There is a big misconception that being vegan has to be expensive. In fact it’s usually the meat and cheese that are the most expensive parts of someone’s grocery shopping. On average I spend between $20-$30 a week on my groceries and still find ways to switch up my meals and recipes.
So what exactly does $25 get you at the local Fred Meyer in Portland?
-2 bunches of bananas
-5lb bag of russet potatoes
-2 large avocados
-bag of cremini mushrooms
-5 fuji apples
-2 navel oranges
-1 bartlett pear
-2 red peppers
-1 pack of tofu
-1 head of broccoli
-1 bunch of green onions
-1 bunch of cilantro
-1 head of red leaf lettuce
-1 box of Kashi chocolate crunch cereal
Now I’d like to say that this isn’t EVERYTHING that I will eat in a single week. About once a month I’ll stock up on my bulk items like oatmeal, rice, pasta, quinoa, dried fruits, and sauces. Plus, we have a plethora of spices and beans stocked up at my house. Over time I’ve accumulated enough bulk items and spices that my weekly grocery hauls can consist of just the fresh fruits and veggies that I consume on a regular basis. So how do I make sure I stay vegan on a budget?
1. MAKE A LIST: If I don’t make a list before heading to the grocery store I always end up buying WAY too much food. Figuring out how much food you’ll need for the week is a bit of trial and error. If I run out of food before the week is done I can simply run to the grocery store and grab some more. I like trying to buy all my groceries at one time so that I can stick to a budget and always have a variety of healthy fruits and veggies on hand.
2. DON’T SHOP HUNGRY: I snack, a lot! If I go grocery shopping with my boyfriend Kenny it can turn into a multiple hour ordeal. I therefore make sure I am NOT hungry when we head to the store. Try having a granola bar, piece of fruit, or some trail mix on hand to make sure you don’t let your current appetite dictate how much you buy at the store.
3. BUY IN SEASON: I LOVE all types of berries. Yet when it isn’t summer time they can be pretty pricey. The cheapest way to shop is to buy things that are in season. The fruit selection this time of year in the Pacific Northwest is pretty dismal. I stick to apples, whichever ones are on sale, and navel oranges. In the fall I tend to buy a lot of squash because that’s when it is the cheapest. So how can you enjoy your favorite foods when they aren’t in season without breaking the bank? Buy frozen! When it comes to putting berries in my smoothies I go for the trusty frozen berry blend. This way I can get a few pounds of berries for the price of a small carton at the store.
4. ORGANIC? If we’re being honest I don’t buy organic. Ideally I would but that is something that just isn’t in my budget. Every now and then I purchase some produce that is organic but it is usually because it’s an item that the other section doesn’t have. I’m all for buying organic produce but I understand how for most people (including me) that doing so just isn’t a realistic option. So my advice is to buy organic when you can and don’t stress when you can’t. Instead focus on buying a variety of fruits and veggies that you maybe haven’t tried before.
5. TRY NEW THINGS: My last tip is to not be afraid to try new things. I grew up in a household where my dad was always cooking up some new dish. Because of this I learned from a young age that it didn’t serve me well to be a picky eater. If there are foods you didn’t like growing up don’t be afraid to give them another shot. While you can buy the same exact produce every week, it isn’t going to always be the cheapest option. I used to not like kale and honestly didn’t get the hype. Yet last week it was on sale so I bought some. I ended up finding a curry recipe to use it in and actually thoroughly enjoyed it.
Being vegan DOESN’T have to be expensive. You don’t need to have all the ‘super foods’ and you don’t have to spend your entire paycheck on food. Make sure you shop around to different stores too. I usually stick to one main store. However, if I’m buying some specialty item (vegan marshmallows, vegan cheese, or veggie patties) I find that it can actually be cheaper to go to your local health foods store. They’re likely to have more than just one option for these items and I can just get the cheapest one available. Keep in mind that I am 5’2” so I probably eat less food than the average adult human. Living off of $25 a week is what I have found works for me. It may take a little trial and error but I guarantee that you can find a budget friendly grocery list that’s good for you, our planet, and the animals.