Vegetarian Challenge Week 1 Recap

by Beth - Budget Bytes
Step by Step

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Welcome to the first Vegetarian Challenge Weekly Recap! Buckle up because it’s going to be a looooong post!

TL;DR: This week was full of the unexpected, but I rolled with the punches and made adjustments where necessary. I really enjoyed the benefits of planning ahead, like only grocery shopping once, reducing my food waste, and only having to “cook” a couple of times. I got a little too ambitious with my attempt to reduce my dependency on cheese and carbs, and will probably scale it back a bit next week. This week’s main lesson: It’s all about baby steps!!

Vegetarian Challenge Week 1 Recap

Jump to: What I Bought  – What I Cooked – What I Ate – Leftovers – How I Feel

 

What I Bought

After picking a few recipes to make for the week, I wrote down all the ingredients I needed and doubled check that list against what was in my pantry. To my delight, I already had at least half of those ingredients on hand, which meant my grocery list was pretty short this week. Here is my grocery list and the two receipts from the stores where I shopped:

Grocery List and Receipts

Total Expense: $32.76 – Not bad!

Aldi Haul Week 1
Aldi Haul Week 1 – $16.67

 

Kroger Haul Week 1
Kroger Haul Week 1 – $16.09

Here is what I already had in my kitchen that I used this week: butter, frozen blueberries, sliced almonds, cheddar, mozzarella cheese stick, eggs, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, sriracha, carrots, cornmeal, brown sugar, flour, onion, vegetable broth (Better Than Bouillon), and several herbs and spices.

As I move through the challenge I’ll need to replenish some of these pantry items, so you’ll see how they add a little to the expense of each week.

The Unexpected

When I got to Aldi I was surprised to see the shelves nearly empty. They didn’t have a few of the items that I was planning to purchase, so I had to pivot and get them at Kroger for a higher price. But I did score a big bag of oranges for $1.99, which wasn’t on my plan but made an excellent snack throughout the week, and even into week 2.

What I Cooked

The recipes I had planned for the week were:

Meal prepped Sweet and Spicy Tempeh Bowls in round glass bowls

What I Ate

Since I work from home and my meal times aren’t restricted by a work schedule, I tend to be an intuitive eater. This means that I eat when I get hungry, not when I have a scheduled meal time. Because of this, I tend to eat two larger meals per day (a late breakfast and late lunch) and then just have a couple light snacks later in the evening. So you won’t see a distinct breakfast-lunch-dinner pattern in my meal log.

Okay, here it is. The detailed day-by-day food diary, with price breakdown!

Tuesday 1-1-19 Daily Total: $4.79

  • 2 cups coffee $0.42
  • 2/3 cup milk $0.22
  • 1/4 oat bran (=1 cup cooked with water) $0.18
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter $0.03
  • 1/3 cup frozen blueberries $0.40
  • 1 Tbsp sliced almonds $0.11
  • 1 large tortilla $0.24
  • 2 Tbsp Scallion Herb Cream Cheese Spread $0.20
  • Spinach, bell pepper, carrot, grape tomatoes $1.07
  • 1 serving Sweet and Spicy Tempeh Bowls $1.48
  •  1 orange $0.25
  • 1 mozzarella cheese stick $0.19

Wednesday 1-2-19 Daily Total: $4.44

  • 2 cups coffee $0.42
  • 2/3 cup milk $0.22
  • 1 large tortilla: $0.24
  • 1 large egg: $0.25
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter: $0.03
  • 2 cups fresh spinach: $0.50
  • 1/4 cup Homemade Hummus: $0.37
  • 1 tsp sriracha: $0.03
  • 1 serving Sweet and Spicy Tempeh Bowls $1.48
  • 1 orange $0.25
  • 1/4 cup Homemade Hummus: $0.37
  • 3 celery sticks $0.06
  • 5 carrot sticks $0.06
  • 2 Tbsp peanut Butter $0.16

Thursday 1-3-19 Daily Total: $4.61

Friday 1-4-19 Daily Total: $4.37

  • 2 cups coffee $0.42
  • 2/3 cup milk $0.22
  • 2 larg eggs $0.50
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter $0.03
  • 6 grape tomatoes $0.34
  • 2 cups spinach $0.50
  • 1/2 bell pepper (green) $0.25
  • 1/4 avocado $0.13
  • 1 serving Sweet and Spicy Tempeh Bowls $1.48
  • 1 Rosemary Pepper Drop Biscuit $0.21
  • 1/2 tsp honey $0.04
  • 1 orange $0.25

