21 Things I’ve Learned at 21

I absolutely love the theme of this post, and funnily enough I think I skipped it for my 20th birthday last year! I think there is something so rewarding about reflecting on our experiences in life, and sharing them with others. I know that I love to read what other people have learned over the course of their lives!

This year has been quite a whirlwind for me–so many new experiences and a level of comfort in myself and my world that I hadn’t experienced previously. My birthday came quickly this year, and more generally the time felt as though it went by faster!

So without further ado, here are 21 things that I have learned at 21:

1. Change is inevitable–we must learn to adapt

For many years my life stayed relatively consistent. I went to the same school for consecutive years, had the same schedule, went to the same places, etc. Any amount of change would be accompanied with undue levels of stress and discomfort. Sitting in the unknown was the most uncomfortable feeling, and I would run to the nearest form of familiarity.

When I got to college, it was all thrown out the window. I was in a new place with a new schedule, new people, new classes, new routines, changing routines, and new dynamics. Each day something would fill me with a sense of panic and discomfort, and I would fight against the desire to run and hide in the past. After a while, I started to become more comfortable with discomfort. I would allow myself to be in it, and to feel it despite the challenges. During my second semester I traveled on my own for the first time, staying with people I didn’t previously know and experiencing a new life for a week (on an internship). This experience created a new side of me, one that liked to jump in the deep end and learn how to swim in each current (this is a funny analogy because swimming is not my favorite activity…).

This year I became a part of so many new environments and experiences that I have honestly lost count. In fact, in the past few months the unknown has been the only consistent element of my journey. Every day comes with new challenges, but I no longer feel the need to hide in the known.

2. You can choose to be happy

This past year–though one of the most challenging in many ways–has definitely been my happiest. My days were long, but always filled with sources of joy. My friends, my family, my college community, my classes (studying my passions), and my journeys.

I used to think that happiness was the ultimate destination–something that I would achieve sometime in the future. But happiness is the now, and it’s the everyday. The weather, a cup of coffee, laughter. Happiness is something we can choose to have, not aspire to acquire.

3. Vitamins are essential

This might seem like an odd thing to say that I’ve learned–but vitamins have had such a positive impact on my health this year in particular. When I got back from my summer travels, I found that I was feeling quite off and more exhausted than usual. I did some research and started a new vitamin regimen, and wow has it made a difference! It’s also led to some funny moments (the surprise of airline agents when they see that half my carry on luggage is supplements…).

4. The universe works in interesting ways

In my experiences this year, I have found that the universe seemed to bring me everything I needed at the most opportune times. This is not to say that these moments were purely magical and perfect in nature, but each moment gave me something important. From making networking connections with people at the same metro ticket kiosk to meeting other world travelers on a stalled train in Amsterdam (getting help from travelers who spoke Dutch to figure out how to get on another train after a long travel day)–even chaotic moments brought positivity in some form.

5. Shop with a positive purpose

This year I was fortunate enough to discover local organizations that sell consignment and used clothing, and who use the proceeds to continue a cycle of community support. I have mixed up my wardrobe more times this year than consecutive years in the past, and have saved money while supporting organizations for change. I have also traded in my clothing for new outfits, and shopping has changed from a chore to something that I truly enjoy! I encourage you to find local consignment and thrift organizations to support–and to give your wardrobe a new look (and in doing so give someone else the chance to do the same)!

6. Less is more

You may recognize this quote from a documentary that premiered on Netflix called Minimalism. One week in the spring semester I decided to give this documentary a watch and it completely changed how I saw my life. For a long time, material possessions were something that I was really fond of (I used to perseverate on things until I could save up enough money to buy them). The result? Bins and bins and bins and bins of things that I forgot I even owned. After my journey of shopping with a purpose, I started to question the value of owning something that you couldn’t actually use on a regular basis.

I was able to sell and donate so many items for others to use in more constructive ways (I had clearly forgotten about them, and thus they were not adding value to my own life). Soon I was left with items I used every day, and getting rid of four times as much as I acquired (and if I did acquire things they were usually consumable). The morning that I woke up after a weekend-long process of clearing out, I felt physically lighter. I switched on my well-used water heater for coffee in my favorite mug, and put on my favorite Spotify playlist (because clutter comes in digital forms too!).

