Sunday, March 23, 2014

Whole Food Plant Based on a (Minimalist) Budget

The New Rules
Every month, we spend a higher majority of money on food than any other expense. Not because we NEED to but because we like to eat out and we are sometimes very lazy (or tired) during the week.

When we took a much closer look at our spending habits, food was the easiest and hardest to drastically change. We made some new rules which we have been following for over a month now:

- Eat one meal out together each week
- Go to Starbucks/other coffee spot once a week
- Buy lunch for ourselves once a week
- Shop at the Hollywood Farmers Market every Sunday, buy anything we can't get there at Whole Foods or Trader Joes

These four rules have helped us cut our spending on food by almost HALF last month! Spending cash at the farmers market also makes us think more about how much we're spending on items since we only bring about $40 or $50 each visit. 

We knew we were being a little reckless with our food spending but we were too lazy to change our ways. Then, I saw how much I owe the government in student loans and believe me, that was enough to make me want to eat cheap ramen for the next year (not really, that would be gross).

The Weekly Haul
The husband is on a spring break trip this week so this is all just for me. I am going out with friends tonight but other than that, I plan on eating at home and bringing lunch all week. I spent $49 (including $3 for parking) on groceries. This includes almond milk which will last me a few weeks and eggs which will definitely not be gone by next weekend. Normally, we spend about $70-80 per week for two of us.

The Haul
 I try to eat a whole-food, plant-based diet (pretty much vegan except that I eat eggs at home from Lily's Eggs, pictured above, or Vital Farms which is certified humane).
It would have been a little cheaper to buy the rice from TJ's or Whole Foods bulk bin but instead, I supported a local farmer at the market. 
 The lettuce was such an amazing deal and last week, we bought four and one of them has made it until today and is still fresh and crisp!
I normally also buy tangerines or some kind of citrus but decided to buy extra cucumbers to snack on instead this week. I consumer tomatoes and cucumbers at an alarming rate anyway, so we'll see how long they last.
Japanese cucumbers: AMAZING! I went with four "aesthetically defective" avocados at $1 each because they still taste amazing and who doesn't love the underdog? Those two bunches of kale were only $3 and the four heads of lettuce were $5! That's all my greens for the week.
I bought one basket of these tomatoes. Should have bought two, they are so delicious.

The Menu
I like to take Matt Frazier's advice from No Meat Athlete and cook as simply as possibly during the week. The menu this week will consist of:
- Brown rice, kale, and black beans (from a previous farmers market trip) with some kind of homemade tahini sauce
- My favorite meal in one bowl: brown rice, tomato, cucumber, onion (the tops of the ones pictures), avocado, and soy sauce. It's like veggie sushi in a bowl!
- Giant salad with Frank's sauced tofu
- Tofu scramble with tomatoes, onions, and red pepper
- Garlic stir fry with broccoli, kale, red pepper, onions, and beans over brown rice
- 2 eggs, cucumber tomato salad, and a yummy smoothy (fresh banana, frozen strawberries, some greens, ground flax and almond milk)

We both value supporting local farmers and our awesome Hollywood Farmers Market, so this weekly trip has been great. Plus, we get an hour and a half together on Sunday morning when we are not rushing or thinking about other things and we share the load (literally) of shopping!

What's your method for keeping your food budget in check? Any awesome tips and tricks?


  1. Ugh - we did really well for a while and are getting out of control again; but summers are always easier since we get a CSA basket every week. It's already paid for, so that will help cut back on what we buy. We try to buy as much from farmers markets, too - even if it ends up being more expensive we like putting that money into our community. We mostly buy/plan meals day-to-day (I found that when i went shopping weekly, I bought stuff for meals and then wasted it since we eat mostly fresh foods), but still stock up on things over time. One thing I want to do is take a month to eat what we have.

    1. Hannah, I totally agree! We love that we're supporting the community and local farmers. And I would totally love to do a "clear the pantry and fridge" month too!

      Living in Southern California definitely has benefits and year-round farmers markets all over the place are pretty amazing.

      Let me know if you do a month of eating what you have!!

    2. Yes - that would be great. We try to eat in the season most of the time, so we eat a lot of stored foods, and "stock" veggies - carrots, potatoes, cabbage, onions - through the winter. By the time spring rolls around, we're dying for some greens!! Luckily we found a winter CSA where they grow some veggies hydroplonically, so we get a head of lettuce, kale, cucumbers, and tomatoes each week, along with some onions and potatoes.

      We'll let you know how we do cleaning out the pantry!