how to be a vegan on a budget

Swagsters!

Life’s been busy again, I worked a fair amount of doubles in the past few days. Pretty unlike me, but I’m trying to do as much as I can before school starts!

Yesterday I went grocery shopping for the week, as I do, and I got a pretty nice haul for $53.22 (without even using my friend’s discount… I felt like I was cheating the system using it! 🙂 )

a week’s worth of yumm!

A few people asked me how it is I am making this happen, especially when I am shopping at Whole Foods. So, today, that’s what I’m going to share with you!

One of the things that really grinds my gears is when people tell me they can’t be healthy or vegan because it is too expensive. This is one big reason why I have embarked on this budgeting adventure. I want to dispel this myth! It does not have to cost a lot to eat clean, or vegan, or both. Instead of all your money, what it really takes, is a little bit of planning, and maybe even some self-discipline.

Here’s what I do:

1. The night before I go grocery shopping, I make a menu plan for the upcoming week. I refer to my Tone it Up! meal plan, I look at recipes I’ve pinned, etc, and I come up with 3 meal options for each main meal I eat.

2. When I’m choosing recipes to make, I look for those that use just a few whole ingredients. I also look for recipes with overlapping ingredients. It’s easier and cheaper to buy something that you can use in several recipes as opposed to on ingredient for only one meal. Keep it simple =  keep it cheap.

3. I consider what I already have in my house. Maybe this week I have some left over ingredients, or I still have a large tub of cooked beans in my freezer. I’ll use those instead of buying more ingredients. This will help you waste less, too, and that’s a big bonus!

4. When I get to the grocery store, I shop produce first, like most of us do, and I follow one strict rule: weigh everything. This will help you see how much you’re buying and can help you keep on track if you have a budget goal. If you want to take it to the next step, keep your phone’s calculator on hand, and keep a running total of what you’re spending. I do this regularly, just to make sure I’m not about to overspend.

5. Do not buy more produce than you can consume in one week. Veggies and fruit will keep for about a week in the fridge. When you’re buying produce, especially veggies, buy them in servings. For instance, when I’m buying veggies for dinner, I think to myself, I want x-days worth of brussels sprouts, so I count out x-servings and no more. If I’m buying broccoli, I buy crowns. 1 crown =  1 serving. No more than I’m planning to eat!

6. Stop buying canned beans! One of the biggest ways I’ve started saving money is to buy dried beans and cook them myself. One pound of dried beans costs about the same as 2 cans of cooked beans, yet you get about 5 cans worth of beany goodness. It may seem overwhelming to cook your beans, but it’s very rewarding and so much of it can be done while you’re doing other things in your house.

7. Stop buying veggie burgers and hummus! Make your own with the beans you’ve cooked! You can end up making more  burger patties than you need, so you can just freeze them and save money next week by not needing to buy a protein source! As for hummus, it’s so easy to make and so much cheaper.

exhibit-A

8. Stick to your menu plan. Do it as best you can. Sometimes I’ll refigure things a bit and make a recipe I wasn’t planning, but I always use ingredients I have on hand and I make sure that it won’t leave me short by the end of the week.

9. Freeze stuff! If it looks like it won’t end up getting used, throw it in the freezer before it goes bad! It saves waste and it’ll be there to save you money later!

So those are my main rules to follow. I don’t really coupon, as most of what I buy is produce or store brand. Certainly it is also helpful to look for things that are on sale. If I normally buy 365 brand, but Pacific almond milk is on sale, then Pacific brand it is. If a certain fruit is on sale, I may buy that instead of what I was planning to snack on, etc.

Let me also address the fact that I do purchase things that are, by all standards, expensive. My tub of protein powder costs $20, then there’s my psyllium husk ($9) and my chia seeds ($12-$15) that I keep as a part of my diet. (The latter two ingredients are essential to my personal digestive health, so I refuse to give them up.) However, because I am budgeting the rest of my week so well, I give myself the ability to afford those “luxuries.” Furthermore, those three things tend to last me a while (about 3 weeks to a month, each). They are certainly not weekly ingredients, so they don’t add up as much as one might think.