I used to think that things could make me happy. By giving them up I released a burden I never knew I carried.

7. Home can be more than one place

I wrote about this a few weeks ago (now that I think about it, it was probably a few months ago and time just keeps flying by like that). After traveling for months on end (and to still be traveling), home has become a concept more than a location. I used to think that going home was returning to where I grew up every so often while in college. But home became so much more. Home became my friends, my family, my college, my college town, multiple states, multiple places. Home became something that I could create anywhere–a concept that travels with me. Long discussions with friends and family, making new connections, reflecting on my experiences, creating the familiar in the unfamiliar.

8.Being alone doesn’t have to be lonely

2017 has been the year of solo travel for me, and one of the questions that I often get is about feeling alone. I have rarely experienced feelings of loneliness during my travels, and have actually found it to be an amazing way to connect with others and make new connections internationally! I also enjoy being able to take the time to reflect on my experiences!

9. Spontaneity often kindles life’s best moments

A few years ago, I was not at all a fan of spontaneity. I am a planner at heart, and for a long time I thrived on established schedules. But when I think about the best moments in my life, most of them came from spontaneous decisions and have left a lasting impression! I’ve learned that there is a wonderful balance to be found between planning and going with the flow of life.

10. The breath is a powerful element of holistic health

This year I started a commitment to a meditation practice, and it has changed my life for the better. The breath is something that is always with us, but that we are hardly aware of. Our breath changes as we experience different things, and can often be a root indicator of stress. By controlling our breath we control what we let into our emotional lives.

11. Sometimes having no plan is the best plan

This goes with spontaneity, but is also a reference to travel. I have had the best experiences when I arrive with a loose plan (lodging and some logistics). I arrived in Amsterdam with very little sense of what my week there was going to entail, and I left with some of the best memories and new friends!

12. Don’t fill your schedule just for the sake of being busy

This is something that I learned over the course of my college career so far, and I am so glad that I did! There is definitely a difference between being busy and having a schedule full of things that you love to do. When you fill your time with things that add value and meaning to your life, you find that the days, months, and years fly by!

13. Laughter is the best remedy for a bad day

Laughter is underrated–it can turn your day around and make you feel connected to the world once more. When was the last time that you laughed so hard that you cried and couldn’t breathe? Make it a goal to laugh at least once every day!

14. Creativity inspires creativity

Since becoming a blogger I have noticed creative blocks more than ever, and over the course of the year have discovered that seeing creativity inspires my own. When I feel lost creatively, I look at all of the amazing work that creators of all mediums are doing. It inspires me to try new things, which often sparks new avenues of creativity!

15. Live the adventure

This year I have embraced adventure more than ever, and it has inspired me to find it wherever I go. No matter where I am, I find that adventure is out there! (Love that quote from UP!) Live the Adventure is originally from creator Louis Cole, and I love what he has done (along with so many others!) to live a life of adventure and purpose!

16. Kindness goes a long way

It costs nothing to be kind, and kindness has a way of brightening the world like rims of water on a pond. Kindness is a ripple effect, and something that we can always use more of in this world. Everyone displays kindness in different ways (I love to connect with people every day, and I show my compassion towards animals with my vegan lifestyle). Embrace your own kindness and share it with the world!

17. Self-love can transform your life

I have been on a long journey with self-love, and only recently has it been a positive one. It took me years and years to embrace qualities and aspects that I could only see as flaws, and to accept myself as I truly am. When I made that switch, it’s like the lens I saw my life through completely changed. Everything was brighter, lighter, and happier. It is a hard journey to follow, but it has completely changed my path and how I relate to the world.

18. Everyone has something to teach you

I learned this the most this year, though I have always thought it to be true. Everyone that you meet has something to teach you. Regardless of anything, everyone has experiences to share and wisdom to impart. Listen to the stories and experiences of others, and you will find connection and knowledge is abundant!

19. Always show your appreciation

You can never show enough appreciation, and oftentimes it can make a huge difference in someone’s day! It is so easy to take the support and love that we receive on a daily basis for granted, and expressing your appreciation can help you stay grounded in gratitude and happiness.

