Going Vegan on a Budget: Three Weeks in and Gettin’ My Groove On

I’m now rounding the corner…I have just one week left to complete my Going Vegan on a Budget challenge. As a reminder, for the last month I’ve been shopping, couponing, and eating as a vegan. The goal? To see if I could eat a whole foods, specialty diet and stick to our strict $350/monthly grocery budget.

If you’re just joining me, you might want to get caught up by reading my introductory postday oneweek one , and mid-month updates. For those wondering, my kids have continued to eat dairy and meat this past month. (In fact my daughter is enjoying a cup of yogurt as I type up this post.)

This Week’s Shopping Trip & Budget Update

Just to keep things spicy, this month we’ve moved to a cash envelope system a la Dave Ramsey for our budget!

Today I went shopping at WinCo and Fred Meyer. (Make sure to check out the hot deals I snagged on the So Delicious and Tylenol if you’ve not done so yet!)

A Week's Worth of Yumminess

Here’s a quick update:

  • Total Spent Month-to-Date: $313.28
  • Total Saved Month-to-Date: $169.86
  • Left in the Budget this Month: $36.72
  • Total Saved Month-to-Date as percentage: 35.16%
  • (And, just for fun) Total Spent on Eating out this Month: $60*

* This is really low for us! So there is likely “savings beyond the savings” of eating this way this month.

While we only have $36 left in our budget this month, I planned enough meals and bought enough food to see us through the next week. I’m hopeful that we won’t go over our February $350 budget.

What’s on the Menu

You know what’s so awesome about having done this challenge? I feel like I got an education in a whole new way of cooking! I’ve learned how to make my own vegetable broth in the slow cooker, steam my own vegan sausages, and cook with cool bulk finds like TVP and bulgur. This has been such an enjoyable culinary adventure for me. It’s been frugal, healthful, and tasteful! Can’t get much better than that.

Here are a few new things I tried this week:

I had this butternut squash for part of my meal last night. I cooked it in my microwave and then topped it with this AWESOME cinnamon syrup recipe I found last night at Allrecipes. Delicious!

Reader Marti runs a vegan blog called Tofu ‘n Sproutz and she had this yummy looking Aloo Mutter Gobi recipe there I just had to try! It was delicious, warm, and filling.

This is one of my new favorite recipes! These Fool Your Friends Tacos are just awesome. Not only were they quick and easy to make – the texture definitely reminds you of meat. So flavorful! I had them a couple nights ago for dinner and then used the leftovers for lunch the next day. I would definitely make this again. Recommend.

I’m also planning on making a batch of the vegan sausages and vegetable broth for meals this week. OH! And I’m going to try to make my own almond milk. I’ll make sure to post about that once I’ve tried it.

Here’s the Menu for This Week:

  • Sloppy Joes with TVP, homemade steak fries, salad
  • Burritos (I’m going to modify the taco recipe above, add pinto beans, cilantro, and tomatoes), spanish rice
  • Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (stuffed with walnuts & bulgur), salad
  • Mexican Polenta Pie (slow cooker recipe from a library cookbook I found)
  • Leftovers
  • Soups, Chilis to fill in the other dinners

For lunches I plan on making:

For breakfasts I plan on making:

  • Green smoothies with hemp protein
  • Oatmeal or Bob’s Red Mill cereal with seeds and dried fruit

Personal Reflections

So this is just crazy to me. At the start of the month I weighed in at 151 pounds. Today? I weigh 143 lbs! That’s a weight loss of 8 already this month people! This is also a 15 lb total weight loss since the start of 2012. And I’ve actually not worked out as hard as I did in January. I’m not starving myself – I feel like I’m snacking all.the.time. I’m eating well and I don’t feel deprived. While the first few days were a bit rough figuring out what I was doing, I can say that three weeks in I feel REALLY fantastic.

Most notably – I just feel calmer. I feel less frazzled, more comfortable with who I am and what I’m doing. I feel more capable of handling stressful days and I relax more easily at night. I feel more connected with my food and the process of preparing it and eating it. I shared this with my husband over lunch and he had to agree. He wonders if it has to do with changes happening to our blood sugar or something. Who knows? All I can say is I’m loving how I’m feeling.

Some of you have asked what my plans are beyond February. I still don’t have any answers. I’m not ready to say that this is a permanent change, but undoubtedly what I’ve experienced this month has left a permanent impression on me. Terry and I have decided to get a Vitamix and start juicing to get in even MORE of the good fruits and veggies. We’re definitely going to eat more meatless meals. And while I can’t say what I plan on doing beyond February I will say I’m not ready to go back to meat and dairy yet.


