Peanut-y Zoodle Bowl

It’s summer time, you don’t have AC, and you do NOT want to heat up your house with a hot dinner. Behold, zucchini noodles (aka zoodles), your raw noodle answer.

With a simple $5 spiralizer (check out this one from Amazon), you can have zoodles in no time. Alternatively, if you have the patience, you can peel thin strips by hand with a peeler and have a similar style meal.

While the possibilities are endless when it comes to toppings and dressings, I drew my inspiration from a sweet pad thai dish I had on campus and the various vegetables I had in my fridge. I encourage you to use your leftovers and adjust spice, sweetness, and serving amounts to your liking.


Peanut-y Zoodle Bowl
Serves: 1 very large serving
Time: 10 minutes

1 zucchini, spiralized (or peeled)
1 carrot, cut in 2 inch, thin julienne strips
5 mini peppers, sliced in thick rounds
1 green onion, sliced (including white end)
1/2 cucumber, chopped
(optional) shelled peanuts for topping
(optional) 1/2 of a lime

1-2 Tbsp peanut butter (can substitute other nut/seed butters for allergies)
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce (try tamari for gluten-free needs)
1-2 tsp maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)
1/2 lime, juiced
1/8-1 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp dried cilantro
dash of garlic powder
dash of dried ginger
water to thin

Add spiralized noodles, julienne carrots, sliced peppers, green onion, and cucumber to a large bowl. Give the mixture a quick stir to distribute the ingredients.

In a small, microwave safe dish, heat the peanut butter for 1 minute (if using shelf-stable peanut butter). Add in the remaining sauce ingredients, except water, and stir with a fork to smooth out. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water to thin it out. (Keep in mind the noodle bowl contains plenty of water-based vegetables, so the sauce will also thin out once incorporated).

Add the sauce to the zoodle bowl and toss to coat all the vegetables. Top with peanuts or fresh cilantro if you desire, then use the remaining half of your lime to add a little zesty juice here and there as you eat. Best enjoyed immediately after tossing!


  • Try adding in leftover vegetables. Maybe you have stir-fried vegetables from the night before, corn in the freezer, or marinated tofu. Go ahead; toss them in!
  • Adjust spice, sweetness, and sodium to your necessary diet plans. Opt for unsalted peanuts and low-sodium soy sauce if you are sodium-sensitive or restrictive.
  • Make this Thai-inspired dish with your favorite pasta sauce, raw tomatoes with basil, or avocado dip. Zoodles are simply a conduit for your favorite flavors and cuisines.
  • Try with a side of kimchi for extra raw, bitter, probiotic goodness.

Southwestern Salad

“Vegan, huh? You must eat salad all the time.” Actually, I don’t, but sometimes I crave some raw leafy goodness. But salads have no right to be boring, so I’m sharing my salad creation from last evening.

Serves: 1 large serving
Time: 15 minutes

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 green bell pepper, chopped
2/3 cup corn
1/2 cup black beans
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 avocado
1 lime
1/8 tsp cayenne

Combine the romaine, peppers, corn, beans, and onion in your large bowl.

Stir half an avocado, the juice of 1 lime, and some cayenne into a bowl. Add in a few spoonfuls of your salsa for the tomato flavor and salt. Add on top of your salad.

Feel free to add on some more salsa to the salad, squirt on more lime for wetness, or swap vegetables for ones you had leftover in your fridge/freezer.

Affordability Concerns

As a college student, my budget is limited. Certain expenses are routine, like rent and internet service, but I have flexibility in food, personal care, and medication spending. With pressures to save, impending loan payments, and the desire to spend money outside of necessities, budgeting and smart shopping have become routine for me.

Whether you are low-income, experiencing a financial set-back, or prefer to spend more in other areas of life, learning how to integrate affordable plant-based eating into your lifestyle will help you save money on groceries without depleting from other spending areas in life.

On average, I spend somewhere between 20-50 dollars a week at the grocery store, excluding pantry staples I buy in bulk (like flour, oil, spices, etc). While affordable may mean different things to you, at the least I’m assuming readers can spend $21 a week on groceries for themselves (SNAP (food stamp) benefits boil down to about $1 per meal, or $21 a week).

