The No-Nonsense Guide to Eating Healthy and Vegan Without Going Broke
First, let me just come out and say it. I wanted really badly to make a sense/cents pun in the title of this post.
But I resisted, for your sake. Because sense/cents jokes just might be the worst kind of joke in the world, and nobody should ever write or say them.
Next — and we’ll get to the good stuff soon, I promise — this is the third post in a series I’m doing in partnership with Whole Foods and Garmin. (And, unrelated, the first in a series of seven consecutive posts I’ll be doing this week, one each day!)
Okay, here comes healthy eating on the cheap. And don’t miss the giveaway at the end!
Funnily enough, in a post I wrote several years ago about eating cheaply as a vegetarian, tip #1 was: “Don’t (always) shop at Whole Foods.”
Not very becoming of an ambassador, is it?
But that was before I lived within five minutes of not one, but two, Whole Foods stores. Fast forward four years since that post, and now I shop at Whole Foods just about every week. (And for the record, this has been true since the second store opened up very close to our house — way before this ambassadorship started.)
Why the shift? Mainly, it’s that once we had children, my wife and I decided that healthy food was one area of our budget where we wouldn’t compromise. Besides being part of my job, it’s an investment that we’re betting will pay for itself in the long run. This isn’t to say you can’t get great food in other grocery stores — we just really enjoy shopping this way.
But enough about that. Here’s how we still manage to keep our grocery bill down.
The Basics of Eating Cheap While Eating Well
I outlined six good tips in the post I mentioned above, but four-plus years later, here’s an updated list:
– Skip the packaged and processed stuff. Besides the fact that it’s usually unhealthy, it’s almost always way more expensive than whole, unprocessed food.
– When a recipe calls for fresh herbs, skip replace with dried. Fresh herbs are great, and probably healthier than dried, but we’re talking dozens of times more expensive. A few types of fresh herbs in a recipe sends your per-serving cost through the roof.
– Choose meals based on grains or beans. Especially if bought in bulk, they’re incredibly cheap. And filling, no matter how you buy them. Don’t neglect the vegetables, but grains and beans certainly help to stretch your dollar.
– Avoid nuts. Not forever, since they’re strongly linked to longevity. Just while you’re trying to save money.
– When cooking from a recipe, make substitutions at will. Dried herbs for fresh, herbs you have for herbs you don’t (nothing drives up a bill like a $5 spice jar that you’ll never use again), red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar for fancy sherry or champagne vinegars, water and a little salt for veggie stock. A food critic might notice, but your six-year-old (and probably your spouse) won’t.
– Skip the seitan, tofu, and tempeh. Look, I love them all. And I don’t think any of them is so unhealthy it should be avoided at all costs. But if you want to save money, use plain old beans instead. Fresh, canned, frozen … any will beat the cost of these more processed alternatives.
– Don’t ignore the frozen section! Whether it’s berries for your smoothie or vegetables for your soup, you can save a lot by replacing fresh produce with frozen. Since many are flash frozen just after being picked, sometimes the frozen fruits and veggies often have more nutrition than the “fresh” ones which have been transported a long way and spent some time on the shelf.
The Big 3 Types of Meals that Save Some Serious Coin
I thought long and hard about all of the cheapest meals we eat while preparing this post, and something interesting occurred to me: almost all of them fit cleanly into three categories.
These three cheap types of meals are:
- Pasta dishes
- Variations on “a grain, a green, and a bean”
- Soups and stews
I’ll provide a few details, examples, and recipes for each below.
Pasta is without a doubt my favorite of the three. In fact, I’ve got a whole post about pasta coming later this week.
Pasta is cheap, and let’s not forget that if you get whole-grain, you’re looking at roughly 15 percent of the calories from protein, which is exactly what I aim for across my entire diet.
You can find lots of pasta dishes on the NMA recipes page, but Mac and Chard from Robin Robertson is one that comes to mind as particularly cheap yet wholesome.
Another, this one incorporating lentils for double-dollar-stretching goodness, is Lentil-a-Roni, from Isa Chandra Moscowitz’s Isa Does It. (Isa Does It is one of my go-to books for weeknight cooking, by the way.)
Variations on “a Grain, a Green, and a Bean”
This is a phrase I made up a while ago that has since been stolen. I’m not bitter or anything.
Intellectual property spats aside, you really don’t need a recipe for this one. Just like Legos are better without instructions, you’re better off using your creativity on this one.
Seriously. Cook the grain of your choice in water, according to standard directions. Stir in some canned beans, drained and rinsed, along with some chopped greens of your choice, until the beans are heated and the greens are wilted. Finally, top with whatever sauce or seasonings that you’re jonesin’ for (usually, for me, it’s hot sauce).
Okay, okay … if you really need recipes, try Rice and Beans 5 Ways or Millet in the Pot with Adzuki Beans and Collards from Terry Walters, or red lentil curry and rice. (Not all of these recipes have greens in them … if the one you’re cooking doesn’t, you know what to do!)
Soups and Stews
Soups and stews are especially great because in addition to usually being cheap, they (a) make your house smell like your grandmother’s kitchen and (b) freeze well, so you can make a huge batch and have not just cheap, healthy meals, but cheap, healthy, instant meals.
One of my favorites is Angela’s cream of tomato soup, from her book, Oh She Glows.
Another great one (super cheap too) is Hearty Chickpea Pasta soup from my book, No Meat Athlete. Here’s the recipe, from another blogger who reviewed the book.
And If You Don’t Feel Like Cooking, But also Want Healthy and Cheap?
Well then, someone’s feeling awfully entitled, aren’t they?
Actually, I get like this sometimes too. It’s cool.
And during one of my Whole Foods shopping sprees with the gift cards they provided for this series, I found a brand of frozen prepared meals called Maggie’s Conscious Vegan Cuisine.
They’re nearby in Durham, NC, so I don’t know if you’ll be able to find them everywhere, but if you can, this tip might be better than any other in this post. Each tub has three meals’ worth (they say four meals, but that’s a stretch) of stew/soup/chili/korma/ for 12 dollars. I’ve served them all over rice (more cheap food!) and have been thrilled to get dinner on the table so quickly on busy nights.
My favorites: green lentil curry and the korma. Least favorite: Tuscan white bean one.
(Maggie’s isn’t involved in this partnership, by the way … I’m just really digging these so I wanted to share.)
And Finally, My Whole Foods Super Ninja Hack
Ready for your mind to be blown?
Berries are often on the Dirty Dozen list, so you want to get them organic. Problem is, organic berries are crazy expensive, often 5 or 6 bucks for just a little half-pint (about six ounces) container.
The hack: go to the salad bar, where they usually have organic raspberries. Grab the “fill this container with whatever you want for 12 bucks” bowl, which conveniently has an opaque lid (not that you’re doing anything against the rules here). Fill with far more than a pound (probably several) of fresh, organic berries — for just 12 dollars. Then get to work eating all those berries before they go bad.
Disclaimer: I’ve never actually done this trick, but I fantasize about it.
So there it is. How to eat healthy, vegan, and cheap, all at once. And I think you’ll agree: it just makes cents.
Eating well without going broke- I go for whole foods (not the store, there’s not one in my town), and that’s probably the biggest thing. I don’t hesitate to buy frozen fruit/veg if it’s going in a recipe anyway (especially in Alaska, in the winter, when fresh produce is ridiculous). And get upset when I throw food away, so I try to plan. My goal is pretty much to empty the fridge of perishable food before I go shopping again.
Whole Foods pro tip: bring your own empty containers for bulk foods. Take them to customer service (or any register) to have them weighed for tare, writing it on them in magic marker (and masking tape if you want to protect the container). Then you can get exact amounts of bulk foods instead of, for instance, trying to eyeball 2 cups of wild rice in a plastic bag, and no more wasting bags. My tip for eating cheaper is to buy brown and wild rice in bulk, cook up a potful, cool it in the fridge, then freeze it in containers so that it can be quickly taken out and thawed to have fresh rice for a meal.
We save money by making our own Seitan in a pressure cooker — in less than an hour, we have several meals worth of Seitan (that we know what’s in), for less than a dollar when we buy vwg in bulk. Also, maybe it’s because we’re from the west, but you can turn almost anything into a healthy, cheap and filling enchilada-style casserole. Spinach, black bean and sweet potato is our favorite. Frozen corn and black olives sub for cheese and cut the cost because vegan cheese is so expensive (and filled with questionable times at times). We can get 3-4 dinners or lunches for 2 out of 1 pan that costs less than $5 to put together.
My tip, really, is to plan ahead. I don’t always pick really inexpensive ingredients, but I only plan for what I can afford at the time and only buy for the meals I’ve planned. No wasted food or money!
Buy in bulk when sale and freeze. Simple but so effective. I have a pound of ginger frozen that will last me all year. And applies to so many various stock ingredients.
Eat produce in season. Make a grocery list and buy only what is on the list. Eat before you go to the grocery store.
i am very mindful to buy the cheaper produce or what’s in season. Produce greatly goes down in price and up in quality in season. My staples are carrots, celery, frozen broccoli, and bananas. I also substitute where I can. A recipie calls for black rice, I’ll use brown for a fraction of the price. One area won’t compromise though is chemicals. I try and steer clear. I find it quite frustrating that the less expensive options (take tomato sauce for example) are often chemicals in a can!
I’m also a big fan of buying multiples or bulk sizes of things when they’re on sale and storing/freezing for later. And also trying to eliminate the convenience foods which are so much more expensive than the ingredients needed to cook from scratch.
My tip for saving money on your grocery bill is to go for your dried proteins – split peas and lentils don’t take as long as dried beans to cook, and they really bulk up simple stews, soups, pasta and rice dishes. I love curry stewed split peas with canned tomatoes, onion and feta cheese, over a bulk grain like pearl couscous or rice -an inexpensive meal that doesn’t compromise on flavor!
I love this posting!! I recently completed a vegan trial and was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to sustain it because of the costs of buying so many fresh fruits and veggies. I shopped at Whole Foods, which added up, but their produce is actually gorgeous soooo I had to do it, but these are great tips for if I continue! Thank you!!
Potatoes are cheap and stretch things a long way! Bananas are also fairly inexpensive and can be a filling meal all on their own. Frozen fruit pureed and then dried into “roll-ups” makes a less expensive snack than pre-packaged dried fruit and we don’t add any sugar to the homemade kind. 😉
My tip : Asian grocery stores.
Also, I make my own veg broth once a month or so, from the leftover ends of any and all veg I eat. I use it to cook rice, quinoa, beans, and noodles.
Buy veggie broth powder from the bulk bins. It’s much cheaper this way and you can make as much as you need for each recipe.
Vegan cooking is undeniably the best when using herbs and spices. While some can be expensive, even the most stringent budgets can afford a few cents’ worth of the more common ones (according to a friend that did the Food Stamp challenge with her family recently). Many places offer fresh and dried herbs in bulk, so you can just get a sprig/pinch of whatever you need, and it will barely even register on the scale. When you buy fresh herbs in bunches (think basil, cilantro, and parsley) use the leftovers for pesto. Nothing is wasted, and your food will likely still be cheap and extra delicious. Creating a little herb garden (I do this in a large planter pot) can be a solution for those with a green thumb.
Plan a couple recipes or ideas for the week, and make a list! I have a lot of the same staples so I always think I can stop by the store without a list, but it always end up spending more than I’d like! Also, for more expensive ingredients like nuts or even nut butters, buy in bulk so you only get enough for a week or two. I’ve tried spending extra when almonds or other nuts are on sale, but in reality I just eat them faster and it doesn’t save me money in the long run.
To save money while eating well, start a garden. If we can do it near the arctic, you can do it anywhere. Grow your own sprouts inside, use a dehydrator to preserve the apple crops, can the tomatoes, and make your own jam.
I’ll echo Chris’ comment. $30 in seeds can save a ton toward the cost of beans, carrots, cucumbers, squash and especially tomatoes. As Chris indicates, almost anything can be preserved either by dehydrating or canning. Garlic will last at room temperature for months if stored properly (i.e. in nylon stockings hanging from a cabinet). Granted, the is some up front real money costs in starting a garden and routine upkeep, but it is worth the effort. You also know exactly what you are eating.
I buy in bulk when things are on sale and then freeze it if I have too much. If you shop and cook based on what is on sale, you’ll save a lot.
My tip: Prepare a dinner with leftovers in mind. Bring the leftovers for the next day’s lunch.
I love the idea of getting the fruit on the salad bar. I had never thought of that but it makes total sense.
My Tip: For the things you need to get that aren’t fresh, definitely the store brand. I try to tell people that it is possible to shop cheap, even at WF, if you do your comparison shopping. You can’t get everything this way but a lot of stuff you can. The 365 brand for veggie broth is just as good as the name brands and in the frozen section, there are frozen items that don’t have a name brand equivalent.
Great tips for me especially since i am a poor college student! Thank you!
My favorite way to keep thing healthy, whole, flavorful, and cheap is to make your “chuck stock” at home. Basically I save all the little “bits” of food when chopping, like carrot shaving, tops and bottoms of celery, insides of peppers, herbs that are about to go bad, etc and toss them in a plastic bag in the freezer. I save them until the bag is full, put them in a pot, cover with water and boil for about 40 minutes. Strain and BAM! You have flavorful broth for soups and stews. You can add bay leaves, herbs, salt, etc to give it more flavors.
Oh and if I don’t use the stock in 5 to 7 days, I measure it in cup sized portions and freeze them for later.
I do this exact same thing.. a gallon ziplock bag of scraps usually nets about 6 pint jars of broth. ( any jars with a lid will do-salsa jars are often pint jars). I put these in the freezer, being sure to leave an inch of headspace for expansion when it freezes. Use this broth when you cook rice, pasta, or add to soups, stews, casseroles. Then the pulp goes on tje compost.
This is such a great idea! I spend so much on veggie broth and always hate throwing away the veggie remnants. Thanks for the suggestion!
Cook and eat seasonally! I mean this not just in terms of buying in bulk or when things are discounted, but also paying attention to what fruits and vegetables will be good at what times of year, and trying to eat those when you can. It’s a great way to know what will be on sale at the farmer’s market on any given week. Also, it’ll ensure that you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in a relatively non-onerous way.
Great post and tips!
My tip: Always shop with a list and stick to it. Check out the store flyers and make a plan/ list in advance. Shop store brand when possible for staples like grains and vegetable stock.
