Wednesday, May 10

How To Eat Vegan For Under $50 A Week (For Two People!)

One of the most common concerns I hear from people with regards to becoming vegan or simply eating a plant-based diet is, "It's too expensive." The truth is that, yes, being vegan can be expensive... if you let it be. Just last week my husband and I spend a whopping $140 on groceries! We splurged on mock meats, chocolate, wine, sparkling water, you name it we bought all of the things (we must have been hungry when we shopped or something because that was about twice our normal weekly spending!).

However, it can also be very, very cheap... if you plan, stick to the basics, and buy what's on sale and seasonal. Think about it, what are some of the cheapest, most filling, and most nutritious foods? Rice, beans, potatoes, bananas, etc. These are all plant foods!

So to show you just how affordable a whole foods plant-based vegan diet can be I decided to create a little challenge for myself (with the added benefit of making up for our epic splurge week last week). I wanted to create a full week's meal plan and spend under $50 for it.

Here's how I did it, what I got, and what I ate.

Focus On Whole-Foods

The main reason why I spent so much on groceries the week prior to this challenge and why many people have the misconception that being vegan in general is expensive is because of expensive processed foods. As delicious as they are they're not budget friendly. When eating a plant-based diet on a budget be sure to focus your meals around whole-foods such as beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and starches. Cooking from scratch will take more time but it's cheaper and better for your health too!

Buy What's On Sale

The first thing I did was to check out my grocery store's website to see what was on sale for the week. I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi because it's very affordable and they also only sell the basics (as opposed to last week when I went to a larger grocery store which sells mock meats and I went absolutely crazy). I wrote down all of the items which were on sale for the week and built my meal plan around them. This particular week happened to have Cinco de Mayo fall in it so a lot of salsas, tomatoes, and the sort were on sale. Berry season is also coming so blueberries were on sale so I knew I had to get some for blueberry pancakes/waffles. Yum!

Create A Meal Plan

The next step was to make my meal plan for the week so I'd know exactly what I'd be making and eating all week. I made sure to keep in mind the things I knew were on sale this week. I wanted to choose things that could utilize some of the same ingredients (tacos and chili will use the same veggies, my pasta salad and veggies wraps will have the same things in them, etc.) so I could feel like I was eating a variety of meals without having to buy too large of a variety of ingredients. I also wanted to make sure I planned for a decent variety of fruits and veggies for optimal nutrition!

Create A List

Once you have your meal plan created it's time to make a list. Don't buy anything that's not on the list! This is key to sticking to your budget. No adding chips or candies that look good; not if they weren't planned into your budget and your meals.

Here's what was on my list:

  • blueberries
  • bananas (3 bags - approximately 2lbs each bag)
  • cucumber
  • cantaloupe
  • bell peppers (bag of 3)
  • mushrooms (2 bundles - 1lb each bundle)
  • roma tomatoes (one 1lb bag)
  • lettuce (one 9oz bag)
  • baby carrots (one 1lb bag)
  • zucchini (one 2lbs bundle)
  • mango
  • cilantro
  • flour (5lb bag)
  • peanut butter
  • canned pumpkin
  • almond milk (half gallon)
  • canned white beans (2 cans)
  • canned kidney beans (2 cans)
  • canned black beans (2 cans)
  • tortillas (small, 20 total)
  • canned refried beans
  • jarred salsa
  • hummus
  • small can of tomatoes w/ green chilies
  • pasta (1lb box)
  • coffee
I was also planning to use a few things I had left in the cupboards including rice, oatmeal, onions, potatoes, spices, sugar, oil, and a can of fire roasted tomatoes.

My Total

My total for all the items I bought for the week was $38.35! However, since I used several things that I already had in the cupboard I decided to title this article "Under $50 A Week" rather than "Under $40 A Week" because I figured I'd have to spend around another $10 max to buy the extra items I used that I already had. Since we're going on vacation the day this experiment ends I want the fridge and cupboards completely cleaned out (so we don't come home to moldy food or ants!).

Our haul! It looks a bit sparse since all the produce is piled up in the front basket but rest assured, we'll be eating good this week!

