There seems to be a myth floating around that it’s expensive to be a vegetarian, and that only the rich and privileged can afford a vegetarian diet. Untrue. I’ve been living paycheck to paycheck for most of my life, and have been a vegetarian for over 30 years. If you’re on a budget, there are easy ways to save cash by following a vegetarian diet.
The people saying it’s expensive to be a vegetarian probably think all vegetarians buy organic produce, eat superfoods like acai and goji berries, and shop at grocery stores that feature organic, and natural products like the grocery chain Nature’s Fare in British Columbia or Whole Foods in the states.
Not all vegetarians are buying the highest priced organic superfoods out there. Like so many others, we’re watching our pennies. Following a vegetarian diet can be cheap and that’s mostly because we’ve cut out the big expense – meat.
Here are 10 ways to save cash on a vegetarian lifestyle.
1. Keep an eye out for sales.
Local newspapers may carry fliers for local grocery stores. If not, check the store’s website for weekly specials.
2. Ditch expensive ingredients.
Just because a recipe calls for chia seeds or maple syrup doesn’t mean you have to include them, especially since they’re often used as a garnish, sweetener, or spice. Substitute with something similar in the cupboard or leave it out.
3. Food check.
Look in your fridge, freezer, and cupboards to make sure you’re not putting something on the shopping list that is already in the house. Check for foods that are getting close to their expiry or best before date. Use them up first before buying more groceries.
4. Shop at cheaper grocery stores.
Where I live Safeway is very expensive compared to the Walmart Superstore and the Real Canadian Superstore. Even places like Save On Foods might have prices a dollar or two higher than the superstores. Do a little window shopping, comparison shopping to get a feel where to get the best bang for your buck. Give no-name products a try. Sometimes they’re nasty and other times they’re just as good as nationally known brands. For example, I buy a lot of Walmart’s Great Value brands when it comes to frozen fruit and vegetables, dry beans, and peanut butter.
5. Buy from the farmer.
Where I live in the Greater Vancouver Area, farmer’s markets aren’t necessarily a wise choice. The vendors pay exorbitant fees and that’s reflected in their prices. It’s usually cheaper to buy from a grocery store or a produce store. Farmer’s markets in my area tend to feature sellers of crafts, artisan products, and wine and spirits instead of produce. In other words, farmer’s markets ain’t what they used to be! Other parts of the country have traditional farmer’s markets, where real farmers harvest the crop that morning or the day before, and bring it in to sell at reasonable prices. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open for trucks parked at the side of the road selling corn or farmers selling berries right out of their fields.
6. Forget organic.
These are higher priced products that are pesticide free. Washing your produce before consuming is usually sufficient. Check the EWG for a list of the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/index.php This list based on lowest to highest levels of contamination can also be found on David Suzuki’s website http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/food/what-are-the-dirty-dozen-and-the-clean-fifteen/
7. Get a green thumb.
If you’ve thought about growing your own food, give it a shot depending on your living space. Apartment dwellers can grow fresh herbs that can be bought in small pots from garden centers. Strawberries and tomatoes can be purchased in hanging baskets and hung from balconies. When I lived in a townhouse I had a small garden area in the tiny backyard. I planted a patio-sized apple tree and grew kiwis, grapes, and rhubarb. When I moved to a house with a large backyard, there were already two mature apple trees. I planted a few more apple trees, two pear trees, two plum trees, and a cherry tree. I put in raised garden beds for raspberries, strawberries, and potatoes. And I still have my rhubarb.
I also bought a sprout kit and have sprouts in 3 or 4 days, always fresh for sandwiches and saving money on lettuce. (Disclosure: if you click the above Amazon link for the sprout grower and buy it, I will receive a small commission for the referral.)
8. Cook beans.
Even though canned beans aren’t that expensive, a bag of dry beans probably costs about the same as 2 cans and yields a lot more than that in beans. Some people soak dry beans overnight and cook them the next day.
I bought an Instant Pot from Amazon and without presoaking, most beans are ready to eat in about one hour. That takes into account the time for the pot to pressurize, cook for about 30 minutes, and then vent. (Disclosure: if you click the above Amazon link for the 7 in 1 Instant Pot and buy it, I will receive a small commission for the referral.)
9. Buy almond (or coconut or cashew) milk.
I’m not a big milk drinker, and as a single, I find no matter what size of carton, I usually haven’t drank it all by the best before date. In fact I find many times even before that date the milk is turning sour. I now buy almond milk in tetra packs. A shelf staple product. I usually grocery shop twice a month and will buy two almond milks, original or vanilla, and chocolate. The Great Value brand at Walmart costs $1.99. The more popular is about a dollar more. For a short time I was buying the Great Value rice milk for .97¢. It was in both vanilla and chocolate. The problem is it flew off the shelves and I haven’t seen any in about 3 months. More importantly, nutrient wise, almond milk is a smarter choice.
10. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables.
Is there anything sadder than opening the fridge to see wilted lettuce and moldy strawberries. In this country we waste a lot of food, throwing it out when it goes bad. In the end run you’ll save money buying frozen fruits and vegetables and using as needed. Buy a wide variety to make them last longer. I buy some fresh produce, and once it’s eaten, I switch to frozen.
It’s better for your budget and your health to eat more plant based foods. Do you have any ways to save money and follow a budget buying more vegetarian products? Leave a comment!