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Man, it feels like forever since I did a Sadity Cents post. You know a post about being fabulous and frugal. Anyways, my family has gone “plant-based.” I hesitate to say vegan because there is so much that comes along with that monicker, but food wise I avoid meat, dairy, and processed sugar. We’ve been at it for more than a month and I’m loving it. Part of the reason I think we’ve been successful is that I went in with a plan. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. In fact I do it almost every year as a fast and cleanse except; this time I’m continuing beyond my typical 21-day fast (I usually do the Daniel Fast with my family).

This time I ordered the Thrive Market vegan starter kit to help spark ideas and creativity. In past years boredom has been the major roadblock that has prevented me from extending my fast into a lifestyle.

The Thrive Market kit was such a pleasant surprise! I’ve tried other kits or vegan packages and they just have snacks. But this one had actual staples that were useful and versatile. Below I will list the products that were included in the kit and the recipes in which I used the items.

Also here is a 25% discount code for anyone who wants to give it (or any other Thrive product) a try.

Discount code: http://thrv.me/A12xyy

The vegan kit typically costs $47.95 for about $70 worth of product. With our first order discount code we paid $33. Not bad, it allowed me to try new products without a major investment.

Thrive Market Vegan Starter Kit

Sea Tangle Noodle Company Kelp Noodles — The only ingredients in these easy-to-eat raw noodles are kelp (a sea vegetable), sodium alginate (sodium salt extracted from a brown seaweed), and water. Kelp Noodles are fat-free, gluten-free, and very low in carbohydrates and calories—and no cooking is required to make them! Just rinse and add the noodles to any dish. Their traditional shape and neutral taste allow for a variety of uses in salads, stir-fries, hot broths, and casseroles.

Thrive Market Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Ethically sourced from a small farm in the Philippines, Thrive Market’s organic virgin coconut oil is made from only the highest-quality ingredients. Organic, cold-pressed, and never refined, our coconut oil is just the way nature intended it to be—and at a fraction of the usual price tag. With a medium smoke-point of around 350 degrees, coconut oil is wonderful for baking, frying, and sautéing. Plus, it’s high in lauric acid, which helps to raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Native Forest Vegan Coconut Milk Powder

Native Forest spray-dries fresh coconut milk for the perfect dairy-free alternative. This milk powder is great for traveling, camping, or an on-the-go lifestyle since it doesn’t require refrigeration and dissolves quickly when stirred in hot water. It tastes heavenly when used as a coffee creamer or mixed into soups, curries, sauces, desserts, and beverages.

Nuco Coconut Vegan Mayo

Whether you’re vegan, avoiding eggs, or just trying to get more coconut products in your life, this real-food vegan mayo—made from pure, non-GMO avocado and coconut oils—is sure to be a new staple in your kitchen. Cider vinegar and organic rosemary extract add that tangy, savory flavor that makes mayo so irresistible.

Thrive Market Pinto Beans, 2-pack

Thrive Market’s prepared pinto beans are grown, processed, and packed right here in the USA. They’re a great source of plant-based protein and are completely organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, and contain no preservatives or artificial ingredients—just wholesome pinto bean goodness. Try them in a number of recipes for added nutrition and rich flavor.

Pacific Foods Organic Seitan

Some vegans have a love-hate relationship with tofu, but there are other meat substitutes like seitan that can fit the bill. Made from a blend of wheat protein, red beans, and sprouted lentils, Pacific Foods’ version goes great in spicy dishes like tacos, fajitas, and stir-fry. Plus, it boasts 15 grams of plant-based protein per serving.

Thrive Market Plantain Chips, 2-Pack

When you open a bag of Thrive Market Non-GMO Plantain Chips, you’re getting nothing but a wholesome snack that pairs perfectly with dips. Try them in place of potato chips, too! These crisps are made with just three simple ingredients—plantains, non-hydrogenated vegetable oil, and sea salt—making them vegan-friendly and gluten-free.

Thrive Market Sprouted Brown Rice

Our sprouted brown rices’ rich, nutty flavor puts bland white rice to shame. Try it as a side on its own, or as a base for soups, salads, and stir-fries. It’s official: Thrive Market is taking over your pantry in the best possible way. We now offer a variety of wholesome baking ingredients and nutritious grains. It’s the perfect collection for all dietary needs and healthy cravings

Upton’s Naturals Chili Lime Jackfruit Carnitas

Jackfruit is a giant, fleshy fruit native to South and Southeast Asia. When cooked, it has a consistency similar to that of pulled pork, making it a great option for vegan-friendly tacos and burritos. Not only is this jackfruit carnitas flavorful and filling, it’s also a timesaver in the kitchen. Just fry with a small amount of oil and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until heated, stirring occasionally.

