I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that a vegetarian/vegan diet is expensive. I used to think the same thing, but now I know better and I’m here to share some money-saving tips with you!
First let me say that I’m sure we’re all aware that beans, grains, and produce are all much cheaper than meat. Unless you’re eating those frozen convenience meals or buying vegan ice cream and cheese every week, there’s no reason you shouldn’t see a significant drop in your grocery bill when you ditch animal products. Whole, plant-based meals are what you need to aim for if you want to save money. Reserve the expensive, pre-packaged, processed vegan products for special occasions!
Let’s start saving:
#1 COOK AT HOME!
This is the absolute best way to save money! Stop your grumbling about how you don’t have time to cook a delicious, healthy, inexpensive meal for your family every night. If you have just 30 minutes, you can do it. Also, think portion sizes when you think about your total savings. Even considering you can get breakfast at a fast food joint for $2, you can still make it cheaper at home! Sure, buying a can of biscuits and frozen veggie sausages might cause you around $6, but you’re getting 8 servings! You’re paying $6 for breakfast every day for over a week, whereas you’d be paying $16 for 8 servings on a fast food breakfast. Let’s say you want to pick up a value meal at a drive-in for dinner. You can get a burger, fries, and a drink for around $5. All the ingredients for homemade veggie burgers and fries may add up to around $10, but a recipe for veggie burgers will make at least 8 servings. Eight servings at a fast food joint would be $40.00! You’ll save even more when you cook at home because you’ll have enough leftovers to eat lunch the next day from the same meal. Not into leftovers? Get creative and turn them into something different!
Casseroles and one-pot meals are big money savers too. These meals usually serve at least 10 people for less than $2.00 per serving. An awesome cookbook that I highly recommend is Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson. It’s full of yummy recipes, some that only cost .50 cents per serving! Nothing in the book will cost you more than $2.00 per serving and everything I’ve made from this book tastes awesome. Cook at home, people!
#2 Cook from Scratch
While you’re cooking at home, make all of your beans and grains from scratch and the savings will quickly rack up. A can of beans contains 1 ½ cups and costs around .90 cents. A 1lb bag of dried beans only costs a little more and will make 6 cups of cooked beans! So you can spend $3.60 on 6 cups of canned beans or a little over $1 for the same amount made from scratch. It’s true that you have to soak them and then cook them for 1.5 hours, but it’s really not that much trouble. Soak them overnight while you sleep and then cook them the next day while you get ready or the next night while you’re chopping veggies, working out, watching TV, or doing your nails. You can even let them cook in the crock pot while you’re at work. Cook the whole bag at once and freeze what you don’t use. Eventually, you’ll have a good stash in the freezer and you can just grab them and toss them into soup, stews, casseroles, or whatever it is you’re making. If you need to thaw them out to use in burgers, just put the frozen beans into a colander and run warm water over them for a few minutes. The same applies to rice and other grains. Cook the whole bag and freeze what you don’t need to have on hand for later.
#3 Make Your Own…
This concept is similar to #2, but applies to condiments, gravies, sauces, broths, and salad dressings. When you peel carrots and onions, cut the ends and leaves of celery, or have a few bits of leftover veggies here and there, store it in a Ziplock bag or Tupperware container in the fridge. By the end of the week, you’ll have enough stuff to make your own vegetable broth. You can quickly make your own gravies with your homemade broth, soy sauce, flour, and spices for a much healthier version than the canned stuff (more servings too). Think about how many times you’ve spent your money on a salad dressing and hated it. Making your own is so easy and you don’t have to worry about the unnecessary ingredients. Olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and various vinegars make great, inexpensive ingredients for tasty dressings. Make your own BBQ sauce and get quadruple the amount that you would in a bottle. There are a ton of recipes online for all of these things.
#4 Shop in Bulk
No, I don’t mean to go one of those warehouse stores and buy a 3-gallon can of green beans or a pack with 50 rolls of toilet paper. I mean shop the bulk bins! Natural food stores, like Whole Foods, have spices, flours, grains, beans, dried fruit, cereal, granola, peanut butter, and other pantry staples in bulk bins. You can take your own containers or use the ones provided in the store and measure out exactly the amount you need. You pay a lot less because these products do not have packages, labels, or logos and no printing, marketing, ink, or advertising was needed along the way. Shopping the bulk bins also cuts down on waste in a tremendous way!
#5 Plan Your Grocery List Around the Sale Paper
This one doesn’t require much explanation, but is important to think about. Each week, most stores put out a sale paper and you can get great deals on produce. You can check out the sales online and then plan your grocery list around them. Look for BOGO produce deals too. They aren’t as common as BOGO deals on other products, but you’ll see these deals on spinach and salad greens occasionally. Buy produce like broccoli, kale, collards, mustard greens, asparagus, green beans, zucchini, and squash while they are on sale, and you can blanch or steam them and then put them in the freezer to use another week when those items aren’t on sale.
You’ll find that as you do these things, your stock pile will grow and some weeks you can plan your entire week’s menu without even having to go to the store and with very little prep time!