10 Tips For the Vegetarian on a Budget
With price of organic foods & the cost of produce these days – it’s easy to understand why some people are hesitant to go vegetarian (or vegan). While it is EASIER to spend astrological amounts of money on food it doesn’t HAVE to be expensive to buy foods to create your favorite vegetarian meals. In fact, when people are transitioning into a vegetarian lifestyle, many are pleasantly surprised that they can actually save money on groceries! While there is an impact on your wallet, we offer these 10 tips to help you enjoy vegetarian eating on a budget!
1. Plan Your Menus
Take 30 minutes and jot down menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for about a week. By planning what you are going to make, you can create an accurate shopping list. This will help you estimate your grocery bill and prevent unplanned grocery runs. We all know those quickly add up because there is always something that “jumps” into the basket.
2. Make a Shopping List and Stick to it
Once you have a menu , it is easy to make a shopping list. If you are using recipes, estimate the quantity of each ingredient needed based on the recipe yield. For example, a recipe that yields 4 to 6 servings will be sufficient to feed two people twice over. If you are cooking off-the-hip, estimate how much of each item you will need to make your menus. You will be surprised how little you actually need to eat well!
3. Buy Staple Foods in Bulk
Vegetarian foods as olive oil, rice, beans, pasta, quinoa, nuts, fresh peanut butter, and flour make it easier to make vegetarian eating on a budget work. When your favorite vegetarian foods and staples are handy, you won’t have to make that last minute grocery run.
The best place to buy staple food & ingredients is in the bulk department – which many markets now offer. Make sure to compare prices between competing markets as they can vary substantially. For example a Whole Foods bulk section is often more expensive than a discount grocer or local health foods store – and the products are often exactly the same!
Also keep an eye on sales at your neighborhood market. When your favorites go on sale, buy as much as you can. Club stores such as Costco and Sam’s club also offer items in mass quantity at great prices.
4. Be Flexible When it Comes to Organics
Organic foods are preferred by many vegetarians because of the obvious health benefits. However, they can take a bite out of your budget. On a positive note, the organic industry has made strides to change that in the last several years. Also, remember just because it says organic does not mean that it is 100% free of pesticides (that is a topic for another day).
Look at the foods you eat on a regular basis and do a little research to determine which ones are most beneficial to buy organic. Apples, potatoes, greens, herbs, and cucumbers are good items to buy organic because they tend to hold on to pesticides more than standard produce when washed.
Being flexible and finding a good balance between organic and standard produce will help you enjoy vegetarian eating on a budget without compromising your good health.
5. Integrate Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
Yes, we know frozen fruits and veggies are not as healthy or tasty as fresh. In general, we prefer fresh fruits and vegetables too! The benefit of frozen is that it does not spoil as quickly. Plus, you can use only what is needed and save the rest. Another benefit of frozen is that they are awesome for making smoothies!
6. Pick up Dried Fruits and Mushrooms
Dried fruits and mushrooms also last a lot longer than their fresh counterparts. Stock up when they are on sale. Dried mushrooms are heaven – sent vegetarian foods because they allow us to savor rare fungi such chanterelle and morel mushrooms year round. Some stores even stock dried fruits and mushrooms in the bulk section.
7. Shop the Farmers Markets for Seasonal Produce
When produce is in season, the price drops. Farmers markets also cut out the middleman, which saves you money while supporting your local economy. Farmers markets are also a great way to meet new vegetables, buy at peak freshness, and get new ideas on how to be a vegetarian from other shoppers and vendors One of our favorite perks is that you can find heirloom fruits and veggies that look incredible, taste unique, and are non-GMO.
8. Focus On Nutrient Rich Foods
This is how to be a vegetarian 101: fill your grocery cart with nutrient dense vegetarian foods such as produce, beans, quinoa, oats, etc. Try to avoid junky vegetarian foods. For the price of one frozen vegetarian entrée, you can typically buy enough staple foods and produce to make three healthier and more delicious meals. Convenience foods make vegan and vegetarian eating on a budget harder.
9. Avoid Excessive Faux Meat Products
Faux meat products (let’s also bundle faux cheese and dairy into this category) add up quickly. Vegetarians and vegans can sink a good chunk of cash into tofu, TVP, and veggie burger patties. While these vegetarian foods are convenient and fun, remember you can get protein from less expensive staples like beans and nuts. In addition, faux meat products are largely made with soy, which is mostly GMO in the US.
10. Grow Your Own Herbs
Fresh herbs are essential to cooking yummy vegan and vegetarian foods. Herbs can also get quite expensive. A tiny box of basil can cost over three dollars!
Many herbs can be grown at home in a sunny windowsill, under grow lights, or outside in small containers. Why not pick 3 to 4 of your favorite herbs and grow them for yourself? Not only will you enjoy the herbs at the peak of flavor, but you might save several dollars on every shopping trip.
Like most things in life, planning ahead, estimating your needs, focusing on quality will get you great results when you are a vegan or vegetarian eating on a budget. If you are learning how to be a vegetarian, always remember that vegetarian foods do not have to be expensive!
If you have any great tips on how to save money, we would love to hear from you!
Till Next Time,