A vegan lifestyle can easily be customized to work with most people’s daily schedule, regardless of their budget. Vegan diet has gotten a bad rap about being expensive, or complicated. This is a complete myth. Actually, a vegan diet can be very easy to maintain for those on a tight budget. Most of the basic staples are easily affordable: grains, beans, seeds, and fresh veggies and fruits are all good examples. Even on a budget, it’s possible to make a wide variety of healthy delicious menus. Curries made from vegetables with rice and organic tofu, broth-based or creamy homemade soups, quick and easy veggie stir-fries, flat-bread sandwiches, crockpot style fresh veggies and bean chilies, gluten-free pasta dishes made from rice pasta, and of course: all kinds of salads made with fresh baby greens, herbs, lentils, beans, nuts, are all very tasty and and very affordable vegan dishes.
Often times, people will start out with a vegetarian diet as it allows dairy products, eggs, and butter. But just getting started is what counts. After being on a vegetarian diet, they are ready to go vegan. Switching to a vegan offers other food choices you may never have thought of, and ready to try some of the popular superfoods that are on the market. And this can be quite an adventure. Not only are superfoods excellent source of nutrition and energy, but can actually be very delicious. Superfoods can be more expensive, but you’ll be surprised when you stop buying other types of food, those superfoods are actually going to fit in your budget. But they are definitely not required, just a nice nutrition boost. No matter how you decide to map out your vegan diet, below are some suggestions to help you shop and still save money!
As you may well know, many grocery stores generally display the unit price for each item, and other stores will also display the price per weight for each item. You can compare the prices between the different brands and different sizes of the products. You may need to consider using a calculator if your grocery store doesn’t list the price per weight. If you’re not careful, what appears to be the “cheaper” price could actually turn out to cost more by weight.
FRESH vs. FROZEN PRODUCE
Frozen fruit is great for making smoothies, or adding fruit to your oatmeal, or even baking with fruit. It might cost more, but it will last longer, and in the long run, cheaper than fresh berries, or fresh mango. If your local Farmer’s Market or health food store is offering a super deal on their fresh produce, then go ahead and buy in bulk, and freeze it. This is a great option for berries, bananas, and other fruit you can use in your smoothies. An interesting note: frozen produce generally contains more nutrients than fresh produce – because the fruit is flash frozen at its peak ripeness and nutrients will not be lost during transport to your store.
PACKAGED vs. BULK
Buying dry goods from the bulk section is a great way to save money, especially if you only want a small amount. Be sure to check with your store clerk as to how often their bulk supplies are rotated out. There have been reports of food getting moldy from being in storage containers for too long. So check out the following items that are usually found in the bulk section:
- nuts and seeds
- spices and herbs
- whole wheat and other grain flours
- whole grains
- dried fruit, make sure they’re not over-dried, and that the containers are close to air-tight
- granola bars and snack items
- sample some items you’ve never tried before without needing to buy a larger package.
NON-ORGANIC vs. ORGANIC
It’s been found that people who routinely consume organic foods have less pesticide residue in their body, and are less prone to various health challenges. I recommend always buying organic no matter what, regardless of the fact that organic foods usually cost more. Not always, I have seen organic fruit at my local grocery store go on sale, and the non-organic fruit being sold at a higher price per pound.
I highly recommend shopping and supporting your local Famer’s Markets if possible. The produce there may not be labeled as ‘USDA Certified Organic’ but is still considered to be ‘pesticide-free’. Obtaining a USDA certification costs thousands and thousands of dollars and most organic farmers cannot afford the certification. But ask them anyway, and they will likely tell you their produce is ‘pesticide-free’. You can get top quality, locally grown produce at your local Famer’s Market or organic vegetable stand. Even if you don’t normally buy organic produce, be sure to check out the organic section anyway, often times, organic produce will go on sale and be cheaper than non-organic.
GENERIC BRAND vs. BRAND NAME
You can save a lot of money shopping generic brands as they are generally the same item, just a different label. Great generic choices are:
- baking supplies: flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, corn starch, etc.
- nuts & seeds
- dried fruit (without added sulfur)
CONSIDER A WHOLESALE MEMBERSHIP
Membership at a wholesale store like Costco can be well worth the annual cost, even a single person or a small family can still save grocery money. If you know someone that already has a membership, you might want to go with them to check out what is available, and compare prices.
If you’re only shopping for 1 or 2 people, your best bet is to load up on non-perishable and bulk items you can freeze. Costco memberships are around $40 for one year but you can easily save so much more than that if you carefully put yuor list together and are organized with your shopping. Some favorites to pick up at Costco are:
- whole grains, dried beans
- cooking oil, coconut oil, olive oil
- frozen fruits and vegetables
- oatmeal, granola, and other cereals
- bread (freeze extras)
- nuts and seeds, chia seeds, hemp hearts, etc.
