Grocery Hacks: 6 Money-Saving Tricks for the Plant-Based Athlete on a Budget
Imagine seeing $419.26 at the bottom of your grocery receipt. Now imagine that’s just for one week, and it’s just for you.
This is how much it costs vegan ultrarunner Scott Jurek to eat for a week, as calculated in Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Body. (Alright, now just for fun, feel free to imagine yourself winning the Western States 100, seven straight times.)
Okay, so most of us aren’t eating the 5,000 to 6,000 calories per day that Scott eats, and we’ll get off a little lighter as a result. But the type of food Scott eats isn’t any different from (or more expensive than) what the other plant-based athletes we trust are telling us to eat — organic fruits and vegetables, raw nut butter, fancy oils, and all sorts of products that blur the line between food and supplement.
And all bought at Whole Foods, of course. (Affectionately known as “Whole Paycheck.”)
So it begs the question: How are we mortals — and our families — supposed to make a healthy diet affordable?
An email from a concerned reader
A reader wrote to me the other day asking this very question:
I have been following you for about 1/2 a year now and have enjoyed your articles and thought provoking comments. My wife and I have changed even more our family dietary habits. Today was a real set back in taking the next step!! We went to Whole Foods to shop as they have a lot more of what you and the guru’s talk about keeping in our cupboards.
I was very dismayed at the cost of the products! My wife and I are on single income with 4 kids. There is NO WAY we can stay the course with what you and all the others say is the right way to eat whole food cleanly. The cost is out of this world. While we will be able to sustain our new lifestyle to some degree but not what you,Brendan Brazier, and Rich Roll subscribe to. So I am asking you, to help people with a limited budget and a what our society would call a large family get buy with you would call requirements for a healthy lifestyle.
So what’s the answer? How is anybody supposed to afford to eat as healthily as we’d all like? The first surprising thing is this.
Eating plant-based can actually cost less than eating meat.
Think about it. At three or four or more dollars per pound, meat is one of the more expensive items in the grocery store. There’s usually some waste associated with that as well.
Replacing it pound-for-pound with beans (just a simple example, but not too different from what many new vegans do) would result in significant savings, as even cooked organic beans in a can cost only a dollar or so per pound. Replacing the meat with tempeh or tofu would be more expensive than replacing it with beans, but that still wouldn’t result in a higher grocery bill than if you were to buy meat.
But this isn’t really the point. Most vegetarians and vegans aren’t satisfied to just replace meat with beans. As you know if you’ve done it, you inevitably want to branch out and explore new foods, one of the truly great things that happens when you go vegan. As you start to eat better, you want to try all the exotic superfoods you learn about, to see just how amazing food can make you feel.
That’s part of the fun, and no doubt, it can get expensive. So I’m not here to argue about the cost of this diet as compared to an omnivorous one. I just want to share a few of the things you can do to make the cost of your plant-based diet, whatever that may look like, less.
How to save money on healthy vegetarian food
1. Don’t (always) shop at Whole Foods.
I know, it’s fun. It’s Christmas for us veggie food nerds, and there’s something to be said for enjoying your shopping experience. But it’s also really, really expensive.
Instead, shop at a “normal” grocery store. Many of them now have organic store brands, like Nature’s Promise (the one at Giant), that cost only slightly more than the non-organic store-brand products. You won’t find everything you can get at Whole Foods, but hey, we’re talking about shopping on a budget here.
2. Don’t buy everything organic.
One of the great things about going vegetarian, for me, was that once I was no longer paying for meat, I could now afford to buy the organic stuff that I couldn’t before. But that became addictive, and as a result I now spend more on groceries than I did before I went vegetarian. And I’m okay with that, because I like the way buying organic makes me feel.
But if you’re looking to save some bucks, realize that you don’t have to buy everything organic. Check out the dirty dozen and try to get those organic, but also read the list of least contaminated foods and don’t shell out any extra cash for organic versions of those. And if skimping on organics isn’t sitting well, keep in mind that there’s still some argument about whether organic foods truly offer any health benefit over conventional foods.
3. Get to know the king of cheap, healthy, easy meals: “A grain, a green, and a bean.”
The general Grain, Green, Bean formula: In a single, large pot, cook the grain of your choice (quinoa and rice are my favorites) in water with a little salt. Once it’s almost done, add the chopped green of your choice (collards are fun, kale is tough but packed with nutrients). And while that wilts, add the cooked bean or legume of your choice. Then dress it up with sea salt, hot sauce, salsa, vinegar, soy sauce, or whatever else you’re in the mood for.
You can get fancier, when you feel like it. Sauteing an onion and garlic in the pot before you cook the grain adds some depth. You can use fresh beans that you’ve prepared, or even toss the fastest-cooking, dried legumes (like lentils) into the pot with the grains to cook them fresh.
The point is that it’s cheap, not to mention easy. Grain and beans can be extremely inexpensive if you choose wisely and buy them in bulk. (Cooking your own dried beans is even cheaper than buying canned, but less convenient.) The greens will be the most expensive part, and you can even skip them from time to time if you’re that hard up for cash.
4. Grow your own herbs.
This tip alone can save you hundreds of dollars per year. For a single bunch of herbs, you’ll pay close to what it costs for an already-started plant that you can put on your windowsill or porch and harvest again and again as needed.
Parsley and cilantro are the most common herbs that come up in recipes, but we have trouble growing them sometimes where I live. Rosemary, basil, thyme, and sage are all very easy to grow, and adding some plant life to your living area is nice for more than just your wallet.
5. Make everything you can.
As busy as we all are now, there’s something to be said for paying for convenience. But there’s something less obvious to be said for slowing down and spending an hour on a Sunday prepping food for the week, with some music or your spouse or your kid. It’s therapeutic.
So instead of buying pre-packaged salad, buy a few heads of greens and chop them yourself. Same with whatever other vegetables you want in there. (A salad spinner is a huge help here.)
My wife and I have started making our own almond butter in our Blendtec. (You know, “Will It Blend?”) There’s an initial investment, of course, but we’ve made many pounds of raw almond butter for less than five dollars a pound, instead of twelve.
And as I mentioned above, cook beans and grains from the dried versions, rather than using canned. It can take time, but most of it is hands-off. Plus is it makes the house smell good.
And finally, don’t forget that you can make your own, homemade sports drinks and gels that are far better than most of what’s in the stores, and cheaper than anything of comparable quality.
6. Don’t be afraid to substitute.
When a recipe calls for chia seeds or toasted sesame oil or tamari, by all means leave it out if you don’t already have it! Listen, I know it’s fun to make authentic recipes and do them right, but if it’s going to make the difference between your going vegetarian and not, skip the fancy stuff at first. Especially when it’s something you’ll have to buy a whole bottle or jar of, and you won’t use it again any time soon.
This tip can save you 15 or 20 dollars in a single grocery trip if your pantry isn’t already well-stocked.
See? Eating green doesn’t have to mean spending tons of it.
I’m sort of okay with spending extra money so I can put the best stuff in my body. For me, that’s something that’s worth allocating a bigger portion of the budget than what I allow for other things I want, like huge foam cowboy hats and pinwheels and a gumball machine. But I realize that not everyone wants to make food such a big part of their budget, and I hope this helps you if you find yourself in that boat.
So now I want to know: What are your favorite money-saving tricks that help you afford to eat this way? Let us know with a comment below.
