Week 9 & 10

I have been craving vegetables something fierce, ever since I got back from Portland.  I’m pretty sure it started when we were heading north, right around the California/Oregon border.  We were three Angelinos in awe of the Pacific Northwest, driving through beautful mountains and evergreen trees.  Someone rolled down a window, and I inhaled the fresh air, and enjoyed that beautiful, green smell.  And I thought to myself:  I’m hungry.

Then I thought:  God, I am so vegan.  The smell of trees makes me hungry.

The week numbers may be getting a little confusing at this point, so I will clarify:  I’m doing my budget in four week increments.  I’m spending $80, plus four free meals each time.  I re-started the dollar menu on week 8, when I returned from Portland.  By the end of week 10 I had spent $63.21, which leaves $16.79 for week 11.

Week 9 (July 8-14)  I somehow misplaced my Trader Joe’s receipt for week 9, so I just referenced my bank statement for my total this week.  The sundried tomatoes in the photo did NOT get used – I used some for my potluck pizzas on the 4th, and gave the rest to my mom.

My free meal this week was a benefit dinner for the AETA 4, at Veggie Grill West Hollywood.  It was my first time at Veggie Grill – shocking, I know – and I had the Bali Bliss (Indonesian styled tempeh), on a bed of steamed kale, with a side of corn chowder.  I love tempeh, and this meal was simple but delicious, and the kale satisfied my veggie craving.  And it was very reasonably priced, at $6.75 for the meal, and $1.95 for the chowder.

Week 9 groceries:  Soy milk, sunflower butter, whole wheat pitas, pumpernickel pretzel sticks, bruschetta topping, romaine salad, avocados (4), firm tofu, bananas (4), blueberry muesli, basmati rice medly.

Total:  $24.12

I.  Love.  Soy Chorizo.  I froze half of the chorizo I bought during week 8, and defrosted it under hot water just enough to remove the casing, before heating it up in a skillet.  It tasted just as good as it did when I bought it.  The basmati rice medly I bought was not really tasty enough to stand on it’s own, but I was surprised at how well it worked with other things, especially the soy chorizo.  The pico de gallo in this pita is thanks to my parents lunch at Poquito Mas – I’ve gotten in the habit of asking anyone who might be going to a Mexican restaurant to bring me back a free cup of salsa.  I really love pretty much any kind of salsa, especially free kinds.

Week 10 (July 15-21)  I knew there were some events coming up that I wouldn’t want to miss, so I saved my free meal for week 11.  The soy milk and cereal came from Whole Foods, and the rest of my groceries this week came from Vons.

  • 1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz)  $1.00
  • 1 can tomato sauce (15 0z)  $0.89
  • 1 yellow onion  $0.77
  • 1 garlic clove  $0.50
  • 3 serrano peppers  $0.12
  • panda puffs (cereal)  $2.69
  • vanilla soy milk  $1.69

Total:  $7.66

I am suprised at how many positive comments the dish above got from omnivores!  This is tofu fried in olive oil, with sliced avocado and bruschetta topping, served over basmati rice medley.  Two important things about this meal:  (1) It was the first time I fried tofu without getting anxious and ending up with scrambled tofu.  I was pretty excited about that!  (2) Your preferences are probably different than mine, but if this were salsa, it would not be appetizing to me.  But the bruschetta was perfect.

I made some pretty good chili with a bag of dry pinto beans I had leftover from week 3.  I added carrots from week 8, fresh onion, garlic, serrano peppers, canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, sea salt, and black pepper.  The recipe I was referencing also used a small amount of cocoa powder, which I happened to have around, so I added that as well.  I was a little worried when I started making this, but it was actually really good, and I’m looking forward to personalizing a chili recipe of my own.