Saturday 1-5-19 Daily Total: $4.99

  • 2 cups coffee $0.42
  • 2/3 cup milk $0.22
  • 1/4 oat bran (=1 cup cooked with water) $0.18
  • 1/2 Tbsp peanut butter $0.16
  • 1/3 cup frozen blueberries $0.40
  • 2 Tbsps sliced almonds $0.22
  • 1 Sriracha Chickpea Salad Wrap $1.69
  • 1 orange $0.25
  • 1 large flour tortilla $0.24
  • 1 large egg: $0.25
  • 1/4 cup Homemade Hummus: $0.37
  • 1 cup fresh spinach: $0.25
  • 6 grape tomatoes: $0.34

Sunday 1-6-19 Daily Total: $2.67

  • 2 cups coffee $0.42
  • 2/3 cup milk $0.22
  • 1/4 oat bran (=1 cup cooked with water) $0.18
  • 1/2 Tbsp peanut butter $0.16
  • 1/3 cup frozen blueberries $0.40
  • 2 Tbsps sliced almonds $0.22
  • 1/4 cup Homemade Hummus: $0.37
  • 3 celery sticks $0.06
  • 5 carrot sticks $0.06
  • 1/4 bell pepper (yellow) $0.38
  • 2 Tbsp Scallion Herb Cream Cheese Spread $0.20
  • DATE NIGHT! We ate a late lunch at The Southern V and I was so full afterward that I didn’t want dinner.

Monday 1-7-19 Daily Total: $3.57

  • 2 cups coffee $0.42
  • 2/3 cup milk $0.22
  • 2 larg eggs $0.50
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter $0.03
  • 6 grape tomatoes $0.34
  • 2 cups spinach $0.50
  • 1/2 bell pepper (green) $0.25
  • 1/4 avocado $0.13
  • 1 serving Vegan Winter Lentil Stew $0.64
  • 1 Rosemary Pepper Drop Biscuit $0.21
  • 1 cup milk $0.33

Total weekly meal total: $29.44 (not including one meal eaten out)

A large bowl of Vegetable Breakfast Scrambles about to be eaten with a fork.

Leftovers

As unfortunate as it is, not everything I bought or cooked got eaten this week. Despite having a few things that didn’t get eaten, my compost bin is a lot less full than normal, which means that planning ahead and sticking to that plan still helped reduce my food waste.

Here’s what is going into the compost bin:

  • 1 serving Sweet and Spicy Tempeh Bowls: I was a little disappointed that I didn’t eat all the portions of this, but the week went by quickly and some days I simply didn’t eat three full meals per day, so I had more food prepared than my appetite supported.
  • 1 serving Sriracha Chickpea Salad: Same reason as above. Too much food prepared, not enough appetite to eat it all. To avoid this in the future, I should lean more on freezer-friendly recipes.
  • 1/4 cup hummus: I ate almost all of the hummus! Hummus is so versatile that I found myself adding it to just about everything throughout the week. One little serving went uneaten, though.
  • 5 servings Scallion Herb Cream Cheese Spread: ouch, this one hurts. In a normal week, when I’m not trying to mitigate my cheese consumption, I could have killed that whole batch in two sittings. But I didn’t think this one through and there is no way I could have finished that whole thing in one week while trying to be conservative with cheese (or without the bread, bagels, or crackers to put it on). :( Poor planning, but I took note and won’t make that mistake again!
  • A few vegetable sticks: I was able to eat all my spinach and tomatoes, but not all the celery, carrots, and bell pepper. I ate about 3/4 of them, so I’m still happy with that. Especially since those carrots were leftover from a couple of weeks ago, so I was glad to use them at all. :)
  • Parsley, Cilantro, Green Onion: About half of each bunch will be going into the compost. Unfortunately they were in pretty sad shape when they were purchased, or else I would try to stretch their use into week 2.
  • 1/4 of an Avocado: Avocados were on sale for $0.50 last week so I couldn’t help buying two instead of the one planned. I ate most of the second one, so I feel pretty good about that extra purchase.