Louisville Vegan Jerky Co. Pete’s Bourbon Smoked Black Pepper Jerky

“Jerky” and “vegan” are two words that rarely go together—until now. Pete’s bourbon-smoked black pepper flavor tastes like the real deal, but is made from meatless soy protein that’s marinated in gluten-free tamari, sweetened with locally-sourced sorghum grains, and smoked in real Kentucky bourbon barrels. The result is a salty, robust, and chewy snack that boasts seven grams of protein per serving.

Follow Your Heart VeganEgg 100% Plant Based Egg Replacer

What’s breakfast without eggs and toast? Now vegans can get in on the American staple with Follow Your Heart’s 100% plant-based egg alternatives that offer the same texture and taste as the real deal. Simply whisk or blend with ice-cold water, and use in any and all eggs recipes, including scrambles, omelets, quiches, cookies, cakes, and more! This 4 oz. carton makes a dozen cholesterol- and dairy-free “eggs” that the whole family will enjoy.

Sophie’s Kitchen Black Pepper Vegan Toona

Savor the fresh taste of the sea without harming any fish in the process. Plant-based Toona by Sophie’s Kitchen is a delectable fish-free alternative to conventional canned options, made with non-GMO, all-natural ingredients like Konjac root (an ancient Asian superfood), pea protein, agave, and spices. Along with black pepper seasoning, this veganized tuna has a flavor and texture that works wonders in salads, casseroles, sandwiches, and more. Plus, it’s an excellent source of protein and fiber.

Source: https://thrivemarket.com/p/vegan-starter-kit

The recipes I made are:

  1. Jap-Chae: Made with the Kelp Noodles and Seitan
  2. Cubano Sandwich with Pinto Beans: Made with the Chili-Lime Jackfruit Carnitas, Coconut Oil Mayo, and Thrive Pinto Beans
  3. Polenta, Eggs, Chorizo and Stewed Tomatoes: Made with Follow Your Heart Vegan Eggs
  4. Vegan Meat-Lover Pizza: Made with Chili-Lime Jackfruit Carnitas
  5. Vegan Nachos: Made with Seitan
  6. Coconut Hot Chocolate: Made with Powdered Coconut Milk
  7. Tuna and Hummus Plate: Made with Vegan Toona and Thrive Plantain Chips
  8. French Toast: Made with Follow Your Heart Vegan Eggs and Powdered Coconut Milk
  9. Thai Coconut Curry Soup: Made with Coconut oil and Kelp Noodles
  10. Butter Chicken Chickpeas: Made with Coconut Oil and Sprouted Brown Rice
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{October 23, 2015}   Market Shopping in Korea 
A Dapper Dog at the Market

A Dapper Dog at the Market

As a military dependent, shopping overseas isn’t as tricky for us compared to others who don’t have the connection and support of a local base. We of course have the base commissary.  When I was in the states I loved the commissary because of their great prices. Overseas they have an awesome coupon policy (you can use expired coupons for up to six months overseas), friendly service (for the most part), and products from home. But the truth is there are somethings the commissary can’t achieve; like fresh local produce. You see the commissary is ran under an arm of the Department of Defense, which means it has government contracts it must fulfill, which for me means my fruit is often frozen, shipped, and defrosted, only to prematurely rot. So while I buy many of my staples at the commissary I like to shop locally for my fresh items. And to tell you the truth it’s almost always cheaper.

Almost every town or province in South Korea has a local outdoor market where farmers and shopkeepers set up booths and sell their produce and goods. Where I live the market is known to the locals as the Songbook market. The Americans call it the “4/9 market” because vendors set up on any day ending in 4 or 9 of every month. Another base has the 3/8 market;  you get the pattern. I reckon the same vendors travel to many local towns.

Anyway the 4/9 market can be intimidating. There are flurry of people pushing their way through the crowds, a lot of yelling from vendors trying to make a sell, foods you don’t recognize and what seems like general chaos. After frequenting the market almost weekly for a few months I’m starting to understand the method behind the madness.

An example of unfamiliar foods: If anyone knows what this is please let me know.

An example of unfamiliar foods: If anyone knows what this is please let me know.

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First understand how the market is set up. One thing to note is that for the most part vendors are always in the same spot. This becomes helpful as you build relationships. That way you can find the same tomato vendor over and over. Also don’t be afraid to go down alleys and side streets. Many times vendors who are not on the main drag are more willing to bargain because they don’t get the same amount of traffic. Once you find that special vender ask for what you want. This may seem elementary, but sometimes the vendor is set up in front of their brick and mortar shop, so if you don’t see an item they would likely sell, just ask. They have more items in the back. 

Learn how to bargain. The greatest appeal about open air markets is the ability to bargain shop and haggle prices. I learned from a Korean national that it’s part of the Korean culture to haggle.  The thing she didn’t tell me was that as a foreigner the same bargaining rules don’t apply. When Korean vendors see Americans they know our method of shopping is to see a price and pay, so many won’t haggle with you because they know that’s not your culture. This doesn’t mean haggling is impossible it just means that your shopping experience isn’t going to be the same way as your well-meaning Korean friend’s trip.