20. Dreaming and reflecting rekindle inspiration

Whenever I feel like I have lost my direction in any aspect in life, I like to journal and write down my dreams and goals. It helps me to think about what I really want, and inspires me to start taking the steps to get there!

21. Work hard to change your world

Sometimes it feels as though we are too small to make a difference, but we are strong. We have the power to change the way our world works. Find what you are passionate about, and follow the path of change. I went vegan for this reason, and I have never looked back. Sometimes it may feel impossible, but no voice and no impact is too small.

I hope you liked this post! I loved reflecting on what I have learned, and I would love to hear what you have learned over the years of your life! I am currently quite busy on my semester abroad, but I hope to post as regularly as I can and keep you all updated on the happenings!

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


6 Tips for Staying Fit and Healthy Abroad

This post has not been sponsored. There are affiliate links within this post, which means that I get a percentage of a purchase you make when you click on them. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make The Wise Willow possible! (Also, as always, everything I promote I personally love! 🙂 )

When it comes to traveling abroad, there are many things to consider. Location, clothing, emergency planning, work, and sightseeing. But maintaining a healthy lifestyle is something that most people forget to consider prior to going abroad.

As you all know, I observe a vegan lifestyle. I also love to travel. My declaration of this combo is often met by many with “good luck” and “you will probably end up reverting back to a ‘regular’ diet,” but I am here to tell you that maintaining your current lifestyle abroad is both possible and important.

Seeing as I am currently abroad, I wanted to give you a list of things to consider in order to stay healthy while abroad.

Know your Limits

Regardless of what lifestyle you observe, nobody knows your health better than you do. You know how much you can change without upsetting your body’s natural rhythm, and that should be your first consideration.

For me, I know that I must avoid consuming meat and dairy products to avoid major imbalances. But, I can generally change the time of day that I eat without experiencing problems (I attribute that to my very varied college schedule! 😛 ).

Research and Prepare

Many people forget to think about what resources their destination will have prior to arriving. As a vegan, this was something that I wanted to research ahead of time. Arriving hungry and without viable options is definitely something that you want to avoid! I learned that Chile’s agriculture laws prevent anyone from bringing in food items to the country, and am so glad I knew this ahead of time.

I was able to eat at the airport before my long flight, and make sure I wasn’t brining any items that could have caused me problems upon my arrival with customs.

I had also informed as many people as possible about my dietary restrictions and health preferences ahead of time. Something that I considered after I arrived (and was adjusting to the food) is remembering to eat foods as similar to my diet back in college as possible. I didn’t do this for the first week or so (lots and lots of rice and bread, which I have to admit I love). The result was that I felt very drowsy and unbalanced all week long, and I am still trying to regain the balance that I had during the semester. It takes a lot of self control to reach for more fruit after a long day (I really want to treat myself to bread sometimes!) but if I am feeling a bit unbalanced already I know that eating these other foods will be better in the long run.

Be prepared to politely decline offered food

As a vegan (and someone that has a sensitivity to dairy), declining offered food is something I do many times per day. This can be quite difficult at times, as you don’t want to seem ungracious. However, it’s important to maintain your diet in all situations (especially if you have it for sensitivity reasons).

In as many circumstances as possible, I quickly explain the reason for my declaration and assure them not to worry about it at all (as I have often eaten beforehand). I love to offer to buy ingredients and cook meals, as cooking is one of my hobbies and it makes me feel as though I am contributing instead of creating special circumstances for meals. 🙂

Think about how to realistically commit to an exercise regimen

This is one of the most difficult aspects, especially if you are traveling to multiple places or never in one consistent location. For me, I am staying for at least one month in most places and have the opportunity to create a schedule for exercise. However, I have learned that walking is one of the best modes of exercise that you can engage in everywhere. I walk as many places as possible, loving the combination of the fresh air and the exercise. 🙂 If you have access to internet, Blogilates and Yoga with Adriene are amazing resources for staying fit in a small space! Definitely check them out!

