Eating Vegetarian on a Budget
When I first went vegetarian many years ago, I was surprised to discover my grocery bill actually went up, not down as expected. Eventually, as I learned how to adjust my shopping habits, my food costs lowered to the point I was spending less than I did when I ate meat.
While it’s true you can spend more money on fresh, nutritious foods, I proved that it doesn’t have to be that way. Preparing delicious, healthy meals on a limited budget can be challenging, but it certainly does not mean that you have to lower your standards for ingredients.
Learn from my mistakes with these simple tips below. Prepare tasty vegetarian meals for your family on a regular basis and save money on your grocery bills.
Visit Farmer’s Markets
Fruits and veggies from a local farmer’s market are generally cheaper and better quality than their supermarket counterparts. Another benefit is that these markets feature organic produce for much less than the supermarkets charge. To save even more money, organize buying fruits and vegetables for your health consciousness neighbors and buy in bulk. Most people, vegetarian or not, recognize supermarket produce as inferior in quality and price compared to farmer’s market produce.
Learn How to Make Foods You Used to Buy
This was a big lesson for me. When I became vegetarian, one reason I spent more on my groceries is because I bought vegetarian versions of everything I used to buy. Vegetarian meats, canned foods, frozen foods; these all cost more than the cheaper meat versions. (Also goes to show how the meat industry has become so efficient in factory meat processing that meat is cheaper than vegetarian these days.)
When I started making my own homemade versions of foods I was in the habit of buying, my food bill dropped dramatically. Instead of buying canned chili, I started making my own. Instead of vegetarian meats, I learned how to make seitan. I used to buy frozen pizza and lasagna, now I make them myself. Another benefit is that the versions I cook at home are much more delicious than what I used to buy.
Another benefit to cooking at home is that you’ll send less on eating out. This also killed my food budget when I became vegetarian. These days there are more food choices, but back when I went meatless only a few restaurants catered to vegetarians. These were often upscale restaurants and boutique delicatessens that were much more expensive than the casual dining restaurants I used to go to. I had to break the habit of eating out and create a new one of cooking more at home, as a result I kept a lot more money in my pocketbook.
Buy Staple Foods in Bulk
In our home, we use a lot of rice, oats, beans, olive oil, flour, pasta and other staples in our cooking. Since most of these items can be stored for long periods we buy them in bulk and save a bunch of money compared to getting smaller amounts in the grocery store every few weeks. Less trips to the store means less fuel and time wasted too.
Believe it or not, you can prepare gourmet-quality meals without the hefty price tag. There are thousands of recipes that you can find online that do not require you to spend a lot of money on. Buying in bulk will ensure you always have items in your kitchen that are ready to cook whenever you find a new recipe. Make sure you have plenty of pastas, fresh fruits and vegetables, soups, rice, beans, lentils on hand. Soup bases are another great staple for your kitchen because you can easily whip up a nice meal just by adding veggies. Also, Watch out for promos and if you see any of your staple items go on sale, stock up on as much as you can afford.
Stop Buying Junk Food
Just because a bag of Cheetos cost less than a bag of apples it doesn’t mean that you should go for Cheetos. Sometimes people don’t realize that the money they spend on junk food a.k.a. “food we can live without” could have been used to buy more nutritious foods. Challenge yourself and do your groceries without passing by the processed food aisles and you’ll be surprised how much money you are going to save. Ditch carbonated drinks, candy bars, sugary cereals, potato chips and snack cakes and opt for healthier alternatives like rolled oats, plain yogurt, sugar snap peas and unsalted nuts.
Coffee drinks at places like Starbucks can kill your food budget too. Think of money spent on food in terms of national value. A large coffee drink at Starbucks is probably costs the same or more as your lunch, but which one will sustain you through the afternoon while you work? Your lunch is more valuable in nutrition. If you have both then the cost of your lunch doubled for no added value. Kick the habit of expensive coffee drinks. If you need coffee (I’m right there with you) brew it at home or drink black coffee which is much cheaper and healthier.