I realized I hadn’t made muffins in while, so I made six of the blueberry-banana-flax muffins from How It All Vegan, and popped ’em in the freezer to eat throughout the week.  Then I remembered why I hadn’t made muffins in a while – the last bag of frozen blueberries I bought had a really funky taste to them.  After the last batch I made, I blamed myself – did I somehow screw up the recipe?  But after this batch, I know the fault lies with these funky blueberries.  But I discovered that if I smother the muffins with sunflower butter, they are edible.  I just hope I’m not covering up strychnine, or something.

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July 27, 2010 at 10:29 pm 2 comments

Week 8

I’m a little behind, but here’s the remainder of week 8, ending July 7.  Week 9 will be up soon.  I also made some changes to the rules when I got back on the dollar menu:

1.  I’m allowed four free meals per month. As much as I love doing this blog, it really has cut into my social life.  I miss potlucks and other social meals, and I’m starting to worry that if I keep showing up for events and not eating anything, people are going to think I have some sort of eating disorder.  Being vegan is most certainly not about deprivation, and I love sharing food with my friends.  To keep the rest of my meals under a dollar, I’m subtracting four dollars from the monthly budget.  Instead of $84 per month, I can spend a nice, even $80.

2.  I’m allowed to accept free food. The addition of this rule is mainly due to my recent unemployment.  Turning down free food at this point would be silly.  However, to keep things fair, I can only accept free stuff that is up for grabs for anyone.  Example:  “Hey, I don’t think I can finish my Whiffie Pie – anyone want it?”  Heck yeah, I do!  “Dear, you’re so thin!  Let Grammy send you a case of that imitation cheese you like.”  Sorry, Grammy.  I can’t go for that.

My first “free meal” was a 4th of July potluck at a friend’s house.  I made pizza bagels, topped with Daiya, and various combinations of vegan sausage, pepperoni, artichoke hearts, and sundried tomatoes.  I’ve been on a big veggie kick for the last few weeks, so as soon as I got there I filled up on tons of veggies and hummus.  After a brief intermission, I had mac and cheese, chips and salsa, chili, salad, fig bars, and brownies.

My leftover pizza ingredients got used during weeks 8 and 9, so here’s their approximate cost:

  • onion bagel (1)  $0.45
  • Gimme Lean sausage roll  $3.99
  • artichoke hearts (1/2 can)  $1.35
  • roasted vegetable pasta sauce (1/2 jar)  $1.20

Total:  $6.99

Including what I’ve already posted, I spent $31.43 during my first week back.  Oops.  I’m sure I can make up for it in the coming weeks, and I gotta say, spending a little extra was totally worth the invention of curry spaghetti.

This is kind of like fried rice, but with barley.  (“Fried barley” sounded weird.)  Cooked barley added to sauteed carrots, broccoli, and garlic.  Plus soy sauce, and Sriracha.

I took the leftover pasta sauce and artichoke hearts from 4th of July, and invented curry spaghetti.  I guess it’s entirely possible that I was not the first person to invent this, but I was pretty stoked on it either way.  Whole Foods roasted vegetable sauce, with added garlic, carrots, and artichoke hearts.  Seasoned with curry powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.  Served over kasha barley.  I loved this meal – if you like curry, and you like spaghetti, try it!

Obviously, the next step after curry spaghetti would be curry spaghetti and meatless balls.  Curry spaghetti was probably my favorite dollar meal so far, until I made this.  The balls are Gimme Lean sausage, cooked in olive oil and a generic Italian spice mix.  This would also be great with Gardein’s Chik’n Scallopini.

That’s all for week 8 – stay tuned for week 9 (ending July 14).  Scout’s honor.

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July 17, 2010 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

Return from vegan wonderland.

I’m back from the Let Live Conference in Portland!  We got to see some amazing speakers, went to demos, made great new friends, made the news, and ate.  And ate, and ate, and ate.  I lost about eight pounds in my first seven weeks on the dollar menu.  I was away for eleven days, and gained about half of it back.  Oops.

