Tuesday, November 12, 2013

$25 vegan dollar store challenge

Bossa Nova inspects my Dollar Tree haul.
When one of my long-term blogging pals, the uber-talented Melomeals, announced she was starting and taking the $25 Vegan Dollar Tree Challenge, I knew I had to join in for a number of reasons:
  • Food prices have risen and for many, eating healthily on a budget is a real challenge. This is Melody's primary reason for doing the challenge, and I concur. As I found at the dollar store, you can still buy a bag of beans or frozen broccoli for a buck. Yeah, you can also choose to indulge in McDonald's mc-unhealthy $1 menu. But I want to show people that in the long run, even if you are low on cash, you can still enjoy food that's high in nutrition.
  • This "foodie" thing has gotten way out of hand. Tempeh bacon on coconut ice cream? Really? I'm weary of continually feeling like I'm missing out if I'm not on top of the latest food trend. I like to try new things, but sometimes I just crave basic comfort food or simple Mediterranean fare. It's not rocket science, people. It's sustenance! Things we used to take for granted, like handmade, artisanal foods or organic produce, have somehow morphed into commodity items and have become precious and pretentious instead of mainstream. I would prefer not to
  • I want to reconnect with my frugal roots. I don't want to forget where I came from. My mom was raised during the Depression. When I was growing up, if my mom knew she could buy a can of tomatoes for 50 cents, and the market was selling them for 60 cents, she would wait for a sale or just make do with something else. I love that sense of patience and flexibility. With a lot of work and determination, I managed to jump the class barrier, and now, I'm fortunate to have access to fabulous fresh produce, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and gourmet markets up the wazoo. A somewhere along the way, I have lost my way and don't pay enough attention to my food budget. Just shopping for this challenge alone has been a real awakening for me.
I bought all this at a produce outlet for $5.99
My loose "methodology"
In the spirit of inspiring self reliance, I am mainly improvising in the kitchen and am doctoring up other people's recipes and/or a few of my own to show you that a little creativity and flexibility goes a long way – in both the market in which you choose to shop and in the meals you choose to prepare. I will share a few recipes, but this is mostly frugal ad-lib.

Melody, bless her heart. is eating only from her haul and is showing you recipes and a recap of what she consumed daily over a week. I am going to differ a bit, partly out of laziness and partly out of philosophy. I'll just use up my haul as I go along with no set time-frame. Pantries take awhile to build, so to this end, and in the spirit of economy, I am supplementing my cooking with items I already have in my kitchen, as most people would naturally do.  Last night, I made bean-based Sloppy Joes, for example; I happened to have hamburger buns and English Muffins in the freezer. I bought canned pumpkin and applesauce since I plan on baking – using flours I already have in stock. [I saw flour at my Dollar Store but it was white]. I also subscribe to a CSA share, so I will use some of those harvest veggies.

Melody is showing you a week of potential meals [and man, her recipes look amaze-balls!]. There is no way in hell I will use all of this food up in a week – or even three weeks. I could certainly cook it all up and freeze the leftovers but I just don't have time.  So the best I can do is show you examples of what I bought, how I used it, and what I ate. This will differ for everyone. I am cooking for one. You may be cooking for 6. Or 16.

Melody is cooking way healthier than me. I wish I could be as exemplary, but truth is, I usually eat 80% healthy. I find I'm happier if I allow myself to "sin" a little. Plus, I've been training for a marathon so I do need some simple carbs to fuel long runs. I spent $3 of $23.59 on foods I deemed "treats" [Clif bar, sweet potato chips and Speculoos cookies].

There is a produce outlet right next to the dollar store where I shopped. Since I came in under my $25 budget, I decided to allow myself a $5 budget and supplement my dollar store items with $5 bonus haul of fresh veggies.

Here's what I bought at Dollar Tree [budget $25; actual $23.58]:

  • Forrel [brown] Rice Cakes
  • 12 oz bag Pagasa Eggless Noodles [Been searching for these forever!]
  • 12 oz Barilla Vegetable Rotini
  • 2 15.5 oz cans Goya Chickpeas
  • 115.5 oz can Goya Black Beans
  • 1 15.5 oz can Goya Kidney Beans [The dent happened when I dropped the can]
  • 1 pound bag Rosa dried pinto beans 
  • 13.5 can Popeye spinach [Love the label]
  • 15 oz can unsweetened pumpkin
  • 15 oz can unsweetened applesauce
  • 28 oz can tomato sauce
  • 14 oz bag frozen pepper stir fry [Upon opening, I found these were 75% onions, so the bag should have been called "Onion Stir Fry."]
  • 16 oz bag frozen broccoli cuts
  • 10 oz bag frozen peas 
  • 16 oz bag California blend [frozen broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Is this what you eat in Cali?]
  • 2.75 oz bag sweet potato chips
  • 8.8 oz bag Biscoff speculoos cookies
  • 15 oz can unsweetened pineapple
  • 15 oz can Libby's beets
  • 11.5 can V8
  • 1 Peanut Butter Crunch Clif Bar
  • 2 x 1 quart WestSoy organic low-fat soy milk

Here's what my $5 produce haul [budget $5; actual $5.99]:

  • 3 bags of romaine lettuce [6 small heads!] for $2
  • 2 pound bag of onions
  • 8 oz box cremini mushrooms
  • 1 pound bag of ginger root

Spa Ritual and China Glaze vegan nail polish

A closing thought. I collect nail polish. It's cheaper than shoes, takes up less space, and forces me to sit still – a feat in and of itself.  This weekend I spent a total of about $22 on these 2 bottles of vegan nail polish. Contrast that with all of this food I purchased for less than $29. Then, contrast all of this food and nail polish with the fact that almost half the world lives off less than $2.50 day. What are we complaining about? Can we be grateful and generous?

I'll share some $ store food posts soon. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook if you want to see some sneak previews!

Follow Me on Pinterest


Johanna said...

That's a great haul. After wearing a long, blonde wig for Halloween, I really want to be a little more girly, so I like your idea of nail polish. I guess that I should dig a little deeper into my local Dollar stores for food stuff. In fact, I'll do that tomorrow.



foodfeud said...

What a wonderful challenge. I think it's always important to do things like this. I've done pantry challenges, a food bank challenge, and a budget challenge in the past but lately I'm having to do it out of necessity and I've found myself so bad at it!
I'll have to look around at stores I'm not used to stopping in. Good work!

Melomeals said...

I love your common sense approach to life and food .. and I can't wait to see what you make!

sbr4evr said...

Awesome post! I am always trying to keep my cost of food down and have actually not though of going to the dollar store! Thanks for sharing!

Sara said...

I'm always a bit floored by my grocery bill, even cooking for one! Those unnecessary 'extras' always seem to add up. Your challenge is so inspiring and I love your practical approach. Great meals are sure to come out of this haul!

doemora said...

I heartily agree with you. Doing the dollar store challenge this weekend! Thanks for sharing :-)

Andrea said...

I totally agree with you that vegan cooking seems to have become a competition of sorts — who has the most unique ingredients packed into the most photogenic package? I find myself feeling rebellious when I see the word "decadent" attached to a recipe. Most of the time I prefer simple, healthy food that tastes good. I'm looking forward to seeing what you prepare with your haul.

mojocentral said...

Thanks for this! I, too, have gotten away from my frugal roots. After a free-for-all at Trader Joe's/Whole Foods, I'm happy with my healthy haul, but incredulous at how much I spent. I need to dial it back!

I'm with you on the vegan foodie decadence thing as well. Real food rocks!

Joey said...

Looking forward to seeing what happens with the $25 haul - anything that helps me cut my food spend is always appreciated.