I have found that there is a general notion that being vegan is a very expensive habit. Most people believe that you have to spend hundreds of dollars weekly on groceries from the high end natural food stores. Or that going out to get food is much more expensive when you are a vegan than it is if you are on a conventional diet.
In some cases this may be true. If you live a refined life, filled with truffles and oils from around the world, and go out to restaurants that provide you with multiple entrees, an appetizer as well as a dessert than of course it is an expensive lifestyle.
If you buy all natural drinks at different juice bars (jamba juice, robeks, etc) daily than yes of course it is going to add up. However, I will assume that if you were used to spending money like that on food intake you wouldn’t be a Vegan on a Budget.
I will walk you through several ways to save money and be successful at maintaining your budget while eating plant-based.
Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables
When you are on a budget you are not in the position to buy things because they are your favorite or you love them, it is time to start buying items based on availability and price. Luckily for you availability is a main contributing factor to price. It is as simply as supply and demand.
Think for instance of a truffle. It is a fungus that grows entirely underground near the roots of trees. In most cases it cannot be farmed conventionally therefore it is found in specific regions. This rarity is what makes them expensive, especially the white versions from Italy.
Same goes for everyday items, when strawberries are in the season they are much cheaper, typically on sale due to the high volume and the need to sell them prior to decomposition/them going bad. During this time in most grocery stores they are 99 cents per case vs the 3-5 dollars they cost when they are not in season because there are fewer available.
With this in mind you will want to stick to fruits and vegetables that are in season when you go shopping. When they go on sale, you buy in bulk and freeze the majority of the purchase immediately, preventing your haul from going bad and making it available for smoothies, soups, natural drinks, etc. later when you need them.
What is the Best Price vs Value
When you are doing any form of shopping and you are on a budget you will want to get the best price available for a reasonable amount of whatever you are looking for. When it comes to fruits and vegetables the same rules apply. This rule will generally be geared towards root vegetables, apples, oranges, lemons, limes etc. (Generally any fruit of vegetable they sale in bags/containers as well as individually.
Most people see a sign for $0.99 per pound and get trigger-happy however, you always want to focus on the price per ounce/gram/lb etc. depending on what you are buying. If they are selling lemons for $0.89 cents each, yes it sounds cheap, but there is probably a 5lb bag of lemons for $3.99. That will be the bag that you want.
You always want to be aware of what the best price is vs best value
Now this may also work in reverse. For instance, you may see a square plastic container of spinach that has about 16 oz for $4.99, but individual bunches of spinach are being sold for $1.99. In this case odds are the individual bunches will have the best value, however you will have to weight them to verify.
Buy in Bulk
Many grocery stores have adopted a buy in bulk area somewhere inside there building. In most cases this was done to compete with the online prices of retailers like amazon (you can always do shopping online as well).
If these areas are available in a store near you, this is where you will want to attain your spices, seasonings, grains, legumes, nuts etc. In most cases these will reflect the best prices.
Don’t go too crazy here unless a bulk item is on sale and you use it often. Otherwise, get what you need for a couple weeks to possibly a month.
You will also want to buy in bulk if they have bags of grains, legumes etc available and you don’t have the actual self serve bulk area. For example instead of the 1 lb bag of rice get the 5 lb. Keep in mind the best price vs value at all times but in most cases you will find the bigger bags have the best value.
To be a successful Vegan on a budget you will have to be diligent regarding what you have available and what you need in the produce department. The days of looking in your fridge and seeing moldy beets from 2 months prior are long behind you. You need to get an idea of the lifespan of all the plant matter you purchase if you want to stretch every dollar.
This means knowing when you have too much of something and either making more dishes where it can be used, making it into an all natural juice or freezing it to be used at your leisure. However, no fruit nor vegetable should go bad, that is wasted money.
The best way to prevent this is having an idea of what you are planning on using groceries for before purchasing them, and using them all up before going back to the grocery store.
Run the Pantry Dry
The same thing will go for the dry items however it will be on a slightly different cycle. Certain things you can use every day for every meal that can be bought in extreme bulk are excluded like rice if you bought a 25lb bag. Obviously you shouldn’t use it all and eat nothing but rice for weeks until you go back to purchase other grains but most things fall in this category.
You want to be accountable for everything you purchase and eat it in its entirety before purchasing other items that are similar. For instance, if you have 2 lbs of adzuki beans and 2 lbs of black beans, but you are tired of them and want to get something more exotic like a yellow split pea or mung beans, DON’T DO IT.
Finish the legumes (adzuki beans, black beans) you purchased, or the rice (wild rice, arroyo rice), or breakfast grains (oatmeal, 7 grain cereal), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower) etc before you go get more.
You want to get the benefits from the money you spent before spending more money. This means using groceries in there entirety before buying new ones
Stick to a Theme
This will be a great help when it comes to using all the groceries that you purchase. You should have a very particular idea of what you are using ingredients for before you go out and just buy things on a whim.
By theme, I mean you don’t need to get millet, barley, couscous, quinoa, brown rice, wild rice and arroyo rice. Figure out a couple you want to use for the month (the cheapest or the ones on sale is a great indicator of the items that you should get) and use those up in there entirety with whatever fruits and vegetables you also strategically planned to use.
You don’t want to be all over the place with your grocery list. Find a way to use a few of the items that are cheapest for a variety of dishes. Acquire a good staple of spices and seasonings so your food doesn’t taste the same daily and save more money than you could have imagined.
Avoid Processed Items
The processed, usually name brand items are going to hinder your budget tremendously. Same goes for high end juices and drinks.
You can make natural juice at home for a fraction of the cost if you own a juicer or blender, using leftover/ frozen fruits and vegetables that you bought in bulk at the opportune time. You can also get better acquainted with water (add fresh mint if you don’t like it) and tea.
Staying away from these purchases will unlock a great deal of once spent income weekly, in most cases, due to the fact that snacks are generally eaten first. Often before meals are prepared or instead of meals. That along with the smaller quantities most of them come in, make them more likely to be consumed quicker than anything else in the house.
Remember your Goals
You have to always remember this is about saving money. If you manifest and budget properly, later down the road I am sure you will have more than enough money to buy and potentially waste all the food you want however, as of now you are maintaining a budget and that should be the focus.
If you buy something new to try and you don’t like it, so be it. We all lose one day, shove that item down your throat until it is gone and remember to never purchase it again.
Keep a mental list or a physical one, of items you ran out of prematurely, so you can remedy that on your next grocery run. As well as things you don’t need as much of, for the same purpose. You also want to use items after you freeze them. Remember, those items are money that could be wasting away in the freezer. Reincorporate frozen items until they are gone before buying in bulk again.
Food is money, be sure to waste any of it and it will make being Vegan on a Budget much simpler than you thought.
Let me know how you feel below.
Stan – Founder My Asparagus Tips