I love this! Great tips. Although recently I discovered my Trader Joe’s bill was higher than my Whole Foods. REALLY sad. Something wasn’t right…but I’ve been just going to our good ol’ regular Giant and been just as happy. Can’t wait for the farmers market to come back though!
Great post & tips Matt- Eating healthy isn’t always cheap, but there’s definitely ways to make it as cheap as possible, and to be on the same page as a meat eater. My grocery bill is a lot lower than a lot of meat eaters I know!
Great tips! I’d add buying frozen fruits and veggies, especially for smoothies, since they’re so much cheaper usually.
This was my first thought too! Frozen fruits and veggies go a long way!
These are excellent tips. I love Whole Foods — I avoid Whole Foods.
Not only is the bean, green and grain meal an economical one, it’s also incredibly balanced and nutrient-dense.
I made my own almond milk this weekend. I won’t be buying it from the store much now — mine tastes better and is so fresh!
Just wondering how your almond milk keeps? I have made nut and rice milks and can’t get them to not go off!!! All my milks go of every 2/3 days.
My milks usually last (really fresh tasting) for about 4 days and I can stretch them to 6 but prefer making smaller batches more often (super fast and easy in a vitamix – also not cheap).
I definitely agree on #2! There’s a lot of pressure in this community to eat organic, as if you can’t live healthfully without it. Although I 100% support buying organic, I also know that I’m on an incredibly tight budget and so I have to do the best I can. For me, eating fruits and vegetables is the first priority, and buying them organic is secondary.
Great tips today! I’ve made a goal to start using dried beans instead of canned because we go through so many, but I’m having trouble getting it done. Definitely something I have to keep working on.
I run into the same time issue on the start-with-the-dried-beans thing. I’ve learned to make a big pot when I have the time and then freeze them in medium to small, very well labelled, tupperware. Very convenient to pull cooked beans from the freezer and toss them into whatever.
I once made the mistake of using big tupperware, but the beans froze into one giant iceberg so I couldn’t just use ‘some’, I had to use the whole kaboodle at once. (Made chilli.)
Reading this made me laugh! I made the same mistake; however, I decided to try and stab the iceberg into smaller pieces… After all that was said and done I decided to just reheat everything!
I found a local farm that is 3 years away from their organic certification, so their produce is cheap and organic enough for my family!
Thanks for the tips and helping me feel less guilty for not being able to go 100% organic!
I like to make a crockpot full of beans, I will put it on late at night with some garlic and onion or early in the morning like six a.m. It’s simple and your beans are ready for freezing or eating.
Cover the beans with water in a large bowl the night before cooking. The next morning rinse the besn in a colander. This makes the cooking time faster.
These are great tips and incredibly relevant. Just to add my 2 cents (pun intended), my family (myself, my wife and stepson) spend $150 – $200 in groceries for 2 weeks. We do just fine because we buy bulk foods whenever we can and extend our meals into the next day and more if we can. No matter my income throughout my stages of life, I’ve never felt economically restricted by my diet. Then again, I also don’t shop at Whole Foods (unless it’s just treats) and don’t buy supplements (except B12). It CAN be done and is not difficult.
Two words: Ramen noodles. Lol.
-I make as much food from scratch as possible, and I try to shop my cupboards more often.
-Making meals with what I have, rather than running to the store every day to buy special ingredients.
-Growing your own vegetables, not just herbs, is a much cheaper way to get pesticide-free food than buying organic.
-Buy food in season and store it. We can peaches and freeze berries in the summer for the winter, and in winter we don’t buy tomatoes but do buy oranges.
I’ve found that if you know what you’re looking for, shopping at WFs can be pretty easy on the budget. I go to WFs for bulk idea, their 365 brand canned beans, salad dressings, soy/almond milks and their store-made hummus are comparable/cheaper then elsewhere, and you don’t have to spend the time reading each label to make sure there’s nothing gross in it. (as opposed to say the Kroger bulk bin, where granola and other labels have to be read carefully) Also things like Bragg’s aminos vinegar are the same price as in the ‘organic’ section of the grocery store.
Another suggestion is a local farmshar that delivers weekly- saves a bit of $$, but saves a good deal of time and thought on dinner.
Yay for farmshares! I had a full share last year when I was eating raw and juicing and I’m debating getting 2 full shares this year. I might just increase the garden size though. Cheap, healthy, fresh, organic, and awesome.
This is a great post, Matt! You are so right, there are less expensive ways to eat healthy than loading the cart up with superfoods and fancy ingredients.
I’m totally intrigued by the grain, green and bean concept – I suspect this might become a staple in our house!
My favorite budget meal is vegetable soup. I simply saute an onion or two, add a bunch of chopped celery, a bunch of chopped carrots and say for instance a butternut squash. Sprinkle some garlic flakes in, add water and stock powder and cook until done. Then I blend it with my hand held blender, add some dark leafy greens and soy milk and Bob’s your uncle.
One thing I have found is local farmers markets are a great place to find good deals. My local one usually has bell peppers for a quarter, huge bunches of herbs for a dollar, broccoli stalks for a dollar, etc. To get an even better deal, go later in the day before the market closes. Sellers want to get rid of their produce and will practically give it away.
agree on the Farmer’s Market route. you can find all kinds of things that grocery stores may not carry for great prices.
Here in Kansas City, we also have some ethnic markets that carry the more exotic ingredients relatively cheap. One Mediterranean market has bulk spices for $1 a scoop, any spice you can think of, as well as bulk nuts, dried fruits, grains, rice and lentils.
My dilemma with the Farmers’ Market is… if you don’t get there early enough, a lot of the “good stuff” sells out, so I try to hit it when it opens. I’ll give it a shot at closing time, though, thanks to your tip, and see!
I’ve been eating healthy & budgeting for many years….
find a farmers market & go to it the last 20 minutes before closing time.
Make friends with the farmers/ workers & most veggies/ fruits can be had for $1 a lb or less!
I spend about $20 and get tons of fresh produce for the week.
Soups / rice / polenta /pasta/ bags of potatoes & sweet potatoes are all very affordable
staples to have in the house.
Whole foods is a rip off for the most part, I only shop there occasionally when they have certain sales, never buy their produce & always check the register for their coupon books.
Sometimes 99cent stores have organic deals too. In california Ralph’s supermarket has some good deals on organic stuff (always have 99cent organic kale )
1. Coupons are your friend. This goes for the coupon books that Whole Foods produces, books like Healthy Clippings that are exclusively for health food store type brands, and printable online coupons from Coupon Bug or a store-specific website like Target. Many product websites also have printable coupons – Stonyfield Farms and Seventh Generation almost always do. Also, a surprisingly large number of ‘normal’ brands can have coupons in the Sunday paper that are relevant for those trying to make more sustainable choices. For example, Reynolds has a recycled aluminum foil that can be had with a generic ‘reynolds’ coupon, PAM brand cooking spray has an organic version that a coupon would apply to.
2. Aftermarket/Surplus type stores. There are a lot of these that are local non-chains, but an example of a nationwide store that fits this description is Big Lots! or Deal$. These stores tend to just have a bunch of random stuff, much of it you don’t want. But there is a surprisingly large amount of organics/natural brands that show up at these places. Sometimes the food is closer to expiration (so be sure to check the date) or has a cosmetic problem with the packaging (who cares?), but many times the products are just overrun merchandise. These trips tend to be hit or miss, I’ll go to my local Cargo Largo (locally-owned Big Lots type store) three times in a row without getting anything, then the next time I go I’ll spend fifty bucks on two hundred worth of food.
