Budget Veganism

One thing I think everyone should learn is budgeting. I feel this way because I didn’t learn how to budget. I got pregnant young and was forced to grow up, which included being smart about money. I feel like budgeting is a lesson everyone needs when they first go vegan because if you’re not shopping smart and living off mock-meats and take out then you’re going to be struggling.

Now, I’m not knocking mock-meats. I love a Gardein fishless filet as much as the next girl, but it isn’t reasonable, from an economic stand point, to consistently buy products like those.

 

These are my tips for being vegan on a budget:

1.       Buy in bulk! – Seriously, go bulk shopping. You will save much more if you’re buying as much as possible from the bulk section of your grocery store. I happen to be fortunate enough to live in an area with Winco stores. Winco has an amazing bulk section. You can get everything from pet food to candy. We get our nuts, pastas, beans, nutritional yeast, vital wheat gluten, dried fruit, and so much more in the bulk section. Prices in the bulk section are comparatively lower when you compare the amount of product you’re buying than if you were to buy in plastic or cans. Buying in bulk will also save you unnecessary trips to the store, which is always a bonus.

2.       Make a list. -  Having a list will not only save you time, but it can also help prevent you from buying things you don’t need. My favorite part of having a grocery list is that it keeps me out of the junk food aisle. If you make a detailed list, only buying what you need, you’re going to save money in the long run.

3.       Meal Prep – I know, I know, everyone tells you to meal prep but that’s because it works. Whether you’re a broke college student, a working parent, or a stay-at-home-parent, meal prep will not only save you time, but it will help you shop smart. When you’re making a meal plan, it gives you a reference for your grocery list. You can take stock of your pantry, use what you already have, and make a specific grocery list. Trust me on this, meal prep may seem daunting, but it truly does help.

4.       Batch cook and chop – This has helped me so much in the past, especially when supplies get low. I like to soak some beans over night on Saturdays, cook them up on Sunday, and then we can eat them throughout the week. I like to prep my veggies for the week as well because it helps give me an idea as to how far our fresh produce can stretch. I feed a family of five on weekdays and six on weekends, so we go through quiet a lot of food, but batch cooking and chopping has helped so much. It helps me see how much we have for snacks and meals.

5.       Shop seasonally – No joke. Seasonal produce shopping saves you so much money. It also gives you variety, so you don’t feel like you’re eating the same things over and over again. Eating seasonally, whether you purchase conventional or organic, can really take a chunk out of your bill because this produce doesn’t have to travel as far and doesn’t cost the store as much to sell. This means that they’re more likely to sell at a lower price during in order to push more product. For instance, sweet potatoes/yams are less expensive in the fall and winter than they are in the spring or summer because of the growing season.

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I know it doesn’t seem like much, and it is a bit repetitive, but these tricks really do work. I used to be one of those people who said I couldn’t be vegan because it was too expensive, but once I started implementing the tips listed above, I realized that being vegan actually saves money (provided you’re not living off of processed food).

Broke Living

According to my favorite internet resource, www.urbandictionary.com, being broke means “refers to being penniless, out of cash, completely fucking spent, skint.” This is the case for me. I’m a stay at home mom and I find myself very fortunate to being able to spend my days taking care of my boys and my home. However, living on only one income is tough. Being broke and vegan isn’t typically something that non-vegans can comprehend. The myth that you have to be wealthy to be vegan is ridiculous, but it has provided argument fuel to people for years.

The reality is that my husband and I have constantly saved money on our groceries since becoming vegans. That extra savings goes to other things like bills and we rarely splurge on anything for ourselves. If we’re using money for anything other than bills, the mortgage, or groceries/necessities, we’re spending it on our kids.

When I say that we’re broke, it means that after filling our fridge, paying our bills, and clothing our kids, we have nothing left. There is no wiggle room. None.