So there you have it. This is how I plan and budget my week of food and how I also can do it at Whole Foods. I am a happy, healthy, well-nourished, clean-eating vegan and I do not spend an arm and a leg on my food!

I hope this helps and of you out there that are trying to budget and plan.

Let me know what you do, if you currently shop on a budget! I love to hear new things I can do to save a penny here or there. 

Lemon Cream Overnight Oats

Well, Swagsters… this is becoming a pattern. Yet again I greet you with so much gratitude. Thank you all for such a positive response to my previous post. I wrote it for all of us, to bust the myth that makes so many girls (and guys) believe they have to do anything outside of what is true to them in order to achieve success. When you are in line with your true energy, you are in line with universal energy and when you ride that wave, you can only meet happiness, peace and success!

Let’s switch gears a little bit and bring it back to the NOMS.

I have a new recipe for you!

The other day I was looking through my pinterest food board (feel free to follow me here!) And I came across this tofu based lemon cream dessert that I had pinned a while back. As we are still in the full swing of summer (although my mind says, “August?! Let’s think about fall now!”), seeing that made me yearn for something light and delicious.

And then it hit me: Lemon Cream Overnight Oats. What a refreshing way to start the day, right? Well it turns out, that is very right.

summer in a bowl

I took a couple tries to get it right, so now, without further ado, I present to you:

Lemon Cream Protein Overnight Oats

Ingredients (1 serving)

  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 packet stevia
  • 2T lemon juice
  • 1T vanilla brown rice protein powder
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 2T chia seeds
  • optional: 1/4 cup berries of choice

Instructions

    For the Base

    • In a blender or food processor, add banana, almond milk, stevia, lemon juice and protein powder. Blend until smooth.
    • If you don’t have or want to use a blender, start by smashing up the banana really well. Next, add the banana to the stevia and protein powder. Finally, add the lemon juice and then, very slowly, add the almond milk, stirring the whole time to avoid clumping.

    Make Them Oats!

    • In a sealable tupperware cup or container, combine oats and chia seeds. Add your base to the top of the dry ingredients, stir until mixed well, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
    • In the morning, top with berries and enjoy!

    This recipe is so delicious. It’s light, yet very satisfying. It kept my hunger at bay for 3 hours! I love the convenience of overnight oats too. They take no time at all to prep at night and then in the morning, all you have to do is take them out of the fridge! Once school starts (in 17 days!!!!), I can totally see myself depending on these oats on my early mornings. There’s nothing as awesome as cutting corners in the morning, right? 🙂

    Pretty simple post for you all today, Swagsters. I’m writing to you from the bookstore near my work, but I’m off now to head home, lift some weights and make a meal plan for this coming week!

    I don’t know about you, but I love Mondays!

    How was your weekend?
    What’s your favorite go-to breakfast?

    relax, recuperate, rejuvenate

    A little later than intended, I’m back.

    These past two days off of work have been wonderful, and as much as I kept telling myself, “Jenny, you should blog! You should write! Don’t neglect it!” I just couldn’t bring myself to do any “shoulds.” I just needed to focus on self-care.

    So what have I been up to? Here’s a bit of what’s been going during my time off:

    Relaxation

    Yesterday, I walked to pilates class. The studio is a little over a mile from my house, and it was a gorgeous day to be outside. I felt little twinges, now and again, of guilt for giving up my shift… and then I saw this:

    divine intervention

    Signs from the Universe don’t get much more obvious than that! Silly as it may be, seeing this license plate helped me relax and know that I had done the right thing.

    Pilates was kind of a bust, to be honest. It was a beginner’s class, but I didn’t find it very challenging. Either way, I was proud of myself for trying something outside of my normal workout tendencies, and, I told myself… at least I walked there! 🙂

    I had a couple of errands while I was in the area, and the one I was most excited about was going to get a library card. I have NO idea why I haven’t done this any sooner. I’ve been swooning over some books online, reminding myself that I don’t need to spend a ton of money on books and suddenly the obvious hit me: get a library card, silly! So I did. 🙂

    And I brought this baby home with me:

    I’m a David Mitchell fangirl.