3. Shop around – get different things at different stores. This is a good tip for saving money generally, but it certainly applies to this discussion. Certain products we buy at Whole Foods, certain products from Super Target, certain products from the local Grocery Store. The same exact product will be a different price at different stores – learn what store has what the cheapest.
4. Pay attention to sales. Self-explanatory.
5. Don’t forget the ‘normal’ brands. It is possible to find a lot of organic/natural products outside of the ‘health market’ section of grocery stores. PAM cooking spray has an organic version, Pace has had an organic version of their salsa, Organic V-8, wholly guacemole has an organic, many jarred marinara sauce makers have an organic version, etc. The organics market is becoming a big money maker, the big companies recognize that, and they’re offering organic versions of their products.
6. Buy in bulk. Whole Foods offers a 10% discount when buying a case of something. Sam’s Club and Costco offer a variety of natural/organic products. Buying the larger package of something means paying less on a per unit basis most of the time. When it comes to buying non-perishable items, particularly things you use constantly like canned beans, paying more money up fron to buy a larger quantity can mean huge savings in the long run.
7. Farmers markets. This stuff typically won’t have the USDA organic stamp, but most of it will be grown using sustainable practices. There’s also something to be said from keeping your money in your own community.
8. Menu planning – this helps eliminate food waste from ingredients that go bad before they are fully depleted. For example, a bunch of cilantro is almost always too much for one meal. So, I’ll have Mexican on Tuesday and Thai on Wednesday and split the bunch of cilantro between the two meals. This can also allow some one to take advantage of economies of scale by buying larger quantities (at a cheaper per unit price) of perishable items, if you’re smart about it.
These are great tips! I totally agree with your points about saving money by eating vegetarian. My budget since going vegetarian has stayed the same, but only because my husband decided that the meat savings should be directly applied to the purchase of expensive specialty beers. Which, of course, benefits him because I don’t like beer. You win some, you lose some!
My tip for saving money is kind of an indirect tip: keep your pantry organized! Every couple of weeks I go through and straighten up, but my pantry usually doesn’t get too out of control because I am conscientious about putting stuff back where it came from. Having an organized pantry can save lots of green because you know what you have and consequently you won’t find yourself buying repeats of the same item. You won’t end up at the grocery store buying red wine vinegar, for instance, if you know you already have a bottle at home. I’ve found that my biggest grocery bills tend to come on days when I put specialty items on the grocery list, so if I am going to be buying things for a specific recipe, I want to be darn well sure I don’t actually have the item at home already. Helps that I know what’s in my pantry.
my tip is to steer clear of big supermarkets for produce and to go to smaller markets. these markets have sell “overripe” fruit and veggies at crazy low prices. the thing is, a lot of it isn’t overripe. it’s just perfectly ripe if you plan to eat it that day or the next! why pay regular price for fruit that needs to sit on your kitchen counter and ripen anyways, when you get stuff that’s ripe and ready to eat at $1/bag?
also, if you do eat a lot of fruit and veggies, consider going to a wholesaler. that can save you TONS of money. if it’s you, your hubby and kids then it’s easier than you may think to go through a case of apples, oranges or bananas before they go bad. and, again, wholesalers will give you really good deals on stuff that’s ripe and needs to go. you can literally get cases of ripe fruit for the change jingling in your pocket. how to use it up? brekkie smoothies for the whole family!
Excellent post! Another great idea is to join a CSA. We bought a full share this summer and feasted on fresh veggies and fruit through the Fall. We canned and preserved some fruits and froze vegetables, too, so we’d have them in the colder months. We can’t wait for May so we can start all over again.
I agree with you about putting the highest quality food in our bodies. I firmly believe that artifical colors, flavors, chemicals, preservatives and other food additives are at least partly responsible for the disease epidemics today. If we’re talking saving money in the long run (I.e. one’s lifetime) then surely eating healthfully is the way to go!
But even aside from that, my other big money saving tip (I shop almost exclusively at Whole Foods and am a total foodie + athlete so I have a nice metabolism) is to avoid buying super-processed organic stuff. Sure, organic oreos are nice, but they really add up in price and offer little nutritional value. But I’m not a food Nazi and I realize those foods are fun and delicious, so wait until they’re on sale and then buy them. Preferably with a coupon.
Same thing with produce: usually at least a couple different fruits and veggies are on sale at Whole Foods and I just buy and plan meals around those.
Really, it can be quite comparable to regular grocery shopping. Bulk bins, anyone?
Great article. I, too, love Whole Foods, but now that I am no longer single, it is hard to buy for 2 there. I can’t imagine buying for a family of 4.
To save money on groceries, I do the following:
1. I buy my heady-health foods at the local health food store. I only buy the items here that I can’t get at either the regular grocery store or Costcos. I go once every week and it is my little fix for “the shopping experience.”
2. Costco. I can get a HUGE container of organic spinach for $3.99 (vs. a small bag at the same price at the grocery chain). I also buy bulk produce on items I like to eat a lot of (oranges).
3. I’ve befriended the regular grocery for all other produce items. Publix (a southern grocery chain) has a Greenwise section which carries organics. They even have their own line of soy milks and other organic products. I shop here for most everything else on my list.
4. Shop online. I eat a lot of Mary Gone Crackers sticks-n-twigs. I love those things. My processed treat! 😉 I signed up for the Amazon deal where every 2 months a box is delivered to my house. Shipping is free and payment is automatic.
Shopping by unit price works just as well at Whole Paycheck as it does at the big supermarkets. Also, it can get really expensive really fast if you try to buy all the specialty items at once. Choose one new special or expensive item to try each time you shop, that way you can really enjoy it more in isolation and decide if it’s going to be worthwhile to purchase again.
Matt – you gave my best tip which is to use dry beans. I used to insist on buying canned Eden Organic or Muir Glen beans and the prices drove my husband mad. Now, for less than a buck I can get 4-5 “cans” of beans out of a bag of dry beans.
This isn’t necessarily a cost-saving tip (although it might be), but I’ve found that if I take 2 hours on Sunday and prep for the week, it makes life much easier. I cook beans and whatever grains we’ll use that week, plus slice up veggies. The result is that everything is ready to toss together for a quick meal so I don’t use the excuse of “I don’t have 40 minutes to cook rice tonight” and so we eat out instead. See? Cost savings.
GREENS. Kale, collards, and mustard greens are ridiculously cheap. Google for recipes – the varieties are endless.
Buy in bulk and quit paying for fancy packaging.
I’m sure others are like me in that you buy ingredients with the best intentions but some meals never get made. About every 6-8 weeks we hold a “You bought it, you eat it” week. We go through the cupboards and see what’s there, then figure out meals based on what’s at hand. Good way to make sure things don’t expire and go to waste.
Organic greens are definitely not cheap. At least where I live. I bought a small bunch of organic kale today for $3.99. Kale is on the dirty dozen list so I feel like I need to get organic, especially since my daughter eats it, too.
We grew a TON of kale and Swiss Chard in our garden this year & froze it. We throw a small handful into smoothies almost every morning. Works well for soups, too! I love knowing that it wasn’t grown with pesticides & it’s crazy-cheap!