Here’s what is leftover, but can still be used in week 2 or beyond:

  • 4 servings Vegan Winter Lentil Stew (frozen)
  • 3 Rosemary Pepper Drop Biscuits (frozen)
  • Tortillas: These have a long refrigerator life and I KNOW I’ll eat them.
  • Potatoes: These have a pretty good shelf life, but I’ll try to use them in week 2 just so they don’t start to get soft. I’m thinking about indulging in oven fries one night!
  • Ranch Dressing: Super long refrigerator life, can be used on many different things
  • Oranges: These will be great snacks in week 2
  • Oat Bran: Indefinite shelf life

Oat Bran with Blueberries Almonds and Peanut Butter

How Do I Feel??

How was it eating no meat, trying to eat as many vegetables as possible, and trying to loosen my death grip on cheese and bread? I feel like that was too much to change all at once, and my body definitely let me know. The first three days I was hungry and all I could think about was bread and cheese (but no cravings for meat, LOL). The second half of the week I added a couple more eggs, ate some of those frozen biscuits, and even just melted some cheese in a tortilla one night. Adding back just a little more comfort food really made a difference in the way I felt, and by the end of the week I felt great. I reminded myself that I need to take baby steps. It can take a really long time for your body to adjust to a new way of eating, and going all-in at once isn’t always the best option (or at least not the best option for me). My Main goal is to eat more vegetables and I need to focus on that.

Calorie Full vs. Stomach Full

I experienced a new kind of “full” with this super vegetable heavy diet. Sometimes my stomach felt so full that I didn’t want to put anything else in it, but I could tell that I was still hungry for calories. When I felt this way I reached for calorie dense snacks, like a spoonful of peanut butter or a cheese stick, so my stomach wouldn’t feel any more full, but I could get a good dose of calories. I may need to incorporate more calorie dense ingredients in my meals during the upcoming weeks.

Eat Like Nobody is Watching… Yeah Right!

It’s a well known fact that you eat differently when you keep a food journal because it forces you to be more mindful. Well, when hundreds of thousands of people are also reading that food journal (Hi guys! 👋), the effect is even more dramatic. So how “real” is this challenge? I’m sure it’s really skewed, so take it all with a grain of salt. Don’t compare yourself to me or what I’m eating. The thought of a bazillion people watching is a HUGE motivator to stay on track. Who knows what would have happened by now if I wasn’t broadcasting it to the world. I don’t think I would have broken plan and eaten meat, but I sure as hell would have eaten more cheese, and probably some pasta. So my goal for next week is to try to eat more like nobody is watching. I don’t know how successful I’ll be, but I’m going to try.

Goals for Week 2:

  • Eat like nobody’s watching
  • Keep eating those vegetable heavy snacks!
  • Continue to use up pantry items
  • Try to eat all prepared portions of recipes
  • Aim for a sensible amount of comfort foods. Don’t be too restrictive, don’t go overboard.

So that’s how week one went! Not too bad, but I definitely learned a thing or two about myself and how I need to adjust my meal planning for my current lifestyle. What did you learn in your first week? Share you experiences in the comments below so we can all learn from each other! :)

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  1. Great write-up. Me and my husband have been eating vegetarian meals for months and although it hasn’t been that easy (especially for me), I still enjoy it. You will too in the long run!

  2. So I have been following your blog for a very long time. This is the first recipe blog I have found where there are very few recipes I have not liked. Whenever my friends come over and enjoy a dinner I’ve made I always tell them it’s budgetbytes for the win!
    We have recently become vegetarians, so I was so excited when you decided to posted your weekly vegetarian challenge. I’m excited to try some more yummy recipes!

  3. I really appreciate you taking the time to craft this post! It’s so insightful to see how others plan/eat/live around food choices and really helps to inform my own choices.

  4. Great recipes for vegetarian weeks. Unfortunately, I cannot rely on beans as a sole protein. throws my blood sugar off. I added 1/2 chicken breast to various meals 1 time each day and that corrected the problem. Also filled me up better so that I was not so hungry. I am really enjoying your meal plans, suggestions and recipes. Thank you so much.

  5. I also appreciate you posting what you composted/threw away! I would like to get better about reducing my waste but it’s difficult when you live alone. I was freezing leftovers until I ran out of capacity in my freezer – and then a year passed and I realized I never reached for those leftovers, so I ended up tossing them. :( Thanks for this challenge series. Super interesting!

    1. Haha, yes I’ve definitely been there with the leftovers getting forgotten about in the freezer! I find that I have to be really mindful about it. This week, week 3 of the challenge, I decided not to make a freezer meal because I already had so much in the freezer after the first two weeks, so I want to eat that stuff up a bit before I add more. Got to stay on top of it! :)

  6. Great post. We are trying to eat more vegetarian meals per week. I do find it adorable how cheap your groceries are (I am in Canada). $0.49 for an avocado?! They are $2.49 here. Everything else is 2 or 3 x as expensive.