As I mentioned in my most recent travel post, it’s important to also be open to spontaneous opportunities! For example, I went to a zumba lesson on my first full day here and had a blast! I met so many new people and it was an amazing workout!

Be prepared with snacks throughout the day

Regardless of your dietary preferences, being prepared with snacks throughout the day is super important for keeping balance and for fighting off low blood sugar moments! As a vegan, this can be a challenge. However, GoMacro bars are both delicious and portable! They have a lot of flavors (cashew caramel is one of my favorites, and if you know me you know I’m a bit obsessed with cashews…). These bars are available on many different sites, including Amazon and ThriveMarket! (If you want to get a subscription to Thrive, it’s very easy and much like an online version of Costco with wellness items!).

Fresh fruits and veggies are also great options, and the possibilities are endless! Having snacks available is a great way to be able to eat while at gatherings or during work breaks.

Bring remedies and other natural products

In the past two weeks that I have been abroad, I have learned that it is a good idea to have remedies and medicines with you in order to recover as quickly as possible from inevitable ‘under the weather’ days. I have had a few recently, but have been able to get back on track with a few remedies and by eating more fresh fruits and veggies.

I hope that you enjoyed this post about staying healthy and fit while abroad! It is something that not many people think about ahead of time, but it’s so important for wellbeing and enjoying your experience!

What have you learned about staying healthy and fit while abroad or while traveling? I would love to know what you recommend!

© The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Minimalist Spending Tips for College Grads

During college it’s easy to get used to dorm or apartment living where the furniture and other necessities are already provided for you. Even though I have yet to graduate from college, I found myself starting to think about the investments that I am going to make and how to save for them ahead of time.

One of the common misconceptions of minimalism is that it means owning the least amount of materials possible. In reality, it simply means consuming with intention. In this way, you have to think through each purchase that you are considering in order to determine how much you would use this item on a daily basis. Since minimizing my life, all of the items that I have in my dorm room are things that I use consistently on a daily basis. Everything has a purpose, and everything is being used regularly.

I want to continue this lifestyle once I graduate from college, as it has been refreshing and rejuvenating to have only what I need for day-to-day life. In thinking about what I want to invest in once I leave college, I came up with a list of items that I think would be important to research and invest in for an apartment or living space post-graduation. When researching items to invest in, one of my main considerations was purchasing something that would last for a long time and be of high quality.

As someone who loves quality sleep (because in college quantity can often be lacking…), investing in a mattress is one of my primary considerations. This is something that very few people think about until moving in to a new space, but doing research beforehand is definitely worth it! I personally like really soft and supportive mattresses for my sore muscles at the end of my long college days. Casper mattresses come in all sizes and they even get shipped to your door! They also have sheets and pillows so you only have to shop in one place for everything. They are space-saving mattresses with a convenient, and there is only one model so you don’t have to do extensive research to figure out which mattress to buy! They combine softness and support, which is perfect for many different preferences. They even have dog mattresses, which is perfect for a dog-lover like me!

Another worthwhile investment, both monetarily and time-wise, is an indoor herb garden or herb jars. As someone who is passionate about plant-based living, fresh ingredients, and cooking, having fresh herbs to reach for many recipes would be well worth the effort. They make your space look bright and fresh, and also make fresh ingredients readily available and inexpensive! Along these lines, investing in cookware and environmentally friendly food storage is also very important. I know that I will want to invest in environmentally friendly cookware that has many functions, having the fewest number of high-quality cookware items as possible. Ecolution and other brands have different lines that allow you to pick and choose what you will use the most (for me it’s soup pots and sauté pans). This will give you reliable cookware that will last, and serve many purposes.

Dishware, bakeware (measuring cups, etc.) and spices are also worthwhile investments. I like to think about what I do every day (sleep, cook, work, and exercise) and base my purchases off of this. I’ve always wanted to have a small space, but have it encompass all of my favorite things within easy reach. I also like to support smaller businesses (especially for spices and cooking oils), and the products are very high-quality!

I hope that these suggestions help to get you thinking and budgeting for what you want to invest in post-graduation! Do you have any minimalist spending tips or favorite investments that you have made? Share them in the comments below!

