Grocery Shopping Hacks: Save Time & Money

As parents, we’re always trying to save money and conserve energy whenever and wherever we can. After having my baby, grocery shopping soon became my least favorite thing. In my last blog post I talked about a produce delivery service I use called Imperfect Produce (IP). This helps me save a ton of money. If you’re interested, you can click here to learn all about it. But, and this is a big but, IP doesn’t deliver everywhere. Yet… So, I have come up with some shopping tips for you busy parents to help you save money and, of course, time.

This week, to give you a better representation of what the cost would be if I didn’t have access to it, I skipped my Imperfect Produce delivery. These hacks are a no brainer and include smart meal planning (we’ll go into detail below), using coupons and promo codes, and taking advantage of your local grocery store’s delivery service. For this experiment I shopped at Safeway, since there is a location less than a mile from where I live, and I often shop there for most items I don’t get from IP. To see if you have a Safeway location near you, click here.

How To Get The Biggest Bang for Your Buck

Smart Meal Planning

It’s one thing to plan your meals for the week, it’s another to do so smartly.  Let me explain.

1. Plan meals based around seasonal produce

Using seasonal fruits and veggies can help you save a ton of money. For example, in December here in California we are growing squash, root veggies, citrus, pomegranates, broccoli, and more. Use as many of these items as possible in your dishes since they will be cheaper than imprted produce. If you’re not sure what’s in season, a Google search will tell you all you need to know. Just make sure you take your region into account.

2. Keep It Simple

Choose a handful of fruits and veggies and plan all of your meals around those. No need to make things complicated. Because I’m a busy mom and no longer have the time or energy to prepare gourmet dishes, I like to come up with a few meals that are easy to throw together throughout the week. Here are five meals that I chose for this week, and their ingredients.

MONDAY: Acorn Squash Chili Bowl

INGREDIENTS:

Chilies, beans, lentils, corn, crushed tomatoes, spices, garlic, kale, carrots, onion, bell pepper, okra, cilantro, acorn squash, vegan cheese, green onions, hot chilies

ABOUT:

Chili is easy, delicious, and perfect for cold weather. Toss all the ingredients in the crock pot in the morning and let it cook while you’re out running errands. Toss the squash in the oven when you get home and in 30 minutes you’ll be enjoying an amazing dinner. I decided to throw frozen corn into this recipe, and a couple others as well, since I already had some in my freezer that needed to be used up. Making use of what you already have is another great way to save money. I’ll talk about that more later.

TUESDAY: Jambalaya

INGREDIENTS:

Frozen corn, okra, yams, spices, tofu, vegan sausage, bell peppers, chilies, crushed tomatoes, rice, onions, celery, carrots, veggie stock, garlic, hot chilies, cilantro

ABOUT:

This is another great cold weather meal. Prep it early in the week, and store it in a casserole dish in the fridge for a quick and easy meal later on.

WEDNESDAY: Chickpea Pasta & Steamed Veggies

INGREDIENTS:

Chickpea noodles, vegan pasta sauce, mushrooms, vegan meatballs, spinach, carrots, vegan cheese, broccoli

ABOUT:

Everyone loves pasta! This meal is so easy to throw together, and cheap too. Before having my baby I would make all my pasta sauces from scratch, but now I simply don’t have the time. So I just pair my favorite vegan noodles ( I usually keep my pantry stocked in case I need to makea quick meal) and sauce with some vegan meatballs and steamed veggies. I also like to add more veggies into the store bought sauce to spice it up a bit, hence the mushrooms, carrots, and spinach (which I toss in at the very end).

THURSDAY: Miso Ramen

INGREDIENTS:

Noodles, miso, veggie stock, frozen corn, tofu, yams, carrots, spinach, broccoli, cilantro, green onions, mushrooms

ABOUT:

Before I was vegan, ramen was one of my all time favorites. It’s super easy to make, especially if you use miso paste for the broth. When I make ramen, I add whatever veggies and proteins I have left over from other meals. In this case, I have frozen corn, broccoli, yams, carrots, mushrooms, and tofu. You can add whatever veggies you want, which makes this super fun and different each time.

