Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Saving Money

One of the common opinions about a plant based diet is that it’s more expensive to maintain. Like any diet, there are huge variations in the amount of money people spend. It’s an unfortunate reality that fruits and vegetables are more expensive in the short term than convenience foods. Especially if you want to buy organic. It’s also true that a lot of vegan products cost more than their non-vegan counterparts. Fortunately, there are ways to save money and to switch to a plant based diet without drastically increasing your food budget.

We spend about $100 a week on groceries for two people, plus monthly excursions to health food stores or websites that total about $200. I’m not sure how that compares the average American couple, but in my opinion food is more important than anything else I buy. We also eat breakfast at home every day, lunch at home at least 6 days a week, and dinner at home at least six days a week. We have a lot of staples and our grocery list is pretty easy to throw together. Each week we go through 14 bananas, 1 bag of romaine hearts, 3 bags of other mixed greens, 2-3 cucumbers, 3-5 bell peppers, 1 bunch of kale, 2 pints of berries, 10ish pieces of fruit, ¼ watermelon, 1-2 bags of carrots, 1 bunch cilantro, several onions, and 2 quarts of almond milk. We also keep our eyes peeled for deals on bulk/packaged grains and beans to keep on hand so we use our pantry extensively.

A blogger I follow called “My Healthy Chef” did a series on vegan budgeting that I highly recommend. She goes very in depth on what she buys and tips to save money. The way we get it done is as follows:

1. Make a menu based on what we already have and need to use up.
2. Buy produce from a variety of sources based on what’s local, in season, cheap and safe (ex. I never buy non-organic apples).
3. As mentioned before, look out for places that sell in bulk or have great prices on pantry staples. We shop at a mix of organic and ethnic markets and always look for our staple foods (brown rice, dried chickpeas, lentils, etc).
4. Check out the big box stores like Target, Walmart, Costco, BJs, etc. They are carrying a lot of organic, natural and/or vegan products that used to only be found at organic markets.
5. Check out online stores, particularly Amazon, Spencr’s Market and Vitacost.  Amazon wins for variety, Spencer’s Market lets you try single servings of unique vegan products, and Vitacost has amazing products for much cheaper than I’ve found everywhere else.  (**note – if you use my link to Vitacost and make an order, you will get $10 off and so will I!)
6. If you live in an agreeable climate, grow your own food!
7. Make your own versions of your favorite things. If you eat protein/granola bars and are paying $1 or more per bar it's likely going to be cheaper to make your own. There are countless recipes out there on how to do this, try a Google search for your current favorite brand plus the word recipes. I like to use Brendan Brazier's Thrive Forward Balanced Energy Bars formula.

Transitioning to a healthy diet, regardless of if you include meat, takes work. It will be more expensive at first while you get used to making changes. By planning effectively and making use of a variety of locations, it is possible to build a solid pantry and get to a point where you can spend about $75 (or less!) per person for a week’s worth of meals.

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