Shopping with a list and meal planning saves us a lot. We do eat tempeh pretty regularly, and it feels pretty inexpensive to me, compared to my meat days. We also shop at Trader Joes for nuts. Our Whole Foods and Trader Joes are across the street from each other, so I usually go to both to try to save. I also try to use everything fresh we have. If we have a couple of apples or pears left, I throw them in the steamer or crockpot to make applesauce for my son or for recipes. I’ve also made my own stock before and have gotten out of the habit… I need to restart!
Our go-to foods since switching to a vegetarian diet in 2013 is to have soup for dinner. I will double or triple a soup recipe, cook it up, throw it in the vitamix to puree (kids are much more likely to love it if they can’t actually see the vegetables) and viola! A delicious, hearty, healthy dinner. I freeze the leftovers and since we have soup 1-3x week during the winter months, I usually have a nice variety in my freezer to choose from on those hectic nights when it seems that making dinner is going to be nearly impossible.
I buy in bulk when things are on sale and then portion into serving sizes and freeze. Also I try to cook once and eat twice – meaning leftovers from dinner for lunch, etc. Usually buy frozen vegetables.
I’ve been trying to be much more careful with my spending now that I live solo and in NYC (where prices are higher than average), so as much as I try to stick to an all-organic diet, the reality is that I need to pick and choose when to buy organic. I take advantage of the fruit bodegas on many street corners for basic fruits like bananas, avocado, and oranges, but always buy organic berries and apples. I’m still working on lowering my grocery expenses but it’s a work in progress!
My biggest tip for saving money you already kind of outlined above, but buy from the bulk bins! That way, you can get exactly what you need for a recipe, plus you skip all the packaging. Need half a cup of quinoa for a recipe? Get a half a cup for a dollar, and don’t spend $7 on the package! I get all of our beans and grains from the bulk bins, and it has really added up to some savings.
I am in college, so the way that my friends and I save money on healthy meals is by cooking together! If we each provide one or two components of the meal, we can have a huge delicious feast at practically no cost. Plus, we share tips with each other. And in the end, a delicious meal shared with friends is always better.
I freeze all the leftover veggie scraps to make my own veggie broth. Super easy and I can use it in place of water in recipes to make things taste yummy!
Buy in bulk, get a pressure cooker and cook your own beans, then freeze them – I got my electric pressure cooker on sale and cook batches of beans on the weekend. Also, make brown rice and freeze it – that all saves a ton of money. Check your local Asian, Indian and Latino store for fresh fruits, veggies and spices in bulk (and the beans). Finally, check the Whole Foods coupons online, combine them with manufacturer’s coupons and voila! a cheaper shopping trip! (The Krazy Coupon Lady website – free – lists the best Whole Foods deals and gives lets you print lots of manufacturers coupons!). To healrh (on a budget!)! 😉
Forgive the grammar mistakes – in a hurry! 🙂
Usually at outdoor markets you pay more for better quality produce, but sometimes you can get the best of both worlds–I always hit the one in my city a few hours before it closes, when the vendors would rather drop the price of everything by a couple of dollars per pound than have to lug home fruits and vegetables that they haven’t sold. Tons of seasonal produce at bargain prices 🙂
I use a lot of veggie broth for cooking but I haven’t really had time or good results when making my own. I use an organic concentrated veggie base that comes in a little jar. If you do the math, it’s way cheaper per cup/quart than buying the liquid ones and I can make the exact amount I need with no waste. Plus it takes up a lot less storage space!!
Menu planning for the week ahead before I go grocery shopping, making note of the items I have and what I need to get. This way (as a single) I can buy bulk and cook in bulk while saving money by (1) buying what I need, (2) using leftovers through the week, and (3) not throwing out food.
My tip is to choose recipes to cook based on whatever leftover fresh veggies you have in the fridge from a previous meal/recipe that you cooked in days prior. It helps to reduce waste before the veggies go bad and also saves money! It helps you to experiment with new recipes as well. Pinterest in a savior for this! You can just search by an ingredient, i.e. “Vegan broccoli recipe”.
My tip, which is nothing new, is to shop around. Do your research before you go to the store – see what is on sale at different stores and maybe you can make a recipe that incorporates those ingredients. Also, while I shop at Whole Foods every week, I also go to conventional grocery stores for certain items that I don’t “need” to get at Whole Foods.
I try to pick recipes for the week that use common foods. For example, I made a Mexican quinoa dish that called for a tablespoon of cilantro. Since I can only buy cilantro in a bunch, I am planning to make homemade guacamole. Another cilantro tip is to cut the ends (like you would fresh flowers), put in a jar filled with water, and cover with a plastic bag. I can usually get mine to last at least 2 weeks by doing this.
I also use leftover cilantro in green smoothies! I’ve found it to pair well with citrus!
Saving scraps from vegetables makes great broth without all the sodium, or can be composted to aide in a vegetable garden. When buying vegetables but on not what you pan on using in a few days if you can’t freeze extra to avoid wasting money. You can always go back to pick something up next time you are out on errands.
The freezer is your friend!! Buy produce in season and on sale and freeze, freeze, freeze!
I find planning out my meals weekly helps me to use different ingredients in more than one recipe so it’s economical to buy an item such as fresh herbs which u only buy on sale or at the farm stand during the summer. Also, nothing beats picking my own fresh fruit (blueberries & strawberries) in the summer & then freezing them the same day. I pick in bulk.
To eat well without going broke:
I shop a lot at food Co-ops, and that’s helpful, but I really save money by using the bulk foods section. I can get so much quinoa or lentils for super cheap.
One of the biggest things I do to save is making my own nut (or seed!) butter in my Vitamix. I try to get nuts in large quantities from Costco because that seems the cheapest. Making almond butter in particular works out to being much less expensive than a 6 or 7 dollar jar!
Definitely going to the farmer’s market first. If they have the ingredients I’m looking for they’ll likely be cheaper than the grocery store. And you can talk directly to the person who grew it to find out if pesticides were used. Most small farmers can’t afford Organic Certification….but they are, indeed, organic.
I save money by buying local produce that is in season, cooking in bulk and freezing half the portions for later, and sticking strictly to my grocery list (no splurges or last-minute purchases allowed!).
My biggest tip is to shop at Whole Foods (or similar place). I used to shop at a typical grocery store…but I ended up buying things that I didn’t really need ($1 for this bag of chips! only $2 for this giant pack of crackers!). Their marketing and advertising totally worked on me. Once I started shopping at Whole Foods, I only bought things that I needed (and wasn’t going to drop $4 on 2 cookies). It ends up saving me money even thought I’m buying more expensive items, I’m not adding those “cheap” items that add up.
And another thing! (I’m not trying to be counted twice- this is just a genuine tip!) I love to use dates as replacements for other sweeteners in desserts, smoothies, etc. However, at least where I live, dates are really expensive. Enter raisins! They are still really healthy, they are cheaper, and they can serve a similar purpose as dates in recipes. 🙂
Cheap all week breakfast: I don’t like sweet breakfast, I go for savory/spicy. Soak 2 cups of dried black beans overnight, put them on to cook. After about 2 hours, when they are soft-ish but not done, turn the heat back up & stir in 2 packages of frozen chopped spinach. And 2 cans (I know – cans, but I haven’t found a substitute) of chopped tomatoes with chiles. Get this mixture back up to bubbling, turn back down to simmer & cook another hour or 2, till the beans are soft. Get some tortillas & if they’re in season, avocadoes – we are going for cheap here. And for cheesy flavor put in some nutritional yeast.
Love this post and the whole concept of eating healthy on the cheap but (drum roll here, please), there are no (no!) Whole Foods stores in Alaska. None. Nilch. Nada.
Kinda makes a person want to weep.
P.S. We live on beans, greens and rice, just not beans, greens and rice from Whole Foods, sigh, sigh.
My cheap healthy eating during the week tip:
Each Sunday I make a large amount of brown rice and quinoa, as well as chop up a wide variety of veggies. That way I can very quickly make a healthy meal by taking some of the rice or quinoa, steaming some veggies, and adding some canned beans and a sauce. Essentially your on your “a grain, a green, and been” phrase with some of the pre-work done in advance.
My cheap healthy eating in the winter tip:
Dehydrate fruits and veggies from your local farmers market, CSA, etc. to use in the winter. Makes it easy to eat “in season” all year round and save money on items that go up in cost and down in quality when out of season.
The best thing I’ve found for cutting grocery bills is just planning out meals for the week before shopping. If I know exactly what I need for meals, I’m much less likely to buy extra things I “might” need.
I find that keeping recipes simple helps greatly. Shop for the veggies and fruit in season. I also find myself buying tons of bananas and packaged rice to help keep the bill down. In the summer I love farm markets too rather than food stores as they have better deals and you help the local economy!
I agree with a lot of your points. We have a local grocery store that has the best bulk section I have ever seen. We stock up on our beans, lentils, pasta, rice, nooch, nuts and just about everything and anything you can think of there. The prices are amazingly low which allows us to feed our family of five under budget. I always keep frozen veggies and fruit in the freezer as well for both cost effectiveness and convenience. On long/busy days I can still toss together some brown rice noodles with frozen broccoli or whatever we have on hand for dinner and know that it may be “fast food” but it’s still healthier than an alternative. We usually save the fresh fixings for weekends when we have more time.
Great post! When you see a regularly-used non-perishable item go on sale, stock up! That way you have plenty of that item in the future and you will save money in the long run.
I sign up for our local CSA and get a big batch of fresh, organic produce every Saturday. This determines our meals for the week and has taught us to be less wasteful with our food. Pairing the fresh produce with staples like rice, quinoa, grains, and beans has served us well.
Carolyn, I agree. I too purchase shares through a local co-op and plan meals around the produce I receive.
I have recently been making more and more meals in the crockpot. I am using less energy and saving money there. Additionally, many of the recipes I cook in it, particularly the soups and stews, can be frozen. So, I spend a day preparing 30 to 40 meals and then just put one in the crockpot in the morning and dinner will be ready when I get home.
I love the berry trick!! I am so using that.
I like buying the fresh carrots bc they are alway cheap for a bunch, but go bad really quickly. Within a day I chop them all up into sticks for easy snacking and put them in an airtight tupperware bowl to pop in the fridge.
My tip is when you feel like going out to eat – go to the grocery store instead. We’ll end up picking up a store bought salad, salad bar, sushi or something from the prepared food section for a lot cheaper than going out for a full meal at a restaurant and no cooking!
My tip is to definitely buy in bulk and pre plan meals ahead of time for the week that use similar/same ingredients so you don’t waste what you buy. The worst is spending a lot of money on fresh produce and then throwing some away because it wasn’t used/eaten. I like to buy what I know I will use/eat so pre planning meals really helps with that and I always make more than is necessary for easy to heat up leftovers.
Costco helps me save big on frozen broccoli, green beans, peanut butter, and other staples. I also try my best to keep track of prices and know which grocer around me I should be picking up romaine, kale, bananas, rice, etc. The price differences between Kroger, Target, Whole Foods, and Sprouts vary more than you’d think.
I cook once or twice for the week preparing foods I can later throw together. Roast veggies, cook up protein, etc. That way, I never have to buy lunch or breakfast at work and I always have snacks that are healthy and handy. I buy store brand for whatever I can, make my own hummus, use (rinsed) canned or frozen veggies where I can. You can still create super healthy meals with frozen and canned stuff! I am lucky enough to live in Louisiana so we have a year round growing season, so I always try to hit the farm stands, too. Especially since I work 30 mins outside of the city, the farm stands out there are super cheap!
This are good tips. Many ppl think it needs to cost a fortune to be a vegetarian. I’m on a very tight budget, so stopped buying meat, now I love my veggie diet – I make many DIY dishes, such as my own seitan, my own hummus, and do adore beans, lentils, and spice them up! I love to make my own crackers and flatbreads with a variety of whole grains, and roll them in seeds and spices. I also love to make my own pasta with semolina, or my fav, buckwheat. Soba noodles are very expensive, but cheap to make your own!!! I could go on but I’m getting hungry!!!
Buy bananas at Sam’s! I get 3 pounds for $1.49. So, at my last shopping trip, I bought 12 pounds of bananas for $6. We’ll either eat them as snacks or freeze for smoothies and other recipes.
Eat what’s in the house. That simple. Don’t stop at the grocery store every other day. Don’t grab a quick bite on the way home. The house (fridge, freezer, pantry, cupboards) are full of food I’ve already paid for.
Recommendation: Plate your meal at the kitchen counter and immediately put the rest of the entree that you’ve prepared in storage containers for a later meal. If you’re going to eat seconds because you’re hungry, eat more of the salads or sides or other filler, not the fancy dish with the expensive ingredients that will be a great dinner again two nights later.
My favorite way to eat on the cheap is to use my slow cooker with abandon, and keep lots of frozen left overs in the freezer. The crock pot is great for recipes with all those cheap, dried ingredients (like beans and lentils) and lends itself nicely to stews, curries, even enchiladas.
Then you can top your crock pot creation with some fresh kale or chard or add in other, more delicate vegetables.
One of the biggest parts of our grocery expense is on fruit! To help cut back on that expense we buy frozen fruit and berries, which are a great supplement to things like smoothies, granola, oatmeal, etc.
Go through all of your food every month or two–fridge, freezer, pantry, cupboards–and write down what you have, so that you know what you can use. This usually gives me new meal ideas, with pantry staples or condiments in the fridge that I’d forgotten about, and I don’t even have to go buy anything because I already have the stuff.
Plan ahead! Meal planning by the week cut my grocery bill dramatically, as well as trips to the store.
I plan meals for a week at a time & use ingredients for multiple dishes that week. For example, there’s a half-head of purple cabbage in my fridge. I used one half to make your Hawaiian beans & rice. Tomorrow, I’ll use the other half for some Southwestern veg tacos.
Also, if there are any perishables in the fridge, I don’t go to the grocery store.
I always make my own snack bars. So much cheaper than store bought and not to mention healthier and fresher. I also like to meal plan in order to use up all ingredients I have instead of buying something for one recipes and forgetting about it until it gets old.
I keep a zip-top bag in the freezer with the odds and ends of any veggies that I think might taste good in stock and make a big batch whenever the bag gets full.
We do a lot of dried bulk beans and lentils at our house to save on cost. I also try to buy seasonal produce which usually has a cheaper price tag. And instead of sticking to dried herbs to save on cost we grow our own, my favorite is growing green onions from scraps! Fun. And economical!