How To Make It Cheaper

My goal for this week was to keep it under $50 (including items used in my pantry) but this challenge could be made even cheaper by cutting a few corners and putting in a little extra work. For example, using dry beans instead of canned beans would save a little more in the long run. Beans are economical no matter how you slice it but per bean dried is the way to go on a tight budget. You just have to remember to soak them ahead of time and take the time to cook them. You could also make your own refried beans from dried pinto beans you cook yourself. Making your own tortillas from scratch is another way to save a little dough (haha get it, dough?). I thought about doing this myself since I needed to buy flour this week but decided that $1.79 was worth it for me to save a bit of time this week. I love homemade tortillas but I'm not the very best at making them just yet (I really should practice more). I also got a few "luxury" items like cilantro and coffee which could easily be cut out to save an extra $5. As far as coffee goes though Aldi has the most affordable of anywhere I've seen. It cost just $3.99 for fair trade coffee!

What I Ate

I followed my meal plan all week and mixed and matched what I ate each day so I wouldn't get bored. Here's an example of what I ate in a day. (My husband ate the same meals as me each day!)

Example Day 1-
Blueberry Banana Waffles - How To Eat Vegan For Under $50 A Week (For Two People!)
Blueberry banana waffles!


  • two blueberry waffles made with mashed banana (same ingredients as we'd use to make pancakes but we decided to throw them in the waffle iron this morning)
  • two large cups of coffee each with sugar and almond milk
  • pasta salad made with tomato, sliced cucumbers, white beans, and salad dressing
  • baby carrots and hummus
Vegan tacos - How To Eat Vegan For Under $50 A Week (For Two People!)
Tacos for Cinco de Mayo!
  • tacos made with tortillas, refried beans, bell pepper, onion, potatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, salsa, lettuce, and cilantro
  • banana ice cream made with frozen bananas, almond milk, peanut butter, and sugar

Example Day 2-

  • oatmeal made with banana and peanut butter
Veggie wraps - How To Eat Vegan For Under $50 A Week (For Two People!)
Veggie wraps
  • veggie wraps made with tortillas, hummus, tomato, cucumber, and white beans
  • cantaloupe
  • black beans and rice with mango and cilantro
  • banana bread with peanut butter (I also ate this for breakfast a few days)

I also drank copious amounts of water throughout the day!

So that's it! We successfully ate for a full week on a modest budget and it went surprisingly well. So well in fact that when we get back from vacation I think I may want to try an "Under $40" challenge (because goodness knows we'll be eating out a lot and blowing through cash fast while out of town!). What do you think, would you be interested in some more cheap eating ideas? Let me know in the comments below! And if you're interested in learning about any of the recipes I used to eat this week let me know so I can be sure to do a future blog post about it.

Saturday, May 6

What Is Jamberry? - The Vegan Nail Art Revolution

Maybe you've heard of it. Jamberry, jams, "jamboree", nail wraps, nail "stickers". What the heck is Jamberry?!
Buy All The Jams! - What Is Jamberry? - The Vegan Nail Art Revolution

Jamberry is a direct sales company. That means when you order from Jamberry you're ordering directly through an Independent Consultant (like me!) who will provide you with customer service and assistance in choosing and using your products. A direct sales company is different from other companies in that the consultant who introduced you to the product earns commission from sales and will work directly with you to ensure you love your products. Other direct sales companies that you may have heard of include Tupperware (the old classic), Lularoe, Beach Body, Mary Kay, there are really too many to list even a small fraction of them.

Jamberry's flagship product and what we're the most well-known for is our nail wraps. Nail wraps are thin vinyl sheets with an adhesive backing that is heat and pressure activated. They last up to two weeks on fingers and six weeks on toes with no dry time and no chips! With designs including our Disney Collection, NFL Collection, Marvel Collection, Wonder Woman Collection, Peanuts Collection, NBA Collection, and more there is truly something for everyone. There are also juniors wraps for little girls (recommended for ages 9 and under). And best of all - they're vegan!

What Is Jamberry? - The Vegan Nail Art Revolution

They're also very economical! One sheet of Jamberry nail wraps will run you $15 to $19.50, depending on which ones you get, and most are Buy 3 Get 1 Free! Each sheet will give you enough wraps for two full manicures, two full pedicures, and some accent nails leftover. Sure beats $30 per mani and pedi, right?

The Benefits Of Jamberry What Is Jamberry? - The Vegan Nail Art Revolution

Sounds great, right? But how do they work?! Click HERE to watch the application video, read the instructions, and also learn how to properly remove them. (If you have any questions feel free to contact me anytime. My contact info is available on the Contact Me tab in the header.)

Jamberry lacquers and gels are 8-free! What Is Jamberry? - The Vegan Nail Art Revolution
Nail wraps aren't all Jamberry carries. We also have a line of high quality lacquers (similar to nail polish), gels, nail tools, and even hand and foot care products. And we have new products coming out all the time! The lacquers and the gels are both 8-free, which means they do not have the 8 toxins most commonly found in other nail products.