    Number9Dream by David Mitchell has been on my to-read list for a while. My absolute, all time, nothing better, mind blowing, life changing favorite book is his novel A Cloud Atlas. I’ve been itching to read more of his work for a while now. I’m almost 100 pages in (oh man, I love days off), and so far I’m really loving it. It’s different than A Cloud Atlas, but not in a bad way. If it’s anything as life changing, rest assured, I’ll be writing about here. 🙂

    #BudgetVegan food

    Today was the last day of week 2 on my grocery budget. This week was much better than week 1. I found that by the end of the week I a) was not running out of as much food (I didn’t need a replenishment trip at all!) and b) was not bored by too many leftovers. I was able to add more variety in my diet this past week, and I even found room to stray a bit from my planned menu.

    cheezy lentils stuffed pepper

    This was one of my unexpected meals. I had bought this red pepper intending to make a tofu scramble, but somehow that never happened. In the spirit of wasting less, I decided to stuff it! The insides are just green lentils in a cheezy sauce. I’m still tweaking the sauce recipe, and then I”ll post the recipe for this baby. This was super yummy and I can’t wait to refine it. Even Markus was impressed with my fancy looking dinner!

    warm peanut butter cup protein oats

    I have really been enjoying my protein oats with cooked oats this week. This particular version includes cocoa powder and is topped with PB2, watered down to a saucy consistency. I’m not sure if it’s because the oats are cooked , or what’s going on, but this week I have not needed a snack between breakfast and lunch. This is such a satisfying meal that today I had to force myself to eat lunch 4 hours after breakfast. If you know me, you know that is a looooooong time for me to go without eating. I usually eat every 2-2.5 hours.

    homemade hummus on quinoa flax bread

    Lunch today was the first time I realized I was running low on things. Not too shabby, considering it took to the last day of the week to get there! I only had a small bit of veggies left, and those were reserved for dinner, so I made one of my favorite, most simple lunches. As I said, I wasn’t super hungry yet, so I went with something smaller. Markus bought some quinoa and flax bread from Whole Foods, and so I, um, borrowed (thanks, honeybuns) two small slices, toasted them and topped them with homemade hummus and avocado. On the side I had half of a grapefruit.

    Then it was grocery time! Today was an exciting day: I got a discount at Whole Foods. I have a friend who works there and graciously allowed me to use his discount.

    20%, y’all.

    However, I didn’t want to use this as an opportunity to cheat. If I spent my whole budget ($55 this week) after the discount, I would have considered it a fail. So I still weighed all my veggies and fruit, only bought what I needed for the week, and chose brands that were on sale, etc. Before my discount I ended up at $60. I don’t know how that happened, except for maybe the part where I bought $9 (aka 3 pounds) worth of brussels sprouts. Oops.

    Actually, I did buy a few extra veggies that aren’t normally on my weekly list, like chard and some mushrooms. Either way, going over by $5 is no big deal, and again, I won’t need to go to the grocery again until next Tuesday.

    But lest we forget the discount. What I actually paid was $48.

    Damn, that felt good.

    I got a LOT of food for $60.

    Moving forward, I will definitely be reconsidering my purchases to try and get closer to my budget goals. I figure a margin of $5 is not a terribly large margin, anyway. But maybe there was room for some rearranging and rethinking. Who knows! It’s still a process of learning and either way, I’m still saving between $60 and $70 a week by menu planning and paying strict attention to what I’m putting in my cart. I can’t fault myself for the extra $5!

    So, Swagsters… What have you been up to the past few days?

     

    photo dump: food prep

    Swagsters!

    ….I’m tired.

    It’s been a busy Wednesday so far! I am about half way into a 12 day stretch of work, so all my spare time right now is being spent keeping my home life organized. Markus had to be at work at 6 this morning, so we got up around 5:30. When I got back from dropping him off, I got back in bed for a bit, but couldn’t sleep, really, so I got up and went to have breakfast.

