Delectable Dime

meal planning on a budget

Why Healthy?

Delectable Dime

by Faith Escher

Why are you a vegan? This was without a doubt the most frequent question I was approached with when I first made my lifestyle change. While the “why” question feels normal enough, I came to the realization that the same question was not so frequently asked when people found out about my other identities or choices, their question usually did not begin with why…

Though I can’t begin to surmise the motives behind each question and why it is asked, I do believe that people often ask “why” when they believe something is challenging, or too difficult, or possibly not rewarding enough to try out for themselves. I think people ask “why” when we choose a path that seems more difficult than an easier route.

I believe this is the reason people ask “why” when we choose to go against the grain with our habits or lifestyle. For some, there is a desire to find a compelling answer that gives them reason enough to completely change their lifestyle. I believe that one of the most common reasons people ask “why” is because they want to make sure something is worth the cost.

There is always a cost, and word around town is that eating healthfully is expensive in time, money and relationships. But I want to encourage you that it doesn’t have to cost you more than you are already spending on food and I want to save you time, so that you can invest in those relationships that are important to you—including your relationship with yourself.

Total Budget: $100 or less
All recipes serve 4

NOTE: Garlic (2) = how many recipes the ingredient garlic is used in. For example, “Garlic (2)” means we will be using garlic in two of our recipes for this week.

The Shopping List For All 5 Dinners

  • 1 Box of button or baby bella Mushrooms – $3.99 (1)
  • 1 Can of coconut milk – $1.00-1.49 per 12-15 oz. can (1)
  • 5 Stalks of lemongrass, small container – $3.29 per pack (2)
  • Small stub of ginger root – 50 cents at $3.99/lb
  • 1 Thai chili – (*I couldn’t find these at my market, see note at recipe No. 1) (1)
  • 2 Limes – $0.39 cents each (3)
  • 2 Lemons – $0.39 cents each (2)
  • 1 Bunch of Fresh Cilantro – $1 per bunch (5)
  • 1 Medium pink grapefruit – $0.99 each (1)
  • 2 Medium kiwi’s – 2 for $1 (1)
  • 1 Orange – $0.39-0.99 each (1)
  • 2 teaspoons Sherry Vinegar – $4.99 (1)
  • 1 Purple onion $1 each (1)
  • 1 Bunch of Spinach – $2.50 (1)
  • 1 Bag of quinoa – 6.99-7.99 (1-3)
  • Can of corn – $0.89 (or 2 fresh corn cobs $1 or less) (1)
  • Can of chickpeas – $0.89-1.49 per can (1)
  • 1 Large or 2 small garlic bulbs – $1 at 50 cents each (3)
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms or King Trumpets – 2 for $3.99 (1)
  • 1 Serrano Chile (1) (*At my market these were only sold in packs for $3.99 for several)
  • Green onion or scallions – $1 per bunch (2)
  • 4-5 Ripe avocados – $5 (1)
  • 1 medium yellow squash  – $3.29 a bag for prepared cubed (1)
  • 1 Small bunch of parsley – $0.99 (1)
  • Romaine Lettuce – $1.89 a bunch (1)

$53.13 – $64.42  *Prices may fluctuate depending on tax, store, sale and season. I paid $56.90 this week.

If you followed us last week you already have the following; however, if this is your first week you will need to make these additional purchases ($9.97-12.97) or substitute with ingredients you have in your cupboard.

  • Salt and Pepper shakers – $3.49 (2)
  • Olive oil – $3.99-$6.99 for 12 oz container (5)
  • Dijon mustard – $2.49 (1)

Optional Purchases

Breakfast Items

  • Quick Cook Steal Cut Oats – $3.99
  • Blue Berries – 2 boxes for $2.50

Snack Items

  • Asian Pears – $3.49 for 4

Lunch Items

  • Bag of avocados $5.00
  • Cucumber $1
  • Note: The items above are extra veggies that you can eat with fresh quinoa and leftover spinach and romaine throughout the week!

