11 Tips for Shopping Vegan on a Tight Budget

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We all know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck…

Eating a healthy diet on a tight budget sounds tough. Trying to eat a healthy VEGAN diet on a tight budget sounds even tougher.
But don’t worry, it’s A LOOOOOT easier than it looks.
With some careful planning, you can feed yourself well AND save some cash.
And you don’t have to be the asshole that kills Babe, either :)…..
….too dark?
*Ahem*.
Let’s get started.
11 Tips to Shopping Vegan on a Budget

*PLEASE NOTE: This post and other posts on my site may contain affiliate links. All this means is that I get a small compensation if you purchase from one of the links in my post… at NO extra cost to you! For details, please view my disclosure.

1. Decide On Your Weekly Budget

 

Weekly Budget Pin
Grocery shopping for a vegan diet doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
 
How much do you usually spend on groceries now?
 
You can still spend that amount or less. 
 
Be realistic about how much you’ll need every week; you don’t want to starve. But you can still live within your means.
I aim for something between $25 and $50 per week. It’s definitely doable.
 

2. Organize Your Shopping List Based on Your Budget

Shopping List

 

You might not think that this post is the kind of post to be using business terms…
 
…but guess what?
 
I’m going to anyway :).
 
Organizing your vegan shopping list is all about the R.O.I., or Return on Investment.
 
(I love that term, I’ve been using the hell out of it lately.)
 
You’ve got to spend the right amount of money in the right places so you get the most bang for your buck.
 
  1. Grains, beans, legumes, and starches (like potatoes)
  2. Fruits and vegetables
  3. Snacks and convenience items
 
Your list can be longer and more specific depending on your budget and what you like to eat.
 
I like to think of it like this: you focus on the staples in your diet and you supplement with everything else.
 
Since the grains, beans and legumes are the best sources of protein, you want to invest most of your money here.
 
Supplement with fruits and vegetables, then fill in the rest with your snacks and other items.
 

3. I Hope You Like Potatoes and Rice

 

Potatoes and Rice
Carbs get a bad wrap. We’re taught to avoid them like the plague because “pasta and bread makes you fat” or something.
 
Don’t quote me on that.
 
But it’s not the carbs that fuck with our bodies, it’s everything we DO to the carbs. We eat a lot of refined starches and grains nowadays. 
 
So, with that being said, shop gluten free whenever possible, and look for stuff made with Einkorn wheat if you can. It’s got a higher percentage of protein than red meat and it’s richer in most nutrients, too.
 
Anyway, getting back on track, don’t shy away from those grains; they should be a massive part of your diet. Quinoa, oats and whole grains are great sources of protein.
 
Don’t hate on potatoes, either. They taste great, they’re filling and they’re inexpensive. They’re also great for you.
 
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A.
 
They’re actually great for your health AND your wallet. Invest, invest, invest.
 

4. Shop for Seasonal Produce

 

Produce
Don’t you love mangoes?
I sure do. But damn, when they are out of season, they are EXPENSIVE.
 
This is the case with most fruits and vegetables. If it ain’t growin’ local, it’s gotta come from somewhere else.
 
These expenses, as well as the storage cost, become part of the retail price.
That means YOU’RE payin’ for it.
 
But when those costs go down for the retailer, they go down for the consumer, too.
 
Plus, when the produce is local, the wholesaler can harvest more of it for less.
 
That means you can buy more of it for less.
 
Also, because the produce is close by, there’s no rush to harvest it.
 
When produce comes from somewhere else, it’s usually picked before it’s had time to ripen completely.
 
It’s then thrown into a heat source to “ripen” before it’s sold to you in a store. This usually causes a weird or watery taste in the fruit, and it tends to mold much quicker.
 
So if it seems like the fruit you’ve bought doesn’t taste right, there’s a good chance it’s gone through this process.
 
You also can’t be sure that it hasn’t come in contact with contaminants during its journey.
 
It’s too hard to regulate proper conditions while traveling.
 
They do wash the produce before they sell it to you, but there’s no guarantee that your food isn’t contaminated.
 
Mmmmmm, pesticides :).
 
Local produce has time to ripen before it’s picked and sold, so it tastes better.
 
What does this mean for you? Well, better flavor means better nutritional value. You also reduce the number of contaminants you are exposed to.
 
Yummy, juicy, clean fruit for less mula $$.
 
So before you put together your shopping list, take some time to look at what’s growing in your area.
 

5. Buy That Shit in BULK, Girl

 

Bulk
Buy more for less!
 
Learn how to calculate the cost per unit of what you’re buying. Here, a “unit” represents whatever is being used to measure the product in question. This can be oz., fluid oz., lbs., etc.
 
This is where you’ll want to buy your nuts, seeds, herbs, etc.
 
The biggest packages tend to be the cheapest by weight, but if you don’t need a lot of what you’re buying, hit the bulk section. It’s a great place to try new things and customize your portions.
 
Ever bought a whole bag of something only to find that you hated it? And then it sits in your pantry going bad.
 