    Love your website and recipes!

  7. If you can figure out the calorie full vs. stomach full thing….please share! I have tried countless times to go full vegetarian for years now. The most I can do is a month to six weeks. I have tried tracking my calories and aiming to get enough calories, but I just can’t. I work out a lot so that makes it worse. I love all the foods I eat, but they just don’t do the trick. I crave meat so, so bad. It’s just really hard (for me) to get as many calories in from solely vegetarian sources without piling on the processed oils and dairy. I struggle with low iron too, so that makes it even worse. :/

    1. And this is coming from someone who typically doesn’t even like meat! I *usually* eat very little meat. It’s only when I completely cut it out that this monster in my stomach awakens. I get a few weeks in and then my stomach is just dying for *something* no matter how many calories I’m eating.

    2. Yeah, it can definitely be tough! And we’re all different so I’m not sure if what works for me will work for you, but have you tried increasing your plant fats like avocados, nut butters, and things? Those keep me really satiated. :) Hummus goes a long way for me, too.

    3. Soybeans are a good iron source. I use them in salads for lunches when I go to work (weekdays). I’ve noticed my iron increase with a good vegetarian diet and struggle much less than I used to when I was eating meat, but a considerably less healthy diet. Soybeans, green stuff, and a women’s multivitamin with breakfast every morning keeps me at good iron levels. I find dried, mature soybeans at the international grocery store and cook them in my slow cooker overnight. You can also buy on Amazon. Maybe soybeans could help you?

  8. When I look at my supermarket ads, I see a whole new section-Plant Based Meat/Dairy Alternatives. I have no idea what they are, how to use them and most importantly, if they will taste good. Since you’re doing this challenge, is it possible to do a chapter on these products? I’m VERY interested, but over whelmed! And when I free style, it’s a disaster.

    1. I actually try not to use these specialty items. I prefer to do recipes that are naturally plant based with basic ingredients rather than manufactured packaged ingredients that are meant to mimic something else. The fanciest I get is tofu and tempeh, but those have been around for centuries (or perhaps thousands of years). :) So unfortunately I don’t know much about them and I’m definitely not expert enough to write a post on them. :(

  9. I freeze my extra onions, celery. Then I throw them in anything that can be cooked to not notice the texture change. We also eat Barilla Plus Pasta.(kinda expensive) but it’s protein is awesome, maybe sneak in a cup or 2 a week. I like to make my pasta count as well. Tonight I will be cooking up my extra kale that cannot be finished and will toss it in the freezer to use in other dishes later this week. Hope everyone has a successful and great week.

  10. I have been enjoying this series so far! I appreciate your honesty about what you’re composting. It’s making me think a lot about how much food we compost/toss at the end of a week. Adding that up with all the other people in the world doing the same thing…wow. Sometimes I get so caught up in trying tons of new recipes that I forget about what’s already in my fridge/pantry (specialty jarred items are probably the worst offenders). So, i’m hoping this series helps me consider waste a bit more in my meal planning. Maybe i’ll challenge myself to achieving “fridge zero” at the end of a week.

  11. I am a full time veg and my hubby is about 85 – 90% — we are LOVING reading through your challenge blogs and insta posts. We adore all your recipes and have fun adapting them to our diet, so when you announced the vegetarian challenge I was really excited :) One thing I’ve missed not eating meat is the ease of sandwiches and wraps – so I’m definitely going to try the sriracha wraps ASAP!!!

    Eggs go a long way in helping you feel satiated and full and also I really like having something like a boiled eggs and a some olives for a snack when I’m feeling the munchies. Looking forward to more veg content!

  12. I think you did great! It is challenging to shift diet rapidly. There is so much learning curve. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with in the next couple weeks👍

  13. I would have frozen the cream cheese spread in dollops. While it won’t be tasty as a dip or spread afterwards, due to texture change, it works out great in scrambled eggs. I just let it defrost then toss it in my eggs the last minute to melt and incorporate. No waste and extra flavor. During times of not avoiding carbs it also works on pasta. Again I let it defrost, stir it into fresh cooked hot pasta. Thin as needed with a bit of pasta water or milk.

  14. For what it’s worth, as soon as I buy green onions and cilantro, I put them in a glass of water. Cilantro keeps several days longer that way than usual, and I can stretch green onions out to two weeks!