    Initially, I had planned on going to BodyPump at 10 am, but last night my $6.49 dumbbell bargain steal was delivered by UPS! And since I just vastly prefer working out on my time rather than the gym’s schedule, I decided I would begin my home weightlifting workouts today! Today I started with back and shoulders. I did the following workout:

    super sets: 3 sets, 15 reps each

    I would love to tell you what I mean by “BodyPump rotator” above, but I have no idea what the real exercise is called. Hehehe. Total fail, I’m sorry… I’ll look into it and get back to you all. 🙂 I also started with a short plyometric warm up to get my body prepped. I just love weights! By the time I was finished, my shoulders were definitely burnt out.

    After my workout, I put myself straight to the kitchen to start prepping all my food for the week.

    Yesterday I did my grocery shopping at Whole Foods. If I calculated correctly, I shouldn’t need to restock at all this week, except for maybe bananas. I spent $53.90, a mere $3.90 more than my goal of $50. Woohoo! It was also a “heavy” grocery week, in that I needed some staples like apple cider vinegar and oats, etc, that bumped my total up. But those are things I won’t need to buy again for a while, so it’s all good!

    the haul

    One of the things I did this week was to buy dried chickpeas instead of canned. It is way cheaper. One bag costs about what 2 cans would, but you probably get somewhere around 4 or 5 cans worth of beans. #winning

    So last night I soaked my chickpeas and this morning I cooked them while I worked out.

    cook while you’re sleeping! rinse and soak your dried beans overnight.

    it takes 1.5 hours to cook garbanzo beans. put ’em in the pot and leave ’em to do their thing while you do chores, homework or a workout!

    I really enjoyed the process of getting these beans ready to eat. I likened it to baking bread. It’s a long process, yes, but you get to really understand how your food comes together and what goes into the bag or can of product you buy at the store. I find this very meditative as well: watching, noticing, staying aware of the state of your food. It’s beautiful.

    Once my chickpeas were cooked, I decided to make a batch of hummus and Tone It Up! garbanzo patties.

    mmmmhummusmmm

    I used this recipe for my hummus. It’s pretty basic and quite yummy, but moving forward I will tweak it to be more my liking. (Read: more garlic! Less lemon! More tahini!)

    Tone It Up! garbanzo patties from their nutrition plan!

    I prepped these bad boys and then put them in the freezer. All they’ll take is a few minutes on a skillet and they’ll make a quick, delicious protein option. I did alter the recipe a bit, using almond meal instead of flax and adding curry to the flavor profile.

    I used 3.5 cups of garbanzo beans between these two recipes, and I swear I still have another 2.5 cups left! I put those in the freezer as well, and will use them later this week or maybe even next week! (Can I get a woop woop for stretching that budget?!)

    Next I made black bean patties, also from the Tone It Up! recipe plan. (Confession: this week I resorted to my Tone It Up! nutrition plan for lots of my meals. If you’re new to clean eating, or even if you aren’t, I highly recommend trying their plan out. They have some super awesome vegan recipes and I always consider it to be some of the best money I ever spent.)

    yum!

    I used my last can of black beans to make these, and a can only makes 3 patties, but that’s just fine. Next week you can bet I’ll be buying dried black beans and prepping them just like my chickpeas today!

    Up next! Carrot salad is going to be a major player in my lunches this week. (This recipe, again, is from Tone It Up!… sorry if I’m alienating anyone, but these recipes are all so simple and if you really wanted something close to them, feel free to just google yourself a recipe… or buy the plan!)

    carrot salad

    I made several days worth of salad and that will be perfect for me as I head into the weekend at work. Such a simple and easy  lunch to take to work with me, along side a black bean or garbanzo patty!

    At this point, I was famished. I was ready to actually eat some of the food I was making. So I whipped up this deliciousness:

    Vegan Waldorf salad on a bed of spinach with a side of baked Japanese yam “fries.” So simple, so easy, so delicious.

    I can’t even explain to you how good it felt to sit and eat. I’d been in the kitchen for over 2 hours by this point and my belly was so happy I had finally stopped tempting it with yumminess and finally gave it something to do. 🙂

    And now you find me writing you this post from my side of the bed, with the blinds closed and the lights off. That can only mean one thing: it’s nap time. I have to work tonight and since I had such an early morning, I think a nap would only be wise.

    Enjoy the rest of your day, Swagsters!

    failure: you can do it!

    Happy Monday, Swagsters!