FRIDAY: Vegan Sausage, Garlic Herb Quinoa & Roasted Root Veggies

INGREDIENTS:

Vegan sausage, quinoa, carrots, onion, garlic, veggie stock, beats, turnip, potatoes, broccoli, spices, sweet potatoes, mushrooms

ABOUT:

Another easy meal. Cook your quinoa in veggie stock with garlic, herbs, and serve it with baked or pan seared vegan sausage and roasted root veggies. Yum!

As you can see, I used the same ingredients in most of my meals. But don’t worry, changing it up by using different spices and bases will keep it from becoming boring and monotonous. Just look at the variety I was able to produce with the same simple ingredients!

3. Stay Fresh

Try to avoid purchasing too many pre-made or packaged items. I know how hard it can be! Tofu and other vegan meats are okay, as long as you don’t overdo it. To save money you want to stick with grains, legumes, and fresh fruits and veggies as much as possible.

4. Stock Up

One of the best ways to save money is by stocking up on grains, seeds, nuts, flour, and legumes. Buy in bulk! It may cost you a pretty penny at first, but once you make that purchase, you won’t have to do so again for at least a couple of months.

Avoid purchasing canned goods since it’s a lot more expensive than purchasing dried legumes and such. My pantry is constantly stocked with dried goods that I store in glass containers. You don’t have to store them this way, but I find that it’s convenient, reduces clutter, and is a lot more efficient.

5. Use What You Have

Try to utilize the ingredients you already have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. If you have frozen veggies and dried black beans, plan to make black bean soup! You may need to purchase only a few ingredients.

6. Eliminate Waste

Instead of throwing out the rubbery carrot in your fridge, or the half eaten squash you know you won’t eat, make your own vegetable stock! Take all of your vegetable trimmings (yes, even those garlic and onion peels) and store them in your freezer. Once a week, toss all of the trimmings in your crockpot with some water and salt, and let it cook all day. Once it’s done, strain it and store the stock in either your fridge or freezer to use with your meals.

Use Coupon, Deals, & More

Go on the store’s website and take advantage of all of their offers! Safeway, for example, offers customers a club card. With it you get items for the club price, can upload coupons to your card, and get rewards points every time you make a purchase.

1. Coupons & Club Card

There is no shame in clipping coupons. Especially since these days you can do it online and don’t have to wait in the checkout line while the cashier scans them, all while trying to avoid making eye contact with the angry customers waiting in line behind you. With Safeway, you simply go onto their website and clip the coupons you want. They are then automatically uploaded onto your card and all you have to do is swipe it or enter your phone number at checkout. And BAM! Instant savings. And don’t forget to pay attention to the Club card prices as well. You can save a bunch just from that.

2. Deals

Stores often have BOGO deals, so make sure you keep an eye out for deals on products you often use and stock up if you can! It will save you money in the long run. You can often find these deals on the store’s website and add them onto your club card along with the coupons.

3. Delivery

You may have to pay a little extra, but shopping at a store that offers delivery will save you so much time! And we all know time is money. Especially for you mamas who have a new baby. I do 100% of my shopping while I’m nursing my 2 and a half month old baby. Talk about multitasking and being productive!

4. Promo Codes

The advantage to shopping online is that you can use promo codes. Before placing your order, always check to see what promos they are offering at the time. Sometimes you get free delivery, others you’ll get free items. Below is a screenshot of the order I just placed with Safeway. And before you guys get upset and say I’m a fake vegan, the honey is for my partner who is omni. Don’t worry, I’ll convert him someday!! Now, keep in mind that this is the cost of groceries for 2 people for the week. One who is a big muscular man, and the other (me) a breastfeeding mama.

 

Conclusion

As you can see from the screen shot, I saved over $30 on this purchase, and this is the price BEFORE all my coupons have been taken into account. I’m guessing I saved closer to $45, which is over 1/3 of the entire cost before coupons, promos, and other deals. Now, if I had used Imperfect Produce to get my fruits and veggies delivered this week, I would have saved even more since a 13 pound box only costs me $20 including shipping. Not bad eh?

As always my lovely readers, if you have any questions, please ask them below in the comment section. And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @theveganmom1 for more tips and tricks. Ciao!