After the nail wraps one of my favorite products and a definite must-have if you plan to use the nail wraps long-term is the mini heater. Technically you can apply your nail wraps with a hair dryer but the mini heater is a game changer! It emits the perfect amount of heat with not too much force and best of all - it's nearly silent! You can get it for just $1 as a part of the Basic Bundle deal (which comes with 4 wraps of your choice, an application kit, and the mini heater).

Why you need Jamberry's mini heater What Is Jamberry? - The Vegan Nail Art Revolution
All of Jamberry's products are vegan with the exception of three (none of which are nail art related, thankfully). These three are Beauty Boost (biotin vitamins, they contain gelatin and beeswax), Quench hand balm (beeswax), and Soothe foot creme (beeswax). In lieu of Quench and Soothe I recommend the Nourish hand creme. It's super moisturizing and nourishing (thus the name) so you really won't miss the other two products anyways (I don't anyways). Steer free of those three little things and enjoy a vegan-friendly nail art paradise!

Now no post about Jamberry would be complete without a few nailfies, am I right?
Mermaid Tales nail wraps and Life's A Beach gel manicure and pedicure - What Is Jamberry? - The Vegan Nail Art Revolution
Mani and pedi featuring 'Mermaid Tales' wraps and 'Life's A Beach' gel.

Wedding manicure featuring Gold Floral and White Tips nail wraps - What Is Jamberry? - The Vegan Nail Art Revolution
I even wore Jamberry wraps at my wedding. I wore 'Gold Floral' over 'White Tips'.

Did I mention you can design your own nail wraps? One of my favorite things about Jamberry is designing my own exclusive designs in Jamberry's Nail Art Studio. And you can too! You don't even have to be a consultant to design your own nail wraps and if someone purchases your design you'll get paid for it. Cool, no? You can see my Nail Art Studio designs (including ones for Harry Potter, Outlander, Pokemon, The Phantom Of The Opera, and more) HERE.

Van Gogh Almond Blossoms Nail Art Studio nail wraps - What Is Jamberry? - The Vegan Nail Art Revolution
Van Gogh Almond Blossoms wraps I designed in Nail Art Studio.

Space Unicorns Nail Art Studio Jamberry nail wraps - What Is Jamberry? - The Vegan Nail Art Revolution
Space Unicorn wraps I designed in Nail Art Studio.

I've been using Jamberry since January 2015 and have been a consultant since February 2015. This business has been such an incredible blessing to me for allowing me to earn some extra cash back when I was a college student and now I get to pay off my student loans and make a living while working from home, being my own boss, and doing a job that I truly enjoy! If you're on the market for a way to make some side cash and some new friends contact me and I will send you more information about the Jamberry business opportunity!

The Jamberry business opportunity - little box, big opportunities!

So those are the basic of Jamberry! If you'd like to learn more and keep up to date with what's new with Jamberry come 'like' my Jamberry Facebook page. If you're U.S. based and would like to earn some Jamberry nail wraps for free, contact me to schedule a Facebook party. I'll send you free wraps just for scheduling with me!

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions at all comment below or contact me via Facebook or email.

Friday, May 5

35 Cheap (or free) Spring Date Ideas

Spring has sprung and the weather is finally warming up. It's time to get outside, enjoy the flowers, and spend some quality time with your significant other. If you're looking for some fun, cheap (or even free) date ideas to try out this Spring then read on for some of my husband and my favorite date ideas!

1) Go for a picnic

My favorite picnics are Mediterranean style. We'll go to the olive bar at the grocery store and stock up on Dolmas, olives, Tabbouleh, and some bread. Just add some fruit and chocolate and you're set!

2) Go on a hike

What better way to enjoy the Springtime than by being outdoors and deep in nature?
Hiking by the river - 35 Cheap (or free) Spring Date Ideas
Eric and I going for a nice little hike by the river.

3) Play trivia

Many bars have trivia nights which are cheap or even free to attend.

4) Museum

Many towns have free ones, mine has a free art museum and a free Anthropology museum. Check out what free museums your town has to offer.

5) Botanical Gardens

Again many towns have free ones. An hour north of me in Madison, WI there is a stunning free botanical garden. There are also several cheap ones nearby, some even do specials were certain days of the week (such as Tuesday) are discounted.

6) Comedy show at a bar

Our local vegan pub does comedy shows once a month and they're free to attend. Of course we always grab a beer and some food to snack on so then it ends up being a cheap date rather than a free one.