    It is a bright, sunshiney day and I’ve got a disposition to match it! Ever since I  woke up yesterday, I sort of feel like I’ve been floating around, smiling and okay with whatever comes my way.

    Workout

    This morning I woke up and did BodyRockTV’s Get Pumped on the Patio workout, followed by abs and finally, I rounded everything out with an 8 minute meditation. It’s all about balance! Exercise + meditation are honestly, for me, the most positive ways to start my day. Admittedly, my meditation has been sporadic, and I’ve been getting to it “when I can” so today I decided to just throw it on the end of my workouts, since I do both in the same room.

    Right now I’m feeling so energetic, like I haven’t experienced in a long time. I think I was actually overwhelming Markus a bit when I took him to work this morning. He was still waking up and I was practically bouncing off the walls in the car. (If cars can have walls… you know what I mean.)

    Budget Update

    Okay Swagsters, I have been doing really well with my budget this week. It’s been great not going to the grocery store every day and spending money. It takes a lot of stress off my back to not feel like I’m constantly handing all my money over to various vendors. Wednesday is the first official day of my new budget system as well. I’m excited to see how things go!

    Grocery day is also Wednesday, and I must admit, I’m going to be cutting it rather close. I definitely need to refine my planning a bit. I totally underestimated my veggie consumption. Don’t ask me how that happened.

    Tonight I’m going to work up my meal plan for the next week and my groceries as well. This week I readjusted my budget to $50. Upon further reflection, I realized that $50 is a much more realistic number than $40, for me. And I don’t think that’s a terrible amount of money to spend at all for one week of clean, vegan eating! I ended up spending about $54 at the end, because I ran out of carrots yesterday and that’s simply not going to fly for me. Gotta have my carrots.

    I caught myself thinking, “Dang, Jenny, you failed at your budget this week. You had to buy more. You didn’t do very well.” Well I let that thought go for about 5 seconds before I stopped it and said, “Hey there, Negative Voice. I’ve never done this before. I’m practicing and it’s probably going to take a few weeks to adjust. So, why don’t you just cut me some slack, okay? I’m trying, and that’s the most important thing.” (And then, in my mind, I stuck my tongue out at Negative Voice, but that’s not very mature, so let’s gloss over that fact, yeah?)

    Do you ever do that to yourself? You try something new and then immediately adopt this attitude that you should be brilliant and perfect at it and shouldn’t have to need even an inch of flexibility with it because you are you and you don’t fail (where “don’t” = “are not allowed to”). I catch myself in this trap so often. It’s one of those things that goes along with having an eating disordered past. I’m not allowed to fail. Everyone else is free to do so, and I won’t even judge them for it. “No one’s perfect!” I’ll say with lots of compassion. But then I’ll turn to myself and say, “How dare you fail! That’s not acceptable! You specifically wrote on your blog what your budget was and what will they say when they see you went over?!”

    What an overwhelming way to speak to myself! I’ve let it go on too long, and my goal this week is to really work on being compassionate towards myself. I work on taking power away from my negative voice, but a lot of times it’s not very compassionate. It’s almost like I roll my mind’s eye at myself and say, “Come off it, Jenny! Be positive for a change! Stop thinking this way! STOP BEING MEAN TO YOURSELF, YA BIG DUMMY.”

    Oh right, because that’s toooootally being nice to me.

    Yesterday I worked on readjusting my approach. When I spoke back to my negative voice, this time, I tried it differently. I brought some patience into the mix. I brought some compassion to the table. And it makes a HUGE difference. I relaxed a lot quicker when I spoke back with love instead of anger. I’m killing the Negative Voice with kindness.

    Weekly Goal

    So that brings me right to my personal goal for the week: stay aware, practice mindfulness and be compassionate towards myself. I do not have to be perfect and I do not have to be a harsh critic of myself. I will strive to be gentle and nurturing with myself. Because I deserve my own love.

    Can you relate to my perfectionism? What do you do to combat it? 

    Do you have any personal goals for yourself this week? 

    How do you practice compassion towards yourself?