I make a meal plan for four days (looking for ingredients in season etc.), then the fifth day is a creation of whatever is left from the previous days. Also like to cook rice, grains in bulk, then make variations for a few days. Saturday and Sunday usually have a little more elaborate meals, visit to the farmer’s market (buy in bulk and conserve what’s in season definitely a must here!). I absolutely agree that the money invested in healthy food pays off – my four kids have hardly ever been sick, the oldest of them being nearly 19 and in college now.
These are all great tips. The problem I have with buying fresh spices is that I don’t use a lot at one time and it goes bad before I can use all of it. That is obviously wasted money. One way I’ve learned to keep cilantro fresh is to put the stems in a mason jar, fill with water (leaves should be above the water), cover loosley with a plastic bag (a gallon size ziploc bag works well) and store in the fridge. it keeps 4 weeks or more this way. I haven’t tried this with other spices but it may also work for parsley, basil, etc.
I live in the Midwest, so I stick to frozen fruits in the winter in my smoothies and farmers market produce in the warmer seasons. I also buy everything in bulk, pasta, rice, lentils, it’s so much cheaper that way.
Use your leftovers in tomorrow’s dinner. Use leftover rice and add it to a stew. Add salad leftovers to a bean burrito. And by all means, bake your own bread from scratch!
My main way of saving money in my grocery bill is to make sure I don’t waste anything! From making stock from veggie scraps to making a batch of “cleaning out the crisper” juice, I try to make every dollar I do spend count!
Lots of tips to add:
1. Buy the Whole Foods store brand – they have the cheapest tofu and frozen veggies and things in town, and I honestly believe that when done right, shopping at Whole Foods can be even more economical than shopping at regular grocery stores. You just avoid all the gourmet novelty items and buy the store brand and you’re set.
2. Bulk. Even for spices – you think you need a half-teaspon of a spice but don’t want to pay $5 for a jar of it? My Whole Foods has little tiny baggies for buying spices in bulk and you end up paying just pennies and not wasting anything. Likewise for other items, buying in bulk lets you get exactly what you need and not waste anything (esp. $$).
3. Make your own–seitan, vegetable broth, beans from dried, bread (we buy the fancy organic whole wheat flour and even still we get a loaf of bread for about $1.50 and it doesn’t have preservatives or other junk in it!), etc. You get a fresher product and save big over the prepared stuff. Don’t buy baked and flavored tofu – make your own for less than $2! Don’t buy $1 cans of beans, buy a pound of dried beans for $1.19 and eat for a week! Etc.
Plan ahead and shop twice a week. I find that if I do one big trip to the store, my produce looks sad by the week’s end.
I also shop around to see what’s on sale and what’s in season.
And… Biggest tip: leftovers for lunch!
I buy produce in bulk from a discounted produce shop (and a lot of it’s organic) and then prep it all on a weekend, canning, dehydrating, cooking, and freezing so that we have several weeks of prepared vegetables for an extremely low price.
My tip for how to eat healthy, vegan, and cheap is stay well stocked with grains and beans and try to only hit up the produce section of the grocery store, avoiding the temptations of expensive (but delicious) Whole Foods snacks. Instead I make my own energy bars, muffins, granola, and trail mix–which saves money, tastes better, and is healthier! As a fellow long distance runner, nutrition is important to me but I have to plan around a very tight budget so I have to be creative. In addition, I go grocery shopping with a small backpack since I live in a city and have to walk to and from the store. This has been very effective at saving money because even though I could bring grocery bags, I know I will be tempted to buy more if I know I have room to carry more stuff. I have a rule of only getting as much (or less) as I can fit in my small backpack, and I always use a basket instead of a cart while shopping. Another tip is if my basket gets heavy while shopping, I know I have reached my limit because I don’t want to carry a super heavy backpack home. Using a basket helps prevent me from buying too much! If you are lucky enough to live close enough to a grocery store to walk to it, I would recommend walking there with a backpack to shop.
My tip is have a core group of recipes that form the basis for your weekly meals and then just add in more interesting/different meals here and there. This not only saves you time (since you can prepare these in bulk on the weekends and eat leftovers all week) but you tend to get used to the ingredients & amounts you need, and so you don’t overbuy and waste food.
Grow your own fresh herbs. for a couple of dollars in the spring you can buy plants and eat fresh herbs for 4-6 months depending on where your live. Dried basil, parsley and rosemary can not be compared with fresh!
I enjoy foraging for wild foods for several reasons, the most important of which is the fact that these delicacies aren’t sprayed or shipped or warehoused. I stick to the basics – black walnuts, berries, wild apples, dandelion greens, certain mushrooms. Nuts and berries freeze wonderfully and are a great way to cut the grocery bill while eating like a king! Apples last all year when dried in a dehydrator or made into apple cider. My garden also helps out during the growing months. My freezer it chock full right now with food grown and foraged.
To save money, which I’m learning really quickly from being in college and living in an apartment for the first time, I buy frozen vegetables and fruits from Sam’s Club. I also watch my sales ads and buy sales.
Eat leftovers for lunch, make friends with the bulk and freezer section, and plan meals so you only buy what you need.
I’ve been on a super strict grocery budget for a few months now, but I refuse to sacrifice my vegan eating just because I eat fresh veggies. I go to Aldi once a week and they now carry organic produce, plus organic options for most foods, including frozen berries! I also try to buy veggies and fruit that last all week, like kale, broccoli, bananas, apples, etc. Other things that spread the $$: Beans! Canned or dried. Buying nuts or grains in bulk when possible. Another cool place I’ve found excellent deals on organic and exotic rices and grains is Ocean State Job Lot (an east coast thing…). They also carry organic coconut oil! Lundberg rices, nice olive oils, the list is endless. I can comfortably shop for 1 each week on $20-35! Obviously, prepping your own food is always best. I find that making bulk cooked rice and quinoa is good to have ready at the use in the fridge to throw a stir fry or salad together is key. Happy budgeting, NMAs!
Stock up on canned beans or whatever is on sale and freeze it. I make big pots of chili or grains or whatever and freeze them in single serve dishes.
Eat local and in season. Simple and easy.
To save money I cook on Sundays 3 meals , I use frozen veggies and rice, then buy from the bulk section of whole foods
Menu plan, menu plan, menu plan- I feed 6 children- it is a necessity
seek out a local csa that lasts the whole year. for $20/week (we buy the smallest share since it’s just the two of us), we get winter veggies, fresh veggies from the previous season that have been frozen and greens and sprouts grown indoors. we can also order week to week, without committing a chunk of cash to a full season of weekly shares.
The main thing is to cook your own food from single item ingredients. The more you give the food industry to do, whether it is cutting and chopping your produce or cooking your entire meal, value added always costs more.
This is hard to admit but the most expensive thing on my shopping list is almost always the beer. There are a lot of great tips already about making sure you eat what you buy which I wholeheartedly endorse and made a huge difference in my spending. 2015 is about limiting myself to just one beer a night enabling me to really enjoy the experience, reducing my grocery bill and my intake, without depriving myself of this luxury.
Plan ahead before grocery shopping using the sale ad. Sounds like common sense, but if you don’t take the time to plan you’ll overspend and impulse buy. Stick to your list
Yes, eating cheap and living cheap is all good and well in the United States, but if you live in New Zealand, where everything costs 2 to 5 times as much, especially food, eating cheap is much harder to do. My advice is if you want to eat cheap, live in the United States, where there are lots of subsidies for farmers and a competitive food market. If you live in New Zealand, where there are no farmer subsidies and the grocery store and many of the food industries (e.g., Fonterra dairy) are monopolies, it is much more difficult.
Every trip, stock up on what’s on sale, and then cook based on what’s in your pantry already. Keep a small herb garden for when fresh herbs would really improve a recipe — salads, garnish, etc. Always have a few leftover meals frozen in the freezer so there’s no temptation to buy expensive microwave dinners.
Don’t go to the grocery store hungry!!! Make a meal plan for the week, write out your shopping list and stick to it!
My way to save because there is only two of us is to cook a big meal, like marinara or soup, and divide the leftovers into single serving portions and freeze. Then you have more meals at the ready. This is so much better than trying to eat all and it goes bad in the fridge.
I chose my produce & fruit choices by the store specials. I have found some real good deals at ALDI on organic produce. Cooking at home rather than dining out saves us money. We grow our own veggies and freeze some for our winter dishes. Knowing that the don’t have any pesticides is nice too.
Never go to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods hungry, stick to your list, and when in doubt make pasta with sauted veggies. Healthy & cheap, what’s not to like?!
My tips would be to plan out meals in advance, only buy what you’ll need, and then batch cook on the weekend. I can eat for over a week on 2 cans of beans, a bag of brown rice, salsa, and some fresh veggies.
my way to save $$$ is to plan a couple dinner meals for the week, look at ads of the 2 closest groceries to me, make a list for each store based on what’s on sale at each, and go to each with list in hand. as a single cooking for myself, i usually have enough for 2 or 3 meals out of each recipe and use the leftover veggies/fruits to get creative or add to salads for lunch throughout the week. it saves a ton of money and with a list for each store, doesn’t take any additional time.
My tip for eating healthy and vegan without going broke is gleaning (I’ve only done this a couple times but it does work). When I’m out on my runs I keep my eye out for trees filled with fruit that goes unpicked. Once I find a promising location I just ask them if they would mind me coming in on a weekend with my kids to harvest the fruit. I leave the home owner with more than enough of their own harvest and save them the work of picking it and all of the clean up for what they never would have had time to pick and would just go to waste and made a mess on the ground. What I can’t use and freeze I donate to the local food bank. That’s a win/win/win.
I live alone so for me to buy a lot of groceries is silly because half of it gets thrown out. The past year I’ve been hitting the farmers market with a single friend & we split whatever we purchase. No wasted fruits or veggies this way. We also head to the stores & buy what we need in bulk & split that. It saves both of us money & I actually got introduced to some foods I wouldn’t have purchased on my own.
This is the best article I’ve read on this site. Thank you very much!
Costco has a lot of great organic and pesticide-free produce. Perfect if you have a family to feed and you know you can go through 8 heads of lettuce in a week. They also sell a ton of other great vegan pantry and freezer staples.
To save money, I make as much as I can myself. I make my own bread (food52.com has a recipe for no-knead sandwich bread that is vegan, really easy, and quite good – just choose flours like you would grains). When I don’t have the time to let the bread rise, I make my own tortillas instead. I make my own hummus, and get veggies to keep on hand for quick snacking. When I make soups, strews, grains, some pasta dishes I double the recipe/amount and freeze individual portions for quick grab and heat meals on week nights to help us avoid take out – that is the biggest cost for is here in NYC. There is so much quick, good, and seemingly cheap (but not compared to eating at home) takeout everywhere it is hard to avoid the convenience especially on work nights when it’s late and I am tired.
I don’t like cooking every day, but keep fresh fruit and veggies in the fridge. My husband and I often order in or eat out and order extra sides to bring home for left overs. Chinese, Thai are our mainstays which have nothing but fresh vegetables and herbs. I use the rice for dishes I prepare like seasoned rice with veggies, onions and peppers and sometimes just veggie/chickpea burgers and a tossed salad. Desserts are fresh fruits or fruit smoothies. This meal planning process is easy, saves time and very healthy eating.
As others have said, buy in bulk and stock your pantry from the bulk bins! I receive a weekly organic produce delivery. It’s $35 and it’s our week’s worth of produce. I tend to shop around a bit for the best prices …stocking up when things go on sale. I also buy some items from Amazon and vitacost.com. I LOVE vitacost 🙂
My tip for eating cheap is to bring my own measuring cups and spoons to the bilk bin section at the grocery store, that way I don’t get more than I need for a particular recipe!
I grow my own fresh herbs year round, either out in the garden in the warmer months or in pots in the house during winter. Way cheaper that buying them at the store!
Eating well without going broke to me is just watching the sales. I am fortunate to live in a fairly large city with different grocery chains. I don’t mind going to several different stores (since they are all within very short distances from each other) to get sale healthy items from each.
I personally buy all my grains and beans in bulk. It cuts the price down enormously. You are paying for the brand people!
I toss leftover greens like arugula or herbs in the vitamix with a little olive oil and then freeze it by the tablespoon on wax paper. Once they are frozen I put them in a freezer bag. A tablespoon or two adds a great flavor boost to a ton of different dishes with little cost. I love this article and the comments too!
As much as I love eating at Chipotle, there is nothing cheaper than making delicious, healthy burrito bowls at home. So many variations and such a quick and easy meal!
One of my favorite meals! We like them even better with a quinoa/black bean base instead of rice.
I used to be lazy and get can beans, but now I buy dried beans and soak then overnight. It saves me hundreds of dollars each year!
My tip is not unique but I never go to the grocery store without my list. I stick to my list, which includes everything I need for the meals that I have already planned out for the week. This is important for me because I’m currently in school full time, with a family to support so eating healthy, on a budget is a huge priority in my house! Thanks Matt, for making it easier. 🙂
Make sure to use up leftovers! Almost any leftover dish can be turned into some kind of quesadilla or enchilada with some extra sauce. Wilting greens or too ripe fruits are great for smoothies and homemade jams. Turn leftover stake bread into breadcrumbs. Freeze brown bananas and turn them into “ice cream.” The list goes on and on!
I force myself to stay within a $40.00 budget at the Farmer’s Market. It was challenging initially to go only once a week and spend only $40.00, but I’ve developed a strategy that works. I focus on getting organic produce for the dirty dozen, I don’t purchase the tempting treats like organic strawberry mint popsicles or vegan orange cranberry cookies and I’ve developed a power team to help me stay on point. I always go to the Farmer’s Market with “that” friend who when I asked her to help me stay accountable, she takes the job seriously. She even imposed the $40.00 budget upon herself and now we make the budget shopping a fun part of our weekly Farmer’s Market bonding time together.