7) Take a walk around your local park

And play Pokemon Go if you're into it. My husband and I can easily spend an hour walking along the river at our local park catching Pokemon. It's a lot of fun.
Pokemon Go - 35 Cheap (or free) Spring Date Ideas
Pokemoning it up! :)

8) Play board games

If you're anything like my husband and I you have dozens collecting dusk, break those bad boys out and put them to good use!

9) Play games in the park

Why not bring your chess set, checkers, etc. to the park and enjoy the gorgeous Spring weather?

10) Farmer's Market

Most farmers markets open back up during Spring! Why not spend a Saturday morning strolling yours? You can even stock up one some delicious goodies for your picnic. My local one also has live music playing which makes it even more enjoyable.

11) Go to a winery and enjoy a tasting

Many are free and it's a fun way to try out new wines and feel a little classy at the same time.
Go to a winery - 35 Cheap (or free) Spring Date Ideas
This tasting wasn't free - but it was worth every penny of the few dollars it cost.

12) Go to a brewery

Enjoy a beer tasting and tour. Tours are usually free with a tasting (which are typically quite cheap).

13) Go geocaching

Before Pokemon Go, there was geocaching! It's a scavenger hunt using GPS coordinates and small trinkets you can collect, just be sure to bring some trinkets along to replace those you find.

14) Create your own Chopped competition

Go to the grocery store or Famer's Market and pick up a few odder ingredients and make your own challenge to see who can come up with the better meal.

15) Stargazing

Bonus points if it's during a meteor shower!

16) Paint pottery at a local paint shop

This is a fun creative date and it's pretty inexpensive (smaller pottery pieces will be cheaper than larger ones) plus you'll have some lovely decorative pieces to add to your home when you're done.

Paint pottery at a local paint shop - 35 Cheap (or free) Spring Date Ideas
We made a little gnome couple together!

17) Movies in the park

Many towns do free movie screenings in the park during late Spring and summer.

18) Camp in your own backyard

Break out that tent and sleeping bag and camp in your own backyard.

19) Play putt-putt

Also know as mini-gold, putt-putt is tons of fun and cheap. My husband and I tend to get really competitive when we play.
Play putt-putt - 35 Cheap (or free) Spring Date Ideas
For the record, I dominate him at putt-putt.

20) Go for a bike ride

Whether you hit a trail or bike around the park this is a great way to enjoy the sights and get some fresh air. You can even rent a tandem bike!

21) Play pool or darts at a local bar

Make it a competition if you want. Loser has to give the winner a massage! ;)

22) Volunteer together for a cause you're both passionate about

It's free and you'll be helping others!

23) Rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboat

This is especially fun in later Spring as the weather heats up. Don't forget the life jacket.
Go paddleboating - 35 Cheap (or free) Spring Date Ideas
Don't forget the sunscreen!

24) Go out for appetizers

Cheaper than ordering a full meal out but you still get the experience of dining at a restaurant.

25) Go to a flea market and look for gifts for each other

Set a price limit ($5, $10, whatever you choose).

26) Attend live music shows in your town's local park or bars

This is a great way to support your local talent and you never knew what favorite new band you'll discover!

27) Train for a 5k

Bonus points if you pick a fun one like Color Run, a beer crawl, zombie run, etc

28) Visit an animal sanctuary

Admission goes directly towards helping the animals so you can really feel good about what you're spending and you'll get to learn all about the animals at the sanctuary.
Visit an animal sanctuary - 35 Cheap (or free) Spring Date Ideas
I made a new friend. :) 

29) Fly kites

Especially on the windier days of Spring kite flying is a great activity.

30) Go to a play

Between you local theater, college, and high school there's sure to be someone putting on a good show at a good price.

31) Attend your community's Spring festival

Many towns have some kind of music festival, art walk, Strawberry festival, or some other kind of festivity in Spring. 

32) Play tourist for a day

Most towns have historical houses and other monuments which locals typically overlook. Spend the day enjoying all those sights which usually only the tourists go see!

33) Have a movie marathon

There's no time like the present to rewatch all the Harry Potter films.

34) Teach each other a new skill

Does one of you know how to play an instrument, paint, knit, skateboard, etc? Teach your skill to your partner.

35) Play strip poker

Need I say more?

Not sure which idea to try first? Create your own 'Date Jar' by writing down the ideas you like best on Wooden Craft Sticks/Ice Cream Sticks, sticking them in a jar, and then whenever you need a new date idea select a stick at random!