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Budget-friendly

Budget-friendly, Lifestyle, Shopping

Bulk Up!

Bulking up on rolled oats, "nootch," cashews, and sesame seeds.

Bulking up on rolled oats, “nootch,” cashews, and sesame seeds.

One of the most common misconceptions about eating a plant-based diet is that it is more expensive than eating a “standard” diet.  Our experience with plant-based eating has been quite the opposite. Our monthly grocery bill is lower now than ever, and buying in bulk is a huge help.  We may buy things that are uncommon and some might consider costly, like miso paste or nutritional yeast, but when you spread the price across the number of meals you can prepare with this one ingredient, you are still getting a bargain.

When we first became plant-based, we had to learn to navigate the bulk aisles of our local grocery stores and co-ops.  We had never really spent any time shopping in this section and had no idea what was available to us.  Now, there are days when we come home with nothing but twist-tied baggies and reusable containers!  Here are a few things you should know about buying in bulk:

One side of the abundant bulk aisle at Lakewinds Co-op.

One side of the abundant bulk aisle at Lakewinds Co-op.

  • The bulk aisle is the best for buying spices, grains, legumes, oats, and other dry goods.  We avoid things like trail mixes and candy.  Even pasta and rice can usually be found cheaper prepackaged.
  • You can sometimes find organic ingredients for cheaper than the conventional versions.  We have found this to be true for things like rolled oats and lentils, so be sure to compare prices.
  • Shopping the bulk aisle is great for trying new ingredients for the first time.  You can buy as much or as little as you would like.
  • Don’t forget storage!  We hate to waste things, so we save our spice jars and bring them to the co-op when we are ready for a refill.  We even save things like rubber bands and plastic bread bag closures so we can cinch our bulk bags up!  If you bring your own container, make sure to tare if before filling.  This will save you some time at the checkout.

Locally, there are a lot of choices for your bulk food shopping.  We like Lakewinds and Seward Co-op for the best variety and prices.

Budget-friendly, Pretty Quick Plant-Based Recipe Pick, Recipes

Build A Buddha Bowl

This Buddha Bowl features steamed beets, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots, summer squash, corn, and fresh basil.

This Buddha Bowl features steamed beets, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots, summer squash, corn, and fresh basil.

One of our favorite dishes to make any time of year is a Buddha Bowl.  It’s a quick, easy dish that can be made in an endless variety of combinations.  We have found a formula to build Buddha Bowls that works every time.  All you need to do is pick one or more ingredients from each of the following categories:

GrainsProteinRoot Veggies“Wild Card” VeggiesToppings
quinoakidney beanscarrotsmushroomsgreen onion
brown riceblack beansbeetszucchiniseaweed/nori
barleychickpeassweet potatoescorntoasted sesame seeds
bulgurtofuonionsoy sauce
couscoustempehsugar snap peasBraggs Liquid Aminos
milletgreen peassummer squashbalsamic vinegar
farrogreen beanshot sauce/sriracha sauce
fresh herbs
avocado
rice vinegar

Your choice of vegetables will need to be steamed anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes depending on the density (root vegetables will take the longest).  Prepare your choice of grains according to the package instructions.  We like to make extra rice/quinoa/etc. and have it on hand for just such an occasion.

When all the ingredients are ready, fill a bowl with your grains, veg, and your choice of toppings.  This is a great recipe to play around and experiment with– no two Buddha Bowls are alike!

This is also something that you could eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Yes, even breakfast– it’s very common in many parts of Asia to eat grains and vegetables in the morning.

We were first introduced to the Buddha Bowl through Martha Stewart’s Meatless  cookbook.  You can watch her prepare one in this video along with a few other simple dishes.

Have you tried a Buddha Bowl before?  What’s your favorite combination?  Tell us in the comments!

Breakfast, Budget-friendly, Recipes

A Quick Alternative to Cooked Oatmeal: Cold Oats

When I was a little kid, I thought I loved oatmeal cookies. It turns out I actually loved oats.

My dad would make oatmeal cookies every weekend over the winter. One night while he had his head turned, mixing the dough, I stealthily abstracted a handful of raw oats. That moment was nothing short of revelatory. Until then I thought oats could only be eaten cooked. To my surprise I liked them more plain than boiled or even in cookies.

I’ve loved raw oats ever since.

In fact, that’s what I still eat almost every morning. The recipe is simple:

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup Uncle Sam cereal
1/2 cup soy milk (unsweetened, unflavored – I prefer Trader Joe’s brand)
1/2 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup  blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 small banana, fresh, sliced very thinly

Cold oats - Oatmeal

I love the smell of cold oats in the morning!

I don’t like adding sweetener, but if you do, maple syrup would probably work best.

If you’re using frozen fruit, either let it thaw on the counter for about 30 minutes or microwave briefly. One cup of frozen fruit takes 90 seconds in our microwave.

Alternatively, you can just eat a few handfuls of rolled oats raw for an even quicker breakfast! I sometimes do this, and it’s still satisfying. Food doesn’t always need embellishment.

If you are interested in something more elaborate, Rip Esselstyn has an excellent alternative at his Engine 2 website here. There is more prep time required for this one, though. I like mine because I can have it ready in just a few minutes, which is great for those busy mornings.

Are there any foods you prefer raw over cooked? Let us know in the comments!

Budget-friendly, Lifestyle, Shopping

My Favorite Farmers Market Tips

Farmers Market Haul 7/2016

Here’s what $10 bought us at the market last Saturday: collard greens, summer squash, broccoli, and 5 lbs of potatoes!

For me, eating plant-based isn’t just a diet, it’s a lifestyle.  When I changed the way I was eating, it had an effect on nearly every part of my life, and I mean that in the best way possible.  I started to change my perspective on many things and open myself up to new ideas and activities.

One of the things I started to appreciate much more after becoming plant-based was the farmers market.  Once a casual observer of going to the market, it became a near-necessity after switching to a plant-based diet.  With farmers market season just getting underway here in Minnesota, I thought this would be a perfect time to share my favorite farmers market shopping tips:

Midtown Farmers Market in Minneapolis on a perfect June day.

Midtown Farmers Market in Minneapolis on a perfect June day.

  • Walk the entire market before buying anything.  Get a feel for the variety, pricing, and quality of what’s available before committing to your purchase.
  • Go later in the day.  This seems counter-intuitive, but this is a tip that has worked well for me.  At the end of the market day, I’ve had an extra squash or two thrown in my bag or a 2 for 1 deal on bunches of kale.  I find that the produce is just as fresh as it was in the morning and very rarely miss out on the variety.  And bonus–you get to sleep in!
  • Get to know your growers!  Not only does this make going to the market more fun, but developing a relationship with the people who grow your veggies makes it even more likely you can get some of the deals I just mentioned!
  • Go as often as possible!  At the height of the summer, our local market meets twice a week and we make it count!  Market season is the best time of year to buy produce that is fresh, affordable and local.  Buying in-season fruits and vegetables ensures the best taste and pricing.

Where we live in Minneapolis, there are tons of neighborhood farmers markets. Many not only offer fresh, local produce, but also live music, games, and food trucks!  I’m a big fan of the Midtown Farmers Market close to our home, which is open every Saturday (and Tuesday starting in June).  Visit this link to find your neighborhood farmers market!