Save money on vegetables, whole grains, and more, with these simple tips.
By Stepfanie Romine, author of "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople: The No-Stress, No-Guilt Way to Reap The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet"
Eating healthy on a budget is easy. You just have to know a few simple tricks. Here's how to save money on food even when you're eating a vegan diet.
Buy in bulk. The prices on grains, beans, nutritional yeast (nootch), nuts, and spices are lower in bulk bins, and you can buy as little or as much as you want.
Join a warehouse club. Sam and I joined Costco two years ago, and it's worth it for the deals on nuts alone. Our cart is markedly different from other people's in the checkout line, with any combination of: pecans, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, farro, quinoa, rice, wild blueberries, Mary's Gone Crackers, rice or soy milk, and carrots--no junk food or prepackaged convenience meals. Prices are much lower than the supermarket, and we often can find organic foods there, too.
Keep it simple: A green, a grain, and a bean. Many of our meals revolve around that idea both for convenience and to save money.
DIY: From salad dressings to hummus, learn to make it yourself. You'll save money, cut salt and fat, and improve your cooking skills. Make a double batch of your favorite basic salad dressing for less than half the cost of buying a bottle.
Eat seasonally. I love raspberries in my smoothies, but they're so pricey in winter. I reach for what's in season to save money. As a bonus, it tastes better.
Use all parts of the plant. If you buy beets with the greens attached, sauté them or chop and throw into a salad. When squash is on the menu, always save the seeds and roast them for a protein--rich snack. Save odds and ends from vegetables (nothing rotten or inedible) in a bag in the freezer and use to make stock.
Be flexible. At my supermarket, it seems like there is always at least one variety of non-dairy milk on sale. That's how I decide which one to buy. Though I prefer certain brands, I buy what's cheapest, as long as the nutrition is comparable. I apply the same tactic to other products as well.
Clip coupons! Non-dairy milk is a popular product for coupons and rebates these days. My supermarket has those automatic coupon machines, and most weeks one of the brands of non-dairy milk is on sale. I subscribe to newsletters from my favorite brands and healthy grocers, and I also subscribe to Mambo Sprouts, a line of healthy-food coupons.
Buy generic. Even if you're buying whole or organic foods, you can find store or lower-price brands. Though I do like to support certain vegan-friendly brands, I also like a good bargain, so I often choose store brands.
Plan to splurge. I allow a little wiggle room in our food budget each week. With that money, I might buy a bar of dark chocolate, a pint of coconut milk ice cream, a bottle of wine, or a vegan frozen pizza. By scheduling what would usually be an impulse purchase, I can account for that cost in my overall food budget.
Shop local. Farmer's markets are great sources for new ideas, affordable and seasonal produce, and foods you might never have tried. Get to know your local farmer, and you might just find a new resource for new-to-you vegan foods!
Plan your meals. Each Saturday, I peer into the fridge and pantry, take a quick inventory of what's there, and start to plan our meals for the next week. I hit the farmer's market and grocery store in the afternoon, and if we're heading that way for other errands, the warehouse club. I make a list of meals for Sunday through Thursday. (We always eat leftovers on Friday or go out.) I make a detailed list--and stick to it. Since starting this plan, I've saved more than 10% on our grocery bill, almost eliminated our food waste, and put that money toward a savings goal!
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SparkRecipes.com editor Stepfanie Romine is a certified yoga teacher and co-author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." A vegan and runner, she has lived and cooked on three continents.