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

*This is not a sponsored post, and all thoughts and opinions are my own 🙂 



Vegan Q&A: Being Vegan in College

vegan-qaI am now a few months into eating a completely vegan diet and living a vegan lifestyle, and I thought that it would be fun to answer some of the questions you had about my vegan journey and transition! I adopted a vegan diet for both health and ethical reasons, and it has worked wonders for me in my life journey. I understand that everyone has a different cultural and health background, and I promote adopting the lifestyle that is healthiest for you. That being said, there are many things that people can do to lessen the impact of farming on the environment and on the cruel treatment of animals. If you are interested in learning more, I will leave a few links at the end of this post! So without further ado, let’s get into the questions!

What motivated you to become a vegan? What has been the biggest challenge?

A few years ago if you would have told me that I would be a vegan in the future, I would have laughed and said that I would probably be a vegetarian but definitely not a vegan. My love for cheese and ice cream would never make that possible! However, during my first year of college I faced many health problems that made studying and other day-to-day activities difficult. Despite my attempts to discover what was the root cause, I struggled for many months before determining that it was a sensitivity to meat and dairy. I had been vegetarian for quite a while prior to this discovery, and decided to make the full transition to being vegan. It was by no means an easy transition (there were so many learning curves!), but I would do it all over again a million times over.

I had been a migrainer since age 14, and last year I was having about 1 (or more!) migraines a week. This was very detrimental to my productivity, but I had always assumed that it was stress that was causing them. Once I omitted dairy from my diet, this number dropped dramatically. My last migraine was in July, which is unheard of for me! This alone made the transition completely worth it, and learning more about the ethical considerations for veganism made it a clear choice. I was never excited about eating meat, even as a child, and decided to be primarily vegetarian very naturally in high school. Now that I have made the transition to a vegan diet, my energy levels are consistently higher and my ability to focus is definitely more reliable. That being said, the biggest challenge was maintaining a consistent blood sugar level and adjusting to being a vegan in college.

It’s important to always have snacks with you on the go!

As a vegan you burn through your calories and nutrients much faster than the more complex proteins found in dairy and meat. For me, these complex proteins often left me feeling tired and nauseous, but switching to plant proteins and nutrients left me hungry about every hour. I’ve learned that carrying snacks around with me (KIND bars, mixed nuts, fresh fruit, etc.) helps me to keep consistent blood sugar and energy levels. I also feel as though I am taking better care of my body by giving it raw nutrients and whole foods. 🙂  I’m considering writing a full post about being vegan in college on a budget, so let me know if this is something you would be interested in reading about!

Do you have any tips or alternatives for a girl who loves cheese and crackers, or mac and cheese? 

This is a great question! One of my favorite comfort foods growing up was mac and cheese, and for the longest time the idea of giving up cheese was unthinkable. However, I’ve discovered that Daiya mac and cheese is just as delicious as regular mac and cheese! I’ve also made grilled cheese sandwiches with SmartBalance margarine spread and Daiya cheese melts or shredded cheese! They’re so good and you can’t even tell the difference between them and the ‘real’ thing! Nutritional Yeast is also a great cheese substitute, especially in baking and for pastas. You also don’t have to give up pizza, because Daiya has options for that too! All of their dairy substitutes are so delicious, and quite affordable! 🙂

Have you noticed any differences in your overall health, or how you feel on a daily basis? 

Now that I'm vegan, my mornings are much more energizing :)
Now that I’m vegan, my mornings are much more energizing 🙂

I used to wake up super tired and feeling generally “meh” despite getting enough sleep or nutrition, but now when I wake up I’m always energized and happy. 🙂 Someone asked me the other day to describe how I felt on a daily basis, and the only word that I could think of that came close to describing it is light. Not in a weight sense, but in the fact that I always felt groggy after eating meat/dairy. Once I eliminated these from my diet, I never felt uncomfortably full after a meal. I eat frequently and make sure I’m getting enough calories and nutrients, but I always feel as though I can go through my day without feeling a variation in my overall health as the day goes on. 🙂 I’ve also found that I have had a strengthened immune system, and that my hair and nails are stronger, healthier, and longer now that I have switched to a plant based diet!