Great comen’s so far. I get my oils from Trader Joe’s they are a lot cheaper than whole paycheck. The asian, indian, Spanish markets have a lot of ethnic foods waaay cheaper than grocery or natural markets. Eat in season and definitely make a list. One of my goals is to create a separate list of all my breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes. Something to derive a weekly menu from and get the family involved. They do say if you can make things into a habit, it’s easier to stick with it. I make my time-consuming bulk lentils and grains on Sundays in the electric pressure cooker and then you can add veggies to it during the week. Chop up vegetables and portion those out during the week. These last til Wednesday when you have to make a batch again. Oh and an awesome find from home goods is the Kinetic food containers that keeps vegetables and fruits last longer than in plastic bags or Tupperware. You can get it online too. Wipe the lid when the condensation builds up. It’s hard to cook quality foods, make time to work out and go to work and do the regular household chores, I appreciate all the tips I can get.
well, we shop at Asian markets for fresh vegetables and Walmart for dry goods. There are specific things that I can get at WF. I check out their coupons just in case. But to stay on budget, I avoid impulse buys. We eat lots of beans and grains that we buy in bulk as well.
Eating home cooked, wholesome foods already saves big bucks, but I also suggest shopping at warehouses. Not just co-ops (amazing, but hard to find), but Costco instead of the supermarket. Costco is not just for 100 pound packs of chicken or oreos; I buy all of my tofu, grains, and produce here. Also almond milk, fruit, and staples like spices and flour. I also love ethnic markets. The Spanish grocery sells cheap legumes, the Asian market sells tofu and cheap produce…etc. And finally, be more minimalistic, like you said kind of. Your health can be in the budget more than designer bags and the what not.
I look at the store circulars at the beginning of the week, search the index of my favorite cookbooks for those ingredients, and plan my meals around that. This week eggplants were $.99 so I’m making the eggplant and chickpea curry from Appetite for Reduction.
Batch cook! Big pots of chili, soups, stews, etc can last a few meals. I freeze half of it and have another set of meals later!
I freeze everything I can and stock up when there are sales. Any recipe that calls for stock I use 1/2 stock 1/2 water to stretch it.
I shop Aldi, Costco, and Whole Foods and Earthfare. Earthfare currently gives 10% off for being an employee at the hospital I happen to be employed by, so I end up there a lot, BUT, no one beats whole foods organic tahini price…or their selection of low fat vegan products. I love that I have the opportunity to shop at a variety of stores.
Eat before you shop. Make recipes that serve more than just your family. Put some leftovers in the freezer, but also go ahead and portion the following day’s lunch into an easy to carry container. Then “running late” does not become an excuse to get take out for lunch the next day.
The biggest thing for me has been making meal plans and sticking to my grocery list and not buying extras. Occasionally I stock up on things when there are sales for easy meals too which helps for not stopping for Taco Bell or the like!
I’m the only vegan in my household so most of the time buying in bulk doesn’t work for me. But that said enough can’t be said for meal planning. When I buy fresh fruits and veggies I always try to make sure they will work with multiple meals (and not just me eating the same thing over and over). I also always keep the basics (beans, rice, coconut milk, diced tomatoes, potatoes) so I can assemble a casserole that can be reheated and eaten through the week.
My tip is to plan meals around what is in season! Seasonal produce is not only more nutritious, but it tastes amazing and is often on sale!
Our local Ralphs often has really good sales on great frozen meals for work! Stock up on Amy’s Mac & Cheese for emergencies when they are super cheap. Add broccoli or other veggies to stretch the meal and make it healthier.
My Healthy + Cheap Tips: 1. Buy in bulk and sprout your grains for added nutrition 2. Buy pretty much all veggies and get creative, making “pizza” from mashed potatoes and tomatoes, etc. 3. Plan meals for 1.5 weeks and buy only what’s in them 4. Freeze what you don’t need yet but can get cheaply 5. Make enough to have left-overs, to help avoid the temptation to order out 6. I have never found kale to be expensive. Buy lots of kale and put it in everything.
I love peanut butter sandwiches for a quick, easy meal when there are no leftovers in the fridge. Bread and peanut butter keep forever in the fridge. I also buy dried beans in bulk, and cook up big batches at a time. I drain the beans and meausre about 1.5-2 cups (about a can’s worth of beans) into a freezer safe bag, which I lay flat and freeze on a small cookie sheet. That amount of beans fits just about perfectly in a flattened bag, and they’re much easier to store in my tiny freezer that way! Also endlessly label-able. And you can do mixes of beans for particular recipes and freeze them like that ahead of time!
Rice and Beans
Earthfare’s awesome Active Duty Military Discount
Fresh Local Beer…..off topic, sorry
It might seem counterintuitive, but I splurge on good, quality olive oil. It makes a simple rice, mushroom, and greens sauté seem like a luxurious meal.
I see that most of the ideas I have are already posted. Here’s one I didn’t see….if your grocery store has a discount produce rack, look for bananas. When I see them, I buy a bundle and take them home, peel and freeze in one inch pieces. I can the. Use them in smoothies, banana “ice cream” or as a sweetener in baked goods.
I really find it helpful to have a list, based on the recipes I plan to make for the week. Saves me from wandering the isles, grabbing whatever looks good. And I try to have my recipes for the week all share similar ingredients/theme, to avoid having to buy tons of items or those special spices etc. that you only use for one recipe
Yes! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! We are a military family of 5 on a tight budget so I’m constantly trying to trim our grocery bill while still maintaining a plant based, cruelty free family diet. Thank you so much for the tips! And here’s hoping I snag that gift card 😉
Hey, thanks for yet another helpful blog post. Your blog has inspired my family to investigate a plant based diet, and we’ve been very impressed at our two kiddos (3 and 4) improved relationship with vegetables of every stripe, and the pleasant surprise of reduced grocery costs! One dinero saving method we’ve employed is making batches of say, sweet potato black bean burritos or veggie chili, on Sunday that feed us all week. Another is growing our own fresh herbs inside. 🙂 Thanks!
Farm shares- I did a summer farm share which ran me $18/week and always left me with a surplus of root veggies each time. I still have squash and beets 3 months later. It also is a great way to try new dishes.
Make your own vegetable stock- a lot easier than it sounds.
Simplify your weekly menu- I stick to 2-3 options for each meal per week and shop around that. Lunch and dinner are interchangeable of course. This will make meal planning and shopping a breeze.
A well stocked pantry-spices, oats, canned beans and tomatoes, quinoa, pasta, polenta, almond milk, coconut oil, protein powder, cooking wine, frozen veggies, etc traders Joe’s is good for this, although I’ve noticed that whole foods is becoming just as competitive.
Probably the best money-saving technique we use is keeping a re-usable container in the freezer…if someone gives me extra produce that I know we won’t consume fast enough, I cut it up and throw it in there to use for smoothies. Strawberry tops (one I learned from you!), broccoli or spinach or berries that aren’t getting eaten fast enough, go in the freezer. I do the same thing with overripe bananas and zucchini to save for making bread. It really cuts down on food waste.
Tip: Use plain tomato sauce and add your own spices instead of overpriced jars of pasta sauce. That goes for hummus, too. It is way better fresh from bulk chickpeas than from the pre-packaged tubs!
Cheap rice cooker to cook all my dried grains/legumes
Buy in season
Freeze (almost) everything- I even pre-slice green onions and I can use them as a garnish whenever I want
Quit wasting so much money on junk food- I’d rather spend $6 on fresh organic raspberries than a box of candies
Whole Foods won’t like me saying this, but I’m saving a lot of money by having my groceries delivered so I’m not tempted by impulse purchases. We are lucky and have a organic farm here in Albuquerque, and every two weeks I get a delivery of a cooler full of super fresh, organic veggies and fruits. I went to WF lately for some stuff I can’t get from the farm and was very conscious of my picking up things I didn’t need, so gently put them back down. I guess my suggestion here is to stay focused on what you need. 🙂
My favorite way to eat cheap is kale salad. You can get a big bunch of kale for a little over $2 at my local grocer, which when combined with dressing and a few cheap toppings, makes a easy, healthy, and cheap lunch. (-:
I save money by going to the farmers market and purchase the discount fruit for smoothies. I clean and cut up the fruit and quickly freeze it! Saves for weeks and I get a ton!
My cheap tip is to grow a garden. I am getting ready to start growing some herbs in the house to save some more money.
When I quit buying food that wasn’t good for me, I had more money to buy healthy food 🙂
I eat a lot of rice and beans and those are very budget-friendly.
The cheapest way to eat well and organic is to grow your own.if you cannot do a garden, do a couple of containers. Even just a bucket on the patio or balcony with some herbs, or a tomato plant. Windowsills can grow quite a bit inside in winter. Herbs are especially quick and easy.
Sprout some microgreens for pennies.
And did you know you can take that end piece of the celery stalk, put it in some water, and it will start growing again? I have 4 of them jn a dish right now, about 4 inches tall… i wont get huge stalks, but it will be enough for some celery flavor in a dish.
We save money and eat well by buying groceries throughout the week as we are nearby places where we know we can get the best deals so we don’t waste gas driving all over town (organic bagged greens at Whole Foods, fresh tofu at the Asian store, bulk nutritional yeast at HEB…). We also try to buy what’s in season and no more than will last us for a few days so nothing goes to waste!
One of my favorite books is Vegan on the cheap. There are a whole bunch of great tips like: never buy vegan mayo, make it yourself. Make cheap stews, use frozen instead of fresh. Canned tomatoes are waaay cheaper and taste better. Making a big batch of beans and freezing them for ease of use into cup and a half portions, or prepping vegetables at the beginning of the week also help.
I also shop at Whole Foods. Their produce always looks better than other stores, and if you avoid things sold by the pound, like organic peppers, Whole Foods is sometimes a better value than my local supermarket because produce is fresher and stays fresher.
I try to plan my meals out by first checking stock, making a plan with most ingredients I have, and supplementing with frozen veggies if I need more green in my entrees.
If you have an Aldi store nearby, it’s a good place to find food at a low price. I’m glad one recently came to our area!
Here is what we do to save $ while on a plant based diet:
– Shop weekly at the farmers’ market. If you show up just before closing, you’ll get the best deals as they are clearing everything.
– Shop at Whole Foods and buy things in tens or twelves to get the bulk discount of 10%; example, buy 10 bags of frozen cherries and receive a discount of 10%.
– Purchase certain items like pasta, beans, polenta, oats etc online. I like to shop at http://www.vitacost.com, which sells them cheaper than brick and mortar shops. Just make sure you spend enough so they waive the shipping cost. Split the order with a friend.
– Forgo oils. They are expensive and go rancid very fast thus need to be tossed. Learn to cook without oils and find alternatives like water, broth, and use none stick pans.
– Learn to substitute. If a recipe calls for something that is too expensive or you don’t have on hand then find alternatives.
– Learn to cook with the cheapest veggie ever: cabbage.
– Sometimes the cheapest option for lunch or dinner is a homemade sandwich. It’s quicker and cheaper than cooking.
– make your own smoothies and forgo the juice bar.
– And lastly, learn how to make spring rolls. Several of these go a long way and they are cheap. And they are great in Texas – where I live.
Once or twice a month I make large quantities of garbanzo beans and rice. I freeze them in one cup portions and pull out as needed. I’ve also found Bob’s Red Mill flours at Pick and Save for a fraction of the cost in the regular market.
My best tips for eating healthy on a budget:
Buy as much as possible in bulk. I shop sams club, whole foods bulk bins, and online websites that offer free shipping with a minimum order. Stock up on the things you like and don’t worry about running out for a while.
Make things yourself for cheaper. I have learned how to make hummus, yogurt, granola, and even working on kombucha now. It not only saves money but is really fun!
We plan the week of meals before shopping, cook enough each night for our lunches at work the next day, and avoid the junk. We’re toying with a one month plan to save time of deciding each Sunday.
I ditto the comment about growing your own. This past summer we planted many vegetables including tomatoes, spices and chilies. Make a lot of soups. It feeds an army. Also, I make a cauliflower/lentil taco filling that also feeds an army.
Plan your meals,buy in bulk and wait for a good sale unless you really need a particular item.
I like to shop for produce at farmers market, they are fresher and often less expensive. Also growing herbs instead of buying.
For fresh herbs, a great way of saving them is to buy in large bunches, or better still grow your own. Use what you need, or when growing your own harvest accordingly, chop them up, divide into tablespoon size portions and freeze in water in ice cube trays. Transfer to labelled plastic bags when frozen.
Use as needed either direct into stew/soup/rice dish etc
I cook my beans and rice from scratch and try to limit convenience foods…
I buy in the bulk section, cook large batches and freeze!
I buy dried beans and rice in bulk. I plan to cook the beans in an electric pressure (free, by the way – gift from Mom) and freeze leftovers. And planning a weekly menu and prepping one day a week – no wasted food, and minimal fuss in the kitchen when you’re hungry!
Avoid fake meats… They are expensive! I try to cook them only 1-2 times a month.
Cook a bunch of food on the weekend… like rice, and beans and other dishes. And keep them in the fridge to dish out and heat up on busy nights… easily $2 per person!
Soup… so much soup!
I like to plan my trip in advance, list the ingredients I need and what I’m willing to pay. then I can keep track with how on track they are and trade or add depending on how the prices are.
I like to buy fruits and vegetables in season to save money. I also use Driscolls rewards program to get $1.00 off any berries I buy! Whenever thinngs are out of season, and I don’t have cupons, I usually buy things frozen and stock up when they are on sale.
I think our most consistent cost cutting move is to go in with a list and try hard to stick to it.
Great post Matt! I’d add to the list planning your weekly meals before you shop. I find it cuts our amount of waste way down!
You know exactly what you need to buy, and you don’t end up getting a load of stuff that you’ll probably end up throwing away!
I make all of my own food from scratch (my mother says my pantry is “ingredients, not food”) and then freeze leftovers to have later.
Thanks Matt for all the great tips! We belong to a Sam’s Club and I like to buy my fruits & veggies in bulk when I can. That way I always have them on hand and make less trips to the store. I also buy my greens in bulk and freeze what I won’t use up in a couple of days that way they won’t go bad before using. We also have a rice cooker and make a batch that lasts us a couple of days so we aren’t making it everyday.
Love all the articles!
When i’m broke I buy hummus, carrots, almonds, falafel and pickles. I can get 4-6 meals from this depending on how much I eat.
I shop at a local Indian market for things like dried beans and ginger garlic peppers and cilantro. It is much cheaper than any grocery store
Plan ahead! I use coupons and build my weeks worth of meals around the sales and coupons. We also do a lot of beans and bean burgers. When you shape the bean patties different each time, it makes it more fun for the kids 🙂 Also using different beans helps add variety. When the end of the week comes, my kids knows it’s breakfast for dinner!! Usually using cocoa powder in the pancakes or waffles and making them like dessert!