Obviously, losing a pound a week doesn’t seem like a very sustainable diet.  If I continued losing that much weight, I’d consider this experiment a failure.  However, up until a few weeks ago, I worked for a very beloved veterinary hospital, whose clientele expressed their love with food.  The kind of foods I would generally never go out of my way to eat were always available, for free.  Every holiday at the hospital was like living in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and I was Augustus Gloop.  In the year and half that I worked there before going vegan, I gained at least fifteen pounds.  The fact that I would finally take it off doing this blog was expected, and definitely welcomed.

Thanks to this blog, it’s also occurred to me how flippin’ ridiculous it is that most people who want to lose weight are willing to spend extra money to do so.  Why would you spend more money to consume fewer calories?  I have never been hungry on this diet, unhappy with my meals, or wished that I had more energy.  And believe me, I have way more experience with diets than I care to think about.

When I was in high school, I weighed about seventy pounds more than i do now.  People are always shocked to hear this, and immediately want to know what my secret is.  Well, here’s the secret:  I ate less, and exercised more.  Growing up, I watched the women in my family go on and off of expensive fad diets, and I even did things like Slim-Fast, and Jenny Craig with my mother.  But I always gained the weight back.  One day I weighed in at 215 pounds, got pissed at myself for getting so fat, and decided it was finally time to reevaluate my eating habits.  I cut my portion sizes, and started going for leisurely walks around my neighborhood, with Elliott Smith on the Discman.  It was easy.  I went from a size 16 to a size 6.

I flew home from Portland on Tuesday night, and got back on the dollar menu on Thursday.

Week 8 (July 1 – July 7)

  • high fiber cereal $2.29
  • almond milk  $1.69
  • kasha barley $3.39
  • salad mix  $1.99
  • dried mango  $1.69
  • baby carrots  $1.49
  • garbanzo beans  $0.99
  • 5 bananas  $0.95
  • cilantro plant  $3.99
  • soy chorizo  $1.99
  • broccoli florets  $1.99
  • peeled garlic  $1.99

Total:  $24.44

I’ve never tried growing herbs before, so this whole cilantro thing could be disasterous.  The plant wasn’t much more expensive than a bunch of cilantro, though, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  If there are any gardeners out there, feel free to tell me what to do!

I think this is also the first time I’ve cooked with barley.  I was jonesing for some quinoa, but the barley was cheaper, and nutritionally comparable.  And the moment I opened the pan full of fluffy goodness, I was immediately glad I went for it.  So far, I’ve used it in soy chorizo/veggie bowls, and salads:

Yesterday:  Barley on the left, homemade ultra garlic hummus on the right.

My new friend barley and I are going to go see what we can do for lunch.  Feel free to toss me some suggestions!

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July 1, 2010 at 9:12 pm 2 comments

Skin Trade, Bold Native, and senior citizen beverages.

Last night was the public premiere of Skin Trade in Los Angeles, and if you haven’t seen this film already, I strongly urge you to do so.  I wasn’t able to attend last night, but I did catch a screening at the Animal Liberation Forum in April.  To be honest, before I saw the film, this was one of the topics I was least interested in at the conference.  I don’t wear fur, I don’t know anyone who wears fur, and while most people don’t have any moral qualms about killing animals for sustenance, it seems that the general public accepts that killing in the name of vanity is wrong.  But it doesn’t matter if you don’t know a single person who wears fur, because for each individual fox, mink, chichilla, rabbit, dog, cat, and other species raised for their pelts, it is a reality 100% of the time.  These individuals are suffering every day, and that’s why it’s important for people to see this film.  There are parts that are hard to sit through, so watch it with a friend, or go to one of the public screenings if you have the opportunity.  Check out Ecolutionist’s recap of last night’s event here, and the Skin Trade website for more information.

Bold Native is also premiering in LA next week.  This is a fictional film that tells the story of Charlie Cranehill, an animal liberator wanted by the FBI for animal enterprise terrorism.  It also follows another activist, as she works within the law to improve the rights of farmed animals.  There are screenings next Wednesday and Friday, and I’m bringing a group to the second event, which is at TreePeople‘s outdoor amphitheater and will feature spooky vegan hotdogs from The Frankenstand!  For more information on Bold Native, visit their website and watch the trailer below.

