Eating Green on a Budget

Vegetarianism and veganism often get a bad rap for being overly expensive ways to eat, even though meat is one of the most expensive foods you can consume. The issue is that people don’t know how to shop affordably on a plant-based diet and reach for the overpriced substitutes for meat and other animal products. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to shop smarter and save even more money on your grocery bill than meat-eaters.

Buy the store brand 

Did you know that store brand items can cost up to 60% less than leading name brands? ( Or that the store brand products often taste similar to the ones produced by a big brand? If you’re someone who is enticed by advertisements and has convinced themselves that they absolutely have to have the Fruit Loops instead of the Fruit-O’s, I encourage you to take a leap of faith and try something new. You might even be surprised to find that you enjoy some of the store brand products more than their popular counterparts. My pantry is full of store brand products that collectively lower my grocery bill tremendously and make me feel better about leaving the store with a loaded cart. 

Make it yourself

Try to buy more whole foods rather than splurging on pre-made and packaged meals and snacks. It’s so much cheaper to make some of it yourself, and it can allow you to get creative, have fun and customize the ingredients exactly how you like. Companies try to make extra money off products they can label as “vegetarian” or “vegan.” Instead of picking the convenient ready-made option, try your hand at your own homemade granola, juice, smoothies, stir-frys, hummus or baked goods. 

Buy in bulk

This tip is a must! Vegetarian kitchen staples like rice, pasta, beans, seeds, nuts and even fruits and vegetables are all cheaper the larger the quantity you buy. If you have the room for storage, try and go to the grocery store less frequently and when you do, stock up on foods that you know won’t go to waste. That’s the key here -- only buy foods in bulk that you already know you love and can finish before they go bad. Places like Costco and Sam’s Club are excellent if you want to buy in bulk, but you do have to pay a fee for their membership.   

Buy what’s local and in season

Different fruits and vegetables are in season at different times of the year. Figure out what’s in season before you head to the store so you know exactly which items to look for to get the best value for your buck. If there’s some produce you know you can’t live without, try and buy it when it’s in season and being sold for the cheapest price. You can always store the extras in the freezer or use them in various recipes, such as homemade jams or a fruity batch of muffins. Local farmer’s markets often have cheaper prices on produce compared to those at the grocery store- plus, you’re supporting a local business! For a list of when different fruits and vegetables are in season, check out this link:

Freeze, freeze, freeze!

Freezers are truly one of the biggest blessings in life. Have food that’s about to expire? Freeze it. Got a deal at the store on an item you’re not ready to use yet? Freeze it. Cook too much food? Freeze it. Freezers are the best way to preserve food and still keep it tasting fresh when you’re ready to break it out. It’ll be your best friend if you are considering the tips above like shopping in bulk and buying in season. You can even freeze things like hummus and oatmeal in pre-portioned containers and pop one in your lunch bag before leaving for work or school. By the time you sit down from lunch, it’ll be defrosted and ready to eat.