Great tips all, but like Mom used to say, don’t waste food! I am bad about making a large meal, then “forgetting” it’s in the fridge or freezer. Have put a white board on both units, noting what meals I have and also what produce I need to use up. Has saved a lot of cash and headaches!
I shop at ALDI often. Yes I do! It’s the biggest shopping secret most don’t know about. Many folks don’t realize that they have a solid selection of very vegan friendly, health friendly foods including organic things like quinoa (the cheapest around), fruits & veggies, whole wheat pastas, apple juice, coffee, frozen veggies/fruits and a load of other surprising things. And it’s wildly inexpensive. The US owned ALDI stores are also run by the same company that owns Trader Joe’s, so I imagine that their suppliers overlap. Every location carries something a little different depending on the local needs/wants of the customers.
I stock up on Whole Food’s and Trader Joe’s sale items. When items are on sale they are much cheaper than elsewhere.
To save money while eating healthy especially since I’m only cooking for myself, I buy items in bulk. I get the big containers of greens and set aside what I can eat before it goes bad and put the rest in plastic bags in the freezer to use in soups, stir frys and smoothies. I also take advantage of the case discount at Whole Foods and buy all my energy bars by the box as they’re 10% off that way. I even buy cases of bananas with the discount too. I let them ripen and then peel them, break them up and put them in plastic containers and bags in the freezer to use in smoothies.
Pardon if I repeat anything that’s already been said 🙂 Nothing beats a homemade veg broth to start the base of a meal, so instead of sodium-laden powders, pastes, or premades, grab a freezer ziploc bag and toss in all the peelings from carrots, rutabaga, parsnips, and celeriac. Also save both ends and cores of celery, the ends of leeks, and the papery skins of garlic and onions. Over time you’ll have enough to make a huge batch of broth.
Outdoor ethnic markets. I miss Philly for the Italian markets. In the summer a favorite Mexican vendor was selling a dozen mangoes for $5! HUGE heads of romaine, two for $1! Overly ripe (a.k.a. perfect) bananas, $.25 a pound!!! Ah, that was a good summer…
Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. All kind, every kind.
When you’ve reached the end of your rope, consider the fine art of dumpster diving. Haven’t tried it yet, any interesting stories from you lovely folks?
My tip is to choose a couple of recipes for the week, make a list, and when at the grocery store, only buy those items on the list – no straying!
Also, when the grocery store has sales on canned items, load up! They don’t expire for a long time, and you will have enough beans to feed an army!
Usually the day or two before we get paid, I will create a meal using whatever we have left in the fridge or pantry. By payday, my fridge looks pretty empty! Also I love getting a canned dahl or other bean/lentil soup and serving it over rice. Makes two meals out of one can.
I buy most of my pantry staples (rice, lentils, spices, flours) in bulk and try to cook and bake from scratch as much as possible. I make a list before I’m heading to the grocery store and try to stick to it. I don’t see spending money on food as a waste, as long as I don’t let anything go to waste. $50+ dollars for a week’s worth of groceries is still cheaper than one night out.
To keep things healthy, I don’t buy processed food like crackers or cookies. If I really want something like that, I make it myself. Also, after putting in the work, I don’t feel any guilt indulging myself:) Homemade is always better!
It’s nothing earth-shattering, but I live on leftovers. I am super careful about packaging up anything left over from dinner, and I can quickly grab it on the way out the door in the morning. I hate to see it go to waste!
This post is awesome. Thanks!
One of the biggest ways that helps me eat healthy and not go broke in the process has nothing to do with WHAT I buy – it’s actually making time every day to cook at home. It’s been a game-changer. Yeah, a lot of people could give reasons why we don’t have time to prep, cook, and clean the kitchen afterwards, but simply making room for 30-60 minutes a day to make your own food majorly helps cut down dropping $15/meal eating out, buying pre-prepared stuff, not to mention the massive amounts of leftovers are ridiculous. Most nights I’ll throw down some form of Thai or Asian (coconut soup w/ lentils, cabbage & papaya salad, stir-fried veg.), and it lasts for 2-3 days in the fridge or frozen.
So the math: $10-15 on veg and other ingredients + 60 min cooking = 3 or 4 meals. It’s impossible to find anything close to that price per meal if you eat out or buy pre-prepped food.
…not to mention cooking at home helps you become a better chef, practice your knife skills, become the go-to person when your friends need food planning advice, it’s therapeutic, you can catch up on Netflix or Hulu while cooking, you can put in your earbuds and make your weekly call to your grandma…the list goes on.
The point: cooking at home is worth every minute spent and dollar saved.
Meal planning! That way I make sure I use up all of the ingredients I buy
I do many of the things you list above, but a huge money saver is buying spices in the bulk section to refill my spice jars. It’s much less expensive than buying a new jar. Also, you can pay for just what you need for the more exotic spices when making a new recipe. I also cook big batches of the types of beans I use most frequently in a crock pot and freeze them in can sized portions. I also make big batches of veggie burgers and keep in the freezer, along with frozen vegetables. When I don’t feel like cooking or am in a hurry, I just pop a home made veggie burger and some frozen veggies in the microwave and enjoy a quick healthy meal.
My best tip is to use what you have! make sure that what you’re buying doesn’t go to waste just sitting in the refrigerator. Also, when things are sale buy double and freeze/can if you are able. I tend to do this mostly from my garden and summer CSA, but its super nice to be able to pull frozen pesto and veggies out all winter.
Im pretty new to this whole thing but I have had good luck making a meal plan so I have a clear cut shopping list. I adore the bulk aisle at my local co-op as well!
I would suggest picking a day and just raiding the pantry/fridge. Come up with a meal based on what you can find. I find that I forget about items leftover from a recipe or never made as intended.
My slow cooker rocks – makes big batches of beans that I freeze, and soups, stews and dals for weeknight and weekend meals plus plenty of leftovers for lunch at the office.
With 2 kids (one being an ultra hungry teenaged boy) we have to plan meals to make a budget work. But, the next step is to make ahead. This is hard to make yourself do, since after schlepping all the groceries home all I want to do is relax. But, if I don’t make myself fix the soup, salads and cupcakes (oh yeah!) then all is lost. So, my tip is to have a meal plan and then follow through by making ahead. (And buying extra beans and oatmeal).
I LOVE THIS POST. Anything to help a girl save a buck – especially when I’m in a love-love relationship with Whole Foods. I have a couple tips and tricks I like to stick to each week that helps me save A TON of money and time.
1) PLAN AHEAD (I know everyone says this, and has said it in the comments already) This is the most important thing for me to do. I take inventory of what I have in my pantry, fridge and freezer, and create a weekly meal plan based on what I have. It saves money to only buy what I need, especially if they are more of the pricey items at WF.
2) Make your own snacks! I like this one because I am known in my family as the grazer. I love to snack, but I only like to snack on healthy food (with some occasional extra tablespoons of PB and pieces of Dark Chocolate). I’ve found that making my own snacks is WAY less expensive than buying them. Make your own hummus to have with veggies in the afternoon. Make your own PB to spread on an apple. Make your own snack bars (we ALL know how expensive those yummy Kind Bars, Lara Bars, etc, are) with wholesome ingredients and no sneaky added sugar in there! It’s healthy and all of these things can be bought in bulk = more $$ in the BANK!
For curries I use almond/soy milk and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of coconut flavor instead of the canned coconut milk, much cheaper. Plus it also reduces that saturted fat content of the meal.
I have a couple tips….first, grow veggies and herbs in a garden. You don’t have to have a lot of space. You can grow them in your flower beds or have small window boxes. Even if you just grow a few herbs that you use regularly it’s a savings. Plus you have fresh herbs and you can dry them. Basil and oregano are easy to grow. Second tip is use what you ate last night for dinner for next day’s lunch. I make extra when I cook a meal and that’s what we have for lunch. Much healthier and cheaper than going out to eat for lunch.
My tip is buy nuts/oatmeal/anything available from the bulk section. It is SO much cheaper!
Thanks for the great ideas and savings! can’t wait to try all of these recipes. Here is a fav of mine. Super cheap, healthy and delicious. I’ve been preparing this in a jar for my husband and myself every night! He loves it!
Banana Chia-Oatmeal Breakfast Parfait
1/2 cup almond milk (or cashew milk)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 cup steel cut oats,
1/2 banana, sliced (and/or mixed berries)
1 Tbsp walnuts, crushed (or pecans or any nut you love)
1. Prepare the oatmeal as you regularly do. In a jar, combine the oatmeal, almond milk and one tablespoon of chia seeds. Stir to combine and refrigerate overnight.
2. The next morning, add sliced bananas, crushed nuts. (you could add these ingredients the night before as well but I usually like to do it in the morning before heading to work). Your call! You can also add frozen mixed berries if you like the extra sweetness.
Thank you again. Looking forward to most posts about eating healthy and saving money!
My best tip is to eliminate waste – You can freeze almost anything. You worked so hard in getting the best deal and spent all this time preparing meals. So, please twice before throwing anything away.
Here are my personal suggestions:
1) When you have left over fresh herbs, ginger, buttermilk, sauces, homemade vegetable stock,tomato paste, apple sauce, coconut milk, freeze it in the ice cube tray for later use.
2) Cook Dry beans on weekends and once cooked, cooled, put it in the zip lock bag and freeze for later use.
3) Buy lemons, limes in summer when cheap – extract juices and freeze it
4) Store half the avacado with sliced red onions to keep fresh another day in a air tight container, or make guacamole and freeze it.
5) Potatoes starting to sprout? wash, peel and either shred or cube for hash browns and freeze (don’t have to cook before you freeze)
6) If you do buy nuts or nut flour, store it in the freezer to avoid going rancid
Check out the following sites for more:
Growing your own food (as several people have mentioned) is huge. Not only is it a money saver, it’s a fantastic way to make some time for yourself and go outside and kind of unplug. Just hang out with the dirt.
Another way to save money is to limit how often you go out to eat. I know this holds true for vegans and carnivores alike, but I have noticed that it can be a little more pricey to order vegan – especially if it’s not a vegan restaurant and they make you something “special”.
A few tips. Definitely buy in season and freeze extras. I live in the great state of New Jersey so when tomato season hits, I am making sauces and salsa galore as well as canning them. I LOVE tomatos! Buy beans in bulk and cook them on your own. I also make my own almond butter at home. YUM! It does take time to prepare, but boy does it save you money.
My tip is order non-perishables from Vitacost.com. They’re crazy cheap, you can narrow searches by your dietary preferences, and if you order $50 worth, shipping is free. I place a monthly order, so it’s easy to reach the $50 mark.
I never follow recipes precisely. Instead, I buy whatever bulk grains are on sale and whatever vegetables are on sale and use recipes as guidelines to use whatever I have.
I also make sure my desk at work is stocked with cheap healthy snacks so I can avoid running out to buy things when I am really hungry.
Definitely buying as much as possible in bulk! It may take a little more prep work than the prepared foods, but it is SO much cheaper!
I do a lot of my shopping at Trader Joe’s to keep costs down. Buying a lot of whole foods is a great way to keep costs down versus prepackaged meals. Plus I’ve found that prepackaged meals may be flavorful but the calorie per dollar is lower than a lot of whole, healthier foods.
One of my new favorite things to do is make my own root veggie fries at home. We get a big box of veggies from our CSA and then I slice up the root ones (plus inexpensive sweet potatos or even regular ones) into fry shape and bake with different spices. My young daughter thinks she is getting a treat – Purple French Fries! – and I’ve got an easy side for just about any meal.
My tip for adding extra protein to smoothies: use frozen green peas instead of fancy but superprocessed protein powders! They get pulverized easily in a blender, plus they don’t add a ‘grassy’ aftertaste. My go-to trick for decadent smoothies like chocolate-peanut butter-banana!
For the life of me, I can never understand why people think eating vegan or vegetarian is expensive. It’s not. At all. I spend between $20 and $30 a week a the grocery store (for one person) and eat very, very well. You don’t need to buy organic; I never do. It’s unsustainable and I believe mostly unneccesary. Buying grains, nuts and seeds from the bulk bins saves a ton of money, and I make my own seitan, very easily – bonus with that is that I can adjust the seasoning to my own taste.
Dried beans and grains are super cheap, ESPECIALLLY at ethnic stores. Find a Hispanic or Indian or even Eastern European store near you. Find the cheapest beans/grains there. You may surprise yourself and like something new :).
Avoid store bought salad dressings at all cost! Most have processed ingredients and very high salt and sugar contents per serving, especially the “inexpensive ones”. The store bought dressings that are perceived “better for you”, are incredibly expensive. The solution is simple and cheap. Make your own dressings utilizing simple, whole ingredients. Many may believe that making salad dressings at home is labor intensive, especially if salads are eaten often. But it is really very fast and very easy. Most recipes take only a few minutes (under 5 minutes) and the ingredient lists are surprisingly small.
Dried herbs, maybe one or two at a ½ tsp each, black pepper and a pinch of salt, a small amount of vinegar (red, white, apple cider), sometimes Dijon mustard ($1.39 per bottle), small amounts of canola oil or olive oil (Whole Foods brand of extra virgin and first cold pressed is very good and VERY inexpensive at $6.99/32 ounces), sometimes ¼ lemon squeezed, or orange or lime. If you want it zesty, add red pepper flakes or char a jalapeno on the stovetop or if you want it sweeter, a tsp of honey will do well, and if you want it creamy, use fresh avocado and then whisk it up.
Most dressings will keep refrigerated for 1-2 days as well, so if you make a little more, the dressing will be ready for salad the next day or night. These dressings are fresh, have ingredients that are fresh; not processed, and you control the salt or sugar content. And finally, there are thousands of great recipes online! Cheap, fast and fresh!
One way we keep our food budget down is by cooking a big pot of dried beans once or twice a week. They reheat well, and can be used as part of a meal, in a hummus recipe, in tacos, as a base for veggie burgers, or a snack. My kids love to snack on homemade roasted chickpeas. Having some in the fridge is as convenient as canned.
To reduce my grocery bills, I buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. Also, I don’t buy everything organic, I refer to the dirty dozen list and decide which of my produce need to be organic. I also buy herb plants when they are on sale so that I don’t have to buy those expensive packets of herbs all the time. The plants last for a whole season and need minimal taking care of.
To eat healthy without going broke I make air to shop sales on all items, and look at coupons and if whole foods has a coupon google for a manufacturers coupon to use both!
