Saving money is tough.
If you're a seasoned veggie, you probably already know this, but it may be news for plant-noshing newbies: Being vegan can be expensive.
But hold up. True, certain products come with a higher price tag, but it's completely possible to do the vegan thing without spending more than you normally would. Here are some ways to get what you need while trimming down your weekly shopping bill:
Rule 1: Lists are your friends.
Knowing what you're going to need for a week's worth of eating is a smart move. For one thing, you can check out stores' websites or look for coupons and discounts to see what's on sale. Keep a running list of essentials, like vegan cheese, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, tofu, etc. You'll be surprised by how much you can make if you just always have your staples on hand. Also, it will limit the impulse buys you make when you wander the frozen aisle thinking, "So hungry - oh, frozen potstickers? Yum!"
Rule 2: Buy in bulk.
Yep, it's a pain to buy that 25-pound bag of black beans and soak them for eight hours. But many cans are lined with hormone-disrupting BPA, and even at $1 per can, you'll save way more buying dried beans. Buying bulk cooking essentials (think tomato paste, pasta sauces and canned organic veggies) can save you hundreds of dollars a year - money easily spent on more food. Or, you know, a weekly manicure.
Rule 3: On that note, cook in bulk.
You've heard it before: Save your Sunday afternoons for cooking meals for the entire week. One of the perks of eating vegan is that your meals tend to keep longer (no moldy cheese or rotten eggs to be found). Instead of buying one bell pepper for Wednesday dinner, buy the pack of three from Trader Joe's and cook up a storm. It'll save you time and money. Make soups, chili or casseroles that will easily give you tons of leftovers. Prepare a giant salad with chopped veggies. Divide your meals into BPA-free storage containers for the week ahead. This will become your new favorite habit, I promise.
Rule 4: Visit the fancy vegan cafes as a treat only.
Here's a shocker: Just filling up your plate with veggies at a restaurant saves you almost no money at all compared to getting a meat dish. So skip eating out during the week (eating out two to three times a week will set you back almost a hundred bucks) and eat the meals that you cooked on Sunday. On that same note, avoid buying frozen, pre-prepared dinners - those will set you back almost as much as eating out. Wise up, woman.
Rule 5: Use your regular grocery store.
Five years ago, you could only get those organic roasted peppers at Whole Foods, and they were a whopping ten bucks a jar. Luckily, big-name grocery stores are now stocking organic food all over the place. Walmart actually paved the way for other retailers almost six years ago. Safeway has an entire section devoted to gluten-free, organic products (and another with vegan cheeses, meats and tofu products). It's much cheaper to buy organic and vegan these days than it was even two years ago.
Rule 6: But also make friends with Trader Joe's.
If you're made of money, feel free to blow your paycheck on Whole Foods. For the rest of us, Trader Joe's is great. They do a great job of offering organic versions of pretty much everything. Prices for things like non-dairy milk, Earth Balance, nuts, seeds and frozen fruit are significantly lower than they are at other places. Stock up on the pricier items here so you have some money to splurge on organic veggies from the farmer's market or the foo-foo health food store down the street.
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