Day 1: Vegetarian Challenge–Jerk Sweet Potatoes & Black Beans

So this is the first day for going vegetarian in my vegetarian challenge. If you missed my first post on this, you can read it here.This post will tell you why I’m doing this, what I hope to gain from it, and why I think you might want to consider doing this challenge with me too! I also promised to share recipes with everyone as I do them–I’ll likely be sharing them after the fact, one day behind, because that gives me freedom to explore and work on the recipes, flavors, etc., and make changes and be flexible if I don’t have ingredients or something. I’ll be sharing my experiences as I go along.

So let’s just dive into what I did to prepare for this challenge.

GETTING READY FOR THE VEGETARIAN CHALLENGE

The first thing I did to prepare for the vegetarian 30-day challenge was to clean out my fridge and pantry. I didn’t want to throw away anything that was still good, that maybe my family would still eat (like my son and daughter who have decided to try my dishes, but aren’t doing the challenge with me). The rest of the family is trying the challenge with me, so it will be interesting in that perspective too. I am trying to come up with dishes that will please meat eaters–and aggressive, meat-lovers indeed.

So all the grass-fed, humanely raised beef we have went to the outside freezer for the duration of the challenge. We decided to keep eggs and cheese and raw milk in the diet, but we get these animal products from local farms who treat their animals like pets and are clean and wonderful, so for health benefits, we can keep some of those animal products in our diet. So we aren’t going completely vegan here–but we are trying to be ethical in how we use animal products and also using healthful products, as whole and natural as possible.

WHOLE FOODS ROCKS!

I have never been to Whole Foods before. I was from a small West Texas town and there were not fancy grocery stores. HEB and Walmart were the biggies, and we were lucky to have the HEB. It was, as far as the city is concerned, new to us. Now that I live in a big metropolitan area (Houston/Galveston), I have access to Rice Epicurean, Whole Foods, Central Market, Trader Joe’s and tons of other supermarkets. So the access isn’t the problem. Having never been to Whole Foods, and hearing from friends on Facebook how wonderful they are, they were my first venture for whole, organic, healthy options. I also liked the concept of the bulk whole grains and organic spices.

Whole Foods did not disappoint. I absolutely loved the options they provided. You can see exactly, from their labels, what the food is. It clearly marks if it’s conventional, organic, local, etc. The fish in the fish market had different labels on it too, for example, saying that the cheapest salmon had food coloring added to it, but the most expensive one did not and was wild caught, responsibly. Okay, so I get to choose. It’s up to me. I can pay the prices, or choose to buy less expensive, but I get to know what’s in my food when I do it. If food coloring doesn’t affect me, I can make the choice to save money. If it were to bother me, I can drop that one and pay a little more for better quality without the colors. Good deal.

After all, that’s all we’re really wanting from the government regulations that will require manufacturers to label their foods responsibly that way too. Let us know and let us choose. They think it will end up making them turn less of a profit. Maybe. I think a lot of people won’t care, but for those of us who do, or for those of us who have to care because of health, you’re going to gain a new customer who might not buy a processed product at all that’s not labeled. I think it’ll even out, but manufacturers fear the change. Oh well. In the meantime, we have amazing fruits, vegetables and seeds and nuts that nature has given us–naturally, and if you plant them yourself, they can even be free!

Anyway, make to Whole Foods. I was totally impressed. The produce section was gorgeous. The fish section was clean, well-organized, and the fish monger was knowledgeable and friendly. He even let us try salmon candy and salmon jerky (neither of which really appealed to me, but my son absolutely loved it). The cheese staff were nice too. In fact, everyone was nice. The best part was the sacker. He bagged our groceries with precision, quickly and neatly, with like items together, stacked nicely, nothing smashed, put bands on our packages that might slide or open, and even bagged bottles that might leak (like the organic fill-it-yourself agave nectar bottles) and then banded them, so if they did leak (which they didn’t) they wouldn’t mess up our other stuff. It was amazing to me, but more than that, it made putting groceries up soooo much easier once I got home. Everything was all together where it was supposed to go at home, and it was neat and organized. And he was friendly the whole time he was sacking too. I know it seems small, but when you’re in a wheelchair and have limited energy, someone who saves you time at home–and I mean, he saved me a LOT of time–that’s a huge plus.

While I still would like more selection for the whole bulk items (like I’d love to see tapioca pearls), I was completely impressed with the selection they did have. They had Teff! I haven’t found Teff anywhere! It might make me attempt an injera starter during this challenge. We’ll see. They had tons of the stuff that is usually hard for me to find at my regular grocery store–like the coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut water–and spices that I can’t find anywhere, in their organic form (since I use turmeric as a supplement–organic is very important to me).

Totally impressed with Whole Foods. I wish I’d gotten a picture of the produce section while I was there. I was so stunned I didn’t even think about it, but it was a rainbow of color and smells and everything was huge and fresh and gorgeous. Good job in all to the Bellaire Whole Foods in Houston.