We work around this through a variety of ways. Here are some tips to try, vegan or not:

 

1.       Use a rebate app: I use Ibotta (#notsponsored) and it allows me to get money back by scanning my receipts after I go shopping. They’ve recently started including rebates for online purchases as well. These receipts aren’t exclusive to grocery trips either. I’ve used it after trips to the craft store, the gas station, the drug store, and even your local dollar store. In the last year, I’ve gotten almost $100 just from scanning my receipts.

2.       Sign up with a cash-back shopping site: I’m signed up with www.shopathome.com. You use it to shop through various sites like Amazon or Vitacost and then it applies a percentage to your purchase that you get back as a rebate.

3.       Don’t waste anything: When I first went vegan, I felt very pressured to get rid of everything I owned and switch to vegan alternatives. The reality was that that wasn’t possible. I simply couldn’t afford it. Instead, I decided to use up everything without purchasing more. This was already something I was committed to as someone who is trying to live a low-waste life, but making the decision not to throw anything out and use it up before purchasing vegan, cruelty-free options really made the difference.

4.       Thrift: Seriously, thrift shop. Not only does it save you money, it also makes an impact on the planet and the fast-fashion industry. (Check out The True Cost on Netflix. It’s eye-opening.)

5.       Buy in bulk: You’ll cut down on your grocery bill. When you buy your dry goods in bulk, you can get more for less money. You can get almost everything in bulk, depending on where you live.

6.       My last tip – Make everything homemade: I’m including cleaning products in this too. Doing this has helped us so much over the last few months. It saves on waste, cuts down on cost, and (if you’re into it) it can limit the amount of “toxins” in your home.

 

Being broke is more commonplace as time goes on due to the current political and socioeconomic climate we live in, but we can make do until policies change. Buy smart, don’t be wasteful, and be mindful.

 

Surviving the Holidays as a Vegan

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Your mental health is

more important than a holiday.

This time of year is for gathering and family. We eat, we drink, and we love each other. We also argue when Drunk Uncle Burt has one whiskey too many, brings up politics, and then shit hits the fan. At my family gatherings it usually begins when my brother-in-law decides to mock my veganism. I tend to keep quiet because I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing his insults get under my skin.

                I’m very fortunate to have a supportive family and a take-no-shit attitude. When I initially went vegan, my mother researched vegan cookbooks. My oldest sister, who has a vegetarian son, seemed excited to challenge herself through veganizing recipes. My other older sister told me that she didn’t understand my decision but that she would support me. My husband went vegetarian and eventually became vegan. The rest of my family just kind of shrugged and said, “Ok.”

                This isn’t the case for a lot of people. Especially during the holidays.

                Most of my fellow vegans that I have spoken to told me that condescending family members are the worst part of the holidays and I agree. I deal with condescension in my own family (we all do). I remember my first thanksgiving as a vegan I was speaking to my mother about what I would and wouldn’t eat, my brother-in-law pointed at my mother’s avocado tree and said, “Why don’t you just chew on that?”

                If it had been anyone else who said it, I would have laughed and told them to get bent, but at that point he had been insulting and rude at every available opportunity for months and I was totally over it. With my second round of holidays coming up as a vegan, I think about that moment a lot. When it happened initially, I just walked away. I didn’t ty to talk to him about it because I knew that it wouldn’t do any good. I don’t look back on that moment and think about what I could have done differently. That particular moment made me think about what I could do to survive family gatherings in the future.

                I tried telling my mom and sisters not to veganize anything because I could eat before the event. That was quickly shot down when my mother said, “You really expect me not to feed you?” I even tried eating beforehand until I was so full that thinking about food made me sick, not telling anyone, and not eating at the gathering. That didn’t work because my mom and sisters are amazing cooks. Finally, I decided to just start making an incredible vegan dish and taking enough to share with everyone. It works for the most part. The majority of my family will try the food and enjoy it, which just makes my heart so happy because its one way to spread the message of veganism without being a stereotypical, militant vegan warrior.