Vegan Comfort Food Recipes: Southwest Pasta

Alright, I know I’m not the only one out there whose partner isn’t vegan. It can be such a struggle sometimes to make meals that he and I will both enjoy. Oh, and did I mention that I’m the one who does All the cooking? Yup. And that means he expects me to cook meat for him. No thank you!

So lately I have been making him vegan meals without telling him they’re vegan until after he’s eaten them. This southwest pasta is one of those meals. He enjoyed it so much that now he frequently asks me to “make one of your vegan things”. His words exactly. He had no idea that the cheese sauce and chicken were both vegan and scarfed down every bite, then had seconds!

This pasta is creamy, cheesy, spicy, chock-full of delicious plant protein, and one of the best comfort foods for these cold nights. Oh, and did I mention how quick and easy it is to make? When I whipped this up for dinner last night it only took 20 minutes start to finish. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Easily serves a family of 5.

Southwest Pasta

Ingredients

2 cups frozen corn or the corn from four ears

2 (8-9oz) packages Rotini ( I like Barilla’s red lentil Rotini the best!)

1 package Gardein Chickenless Strips, OR 1 package extra firm tofu

1 (14-15 oz) can vegan chili (I used Amy’s Black Bean Chili)

2 TBSP olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced

3 cups vegan queso

Cherry tomatoes and cilantro for garnish

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

1. Boil a large pot of water and cook pasta according to the instructions

2. While the water is boiling, prepare queso sauce. Click here for the recipe. Set aside.

3. Once pasta is cooked, drain all the liquid and place noodles back in pot. Mix the entire can of chili in with the pasta noodles and set aside.

4. In a large saucepan hear 1 Tbsp of the oil over medium heat. Add the diced bell pepper, onion, corn, and garlic. Cook until they are soft, then remove from pan and set aside.

5. Add the remaining 1 TBSP of oil to the pan, and cook chickenless strips until thawed. (If using tofu, make sure to drain and press the liquid before cooking. Cook until golden brown). Add the corn mixture back into the pan. Fry until the chicken or tofu are crispy, then mix in with the pasta.

6. Stir in the queso sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.

7. Garnish with sliced cherry tomatoes and cilantro if desired.

Recipe Notes

If cooking for small children, omit the chilies from the queso and add to your own plate after serving.

Conclusion

Your family will be so distracted by how delicious this pasta is that they won’t even realize it’s 100% vegan. Throw it together whenever you’re craving something cheesy. Toss it all in a baking dish, cover it with vegan breadcrumbs, and pop in the oven for a little extra yumminess. This pasta can be made in advance and warmed in the oven for a quick meal.

I hope you enjoyed my southwest pasta recipe! Don’t forget to tag me in all your Instagram photos @theveganmom1

Chili Cheese Tofu Scramble

Getting tired of your usual breakfast? Try this amazingly simple and delicious tofu scramble featuring homemade vegan queso and the vegan chili of your choice. I like to use leftover chili that I had made the day before, but will use canned chili in a pinch.

Missing one of my favorite breakfast items, chili cheese omelets, I took my favorite tofu scramble recipe and altered it, creating this vegan masterpiece you see before you! For my vegan queso recipe, click here.

Chili Cheese Tofu Scramble

INGREDIENTS

Tofu

14 to 16 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry

2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup vegan chili

Toppings

1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes

1 avocado, sliced

1/4 cup queso sauce

Fresh cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Place the tofu in a medium-size bowl and use a potato masher or fork to break it into small pieces.

2. Heat the oil in a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until. Add the tofu and cook until it has released some of its liquid, this will typically take about 5 minutes.

3. Next we add the nutritional yeast and turmeric. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tofu is completely yellow and piping hot. Quickly stir in the vegan chili. Before serving, top with vegan queso, sliced avocado, and halved cherry tomatoes then garnish with fresh cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve alongside potatoes, vegan sausage, toast, and fresh fruit.

*Make sure you don’t add any salt or pepper before you’ve covered your scramble in the queso! The queso may have enough salt as is.

