One thing that I’ve been asked by friends repeatedly is how to save money at the grocery store when buying for two different types of diets. If you are new to a plant-based diet changing your pantry and fridge can seem a little daunting and expensive. It can be even more of a challenge when part of your family has a different diet.
That’s part of the reason I made this blog. Using recipes that you only have to change one or two things for a whole meal, it saves money. Although there are the nights where it’s completely different and we just do our own thing.
Once you start using and buying plant based products you see it as a whole new way of cooking, eating, and it’s a whole new way of shopping also. Here are a few things I’ve learned about how to manage my pantry and fridge and what I do that has helped me not have an expensive grocery bill.
BUy Only What You Need:
I talked about this in the last “Tips for a Shared Kitchen” when dealing with how to organize your pantry, and here I go again! Only get what you know you need. Since produce from the store can go bad quickly, only get what you know you will use in the next few days. Even if sometimes buying a large quantity is a better deal, if you’re just going to throw it away since it went bad by the end of the week, and you were only able to use a portion of it, did you really save? Some things might be worth it. For instance, you’re going to be juicing and drinking smoothies for the next few days – get the huge box of fresh spinach, buy the bag of lemons! But for produce don’t just buy it for the sake of it being “a better deal”. Don’t waste food.
When you first start out it’s hard to tell how much you will eat, how much you will use, etc. So even more so buy what you know for a fact you’ll use. Go to the store a few times a week if you have to. It makes your grocery visits shorter and it never fails, even if I plan out what I’m going to use for a week, I always end up needing to run into the store for something anyway.
Buy Fruits and Veggies in Season/On Sale:
I usually see what I’m going to make depending on the produce section with what’s on sale or in season. Since a lot of times I snack for my breakfast or lunch and it ends up being fresh fruits and veggies that I’m snacking on or it’s what’s on top of my oatmeal, yogurt, salads, etc., whatever is on sale, that’s what I get. If mangoes are cheap, then I’ll be topping my yogurt with mangoes.
Fruits are more versatile than veggies. I’m usually more specific on veggies, but if the baby kale is cheaper than the spinach to put in your smoothies, then get the baby kale. If asparagus is in season and it’s for a good price, then instead of broccoli we’re having asparagus as our side for dinner, and so on.
The other thing to keep in mind is what’s in season. It’s usually on sale, or stores will have specials, and the nice part about it, is that those fruits and veggies usually pair well together anyway.
Pre-Packaged / Processed “Plant-Based” Products:
Frozen burritos, frozen veggie burgers, vegan cheeses, vegan meat-substitutes, etc. They add up, but they do have a place. They are there for convenience and shouldn’t be a part of your every day meals anyway. It’s nice to know after a long day at work and then running errands and getting home late that you still have that can of chili in the pantry you can heat up in less than 5 minutes. It’s great! But make sure just because it’s “vegan” or “plant-based” or “natural” (which I think that word is the most dangerous) that it doesn’t have a lot of additives in it. Most out there now are not using much and they are not necessarily bad for you, but they will burn a hole in your pocket if you rely on them as you’re main source of a meal. Keep it as “just in case” when your dinner doesn’t turn out good, or for busy days.
Smoothies & Leftovers:
I always save what I don’t eat if it’s enough to make another meal. If I know it’s something the whole family likes I’ll make double so that we have that ready to go in the fridge. Sometimes it’s enough for a whole meal, to go along with a salad, or to make a wrap depending on what it is.
If you see your fruits and veggies, especially greens since sometimes they can start to look sad after a few days, go ahead and make smoothies and use up the things that are starting to fade. The other day I had a pineapple that started to look orange at the bottom, oranges that had a few bruises on it but still firm, and kale that had a few bad leaves but the rest was ready to go. I made a smoothie with them and added chia seeds and almond milk and it was great! I didn’t have to throw it away in a few days, instead I made another meal out of it.
I can not emphasize this enough. Getting your dried foods from the bulk section can save on a lot. There is an urge that you have to resist – the urge of filling the bag completely full. Don’t do it unless you mean it! Same as the first point – only buy what you know you need, or will use. Usually the things I get a lot of in bulk are raw almonds, nutritional yeast, granola, etc. Things we can use every day that won’t go bad right away. I have jars for those as well to put them in so I don’t just have a lot of bags just piled up.
Spices in the bulk section have saved me. If your grocery store as a bulk spice section, hit it up! I can buy the same amount of garlic powder, good, quality garlic powder, for $0.50 the same as I could in a bottle that’s close to $3.00 or more. And with the variety of foods I like to make, I have a lot of spices and it cuts down on the room in my pantry as well.
So remember your dried goods and head to the bulk section before going to the aisles. Your oats, flours, nuts, seeds, quinoa, barley, nutritional yeast, spices, granola, dried fruit, and so on. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save!
Overall, one thing you do have to remember no matter the diet – getting quality food, organic or not, but quality food, is going to be more expensive. But this is the food we feed our bodies. It’s how we get energy, it equips us with what we need to fight off bad bactieria, infections, and viruses, it’s what keep us going and alive. So if you are changing to a healthier basket at the grocery store, it might be a little more expensive, but you’re investing in your health, not just buying food.
Be aware of what you are buying, be health conscious, and have a happy, healthy and economical shared kitchen!