I make a big batch of rice and beans and eat them throughout the week. Frozen green beans are a go-to for a green even though they are a starch. Trader Joes has some protein-packed shelled frozen adamame for less than 2$ too!
Use a pressure cooker for beans, soups & stews. Also for making veggie stock. Saves time, keeps in more nutrients, delicious!
Ditto on the pressure cooker! I have an electric pressure cooker and it was the absolute best purchase ever.
I think my biggest “secret,” if you will, is in eating oats and lentils a lot (not together, mind you). Both are cheap, easy to cook, healthy, and very versatile. Another thing is looking for reduced produce bins at the grocery store. Sadly, I’ve never seen Whole Foods do this, but at the local grocery coop, they always have a full bin of ripe or over-ripe produce; as long as you eat it soon, you get good fruits and veggies for pennies on the dollar.
I love leftovers! Every Sunday I will make a soup, stew or lasagna for me and my husband. Being the patient vegan he is, we eat the lasagna for 3 nights, and I freeze the rest. Then, I take it out of the freezer again in about 2 weeks, and I have another delicious entrée to eat for 3 more nights.
I make enough of everything so that I can freeze half and have it later. I would LOVE to win the Whole Foods gift card – and I’d use your tips to buy the food too 🙂
Great article. One tip, I found works is make all your meals on say Sunday to last for the week. This helps save time and helps you fight the urge to go out for food.
Frozen veggies for soups/stews & lots of lentils, quinoa & beans in recipes are how I save. I buy beans, lentils, quinoa, & steel cut oats in bulk, put them in airtight containers in my pantry & use them for all sorts of recipes! Buying quinoa in bulk is MUCH cheaper than buying it packaged. One tiny box costs $8-$12 depending on the brand, but I can get a big ole bag in bulk for less!
I’ve found that some veggies (celery, green onions, cilantro to name a few) last longer in a cup of water on the counter than they do in the fridge.
Find out if there is a local farm or co-op that offers a weekly box option. We have a local farm that puts together produce boxes that you can order every week or every other week or just when you feel like it. They offer different sizes and you can customize what goes in them from a set list for that week. The price is set so it’s great for a budget and you know the produce is local and often organic. Our farm also offers staples like rice, flour, beans, eggs, and milk that you can substitute if you don’t need so much produce that week. They deliver the boxes to the local Whole Foods for pick up.
As others have said, plan ahead, eat in season, use the bulk bins to buy only what you need. Whole Foods doesn’t have to break the bank if you go in with a list, look for sales and take advantage of their 365 brand. I also find a lot of good deals at dollar stores and Big Lots: great places to stock up on canned beans, quinoa pasta, etc.
Bulk! Bulk, bulk, bulk, bulk, bulk.
I shop in the bulk bins at my co-op and grocery store and when I notice something that I normally use is on sale (oats, lentils, rice, etc) I fill up a big bag that will keep me stocked up for months!
My favorite tip for eating well without going broke is to PLAN. I save so much money when I have my meals planned out for the week. I also do best when I cook enough for 4-5 servings so I have a simple lunch ready for me each day. I’m more productive at work when I don’t have to stop and think about what to eat and then go get it. I also eat smaller portions when it’s planned ahead. My second favorite tip is… hot sauce. It just makes everything better!
My local “big box” store has plenty of organic choices. I buy organic frozen berries, bananas, fresh greens (all for daily smoothies), tofu and quinoa there. I buy beans and oats in bulk. I buy all other produce from a farmers market that sells to restaurants and the public on the cheap. Other than that I make a menu list each week which helps us to save huge since I don’t buy it if it’s not on the list. This strategy works anywhere and definitely saves me $ at WF when I go there.
I have several “mini tips” for eating well on a budget:
1. Keep a bag of frozen chopped kale in the freezer. I throw a small handful in nearly everything I cook (or blend, smoothies and such) for a nutritional boost.
2. Once bananas get too ripe to enjoy, peel and freeze them to put in smoothies.
3. Make your own hummus from canned garbanzo beans. It’s cheaper plus you get to control the ingredients/taste. No tahini on hand? Use a bit of peanut butter instead.
4. Buy in bulk from the health food section of the local grocery store. I love Whole Foods too, but my local HyVee has an awesome HealthMarket bulk section where stuff is a fraction of the WF price.
Thanks!! Great tips!
I eat pretty clean and healthy and am proud to say, not broke!
How I do it? Scour flyers for savings. I often compare supermarkets so I know certain things at Whole Foods are cheaper than at other local grocers who carry the same brands. I also make note of sale rotations (usually every 6 weeks).
Also, buying in bulk is key! And when I have an overabundance of food? Freeze it! Well, at least freeze what foods I can freeze.
I try to follow the Dirty Dozen as best as I can, but when at the Farmer’s Market, I will go for Local over Organic. Not all small farmers can pay for the Organic certification!
I go to the weekly farmer’s market right before they close. Everyone is looking to get rid of the remaining produce since it won’t keep for another week, so they start dropping prices. Then I stock up! Often, farmers will give me a whole bag of bruised peaches or ugly tomatoes for a dollar or two, and since looks don’t matter (they’re just going in the juicer, smoothies, soups, etc) I’m able to fill up my grocery bags for much less than in the store. Also, the comment above about ethnic stores is spot on – my local indian grocery sells bulk lentils for much less than other stores, and the middle eastern grocery has dates, nuts, homemade hummus, etc for much lower prices. Plus I’ve now become friendly with the store owners and they point out when things are a good deal or offer sale prices on bulk orders. Win win!
I think someone mentioned it but it bears repeating. If you do buy fresh herbs, a way to make them last is to pour a tablespoon of olive oil into each section of an ice cube tray. Then add some herbs and freeze. Next time you need fresh herbs, drop a cube into your pan and reheat. Great way to stretch a dollar!
We have a garden that we’re not real good at yet. 😉 One thing that does keep going and going are the herbs. We have parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary and lavender year-round. They all survive below-freezing temps. In the spring, I’ll buy 3 basil plants from our local nursery. These guys take off and give me plenty of basil all summer and fall until the first freeze.
Like Jennifer above, I make veg stock out of all my unused bits of vegetables. The peels, the ends, whatever, go into a ziplock in my freezer. I also add the water from steaming veggies. When it’s full the whole thing goes into a crockpot with water up to the top and it cooks overnight. Practically free, no salt or oil added stock.
Also I use my pressure cooker to cook a pound of dried beans at a time. Since we’re a family of 5 it’s only a little more than 2 meals’s worth, but there’s very little packaging this way, and it’s much cheaper.
This is a wonderful post, thank you!
Produce at Whole Foods is good quality, and if you stick to produce, the grocery bill remains inexpensive. Avoid $10 granola.
-Oatmeal for breakfast (or overnight oats) is filling, nutritious, and can be mixed up in so many ways, sweet or savory. Mash a banana in there for extra texture and sweetness. Or grate some cheese in it. Very cost-effective.
-Buying whole leaf tea is much more cost effective than tea bags, which can get pricey if you love tea like me! Especially for high quality green tea you only need a small pinch of tea and you can re-steep throughout the day (being Chinese, every tea store I go to puts WAY too much tea in).
-For lunch and dinner, I often roast a ton of vegetables, make quinoa/rice/barley mixture, and then “splurge” on a nice cheese. Goat cheese crumbles are great and have lots of flavor, or a shredded parmesan. Salt and Pepper are all you need for seasoning!
I love to chop up lots of veggies and make salad dressing Sunday night so that all I have to do is top some lettuce with the pre-cut veggies, add some quinoa or canned beans, and dressing. Delicious dinner!
Eating well AND cheap during the workday has been one of my struggles, especially since there are so many yummy (and expensive) restaurants within walking-distance of my office. I plan my lunches for the week before I go shopping and then spend Sunday afternoon cooking a big batch of something to eat on – usually stew, stir-fry, or a veggie sandwich I can throw together every morning. Taking my own lunch isn’t as fun as eating out, but I have lost weight and cut my lunch costs in half, which IS fun. It has been worth the extra couple of hours on the weekend to plan and cook for the week’s lunches!
Whole Foods gives you a case discount of 10% on things such as bananas. I buy a whole case and dehydrate a bunch (heh), for banana chips, and peel and freeze the rest. The frozen ones get dropped into smoothies or blended in a high speed blender for banana “ice cream”. It is rich and creamy, with no dairy.
Limiting eating out to once a week and buying whole, unprocessed foods as well as bulk foods!
We do a lot to try to cut down on our grocery bill, the biggest one being that we buy in bulk a lot. Especially spices. That way, you only get what you need, your spices don’t go bad, and you can experiment with lots of spice combinations without forking $5 over for every full jar of spices. SO much fun 🙂
i buy a lot of dried things when they are on sale… and my kids especially love greens, grains, beans so that works really well for us! i also rarely use stock in the full amount it calls for… usually just about half and then the rest is water and potentially some spices. saves on the salt intake as well!
My favorite thrifty ideas for this week include a big pot of lentils seasoned with garlic that I cooked up Saturday and portioned. I can easily take a portion for lunch or dinner and add salsa or sriracha for a filling meal. I also keep a large portion of spinach to add as a side with the lentils if I’m extra hungry. Additionally I also found a huge (and I mean really big!) red pepper at a small local market for $1. I cut it up into slices and have that for snacks. Yummy!
We use the crockpot to make bean stew at least once a week. dried beans bought in bulk. less expensive veggies such as cabbage, potatoes, carrots, etc. I freeze all my veggie scraps to make veggie stock later. Basically it’s one of the cheapest, easiest, most nourishing meals possible.
To save money I plan out my food for the week based on recipes and I end up plugging these ingredients into a spreadsheet so then I know exact quantities I require. In this case, I don’t buy too much of an ingredient that goes to waste, such as an obscure item I would only use one-time. I also notice by doing this exercise that there are items common to the recipes I like and therefore if it is a non-perishable item and it is on sale then I will buy more for the next week.
Thanks for the awesome tips!
I try to limit eating out to once a week.
I take time on the weekends to cook/bake things for the week and sometimes will make them in bulk so that I can freeze half of them.
Cook. Just cook your own food and you will be healthier and save lots of big bucks. Prepping our own food for 3 meals a day is how my husband and I saved up for our 6.5 month trip around the world.
When Harris Teeter has organic produce in the reduced for sale today bargain bin, I go for it! One location has a whole row of shelves for this. Another location just puts the bagged items in an empty cart in the produce section. Sometimes things are packaged together like 2 or 3 kinds of apples. sometimes it’s raspberries or mushrooms. Either way, they are usually $1. $1!!!! Love that! Fridays seems to be about the best day for this, but you could call your local store and ask.
If I need special ingrediants in small amounts, like roasted peppers or pesto, I get it from the salad bar at Whole Foods so I don’t have to pay for a lot that I won’t use. Also, special dried herbs I buy in the bulk section, but only about 1 tablespoon amount. The cashier often charges pennies (or even nothing) because it doesn’t weigh anything on the scale.
Wow I couldn’t read all the tips – too many! But I saw a lot of what I was going to post, which is that if I take the time to plan out meals for the week, and write out ingredients lists (grouped by sections of the grocery store), I can get through shopping buying a lot less. If I go shopping without doing that, I end up spending way more, and buying way more “convenience” dinners.
The two best tips for saving money while eating well are planning and prepping your food for the week and buying the non-perishables in bulk. Keeping a stocked pantry really helps me to avoid picking up something quick and cheap (and usually unhealthy).
Cook books are great for coming up with ideas when you’re stumped. And like Matt said, substitute when you don’t have what you need or are trying to save a bit.
Buy dried beans and cook them. So. So. Cheap. And you bypass the sodium in the canned stuff.
Eating well without going broke totally does NOT mean skipping fresh herbs! For a buck or two you can get a seed pack with hundreds of seeds! Grow those herbs – inside on the windowsill, outside in containers and in the yard. While you’re at it, start a wide variety of veggie seeds too! Fresh is best – and not much is more rewarding than germinating seeds.
I save money by cooking dry beans as much as possible and buying produce that is on special.
I meal plan for the week. It makes it so I only go to the store once, limited impulse buys, and it also makes it so I waste less food!
GFS has big bags of organic frozen veggies!
My tip is to alter your grocery list to whatever is on sale. Buy lots of it. If you have too much, freeze it. I ask for discounts on cases. Then select a bunch of recipes that have similar ingredients but seem very different based on what you purchased. Then make smoothies or soup including the scraps and stuff that is about to spoil.
Get beans from the bulk bins then cook and freeze. It’s easy, you just have to do it (which is always my issue!)
I stock up on bulk dried beans and grains and have a pressure cooker so I can cook them fast. I also eat a LOT of whatever produce is in season, since it’s usually the cheapest buy. I garden and freeze the extra harvest so I can enjoy it all winter long. I agree that when money gets tight, I go for more pasta – you can go a long way with pasta and cans of store-brand tomatoes or tomato sauce, garlic, and some dried herbs and spices, plus some lentils on the side. Final trick – our local natural food stores have a half price veggie area where you can get organic veggies that are a little sad for cheap, and often the veggies on that shelf look better than the conventional ones at the big store chains.
One of the ways we save money on groceries is to make double batches of homemade foods that we use instead of convenience foods. We freeze extra pancakes and muffins instead of buying the frozen packages from the store for quick breakfasts. I love the bean bars from this site instead of granola bars for after school snacks. I also always check the discounted produce section for bananas that have begun to go brown. We’re just going to stick them straight into the freezer for smoothies anyway!
As another poor college student, I was thrilled when I found the discount section at Kroger. Most, if not all, Kroger stores have a discount section where food has been marked down to ‘Manager’s Specials’. The best thing about this that many dietary supplements, organic cereals, organic shelf stable milks and various other items make the section- so sometimes, if I’m lucky, I can find some cheap healthy items. Also, in the produce section, some fruits are also discounted due to being very overripe. These are great to buy if you plan on using them in a recipe or just enjoy ripe fruit. The only catch is that you have to use them relatively soon.
Eat before going to the store! Always saves me money because my eyes are bigger than my stomach!
I save by buying fruit and vegetables in bulk at farmer’s markets during the season and freezing them in 2 cup baggies or containers. I also buy the bean soups on sale and make them in the crockpot, freezing separate containers for later. When cutting up vegetables or fruits, I put the ends and things that would go in the compost pile in a plastic bag in the freezer. When it comes time to make soup stock, I toss in the ends from the baggie. Obviously, the freezer is my friend!!!
