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Fatshion, Food & Frivolities – Life in Las Vegas & Singapore


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10 Things In Our Vegetarian Pantry

I’m often asked about the restrictions in my vegetarian diet but as I’ve proven in my varied meatless recipes, I eat a lot of different things even if I am by a far measure considered anywhere near being a good cook!

This post is inspired by my recent obsession with trying to bring our savings up to at least 50% per grocery run (extreme couponing is difficult when you tend to be brand loyal). I have a small pantry and we’re only a 2-person household, so stockpiling hundreds of boxes of the same thing is rather ridiculous for me as I don’t want to worry about expiry dates, keeping things dust-free and clutter around the house.

Here are a list of 10 things I stock up on and keep an eye out for coupons or sales. I try not to stock up more than 3 to 6 months of ANYTHING (including loo roll and toiletries) because I don’t want to so many things lying around collecting dust. Also I have better things to do than clean them, rotate them, keep an inventory. HAH!

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1. SILK Soy and Almond Milk

I would be happy to drink regular milk – anything that’s $2.99 per gallon or less. But T prefers the taste of Soy Milk, especially this brand. At our regular grocery store, this usually goes for about $3.60 – $3.90 for a half gallon carton so I don’t buy it that often. Recently though, I chanced upon another grocery store selling it at $2.99 AND I also had coupons for them. And since they last longer than regular milk, I bought up enough to last us for the next 2 months! However, because this other grocery store is further than the regular one we go to, I’m not sure if I’ll make the trip there just to buy soy milk unless I’m in the area or there are extreme savings to be had. (The Chocolate Almond Milk is mine btw. I’ll drink them when they’re cheap, if not it’s back to regular dairy for me.)

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2. TRUVIA

Truvia is a sugar substitute and supposedly much better than other alternative sweeteners because it’s stevia-based. I use them to sweeten hot drinks from time to time but mostly bake with them. They’re definitely a lot pricier than regular sugar so I bought a bunch of them when I found coupons and when they went on sale. As a diabetic, I do what I can even if I can’t keep my sweet tooth at bay. So far, we haven’t been able to tell the difference. I’ve baked for T, my neighbours as well as my in-laws! So yeah, it works!

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3. RAGU Pasta Sauce

I’m not brand loyal to pasta sauce but T is and this is his favourite. That is to say, if we do ever run out of pasta sauce and there’s something cheaper, I won’t buy RAGU but when possible, I will stock up so we won’t be in that uncomfortable situation where I want to stoically stick to my budget and T has to eat something he doesn’t like. I do make extra effort to buy as many bottles as I can (without being a hoarder) when they are about $1 each – clipping coupons, looking out for promotions etc. These keep well and I make pasta at least once every 7 to 10 days. There are many different flavours that are vegetarian-friendly, so that helps!

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4. BARILLA Whole Grain Pasta

I began the switch to whole grain pasta only several months ago and I wasn’t brand loyal at all. T has had bad experiences with other whole grain, brown rice and quinoa-based pasta so he wasn’t too keen on the switch till we tried Barilla. Unlike the other brands we’ve tried, this cooks well and doesn’t taste any different from regular pasta. I managed to stock up about 3 months’ worth of their whole grain pasta through couponing and crazy checking of sales. This is what’s left of it. The cheapest I’ve ever gotten them for is about 67c per box, which I think is rather decent especially when coupons don’t double here in Las Vegas and I don’t deliberately hunt for coupons other than the ones I get in my mail.

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5. MORNINGSTAR FARMS Veggie Meat Products

I try to keep at least a few varieties of soy meat in the freezer so we can have different sources of protein. They keep longer than tofu and they do help keep those junk food/meat cravings at bay. We always have the Grillers Recipe Crumbles (they’re like minced pork/beef) because T loves them in his pasta sauce (I make a vegetarian bolognese thing with it) AND my favourite are the Bacon strips even though there are so many things in their range that I really like. These things can get really pricey so I only ever buy them when it’s at a price point I want, therefore sales and coupons come into play again. If not, we can go months without touching them and only eat tofu and eggs for protein.

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6. BOCA Burgers

I’m married to an American man/child. How can we go without burgers (or pizza)? I find BOCA burgers on sale more often than I do other brands of veggie protein and burgers are so easy to deal with so I always have 2 to 3 boxes around. Just the other day, I came back from yoga and before I went to shower, I greased up a pan, popped a few patties into the oven while I refreshed myself. Then when I was done, I went back to the kitchen to grab some multigrain burger rolls, melt a slice of 2% American cheese on the freshly grilled patties, add some fresh veggies between the buns and that’s it. Lunch was ready in 30 minutes! Depending on what veggies are on sale that week, sometimes we have it with a slice of tomato, sometimes cucumber, sometimes lettuce and if we get lucky, we get to have an entire side salad AND steamed corn on the cob!

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7. GARDEIN

I love Gardein (garden +  protein – so clever right?) but they never last very long in our house – this is the last of my stash until it costs about $3 a pack again. I’ve used them for grilled satay (marinated in the teriyaki sauce), they’re easy to throw into a stir-fry (beefless tips and broccoli)  and I’ve done creamy “roast chicken” pastas as well as a “battered chicken” pot pie. So easy, so delicious! I wish I could afford them for every meal!