- nut butters
- baking supplies: flour, salt, soda, sugar, etc.
- healthy vegan snacks (crackers, chips, protein bars, etc.)
CHECK YOUR LOCAL FLYER FOR GROCERY STORE MARKDOWNS
Pick up your local grocery store sales flyer to check for vegan items that are on sale. You can stock your freezer with sale times that are marked down 25% and 50%. Be sure to check the dates of items on the shelf as some items will go on sale due to expiring date. If you live in cities or a rural area with a smaller vegetarian/vegan community you may find some vegan specialty foods to be more expensive. Compare those non-perishables with Amazon Pantry items you may be able to save money there.
Don’t forget to take advantage of online retailers like The Better Health Store and iHerb which are great options for getting vegan products (especially personal care, snack foods, and supplements.) Sign up to be notified of sales, coupon codes, and referrals for even better deals.
PREPARE YOUR OWN FOOD
EASY TO MAKE CONVENIENCE MEALS
Convenience foods are just that: convenient. And they come with a price, often more expensive than preparing your own. When you prepare your own food, not only are you saving money, but you also know exactly what is in your food. No mysterious added ingredients and preservatives. If you work, and spend money for your lunch or convenience meals, think about getting an insulated lunch box and preparing your own lunches and snacks to take to work. Not only will you save money, but your meals will taste so much better!
FOCUS YOUR DIET AROUND WHOLE FOODS
Vegans are very lucky: most of the necessary staple items are cheap! Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds are generally very affordable. Follow the above guidelines to be sure you’re paying the lowest price possible for your food.
Fruits and Vegetables – Buy in season and on sale produce, shop your local Famer’s Market, and stock up on deals that you can preserve by freezing. Pay attention to your local grocery store ads for sales and discounts that you can take advantage of and stock up when you can.
Grains – Check out the bulk section for brown rice, oatmeal, and whole wheat pasta. For baked goods – find good sales, 25-50% discounts, stock up and freeze them – this is a low cost-effective and won’t result in any food loss, because you only need to thaw what you need for the next day or two.
Beans & Legumes – Dried beans and legumes are almost always very affordable. Canned beans and legumes are great for convenience. They can be a little more expensive, but still a viable option for a vegan diet on a budget. Be sure to choose low-sodium options in your canned goods when possible. Tofu is very budget-friendly and is a fresh product, be sure to always choose organic tofu, since most soybeans are now GMO.
Nuts & Seeds – Purchase nuts and seeds in bulk whenever possible or purchased packaged nuts. You can freeze unused nuts to help them last longer, as they do freeze really well, and keep a small amount in your refrigerator to consume as needed.
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR SHOPPING TRIP
STOCK UP ON STAPLES
Purchase bulk items that you will use before their expiry date (and freeze the surplus). Stock on far-dated items as well; an example that works great is shelf stable non-dairy milk (like Pacific Natural Foods Organic milk), they’re often far-dated out for a month or so when not opened, so it’s a great staple to stock up on.
SCHEDULE SHOPPING TRIPS
Most people only shop on weekends, because their work schedule prevents them from shopping during the week. I generally will shop once a week for staples and non-perishables, and my local Farmer’s Market a few times a week. This way, my produce is always fresh, and I don’t have to risk any of it going bad.
BUILDING A BUDGET GROCERY LIST
You’ll find that you’ll not need to buy all the fancy ingredients or ‘superfoods’ when you switch to a vegan diet. It’s easy to enjoy the benefits of healthy eating on a moderate budget, it only requires extra planning and dedication. Look for some menus online, and list the items needed and shop for those items. Pay attention to how much you’re spending, and make necessary budget adjustments where needed. Instead of buying that expensive portobella mushroom for the stuffed mushroom recipe, buy regular white mushrooms and incorporate the same stuffing recipe using them instead. Get creative, and before you know it, you’ll come up with your own delicious recipes and stay within your budget.
Use our resource Building a Healthy Vegan Grocery List to help you put together a budget vegan grocery list. Follow the tips above and stick to the healthy vegan staples like fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, organic tofu, nuts and seeds. You’ll find that building a budget vegan grocery list is really a lot simpler than you thought!
WHAT KINDS OF FOODS CAN BE MADE USING A BUDGET GROCERY LIST?
- Green Salads and Fruit Salads
- Pasta dishes
- Sandwiches & wraps
- Homemade Soups
- Burrito bowls
- Vegetables & hummus
- Apples & peanut butter
- Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
- Baked potatoes
- Baked sweet potatoes
- Baked fries
- Buckwheat Pancakes (gluten free!)
- Oatmeal with a variety of toppings
and a lot more!