*Leftover scramble can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Conclusion

This simple tofu scramble recipe will be a new favorite of the whole family! Keep the spice down to a minimum if you’re serving kids, or those who Can’t handle the heat, and just add hot sauce or hot chilies to your own taste. If you make the queso ahead of time (it will keep in the fridge for up to a week), this is a great recipe you can quickly throw together for a delicious, protein-packed breakfast.

Let me know what you think, and don’t forget to share your pics and tag me on Instagram @theveganmom1

The Best Vegan Queso

I don’t know about you, but giving up cheese was one of the hardest things for me when I was first transitioning. And if you have ever had store bought vegan cheese you know that most of it tastes nothing like the real thing. After transitioning I began to miss cheesy nachos, cheesy pasta, and everything else I used to cover in cheese. That’s when I created this vegan queso recipe.

This is the vegan queso you have all been waiting for and it’s so easy to make! Most of us already have all these ingredients in our fridge and pantry. If not, the links below will take you to where you can buy them.

This queso is creamy, cheesy, spicy (if you want it to be), and oh so satisfying.

The Best Vegan Queso

Ingredients

2 cans coconut milk (full fat, Thai kitchen brand preferred)

1 tsp rice vinegar

4 Tbsp corn starch

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp liquid smoke

2 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup nutritional yeast powder

1 tsp of turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp cayenne powder OR fresh minced Serrano chili, plus more to taste

1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro

Instructions

1. Boil coconut milk until no longer separated. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix all dry ingredients with 1/2 cup of coconut milk mixture. Stir until smooth then slowly add to pot, whisking the whole time.

2. Bring to a boil. Place remaining ingredients in pot. Cook another 5-10 minutes until mixture is nice and thick.

Serve up with your favorite dishes right away, or store in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Before using, heat in the microwave or in a small sauce pan.

What Can I Use Queso On?

Vegan Burrito Bowl

Layer rice, black beans, sauteed onions, garlic, and bell peppers, lettuce, and guacamole smothered in this delicious queso for an easy lunch or dinner.

Vegan Nachos

Toss together your favorite vegan corn chips, beans, meat substitute, and guacamole with this queso. These nachos make an awesome snack!

Chili Cheese Tofu Scramble

Cover your favorite tofu egg scramble with my vegan queso, or click here for my chili cheese tofu scramble recipe.

Vegan Cheeseburger

This queso is so tasty on vegan burgers. My personal favorite is the beyond burger. I like to put onions, tomato, avocado, and queso on mine. Or you can make a chili cheese burger!

Southwest Pasta Bowl

With vegan noodles, vegan chicken, grilled bell peppers & onion, corn, and queso sauce, this is the perfect vegan comfort food. Click here for the recipe!

Conclusion

Who doesn’t love queso? Seriously!? And now with my vegan queso recipe you can finally enjoy it guilt free. Not only is this queso recipe super easy to make, but it’s so veratile! Because it’s (somewhat) healthy, you can smother all your favorite foods in it without feeling bad.

Tell me in the comments what you think of this recipe, and share your adaptations. And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @theveganmom1 for more recipes!

 

 

 

 

Easy Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, we are all looking for the perfect vegan treat to serve our families. Well, look no further! This vegan pumpkin cheesecake is a showstopper. Just last week I made this cheesecake for a friendsgiving event that I hosted. My guests consisted of a group of omni friends who were not usually fond of vegan food. After trying my cheesecake they said it was so good they had no idea it was vegan!

When I first started my transition I was lamenting not being able to eat my favorite dessert, cheesecake, ever again. Seriously, I was devastated! How would I celebrate my birthday properly if there was no cheesecake!? I almost caved, like many others, but thinking about where the ingredients came from made me even more sad than not eating cheesecake. And so I was determined to find the best vegan cheesecake recipes possible. There were so many out there, but none nearly as tasty as this one.

Made with Maxine’s Heavenly pumpkin pecan spice cookies, fresh pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and blended cashews, this is the perfect fall treat. Your family will be begging you for more!

Why You will Love This Cheesecake

This cheesecake is chock-full of fall flavors, it’s sweet, creamy, and so versatile! Decorate with fresh cranberries, cranberry sauce (trust me), cinnamon, toasted pecans, chocolate sauce, vegan whipped cream… whatever you want! This recipe is sure to WOW everyone. Heck, double up the recipe and make two!! If you end up with leftovers (which I highly doubt will happen), put them in the freezer to enjoy at a later date.