Part of the reason the kale was so expensive is probably because it is January! In the summer I can get kale for cheap cheap cheap at the Farmer’s Market. I can’t remember the price for the organic stuff at my local health food store, as I usually purchase chard or spinach instead (both are cheaper here)
sometimes I will put rice in a rice-cooker as I am getting readying the morning. By the time that I am leaving, rice is done. I take the bowl out of the cook and leave in the refrigerator until evening meals.
I agree with you on the dried beans tip; best tip ever, Matt!! (that and the whole “Beans, Greens, Grains” idea, which I utilize a minimum of twice a week). I take a week and each day make a crockpot of a different kind of bean (black one day, chick peas the next, etc). So then I have every possibility at my fingertips, sodium free! I label and freeze them (someone mentioned along the way here to freeze them in CAN-Sized tupperware; I also learned this the hard way! lol). I add water to my containers, but I have no idea if that is necessary. Anyone know?
But I’d never thought of prepping grains ahead until recently. Now, if I’m making brown rice for a meal, I’ll make a big pot and freeze 1-2 cup portions. MUCH easier to pull that out of the freezer than the 45 minutes it takes to cook!
One thing that has helped us a ton in getting organic veggies and feeling good about it is joining a CSA. Even in winter, we get a box chock full of veggies for a reasonable price delivered to our doorstep. Convenient, and it helps support our local farms!
I like to save money by buying nuts in bulk. They are so much cheaper in bulk and typically fresher too. I buy grains like quinoa, and oatmeal in bulk at Whole Foods too.
Also, get your fruits and vegetables from farmers stands and markets, and try to eat seasonal fruits and vegetables as much as possible.
I am so glad you posted this. It’s such an easy excuse for people to avoid learning about eating healthy.
Stop + Shop here in NJ has great produce, carries the Nature’s Promise brand, and even has a fairly decent selection of international foods. I go to Whole Foods for their fish (which I eat, I realize many of you don’t) and for things I can’t find anywhere else.
Good article Matt. This is a frequent question/comment to folks wanting to “eat clean” on a gluten free diet as well on my blog. A little pre planning is all it takes.. Also of course, shopping sale items and buying “in season” helps as well!
Potatoes & bananas are cheap.
Bananas with brown spots are SUPER cheap, and really yummy. Freeze em and put em in smoothies.
elaine, you speak my language 🙂
I’m also surprised rice didn’t get an honorable mention Matt. 50lb sacks of the stuff can be had pretty cheap.
Ye-ah! I <3 when the store has bananas that are ripe. Not only do I get to eat them right away instead of waiting 3-7 days for them to ripen, they are usually 1/2 price – about 50 cents/lb! 😀 Unfortunately, it is rare to find these in stores here, they all get sold before they turn yellow usually. So when they do, I buy TONS. (not literally) Any bananas I don't eat fast enough get used for banana breads, cakes, and cookies or frozen to be used in those same items when I don't have any overripe bananas on hand (because I ate them all!)
Also on the subject of rice – I don't have anywhere I could possibly store a 50lb bag of anything in my teeny tiny apartment with a closet-sized kitchen. Instead, I purchase bulk-bin rice at my health food store. They have a whole wall of different varieties, organic and non-organic choices are available for many of them as well. You get the bulk price but don't have to buy too much at once. Luckily, I live in walking distance so don't even mind just buying one or two cups at a time.
I buy my fruits and veggies at a local farmer’s market. Bananas are 29 cents/lbs. Everything at the market is so cheap!
My goodness …bananas are $4.99 per kilo is Aus!
Expensive to live healthy here… but still cheaper than being sick
Another vote for bulk foods. They’re cheaper, and since there’s less packaging, there’s less waste. Also, you’re not forced to purchase bulk foods in a particular amount. If you only need 1 cup of whole wheat flour, by golly, you can scoop yourself 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Likewise, if you need 10 lbs of it… get 10 lbs.
And check out alternative supermarkets. There are a lot of supermarket chains that have great prices because they cut back on other things — you might have to bag your own groceries, or bring your own grocery bags, or return your cart like those rent-a-carts in airports. The food’s just as good. Most of the times, they carry all the usual brands you see in major supermarket chains (though not necessarily the frou-frou specialty brands). They’re not dirty or scary or full of thugs, either. 🙂
Good pantry management helps, too. If you don’t let food go to waste, you can buy less every week.
Some things are cheaper at Whole Foods (especially with their store brand). For example, their store brand quinoa is much cheaper than the name brand. If you have the discipline to not go crazy with the other cool things they sell, you should try it out.
I don’t buy canned beans for two reasons: price and chemicals. To save time and even more money in electricity or gas, soak the beans in water overnight, the next day you will cook them in just 15 minutes, it also reduces bloating.
I know that this sounds very elementary, but do you soak them in the fridge or on the counter? Would they be ready by dinner time if I soaked them all day while at work?
The master soakers at WAPF say warm temps. For non-anal real-world convenience, I’m sure your countertop will suffice 🙂
They’ll soak up a good bit after being on the counter all day.
Another plus to cooking your own beans from dry is that you can control the sodium content. Even cans labeled “reduced sodium” often shock me with the amount when I look at the nutrition facts. Just because you reduced from 70% to 50% sodium per serving doesn’t mean its a low sodium food. I try my best to use minimal (or even zero depending on the recipe)salt, then if my family wants to add extra salt to their own salt, go for it!
You can cook dried beans in a rice cooker. This is a great convenience as you can schedule the beans to start cooking an hour before you get home. No soaking required with this method as well. If you eat oats you can program your rice cooker (fuzzy logic only) to make steel cut oats in the morning. Those are a super cheap and filling breakfast. And the cooker makes excellent rice too, all varieties.
If you can find fresh dried beans, which is hard to do since no one really cooks their beans from scratch anymore, then you get reduced cook time and much better flavor. I’ve found that only the bodegas near me have the freshest beans and they are cheaper! The place I go has large bags of a wide variety of dried beans fresh off the truck from Mexico I presume.
Grind your spices before you cook. I grind just the right amount of cumin/coriander that I need before I cook and it gives incredible flavor. Your freshly prepared beans should taste ALOT better than the canned stuff.
I had never thought about using a rice cooker for beans. Thanks for the tip!
I cook mine in the pressure cooker.
Great post and a lot of great comments!
I’ve found that not eating meat has cut down enormously on my grocery bill (it was the initial reason I stopped eating it at home). I also just didn’t like to handle it or prepare it. My partner and I eat a lot of the grain/green/bean meals you described – we’re kind of rice and beans connoisseurs. There are so many variations, and they enable us to eat a balanced, cheap meal any night of the week. Since we’re students and don’t get payed for 3 months out of the year, it’s important to stretch our paychecks. Eating seasonably also makes a big difference, and I second the comments above about eating frozen fruit and veggies; that’s how I cope with the winter blahs.
Growing herbs at home is one of my favorite things you mentioned, and like you, I haven’t successfully grown cilantro. I buy a bunch of it almost every week and I wish I knew how to keep it alive at home, instead!
Mark Bittman wrote in “Food Matters” that simply by eating less meat, and less processed junk, you really can’t help but save money. If you virtually eliminate the two, I find that even more true.
My partner and I went vegan while in graduate school. She is still in grad school and I’m a recent grad. We have learned to shop around for the best deals – even though that means going to 4+ stores. Luckily some of the best deals are on things that keep – frozen produce, grains, beans. When we find a good deal, we load up. We rarely shop at WF except when we’re certain it has the best price (usually on a specialty item). Normally we’re at Trader Joe’s for the majority of our groceries and the supermarket for toilet paper, frozen foods, and condiments. It takes a little extra and planning and recognizing that a sizeable portion of our (meager) income goes toward food. But we love cooking so that also includes entertainment!