CENTRAL MARKET & RICE EPICUREAN

I intend to also shop at Central Market in about two weeks, to see if I can compare the two. Rice Epicurean is a nice market for fun and checking out unique and different things, but we can’t shop there on a regular basis, and I don’t recall their produce really being all that great. I can’t remember for sure. Central Market is something I’m thinking will be good too. It’s a regional store, for HEB’s organic and ‘fancy’ selections. I’ve enjoyed the Central Market products inside the regular HEB, so I can’t wait to see what products the Central Market supermarket has. It’s about a 45 minutes drive for us, so it’s about the same distance as Whole Foods.  I’ll be comparing the two for the Texas residents who have the option of trying both.

COST OF GOING VEGETARIAN

So how much did we spend? I thought long and hard about whether to talk about money or not, because I don’t want to reveal finances and such to people and either appear to be bragging or appear destitute. However, the cost of going vegetarian is one of the complaints I hear a lot from people who think it’s expensive to eat vegetarian. I don’t personally understand that, because prior to this challenge, meat was our biggest food expense of all. Seriously, steak and hamburger and pork and chicken that’s good, quality meat is not cheap. Maybe most people aren’t eating quality meat? I don’t know.

But we had already been buying mostly organic, locally grown whenever possible, so we’ve been accustomed to paying a little bit extra for the food we eat. So to compare the cost of our grocery shopping for the vegetarian foods compared to the grocery shopping we usually do, and I can honestly say we spent about $200 more than we usually do. However, it’s important to note that we have not been eating vegetarian and have been eating more low-carb, so we had zero whole grains and such in bulk to start with. So when we went shopping, we had to stock up on the whole grains in bulk and that cost us some. Now, we have quinoa, barley, rices, lentils, beans, and chickpeas, all in the bulk items now stored beautifully in glass canisters in the pantry. It’s gorgeous! The rainbow quinoa and the wild rice are gorgeous.

So if you take away the larger quantities of bulk items and if you take out the $20 bucks I spent on a fancy olive tray from the olive bar just because I wanted it and the expensive $30 block of parmigiana reggiano cheese that totally has nothing to do with our normal groceries, and we purchased some sandwiches and wraps for the trip back home (we’d been shopping for nearly five hours and had an hour drive home–we bought wraps from the deli for everyone, which was another $25 bucks), then all said and done, I’d say it was pretty comparable to what we normally spend on food for the trip. We did–well, I say we… it was all on me– forget a few things, like sweet potatoes, fresh spinach and spring mix lettuce, and I’m still trying to find a good phyllo dough somewhere so I don’t have to make my own, but for the most part, we got everything I needed for the menus I tentatively have planned, and did so mostly within the budget I would have normally spent.

It took some looking and doing to make that happen, but not much. And don’t think you have to spend five hours in a grocery store to do this challenge. I’m just weird like that. I love grocery shopping, cooking, eating, buying foods, reading labels, getting cooking ideas, talking to the fish guys about recipes, you name it. Shopping is my day out, my big adventure, the one thing I can do in a wheelchair that doesn’t make me feel disabled, and where, for the most part, I’ve not been treated like a nuisance or in the way by people who are there as customers or who work there. In fact, everyone the other day treated me fabulously–and that might be a commentary on the type of people who shop at Whole Foods too. I’m used to a few snide remarks or comments if my chair is in someone’s way or they have to move a basket so I can wheel past–and that didn’t happen once on this trip. Folks were super friendly and kind that day. People who eat better might be kinder people? LOL I don’t know, not sure that’s clinical research there, but it sure felt different to me.

All that said, it’s time for me to go off to make breakfast for my family. This morning, we’re doing a veggie scramble and a green veggie juice with pineapple and oranges. Lunch will be egg salad on sesame crackers with kale. And dinner is going to be Jerk Sweet Potatoes (assuming someone goes to the store to get them since I forgot them) and black beans. I already have soaked the black beans and they are in the slow cooker waiting for me to come spice them. Typically, I would put some bacon or ham fat/pieces in the beans, so it will be interesting if I can pull flavor out of them without the meat.

I’ll have pictures and such tomorrow… along with the recipes. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, I am in the market for a good yogurt maker and there are so many different types. If you have used a yogurt maker and have one you think is good or one I should avoid, please let me know your experiences in the comments so I can make a more informed decision.

Love you all! Here’s to good health today and every day!

Love and stuff,

Michy

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One comment to Day 1: Vegetarian Challenge–Jerk Sweet Potatoes & Black Beans

  • Sabturani  says:

    I’m glad that I found your channel as you get stertad on your healthier eating plan I’m sure it will inspire me to make some much needed in my diet as well! Can’t? wait to see the recipes that you share!

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