                Along with bringing food to share, I’ve stopped rising to the jokes and insults, which is easier said than done I must admit. It works, however. When you don’t rise to the barbs they spit at you, you’ll find that they become less frequent. I also recommend, for the shit-stirrers like myself, to check out Mic the Vegan’s recent video on comebacks to the most frequent “arguments” against veganism (link here).

            My last suggestion is to walk away. If being around your family during the holidays makes you feel badly about yourself, walk away. The best thing you can do for your mental health sometimes is to avoid the situation entirely. It isn’t your job to make a family event better. If you’re not respected don’t be afraid to stay away. It is often times the easiest way to avoid confrontation and you’ll feel better, I promise.

                Good luck out there this holiday season, babies. I love you!

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Happy Holidays!

A Lighthearted Post

What I ate as a vegan SAHM: 11/13


  My morning started with coffee and Silk Pumpkin Spice Almond Creamer (if you haven’t tried it, get on that before the season is over. Seriously). I don’t eat with my coffee because I get nauseous if I eat to soon after waking up. I do drink a large glass of water after my coffee, though. Hydrate yourselves, babies!

                I ate breakfast, late for most but early for me, at 9:45am. On a typical day, my toddler either eats all my food or doesn’t let me eat unless he gets food first. This usually means that by the time I get myself some breakfast, I’m making him lunch and he’s already had breakfast and six snacks, probably. I forgive him thought because he is adorable.

                Breakfast today was a tofu scramble with mushrooms, avocado and kale, and peanut butter toast (which my toddler ate half of). It was freaking delicious. I had half a block of tofu that needed to be used. Normally, I would have waited to use it until dinner, but I made chili in my crockpot right before I made breakfast and I don’t really like tofu with chili. I actually have a really bad habit of skipping breakfast or not eating until dinner which is why I’m vlogging as well as writing this post (Bex Bellows on YouTube).

 After breakfast I had some grapefruit as a snack but didn’t realize that it was already almost noon. I wasn’t super hungry after that so I’m considering it a small lunch that I followed up with another large glass of water (about 24 fl oz).

                 I ended up not having a “real” lunch because I just never got hungry, but I did have a GT’S Gingerade kombucha before dinner. I wore a ballet style bun all day and it started to make my head hurt so the kombucha was mostly for comfort.

                Dinner tonight was my oldest son’s favorite: chili. The boy goes crazy for a bowl of chili and since it was kind of chilly (see what I did there?) I thought something warm and hearty would hit the spot. I loved eating it over rice when I was a kid, but I wanted to use the last half of a box of red quinoa that I had in my cupboard, so I cooked that up and served the chili over it. It ended up being a really good combination and I’m always looking for more ways to get healthy greens into my kids, so this might just become a standard for us.  I topped my chili with Daiya cheddar shreds and a homemade vegan sour cream and it was a little bit amazing.

                That was all I ate today. I try to stop eating before 7 or 8pm because I struggle with m weight and if I eat too close to bedtime I always feel gross the next morning.

               

Holiday Grief

I’ve always accepted, but never fully understood, when people say they hate the holidays. The holiday season can be difficult for many people for many reasons but for most it is a time for gathering, celebration, and love. What happens when your heart isn’t in the moment though?

                The beginning of September started forming the dark cloud over the end of 2018 for me but discovering that my daughter had died in October turned it completely black. My favorite holiday has always been Halloween. I loved the spooky feeling in the air during the month of October. I looked forward to decorating every year. I would binge watch scary movies all month. I even got married on Halloween because I loved it so much, but this year was different. My second anniversary was not a good one and I didn’t look forward to taking my boys out trick or treating.

                I thought that things might improve as time went on but as holidays get closer and eventually pass, I feel bitter. I see friends and loved ones announcing pregnancies, posting ultrasound photos, or having their babies and all I can think is “I should still be pregnant.”

