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Just went to the chiropractor for the first time this afternoon.  I’ve never had any sort of back pain before, no injuries, no car accidents, have never broken anything, no major illnesses, never been to the hospital, nothing.  So it’s my very, very first experience with any of this. 

I’m distrustful of doctors in general and prefer to just leave my body as it is with no interference. 

But this back pain was not going away, so I had three choices – physical therapy, chiropractor, or acupuncture.  All of these I’d have to pay $300 out of pocket before insurance kicked in. 

Physical therapy was $250 just for the initial consultation.  The chiro was $100 for the first 2 sessions and people told me great things about what just one adjustment had done for them, so I made my decision.  (Acupuncture is still an option, but just seemed less likely to work…  I know people swear by it, but I can’t quite get my head around how needles in my arm or whatever will help my stiff back.)

So, recap – she said it’s my SI joint, not sciatica.  Basically it’s 2 joints somewhere in your low back that are supposed to be fluid and let you walk, but mine got tight somehow, probably from the lunges I tried to do at home a few weeks ago, plus being pregnant in general? 

She did 4 adjustments, one in my back, one on each side of my hips, and one in my  neck. 

I was really wary about those, just having someone crack my body like that.  Epecially the neck, yiiiiiiikes.  I told her my concerns, and she assured me it was completely safe. 

I’m extra paranoid because one of my close friends who’s had a lifetime of back problems, been to every kind of doc and specialist, and read countless books, said do NOT go to a chiropractor, they can cause more harm than good.  And then told me a scary story about someone she heard about who had a stroke after an adjustment. 

Soooo…  I don’t feel much different, but am about to go to the gym to get in a short walk and try to loosen up.  (Damn Minnesota, too icy to walk outside.) 

My head does hurt a little though, and I’m not prone to headaches, so I’m still paranoid about the neck adjustment.  And the sound was awful. 

Ok, any opinions on this?  Anyone been to physical therapy, chiropractor or acupuncture?  I want to know it all, good and bad.  I’m supposed to go in for a followup tomorrow afternoon and then she wants to see me twice next week.  She said after that I should feel at least 50% better…  I’m hopeful, but think I will refuse any more neck adjustments….


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Week 25

Pic:  “I can still see my toes!”

This week the relative ease of 2nd trimester seems to be coming to an end.  The entire week I’ve had a lot of soreness in my right lower back, to the point where it hurts whenever I put weight on it and I walk with a limp.  My midwife said if it doesn’t go away by next week she’ll give me a prescription for a muscle relaxer, which I plan to take her up on no matter how I feel.  I’ve never tried those and heard they’re great.  😉 

We went to IKEA today and got our crib, the white Gulliver model.  We chose it because my friend recommended it, it has good safety ratings, it went well with the changing table Nathan’s mom got us, and it converts into a toddler bed so we can use it until the kid is…I dunno, 4?  And it cost exactly the amount my grandma gave us to buy a crib (Thanks Nana!).  Otherwise we probably would’ve gone the craigslist route. 

As I expected, I’m pretty bad at this Vegan MoFo thing.  If you want to see lots of great vegan recipes, check out the rest of the blogs participating.  I don’t know how some of these people cook and eat so much. 

Last night Nathan threw together a simple sort of mexican style soup with a package of tex-mex rice,vegetarian boullion cubes, pasta that looks like spaghetti o’s, pinto beans, and frozen corn.  I added some tvp for extra protein and mixed in some steamed kale from the garden and that’s what I’m eating for dinner.  Very yummy, but no fancy recipe or pic…

Breakfast was equally “boring but great to me”:  A peanut butter, strawberry jam, and banana sandwich. 

I do hope to try out some new recipes for Thanksgiving though…


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This week I’m finally starting to look pregnant in my everyday clothes.  Not to the point where anyone who didn’t know would come up and comment, but a couple people at work said they can tell by looking at me now. 

I took a PTO day today and went shopping in an area of the city I don’t usually get around to, had some minor success at a long time favorite store called Heartbreaker that sells a lot of cheap basics but also $100 jeans.  I got two long comfy tees, one work appropriate long sleeved shirt, a pair of skinny leggings (to wear with the stylish yet good in snow winter boots I’m still searching for!), and the most comfortable pair of yoga pants ever, all for $41.50.  Below is one of the tees and yoga pants: 

Other than that no pregnancy news, except still having discharge and my vag occasionally itches like crazy.  One night this week it happened right before bed and I couldn’t fall asleep because of it.  Will definitely mention to my midwife at next Tuesday’s appt…

So, onto the food!

As I type this, Nathan is frying falafel for our dinner.  It’s not the deep fried kind you’d normally get at middle eastern fast food places, but lightly fried in olive oil. 

This is fancier than what we normally cook, we’ve made it for dinner parties before and just made it last week to bring to our friends who had a baby.  I sampled some of that batch and it was sooo good Nathan promised to make it for me again this week  =). 

The recipe is from Vegetarian Times:  Homemade Falafel Recipe  Their version isn’t vegan, but it’s easy to sub an egg replacer or “flax egg” for the one egg, and use plain unsweetened soy yogurt for the yogurt sauce. 


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So I signed myself up to participate in Vegan Month of Food, which is basically an event where people make a special effort to blog a lot during the month of November all about vegan food. 

It’s a good push for me to try and post a little more about “what a vegan eats” on here, despite the fact that I don’t really cook much, but even some of the simple things I make could be an inspiration for some people to just try out a vegan meal once in awhile.

Right now I’m eating some really delicious leftovers for dinner, it took ten minutes to put together and makes at least 3 good sized portions.  Let’s be descriptive and call it:

Broccoli, Brown Rice, and White Beans with Tomato Sauce

This doesn’t even need an ingredient list. 


1.  Make some 5 minute instant brown rice in a pot.  I made two cups dry = four servings cooked. 

2.  While it’s cooking, chop a head of broccoli and steam in another pot.  I put mine in a wide shallow pot, add a thin layer of water on the bottom, cover and cook on medium heat for about 4 minutes until bright green.  Or even quicker, defrost some frozen broccoli florets, but it won’t taste as good. 

3.  Heat up a can of white beans (make sure to drain and rinse first!) and some spaghetti sauce (make sure to check ingredients – many prepared sauces have cheese, lots of sugar, or other yucky stuff).  In the microwave, or just add to broccoli once it’s done steaming and heat through. 

4.  Combine everything in ratios suitable to your liking and mix in some nutritional yeast.  Really, this stuff sounds strange but it’s so good, TRY IT!  It really makes this “dish”.  Start with about a tablespoon.  Even my non-veg husband is hooked on this stuff now.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

This dish has everything – protein, carbs, veggies, calcium, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin C to help you absorb the iron (and I’m drinking some o.j. for even more!)  and it’s cheap and easy. 

This is the sort of “cooking” I usually do, throwing together some simple things, but this combo is especially good. 


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