The following are shifts I’ve made in my grocery shopping habits that have paid-off in savings. For some, time is money. For me, I have time and less money, so I am better able to take advantage of saving techniques. For many, there is little time and money to be spared for grocery shopping. Do what you can, but also push yourself to change your shopping habits. You may be surprised at how routine some of these steps become, saving you time in the planning process.


  1. Buy dry. Dehydrated foods, like grains and beans, are calorically dense, cheaper than their fresh, canned, or frozen counterparts, and usually have less packaging waste. They are shelf stable, so you don’t have to worry about them spoiling once you open the package, and they won’t crowd your refrigerator/freezer. They do require a little bit extra preparation and cooking time, but that’s why they’re more affordable.
  2. Buy in bulk. For foods that won’t spoil, buy the larger packaging or use the bulk bins. Most tags at the store list the price per unit of an item, so doing a simple comparison the next time you’re at the store will make it easier to know which size and variety of an item has the best deal (excluding sales). For foods that are perishable but freeze-able (most fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains), buy in bulk if they price is right or there is a better deal.
  3. Don’t be fooled by sales. When you know the average price of an item, you know whether the price has been raised to appear like a good deal. Also, unless a sign says must by 2, buying one gets you the percentage deal. For example, buying one unit of a 2 for 5 deal would cost $2.50 (unless the sign said must buy 2 or says 1 costs regular price). If you cannot store the excess or eat it before the next time you go shopping, do not buy it. It’s cheaper to not feed the garbage can (or compost bin).
  4. Choose cheaper grocers. While we all would love to support local farms, organic movements, and small farmers, that’s pretty unrealistic for everybody to accomplish. Stores like Aldi and chain grocers (including Walmart) are usually more affordable than specialty stores, upscale megastores, and so on. Wholesale stores, like Costco and Sams Club, often have bulk items, but their deals are not significantly better than what I have found in local chain grocers. Some Asian food stores in my area offer some more affordable produce, but their pricing is a little more volatile than chain stores. If you live in an area with little access to a grocer, I am sorry. Consider calling United Way’s 2-1-1 (toll free) for help in finding resources in your area.
  5. Buy in season. The supply and demand principle applies to food within your grocery store. When crops are in season, especially locally, there is more supply (and perhaps a little more demand), but overall in-season produce will be cheaper than their off-season counterparts. For example, apples are more affordable in the fall and winter than berries. For items that aren’t grown within North America, their prices won’t fluctuate quite as much do to their shipping costs (pineapple, coconut), and generally will not be your cheapest option.
  6. Frozen is usually cheaper than fresh. There is negligible nutritional difference between a frozen strawberry and a fresh one, but frozen berries are usually cheaper than fresh. Same applies to other fruits and vegetables. Staples like rice, pasta, potatoes, and onions, however, are usually cheaper fresh because they have not been processed or packaged. An easy way to tell if frozen foods are cheaper is to compare price by weight or volume. Weights are listed on the bottoms right or left corner of food packaging, and their volume is usually listed under the serving size information on the nutrition label. Just be sure to multiply the serving size by the number of servings.
  7. Write out a list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought lentils without a plan for using them, and then proceeded to forget about them for a semester in my pantry. Buying unnecessary food items or convenience snack items leaves less financial room for the food that is most nutritious and that we’ll actually eat in a week’s time. Writing out a list in the same order as the sections of the store you visit is a great way to keep from forgetting items and running across the store to get them, too.
  8. Make a general meal plan for the week. This way, you know what ingredients you’ll need beyond what you have left, and you’ll be able to write a shopping list. This also helps takeaway the weekday panic of figuring out what to make and the frustration of not having the ingredients you need to make a recipe. Thinking of ways to reinvent leftovers can also help you stretch one planned meal into three!
  9. Use more parts of your food. Those leafy carrot and celery tops, mushroom stems, and asparagus butts may not be the most appealing to consume, but you can make a great stock out of them, eek a little more nutrients out, and so on. Produce that is a little dented, ugly, or mushy is generally still safe to eat. Mushy bananas make for great bread or smoothies, while wilting lettuce is meant for the steamer.
  10. Coupons? When buying minimally processed ingredients, there are few manufacturers coupons out there (because produce isn’t manufactured, it’s farmed). For the items you enjoy that are shelf-stable, like pasta, rice, snacks, etc, manufacturer websites often have coupons available or will email them to you if you ask for them. Store coupons are an easy thing to peruse when you pick up your cart or check their ad online before shopping. I don’t find them worth my time, but I also shop at a store that does not emphasize coupons and has a strict policy. Your store may have double coupon days, however, so check with them.
  11. Minimally processed. When you have to do more work, the item is generally cheaper. For instance, baby carrots are more expensive than whole carrots because they have had another slicing and peeling step. Buying products that you have to put more love into, like whole melons instead of pre-cut, will save you TONS. The limits to what you can make are endless, down to your cereal if you’re hardcore. As you feel more confident with these recipes, you can phase out more processed, expensive foods.
  12. Luxury replacements. Using items that mimic meat, dairy, and eggs, can increase your bill astronomically. If you can make these products at home, DO IT. Most plant-based eaters I know used to rely on replacement products when transitioning to the lifestyle, but grew out of it and adopted a cheaper, more whole-foods based eating pattern. A little splurge here and there is fun, but a focus on cheaper, more nutritious options is best.