                I should have spent Halloween in an adorable bump-centric costume and feeling excited and wondering what I would dress my daughter up as next year for her first Halloween. Instead, I sulked, stomped, and pouted around the neighborhood until I called it quits and went home, leaving my husband and the kids to their devices.

                As November begins and the internet is filled with Christmas memes, I just want to sleep. I want to sleep until her due date has come and gone. I don’t want to go to family homes for holiday celebrations. I don’t want to celebrate. I want to be allowed to be sad and grieve knowing that my boys will never celebrate a Christmas with their little sister or get to teach her how to say, “Trick or treat!”

                I envy people who can celebrate the holiday season with love and joy in their hearts. I hope that someday I can be present with my family for get-togethers again, but I know that won’t happen this year. I can’t help but think about what could have been and never will be.

                Grief strikes us all during our lifetime and none of us process it the same way but what we can all do is be there for the people way acre about. Accept that they’re unhappy even if you don’t understand the reasoning behind it because they need you even if they don’t ask for help.

Birth Story: Baby number 3

This blog post was supposed to be a “What I Eat During the Second Trimester.” I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that things didn’t really go my way.

 When I was 18.3 weeks pregnant with my daughter I went to the midwife for what I thought would be a normal checkup. My husband and I were excited to hear our baby’s heartbeat and to schedule our 20-week anatomy scan. The midwife attempted to find her heartbeat with the Doppler but after about five minutes of silence she decided to do a rudimentary ultrasound to try and find Baby Girl’s heartbeat. The midwife originally believed that my placenta had formed in the front of my uterus; aka anterior placenta. When our midwife noticed that the baby wasn’t moving at all she called another midwife in for a second opinion. The second midwife checked my daughter and noticed that her skeletal system looked great but that she couldn’t get a good angle to look at her heart.

 I knew after the Doppler attempt that something was wrong but the midwifery group we were being seen by is filled with the most amazing women and they didn’t want my husband and I to worry. My husband and I sat in the room with our toddler, waiting for 45 minutes for the ultrasound technician to get to the clinic. My husband kept telling me that he didn’t think anything was wrong, but I knew it wasn’t good news. When the ultrasound tech arrived, we were taken into another room where she could set up her equipment to get a better look at our baby girl. She was such a sweet woman and she did a thorough job of taking measurements and looking at our baby from every available angle. The one thing she didn’t do well was control her facial expressions.

 After 15 minutes of watching this woman look at the scans of the child inside of me with a look of such concern and pity on her face, I had to ask…

 

”Has she moved?”

 

“No, she hasn’t moved.”

 

My husband moved away from the ultrasound machine and came to my side.

 

“Would you like to see her?”

“Yes please.”

“I can give you details, as much as you want, or I can just tell you minimal details.”

“Just tell us.”

 

My daughter was dead. She had stopped growing between 14- and 15-weeks gestation. Her heart wasn’t beating, the ultrasound tech suspected that her heart was misshapen, but she couldn’t be sure. What she could be sure of was that one Baby’s kidneys was retaining fluid while the other appeared to be to small. The tech was unable to see the baby’s bladder and she noticed some extra fluid and tissue that had developed on the back of our daughter’s skull. She noted, like the midwives before, that her spine looked normal and that Baby had a normal looking brain.

 We went home that night and neither one of us knew what to do. I laid in bed and stared at her crib all night. The mix of emotions inside me were indescribable. I kept asking myself what I had done wrong. What had I done to make this happen? Simply put, I didn’t do anything. There was nothing I could have done differently. I went to every one of my appointments, I took my vitamin every single day, and I ate well. Despite all of that, our baby didn’t make it into the world.