    I have got to jet, Swagsters! Work is on the docket today and I’m at risk of running late! Have a great Monday!

    the perks of sleeping soundly

    I took it way easy last night. After dinner I pretty much planted myself in bed with my kindle and the rainstorms. As I previously mentioned, my friends and I have started a little book club and our first book is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I’m already about 1/3 of the way through it and holy cow… I have half a mind to call out of work so I can keep reading today. I’ve been completely sucked into this. It’s so good!

    comfy cozy rainstormy night

    I fell asleep a little after 10 and woke up organically this morning, without an alarm at 7. My alarm had been set for 8, though, so I took the time to have a nice long wake up. I laid in bed til about 7:45 doing my morning phone-errands and listening to NPR. It was a total #jadorelavie moment.

    When I got myself out of bed, I was feeling more than ready to workout. Admittedly, I’m a bit sore from yesterday’s return to weight-lifting, but not too sore. The kind of sore that benefits from moving, know what I mean? So I went with the most recent BodyRockTV workout. It was tough, but my joy of being back in my routine helped me push through.

    Last night I also scored a major win. I happened to have a $25 gift card to Overstock, and I’ve really been wanting to get heavier dumbbells for my house. I only have 5lbs right now and those don’t cut it for my weight lifting needs. As much as I enjoy BodyPump classes, working out at home has spoiled me and I would just rather do it on my time instead of the gym’s schedule. So I meandered over to Overstock and scouted things out. I found a set of adjustable dumbbells that max out at 40lbs. Well that’s well more than what I need. After my gift card and using a free trial of the Club O in order to skip shipping, I was going to get these babies for $9.99. Then inspiration struck and I searched the web for Overstock coupon codes. Swagsters… I nabbed this dumbell set for $6.49! I practically feel like I’m an extreme couponer. This is the next step in ridding myself of my gym membership and saving $25 a month. Next on my home gym wishlist is an equalizer, but we’ll give it a bit more time before I invest in that. 🙂

    Speaking of saving money, however, I made my budget system last night! I figured out what I need each month, each week and even each shift at work, assuming I work 5 days a week. It includes bills, rent AND my contribution to the savings Markus and I decided we need to get a new apartment in a year. It is so beyond doable and I’m really excited to get started. Hooray! I feel really empowered now, and really in control of my situation. Such a good feeling. 🙂

    Having all of that figured out was a major contribution to my finally being able to sleep last night. What a relief!

    Last thing before I go: a new breakfast recipe!

    Banana Bread Breakfast Protein Pudding

    Recently I’ve been thinking about trying to omit tofu from my morning breakfast pudding. Now don’t go thinking I’m hopping on the “soy is bad” bandwagon because I am not. I personally think it’s a crock. I love soy-based proteins and I will not shy away from them. Ever. But for the sake of diversity in my diet, I’d like to change it up and free up tofu for other meals during my day. At the same time, I like a nice, thick, creamy breakfast pudding. This yummy breakfast just sort of… happened. I was officially out of silken tofu for the week and, to keep within my budget, I don’t plan on buying more. I did a quick run through of what I had available to me and this meal was born. And it is GOOD. The full recipe is on my ReciPage and so I’ll leave the link for you right … HERE.

    Well that’s it for today, my friends. I hope you all have a great Friday! I’m off to work in a bit and planning to have a nice night in with my Kindle and the Olympics Opening Ceremony!

    Are you reading a book right now that you just can’t put down?

    Do you workout at home or a gym? 

    Do you have any fun weekend plans? Are you going to watch the Olympics? 

    ballin’ on a budget

    Happy Thursday, Swagsters.

    I finally made it back to BodyPump this morning! It felt good to hit the weights, and I’m already feeling the work I did!

    But let’s just get right to the serious stuff, guys and gals…

    I need a budget.

    It seems like every month I’m scrambling to get this bill, that bill, rent, etc all paid on time. It makes for an endless cycle of stress. Sometimes I get so stressed out about money that it wakes me up at night and I can’t sleep. I’m currently about 4 days into this cycle right now and let me you tell you…. this swagster needs her sleep. I’m practically non-functional today. I’m so serious about trying to get a good night’s sleep right now that I told Markus I will be sleeping in our extra bedroom tonight and when he gets home from work, just simply leave me be. You know it’s serious now.