This may seem like a lot, but the largest time investment is in the first few trips to the store. After that, you’ll know the products, pricing, and store layout much better. After the initial few trips, the only large concern is to meal plan! Saving money now by choosing plant-based eating will also reduce your risk of chronic disease, thus reducing your future medical costs. That’s perhaps the best saving of all ❤


Spicy Peanut Stir-Fry

You know that feeling when you stare at your fridge and see the demolished contents of a week’s worth of cooking? Yeah, me too. But when in doubt, I throw all my random vegetables into a stir-fry!

I’m serious. Stir-fries are a fool-proof way to:

  1. Use up leftover/remnant vegetables
  2. Have an excuse to eat more rice (oh wait, you don’t need one!)
  3. Get the most bang for the least buck
  4. Tailor spices to your preference
  5. Prep early and flash cook later


Forget the classic vegetable combos. Onions go well with everything, broccoli is a protein-ous wonder, and carrots are poor man’s vitamin A. Slice them all to equal sizes, heat in a hot pan with water or oil in order of density, add a sauce, serve over rice, and voila! A delicious meal that didn’t cost you one extra penny.

If you’re like me, you’re pretty busy when you come home. Maybe you’ve got homework, maybe little Timmy hanging on your leg, or maybe you just don’t like spending large chunks of time cooking. No worries, stir-fries are made for you. I often cut up all my vegetables when I have some free time (like the day before), store them in the refrigerator until I’m ready for dinner, and then work the magic in about 15 minutes. Not bad for a Tuesday night, huh?

Not into peanuts? Don’t worry. You can use any nut or seed butter you like in the same ratio (as long as it’s not chocolate-flavored). Don’t like spicy? Leave the cayenne out. Prefer a different sauce all together? Use that instead. Like whole-grain noodles instead of brown rice? Go for it. Want to use up leftover grains from earlier in the week? You’re a rock star.

The point is, recipes are meant to be broken. Use the vegetables you have, the spices you like, and the time you can spare.

Spicy Peanut Stir-Fry

Serves: 4 medium servings
Time: 40 minutes
1.5 cups brown rice
3 cups water
5-6 cups vegetables (fresh or thawed from frozen, cut into bite-sized pieces)
2 T smooth peanut butter
2 T reduced-sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
1 T white vinegar (or rice wine)
1 t cayenne powder
1 t garlic powder
1 t cilantro
water to thin
*1 T vegetable oil or enough water to cover wok bottom

Cook the rice using your favorite method. I combine the rice and water in a medium saucepan, bring to rolling boil, then turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 35 minutes. After time, I off the heat and let the rice rest for 5 minutes before fluffing and serving.

While the rice is cooking, wash and slice vegetables on the bias in equal thicknesses.