Or worse, it ends up in your trash can.
 
“The Bin”, as they call it in England.
 
(Maybe the raccoons will like it?)
 
Stop doing that to yourself.
 
Buy from the bulk section and get small amounts to start with. If you love it, you can come back and get more. If you hate it, it only cost you a few bucks and not ⅓ of your budget :).
 

6. Buy It Frozen or Freeze It Yourself

 

Frozen Fruit
Buying your produce frozen is a great way to save money.
 
It doesn’t go bad, so it doesn’t cost the store as much money as fresh fruit. It will keep great until you decide to use it.
 
There are a lot of misconceptions about frozen produce, though.
 
The most common of these is that the freezing process takes away from its nutritional value.
 
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
 
Freezing produce helps to maintain the level of ripeness it has at the time of harvesting. The conditions are easier to regulate, so you don’t lose as many nutrients.
 
This is especially important as it pertains to shipping.
 
The only downside is that “frozen” does not immediately translate to “cheaper”.
 
Solution? Buy it fresh and freeze it yourself.
 
Keep your eyes peeled for deals, ESPECIALLY on the fresh fruits and veggies.
 
That’s right. Sometimes, stores offer deals on seasonal produce or produce that no one wants to buy.
 
You know…the ugly stuff.
 
So that wonky-lookin’ squash you come across on the way to the tomatoes? Grab it. The store might mark it down from the original price.
 
And while you’re at it, take a look around and see if it has any ugly friends. They might be on sale, too. 
You might actually SAVE money by buying fresh.
 
Anything you can’t use right away will keep in the freezer, so go right ahead and freeze it yourself.
 
This isn’t exclusive to produce, either. You can do this with soups, sauces, meals; pretty much anything that’ll freeze will keep until you want to use it later.
 
So don’t shy away from frozen dinners; make them yourself!
 
That leads to my next tip.
 

7. Cook At Home… A LOT

 

Mushroom Soup
I must admit, this isn’t a rule that I follow very well. I love to eat out with my friends.
 
But this is definitely where I burn a hole in my wallet.
 
Take it from me: the simpler your meal plan is, the better.
 
Plan out your week, and plan to cook for yourself A LOT.
(View some of my favorite vegan recipes here.)
 

8. Don’t Rely on Vegan Substitutes

Vegan Meat
 
I know this is a tough one, particularly if you’re transitioning.
 
Trust me; I used to love cheesy pasta, too.
 
If you can’t live without them, then tweak your budget to invest in some Daiya cheese or something. But the sooner you can wean yourself off of those tastes and textures, the better.
 
Think about it like this: if there’s production involved, you’ll have to pay for it in the retail price.
 
Stick to the staples:
 
  1. Fruits and veggies, fresh or frozen
  2. Beans and legumes
  3. Whole grains, rice, potatoes
  4. Nuts and seeds
 
I make an exception for tofu because it’s pretty simple and versatile.
 
Great substitute for scrambled eggs or meat in a sauce.
 
But like I said earlier, keep it simple. It’s better for your health AND your wallet.
(Speaking of health, check out my post on the Top 10 Benefits of a Vegan Diet.)
 

9. Keep Track of What You Spend And Where

 

Compare Prices
It’s all about comparing prices.
 
If you find something that you like, keep track of the price and compare it to its price at a different store.
 
Learn where your money is best spent.
 

10. Use Your Local Wholesaler

 

Wholesaler
Ever think about getting a Costco membership?
 
Well, if you’re trying to save some money, go ahead and take the plunge.
 
Yes, it’s going to cost you some money to have a membership, but it is WORTH IT.
 
Buying direct from a wholesaler means you pay the wholesale price. You won’t have to pay the extra cost of the retail price to help the retailer turn a profit on the product.
 
This is a great place to bulk up on your convenience items and snacks.
 

11. Be Creative and Make It Fun!

 

Sweet Elite

(Picture from Sweet Elites Cupcakes. See their blog post here

Before I went vegan, I just couldn’t be fucked to cook.
 
The shit was WAY too complicated. There were too many variables: meats, cheeses, spices, vegetables, starches. They ALL had to be part of the meal and I had to make sure they all tasted right.
 
It was overwhelming.
 
Once I went vegan, I cut out a bunch of those variables and cut my cooking time in half.
 
It gave me a lot more license to mess around in the kitchen, so I did.
 
And I can say in all honesty that I have never enjoyed cooking quite as much as I do now.
 
I recommend that you do the same thing.
 
Mess around, play around, figure out what tastes and textures you like most.
 
Try “veganizing” one of your favorite dishes.
 
It’s super fulfilling to find that you might have invented a new lifehack :).
 

But I want to know what you think…

 
Got any suggestions for shopping vegan on a budget? Do you think it’s doable? Do you think you can do BETTER?
 
Let me know in the comments!
Additional Sources:

Wikipedia

college.usatoday.com

theplantstrongvegan.com

www.ilovevegan.com

www.onegreenplanet.org
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