Luxery Items

  • Coffee – $5 bag
  • Almond creamer – $2.50

Increases the necessity budget by $23.28-$26.00

*Tax not included, prices may fluctuate depending on store, sale and season.

Recipe No. 1

Kai Tom Kah | Cook Time: 30 Minutes

Source: Global Vegetarian Cooking: Quick & Easy Recipes from Around the World by Throth Wells; Starters, Snacks & Soups-Asia pg. 44

Link to purchase cookbook here

  • ½ lb Mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of coconut milk
  • 3 Stalks of lemongrass, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 teaspoons ginger (*original recipe calls for 4 teaspoons laos powered)
  • 1 Thai Chili deseeded and finely chopped (*Since I was unable to find Thai chili, I used red pepper flakes, see note)
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 4 lime or lemon leaves or grated rind of 1 lime or lemon
  • 1 Cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro…chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime or lemo
  • Salt


  1. “Pour the coconut milk into a pan or wok and add the mushrooms, lemon grass, laos powder [or ginger] and chili. Bring gently to the boil and then simmer over a gentle heat for 5 minutes.
  2. When ready, add the water, lime or lemon leaves (or rind) and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro leaves. Season, and stir to combine the ingredients as they cook together gently for 10 minutes.
  3. Before serving, scatter the remaining cilantro leaves on top, and hand round the lime or lemon juice separately.”

Note: If, like me, you were unable to find Thai Chili at your local market, you can use some red chili flakes from your previous purchase to add the necessary heat to your soup. I used about 1 tsp. but you can add as much or as little as you like.

Recipe No. 2

Spinach, Kiwi, and Grapefruit Salad with Cilantro Sherry Vinaigrette | Cook Time: 30 Minutes

Source: The Best 125 Vegetable Dishes by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay, pg. 288-189.

Link to purchase cookbook here

  • 1 Medium pink grapefruit
  • 2 Medium kiwi’s
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Sherry Vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • A pinch Salt
  • 2 teaspoons red onion grated
  • 1 heaping teaspoon fresh cilantro leaves, minced
  • 6 ounces (about ½ bunch) Spinach


  1. “Chill the grapefruit and kiwi for several hours before preparing the salad. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and salt until well combined and creamy. Stir in the red onion and cilantro and set aside at room temperature.
  2. Carefully wash the spinach, discarding the stems. Dry thoroughly and set aside in the refrigerator. Peel the grapefruit and divide it into individual sections. Remove and discard the membrane from each section, discard any seeds, and break the fruit into bite-size pieces. Set aside in the refrigerator. Peel the kiwis and cut crosswise into thin slices. Arrange a bed of spinach on each of 4 chilled salad plates. Artfully arrange portions of the grapefruit and kiwi on top of the spinach. Drizzle each salad with dressing.”

NoteLikely, you will have a lot of spinach and romaine lettuce left over after your recipes this week, because romaine and spinach are usually sold in large quantities. Go ahead and use these left over greens to make creative salads during the week!

Recipe No. 3

King Trumpet Carpaccio with Avocado, Cilantro, and Lime | Cook Time: Approximately 30 Minutes

Source: The Vegetarian Times | Instructions in link 

  • Olive Oil (*original recipe called for Avocado oil or vegetable oil)
  • 2 Divided king trumpet mushrooms, sliced ¼-inch thick (*Portabello mushrooms can be substituted here)
  • ½ Cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, divided
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • 1 Serrano Chile thinly sliced
  • 4 large avocados
  • lime wedges, for garnish

*Adjustments have been made to the original recipe to suit four people

Note: When I made my purchase of the Serrano Chile, I noticed that I had to buy them in bulk and couldn’t buy a single one by itself. If this is also the case for you, what you can do is lightly roast them on the skillet or BBQ until they are soft and slightly blackened on 2 sides, and then freeze the remaining for a future week! Who knows, maybe you will want to try making some amazing salsa!