 The day after our appointment, we were seen by a maternal-fetal-medicine specialist at the hospital but before we could see her we had to have another ultrasound performed. This ultrasound tech told us that our baby measured at 15 weeks and had a distended abdomen. She agreed that the skeletal system and brain looked good but other than that she couldn’t confirm anything else. The doctor was called to an emergency c-section, so my husband and I waited with our midwife for an hour just wondering what would happen next. When the doctor was finally able to see us, she explained our options: we could wait for my body to naturally go into labor, I could have surgery, or I could be induced. The doctor suggested the surgery because the risk of bleeding is higher the earlier the labor and delivery occurs. She told us from the very start that because the baby had passed three weeks prior that waiting to go into labor could be very dangerous, but I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting and I knew I didn’t want surgery. I knew from the moment they told me that the baby had passed that I wanted to be induced and the sooner the better. When the doctor asked if there were any questions the only question I had was, “Can we do this tonight?”

 We were checked into the hospital an hour after that and had my first round of induction medication three hours later. Less than 12 hours later and she was “born.” It happened so quickly that I didn’t even have to push, really. I had to give “half-pushes” but even then, it was the equivalent of doing a squat, as far as pressure is concerned, and it only took two half-pushes.

 The doctor took her immediately for examination and, honestly, that was fine with me because I wasn’t ready to hold her yet. It didn’t even feel real at that point. I knew what had happened, I felt it happening, the nurses breathed with me through contractions, and my husband saw her as the doctor carried her to the infant bed on the other side of the room. Despite all these moments, it wasn’t a fluid occurrence for me. I just couldn’t believe it.

 After just a few moments, the doctor came to tell my husband and I what she had seen. She told us that our baby looked swollen because of the amount of time that had gone by since she passed. There was nothing outwardly that told her that something had gone definitively wrong. The anomalies found on the ultrasounds were likely because she had died three weeks before but there was really no way of knowing why her life ended before it began. This doctor, she was so sweet and gentle, she told us that her cord had been wrapped around her little body “a couple of times” but they couldn’t know for sure if this had caused her death.

 In situations like this genetic testing is performed due to necessity but even then, we might not get any answers. I keep hearing and reading the phrase “these things just happen sometimes,” and it isn’t inaccurate but that doesn’t mean it helps. Logically, I understand that “these things just happen” and this isn’t my first miscarriage, it is just the first I’ve experienced outside of the first trimester. My previous miscarriages happened so early that I didn’t know about half of them when they occurred, and the other half happened within a week of finding out. The percentage of miscarriages in the second trimester is on 2-3% whereas first trimesters losses are around 15-20% (APA 2017,). Regardless of when a loss occurs, there is an inexplicable amount of pain. This loss was particularly hard for my husband and me because we had tried for over a year to get pregnant, we had started setting up and preparing for her, and she had a name: to us, she was a person.

 Miscarriages aren’t really understood and there isn’t always a reason for them to happen. As far as the doctors and midwives were concerned, I was perfectly healthy and there was no reason for this to have happened. But it did.

 If you know anyone who has gone through or is going through a situation like this or is having any kind of pregnancy loss at all, be there for them. Listen to them, cry with them, be there for them, but do not try to fix it. Let them grieve. And please, love each other.

XoXo, Bex

 Eleanor Jude, 10 .5.2018

Eleanor Jude, 10.5.2018

 My husband, Matthew, holding Eleanor for the first time. 10.5.2018

My husband, Matthew, holding Eleanor for the first time. 10.5.2018

 Yours truly holding Eleanor, 10.5.2018

Yours truly holding Eleanor, 10.5.2018

The Struggles of being Fat and Pregnant

As of 2016, more than 40% of women in the United States are obese. The average age of women giving birth for the first time was 26 as of 2013 which means that most women who are pregnant and either giving birth or are about to give birth are overweight or obese.  I happen to be one of these obese women. I’ve already had a hard-enough time living under the vegan label as an overweight woman because of the assumption that all vegans are thin and fit but now that I’m pregnant with my third child, I’m struggling even more.

