While the old adage "it's cheaper to eat healthier" sounds like a nice idea, it's not always true. Especially if you're shopping for specialty items like organic produce or artisan snacks, going to the grocery store can cost you quite a bit, even if you cut animal products out the equation. For vegan and plant-based eaters, many alternative items in the grocery store are on the costly side, but there are always a few ways to save a little extra.
Cook at Home
The most obvious way to save money when following any style of eating is to cook at home as much as possible. If you live in a city where there are few vegan and vegetarian restaurants, you may end up overpaying for meals that you can cook just as easily at home for a fraction of the price.
Shop the Bulk Section
Instead of going to the dry shelves for items like rice, beans, lentils, oats, or nuts, check out the bulk section. Plus, you'll save a good amount of pantry space by shopping the bulk and using storage jars instead of trying to fit a multitude of cans and bags. While this may not save you a lot of money up front, it’s worth the investment over time.
Cook Beans From Dry
From homemade black bean burgers to bean salads and even chocolate hummus, beans are a pretty huge staple in many plant-based diets. Legumes are a fantastic source of protein, fiber, and B vitamins, which cook up in a variety of ways in the kitchen. Instead of cracking open a can each time you need just a bit of beans, cook what you need from your pantry stash. It may take a bit more time, but will save you cash in the long run.
Make Your Own Milks
Nut milk is another staple in many vegan recipes, ranging from filling breakfast smoothies to dairy-free sauces, but you can save a little extra by making it at home. Plus, you won't purchase the plastic or paperboard products, which is a win for the environment. Making your own cashew, coconut, almond, and even oat milk at home is a lot easier than you might think!
If you use a method that requires straining the pulp through a cheesecloth, hold onto it! You can easily make crackers, cookies, granola, energy balls, and even homemade almond meal in just a few steps, saving you even more cash and reducing your food waste.
Stock Up During Sales
It can definitely be tempting to purchase "fun" vegan alternatives like cheeses, yogurts, and desserts, but they can frequently come with a high price tag. Wait for your favorite items to go on sale and stock up at the store instead.
Freeze Your Fresh Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs
While produce can at times be costly, especially if you're buying organic items or fruits and veggies that are out of season, frozen items may end up costing you more in the long run if you're buying them regularly over the real thing. Especially when and if your favorite produce items go on sale or you're just not able to finish up fresh produce before it goes bad, freezing is a great option.
Love the taste of dragonfruit or papaya in your smoothie? Grab a few and freeze them for convenient usage whenever you need it, all year round. Same goes for vegetables! There's more to freeze than you think. If you don't have an herb garden (another money saving hack), freezing your herbs at home is an easy way to access fresh flavors to spice up your dishes whenever you see fit, instead of purchasing a large bunch, which may go bad before you can use it up.
For "fun" items like plant-based ice cream, meat alternatives, and even legume-based pasta, the cost can vary widely depending on the grocery store. While overtime you'll learn which stores are the best places for each item on your list, it's always a good idea to shop around to guarantee the best price.
Pick Your Organic and Brand Name Battles
Not every produce item you buy needs to be organic. If you have a hard time remembering every item on the "dirty dozen" list, you're not alone. A good rule of thumb is to consider shopping organic for produce where you'll be eating the skin.
Similarly, not every item needs to be name brand! For kitchen staples like baking supplies or cooking oils, the store brand is an option that will usually save you a few extra dollars.
Polak R, Phillips EM, Campbell A. Legumes: health benefits and culinary approaches to increase intake. Clinical Diabetes. 2015;33(4):198-205. doi:10.2337/diaclin.33.4.198