Happy Herbivore Blog

Minimalist Monday: Meal Planning

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Minimalist

Planning our week's meals before going to the grocery store has been one of those Do as I say, not as I do things for me. 

I recommend meal planning all of the time and truthfully, I've always wanted to meal plan. I saw the utility and value behind it, but for the past 5 years, Scott & I have always lived in walking distance to a grocery store. 

In Boston I lived across the street from Whole Foods, in New York City I had four supermarkets and one boutique health food store within two blocks of my apartment and even here in St. Maarten I am about 40 steps away from a small market that has just about everything we need.  

Having instant access to a grocery store meant I went pretty much everyday to get whatever I needed for meals that day. We also didn't have a car so large shopping trips and bulk buys were out of the question anyway. I like to fashion myself as a strong woman, but I can only carry about four bags safely before I come a walking hazard with zero balance and coordination. 

On the one hand, I really liked this habit. We always had ultra fresh food and I could sort of plan dinner around what caught my eye at the market. On the other hand small incremental spending on a day-to-day basis never made me realize quite how much I was spending on groceries. $7 here, $18 there -- whose counting? But after reviewing my finances recently, I choked when I added all the sums up and saw the grand total.

We eat a lot of food -- true, and we do eat pretty much everything I bring home, but the problem is with all the incidental purchases -- the buying of items I don't really need or have a plan for. 

I remember going to the grocery store once, buying $200 worth of food, and then come dinner time, scratching my head thinking "I have nothing! What the hell did I buy?" 

This was clearly happening in much smaller quantities--seemingly unnoticed. 

To get my budget back on track (and break the daily grocery store habit) I decided to take a stab a meal planning this week.

I was hesitant, mostly because what's available at the grocery store here is always a gamble. Since everything is flown in to St. Maarten we run out of things a lot, sometimes for weeks at a time, which can make planning tricky. My resolve? Contingency planning. I had back up recipes on my list in case I couldn't get ingredients for the recipes I picked. 

I have to say I'm all in -- a total convert.

It wasn't just the gratification from the amount of money we saved (grand total of $127 compared to an average of $205) but the fact meal planning saved me time and stress -- the two things I sought after with my minimalist lifestyle.

Going to the grocery store, even if for only 15 minutes, adds up quick over a week (almost 2 hrs!) and with meal planning I don't have to stop and think about what's for dinner -- it's already decided for me. Minimalist indeed.

I still can't believe how much more zen meal times became when I had a plan in place and my brain wasn't racing while I washangry. It was also wonderful to open my fridge and know that everything in it was spoken for and I didn't have to scramble to find a way to use the spinach before it expired. 

Meal planning also gave me the chance to sort of clean out my pantry. Assess what items I had too much of or had been hanging out for a little too long, and pick recipes that use those items. 

All in all, meal planning was an absolutely great exercise and when I think about it -- meal planning is minimalist. For me, minimalism is all about streamlining my life and meal planning really fits into that.

p.s. a new feature is coming to happyherbivore.com that will help you with meal planning - stay tuned! 

Do you mean plan? Any tips? 

2 Vegans in St. Barths

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Travel

One of the nice things about the Caribbean is that many of the islands are relatively close together (in fact, I can see three other islands from my island) and you can travel between them by boat. 

St. Barths is about two hours away by ferry and since I've always heard about this place and all the stars seem to go there, I thought I'd check it out. 

All aboard! The ferry service offered endless complementary rum punch. If you follow me on Twitter, you know how much I love rum punch. It was a good start to the day.

I do, however, get sea sick (and motion sick, and train sick, and car sick, and plane sick) very easily, so I was sure to drink a Ginger Beer in addition to the rum punch. I'd heard ginger helps with sea sickness... plus I wanted an excuse to drink my favorite non-alcoholic Caribbean beverage.

Lovely deep blue ocean along the way...

St. Barths Marina

After we arrived... I was ready to eat!

Je voudrais une pizza sans fromage ou de viande. (FYI there is almost no English in St. Barths! It really does feel like "France")

After lunch, we hiked around in the mountains. It was boiling hot. It was well worth it, though--just look at this view:

These pictures (taken using a phone) do not do the ocean here justice!

What a cool ride! 

Sunset on the way home.

Sunset back at home in Marigot (St. Maarten).

We enjoyed St. Barths. Although it's relatively close to St. Maarten it felt totally different -- much more French. It's also very, VERY expensive. I'm from New York City and I've lived in Los Angeles; and still I thought it was beyond pricey there. I can't imagine what other visitors must think. Our lunch was around $60 (for pizza!) My sunglasses, which I paid $150 for in NYC were selling for $425 in St. Barths! I guess I understand why it's a celebrity destination!

Guest Blogger: Kelly R.

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Guests

Today's guest blogger, Kelly, dishes up some down home cooking from The Happy Herbivore Cookbook and talks about cooking vegan for her skeptical omni hubby! 

HH: Kelly, How'd you get your hubby to try a few vegan dishes?

Kelly: As a vegetarian who tries to make vegan choices whenever possible, I was very excited to start cooking from The Happy Herbivore Cookbook. My husband, however, is not as enthusiastic as I am about this lifestyle, so I asked him to choose some recipes that he thought he might enjoy.

HH: What recipes did he pick?

Since my husband is a big fan of New Orleans cuisine, he chose Dirty Rice (p. 192) and Spicy Collard Greens(p. 184) to pair together. Yum!

HH: How'd it go? Did your hubby like it?

We enjoyed both of the dishes and have since made them a few times!

I found the Spicy Collard Greens to be a little too spicy for me, but the hubby loved it! So now we try to find a common ground with heat when cooking.

We really liked the Dirty Rice and find it to be quite satisfying paired with the greens. A great combination for my husband who loves to eat, and this time he enjoyed healthy, low-fat vegan food!

HH: Yay! Vegan food WIN! Does your hubby have any other faves?

Another recipe from The Happy Herbivore Cookbook that we L-O-V-E is the Baked Beans (p. 199), which we have also made with the Spicy Collard Greens. It is wild with flavor and is absolutely delish! I am planning on bringing the Baked Beans to a party soon. I know it will be a big hit along with a pasta salad I typically make.

I have also been wanting to try your Chickpea Tacos (p. 97) for the longest time and we finally tried it! I LOVED it! I also made taco seasoning for the first time and was surprised how easy it was. This recipe is simple, full of flavor and uses only a few ingredients! 

HH: I must confess, I'm totally in love with your plates in the photos! Deets!

Our beautiful plates were from our wedding registry and are from the 222 Fifth Tableware collection. The hubby likes square plates and I like flowers, as a little sunshine on dishware brings a smile to my face. 

HH: Thanks so much for guest posting Kelly!

Have you won over a skeptical loved one with a HH recipe? Tell us!