As for the dollar menu, I’m going to spare you the play-by-play for the past week.  I’ve been eating well, but my meals have literally all been cereal, banana flax muffins, and rice or ramen with some type of protein and veg.  Snacks have been pitas/tortillas with almond butter, mixed nuts, blueberry smoothies, and a whole lotta vegan ice cream.  I’m missing fresh fruit and veggies, but the last two weeks have been finals, so I’m pretty much just thankful I’m still alive at all.  During finals, the feeding ritual usually consists of wandering into the kitchen 3-4 times a day, picking up the first thing I see, and putting it on a plate (sometimes).  During finals before I went vegan, it was peanut butter sandwiches and an Ensure for every meal.  This triggered snarky comments from my friends about senior citizen beverages, as well as a temporary peanut allergy.

I’m leaving for San Francisco/Portland a week from tomorrow, and while I’ll definitely be watching my budget while I’m up there, I’m taking a break from the dollar menu until I get back.  So for week 5 through week 7 that’s 63 meals, and 63 dollars.  I spent $54.99 in the first two weeks, and I have $8.01 left.  That’s a little intimidating, but I still have rice, flour, and dry beans in the pantry, and broccoli and blueberries in the freezer, so I think I’ll do fine.  If you need me, I’ll be out in the yard encouraging my little zucchinis to photosynthesize.

Also, if you’re wondering why I only have three bagels, the items with asterisks by them were used for the pizzas I made for my family on Memorial Day – I only charged myself for the portion that I ate.

Week 5 (ending 6/4) Shopping List – Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s

  • 2 bananas  $.063
  • Lightlife Gimme Lean sausage  $3.99
  • whole wheat flour  $2.99
  • vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips  $3.39
  • Rice Dream (neapolitan)  $5.99
  • 9 grain pitas  $3.89
  • Maranatha almond butter  $5.49
  • Daiya vegan cheese (mozzarella style)  $2.15*
  • 3 bagels  $1.35*
  • roasted vegetable pasta sauce  $2.39
  • Lightlife vegan pepperoni  $2.50
  • 1 jalapeno  $0.15
  • 1 portabella mushroom  $1.21
  • 1 can lima beans  $1.25
  • Trader Joe’s oat n’ wheat bran swirls (cereal)  $2.99
  • vanilla almond mik $2

Total:  $42.36

Week 6 (ending 6/11) Shopping List – Whole Foods

  • 365 organic raisin bran  $2.99
  • 365 organic peanut butter pows  $2.99
  • herb flavored popcorn  $0.99
  • chocolate soy milk  $1.69
  • unsweetened rice milk  $1.69
  • 1 can black beans  $0.99
  • 1 package firm tofu  $1.29

Total:  $12.63

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June 11, 2010 at 11:11 pm 3 comments

Day 32-35

I have not been paying much attention to what I’ve been eating this week.  I am freshly unemployed, I have finals and projects due this week and next, and I’m trying to work out the details for my trip to Portland for the Let Live Animal Rights Conference later this month.  I’ve been getting headaches and eye pain from all the reading I’ve been doing, so I finally went to the eye doctor yesterday and he told me I don’t blink enough.  He said I am so focused on what I’m doing that I forget to blink.  I guess I’ll try being more apathetic about what i’m reading from now on.  Thanks doc, that helps a lot.

Also, I didn’t really keep track of it, but there was heck of intermittent Rice Dream happening this week.  Heck of.

I’ll include combined shopping lists for weeks 5 & 6 with my next post.

Day 32 – Tuesday, June 1
Morning:  Cereal – Trader Joe’s Oat N Wheat Bran Swirls

Afternoon:  I left for the cafe to study around 11, and I wasn’t hungry for lunch yet, but I didn’t want to end up hungry at a cafe full of delicious vegan offerings, so I had a pita with almond butter before I left.

