Vegetarian Challenge Week 4 Recap

by Beth - Budget Bytes
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Hey guys!! Four weeks down and just a few days to go! It’s so interesting to me how much my experience changes each week with this vegetarian challenge. With so much leftover food in the freezer from weeks 1-3, I scaled back my cooking even more in week 4, and enjoyed having less work to do and fewer groceries to buy. So, are you ready for the week 4 recap??

Quick Summary: I only made two main recipes this week because my freezer is getting too full! Both of my recipes were so delicious and satisfying that I had no problem eating up every last bit. Very little waste this week! I had another super stressful week, and spent a few days under the weather, which definitely affected my appetite and meal pattern. I feel like I ate fewer vegetables this week and more carby things, which made me realize just how much focus it takes to get all those vegetables in each day. It takes plenty of planning, focus, and dedication each and every day. I began to wonder, will I have the stamina to keep this up long term?

Vegetarian Challenge Week 4 Recap

Week 4 Recap

What I Bought

With so much food in the freezer to choose from, I really didn’t need much this week. I bought the ingredients needed for the two recipes I had planned, plus my staples for throw-together meals, like spinach, tomatoes, eggs, bell peppers, and an avocado as a splurge. :)

Grocery List and Receipts from Week 4

Total Expenses: $34.95

Aldi Haul Week 4
Aldi Haul Week 3: $20.78
Kroger Haul Week 4
Kroger Haul Week 4: $14.17

What I Cooked

Here is what I cooked in Week 4:

I had planned to make Curry Tofu Salad, but the grocery store was out of tofu (there was a sale going on and it was sold out), and I never made it back to the store later that week to pick it up. It would have been nice to have, but I had plenty of food so it wasn’t missed.

A hand scooping up a spoonful of Vegan West African Peanut Stew with Rice

What I Ate

Here is a detailed log of what I ate during the week and the approximate costs. As a reminder, this is not meant to be a meal plan for anyone to follow because we all have unique nutritional needs. This is just real life, and sometimes life throws you curve balls and you don’t eat as you should. This was especially true this week. I definitely think my diet was less than ideal in week 4.

Tuesday 1-22-19 Daily Total: $3.95

  • Breakfast: 2 cups coffee ($0.42), 2/3 cup milk ($0.22), 1/4 cup oat bran ($0.18), 2 Tbsp walnuts ($0.29), 2 Tbsp peanut butter ($0.16), 1 Tbsp chia seeds ($0.16), 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed ($0.03), 1/3 cup frozen blueberries ($0.36)
  • Lunch: Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala ($1.03), 1/2 piece naan ($0.44)
  • Late Snack/Dinner: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt ($0.44), 1 banana ($0.19), 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed ($0.03)

Wednesday 1-23-19 Daily Total: $5.44

  • Breakfast: 2 cups coffee ($0.42), 2/3 cup milk ($0.22), 1/2 Tbsp butter ($0.04), 2 eggs ($0.50), 2 cups spinach ($0.30), 1/4 bell pepper ($0.25), 6 grape tomatoes ($0.34), 1/4 tsp seasoning salt ($0.03), 1/2 avocado ($0.50)
  • Lunch: 1 serving West African Peanut Stew with rice ($1.06)
  • Dinner: Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala ($1.03), 1/2 piece naan ($0.44)
  • Snacks: 16 crackers ($0.12), 2 Tbsp white chocolate chips ($0.19)

Thursday 1-24-19 Daily Total: $4.23

  • Breakfast: 2 cups coffee ($0.42), 2/3 cup milk ($0.22), 1/4 cup oat bran ($0.18), 2 Tbsp walnuts ($0.29), 2 Tbsp peanut butter ($0.16), 1 Tbsp chia seeds ($0.16), 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed ($0.03), 1/3 cup frozen blueberries ($0.36)
  • Lunch: 1 serving West African Peanut Stew with rice ($1.06)
  • Evening Snacking/Dinner: 16 crackers ($0.12), 2 servings Hummus ($0.74), 1/2 cup Greek yogurt ($0.44), 1 Tbsp jam ($0.02), 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed ($0.03)

A hand grabbing some Sriracha Nooch Popcorn out of a large bowl on a yellow background.