Recipe No. 4

Chickpea Succotash with Lemongrass | Cook Time: 30 minutes

Source: The Vegetarian Times | Instructions in link

  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass
  • 1 large tomato (1 lb.)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow squash, cut into ½-inch pieces (1 cup)
  • ½ tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced (½ tsp.)
  • ¾ cup cooked chickpeas
  • ½ cup fresh corn kernels
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil or cilantro

NoteLemongrass is a strong flavor…I would suggest starting with less than the recipe recommends and add more if you feel that it needs more. Another thing you can do to lower the intensity of the lemon grass is to remove it from the dish before serving so that you don’t end up accidentally taking a big bite of it!

Recipe No. 5

Quinoa Tabouli | Cook Time: 30 minutes

Source: “Students Go Vegan Cookbook” by Carole Raymon | Link to purchase cookbook here  

See Instructions Below ingredients list | Note: Recipe is for 2 serving size, double the recipe for 4 people

  • 4 Tablespoons Olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa
  • 3/4 Cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 Scallions, finely sliced
  • 2 Medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Salt and ground black pepper [To taste]
  • Romaine or red lettuce leaves, cut into ¼ inch ribbons (about 1 ½ cups per serving)


  1. In a medium bowl, mix together all of the ingredients except the lettuce. Salt and pepper to taste. Place ribbons of lettuce on each plate, and top with the salad, then serve.

Use the larger outside leaves of butter lettuce as a wrap. (Note: if you prefer another  kind of wrap such as a coconut wrap or rice wrap feel free to be creative!)

Simple Dipping Sauce:

  • 2 teaspoons agave
  • 2 tablespoons soy
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Arrange thinly sliced veggies in your lettuce wrap, as desired, carefully. Once the wraps are assembled you can dip them in the sauce or sprinkle the sauce on each wrap.

NoteQuinoa is amazing in that once you prepare it you can refrigerate the plain unseasoned grains in bulk and use it for various dishes throughout the week. It tastes equally delicious cold or hot, savory or sweet. You can use it to toss into salads and burrito bowls, or you can warm up the unflavored grains in the morning and add a splash or almond milk and honey for a filling protein packed breakfast.

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I would like to suggest that your “why” is important, and that your answer is more important for you than it is for the people who ask you “why.” It’s not because you need to justify yourself to anyone, not because you need to convince anyone, and not because you need to transform other people, but because the why matters for you!

When you know why you do something…you can do it wholeheartedly! Plus, It is easier to get derailed if you aren’t sure what motivates you.

Think about some of the choices that you have made, and ask yourself, why have I decided to do _______.  If you don’t know the answer, try creatively turning your why question into other questions…for example…

“What experiences have I had that brought me to this place?”

“What brings me joy when I consider the decision I have made?”
“How are my relationships positively impacted because of this choice that I have made?”

These questions have helped me uncover my reasons and motives for the decisions that I have made, and encourage me to stay true to them as I continue my journey over time.


Gieskopf-Hadler, S., & Tommay, M. (1994). Spinach, Kiwi, and Grapefruit Salad with

Cilantro Sherry Vinaigrette. In The Best 125 Vegetable Dishes (pp. 288-289). Rocklin,

CA: Prima Publishing.

Raymond, C. (2006). Quinoa Tabouli. In C. Raymond (Author), Student’s Go Vegan

Cookbook (p. 112). New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Tenaglia, S. (2016, May). King Trumpet Carpaccio with Avocado, Cilantro, and Lime

(The Vegetarian Times Magazine, Ed.). Retrieved February 9, 2017, from The

Vegetarian Times website: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/king-trumpet-


The Vegetarian Times. (2014, September). Chickpea Succotash with Lemongrass. Retrieved

from The Vegetarian Times website: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/chickpea-


Wells, T. (2006). Kai Tom Kah: Mushroom Soup with Lemon Grass. In T. Wells (Author),

Global Vegetarian Cooking: Quick and Easy Recipes form Around the World (p. 44).

Northhampton, MA: Interlink Books.



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