Using a wok or large fry pan, heat water or vegetable oil on medium high. Add the densest vegetables first (carrots, broccoli), and stir-fry for a few minutes. When they’re about halfway done, add in softer ingredients (peppers, onions, mushrooms, celery) and stir-fry until all vegetables are crispy but tender when pierced with a fork. Off the heat and set to the side.

In a small microwave-safe dish, melt the peanut butter for about 30 seconds in the microwave. Add in remaining sauce ingredients except water and mix with a fork until smooth. Add water in small increments until the mixture is smooth and has a consistency between water and honey. Adjust to your flavor preference.

Return wok to the stove, and make a well in the middle of the pan. Turn the heat on to medium. Add in the sauce and let it stand in the middle of the pan for a minute or so to heat up and begin to reduce. Mix the sauce and vegetables together, then continue to heat for another few minutes.

Serve with a side of rice.


  • Add in some seared tofu, seitan, or tempeh.
    • I sear the tofu while I’m chopping the vegetables, remove them from the pan to cook the vegetables, then add the tofu cubes back in when the sauce is heating in the wok.
      • Learn how to cook tofu here.
    • Seitan is pre-cooked and just needs to be heated through. Add in with the vegetables before you add the sauce.
    • Tempeh is best seared. Prepare like tofu, but use a light covering of oil on the bottom of the pan and use medium heat.
  • Serve the vegetables with other grains (other rices, noodles, etc). Noodles would be best served incorporated into the vegetables and sauce.
  • Use your favorite sauce recipe: Some other great options may include: sweet and sour, ginger-soy, and so on. Just keep in mind sodium content and added sugar, as these can be pretty high in processed sauces and add little to your nutrient intake.




Red-ish Velvety Milkshake

Costco just released a new product: pre-cooked, refrigerated, peeled beets. While their individual packaging and plastic use may not be the best for the environment, I certainly appreciated being able to eat beets without dying my hands red for a few days.

If you don’t want to add to plastic use, don’t have a Costco near you, have canned beets on hand, or prefer to cook your own, no worries. Simply cook in your preferred method, peel, and refrigerate until cold. Canned beet users should rinse the beets (if salt was added) and refrigerate until cold (a couple of hours should do). If you’re new to cooking beets, check out VegKitchen’s instructions.

After eating a few salads with beets, I decided it was time to make the vegetable I loathed as a child into something adult will enjoy. What better way to make a vegetable edible than to add chocolate? Thus, the Red-ish* Velvety Milkshake was born!


Serves: 1 large or 2 small servings
Time: 5 minutes (plus pre-cooling of beets)

1 beet, cooked and refrigerated until cold (~1/2 cup chunks)
2/3 cup almond milk
~1.25 frozen bananas, sliced
splash vanilla extract
1 heaping T cocoa powder

Puree beets with almond milk until smooth. Add banana slices, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder. Blend until smooth. Adjust liquid or banana amounts to reach desired consistency (I like dessert smoothies to be a thick and creamy, so I didn’t add more liquid).

Serve in your favorite, clean receptacle. Best enjoyed through a re-usable straw.


  • Add some of the cooking liquid from the beets (if you boiled them). This will enhance the red color (but may make the consistency a little less creamy). Make sure the liquid is chilled.
  • Substitute chocolate protein powder with cocoa powder (soy, hemp, and pea protein powders are all plant-based). However, keep in mind most of the population does not benefit from supplementing with extra protein.
  • Try other non-dairy milks (like coconut, soy, and cashew). Heck, try a chocolate flavor to enhance that chocolate-y goodness.
  • Experiment with different extracts. Almond or orange extracts could also be delicious.
  • Add other red fruit. Strawberries and raspberries can give more body, intense flavor to the chocolate, and red color depth.


  • Grainy add-ins, like flax and chia seeds, may alter the creamy texture of the dessert. If you’re cool with that, add ’em in!
  • Fruits and vegetables that are not red, or at least near red-colored, will make the smoothie look even more brown (opposite pigments make brown). I recommend red fruit or just sticking with beets.

*The color of the smoothie is not a true red, but that’s because it’s made with ingredients that do not contain red food dye.