How do you eat healthy on a budget?
Where do you get cheap protein if not from factory farms?
We’ve covered this topic before at the Soapbox, but I’m not sure we’ve really nailed it.
This time, let’s cover all the bases with a brand new…
Massive List Of Money-Saving Tips
How Vegans, Vegetarians, and Everyone Else Can Save Money While Saving Animals’ Lives
Stick to dry beans, rice, pasta, whole wheat flour… they are cheap, readily available, and healthy vegan options. Plus, they’ll keep in your cupboard for a long time, avoiding the waste that comes with foods that require refrigeration. So stop buying substitutes! You don’t need meat substitutes or vegan cheese. If you like them and can afford them, by all means get them because they’re tasty and fun. But you don’t need them. You need protein, which is easily obtained from beans and other dry goods. So if money is tight, opt for an entree of lentils and rice instead of frozen fake chicken.
Abide By Guides
Use cookbooks and guides designed for cheap vegan eating. Vegan On The Cheap is one excellent example. Another example, the Student’s Go Vegan Cookbook, is designed for the frugal vegan. And you can often adapt advice about frugal living geared for omnivores to fit your vegan lifestyle because most of it is about saving money, not about consuming animal products.
Larger quantities are invariably cheaper than small packages. So buy in bulk as much as you can. Try Costco, Sam’s Club, Smart and Final, or other stores that sell bulk items. Split with a friend or neighbor if you don’t have the space to store it all.
Likewise, bulk up when you’re cooking too! Make large batches of soups, chilies and other foods that keep well and freeze half for later. Or trade with a vegan friend.
A great tip I heard about is called 1-2-3. It’s a cost-saving method for buying fresh fruit and veggies that can be used at any grocery store or farmer’s market. Here it is:
- buy plenty of the produce that’s 1 dollar or less per pound,
- buy some produce that’s $2 per pound, and
- rarely buy produce that costs $3 or more per pound.
What kinds of foods fall into that first category? The good old potato is a healthy staple that costs pennies, can be bought in bulk, fills you up, and delivers nutrients that every body needs. Onions, lettuce, cabbage, melons, bananas, and carrots all tend to be less than a dollar per pound. And when it comes to foods that aren’t in the produce section, dry beans and rice usually ring up right around a dollar per pound.
Pack & Plan
Plan your meals in advance. It might sound time consuming, but it saves both time and money in the long run. Make lists of things to buy for the week or month and then go shopping off the list. You’ll be less tempted to buy unhealthy, expensive things that aren’t on the list. If you need help, cookbooks like The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook and Viva Vegan offer shopping lists you can work from.
Pack a lunch. Don’t be tempted to eat out everyday. A simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch 3 times a week can go a long way towards cutting your food costs. Likewise, make coffee or tea at home and take it to go instead of stopping at the local coffee shop every morning.
Cook Slow, Cook Fast
Use a crock-pot to get the most out of cheap protein sources like dry beans. Soak the dry beans overnight and cook them in the crock-pot while out for the day. Or make a tasty crock-pot chili, stew, or soup with inexpensive TVP, tofu, or seitan. Check out The Simple Little Vegan Slow Cooker or Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker for vegan crock-pot recipe ideas.
Farmer’s markets are invariably cheaper than Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or other large groceries. And farmer’s markets are often organic. (Many states now allow you to use food stamps at farmer’s markets.)
Shop in season. Try to buy the foods that are in season where you live. They will often be less expensive than the imported foods.
Coupons and Sales
Often groceries will put produce on sale if they have an excess quantity or if it’s ripe and will over-ripe tomorrow. You can snag these items in large quantities, prep them at home, and toss them in the freezer for use later. Whole Foods lists coupons here. More coupons are listed here and here.
Don’t forget the deals online. You can buy vegan foods on the web. For example, Tasty Bite sells prepared dishes online at about half the cost of what the stores charge. And Amazon offers discounts sometimes too.
Canned and frozen foods are usually cheaper than fresh foods. So if money is tight, don’t let your health and ethics suffer; opt for canned and frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen fruits are perfectly suited for quick smoothies and frozen veggie steam up quickly on the stove-top or microwave. Canned veggies are great for soups and sauces while canned fruits can be a quick snack all on their own.
Junk the Junk Food
Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Avoid the chips, cookies, crackers, soda, soy ice cream, etc. You don’t need it and it usually costs more than it’s worth.
Bring your own plastic bags or cloth bags. Many grocery stores give a discount of 5 cents per bag. It might only save 25-50 cents per shopping trip, but that adds up. It’s good for the environment and it’s good for your pocketbook.
You can find out more ways to save money by spending just a bit more time on the web. Check out these resources for more ideas of ways to save:
Editor’s Note: the above was originally published on Oct 24, 2010. It has been republished in 2013 to reach a new audience.