There's a common misconception that a vegan diet is more expensive than the standard American, omnivore diet. People are always surprised when I tell them it’s actually considerably cheaper – especially if you know how to shop smartly!
When comparing the prices of meat, eggs, and dairy to the prices of fruits, vegetables, legumes & grains, vegan foods are actually some of the cheapest & healthiest items in the grocery store. There are exceptions of course, including various meat and dairy alternatives (i.e. plant-based burgers, vegan cheese, etc.) While alternatives are awesome and taste amazing, they're not necessary for maintaining a well-balanced vegan diet. Plus, there are SO many amazing & delicious meals you can make from fresh produce.
If you’re interested in going vegan, or are a vegan now and would like to save some extra money, here are 12 easy ways you can shop vegan on a budget:
1. Create your meals with a focus on plant-based whole foods
When deciding what to make for dinner, focus on meals you can make with vegetables, whole grains, herbs, nuts, starches, and legumes. When you replace meat with plant-based protein options, your grocery bill can go down substantially!
2. Cook meals with minimal ingredients
If you’re looking to save money on your vegan meals, try to find recipes that require simple & minimal ingredients. When making more elaborate meals, you’re obviously going to spend more money on ingredients. You’d be surprised at how filling a simple and delicious plant-based meal can be!
3. Buy in bulk
How much you buy in one shopping trip can make a big difference. Also, if you shop at high end grocery stores such as Whole Foods, you may end up paying more. Look for produce and canned items at stores such as Aldi, Costco, Sam’s Club, or any store that sell in bulk. You get a lot more bang for your buck, and you'll end up saving more in the long run. This is especially true if you tend to cook for multiple people at a time!
4. Shop for frozen produce
Frozen vegetables are often much cheaper than fresh produce, and they’re just as good for you! Frozen veggies have been proven to retain majority of their nutrients and flavor, even after cooking. Plus, they last in the freezer almost forever!
5. Make your own meals
As much as I wish I could go to restaurants or order food to be delivered to my doorstep every day, it's expensive to eat out. Pre-made frozen dinners and restaurant options are not only pricier, but they also usually contain more salt and unnecessary ingredients. Cooking at home will save you a lot of money in the long run and will be healthier too!
Photo by Elena Cuellar
6. Plan your meals in advance
Another way to save money at the grocery store is to plan your meals in advance. This will help prevent you from aimlessly wandering the isles, wondering what ingredients you could buy to make your next few meals. You can also make multiple meals with similar ingredients, which will help you from buying more than you can use. (Anyone else guilty of letting vegetables go bad because you over purchased ingredients? No, just me? Okay!)
7. Buy off-brand labels
We all have regular brands that we know and love, however when it comes to beans, rice, and shelf stable canned goods, the brand really doesn’t make a big difference (if any at all). Off brand and store brand canned goods will usually be quite a bit cheaper than most well-known brands. You can also try comparing prices between grocery stores for items you buy regularly!
8. Make enough food to have leftovers a few nights a week
One of the best ways to save on the cost of vegan meals is to make enough food for leftovers the next day (or even the next few days!). I love meal prepping on Sundays (Read my blog 5 Easy Vegan Meal Prep Ideas) in order to plan my meals out for the upcoming week. Meal prep's not your thing? No worries – put what you don’t finish into a Tupperware container and save it for your lunch tomorrow! You can also freeze items such as chili or casseroles to save for later.
9. Buy discounted produce, or join a CSA
Many companies & farms deliver fresh produce to your door for a heavily discounted rate. If you join a CSA, or Community Sponsored Agriculture program, you can pay a flat rate for a certain time period, and the farmers will deliver fresh produce to your door (or somewhere close by). There are also programs that sell unused or undesirable produce to help reduce food waste and save you money!
10. Eat seasonally
One of the easiest ways to rack up your grocery bill as a vegan is to eat fruits and vegetables that're out of season. Sometimes vegetables are flown in from the other side of the world to stock shelves and fill inventory orders. These are often MUCH more expensive options. I love to shop at my local farmers markets in the summer for the freshest vegetables and cheapest options. If you don’t have one available near you, try researching what produce is in season where you live and what grows locally. These will usually be the cheapest and best tasting options – especially during the fall & winter!