Friday 1-25-19 Daily Total: $4.41

  • Breakfast: 2 cups coffee ($0.42), 2/3 cup milk ($0.22), 1/2 piece naan ($0.44), 1/2 Tbsp butter ($0.04), 1 egg ($0.25), 1/2 avocado ($0.50), 1/4 tsp seasoning salt ($0.03)
  • Lunch: Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala ($1.03), 1/2 piece naan ($0.44)
  • Accidental Dinner: 1 batch Sriracha Nooch Popcorn ($0.43)  (I couldn’t stop eating this and then it totally filled me up, so no dinner.)
  • Snack: 1/2 bell pepper ($0.45), 2 Tbsp ranch dressing ($0.16)

Saturday 1-26-19 Daily Total: $2.25

  • Breakfast: 2 cups coffee ($0.42), 2/3 cup milk ($0.22), 1/4 cup oat bran ($0.18), 2 Tbsp walnuts ($0.29), 2 Tbsp peanut butter ($0.16), 1 Tbsp chia seeds ($0.16), 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed ($0.03), 1/3 cup frozen blueberries ($0.36)
  • Lunch: 1 batch Sriracha Nooch Popcorn ($0.43) (I had to make it again to photograph it, and ended up eating ALL of it again.)
  • DATE NIGHT! We went to a new local Korean restaurant called Babo (they don’t have a website) and I ate tofu bibimbap and scallion pancakes. Super delish!

Sunday 1-27-19 Daily Total: $4.24

Feeling really under the weather this day, so I was definitely comfort eating! I baked lime bars for fun and because I was craving a dessert.

  • Breakfast: 2 cups coffee ($0.42), 2/3 cup milk ($0.22), 1/2 Tbsp butter ($0.04), 2 eggs ($0.50), 2 cups spinach ($0.30), 6 grape tomatoes ($0.34), 2 slices Freezer Garlic Bread ($0.37)
  • Lunch: 2 lime bars ($0.66), 1 cup milk ($0.33)
  • Dinner: 1 serving West African Peanut Stew with rice ($1.06)

Week 4 Breakfast

Monday 1-28-19 Daily Total: $3.96

Again feeling really under the weather this day. Went to bed very early, ate very little.

  • Breakfast: 2 cups coffee ($0.42), 2/3 cup milk ($0.22), 1/4 cup oat bran ($0.18), 2 Tbsp peanut butter ($0.16), 1 Tbsp chia seeds ($0.16), 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed ($0.03), 1/3 cup frozen blueberries ($0.36)
  • Lunch: Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala ($1.03), 1/2 piece naan ($0.44)
  • Snacks: 1/2 piece naan ($0.44), 1 mozzarella stick ($0.19), 1 lime bar ($0.33)

Leftovers

What Got Frozen: I froze 3 servings of the West African Peanut Stew, complete with rice. I’ll be very happy to have those later!

What Will Carry Over into Week 5: Crackers. Since I never got around to making the Curry Tofu Salad, I still have the crackers. I snacked on some this week, but there are still plenty left. I also have plenty of spinach and tomatoes left, since I ate far fewer vegetables this week, but luckily they are not wilted yet. I have about 3/4 of the carton of heavy cream left, so I’ll probably make a batch of freezer biscuits to make sure it doesn’t go to waste! I also have plenty of Greek yogurt left, which I will surely enjoy in week 5.

What’s Going in the Compost Bin: Unfortunately my cilantro didn’t make it this week. It was half wilted when purchased and I wasn’t able to revive it back to life. But, as that is literally the only thing going in the bin, I still feel like this week was a success!

How I Feel

I feel like this week I kind of fell off the vegetable wagon. Not because I ate meat, but because I ate so many fewer vegetables. The couple of things that I bought that were carb heavy (the naan and crackers) totally got me and I found myself snacking on them instead of vegetables. It such a good example of how important it is to stock up on the good stuff to prevent temptation later. If it’s there, I’ll eat it, so it’s best to stock up on the best stuff.

