Whether you’re on a New Year’s health kick or you’ve been a long-time vegan, you’ve probably noticed that eliminating animal products from your diet can be an expensive commitment. But it doesn’t have to be.
It’s a common misconception that following a plant-based diet automatically means you spend more on food than your carnivorous pals. This certainly doesn’t have to be the case if you know how to swap pricier vegan foods for cheaper alternatives…
1. Buy frozen produce
The staple of any vegan diet is fruits and vegetables, but saving on groceries doesn’t mean skimping on pricey produce. The solution is frozen instead of fresh – especially during the winter months, when most fresh produce is out of season, anyway.
Of course, a lot of people complain that frozen fruits and vegetables aren’t as tasty as fresh. And in many cases, I have to agree. That’s why I splurge on the varieties I can’t live without, then buy frozen items as mixable ingredients. For instance, you can stock up on frozen berries, pineapples, and mangoes for smoothies, or store frozen spinach to toss into pasta dishes.
Not sure when to splurge vs. save? Runners World listed the eight best fruits and veggies to buy frozen instead of fresh…
- Artichoke hearts
- Brussels sprouts
- Lima beans
- Mango slices
- Peach slices
- Winter squash
…and as an added savings bonus, you’ll never have to worry about wasting money on food that goes bad. That’s because frozen fruits and vegetables last 6 to 12 months in the freezer.
2. Avoid “vegan” foods
We’ve all strolled by that seldom-ventured section of the grocery store: the tiny refrigerated space reserved for things like tofurky and chick’n strips. If you’re looking to save money, just avoid this area completely.
Any time you replace animal protein with vegetable-based pretend meat, you’re going to pay a lot more for it. Instead of going for the fake stuff, which I find unappetizing, look for real-food alternatives.
An 8-ounce package of vegan cheese – which is mostly made of oil and additives – easily costs $5 or more. I prefer to buy a 10-ounce container of hummus that can be spread on sandwiches, veggies, and chips. It tastes better, costs less, and is more nutritious.
3. Limit shopping at specialty grocery stores
An apple from Whole Foods isn’t any more vegan than an apple from Safeway, Winn Dixie, or Kroger. But it’s probably more expensive. Specialty stores like Whole Foods are great when your priority is buying local, sustainable, and/or hard-to-find foods, but not necessarily when you’re trying to save money.
That’s not to say specialty grocery store prices are immensely more expensive than what you will find at conventional grocery stores. Whole Foods is actually shown to offer competitive prices on certain items like milk. However, when it comes to vegan-friendly food like traditional produce, it’s hard to find a deal.
If you must get your greens from Whole Foods, be strategic about what you buy. Libba Letton, a spokesperson for Whole Foods, explains, “There are lots and lots of ways to save money at Whole Foods. For produce, shop for local produce, in-season produce, or both.”
So you have to comparison shop among several stores to find which ones offer the best prices on particular items. Don’t assume that eating vegan means limiting your shopping to specialty grocery stores only.
4. Eat local
When you buy food at the grocery store, you pay for the labor to grow and harvest it, the time and fuel required to ship it, the materials to wrap or box it, and, of course, the retail markup. However, your local farmers’ market brings you food straight from the ground.
Buying produce directly from the growers cuts out the middlemen. In fact, one price comparison study in Vermont found that most organic produce from local farmers’ markets cost almost 40 percent less than the same items from nearby grocery stores.
5. Cut out processed foods
At the Vons down the street from my house, I can buy a 42-ounce container of Quaker oats for $5.49. But the individually wrapped, flavored Quaker oatmeal packets cost almost as much ($5.29 to be exact) for a measly 11.9-ounce box.
Usually, the more processing and packaging a food gets, the more you’ll be charged for it. Processed foods undergo several extra steps (stripping, enriching, packaging, etc.) that natural foods don’t. Buying foods that are still in, or close to, their original state will be cheaper than the processed versions. Not to mention much healthier.
And speaking of health, if you take this advice, you won’t have to worry about one unhealthy item in your diet: Trans Fat: When Cheap Means Costly.
Casey Bond also writes for www.GoBankingRates.com.