Evening:  I made a bagel with pasta sauce, thick slices of portabella mushroom, and topped with a little Daiya mozzarella.  Toasted in the oven for about ten minutes.

Day 33 – Wednesday, June 2
Morning:  Cereal.

Afternoon:  Pita with almond butter before heading to the cafe.

Evening:  Warm pita stuffed with pepperoni, sliced portabella mushroom, and a little Daiya and pasta sauce.

Day 34 – Thursday, June 3
Morning:  Chocolate-banana-almond-flax muffin.

Afternoon:  I recently quit my job of two years, and Thursday was my last day.  I wasn’t scheduled but they asked me to come work until noon.  It sucked, I was upset, and when I clocked out I really just wanted a margarita.  So I went to El Torito with my coworker, and got my margarita with (free) chips and salsa.

Evening:  Pita with almond butter.

Day 35 – Friday, June 4
Morning:  Muffin.

Afternoon:  Pita with pepperoni and mushroom.

Evening:  Lightlife Gimme Lean Sausage and homegrown zucchini, both cooked in olive oil, and served over ramen.

June 4, 2010 at 9:15 pm Leave a comment

Day 28-31

I was pretty close to taking a week off from the dollar menu.  I didn’t get around to shopping until Saturday night, and I was so tired that the only groceries I bought were ice cream, pita bread, almond butter, and the ingredients for the pizza bagels I made for my family today.  I ultimately decided that a week off was not the best idea because (1) I will be taking a break in three weeks when I go to Portland for the Let Live Animal Rights Conference, and (2) I quit my job this week, and now is definitely not the time to start spending more money on groceries.   I’m sure I’ll post more on both of those topics later, but for now, let’s get to the pizza bagels.

When I first went vegan, I became obsessed with pizza bagels.  I would make them for lunch almost every day.  They’re really quick to prepare, and there are endless possibilities for toppings, so they never get boring.  Some of my favorites are Herdez jalapenos and carrots, a combination of veggie pepperoni and sausage (a veg version of Meat Lover’s pizza – I call it Animal Lover’s pizza), and black olives with spinach and garlic.  I always use Daiya cheese, and I’m a big fan of everything bagels and Whole Foods roasted vegetable sauce.

My family got together today for a barbecue, and I knew I would have to bring my own food.  I’ve honestly been pretty lazy about cooking lately, and I was considering just being the pathetic vegan at the party eating a peanut butter sandwich.  I eventually decided to man up and make something tasty – and more importantly, enough for everyone to taste.  So I brought a variety of pizza bagels, topped with pepperoni, sausage, portabella mushrooms, and fresh jalapenos.  My cousin was the first to try a piece with Lightlife Gimme Lean sausage, and said that if I hadn’t told him it was vegan, he never would’ve known.  Everyone else said it was good, or at least “ok.”  My dad refused to try it, but this was the first time my mom tried anything I’ve made.  My dad just played it safe with a hotdog.  ‘Cause there’s nothing questionable in there, obviously.

Day 28 – Friday, May 28
Morning:  Oatmeal.

Afternoon:  Leftover noodles with tofu and green onion.  Snacked on mixed nuts.

Evening:  I wanted to make something that somewhat resembled meatloaf.  I combined some Gimme Lean sausage with cooked white rice in a casserole dish, and topped it with sliced zucchini from my garden.  I didn’t have any tomato sauce, but I had heard of people topping meatloaf with ketchup – it was a little too tangy for my taste, but not bad.  I ended up adding a little barbecue sauce to it when it was done.

Day 29 – Saturday, May 29
Morning:  Oatmeal.

Afternoon:  I had some of the veggie loaf from the night before, with a side of lima beans.  Our boss buys us lunch on Saturdays, and she ordered a bunch of extra chips.  I’ve tried to avoid free food since I started this blog, but it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and I needed chips.

Evening:  I told you how bad this day was, right?  I had a neapolitan Rice Dream banana split for dinner.  Don’t judge me.  Later I had a 9 grain pita with almond butter.