1) Some people are a little scared of dried beans. I use these instructions every time and my beans always turn out great. http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/tips-techniques/how-to-cook-beans-a-faster-foolproof-nosoak-method-102908
2) Ditto on the above bulk foods comments, especially for spices and seasonings. I recently got a standard container’s worth of oregano for 17 cents at my co-op! Also perfect if you only need a little bit.
Thanks for the great tips everyone!
Regarding cooking your own beans rather than buying canned ones, what I do is soak and then cook the whole bag of dried beans in one big batch (preferably just after I’ve bought it, or I’ll forget for weeks!) and then split them into 200g or so portions and freeze them. Obviously this only works if you have plenty of freezer space, but it means you don’t have to plan ahead and remember to soak the beans the night before, which is where all my best intentions about not using canned beans used to fall down!
Over here in the UK, tofu’s crazy expensive in the supermarkets and even worse in the health food shops, but sells for a fraction of the price in chinese/asian/eastern supermarkets. You’ll probably have to try a few brands to find the one you like best, but more and more of them are starting to carry “No GMO” stickers and if you’re lucky there might even be an organic one!
Oh! and here’s something I figured out recently – things like cashew nuts, walnuts, anything that’s difficult to extract from its shell in one piece, if you’re just going to chop them up and cook/bake with them anyway, buying bags of broken nut pieces is *so* much cheaper than buying their whole counterparts if you can find them!
I agree with what others have said about Whole Foods – if you are disciplined, and stick to their 365 brand and the bulk bins, the prices are very good. My grocery bill went down when I switched from Safeway to WF.
I recently gave up dairy and that helped a lot – cheese is expensive.
Such a great post! Thanks for all these great comments.
I am a firm believer that “Meal Planning” is a must. The compounding stress of a long day at work, coupled with rampant hunger at the end of the day is a “food disaster” waiting to happen. By having a meal plan for the entire week, and prepping whatever foods you can, you will have delicious stress free meals every evening without the temptation of going out for dinner.
I don’t know what you are buying in WF…I live in Manhattan and have never found it to be more expensive than other grocery stores, which are full of junk food and reek of preservatives. I have read assertions that Whole Foods is more expensive, and heard it with regard to meats (which I don’t buy, as a vegan).
I live in IL and it is much more expensive here. I try to do the best I can at Aldi’s.
Great post. I am super cheap so I am ALWAYS looking for a bargain. Yes, to buy hemp, chia, and ingredients like that it is expensive. The basics are not though and while I like to mix in the new and interesting stuff I can’t always do it. The freezer is my friend – our Costco sells huge bags of frozen organic broccoli, and organic blueberries. They also sell a pound of fresh organic baby spinach for $3.99 – this same product is $7 at my local grocery store. We go through 2 lbs a week at my house of 4. I freeze as much as I can, buy on sale and with coupons, hit Costco every week and only do the natural food store about once a month for the fun stuff — then I cook! There are lots of great food blogs (Heather Eats Almond Butter is a good one) that have recipes for making your own fancy food like coconut milk, almond milk, coconut butter, etc. for much less than the packaged stuff. It isn’t easy, but shopping, preparing, cooking and eating good food is a high priority and it takes effort, but it doesn’t have to take too much cash!
Thanks for the tips, Matt! I find my biggest problem is that is just love Grocery shopping and so my pantry is full of things I still need to eat. Being a food nerd can be fun but the costs definitely add up. I love Whole Foods but I invariably spend money on things there I do not need. Shopping in the bulk bins is a great idea for your normal staples. I am always shocked at the price of things like seafood and free range meat and gourmet cheese. Glad to steer away from those! 🙂
We gave up a lot of the processed Veg things tofu, boca burgers etc and went more plants and raw on some meals and that has helped. Anything in a box is not your friend.
We were buying the premade trail mix at WF and decided to buy a dehydrator for $50 and are now dehyrdrating our own fruits and then just adding bulk raw almonds and sunflower seeds to make our own cheaper version of trail mix.
A farmshare/co op/CSA is something we plan on doing in the spring. You get TONS of veggies for a fair price. Some farms will even reduce the cost if you donate time to help with the crops a few hours a week. Then you can freeze, dehydrate whatever you get to last you for several months!
Meals of Grains+Greens+Beans have been my daily staple EVERY DAY (literally), for a full year now. I eat last night’s leftovers for lunch the next day, and there’s always some sort of beans soaking on the stove.
I LOVE IT!
with the variety of bulk, dry beans available from Whole Foods, the options are endless. Combine that with the dozen or so types of awesome whole grains you can buy there and there’s very little repetition in a diet that, on paper, seems pretty shallow.
I priced a recent (very nice, very delicious) dinner. 2 nights ago. My girlfriend and I ate our fill for $2 a piece and there were leftovers for lunch the next day.
I try to by my food from a variety of different sources. During the summer months, I find that the best and the cheapest produce comes straight from the farmer at the farmers market! Towards the end of the day, they will often throw in a few extra for free. I get most of my basic grains and beans at Harris Teeter/Giant, and go to Yes or WF for some of the more specialty things.
I have to second the recommendations to go bulk. That has to be the best way to save money. If you can find a place with good variety, you can get almost everything that’s dried in bulk! In DC, the farmers markets, Yes, and the international grocery stores are the best!
And don’t forget farm shares! Sometimes they will even let you volunteer for a free membership. Tons of fresh, organic, local food…Free!
Loved this article! We have been doing “a bean, a green, a grain” for a while now and call it “Quinoa surprise”. It’s hands down my favorite meal!
Great tips Matt! I find buying in bulk and buying certain fruit and veggies frozen saves me much more money.
+ whatever on the bulk section of Whole Foods. Also, I made a $10 investment in a pressure cooker and can cook dried beans in under an hour, no soaking required.
Thank you very much for answering my question. Keeping it simple is key. Thank you for making some very valid points. We have gone with a lot of dried beans and have found few stores in the Chicago area (Western Suburbs) that can provide what we need at a cheaper price. Asian stores also provide large volumes of wild and brown rice at a cheaper price as well. Needless to say, we are on our way!!!
My favourite is to make a big pot of curry. Plenty of cauliflower, potato, raisins, tofu, beans and spices. I make a big pot which I freeze and defrost when I have a run in the evening as I hate cooking after a run.
I have been vegan now for 16 days now and yes Whole Floods has been costing me. I am lucky as a single guy with no kids that I can afford it. Then again I used to blow a hundred bucks on a night out putting crap into my body….now I spend it on things like raw almond butter!
As usual great tips. I love the formula of a grain, a green and a bean…people can latch onto that. I’ll confess I used to give myself a pass when it came to spending on food for my family. I felt it was the best money every spent (and still do) but now I watch. We’re big seafood eaters but it’s pricey. While we should all be conscious I think people should look at their whole budget and perhaps money spent on clothes or books or toys can be cut leaving more money for vegetables and such.
I LOVE this post. One of the goals for the hubs and I this year was to get out of debt (or at least get out of most it). We started budgeting this month, and it was truly scary what we spent on groceries for just the two of us a month before that. I now buy all of our beans dried instead of canned. And when the weather warms up, we plan on freezing and canning a lot of our veggies from the garden. can’t wait!
