Wrestling with what to buy at the grocery store when you’re a vegan on a budget can be a challenge. That's why I've prepared this 10 step guide to help you navigate your new vegan lifestyle without breaking the bank.
Shopping for a vegan diet doesn’t have to be more expensive than shopping for a non-vegan diet. In fact, beans, rice, vegetables and fruit - all staple foods in a vegan diet - are amongst some of the cheapest ingredients you can buy.
For vegans (and those who’d like to become vegan), the perception that a vegan diet is expensive comes from the unusually high prices of plant based meat and dairy substitutes. However, these luxury items are not necessities. In fact, many of them contain high fat and sodium levels. Vegans and aspiring vegans can easily cook tasty, nutritious meals without buying these expensive meat and dairy substitutes.
The high price of luxury vegan branded products are actually what prevents a majority of those considering veganism from actually converting to it—they’re afraid that, once they start, they won’t have the money to continue.
However, there are several ways to escape budgetary restraints when shopping for vegan meals. This article covers all those major facets, providing you with several ways to craft your vegan grocery list on a budget.
Let’s get started!
Step #1: Meal Prepping is Your Best Friend
Meal prepping is a method of saving money that works for everyone, not just vegans. However, it tends to work exceptionally well for vegans.
Meal prepping vastly reduces the amount you spend per meal by allowing you to buy in bulk and eliminate waste. Additionally, it means you aren’t wasting money buying things you won’t use—you’ve already planned out exactly what you need.
Step #2: Grow, Grow, Grow
I will always stand by the fact that the easiest way to eat vegan on a budget is to learn how to grow a few of your own foods. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll really love it.
You don’t need a ton of space to start your own little garden. I keep pots of fresh basil, chives and thyme on my kitchen windowsill. They look and smell great, and I always have a fresh handful of herbs to throw into soups and stews.
Did you know that you can grow plants like tomatoes, potatoes and carrots in containers? You can even make a mini indoor garden if you don’t have access to outdoor space.
If you don’t have a green thumb, don’t worry. All hope’s not lost. Growing food from seeds is pretty easy, and nearly every plant has exact plant care instructions you can find online. Simply follow those to a T, and you’re set!
Step #3: Forage like a Forest Animal!
Foraging is a fun activity that has a large community of enthusiasts. If you're a vegan on a budget, find your local foraging group and sign up for a guided walk in the woods. Not only does it help to eliminate food waste by allowing you to only pick what you need when you need it, but it also provides a method of obtaining vital vegan products without spending a cent.
Contrary to popular belief, foraging is a lot easier than most people believe. All you really need to become uber-successful at it are some online guides to forageable foods in your state or territory.
By foraging in your area, you can find things like:
- Edible mushrooms
- Local berry bushes
- Dandelions (which are delicious when fried)
- Root vegetables
- Wood sorrel
- Wild lettuce
If you do plan to forage, however, make sure you understand what you’re picking. If you’re unsure about anything (even just a little bit), it’s always best to leave it .
There’s quite a few foraging groups to found online - join a community of like minded people and have fun in the process.
Step #4: Buy Dry
Take a pass on microwaveable bags of rice and expensive pre-prepared soups. Instead, buy dried goods, and make your own!
Dried beans and rice both remain edible for incredible lengths of time and you can buy them in bulk. Compare the size to cost when buying dried goods - usually buying in bulk comes out much cheaper.
Even better, if you can get a wholesale membership at a large grocery store that stocks items in bulk, you're winning! Make one big grocery run and keep your pantry stocked with dried goods for months.
Step #5: Freeze Your Produce
We all know the struggle of purchasing fruits and vegetables only to watch them go bad when we can’t use them quickly enough. It’s hard on your budget and it’s an unfortunate waste of usable food. It’s understandable—sometimes life gets away from you, and it only takes one or two days of letting your produce sit before it starts to become unusable.
Luckily, most fruits and vegetables can be frozen. What’s even better is that, once they’re frozen, they can last for months before they need to be thrown out. Good candidates for freezing are corn, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, spinach, kale, onions, celery, herbs, berries, melons, bananas.
Step #6: Become a DIY Guru
No, I don’t mean start building your own cabinets and fashioning wreaths out of wire clothes hangers (though if you want to, more power to you). Instead, I mean creating healthy, “vegan on a budget” recipes by mixing your own condiments, sauces, milk, etc.
For example, creating your own almond milk is incredibly simple (something you wouldn’t figure considering how expensive it is in-store). To make it, all you need is a blender and a nut milk bag. It’s that simple.
Some other things you can create on your own are:
Essentially, the only limit to the things you can create is your mind (and materials).
Step #7: Buy in Season
We’re all guilty of getting cravings at certain times of the year and purchasing things that are out of season. However, this is a costly habit you’ll have to break if you want to create budget-friendly vegan recipes.
To put things in perspective, consider the price of strawberries throughout the year: when they’re at their highest in supply (around February and March), prices can be as low as a dollar and a half per one pound container. However, when the supply is at its lowest, you’re lucky to find a one-pound container for under $5 in most places.
The principle applies to nearly all forms of fresh produce, so make sure you research seasons and are well-informed of when your favorite fruits and veggies will be on sale.
Step #8: Go to Your Local Farmer’s Market
Farmer’s markets are excellent ways to save money on vegan food.
Because when you purchase at a farmer’s market, you’re paying for only the resources that went into growing it. At a grocery store, you’d be paying for the resources that went into producing it, plus packaging costs, plus shipping costs, plus… Well, you get it.
Not to mention, farmer’s markets are excellent ways to support your local community and find deals on produce that have minor blemishes or are slightly bruised, etc.
Step #9: Know the Tricks of the Trade
If you are purchasing most of your goods from the grocery store, you should know about the marketing technique they use to encourage consumers to spend more.
For example, the priciest items will always be those at eye level. That’s why you usually always have to search for bargain prices on the lowest shelf—they’re never in the obvious spots.
Additionally, search your heart out for coupons on your favorite items. This includes those that are online, in catalogs and newspapers, etc. By utilizing coupons, you can potentially cut your grocery bill in half.
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to sign up for your store’s loyalty program. Many stores now have programs that offer discounts to shoppers with their card and will sometimes even put those discounted prices on the shelf as the sticker prices. If you don’t have a loyalty card, you can often wind up paying much more than you expected.
Being vegan on a budget doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, in many cases, it can turn out to be a lot of fun!
By following the steps outlined here, you can create a lifestyle that not only benefits the environment and your own body but that also makes shopping and obtaining the goods you need an engaging and pleasant experience.
For more information on how you can live a better (and more budget-friendly) vegan lifestyle, check out our Vegan Resources Archive!