No-new groceries check-in

I’m still three days away from pay day and I have bought zero new groceries, true to my goal.

Gotta say, I’m quite impressed with my own pantry-stocking skills. And the beginning of CSA season was admittedly a great help.

I cheated financially and went to dinner with a friend and got drinks with more friends last Friday night, but those were plans made before I knew I’d be strapped for cash. But because I’m using some creativity in the kitchen, I’ve still been spending very little.

Here are some highlights: More

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The no-new-grocery challenge

Budget- and mental health-wise, I hope the days are behind me of eating chips and leftover s’mores ingredients from an old camping trip for dinner.

But I’m still a writer trying to make rent in Seattle, where the cost of living and taxes are high (I love you so much Seattle, but you hurt me sometimes).

I got paid on Friday, but after going over my budget, I realized that I’d still have near-nothing left by the time my checks for rent, my CSA and a health insurance thing clear.

Not wanting to swim in more credit card debt (which is where I put my car repairs and birthday presents to loved ones), I challenged myself to not buy any more groceries until I get paid again June 13. More

Making it work

Traveling/being on the go/dining out with friends must be navigated more conscientiously as a veghead.

But I’ve come across some nice options and accommodations during my recent hectic few weeks.

First: Safeway is actually pretty all right.

I don’t often shop at Safeway anymore except for its gas station. I feel I find more options that fit my needs at local chain markets. But maybe I haven’t looked in the right places. More

#protip

xoJane is not exactly a great source of culinary advice, but I really enjoyed this tipsheet on what to do with veggie scraps. Usually I compost or collect them for veggie stock. Now I want broccoli slaw.

Easter candy

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I can’t believe weeks have passed by since Easter already.

Easter used to be my favorite holiday. I loved dyeing eggs, hunting for them the next morning and gobbling up Cadbury creme eggs and jelly beans.

Pretty much all of that is out for me now. (RIP my longtime love affair with Cadbury creme eggs.)

I didn’t want to go completely candy-less when I went to my parents’ house for Easter, so I whipped up vegan versions of two of my favorites: peanut butter cups and peppermint patties.

(True story: My Christmas list every year used to be headlined with “a peppermint patty.”)

They’re a smidge labor-intensive (but I’m also Miss Can’t I Just Put Everything In A Pot and Let It Go?) and it’s hard for me to make them pretty (follow the links to the recipes for pretty), but what do you know – they worked beautifully! And tasted every bit as good as their commercial counterparts, but with little to no added sweetener. They did have to be kept frozen or refrigerated, but don’t most good things?

My whole family loved them. My boyfriend, well, he preferred the big, fat Reese’s peanut butter egg in my parents’ candy dish because it’s sweeter, he said. I mean, who DOESN’T like the big peanut butter egg, but I was glad to have my yummy peanut butter cups. And they were made out of pantry items!

I think I have to make these for Christmas, too.

Now if only I can find an easy Cadbury creme egg alternative.

How do you substitute traditional holiday sweets?

Being a broke vegan

People think being vegan is expensive. It can be, but depending on your choices, it really doesn’t have to be.

I mean, the roots of my vegan journey stem partly from a need to stretch what few dollars I had, and nixing meat, eggs and milk from the grocery list helped (took awhile for me to forgo cheese).

Last month, I moved, which was expensive, and then there was Christmas. Then my car insurance leveled a financial blow for moving. (Thanks, btw.)

So I had a few weeks during which I had to skimp a little. Sadly the credit card was used more frequently than I’d prefer.

But food was never a huge stress. I just had to know what to make with cheaper ingredients.

So lemme talk a little bit about what I do to squeak by when The Man is after my meager stack of journalist cash.

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My veggie pantry

One of the best things I’ve done for my kitchen in the past year is slowly build up my pantry so that routine grocery shopping and menu planning is way more of a breeze. I’m so much more prone to choose any given recipe when I look at the ingredients list and go, “Oh look, I have three-quarters of those things already.” Even as I’ve been without my own kitchen the past five months, I’ve been able to carry my pantry with me in a box and still make awesome meals.

It takes time. You’re not going to go out tomorrow and get everything on this list. Every time one of these ingredients shows up on your grocery list, maybe grab some extra. Or grab one new pantry item each trip to the store. Shop sales. You’ll get there! And as you do, you’ll see how cooking is so much easier when you’re well-stocked. Take it from someone who has spent her adult life living paycheck to paycheck: Having depth in your pantry makes home cooking cheaper. If nothing else, you can scrape up a meal from what you have on hand.

This isn’t even everything I have! I have maybe 70 percent of this stuff all the time and the rest is stuff that I either buy constantly and/or wish I had on hand more often. So call this my aspirational pantry list. Use it as a starting point to make your own.

pantry

My temporary spice rack in my boyfriend’s kitchen drawer.

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