That being said, I also took comfort in food this week while I was not feeling well and I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. I think it’s important to take care of yourself and if that means once in a while eating comfort food, so be it. I’m all about moderation. As long as it’s not a frequent habit, I won’t get down on myself.

In week three I felt really “in the groove” like this style of eating was getting easier. In week four that “groove” kind of morphed into exhaustion, and I wonder how long I’ll keep it up. Am I just exhausted with the logging everything I eat part? Or will I totally fall off  when I no longer have to log it, or when I know no one will be watching anymore? It will be very interesting to see what happens when I’m no longer under the spotlight.

As always, awareness is important when it comes to improving, so I’ve taken note on how my habits and feelings changed this week, and used those notes to adjust my plans for the future.

Goals For the Last Few Days

I’m reducing my recipe plan even further for the final days, and only cooking one recipe. I will be forcing myself to eat up what I have in the freezer, or at least as much of it as possible, before I begin stocking it back up again.

I need to refocus my energy and dedication to getting those extra vegetables in my meals and snacks and end this challenge strong. I want my habits to be as strong as possible before my accountability goes away. I’m really looking forward to carrying as much of this as possible beyond this month, but I know that it will probably always require at least some level of mindfulness.

How about you? What part of the challenge do you plan to continue or discontinue? Are you looking forward to the end? What do you think will be the first thing you’ll eat after January? Stay tuned for Friday, where I’ll do a really quick final thoughts post and recap of the final few days. :) Until then!

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  1. I loved reading this series! Very detailed. I have also been trying to up my vegetable intake and be mindful about food waste so this article was relevant for me. 

  2. Some weeks are just tough all around- sounds like you were dealing with a lot of stress as well as feeling sick, so you should certainly cut yourself some slack on the veggie intake
    Why do you buy non fat dairy? I think if you even just got 2% milk (or switch to soy milk) and had 2% greek yogurt that would help you to feel more satisfied and full without additional fiber or discomfort 

    1. I usually buy whole milk and then in week 2 of the challenge I accidentally bought skim milk and actually had a mini breakdown because I was so sad about it. Haha! Then I had my annual physical and was reminded that I have hereditary high cholesterol, and my levels were quite dangerous. Reducing saturated fat intake can help bring those numbers back in a good range, and since I already had the skim milk I figured I’d just continue on with it for a while. I still love whole milk the best, though. :)

    2. Oh, and the store only had fat free Greek yogurt. I prefer 2% Greek yogurt for sure.

  3. Good job sticking with the challenge despite the stresses you’ve been facing. I agree that comfort food is a part of health, mental and physical. Feeling restricted makes it difficult to sustain what you’re doing. I do hope you continue to try to incorporate more vegetarian eating and meals, in a way that makes sense for you and your lifestyle and without the added burden of having to log it all.

  4. I love that you’ve been doing this challenge and have been reading along.

    Yeah, getting in all those veggies can be a bit tricky when you’re not feeling great, but sometimes you have to go easy on yourself. There’s always next week.

    But I think that popcorn also hit you in your veggie consumption levels, not just your crackers! LOL

    1. Definitely true about that popcorn! And that’s one of the challenges of being a food blogger… Sometimes I cook food specifically for the blog, but then I eat it because I don’t want it to go to waste (like that second batch of popcorn). Hahah!

  5. I didn’t do the full challenge – my husband likes his meat and I didn’t have the energy to cook separate suppers – but I did eat vegetarian for breakfast and lunch all month. I really enjoyed trying new recipes as well. I am going to try to keep up the vegetarian habit for another month. Thanks, Beth, for providing the inspiration!