Is it difficult to eat out when vegan? How do you know what’s okay for you to eat?

Eating out was definitely a bit difficult at first, but now I’ve learned how to be able to go to most restaurants and find vegan friendly options. I usually like to look at a menu online ahead of time just to make sure that there are going to be a few options that I can choose from (samosas are one of my favorite vegan options, they’re just so delicious!!). Some restaurants have dietary labels and cautions on their menus, and with others I have to double check with the server if the meal has meat or dairy in it. They usually will check with the manager to make sure that it fits a vegan diet. Restaurants are used to getting asked about dietary information, so don’t worry about double checking! I’ve often found that many servers give me recommendations for vegan dishes, and they’ve always been delicious! As a vegan I don’t usually eat out often, but I definitely don’t have to miss out on the opportunity to go to a meal with family or friends. 🙂

Do you have any tips for if you experience a lack of protein and energy?

Smoothies are one of my favorite ways to wake up and start my day!
Smoothies are one of my favorite ways to wake up and start my day!

After a process of trial and error, I have definitely found the routine that maximizes my nutrient consumption and balance. I absolutely love smoothies, so adding vegan protein powders to my breakfast or post-workout snack has been very easy. I have both a chocolate and vanilla variety, and love to use them with peanut butter, chia seeds unsweetened almond milk, and bananas for added nutrition and protein. I find that these smoothies are super easy to make and help to keep me full and energized throughout my day. I bought a personal blender over the summer (Oster MyBlend), and I absolutely love it! The blender compartment turns into a travel mug, so even if I’m in a rush (as many of us are!) I can still manage to have a full and complete meal and keep myself balanced and energized.

I also love to have nut proteins and oats as snacks to fuel my day, as well as fruit and vegetables to make sure that I have enough energy to get through a workout or a long day on campus. It’s definitely a different journey for everyone, but I’ve found that I can now tell what kind of nutrients my body needs as I go through the day. I usually eat a protein-filled meal in the morning, and then snack on some fruits and veggies at work or while working on homework for energy and focus. I also tend to eat more protein after workouts and at the end of the day to make sure I stay full and well nourished. Water is also very important! I make sure to have about a gallon per day (at least two liters), and this helps to keep me full, energized, and ready for the day! 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this Q&A post, and thank you to those who submitted questions! If you have more questions, I would be happy to answer them in the comments! Below I will link some of the sites that I have found very helpful as I continued on my vegan journey, and I would love to hear any recommendations that you have!

My Pinterest board on vegan eating

Farm Sanctuary

The Humane League 

It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken


Oh She Glows

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Vegan Grocery Haul

Vegan Grocery Haul-2A couple of weeks ago I did a vegan lifestyle haul, and received a few questions about how much a week’s worth of vegan groceries costs. Contrary to popular belief, buying vegan groceries doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, it’s often cheaper than buying a “regular” week of groceries! In this post I hope to show you how I plan my shopping, how I budget, and what an average week of vegan groceries looks like. So without further ado, let’s get into it!

Meal Planning:

One of the most important parts of shopping is meal planning. One of the ways I reduce my cost is to have all of my ingredients planned out and accounted for. I usually look for vegan recipes on Pinterest, and bookmark ones I want to try. This was my meal plan for this week:



  • Vegan teriyaki strips with brown rice
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Pasta with marinara sauce
  • Dinner leftovers
  • Brown rice with baked beans



  • Fresh fruit
  • Oreo cookies

Budget Shopping

I shop at my local King Soopers, which is a grocery chain similar to Hy-Vee, Price Chopper, and others. I have a Soopers Card, which is a free card that gives me discounts on my purchases. I always look in the newspaper ad to see what sales are going on during the week, and plan out my purchases with both my meal plan and the ad.

