If you’ve ever been inside of the Kresge Natural Foods Co-op then you know that mainly everything in there is the same organic, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free products that you’d find in any small, local health & wellness shop. And if you were raised around a family like mine and are accustomed to cheap grocery-store foods, then you probably don’t know of half of the products sold in there. Furthermore, I am not much a “foodie,” nor am I vegan or allergic to any foods, but I am very open-minded and willing to try new things, especially when it involves healthy eating.

In this challenge I endeavor to explore my inner organic, vegetarian (somewhat vegan-friendly) side of myself for five days. In these five days I only purchased food from the Kresge Co-op in Kresge College, as well as challenged myself to strictly remain under a budget of $30 dollars. Yes, I am that cheap college student, but aren’t we all at some point?

Cameron Hernandez

Day 1

The only time that I ever go into the Kresge Co-op, which is fairly around 2-3 times a month, it is always for Kombucha and sometimes an avocado. Other than that, I do all of my grocery shopping downtown. Thus, going into this I was a bit skeptical to say the least. I was not looking forward to this challenge, especially since I had just bought groceries a week prior. It shouldn’t be very surprising that I didn’t start this challenge until dinnertime on Monday night. However, I did do most of my Co-op shopping for the week on this day.

It must have taken me about 15 whole minutes to decide what I wanted to buy for this week, which is a lot considering the entire room is equivalent to the size of a small bedroom. I walked around the single, center aisle at least 5 times thinking to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?” and “How am I going to survive off of this?” After some deep strategizing, I decided to buy: two ramen packets, one cup of vegan noodles, one can of split pea soup, one can of kidney beans, half a pound of tri-colored quinoa, an avocado, an apple, a packet of ginger cookies, and a pack of tofu “ice cream” sandwiches—all organic and all vegetarian.

By now you may be thinking, “Wow, this girl is going to starve!” And you’d be correct had I not cheated the system just a bit, but we’ll get into that later. I was just happy that all of my items came out to a grand total of approximately $24 dollars—not too bad at all.

Day 2

Cameron Hernandez

To start the day off I had my usual cup of tea with a ginger cookie on the side. Then, after going to class and the gym, I decided to make some breakfast quinoa. This consisted of half a cup of quinoa with nuts, bananas, and honey on top. It was absolutely delicious, and (spoiler alert) definitely my favorite meal out of this whole week.

My second meal of the day, dinner because I skipped lunch, was just as yummy but not quite. I made organic Garlic-Pepper Ramen Noodles, and avocado and spinach on sourdough toast on the side. It’s an interesting combo, but I was hungry and this carbo-load definitely made up for my lack of lunch.

Thus far, the challenge has been really good. I’m learning quick and easy recipes that aren’t as unhealthy as the average sodium packed Top Ramen. No disrespect if you are a student that thrives off of bulk ramen packages, but I must say I definitely enjoyed the lack of additives in my noodles.

Day 3

I made my second and final purchase at the Co-op on this day. I woke up craving cereal and that’s what I got. Except that this cereal was not the regular walmart-brand bag of Froot-Loops that I’m used to—no, these are much better. I bought a box of Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs and a box of Annie’s White Cheddar Mac and Cheese (for future dinner) all for $6.16 dollars.

For breakfast, I had a bowl of Panda Puffs with almond milk (always almond milk, never regular) to go alongside my cup of tea. My review: they’re my new favorite cereal, and I rarely eat cereal. I also ate the rest of the breakfast quinoa to fill me up.

For lunch/early dinner I made Amy’s Organic Split Pea soup with a not-so-Co-op smoothie on the side. What I mean by that is the only Co-op item I used in it was half of an apple. I mean this whole week has mainly consisted of me making food at home while using a few Kresge Co-op groceries. I know it’s not exactly what the challenge was supposed to be, but I’m learning a lot either way. As for the canned split-pea soup I couldn’t stomach all of it, but the smoothie was great.

Day 4 

Cameron Hernandez

For brunch I made (canned) Field Day Organic Kidney Beans with tortilla chips and some avocado sourdough toast on the side. It was a late lunch for me, but it worked well, to my delighted surprise. Then, for a little mid-day treat I had a Tofutti Cuties desert sandwich, which is literally an “ice cream” sandwich made of purely vegan ingredients. As much as I love creamy, milky ice cream I wouldn’t mind omitting it from my diet entirely if I could eat these little Cuties instead.

For my post-work out meal/ dinner I made Annie’s Organic White Cheddar Mac and Cheese with a bit of added spinach. I don’t usually eat mac and cheese anymore, but I was raised off of Kraft’s for much of my childhood. That being said, Annie’s is good but I don’t necessarily think it’s any tastier than Craft’s. If anything, they’re almost equals in my book.

Day 5 

Last day of the challenge and I am very hungry at this point. Let’s be real, my meals for these past couple of days have been lacking in caloric intake. All I had for breakfast today was a bowl of Panda Puffs and some toast. Admittedly I did go to a dining hall for lunch because I just couldn’t help it. My stomach was calling and my shelves were near empty of Co-op food.

To end my challenge on a better note, I made my last pack of organic Garlic- Pepper Ramen for dinner. As plain and simple as it was, I think that it was a nice final meal to my Kresge Co-op challenge.

I don’t know if I could actually say I lasted five whole days eating only Kresge Co-op food, but I can at least applaud myself for only spending about $30, which was the budget for this challenge. I definitely learned that I could easily sustain myself without going to the dining hall for a week, so that was nice. I’m actually proud of these spontaneous recipes/meals that I managed to come up with. As for all of the organic vegetarian meals, I could honestly see myself becoming vegetarian in the near future after this week. It really is not hard and I think the “fancy” organic versions of regular foods are actually better tasting and possibly better feeling after eating. All in all, I ate good and learned a lot while doing so, and I hope you all did to.