“$5 dollars rule!”
When I go in to the grocery, I have a certain budget. Let’s say “$80” from this store this week. I would add up each increment of $5. If you get $2.99 and $1.99, I would count as “1”. They need to be rounded off. $6.99 would be “2”, but “$5.99” and “$3.99” would be “1”. In the end, what you add in the basket would come very close to the number you have budgeted ($5 x 16). This means you are selecting your choice very carefully. There would be no more ice cream, chocolate bar, and cookies. You would select your choices wisely in terms of your health and budget. Your craving would be under control.
Two things that I do to stretch my dollar is to use dried beans instead of canned and to take advantage of the “buy one, get one free” deals on fruit. I take the “free” one and individually freeze them for later use in smoothies.
Eating on the cheap without going broke: A lot of things I do have been mentioned… Maybe I would throw in obsessive use of canned tomatoes. I found a brand at the local Dollar Tree that is basically the same found at most stores (not organic or anything, just basic) to enhance stews– and they have beans there too. Also, scout local grocery stores for ones that have cheap bags of overripe produce. I have a local international market that bags up on-the-verge produce and sells it for a dollar. While this produce doesn’t do well for fresh eating, it is great for cooking.
I buy things in bulk like nuts, seeds, quinoa, and millet. I also don’t buy packaged foods and buy a lot of bananas, rice, and potatoes!
Not really a “hack”, but I’ve made Greek yogurt in my CrockPot. No added junk, and WAY cheaper than any of the fancy ones out there. Really, any CrockPot is a hack by itself — warm food you can eat as soon as you walk in the door from work!
These were great tips! I definitely enjoy going to Whole Paycheck, er um I mean Whole Foods! Haha! I like to buy some of my fresh produce from my local farmer’s market and the fill in the gaps at stores like Whole Foods. Saves me money and keeps me on the healthy eating track. I also do meal prepping with items I buy in bulk. Lots of rice and beans, and combining of things like you mentioned. A couple hours on the weekend saves me tons of time during the week when it’s time to eat. I would also like to point out that I should TOTALLY win this because we just got a Whole Foods in my area and I’d like to shop there more often! 😀
We have “skillet feast” once a week, where we take all the little bits of dinner leftovers and warm them (each in its own “corner”) in the cast iron with some new rice and eat family-style out of it. It’s fun and like a treat because you get so many tastes of different dishes.
I stretch our grocery dollars by buying all our staples in bulk at the co-op. The Asian grocery store near our house has lots of leafy, loose, fresh vegetables, so we go once a week on their shipment day. It’s much cheaper than conventional grocery stores, far less packaging, and always includes something new/different to cook with!
I like fresh vegetables but agonize when I can’t consume all that I buy in time. Solution to eating cheap and healthy without going broke is to purchase the “mini” option from our local farm co-op. The publicize the contents a week in advance, so it’s plenty of time to plan. I also seek out other members to swap veggies, so we all get our favorites.
I try to make meals that do double duty–tonight we’re having brown rice-lentil stuffed peppers with a sides of roasted sweet potatoes and sauteed spinach, tomorrow we’ll have brown rice/spinach/sweet potato/black bean enchiladas. The preparation will change the flavors enough, but the ingredients are mostly pre-cooked from the night before (and still nutritous)!
I recommend planning your meals so that you don’t waste any money during the week. Also, bananas can take you a long way. So, can peanut butter and jelly 🙂
Meal planning to prevent food waste is #1. Second is buying in bulk in conjunction to meal planning. This cuts down on packaging waste as well.
I have several tips for cutting costs! The first is to get a used freezer or two (I have two medium ones….if one dies, I can put its contents in coolers and also in any empty space the other one. I got my two freezers for $100 each. I cook in bulk to save time, and freeze foods in recipe amounts or as fully made recipes in appropriate serving amounts. A freezer also allows you to buy in bulk if you run into a sale on perishables like breads, berries or frozen vegetables. The second tip is to buy less expensive beans and grains in bulk for big savings! try the international and Asian markets for great deals on these. Keep them in sealed Rubbermaid containers. The third tip is to save pot liquor from all cooked vegetables in your freezer. Use this pot liquor to make soup in the future. This way you are not throwing away vitamins and nutrients after cooking potatoes, green beans, and other vegetables. Finally, here is an easy and fast and filling recipe: Taco soup! Take beans of choice with broth of choice (such as pot liquor mentioned above) and puree with some taco seasoning. Add some chopped onions and greens. ….and remember, you can put the leftovers in your freezer, hahaha!
I use coupons, shop specials, batch cook and plan my meals so I only buy what i need for the week.
Buy items in bulk whenever possible, cook your own beans instead of buying canned (the cost adds up) and freeze what you don’t immediately use.
We love cheap easy meals. My daughter is picky and doesn’t love any bean other than the refried beans. I will smash previously used pinto beans up and voila, instant easy beans. She hasn’t complained yet. My son loves rice and beans. We like to add some hot sauce to ours but not everyone likes them that way. We also do a lot of salads and add beans, quinoa, rice & anything else that sounds yummy at that moment.
I am so enjoying these comments – tons of great ideas! My tip is a simple one – keep the pantry stocked! While doing your normal weekly grocery run for fresh veggies, look for sales on staples that last for months/years like veggie broth, beans, pasta, olive oil and buy ’em up!
I’m a huge fan of Linda Watson’s “Wildly Affordable Organic.” She lays out a vegetarian meal plan which meets all nutritional needs (fat and protein), is mostly organic, and is $5 a day or less. Her threshold comes from her experience doing the Food Stamp Challenge with her husband (where people who don’t need food stamps pretend to be on food stamps for a week or two to demonstrate the need for a stronger program). Her method takes planning, buying in bulk, and working ahead — as well as access to a moderately-stocked kitchen — but it works. And I find her recipes, both in the book and in her weekly newsletters, to be tasty, filling, and diverse.
My tip is to use what you have. You can come up with a sub for just about anything. Hummus with white beans and peanut butter instead of chick peas and tahini, for instance. The point is not only to use up what you have, but also to stay out of the store, where you are likely to come out with more than the two items you “needed”.
My #1 tip: don’t shop when hungry!
Otherwise, lots of variations on grains, beans, and vegetables. And buy the grains and beans in bulk.
I bake all of our bread. It tastes a million times better, is healthy and fresh and saves loads of money. And no weird additives!
Other than the whole shop sales, buy in bulk, and avoid processed foods advice, I find that not classifying foods as “breakfast” foods or “dinner” foods to be very helpful. I often have leftovers from a previous meal and rather than always taking for “lunch” or whatever, I may have lentil shepherd’s pie for breakfast. It is fast, filling and keeps me from reaching for just any old thing because I am short on time.
I just started on a plant based diet and trying to transition my family. I try to stock up on a few fresh veggies and incorporate into as many meals as possible for example bell peppers … in a pasta salad, cut up to eat as is, placed on a wrap with humus and cut into slices to make pinwheels, sauted with other veggies over pasta and mixed with beans over rice.
One of the things I’ve done since eating vegan and/or organic is shopping in the Reduced Price/ Must Go containers at my local grocery stores, from the major chains to the local co-ops. All my fancy organic apples are from the “bruised but good for juicing” bin at my co-op. Ha! Those things are still fabulous to eat. Also, I’ll buy reduced price bananas no matter their level of ripeness. Before too far gone, I will peel and halve the bananas and throw in the freezer for future snacks/breakfast/smoothies! I never waste a banana….
Buy only what you need! It’s never a bargain if it goes to waste!
plan ahead and buy in bulk!
My tip for eating healthy on the cheap: Make your own (whole wheat) bread! It’s super easy to do with all the no-knead recipes going around, and then you know for sure what’s going in there. It’s a pretty fun hobby, and all your healthy-bread-baking skills can be shown off to family members and friends on special occasions in the form of fancy baguettes, braided breads, or hearty seeded breads. Also, carnivores aren’t put off by vegan bread, so it’s a great option for bringing to share at dinner parties and gatherings.
I recently read a book called “An Everlasting Meal” by Tamar Adler, and implementing her tips has been huge for us! Buying vegetables (beets, turnips, carrots) with the tops still attached gives you two vegetables in one: sautee the tops or turn them into pesto by whirring in the food processor with garlic and olive oil. We also save all of our ends and trimmings of vegetables in a freezer bag. Once a week, pop them into a pan and cover with water, add some garlic, seasonings, etc. and simmer for about 30 minutes for tasty veggie broth. Then I strain out the solids and toss them, and add a can of tomatoes and whatever leftovers I have in the fridge — that tiny amount of lentils leftover from a few nights ago, the veggie stir-fry from yesterday, that tiny amount of leftover pasta or rice — and bam! Soup!
I buy in bulk always (frozen veggies, frozen fruit, brown rice, beans). I use all perishable items up before buying more – using what’s on hand to make meals. Always have leftovers for the next days lunch. Never eat out. Buy items on sale and freeze.
Potatoes (organic, of course)….red and sweet potatoes are my favorites and I love baking or boiling a bunch and keeping them in the fridge. Then, when there is leftover soup in the fridge (“Cheddary” Broccoli Soup, anyone?), I use a bit of soup as a potato topper to make things stretch even further. It works just as well w leftover steamed veggies or sauteed greens……top a (cheap) potato!!!
It might sound a little obvious but my thrift tip is to check whether any vegetables I have in the house are on their way to going bad and, if they are, IMMEDIATELY make them into soup that I can then freeze and eat later. If fruit looks to be on the turn, I make it into a smoothie and freeze that, too. I don’t think I’ve ever had to throw away a piece of fruit or a vegetable!
great post! I’m so happy you’re blogging more frequently. My favorite tip for eating healthy and saving money is buying berries in season and then freezing them. They are great for smoothies all year around!
I try to plan each week’s meals ahead, so that I can make a list of what I need and stick to it at the grocery store. I try to make complementary meals so that all of the leftover ingredients get used within a week or two. Stay away from processed foods, like faux meats and cheeses. Lots of potatoes, brown rice, and bananas, all of which are fairly cheap.
I try to save money buy trying to remember what I have in my pantry. I buy things in bulk when they’re on the sale at the grocery and freeze it or store it in my pantry. But I seem to forget it’s there and then I feel like I don’t have any food when dinner comes around. I’ve started planning a whole week where I only buy fresh fruit and veggies and supplement with food I have squirreled away in the pantry or freezer. It’s amazing how much food you have when you look for it.
Don’t be picky, eat simply. Plan ahead for not so simple meals. Learn to love your crock pot.
Oats are really cheap, whether purchased in bulk or not. And, they are super filling. I like to heat rolled oats on the stove with dried cranberries and a couple slivered almonds for breakfast, but my boyfriend recently proved to me that I can simply add hot water to them and let them sit for a while and they’ll “cook” pretty well that way, too — meaning I can prep them using the hot water dispenser we have at work, too. And, thesimpleveganista has a very simple 4-ingredient cookie-type recipe that is a great way to use over-ripe bananas and oats.
Bananas! Cheap and easy to find in bulk. I slice them up, freeze them and use them for shakes. Easy, fast and inexpensive – AND fills you up! My favorite – 3 frozen bananas, 6-7 leafs of romaine lettuce, 2 tsp of chia seeds, 1 scoop of chocolate vegan protein powder, water.
Beans and rice, frozen fruit. Aldis has good cheap food where I live. Even fresh fruit, greens, and sweet potatoes. Lots of potatoes.
We save money by subscribing to a CSA in our area. We pay $120 a month for pretty much all the fresh vegetables we can eat. It’s easy to buy staples like bread, peanut butter, grains, etc. for the rest of our meals fairly cheaply and so lower our overall grocery bill.
1.first off keep it simple, the fewer the ingredients, the less expensive the meal.
2. no need to buy or make salad dressings, just cut up some fruit to add to your salad, like an orange or apple.
3.fill the simple recipe with ingredients that will fill you up faster, so you won’t need larger quantities of ingredients. I can make one meal out of one of those delicious Japanese Yams.
4. FREE FOOD:check and see if you can start a CSA in your area, the farmer may offer you a free share if you have enough people to start a group.
5. CHANGE your way about thinking about food. For example, 2 things you always thought you needed to have in your diet. Olive oil may not necessarily be the health food you always thought it was.You can make dressings without oils. Read up on grains and why they may not be the healthiest thing for you to have in your diet. Fruit can be a meal or eaten before your meal. You will feel full, full of energy.
I use my crockpot every week…beans, vegetables and nuts in numerous combinations. Delicious and always ready at dinner time!
We use the clean 15/dirty dozen list when we’re feeling poor. Also, I’ve been following you for a bit now, and somehow missed you live in Asheville! I was born + raised, but sadly only go back now to visit the parents. Definitely jealous of all your grocery shopping + restaurant options!
For me using a pressure cooker is the way to keep it cheap, healthy and great tasting. Cooking dry bean is quick and easy, veggies, rice both easy and quick too. You can cook soups and stews in bulk and freeze. You can even make healthy deserts using the pressure cooker.
I’m lucky enough to live in part of the country that has Publix’s which ALWAYS have BOGO’s; every week. That’s when I stock up on hummus, veggie burgers, pasta, sauces, etc. With the BOGO, it’s often cheaper (and obviously less time consuming then making my own). Plus I’ll be all set when the zombie apocalypse comes.
Fruit and vegetables are usually not included in these sales so I hit the farmer’s market for that when I can.
My tip is to look for CSA’s and freeze (or dry if you have a dehydrator like I do) anything that you don’t think you’ll use before it goes bad. If you have a bigger CSA than you have people in your house, you’ll be able to stock up for the other half of the year that the farms aren’t offering CSA’s.
I make large meals and then freeze them. I also prepare and use a lot of dry beans for my soups which are extremely cost efficient. I also love hot sauce and cayanne pepper. They add a lot of flavor and zing to any dish.
Great ideas here! Love that you mentioned soup and the smell of grandma’s kitchen!