Oh, and I just saw a $$ saving tip on Barefoot Contessa regarding herbs: Freeze chopped up herbs in an ice cube tray to use during the winter.
“Pay for it now or pay for it later” is one thing I try to remember. Good food is an investment that pays off in reduced health care costs.
Sometimes we literally don’t have the money to pay now.
Great post and question.
Too save money I participate in a co-op that is 35 families and we order directly from the distributer. During the winter when the farmers market isn’t open wew order produce (1/2 share=$25) everey two weeks and there is more than enough food for one! During the growing months I participate in a CSA that is $15/wk from end of May to October. This way I know where my food is coming from and it it is ultra fresh! I rarely go the grocery store except for almond milk.
With a little searching I bet you can find something similar. Good luck!
I don’t mind spending quite a bit on food and but actually can’t remember when was the last time I was inside a Whole Foods store. I actually find WF to be the same quality (sometimes lower quality) as other grocery stores but priced almost double (or more).
I now have the luxury of living in New York City and within walking distance of Fairway and the numerous fruit vendors on the street, but when I lived in suburbia I would often order dry stuff like
Chia seeds, Millet, Amaranth, Buckwheat etc from Amazon on subscription (shipping is free and you get a 15% discount 🙂
For vegetables check out Mexican/ethnic stores – their prices are surprisingly low. Also for vegetables buy ones that are the cheapest – they are the ones that are in season and most nutritious anyway.
Also I buy serious quantities of Milk/Soymilk/Fruits/Vegetables (frozen and fresh) from (Costco), the quality is great and the prices certainly make the $50 membership worthwhile.
And stay away from processed stuff even if it’s organic!
Most of the stuff is junk and expensive.
So true! I’m a college student and I used to buy some of those Amy’s frozen meals to save on time if I had a super busy day or whatnot. But those things cost over five bucks! It’s ridiculous and I can make a meal for waaaay less than five dollars any night of the week if I buy fresh and healthy food.
You can also invest in a pressure cooker, which is not an expensive item and it’ll save lots of money in gas/electricity while cooking beans and other hard legumes (such as lentils). Dried beans cook in about 30-40min in a pressure cooker – much better than cooking them on a pot, specially considering that 30-40min will get them softer than canned ones.
And you can make homemade caramel (or dulche de leche) by leaving a sweetened condensed milk can inside the pressure cooker while cooking your beans.
My wife and I recently decided to eat less meat and we are going on 9 days without meat. We noticed a $20 increase to our Trader Joe’s grocery bill our first time around. We purchased a lot more fruits, vegetables, and organic products this time. Thanks for your helpful insights into saving money at the grocery store. Do you recommend farmer’s markets? Or do you find them to be more expensive?
Whole foods store can have great deals, too. I follow these bloggers for help.: Saving Naturally, tips4green, and frugal living NW. Great article, thx!
I live in NYC and shop a lot at Trader Joes, they have great prices on produce, (although not always a huge selection of fresh veggies…but okay) and grains, dried fruits, nuts, nut butters, and they have great frozen options for quick dinners. They are really good and with no weird ingredients. I don’t buy every single thing organic either. Planning out meals really helps, too so that you don’t buy stuff you don’t need. I find it way cheaper to not buy meat regularly.
I grow a square foot garden to supplement the veggie budget. Lots of herbs, tomatoes, peas, spinach and lettuce. It’s super easy and super cheap. Just search for square foot garden on Google.
the store brand organics at major supermarkes (safeway/jewel etc) are not usually any cheaper than wf store brand products from my experience. just sayin….don’t shop at wf for everything but they do have lots of good bulk items etc. so does trader joes. also check out your local buying clubs / co ops.
I live in Central Asia and I gotta tell you, it can be hard finding a lot of these things. No tempeh, only soft tofu, no quinoa/cous cous. But we do have lots of beans/lentils/buckwheat (another magic grain I almost never see listed on American vegetarian/vegan websites) and i can get US brown rice from the high class grocery store. Also no high protein yogurts and the only real yogurts aren’t vegetarian(((.
I don’t know what it costs in the US these days, but at least in Central Asia, buckwheat used to be the cheapest grain ($0.60/kilogram). Now it’s close to $2.60/kilo, but still worth it.
Most (myself included) only buy dry beans and I even have to make my own hummus, which is a two-day minimum process as the chickpeas have to soak a full day before boiling for 2 hours.
Forget about going out to eat – Kazakhs probably eat more meat than any other culture on Earth (except maybe carnivorous dinosaurs) and the only things to eat are mushroom pizza or a “greek” salad. Get’s old after a while.
It’s hard being a vegetarian here, but it has been a great chance to teach people that meat isn’t necessity. I don’t preach, but many here are interested to learn more as they can’t even imagine their lives without meat. I even have several converts, thanks to a little movie called “Earthlings”)))
why are the real yogurts not vegetarian? we make our own, and there isn’t anything non-veggie in them… as far as i know.
Yes, because you make your own. I’m not sure about OP’s home country, but many U.S. yogurt brands (Yoplait, Dannon, etc) contain gelatin.
Maybe it’s an English thing, but a lot of people grow their own veg now in the UK. It’s become quite a cool thing to do. I had my garden re-designed a few years ago, and got some raised beds put in. We grow peas, courgette (zuchinni), tomatoes (2 types), sweet corn, lettuce etc, and also have pots with herbs in. We get fresh produce most days, no matter what the season, and the kids love to go and pick it.
My slow cooker has been really, really helpful in my quest to save money. I use it primarily for beans and seitan. Seitan is about $8/lb at my local co-op, but I can make in in the Crock-Pot for about $2/lb with just some gluten, soy sauce, and broth. And like everyone else, I’ve saved a small fortune cooking and freezing big batches of dried beans from the bulk bin.
You shouldn’t write off Whole Foods. THey do have some great stuff and you can get it cheaper then other places. Two keys. Don’t get sucked into the rare and exotic stuff, keep it simple. Second, shop around. Shop at several stores and you can get great prices with just one or maybe two extra trips. I compare prices everywhere. Here in Boulder Whole Foods is always cheaper.
I’d like to give people another money saving tip, if possible, grow your own food. You can grow many of the veggies you need to eat for a large portion of the year in your backyard. I have been expiramenting with organic gardeing for the past few years and have resigned myself to a raised bed system filled with 50% good topsoil, 25% compost and 25% drainage medium, be it sand or pearlite or whatever you can affordably get your hands on.
Seeds are cheap and especially buying Open Pollinated seeds means you can save nearly all of your seed needs for the following year from this years crop.
Pole beans produce way more beans in the same ground square footage than do bush beans, so focus on them. Beans can be dried and saved for later use, Tomatoes can be canned in glass jars for use as sauce or slasa or whatever.
Winter squash and potatoes can be stored for months and are great ways to stretch your gardens bounty over a longer period of time than just eating the plants as you harvest them.
A well planned and maintained raised bed system will need less attention. The soil will drain well but retain moisture. Mulch your raised beds with straw or dried grass clippings to retain water and prevent weeds.