Here are some tips to improve your haggling experience.

1) Get a Calendar – Make yourself familiar with traditional Korean holidays. The market tends to be more crowded and vendors are far less likely to haggle with you on those days. They don’t need your business that day and they don’t have time to waste going back and forth with you for fear of losing another sale.

2) Get the Worm -As in the early bird… Get it?! Anyways, I just mean go early. The earlier in the day the better. The earliest I’ve been is 8 am. Sure some vendors aren’t set up yet, but the truly committed die-hard vendors are and they are ready to make their first sale. There is a cultural belief that your interaction with your first customer is how the rest of the day will go for your business. So theoretically they are more willing to bargain to get a sale. Superstition aside, in my own experience I have found that vendors are just nicer in the mornings and therefore more likely to give you a deal, even if you aren’t their first customer. Another plus is that the market is less crowded, though still crowded, in the morning; so it makes for a more pleasant shopping experience.

3) Get an expanded definition of bargain. Many people only think they got a good deal if they paid less than the asking price. Sometimes that’s hard to achieve. I frequent vendors who throw in free items or who who give me significantly more for the same price compared to other vendors. This takes some trial and error and a good memory.  I try to remember specific vendors for specific items because of their generosity with portions. Like my raw nuts lady. She puts more in the bag than other vendors and puts a free item in as well. I also appreciate vendors who will fairly cut an amount down for me. Sometimes the vendors pre-portion their produce (say that five times fast) and you pick the basket of produce that looks best. But it’s just my husband and I at home, so often their portions are too large and I know a large amount will go to waste. There are some vendors who try to force you to buy the whole amount. It could be because they’ve already weighed out the produce, but it doesn’t serve my purposes. Others will cut the fruit in half to their advantage. Meaning the entire pound was 5,00 won but for 3,000 won they’ll give you half. I don’t use them. I like when I get just a little more than half for about half the price. it means they value you me as a customer and want me to come back. Either way, there are more than one way to get a good deal. For instance, we use a lot of organic Korean honey (seriously, whatever these Korean bees are doing, it’s life changing). So rather than ask my vendor for a cheaper deal on the honey, I buy double the portion and then cut a deal on that. I know I’m going to use all of the honey, so it’s a win for me, and he moved merchandise, so its a win for him.

4) Get o.k. with “N.O.”. Sometimes you have to walk away. I’ve heard stories of Americans buying items and not knowing what they bought because a vendor started putting it in a bag as they were talking and shoved it in their hands. I can’t even imagine being bullied into a purchase just because I’m afraid the vendor won’t like Americans afterwards. I think that’s a simplistic and insulting view of people in foreign nations, to think that a seasoned vendor won’t know how to handle a “no thank you” (but that’s a different, more political view that would probably be titled: Polite Paternalism). Anyways, the point is that if in the midst of haggling you aren’t getting the deal you want, walk away. It’s ok. I am not afraid to walk away from any vendor, nor am afraid to try several vendors to see whose willing to haggle. I’m also okay with hearing “no.” Some say no as a bargaining method. Try another number. But if they are insistent on the price, then I smile, bow, and walk away. No hard feelings. You don’t have to be rude to bargain, but you don’t have to be a pushover either. Sit back from a distance, you’ll see them bargaining with other locals. Many just assume that you won’t.

5) Get a basic vocabulary. I’m pretty horrible at other languages, speaking wise. But I have found that even recognizing a few words is helpful, even if I can’t respond. The vendors are less frustrated if you understand something, and actually appreciate a few words in Hangul (Korean). Words that I have found to be useful are:

Hello = Ann-yeong-haseyo (all the translation books say to pronounce it this way. Locally, I find Ah-naseyo gets a better response)

Thank You = Kasi-hamm-ni-dah

How Much = Ooh-ma-im-ni-kah

Please Give Me = Joos-Aa-Yo

Yes = Nay or Dae

No = Aneeyo

Once you get the basics of the marketplace down, it can really be worthwhile. Before the market our grocery bill could easily be $300 a month for 2 people and that was with little to no fresh fruits or vegetables. Now I spend about $250 on groceries and that is with about half being large amounts of fresh produce, and of course local honey (I use it for almost everything that requires a sweetener). Here are some pictures from a typical trip:

IMG_0075

I think I spent less than 15,000 won on this trip with 10,000 won being the honey. Still a good deal, but this was one of my earlier trips, before I’d grasped the concept of bargaining.

This is a more recent trip. Even with the superior honey I spent about 30000w

I love seeing twists on foods I grew up with or foods I've never even heard of.

I love seeing twists on foods I grew up with or foods I’ve never even heard of.



et cetera