What I Bought This Week (and What it Cost)

  • Simple Life Vanilla Almond Milk ($2.79$.30 = $2.49)
  • Fresh Blueberries x2 ($3.49$2.24 = $1.25 each)
  • Rosemary and Garlic Triscuits x2 ($2.89$.89 = $2.00 each)
  • Kroger Just Fruit Strawberry Jam ($2.99$1.20 = $1.79)
  • Nutmeg and Cinnamon (10/$10, $2 total)
  • Silk Almond Creamer x3 in Caramel [2] and Hazelnut [1] ($2.00$1.00 = $1.00 each, buy 3 save $3 sale)
  • Kroger Simple Peanut Butter x2 ($2.29$.50 = $1.79 each)
  • Bananas (bunch of 4) ($.85)
  • Oat and Grain Bread [vegan] ($2.49$.50 = $1.99)
  • Jamba Juice Smoothie mix (2/$5, $2.50 total)
  • Nature’s Path Flax Waffles ($3.79$1.29 = $2.50)
  • Gardein Chik’n Strips [vegan teriyaki chicken strips] ($4.89$1.00 = $3.89)
  • 4 Navel Oranges ($2.36)
  • Kroger Olive Oil [34 fl oz] ($9.99$4.00 = $5.99)
  • Distilled White Vinegar ($.79)
  • Barilla Farfalle Pasta 16oz ($1.49)
  • Kroger Panko [vegan] ($1.49)

TOTAL: $45.15 (with $.30 bag fee and $1.67 tax)

What I’ve Learned

There are a few items that I keep on hand all of the time, and buy in bulk when they are on sale. In the past few weeks, these items were: brown rice, tofu, vegan cheese, vegetable broth, vegetable spread, frozen vegetables, oats, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and Oreo cookies.

I also go to a grocery store that offers fuel point rewards, and every month I get at least one $.10 off per gallon reward. I highly recommend these programs to anyone who commutes often!

I used to spend more money on my groceries when I bought “regular” items. Dairy is quite expensive, and I used to be an avid yogurt and cheese fan. Once I realized that going vegan was better for my health personally (I eliminated meat long before dairy), I also found that my paychecks were going further in terms of food. I felt better about what I was putting into my body, and how I was purchasing my food.

I hope this post was helpful! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask! 🙂

© The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Vegan Lifestyle Haul

thewisewillow.com* This is not a paid-for advertorial. All recommendations and opinions are my own. *

Over the past couple of months, I have been making the transition to a vegan lifestyle. Though I decided to go vegan primarily for health reasons, I’ve also realized that I care as much about what I put on my body as what I put in it. In other words, I’ve started to think about what goes into making the product I’m about to use. While much of my focus has been on food and dietary needs (food hauls, what I eat in a day, and recipes coming soon!), I have been reflecting on the products I use every day and their impact.

I went through all of the products that I use on a regular basis and read their ingredients list and animal testing policies. I was shocked at what I discovered. Most of the products I was using without second thought contained animal derived ingredients or promoted animal testing. Today I decided to search for vegan alternatives and start the process of switching both what I eat and what I use every day.

Cruelty-Free vs Vegan: What’s the Difference?

When looking at common household products, there are two terms that often come up. The first is cruelty-free. These products do not use or endorse animal testing of any kind throughout their creation processes. However, these products may contain animal-derived ingredients. Vegan products are cruelty-free and don’t contain animal-derived ingredients. It is important to understand what type of product you are looking for from the start, and both are great alternatives to common products that endorse testing and animal ingredients. I began the search for vegan products, as I am trying to shift away from anything that contains animal ingredients.

Budget Shopping: 

One of the concerns many people have about vegan products is their cost. As I was browsing my local store, I noticed that “regular” products were almost just as expensive, if not more expensive, than vegan ones. I’m someone who loves to save money whenever possible, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the products I selected weren’t any more expensive than their non-vegan counterparts.

Facial Cleanser:

During my first year of college, I relied heavily on the Clean & Clear Sensitive Skin facial cleanser ($4.97). It was relatively cheap and lasted for a very long time. Once I read the ingredients, however, I realized that there was an abundance of harsh chemicals. I have always had sensitive skin that is quick to react to cleansers with loads of artificial chemicals, dyes, and fragrances.

Simple Foaming Facial Cleanser

As I walked along the shelves of facial cleansers, the only vegan product I was able to find is the Simple Foaming Cleanser ($5.97, only $1 more expensive than the Clean & Clear). Though Simple is made by Unilever (which has tested on animals), it doesn’t use animal-derived ingredients or animal testing of its products. This cleanser is free of parabens, sulfates, harsh chemicals, fragrances, and dyes. It is gentle on the skin, and does not contain environmentally damaging microbeads. After using it once, I already love it. My skin already feels much more hydrated!