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8. Frozen Vegetables

We’re vegetarians, of course we eat vegetables at every meal. Unfortunately we live in Nevada, so even when we go to the farmers’ market, the fresh produce isn’t very fresh by the time we get them. Also, there are seldom coupons for fresh fruit and veggies, so I buy frozen ones most of the time. I’m not brand loyal but I do have a certain price point that I’ll work with. I’ve read that fresh vegetables aren’t necessarily always better because produce is flash frozen at the point when they are at their freshest and most nutritious. No shame in buying frozen vegetables – especially if you’ve been basically living off your savings for the last 10 months without a job in sight. I don’t spend more than $5 on fresh produce for both of us each week because while I think it’s necessary to get your vitamins from the source, I try to make-do with whatever is in season thus cheap.

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9. YOPLAIT Light Yoghurt

This actually started with my sister. Before that, I would buy whatever yoghurt was cheapest and always stick to plain vanilla (it’s also my go-to flavour for ice cream). When my family came to visit last December, my sisters went crazy when the Yoplait at our regular supermarket went on sale for 50c each. They stocked up on the WHIPS range and once I tried it, I liked it. I’ve been buying 10-20 each time it goes on sale because T loves the Banana Cream Pie and Boston Cream Pie flavours (which he says are really close to the real thing).

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10. KELLOGG’S Special K

Actually it’s between this and Cheerios – which are healthier. We used to always buy Captain Crunch because T loves the peanut butter flavour but ever since I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, I’ve been looking for alternatives. I stock up on General Mill’s heart-healthy Cheerios when they’re at a good price point but I buy Kellogg’s products whenever I can because I take part in their rewards programme (MorningStar Farms products also earns you Kellogg’s points for redeeming products, vouchers, coupons and partaking in sweepstakes). So if Cheerios and Special K are the same price – always Special K.

My meatless pantry is quite decent, right?


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So I found out I have Type 2 Diabetes

Shortly after I was put on T’s insurance scheme (dependent spouse person here), we registered me with his Primary Care provider and I was scheduled for a series of health check-ups. For no real reason, just a regular thing. It came as a surprise to me that T did blood work every couple of months and they ran tests to check all sorts of things.

When I was in Singapore, my company encouraged us to use the remainder of our annual medical benefits (if we had anything left) to get a complete check-up. Usually this costs anything between S$200-S$500. And other than that one annual check-up (which I honestly wasn’t very diligent with), there was the annual Pap smear. That was all.

So at the end of last year, these American doctors discovered that I had Vitamin D deficiency and also diagnosed me with possible diabetes.

After the holidays (a wonderful Thanksgiving in Arizona and delicious Christmas in New York), I did another 2 rounds of lab work and it was confirmed that I had Type 2 diabetes. It didn’t come as much of a surprise even though I didn’t exhibit any symptoms. My mother and grandmother both have diabetes. And because of mismanagement, my own mum has to contend with insulin jabs before every meal now. I was determined not to have that happen to me.

My doctor has put me on Metformin (3x daily) and some other meds. But even then my blood glucose wasn’t satisfactory. I was even told to buy a blood glucose monitor. Now, here’s the thing – I have 6 tattoos though I’ve been tattooed 8 times (covered 2 up). 2 of my tattoos are larger than palm size, yet I’m afraid of needles in me. I fear getting my blood drawn because I think the needle might break inside. A tattoo needle goes in and out quickly so while there’s a searing sensation, I don’t worry too much. Also, I don’t see the blood till it’s over. The idea of deliberately pricking my finger everyday to draw blood from myself is horrifying!! So for more than a month after I bought the blood glucose monitor, it just sat there on our bedroom sideboard.

Then came the mandatory Diabetes education classes conducted by the Health Education & Wellness Department of Health Plan of Nevada. T who’s been very supportive about this, went with me to my classes – drove me there and sat in for those 2-hour sessions. He was afraid I might bail each time and I honestly always drag my feet about it. Those classes were actually really informational and time passed quite quickly in each one. I even learnt how to use my blood glucose monitor after my first lesson.

So I’ve been monitoring my blood glucose levels with the techniques I learnt even though I still dread it. The last time I showed the data to my doctor he thought they looked pretty decent. However, to me, the numbers are still not ideal because I’m on medication and I feel like they should be much lower. Shouldn’t the medication help you adjust to “normal levels” instead of just “acceptable with diabetes”?

I’ve been slowly trying to live better over the last few years and while many do not agree with my increasingly restrictive dietary habits, I know that I feel better now than I did in my 20s when I was 30kgs heavier. In the mid-2000s when I was still teaching, I weighed over 100kg, in 2010, I was 85kg and now I’m consistently well under 70kg. As you can see, I’m not crazy about extreme weightloss and I was taking my time to do it as comfortably as I can because I’m doing it to prevent premature aging and death, not to be thin.

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So now because of this latest diagnosis, I’ve started another journey experimenting with more whole grains, eating brown rice, less refined sugars, using Splenda and Stevia to bake, no big meals after 6pm unless on special occasions etc. For the last 2 months or so, I have been eating differently, guzzling water in desperation and will now try to get my physical activity levels up again – I kinda fell off the hot yoga bandwagon because life had other plans for me for the last 3 months then decided to take that away.

My goal is to reduce my Metformin dosage and be healthier by the time I turn 36 in September. T has also joined me on this health kick. My moving-in has caused him to gain about 25kg in just under 8 short months and we want to live a long time with each other so I’ve been tasked to put him on a diet too!

So watch this space as one of us fights Type 2 Diabetes and the other banishes his gut! Huzzah!!!!

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