My tip: Plan a menu. At my house, we eat a lot of the same things during the week to make our shopping quick, easy and cheap. As much as I love to switch things up and try new foods, I know I don’t have a lot of downtime during the week to spend with my boyfriend and dogs. To make up for that, we cook easy peasy meals with simple ingredients (a lot of frozen veggies!) and then have some extra cash on the weekends for a special meal out. My time spent being with them is just as important as money I spend on food. 🙂
In order to save money on our grocery bill (which is a necessity after just moving to expensive Hawaii), we start with a weekly CSA box and then go shopping for bulk items and other additions at Costco, the local Whole Foods, and use Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program. We also make our own soy milk and use dried beans in a pressure cooker. Finally, we try to keep our meals as simple as possible, using the same ingredients for multiple meals.
We started planning our meals for the week. Then, we buy exactly what we need and there is no waste. Plus, it makes cooking quicker because you don’t have to spend time figuring out what you can make with what’s in the fridge and then finding a recipe.
For healthy, easy and cheap:
1. Can of vegetarian refried beans. $1
Add some other beans, optional. ($1)
2. Brown rice. $2-$3
3. Salsa of your choice. $3-$5
4. Tortillas. $2-$3
That’s at most $13 – $15 for some good meals plus some to freeze for later.
Add some spices as necessary and you have plenty of plant based protein and iron.
My Tip is I have an organic garden and SAVE loads of money by growing my own organic produce. I also save all my scraps from cutting veggies, spinch or produce that has past its date and I freeze them and make my own veggie broth about once a month.
I love a green smoothie! I use fresh greens and apples, grapes, bananas and then buy the other, non-seasonal fruit, frozen. I order a lot from Vitacost and save huge on the hemp protein and other essentials like Desert Essence products for hair and body.
I also love roasting veggies and eating with beans and steamed greens.
I love my tiny health food store and they have a bulk section where I buy things like raw sunflower seeds or grains to try in small amounts.
I like to plan ahead and make something large ex. ham, roast of some type and plan meals using leftovers for a few days later. You would be surprised what you can come up with just adding beans, rice, potatoes, pasta to, just about anything to stretch the main ingredient out for a few days. I also make and freeze quantities for later use. Salads are a big part of meals at our house and they fill you up and can be made in such a variety of ways to add to the main course.
I love Amazon!!! I buy in bulk there–things like oats, nutritional yeast, spelt flour (my favorite flour) and cashews. I also love Costco–they have a wide variety of organic stuff and I usually hit them up every month or so to stock up.
I can think of a couple of good ways of saving money. Buy in bulk (and cook in bulk) and either freeze or split costs with a friend. Also, use coupons combined with sales whenever possible.
I’ve been saving money since I ate meat… long before my 38 veg years. It gets harder and harder, but the rule doesn’t change. Keep it simple. Cook what you buy, eat what you cook. Cook enough to have leftovers so you don’t hit a meal wall and do something foolish (costly, that is). Use a pressure cooker or slow cooker to make dried beans, and store them in ‘can’ sized containers – 1 1/2 cups (no cans, no chemicals). If your salad greens are wilting, make soup. If you buy cilantro, make a pesto or chutney with whatever you won’t use fresh in a few days. Ah, there’s more, but the final idea that worked for me when we had young kids: put a jar of peanut butter on the table for the picky one(s) – ‘don’t tell me what you don’t like, just get the PB (or another niche universal kid food that’s table safe) and help yourself — no separate cooking for the kids, no catering to each one — you save time and money and aggravation! Whatever you do, eat well.
I buy bulk! And when in really trying to save – I do a big batch of the same thing and freeze. No canned anything – I’m soakin me some beans!! I can live with no variety for awhile to keep the electricity on!!
I love the salad bar berry idea…genius!
A few of my ideas:
1. Meal plan in advance 1 week at a time. It will make it easier to grab stuff you don’t need at the grocery store.
2. Don’t eat out. First of all vegan options are limited at most restaurants. And most vegan restaurants are even more expensive than normal ones.
3. Eat whole foods. Processed vegan foods are super expensive.
4. Make the base of your meal beans, rice, pasta and/or root veggies.
5. Grow your own food. I have no land so I do it in containers.
6. Buy from farmers markets. As I buy most of my food this way the local farmers give me a better price since I buy from them regularly.
7. Eat what’s in season. Berries in winter for example, are really expensive.
8. Get a pressure cooker and cook your own beans and freeze for later. You’ll save in the long run even after buying the pressure cooker.
9. Pick your own fruits and veggies if you live near farms that do this. Then can or freeze for later.
There are so many great tips on this thread! Thanks to all you inspirational, penny-wise vegans out there I am going to hit up the grocery store with even greater intention this weekend. Below are my ten tips for eating vegan on the cheap!
1. Cook mega-batch meals on weekends (or when you have the time) for the week ahead.
2. Soups and stews are the perfect panacea for chilly winter lunches and leave your wallet and stomach full! In NYC, soup often runs $4-$7 for a 1-1.5 cup serving. Skip the price gouging, throw some greens/beans/broth/spices into a pot, and voila, lunch is served. My go to item (which I got at 30% discount at Whole Foods) is a Klean Kanteen thermos…it’s easy to fill, easy to clean, and allows me to skip the microwave on lunch break.
3. Ditto for smoothies. Way overpriced and way more fun to whip up your own. Use frozen fruits and buy whole foods protein powders in bulk, when on sale, to sprinkle in for a balanced 4:1 recovery shake.
4. Make your own granola and store it in jars. Better yet, make your own yogurt (it’s simpler than you think) and eat it with your homemade granola!
*Pro tip: Add almond extract or another aromatic extract for extra flavor! A $7 bag of store-bought granola won’t last long. Your $6 bottle of almond extract will last for many, many batches!
5. Complement your trips to Whole Foods or your local grocery with a CSA membership or bargain hunting for in-season items at your local farmers market.
6. Plan frequent potlucks with friends and skip the restaurant shenanigans.
7. Grow your own herbs on the windowsill, start a backyard veg patch, or join a community garden! Bonus points for sharing your harvest with your fellow garden members. As a creative whole foods chef in Vermont once said to me, “Barter smarter!”
8. Only shop when your fridge is empty of all perishable goods!
9. Visualize your grocery bill ringing up as you place things in your cart. Set a budget. Know your prices. Scour for sales. If you want to go extreme, lookout for (barely) expired canned goods on the shelves…you can often get these fo’ free!!
10. Skip the pricey “energy bars” and make your own to stash for work or as a fast fix post-workout. There are a bunch of fantastic recipes on NMA! Or try customizing your own energy/protein bar recipes, adapting the ingredients list of your favorite off the shelf items (Kind Bars, Vega Bars, etc)
Grow your own herbs. Basil and cilantro are essentially weeds. Sprinkle the seed in a pot or in the garden, cover lightly, water, and you will have more of either herb than you know what to do with.
In the furthest sense similar to pasta (though really, ask any Asian food lover and they will hit you very hard) I’d recommend making ramen-style noodles (or Pho or whatever else you fancy) with more or less veggies at any occasion. Combined with a couple of dried mushrooms (my 6$ bag has lasted me for 4 months now) and frozen vegetables it’s not only cheap but also super-quick. For the health aspect I’d recommend to buy the actual noodles in bulk and not the ramen packages (though I do find myself guilty of that). In my opinion the ultimate addition represents some dashi sauce – which well-placed can also last you for a long time.
I’ve tried to limit my visits to Whole Foods to save money but I will have to try some of these tips because I love their food selections and their ethics. I save by keeping meals simple (fancy additions get pricey), eat lots of basics like beans and potatoes, and I use the local store app to do the coupon thing. Just by scanning a bar code on my phone (Kroger) I saved over $50 on my last big trip which was about a quarter of my bill.
Whole Foods always has some sort of fruit that’s on sale. So, I just buy a bunch of that each week. It’s usually a fruit that’s in season, so it’s super tasty. Also, since it follows the seasons, it builds in a variety throughout the year.
Meal planning! My supermarket costs are so much lower when I go in with a list of supplies for the 2-3 meals I plan to cook – it really helps me avoid wasting money on perishable items that I can’t figure out a use for in good time.
I love using my slow cooker to cook up large batches of beans, then freezing in smaller batches for later use. I like the consistency of home-cooked beans better than the canned ones, plus I don’t have to deal w/the weird “goop” that some beans seem to come in!
Eating plant-based on the cheap: I buy my non-perishable foods in bulk, like one or two months of food at a time so that 1) I don’t have to go shopping as much and save on gas 2) I always have enough options so that I don’t get bored with what I’m eating. I buy my fresh produce at a discount fruit and vegetable market that gets all the leftover food from a local farmer’s market. If something is on sale, I’ll buy it and freeze it or preserve in some way.
Make way more than you need to save time later. Especially if the ingredients were on sale.
When my local grocery store puts a fruit on sale, I buy loads. Then wash, dry, chop and freeze! To keep them sticking to each other, I freeze the pieces spread out on top of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Pineapples were on sale for $1.50 each not long ago. I bought several, chopped and froze bites and they’ve lasted me months! Perfect for smoothies.
I make a one pot stew or pasta dish loaded with veggies served with warm bread, then eat cold for the next few days. saving electricity allows me to expand grocery budget!.
Don’t be afraid to substitute and use what’s in season. In season fruits and veggies are cheaper than out of season. And buy organic spices when on sale and experiment. Changing up the spices used in a recipe can make it brand new.
potatoes, specially in season. You can get a 10 pound bag for five bucks. Fries, mashed, baked or my favorite is to make soup in the crock. Slice up some carrots celery onion, add whatever spices are on hand & salt to the water. yo’ve got several meals for just a couple bucks
Buy dry beans. One bag can run you about $1.50 however you can soak them over night add celery, carrots, onion, your choice of broth and seasonings and have at least 9 to 11 one cup servings. Serve the beans with a 1/2 cup of rice. The rice will run you about 3.00. The entire meal will cost you under 10 dollars including the celery, onion, abd carrots, and you will have at least 11 meals if you divide and put the meals in your freezer.
Well i am just starting out but what has been helpful to me so far is planning, planning, planning. I get a list together of quick easy meals for the week and then just pick off the list. it has been a huge help, time saver, and brain saver.
Plan ahead. And, LEFTOVERS LEFTOVERS LEFTOVERS! I swear there is nothing more delicious than leftovers from a vegan meal.
Lower food costs:
Buy in bulk when available & shelf stable for the time you’ll want to store it
Learn to love the scratch and dent fruits and veggies
Be adventurous with trying new foods
Use the deep freezer, dehydrator and seal a meal for storage of bulk products & extra leftovers
Buy dried beans & rehydrate but keep a can of no salt for quick dishes
Clip, print copy new recipes to try to keep things interesting & find ways to make typical processed items at home (like tortillas, sandwich and pita breads, jams, nut butter)
Plan your menu weekly, biweekly, monthly then make a list after checking your stored items
Engage the whole family
Three things for eating well and not going broke: (1) shop in bulk (2) use coupons and shop sales (3) don’t throw ANYTHING away! literally – if a fruit or veggie is near going bad, I chop it up and freeze it for smoothies, soups, stir fries, etc. Using the whole onion or tomato or cucumber or potato instead of seeding/coring/peeling it; being creative with scraps (e.g. I always zest citrus fruits before I eat them, and freeze the zest for later use; you can make awesome relish out of bell pepper pith and seeds)
My favorite way to eat healthy and frugally is to do the same as what you’ve outlined in terms of grains and beans, which I buy in bulk. I also save the “scraps” from EVERY vegetable and toss it in the slow cooker to create richly flavored broths, rather than buying packaged. I buy vegetables with the greens attached and use them in foods, broths, or smoothies (I’m VERY partial to beets and their greens for smoothies for delightful color and flavor). Finally, I toss things into the slow cooker and conserve time and energy, which I use to pursue my mileage and to practice yoga.
SHOOT! I’m a GF plant-based starving college student and I’m a day late to the party. AHHH I could have used that gift card so badly! I’ll still throw in my two cents:
Hummus is your friend. I buy a couple of jars at a time, and use it as my main protein source for my meals. My go-to dinner that I have probably three times a week is a baked potato, a huge glob of hummus, and a side of frozen vegetables. It’s so super cheap, and since I live alone, it’s a quick meal (utilize that microwave!) that doesn’t create a crapload of leftovers that I’d get sick of after a few runs.
Also, skip out on cereal. THAT is the worst deal you can possibly get, unless you hate your tastebuds and want to suffer with the economy bags of Malt-O-Meal.
I love to pick blueberries, strawberries, apples….anything in season to freeze for later! Yum! Thanks for the great article!
We save by making meals ahead for the coming weeks in bulk and freezing them!
Matar Paneer and rice (vegetarian)
Jyoti Matar Paneer costs about 3-3.50 a can and has 2-3 servings.
I eat it as a main course so it gives me two. I put a side of salad with some extra virgin olive oil/vinegar dressing on it.
Costs me about 1.75 – 2.00 a meal.
Organic pinto beans and rice: (vegan or vegetarian – depends on the type of wrap/tortilla you use)
Pick up whatever can of organic pinto beans is on sale and that runs me $1-1.50 and gives me 2-3 servings. Rice – I use a rice cooker and each serving of rice I have costs me about 15-25 cents.
I heat up a tortilla or wrap toss on the rice and beans – put on some chopped lettuce with some hot sauce and call it good
Costs about 1 dollar
Madras Lentils and rice (vegan)
Tasty Choice Madras Lentils – one serving is 1.75
with rice and salad
Costs about $2.00-2.10
I’ve found eating vegan on a budget to be an eye-opening experience! I tend to buy fresh over frozen as I eat so much produce, it rarely goes bad. This means I shop more frequently during the week, but it’s not inconvenient with my favorite store being close to home. I do split a costco membership and buy organic bread (for my husband) and they have a big selection of frozen organic fruits and veggies. I also stock up on items like organic quinoa and organic dried fruit. I also save a TON of money by ordering bulk, dry foods online. Stores like Vitacost have a HUGE selection and are also good sources for beauty/bathroom products. One item I tend to splurge on is high quality green tea. My favorite brand currently is Numi, but traditional medicinals is also great! One last tip – make your own cashew milk! IT IS SO EASY. Soak cashews overnight (or quick soak by soaking in boiling water for an hour). Strain the liquid and rinse thoroughly. In a blender, add soaked cashews and water and blend on high for 2 minutes. Add more water to taste and store in the fridge. You can also add vanilla, cinnamon, dates, turmeric. The options are endless. Also, with dry spices, check out the bulk spice section at whole foods! You will save a TON by foregoing the new jar. Just remember to save your spice jars and refill!
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