  6. Love what you do! Use lots of your recipes. Just wanted to invite you to check the dates you have listed for this 4th week. A bit off. Thanks

  7. With today and tomorrow to go, I’m looking forward to eating out this weekend and having animal protein again, but have decided that it will definitely play a smaller role in the future. I was surprised at how much money I saved–I spent under $200 on groceries (Aldi & Harris Teeter) for the month for 2 of us (retirees–21 meals) and that included a couple of bottles of Aldi wine ($6.99 each for delicious Stormchaser Wild Ride Red) and household and personal care products. That savings was not only due to eliminating meat and seafood, but a result of better planning and more careful shopping–we certainly included luxury items in the mix.

    Other benefits: I lost 3 lbs without thinking about weight loss at all and never feeling hungry–the whole Nov/Dec holiday gain. Maybe because we ate so much soup–I still have plenty in the freezer, even though we ate it 3-4 times a week, either lunch or supper. We mostly ate one dish meals, ie casseroles, quiche/frittata/Spanish tortilla, entree salads, and stir fries. I discovered some wonderful new recipes and ways to cook, not only Beth’s ideas, but things like accidentally watching Bobby Flay roasting eggplant–a jumping off point to lower fat eggplant recipes. Snacks were fruit, hummus, cheese, yogurt, and crackers–and Beth’s popcorn.

    DH was skeptical so I told him he was free to grab a burger or other meat item whenever–he stuck with me the whole month. As only a personal challenge, we could leave any time. We did start 1 day late due to New Year’s commitments. It was fun–I tried some new things, but mostly adapted recipes we already enjoyed, so the transition wasn’t overwhelming. Thanks, Beth, for a terrific January uplift.

    1. 21 meals per week, not just 21 meals for the whole month. And I started the month with a well stocked pantry, full of dried pasta, rice, canned stuff, frozen fruits and veggies, condiments, herbs & spices including potted fresh herbs, etc. It isn’t much diminished as much of what I used was replaced.

    2. That’s so awesome, Janet!! Thank you so much for sharing your results with me, I love hearing it. It sounds like we had very similar experiences. I saved a lot of money and lost a couple pounds, but I think both of those things were largely due to the extra planning and intentional eating, vs. grazing and mindless eating. :) Thank you, Janet!

  8. I tried this fried all of the above recipes in my weekly routine . WOW! The dishes were so so yummy!

  9. Your unspecified chia/flax/oatbran breakfast sounds tasty – what are you doing there? Is it a porridge, or just everything piled into a bowl together? Sometimes I love the non-recipes as much as the recipes. As always, thank you for the recipes!

    1. Sorry about the vagueness there! I just cook a bowl of oat bran according to the directions on the package (1/4 cup oat bran + 3/4 cup water, a pinch of salt, and microwave for about 1.5 minutes), then stir in a tablespoon each of chia seeds and ground flaxseed, and top with peanut butter, blueberries, and sometimes a little maple syrup. :)

  10. I think one of the biggest take away from this challenge is that you need less food because vegetarian diet fills you quicker. Sometimes I felt like I was hungry later but over time that went away. This is a good thought as it takes much less disturbance to the earth if we eat less meat.

    My favorite meal was the Spicy sweet Tempah and Polenta! My husband could not stop talking about it!

    1. I agree! A lot of people have commented on how little I eat, but most of those days I seriously couldn’t stomach more food because I was so full. :) It’s such a different sensation. My blood sugar seems to have really leveled out, too. I don’t get super hungry like I used to. It’s always much less intense.

  11. I was so excited for this challenge. I only ate meat a few times a week, but learning to cook completely without was a challenge.  I’ve tried so many new Budget Bytes recipes this month!  I had never cooked with some of the ingredients (like lentils) before, and the heavier bean intake took awhile to adjust to.  I’m finding I’m eating dramatically more vegetables and fiber and feeling better.  My kids love most of the new recipes so I’m going to keep it up.  I hope you keep posting new vegetarian recipes once in awhile, it’s been incredibly helpful because your recipes are simple and come out delicious.  

    1. Awesome!! It sounds like you had a really great experience! I’m so glad you gave it a shot. :) And yes, I will definitely continue to post a good amount of vegetarian content even after the challenge is over. :)