When you’re fat and pregnant you have your own internal struggles and a lot of those struggles are about your physical appearance. For myself, I have belly-hate. By the time this post is up I will be in the beginning of my second trimester. This is the point in pregnancy when most women start to get noticeable baby bumps. I just happen to look bloated. One of my co-workers is due one day after I am, and she has an adorable bump and gets compliments on how darling she looks. I, on the other hand, was told by someone that if I don’t stop eating my baby will be fat. I’ve often wished that my body was different, even if only when pregnant, so that I could have the adorable bump. I’d love to feel comfortable enough in my own skin to take belly pictures, to paint my belly, and be able to show off my bump every week. The fact of the matter is that I can’t so those things. I can’t take maternity belly pictures because I just look fat. I can’t paint my belly because I don’t have a typical bump. I can’t take bump pictures every week until I get closer to the third trimester because I probably won’t be obviously pregnant until I’m almost ready to pop. Now, I know these seem like silly reasons not to do all the cute pregnancy things that we all know and love but when your mental health depends a lot on how you view yourself physical, it becomes a big deal.

Now, when I tell you that I am fat, I’m not saying fat like it is a bad word or something to be ashamed of because I don’t think that is the case. I’m fairly confident in my body because I’m lucky enough to have a husband who loves me from head to toe for who I am, fat and all. As a pregnant woman, however, that body positive attitude tends to get muddled. I’m proud of my body. It has grown two strong boys and is currently growing my little girl, been through a c-section and a VBAC, and has proven to be incredibly strong. I see my stretch marks as tiger stripes. They are my war paint, my battle scars. There are many things about my body that many people will find unattractive or gross, but I don’t see it that way. That is until I get pregnant. Once I’m pregnant my butt is too big, my boobs are too saggy, my belly is disgusting. You name it, I hate it and I get angry with myself for hating this body.

Psychologically, the struggles of being pregnant while fat tend to revolve around what other people think of me. “Are the judging me because of how big I am?” “Are they disgusted with me because I didn’t lose more weight before I got pregnant?” “Do they even think I’m pregnant or just obese?”
These thoughts are constant and nagging, especially at my office. The women I work with have seen me pregnant before and knew I was pregnant from early on because I was hit by a drunk driver when I was 9 weeks pregnant and ended up telling my boss in a panicked moment. This is my second pregnancy while working for this company and I can see everyone looking at me and wondering if my belly is a baby or is just fat.

The biggest thing keeping me grounded through this pregnancy have been my midwives. The group I’m being seen by – Treasure Valley Midwives – is an amazing collection of women and one of the first things I was told was not to put too much thought into my weight. According to my midwives, I’m an average weight and there’s no reason to think that my baby will be harmed by the number I see on the scale. There are risks, of course, to obese women and their babies but those risks are relatively rare and typically occur in women who are heavier than I happen to be. My midwives have tested my hemoglobin A1c to see if I tended towards gestational diabetes (I don’t so wooooo!) because my youngest son was 10lbs at birth. Larger babies tend to be a sign of gestational diabetes or can end up having diabetes themselves so testing my A1c was a high priority and I do plan on going through with the glucose test a few weeks from now. My midwives are also very supportive of my lifestyle and have told me there’s no reason to think that my baby won’t be perfectly healthy while I continue to eat and live as a vegan.

The judgements that others pass onto me are the fault of the people judging, not mine, but because I’m in this position as an overweight pregnant woman I make everything my fault. The biggest challenge for me this pregnancy is going to be pushing past the judgements of others and just trusting that my body and my midwives are going to ensure that I have a healthy baby. At the end of the day, the struggles that myself and other fat, pregnant women face won’t simply disappear because there are others in the world who will judge us regardless but what we can do is not put pressure on ourselves. Just enjoy life, ladies, and don’t let the ignorance of others makes you feel bad about your beautiful selves!

XoXo, Bex.

 

 

http://time.com/4359637/obesity-americans-women-men/

 

https://www.babycenter.com/0_surprising-facts-about-birth-in-the-united-states_1372273.bc