As someone who has veneers (porcelain covers) on four of my teeth, I am always searching for toothpastes that are both gentle and whitening. I was previously using Crest 3D White Radiant Mint ($4.88), but I knew that there were many intense chemicals in the formula despite it being “enamel safe”. Today I stumbled upon a brand that I have never heard of called Hello.

Hello Supermint Flouride Toothpaste

I purchased the Hello Supermint Fouride Toothpaste ($4.23, cheaper than Crest 3D White!), and am loving it already. It has no dyes, artifical sweeteners, or preservatives and polishes and brightens with natural ingredients. This toothpaste is completely vegan (and advertised as such), as well as BPA free and made in the USA. This toothpaste also doesn’t contain microbeads, making it safer for water supplies and gums. The Supermint flavor tastes amazing as well, which is a huge plus! 🙂

Body Wash:

Yardley London Oatmeal & Almond Bath Bar

Recently I have become quite frustrated with cream body washes. I found it difficult to use a loofah in college as it always retained water and got moldy (super gross), so I was always wasting soap as it slipped out of my hands. I was using the Tone Argan Oil Body Wash ($2.92), which had loads of artifical dyes (it was gold and shimmery!) and fragrances. I have decided to return to bar soap, which has been a great decision. Though it does occasionally slip out of my hands, I don’t feel as though I am wasting product. The soap I have chosen is the Yardley London Oatmeal & Almond Bath Bar ($0.97!). This soap is amazing. It has all natural ingredients (no harsh chemicals or dyes), doesn’t use animal testing or ingredients, and doesn’t feel scratchy like other natural bar soaps.


This past year, I finally found a mascara that didn’t clump or run down my face. This was the Maybelline Lash Sensational in Black Pearl ($6.25). While I loved the product, Maybelline does occasionally use animal testing and ingredients in their cosmetics. Though they claim that their parent company (L’Oreal) no longer tests on animals, they allow exceptions to this rule for other regulations. In other words, animal testing still occurs when reports of rash or infection arise.

E.L.F. Studio Mineral Infused Mascara in Black

I decided to try the E.L.F. Studio Mineral Infused mascara ($3.00, $3.25 cheaper than Lash Sensational) as an alternative. I love it! It doesn’t clump, and gives my lashes a very natural but defined look. It is affordable and has a great wand and simple packaging. I highly recommend it!


I love shimmery eyeshadows, but prefer a neutral everyday look. I have been using the NYX Prismatic eyeshadows ($6 each) due to their color payoff and shimmer. While NYX is cruelty-free, many of their products contain animal-derived ingredients thus making them non-vegan.

E.L.F. Studio Baked Eyeshadow Trio in Peach Please

I picked up the E.L.F. Studio Baked Eyeshadow Trio in Peach Please ($4.00) as an alternative. The shimmer is outstanding, and the color payoff is comparable to that of the prismatic eyeshadows. They are very neutral colors, and all come in one container. They are blendable and buildable, especially with an eyeshadow primer underneath.

Swatches of the three colors in the trio

I took a swatch of the shadows for you to see how they appear on the skin. I have an olive skin tone, and they still show up with vibrant color payoff. They are very blendable, and can be used to create many different looks.

Though they are all contained in the same packaging, I haven’t experienced blending of any kind between the colors. They stay very separated, and the product fallout is minimal. I highly recommend this trio to anyone looking for a vegan alternative!

And that concludes my first vegan lifestyle haul! I’m still looking to replace other items (I tend to do this in waves of products), so I’m always looking for recommendations. Let me know in the comments if you would like to see more of these haul posts, and feel free to ask any questions that you might have! 🙂

© The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.




Alyssa DeBella

21 | Lifestyle blogger | Minimalist | Dreamer ✨| Language Lover 💕| Animal Obsessed ❤️🐶| Double Major 📚| Vegan 🌱 |Traveler ✈️ (currently in: Europe)
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