Day 30 – Sunday, May 30
Morning:  Pita with almond butter.  You know when you don’t have something for a while, and you forget how good it is?  Fresh pitas have that effect on me.

Afternoon:  I was looking forward to another pita with almond butter, but then I remembered that pitas are actually still good with other ingredients in them.  So I had a warm pita with some of that loaf thing from the other night, and a little Vegenaise.  It was actually really good, almost similar to falafel.  Also, you see why I could never write a cookbook?  I refer to things I make as, “that loaf thing.”

Evening:  I had some Oat N Wheat Bran Swirls from Trader Joe’s, with almond milk.

Day 31 – Monday, May 31
Morning:  Pita with almond butter.

Afternoon:  Pizza bagels at the barbecue.  I also scored some free watermelon.  And after watching everyone eat red velvet cake, I had a little Rice Dream when I got home.

Evening:  Currently eating a bowl of cereal while blogging.  They look like baby cinnamon rolls!

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May 31, 2010 at 9:47 pm 2 comments

Day 24-27

I started a garden!  I had tried gardening once before, but it didn’t work out well for me.  I was about seven years old.  I was growing a pea plant – this was also around the first time I heard of Gregor Mendel, and I remember feeling like I was doing serious science.  So I had my pea plant in a little pot in the backyard, and one day I saw that it had grown a pod.  Score!  I noticed a small tear at one end of the pod, and I was disappointed because I figured I probably shouldn’t eat it.  So I started to tear the sucker open, and there was a big black spider inside.  In retrospect, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a spider to just be hanging out inside a pea pod, for all I know it could’ve been a caterpillar or something, the point is it was a creature with legs and it was traumatizing and it ruined my gardening experience.

So about two months ago, I got baby zucchini and aristocrat squash plants from the market.  The zucchini plant (pictured) gets bigger every time I look at it, and there are about three zucchinis that are almost ready.  The aristocrat squash is on suicide watch – it’s roughly the same size it was when I bought it, and it can’t seem to decide whether it wants to live.  It’s gone from green to yellow and back again, grown mushrooms at least three times, and attracted pests.  It’s finally grown two blossoms, but I can’t imagine that it’s big enough to support any fruit.  I really don’t know anything about gardening, so I just give it sympathetic looks and hope that it will be okay.

Day 24 – Monday, May 24
Morning:  Blueberry flax muffin.

Afternoon:  Scrambled tofu and potatoes, and a pear.

Evening:  Sliced cucumber with Russian dressing.  Top Ramen with sliced portabella mushroom.

Day 25 – Tuesday, May 25
Morning:  Oatmeal.

Afternoon:  Fried rice with tofu and green onion.  Also, I ate the mudpie.  (See previous post.)  I was in super serious study mode over my political science exam, and I was kinda freaking out.  I didn’t know what to do, so I ate the mudpie.  It happens.

Evening:  I had a blueberry flax muffin before class, and a tortilla with salsa after.

Day 26 – Wednesday, May 26
Morning:  Scrambled tofu and potatoes.

Afternoon:  Leftover fried rice, and blueberry flax muffin.

Evening:  Beans and rice, and a packet of mixed nuts from Whole Foods (almonds, walnuts, dried blueberries and cranberries, dark chocolate).

Day 27 – Thursday, May 27
Morning:  Oatmeal.

Afternoon:  Beans and rice.

Evening:  I made a blueberry banana smoothie after work around 4pm.  For dinner, I made a packet of Ramen with tofu (crumbled with a little curry powder) and green onion, and threw a small amount of leftover white rice I had from yesterday.  I wanted to use the other half of my portabella mushroom, but it was going a little nasty.  I also wanted to use one of my zucchinis, but by the time I remembered that it was too late.  I added a little soy sauce and Sriracha, and reduced the broth almost completely.  It was pretty tasty, and I have leftovers for work tomorrow.

May 27, 2010 at 9:50 pm 1 comment

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