    At any rate. A big part of why I am having so much trouble sleeping is financial stress. I realize these are kind of just the times we’re all living in, but I also truly feel that I can do something about my circumstances. My job is a blessing and a curse. As a server, I have the ability to realize I need money, pick up a shift and pay a bill with 5 hours of work. Not too shabby. The problem is that I tend to take that for granted and I end up sort of flying by the seat of my pants most months. Since I don’t have a weekly “allowance” in the form of a paycheck, I struggle keeping a structured budget.

    But now, this is all going to change. I was inspired by the #surviveon35 challenge I’d been seeing on twitter and through FitFluential. I also remembered a conversation that my coworker and I had a while back about the way that she budgets every month. It helps her afford lots of trips to Fenway, music festivals, etc. Now I’d love to have leisure money but my purpose right now is to SAVE. Markus and I need a new apartment and it’s never going to happen if we aren’t paying attention to our income and spending.

    I took the first step yesterday by grocery shopping on a strict budget. Normally I grocery shop and spend about $60 by just haphazardly throwing things into my cart. I figure this isn’t an awful number, but the fact is, I typically end up back at the grocery store 3 or 4 more times throughout the week and usually drop about $15 to $20 each time. Okay well there is just no reason that I should need $140 in groceries for just myself in one week. Especially now that I’ve peeped all the great #surviveon35 ideas.

    So this week I figured I could do my shopping on $40. I knew I already had some things around my house that I could use and I set myself to making a menu for the week. I came up with 2 or 3 options for each meal and then I made a grocery list. I put on the list only what I needed and vowed that I would not purchase anything extra.

    And… I did it! I not only did it, but I had money left over! I still have about $9 to spend for the week, if I need it!

    $9.33 left over!

    This small feat inspired me. I can do this. I can budget, I can save and I can stop losing sleep over money. So now I’m going to put myself to actually budgeting the rest of my life, not just my groceries.

    This is something I’ve never done before, and I’ll admit, it seems like a challenge. But I’m ready to take it on. In another life I would have just hoped that life would get better, easier, less expensive. However, knowing what I know now, I realize that I simply must take an active role in changing my circumstances. So wish me luck, swagsters. This is how I’ll be spending the rest of my afternoon!

    For now, I’m going to leave you with some pictures and links to recipes. I can’t take credit for any of the food I made for this week, I borrowed recipes from all over the internet. As the weeks go on and I get more comfortable and knowledgeable with my budget, I’m positive I’ll branch out and work on some of my own meal ideas.

    Breakfasts are going to be largely unchanged. I’ll be switching back and forth between protein pudding and protein oats.

    Lunches and dinners will largely be a choice between any of the following (and maybe a few randoms in between):

    Baked artichoke falafel over steamed veggies or spinach salad.

    Click this link for the falafel recipe. (Note: I didn’t have all purpose flour, so I used almond meal. They still turned out fine but I assume this is why they are cookies and not balls.) 🙂

    lentils and quinoa in a lemon-tahini sauce

    Make this! It’s so good. Here’s the link. (Note: I’m not a fan of rice, so I used quinoa instead. Totally perfect substitution.)

    sweet potato and green bean curry over cauliflower “rice”

    Best lunch. Ever. Here’s the link. As for the “rice,” this is just 1/4 head of cauliflower ground up in a food processor. Done.

    These 3 recipes alone make up 13 meals! That may sound to you like it’s not a lot of variety, and I’ll certainly work on finding ways to change things up a bit, but for now, this is going to work just fine for me!

    What I can say for sure right now, at the beginning of my new adventure, is that I am taking control of my situation instead of wishing it away and hoping for the best. That’s a big realization for me, and I’m proud of myself for that all on it’s own! (Proud! I’m proud of myself!) Being proud of me is probably going to be a game changer. I’m not punishing myself for being bad with my money, I’m recognizing an opportunity to make a change for the better. Those are two totally different approaches to the same situation and we’ve just got to chose the one that leads us to higher swag levels. Am I right or am I right?!

    Do you follow a budget? Do you have any tips for me?