Spend the time effort and money to do it right the first time, and you can enjoy healthy strong vibrant plants with minimal care and effort on your part. I have approximately 1/2 an acre lawn and I have grown out of just 5 raised beds, over 100 Lbs of food this past year. I plan on adding 9 more raised beds this spring at approx $50 per bed to construct. But I should be able to get around 200 Lbs more food, which will put me at around 300 Lbs of food grown out of my own back yard at very minimal cost to myself.
my husband and my two young kiddos became an aspiring zero waste family 14 mos ago. hub and kiddos went vegetarian and i went vegan for lent. here’s what we’ve learned from both practices:
1) buying dried beans (using reuseable mesh produce bags) and cooking them is a LOT less expensive than buying canned ones.
2) pressure cookers are a god-send. we use ours constantly. they save time for food prep, allowing us to make more home-made stuff, thus saving us money.
3) we grow our own tomatoes, lemons, zucchini. the tomatoes get frozen for use in the winter, the lemons are used in place of vinegar in home-made salad dressing (crushed garlic, olive oil, squeeze of lemon juice is the base), extra lemons get juiced and zested which are then frozen for use in winter. zucchini is consumed in-season. we save a ton of money with just these three things.
4) always make extra! then freeze it or pack it for lunch the next day. you can make extra basics – pasta, veggies, fried/sauteed tofu, beans – and have them on hand for a quick meal.
4.5) instead of chucking wilty veggies use them to make veggie stock. roughly chop them, saute them for a bit with olive oil/butter in a stockpot, then simmer in a bunch of water for 2 hours. the only herbs i add are bay leaf and/or thyme. soft zucchini, onions (with skins), celery, dried out mushrooms, limp carrots, etc. note: these aren’t rotten veggies, just “tired” ones. ours don’t really rot since we don’t keep them in plastic.
5) eggs aren’t just for breakfast. scrambled, omlettes, quiche, fritatta – it’s all good.
6) you don’t need to make a 5-course meal every night.
7) as part of zero-waste we quit buying products with plastic packaging and started making our meals from scratch (using the tips and tools outlined above). we’ve saved hundreds of dollars on food expenses. added bonus: our trash output went down so dramatically that we downsized our trash container to the smallest size and now pay less for service – more $$ saved!
Great post! I want to be like you guys!
I (with my parents’ help) cooked and canned my own beans. Now I have several months worth of beans in my cupboard from a days’ effort.
pressure canned I hope! 😉
I would much rather spend thousands of dollars extra on groceries now, than hundreds of thousands of dollars in health care bills in the future. For example, the American Medical Association did a study that says that those who include meat in their diet have a 50% risk of having a heart attack and those who do not include meat in their diet have a 14% risk of having a heart attack. Food for thought XD
That is not the point of this article. Some people literally do not have a lot of money to spend and in the spirit of what is written is how to eat a healthful diet on a limited budget. I literally do not have that type of income.
Great post – I agree that rice and beans is a great way to go, and planning ahead carefully on meals can save a bundle.
Also, beyond not shopping at Whole Foods, check out alternative sources of cheap(er) food – food co-operatives & buying clubs often offer good prices on organic and whole foods. Some places also have well-priced veggie options – in Toronto we have something called The Good Food Box and Good Food Markets. Everything is packed and distributed by volunteers so it is sold at close to cost. Some farmers markets and urban farms, especially those with a social-justice mandate, also sell at quite good prices (though some farmers markets will make you pay through the nose).
If you have the time to get involved with your local food community through volunteering, a lot of farms, food co-ops, farmers markets, etc. will send you away with a fair bit of free food for your efforts.
Awesome post with a lot of great discussion following it. The “You Bought It, You Eat It” weeks mentioned above were a great reminder for me to check the pantry again!
Like others have said, investing in a pressure cooker is priceless. Soaking and prep time for beans is what causes a lot of people not to cook them or start from dried. With a quick soak method you can often cook beans in a fraction of the time and freeze them after they are cooked to have on hand. Much better than called and no chemicals leaching from the cans either. The cost of any level of pressure cooker will pay for itself in no time.
I’m lucky enough to have a 1/2 allotment here in town and can grow a lot of veggies myself.
But before I had it I grew some veggies in pots at home. Herbs do well on a sunny window sill and save a fortune! Kale and swiss chard grow really well in containers and you just cut off what you need – they keep growing. If you plant rainbow chard it’s not only long lasting and nutritious it’s also very pretty! There are some varieties of cherry tomatoes that grow well in a hanging basket, same as strawberries. You can grow quite a few things like that and though each doesn’t save a lot – every little helps. And if you have kids – give them the containers to decorate and the plants to look after – they’ll be making a contribution to feeding the family and feel great about it.
Bountiful Baskets have been saving us a ton of cash on our base supply of fruits and veggies each week. We aren’t vegetarian, but have lots of great meals based on veggies with grains, eggs, beans and tofu instead of meat a few times per week, and they are really inexpensive. Daal is my favorite, and costs next to nothing when made with dried split peas. Of course veggie gardening is a great way to save money, but not everyone can do it full-scale. A large tray of potting soil can grow tons of greens through much of the year, and can potentially save loads of money. I got a plastic cement-mixing tray at Home Depot for about $8, and get tons of mesclun greens out of it each year.
Love the article (actually, just found the blog – love the whole blog!)
I do find it amusing that, outside of the posters who don’t live in the U.S., I appear to me the ONLY person who doesn’t have a Whole Foods nearby. Living in Florida, I think there’s only one or two in the state, actually. I’m sure I can find most of the things you write about in a local specialty store, though…
PRESSURE COOKER! That’s the answer to making your own beans. Before I leave in the morning I fill it up with water and the beans to soak, then make them whenever I get the chance. I try to have jars of different dry beans around (black, garbanzo, pinto, mung beans…). I make a lot and freeze some. Keeping garbanzo beans in the freezer makes it easy to make your own hummus any time, if you also keep tahini and lemon juice in the fridge.
I also always have onions garlic and different hot sauces on hand to make simple foods amazing
I love the salad bar at Whole Foods. I’m single and prepping all the different foods would be expensive.
But I can buy green peppers, which are relatively heavy and therefore a bigger part of the $8 per pound cost. And I can buy grapes and throw them in.
lentils, barley and home grown greens! cheap, tasty, versatile, very healthy. Is the rock of my diet. Eating now as a thick soup. have beet greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, spinach, lentils, barley, homemade hot peppers and some organic salsa i got on sale stirred in. Will feed us for days!
I cook beans in the crockpot while I’m a work. By the time I get home, they are done and ready to add to whatever I am making for dinner – minestrone, black beans and rice, chili, enchiladas…the list goes on and on. I do the same with lentils but try to only cook them half a day (I try to come home at lunch to put them in so they don’t get too overly mushy). Again, all done by the time I get home. The crockpot is a budget and time-friendly option for vegetarians too!!
This article is great and effective in providing money saving tips. I have recently gone vegetarian and have learned one thing: LEFTOVERS ARE YOUR FRIEND! It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel every day, although it would be nice! I’m only cooking for 2, and most recipes make for 4-6. I spend about $50-60 a week in groceries, make about 3 large meals from scratch, and have plenty of leftovers to fill the gaps for the other days of the week.
For me going vegetarian has definitely saved me a lot of money. Its crazy how expensive chicken and lamb is, even when i ate meat, i would generally only eat pork and beef for this reason.
Thanks for the tips though, this will definitely save me even more money many thanks.