Now what you have been waiting for, the best Vegan Pumpin Cheesecake recipe EVER!!!

Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients

For the Cookie Crust:

1 1/2 cups cookie crumbs, about 6 cookies (I used Maxine’s Heavenly Pumpkin Pecan Spice cookies)

1/4 cup melted vegan butter (I use pure blends avocado oil butter)

For the Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake:

1 1/2 cup raw cashews, softened

1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree (fresh is preferred, but you can use canned puree, just don’t get pumpkin pie filling!)

1/2 cup non-dairy milk (such as soy or almond, I decided to use coconut milk to make it extra creamy)

1/2 cup organic raw cane sugar, or coconut sugar.

1 tbsp corn starch, 2 tsp agar flakes, OR 1 tsp agar powder (I used agar powder).

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp all spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease the sides and bottom of an 8-inch round baking dish or spring form pan (preferred) with vegan butter, then dust with flour. Tap the side of the pan to thoroughly cover it with flour. Make sure you get the sides as well! Dump any excess flour.

To Soften the Cashews:

Boil cashews for 10 minutes. OR soak the cashews for four hours or overnight. You want them to be nice and soft! Drain all the liquid before using.

To Make the Cookie Crust:

Crumble cookies, Maxine’s Heavenly are soft enough to do so with your fingers. In a small bowl, mix the cookie crumbs with the melted vegan butter. Pour the crumb mixture into the pan then spread evenly. The mixture may be soggy, but don’t worry. Just use a fork to spread it around. Bake for 7-10 minutes until the edges are lightly golden.

To Make the Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake:

Add all the ingredients, EXCEPT THE NON-DAIRY MILK & AGAR POWDER, to a food processor or blender and blend until as smooth as possible. You may need to stop to scrape the sides. (If you have a cheap blender, you might have to wait until after the next step to blend.)

Once your mixture is blended, heat your non-dairy milk in a small saucepan until it’s at a simmer (small bubbles). Slowly add the agar powder, flakes OR corn starch (I prefer the agar powder), stirring the whole time. Simmer, continuing to whisk, until it has thickened (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and pour into blender with cashew mixture. This is where you want to blend like crazy. We want that filling to be as smooth as possible!

Once it is silky smooth, pour the mixture over top of the cookie crust and spread evenly. Bake for 25 – 35 minutes until the top is slightly golden brown and the edges begin to crack. Let the cheesecake cool on the counter then transfer to the fridge. Chill uncovered for at least 4 hours or overnight until it has set. I get the best results when I make the cheesecake the night before I plan on serving it.

Before serving, I like to top it with my homemade spiced cranberry sauce and coconut whipped cream. You can also sprinkle it with a little more cinnamon. Vegan chocolate sauce is also quite good on this cheesecake! Yum!

Tips:

You can freeze this cheesecake batter for a delicious frozen treat. When freezing the batter, you can exclude the agar powder. Instead of baking the batter in a pie dish, you can place cookie crumbs and filling (you can even mix them together to make a cookies and cream ice cream bar) into a popsicle mold and put them dirextly in the freezer. If you do not have a popsicle mold, use an ice cube tray. First pour in batter, leaving a little room for cookie crumbs. Once you’ve covered the tops with  cookies, cover with plastic wrap and then poke toothpicks or popsicle sticks through. Freeze for 2 hours. Drizzle with vegan chocolate sauce and enjoy!!

You can even freeze the batter in a tub, then scoop it out to make ice cream sandwiches.

The batter and cookies can also be used as a vegan yogurt topper!

Conclusion

This recipe was so simple, and so easy to make a beginner could do it!! As you can see, the batter can be used in many ways other than just as a cheesecake. I absolutely love this delicious and versatile vegan cheesecake recipe! I promise that even your non vegan friends and family members are going to go nuts over it. What’s not to like about it? Its sweet, creamy, filled with yummy fall flavors, and also quite nice to look at.

Thank you for checking out my recipe. Please feel free to ask questions and post pics after you have tried it out. And don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @theveganmom1