There’s a false assumption held by many that a vegan diet is unaffordable and therefore unattainable, especially for families. While it certainly can be more expensive if you buy all organic, lots of processed foods, gourmet cheeses and ice creams or don’t shop around, it certainly isn’t expensive by default, and there are many tricks to make your diet healthy and affordable.
1. Shop Around
Being on a budget means thrifty shopping, which often entails shopping around at several local grocery stores to find the best price. Every store has different monthly and weekly sales and often offer competitive pricing at different times. It’s wise to read weekly sale circulars and check out online ads to see what deals your local stores are offering. Learn how to identify different sale signs at your local stores and find their discount racks for items that they are discontinuing or are going out of date.
It’s also worthwhile to seek out discount grocers in your area that may offer items for cheaper. These stores tend to not carry the same items year round so it’s best to stock up on the items you love when you see them. If you live in an area that does not have many options, it may be worthwhile to check if a town nearby has more options and make a trip there once a week or every two weeks to stock up and save. Another option for those in towns with few options is online shopping, which we highlight below.
2. Make a list and stick to it
Impulse buys are one easy and sure way to drive up a grocery bill. It can be tempting to walk around a store and just buy what looks good or sounds good without a set list. Buying without a list not only leads to expensive impulse buys, it can create more grocery trips, more expensive meals and can leave you purchasing items for a higher cost because you didn’t shop around.
It’s best when trying to stick to a budget to plan out your meals for the week, including snack items. When your meals are planned, it makes creating a list far easier and makes it easier to stick to once you know exactly why you’re purchasing the items you are. Making a list can also help you split up items by stores that you’re going to so that you get the best deal. Perhaps you need potatoes. Your local grocery store that you shop at has them, but for 60 cents more per pound than the discount store you go to. Being aware of what stores have your staple items for cheaper can help you plan out your shopping trips and create lists with ease.
3. Be Flexible
While this may seem contradictory to the last point we made, being flexible can really help to save money in the long run. Perhaps your list has quinoa but you happen to find millet on sale for a third of the price. If your family enjoys millet, it can be a great option to swap in for quinoa and an easy way to save money. Staying flexible while having a list can help you remember why items were on the list and if they can be easily changed for something you’ve found cheaper.
Homemade cheese sauces are absolutely delicious when made with cashews. But if you happen to find a spectacular deal on pistachios or blanched almonds, swap it out! Remembering that many grains can be used interchangeably, lemons, limes and raw vinegars can often be used interchangeably, and beans can be swapped with ease makes it far easier to keep your meals relatively structured with a little wiggle room. Remaining flexible with varieties of produce can also help as certain apples may be on sale but not the grapes on your list, making them a good option to purchase instead.
Also, remaining flexible with brands can help you save big. One brand of coconut milk may be $3.99 while the store label may have the exact same ingredients but be $1.99. Always check out different brands of items because the ingredients could be the exact same but the price can be shockingly different.
4. Buy in bulk
Many of us have staple items we use weekly. Whether it’s quinoa, avocados, vegetable broth or hummus, there are items we purchase every time we shop and always use. These items are best to seek out bulk options for. This can mean buying a bag of avocados that is a dollar cheaper than buying four individuals, or buying a case of vegetable broth instead of one at a time. Often, smaller grocery stores and natural food stores offer discounts when purchasing a case of an item. A case could be as few as four or as many as twelve. So it’s best to ask the amount in the case and what dating typically is to be sure you can consume it in time before it expires. Many stores offer anywhere from a ten to fifteen percent discount on these items, which can really add up.
5. Invest in a membership
In line with buying items in bulk, it can be wise to seek out a membership to a bulk buying club such as BJ’s Wholesale, Costco, or Thrive Market. Most people are familiar with BJ’s and Costco. These are large stores where you pay a yearly membership fee for access to a wide variety of goods including fresh produce at discounted prices due to buying them in bulk, or larger sizes. This can mean buying a four pound bag of frozen organic peas or buying a six-pack of canned organic tomatoes. The savings are typically substantial as long as you purchase a fair amount of items through them. It’s often best to get a guest pass for a day or have a friend with a membership take you with to see if the products offered and the prices are worth your initial investment.
Another wholesale option is online and it’s Thrive Market. We’ve thoroughly reviewed Thrive Market to help you understand how it works and whether or not it’s worth your money. Thrive is a fantastic choice for easy shopping as it’s delivered to your door so it saves you gas and another trip to a grocery store. Thrive also offers a ton of staple items and vegan items making it a fantastic choice for any budget conscious vegan.
6. Shop at farmers markets
We all know shopping at local farmers markets is great for our local economy and it helps support our community, but its not as well known that farmers markets can actually save you money. Farmers markets allow local farmers to bypass middlemen and offer produce at a price that isn’t significantly marked up. It offers you the opportunity to buy fresh, in season produce for potentially a fraction of the cost. It’s wise to shop around and check out all the stands and their prices before buying anything. Some stands may be significantly cheaper or offer deals at the end of the day on items that haven’t sold, so be sure to talk to the farmers and ask them questions about when the best deals of the day are.
7. Buy produce in season
Along with shopping at local farmers markets, buying in season produce is usually substantially cheaper, even at a grocery store. Asparagus for example can be 2 - 4 dollars cheaper per pound when in season. Buying in season gives you an opportunity to get a variety of flavors and nutrients in while also getting better pricing.
8. Give online shopping a try
Many consumers now buy some groceries online, and sales are projected to continue growing. Online shopping saves gas and time running out to a grocery store and let’s face it, it’s nice to shop in your pj’s in the comfort of your own home. Not all online grocery shopping is cheaper than brick and mortar stores, but if you shop around you can find some great deals on items. Thrive Market as we mentioned, has a lot of great staple and specialty items for significantly cheaper than most grocery stores. Amazon is another great source for grocery items as well as fresh items, just be sure to do price comparison and not just assume because it’s on Amazon it’s cheaper. IHerb, VitaCost and LuckyVitamin are great discount stores that offer supplements and body care items, which are often very expensive. Shopping around at these stores can save you a lot of time and money if you check prices.