  1. Joslin says

    a fun, easy, cheap taco to try are sweet potato taco’s! We love them! All you do is take 2 organic sweet potatos and cube them. Just cover with water add a half an onion diced, let boil till fork soft. Pour off most of the water and add an organic taco packet. The stiring will break down the sweet tatters. Stuff this into a hard taco shell (for the crunch) and add what ever you like as topping. I use black beans with it for a little protine. Enjoy!

    • arussell says

      Nice!! I have made black bean & Sweet potato burritos a couple times this month too!

      That combo sort of sounds like it would be strange, but it’s actually strangely delicious!

      Thanks for the idea!

  2. Brenda says

    I love this segment! It’s original and very inspiring. Just wondering if you have done any of the convenience foods, like mornings star? Their Black bean burgers are great. Although, that would be expensive if the whole family was eating. They do sells them in a big box at Costco.

    • arussell says

      I actually have only done a couple Field Roast sausages. I found I could make my own “burgers” and “sausages” for a fraction of the cost! 😉

      Last week I took the $0.35 cans of black beans at WinCo and my husband loved them so much, I made a stack of “burgers” for him to take to work.

      That being said, I have had Morningstar before and loved their breakfast sausages!

  3. Whitney says

    I love that you’re doing this :) I’ve been vegan for 3.5 years, and your second to last paragraph describes exactly how I feel…amazing, isn’t it?! I’m definitely not a budget shopper becuase it isn’t ‘necessary’ with only myself to support, but would like to be! This series is going to be so helpful; I usually just ignore all the “couponing/grocery savings” blogs because so much of what they post isn’t vegan. Thank you :)

  4. Shannon says

    The same day you mentioned the PPK website, I had just stumbled on to it. For the sausage, what did you use for a steamer? I am trying to think what I could use, but am stumped. Thanks for sharing your adventures?

    • arussell says

      You know, I just used a giant pot with a steam basket on top. Worked perfect! They are so good…but a tip. Do NOT omit the fennel seed. I tried a second batch without the fennel and sorely regretted it.

  5. J.C. says

    Thanks for all the recipes–I can’t wait to try them all! You’re really going to love your Vita-Mix! You can get a good deal on one at a Costco demo or if you can wait for the fair to come back, they have pretty awesome discounts, too. I love my Vita-Mix–totally worth the extra expense compared to a regular blender!

  6. says

    Wooo!! Thanks for the mention and AWESOME JOB!!
    I am so excited that your experience was a good one – whether you stay with it or some modification, this is SO SO COOL!!

    I definitely feel the hormones and antibiotics in meat and milk (even “organic”) contribute to the way we feel both emotionally and physically.

    It’s just me and three teenagers, but we’re all vegan. While my family’s budget is somewhat less than yours, I have been eating this way for years, so (finally) have all the tricks and savings down pat.
    Also, unfortunately, our financial situation requires an extremely frugal approach right now.
    But to those who doubt – it CAN be done, on the tightest budget even!! – I have incorporated a system for buying many things (beans,cornmeal, rice, oats, gluten flour, etc) on a rotating basis, in 25# bulk bags at super-discounts which helps tremendously too.
    I’ve enjoyed your updates SO MUCH!!
    If you have any questions, feel free to send me a note!!

    • arussell says

      Marti, I would LOVE to have you guest post for this series. I will shoot you an email. I’m intrigued by some of your methods/rotating system.

      Thank you for your input & encouragement!

  7. D'Anna says

    Have you checked out Mother Earth News? It’s a pretty cool magazine that is of course also online. Online they feature a blogger named Jessica Kellner that does a Meatless Mondays vegan thing for the Natural Home Living section and she just did a thing on converting recipes into vegan recipes that might help you.

  8. Julie K says

    Thanks for doing this! I was a vegetarian for 8 years and started eating poultry and fish when I got married. I still can’t handle eating meat for more than 2 days in a row, so we still have quite a few vegetarian meals. I have never tried being vegan, but the recipes seem so healthy AND delicious! I will definitely try some of them! Are any of the recipes good for freezing? I am expecting my second child in May and want to have freezer meals ready!

    • arussell says

      I was once a vegetarian for a couple years (but not a vegan), so I knew I could do without meat and be OK. I’m surprised though how little I really miss dairy now that I’m off of it.

      Love the thought of freezer meals…I might have to gnaw on a post idea for that. Immediately what comes to mind: soups, stews, chilis, and burritos. Hmmmm. Not a bad thought, for sure.

  9. says

    I doubt that a vegan — or even vegetarian — lifestyle is in my family’s future, but I’m enjoying this series. Besides the interesting foods, this experiment reinforces for me that it’s not the number of coupons you use or the percent you save every week. A starting budget and deliberate, smart shopping make all the difference no matter what kind of diet you follow.

    • arussell says

      I’m glad you still found it useful! There are so many things I learned this month about meal planning, shopping with cash/list, and cooking from scratch that transcend this diet and could be applied to ANY lifestyle!

      Thanks, Julie!


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