I love all the great ideas. I am surprised after reading dozens of posts (I didn’t read them all though) that I didn’t see anyone mention pressure cooking!! You can soak beans overnight when you are sleeping and then the next day use the pressure cooker to make the beans in a fraction of the time. You can do quite a lot and use them over the week or freeze 1.5 – 2 cups which would be approx. the same amount as in a can which is the quantity for most of my recipes. I need to do this more often and it ebbs and flows with what else is going on. I love my pressure cooker though! I have one that has many functions so it can be used as a slow cooker, for canning, pressure cooking and probably other things too. check out hippressurecooking.com that’s where I got a bunch of tips and also I got a vegetarian pressure cooking book. This saves money to make dried beans instead of buying canned. Once you get them soaked which happens when you are otherwise preoccupied the actual cooking so pretty quick. Also, some could be done quickly without soaking.
I have been seriously considering going vegetarian. My concern is that I have a digestive issue where it requires me to eat a Low-Foodmap diet to eliminate stomach pain and extreme bloating. This excludes such foods as broccoli, onions, garlic, legumes, chick peas, soy, cabbage, bread, dairy, some grains, etc.
My question is, it seems that this would eliminate many alternatives to meat. Does anyone have suggestions as to what I could substitute in a vegetarian diet to ensure I am getting enough nutrients and proteins while still eating a Low-Foodmap diet?
I totally understand your challenge as I have had to change my diet a few times for the better. At first it can take some time to get used to what is left to eat but then you discover new recipes and can even come up with some of your own. Since you said vegetarian not vegan, can you still eat eggs? Also, how about nuts and quinoa which is not a grain it is a seed, and maybe some other ancient grains like millet, etc.? Other foods that might fit into your diet: avocado, fruits and veggies, any other beans than chickpeas? I may be wrong but I thought legumes were different from beans so not sure about that. Good luck. You have come to a good place for more info!
[…] you do the math, there’s no reason eating vegetarian or vegan should be more expensive than eating […]
I do believe all of the ideas you’ve introduced in your post.
They are really convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very brief for starters.
Could you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time?
Thank you for the post.
great post, much agreed
suggestion from a broke but awoke college student:
international supermarkets. first off this community is a bit white washed and i’m not sure how outside-cultured you guys are or pretend to be. but really, venture outside of these capitalist ran stores and put your dollars into the small guys. WAKE UP. places like Red Market, H Mart, asian markets etc have the CHEAPEST produce and large large large sections of it. way more than Whole Foods has to offer. when i first stepped in my favorite spot, Great Wall Supermarket, my heart fluttered, it still does. i cant even begin to describe the prices….. question of how they got it so low though. slave labor??? is this meat clean??????? etc hah. when i was pescetarian, i would spend $5/lb on tilapia or salmon…. versus $20/lb on salmon at “Whole Foods” not joking. and they have EVERYTHING at these places. foods that i have never even heard of. indian bok choy, chinese bok choy, turtle, seaweed, kumquat, prickly pear, camu camu berry… you name it. huge cans of loose leaf tea for $5 versus $60 at Teavana. when i go to Giant and they dont even have zucchini i get so sad…. every item is cheap. i could go on forever but i will stop. food rox. cheers.
[…] 6 Money-Saving Tricks For The Vegetarian Athlete on a Budget – You want to go vegetarian, but your budget is too tight for all these superfoods and other healthy ingredients? This article by the No Meat Athlete will definitely offer you some great money saving tips. […]
I live in a rural area in Arizona, literally hundreds of miles away from TJ’s or WF. I embarked on a PBWF diet about six months ago because of health issues. I’m happy to say those issues are improving quite well. It’s not necessary to go to the big stores for healthy food. Most stores now have plenty of organic foods, including fruits and vegetables. I know which foods I need to buy organic and which can be washed well, etc. and can be “regular”.
I find that a food processor, a good,high powered blender, (mine is an older Vitamix I inherited from my mom) and an electric presser cooker are almost all I need. Oh, and a yogurt maker. If you want to make it work, you can!
Most people believe that a vegetarian diet is more expensive than a regular diet. Vegetarians want to have a healthy lifestyle and most people may think they don`t care about the costs. However, a vegetarian diet is more accessible, especially with such a wide range of foods.
I spend way too much on nuts and dried fruit. Organic nuts are $11 to $20 a lb! Organic dried mango is $18/lb.
Save money on produce and frozen fruit / veg by shopping at Costco. You can get 6 Hass organic avocados for $8 while it’s 2 for $5 at the supermarket. Fruit, especially mango is generally half the price.
Good article for sure! I also find a Costco membership to be very worthwhile since we live near one. They sell a lot of organics and we buy fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables there at great savings.
I’m so glad I found this site. Not an athlete but transitioning to vegetarian after only eating about 20% meat (chicken only) for almost a year. These tips are helpful
I make my own roasted red pepper hummus (without tahini) 1 can of chick peas in the blender with a roasted red field pepper, s&p + lemon = 16 oz for $2 instead of 8 oz for $3++ adds up if you eat hummus everyday.
Sprouting is an inexpensive way to get a lot of food, also. I sprout my own broccoli sprouts, mung beans, and lentils. 2 Tbl broccoli seeds become a qt. of sprouts, 1/4 c mung beans become a qt of sprouts, etc.
My main tip is to:
1) cook meals from things that are on sale at that moment,
2) freeze fruits/veggies that are on sale so when I need it, I dont have to pay full price
When cooking dried legumes, save energy by starting them off in a thermos flask of boiling water over night.
Please stop misusing the expression “begs the question.” Thank you.
I try to stick to whole foods (not to be confused with Whole Foods), shop at the regular grocery store for as much as I can and only buy special items at Sprouts or Natural Grocers occasionally. Shop the bulk bins or costco for things like nuts, etc.
Why is Whole paycheck the go-to when discussing PlantBased diet shopping?
Every WF I have ever entered has more square footage devoted to meat,eggs, seafood(animals) and dairy/cheese than the dedicated to veggies/fruit/grains(non-processed )
T.Joes has more veg-based processed meals available per space than WF and more space with fresh veg/fruit than meats.
Just a thought.
I am not a runner or athlete, so my journey that I am beginning if way different than your average reader. I am on over weight single mom on a tight budget. My first trick I learned is…. Sams club sells 4lb veggie trays for $9.98. It is already cut up so no wasted product at home. I am so glad that I stumbled onto your blog/ website. I was drawn in by your video “how to make a fricken salad”. I felt relieved by it. I can’t survive on those dainty salads.
Thank you and I look forward to learning more and more about eating healthy
Hi, I read your interesting article about eating well on a budget and would like to share these tips: sourdough bread lasts far longer than ordinary, and is great toasted even when about a week old. Or ready sliced bread can be frozen and a slice chipped off as needed- so no bread waste anymore! My Friday night fridge clear out meal usually results in a traybake or soup – it only needs additional beans, miso, a grain etc to make it a filling and nutritious meal. And most definitely bulk buying of pretty much any tinned or dried goods or anything (e.g. nuts) that can be frozen. Nuts – broken ones are much cheaper and they’re invariably chopped or ground in vegan cooking anyway. And finally it can be cheaper to make your own flatbreads – and easier to manage the salt content too!
I want to be a veggie but it’s expensive.
Can I take my menus eg eat rice with vegetables, Rice and beans lastly eggs and water or milk.
Just to cut costs.
i love being a vegetarian its expensive but i love the i feel and i have a lot more energy and i just feel better all over
I literally came here because I thought there might be some actual suggestions in recipes.
You could say the same about any food “just buy generic and cook it yourself”
That’s common sense. This is so disappointing
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