There’s a big myth out there that, if you want to eat healthy or go vegan, your grocery bill is going to skyrocket.
While there are certain vegan products that do cost more, I don’t think it’s actually true that a vegan diet costs more money, and in this post, I’ll tell you why. Plus, I share my top 12 tips on how to save money and eat vegan on a budget!
Let’s dive right in.
Why a Vegan Diet is NOT More Expensive
There are a few main points to highlight here. First, think of what you’re cutting out. When you no longer buy meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy, you save a whole lot of dollars that can be used towards other products. Your budget can definitely include extra veggies, specialty vegan dairy items, frozen foods, and other staples.
The truth is, you can eat vegan on the cheap if you really want. Buy in bulk staples like beans, grains, nuts and seeds, and even things like nutritional yeast are often found in the bulk section at grocery stores. You can also get cheap fruit and veggies at your local farmers’ market. While the specialty items are nice, they truly aren’t necessary. This should not be a reason to hold you back from adopting a plant-based diet. Plus, certain items like non-dairy milks are typically no more expensive than regular milk, so what’s the problem?
I’ll give you this: eating healthy is generally more expensive than eating unhealthy (like all the processed foods – $10 for 10 frozen pizzas, anyone?! Ugh!), but eating vegan isn’t more expensive than eating healthy. In other words, if you’re already eating healthy but not vegan, switching to eating more plants shouldn’t make much of a difference, and may even save you money based on what I shared above about thinking about what you’re no longer buying.
However, if you eat a Standard American Diet and are transitioning to a real food, clean eating and/or vegan diet, then admittedly it is going to cost you more. But, never fear, because in the next section I tell you all the ways you can save money and eat vegan on a budget!
Vegan on a Budget: 12 Ways to Save Money on a Plant-Based Diet
Here are my top tips for how to save money and eat vegan on a budget.
- Buy in bulk. Whether it’s in the bins at your local grocery store or at specialty stores like Costco, BJ’s or Sam’s Club, you can save a ton of money this way on just about any grocery items.
- Go to farmers markets or join a CSA. Shop local and buy directly from the farmers, where you can typically walk away with bags of fruits and veggies for not a lot of cash. Also, consider joining a CSA (Community Sourced Agriculture) where you can either pick up or get delivered a produce basket from a local farm.
- Get a Thrive Market membership. I talked all about why I love Thrive Market and how it actually saves you money in this post, so check it and join if you’re not already a member! It’s basically an online Costco.
- Shop online. Outside of Thrive Market, there are tons of other discounted shopping sites like Lucky Vitamin, Vitacost and Vegan Essentials where you can typically save money on many items.
- Use coupons and coupon apps. There are apps that make it super easy to search for discount codes that you can use whenever ordering something online, no matter where you shop. Some of my favorite apps are ibotta (I saved $19.50 the first week I started using it) and the Whole Foods app (though I think you now have to be an Amazon Prime member in order to get the special deals and cash back). Mambo Sprouts also has a coupon gallery that’s constantly updated where you can print coupons at home to use anywhere you shop in person, as does All Natural Savings. For what it’s worth, other coupon and money savings apps I use, typically not for groceries but generally when I shop, are Retail Me Not, Groupon and eBates.
- Shop the sales, buy in-season and stock up! There are always weekly sales at grocery stores, so check the store’s flyer and see what’s new. Often buying in-season helps, as things like berries will go on sale in the summer, for example. When your favorite crackers or vegan cheese or canned goods go on sale, stock up! If it’s something you know for sure you’ll use eventually, it’s always worth it and you’ll save a little bit of money.
- Follow the “Clean 15” and “Dirty Dozen”. The EWG updates these lists every year to help you navigate which foods to buy organic based on which foods have the most pesticide residue. Generally, if you eat the skin or outer layer (like any greens, berries, apples, etc.), buy organic; if you peel away the skin (like avocados, bananas, corn, pineapple, onions, etc.) you can usually skip organic if you need to save the money.
- Comparison shop. I know it’s a pain, but once you know what’s the cheapest and at which store, you can really save a ton of money. For example, I go to Trader Joe’s to get specific items like some of their organic produce, organic chickpeas, organic tomato sauce, almond flour, nutritional yeast, vegan mozzarella and so much more, because they simply have the best prices.
- Meal plan and cook in bulk (and dine at home!). When you have a plan, you won’t be tempted to go out to eat and spend more money, when you could have easily cooked at home for way cheaper! Make big casseroles or extra servings of whatever it is your cooking, so that you’ll not only save time by not having to cook and clean for a day or two, but you’ll also save money by being prepared and not getting in the habit of relying on expensive convenience foods or takeout. Appliances like slow cookers (check out this collection of crock pot recipes!) and Instant Pots are great for this.
- Stop wasting food. There are some great tips out there about how to make food last longer, so be sure to follow those best practices when storing your items at home. I mean, doesn’t it suck when you clean out your fridge and end up throwing away produce that would’ve been perfectly great to use just a day or two earlier? Freeze not just your leftovers but also any extra produce that’s about to go bad. And, be sure to actually eat your leftovers when you have them!
- Buy frozen produce. Frozen foods like fruits and veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, etc. are quite cheap in the frozen section, even for organic, especially if you buy in-house brands. This produce is also surprisingly fresh as it’s picked at the peak of ripeness and flash frozen to preserve the nutrients. You can also eat your fave foods year-round this way; for example, buy frozen strawberries in the winter time instead of paying an arm and a leg to get them fresh when they’re out of season.
- Join grocery store loyalty programs. Many stores offer reward programs for shoppers that can add up to big discounts. For example, Earth Fare’s Healthy Rewards program gives you a dollar back for every 100 points you earn (and usually at the bottom of each receipt you can fill out survey, giving you $5 off your next purchase). Fresh Market has their Plus program. Be sure to ask your favorite local grocery store or coop about their reward programs. Also, if you pay with credit cards, make sure you’re using the card that will earn you the most reward points or cash back.
I hope you found this list helpful! What are some of your favorite ways to eat vegan on a budget save money? Let us know in the comments below.