How to Drastically Reduce Your Grocery Bill

save tons of money on a vegan diet

Hello friends!

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my growing site. I hope you find some answers to the questions on your mind as I post more about the plant-based lifestyle! I encourage you to leave questions in the comments below. Your feedback is so appreciated, and it helps me know what to create next :) Now on to the good stuff...

After going vegan, I had a minor [read: major] bout of anxiety. I had no idea how to cook, and I didn't have any money.

Let me paint the picture for you:

My husband and I had just gotten married, and I quit my job as a nurse to go back to graduate school. He made less than $35,000 per year, and all of my "income" for the next 3 years came from student loans.

We didn't have much wiggle room for extravagant diet changes or fancy ingredients. And for a while, I wrestled with the idea that maybe I would just have to wait to become vegan until after school ended. I had no clue that I'd end up saving hundreds of dollars as a result of just choosing to eat healthier. But we did.

Principles we (now) live by:

If it isn't on the list, don't purchase it.

Whether or not you are on a vegan diet, you can probably understand why making a list for trips to the grocery store will save you money. It cuts down on the excess impulse purchases we are all inclined to make in moments of weakness.

This action has helped us financially, but it also keeps our menu fresh. We have a cheap notebook that we keep the weekly lists in, and hardly ever have we repeated a meal unless it happened to be ridiculously delicious/cheap/quick. 

Plan out meals based on the expense of the main ingredient.

After becoming a "real" adult and making a concerted effort to purchase food from the grocery store rather than the local bar or fast-food joint, I became much more familiar with the prices of commonly purchased food items than I ever cared to be. Side note: 

I soon realized that some of the most expensive items I encountered at the store were meat and dairy products. When comparing a lentil sloppy joe sandwich to a ground beef version of the same meal, there was clearly a price point that better served my poor student interests. 

(Just in case you're wondering, lentils run about $1.50/lb, while 100% ground beef currently averages about $3.50/lb). Source.

Pay the farmer, not the doctor. 

Fresh blueberries are not cheap at most of the large grocery chains in my area. But eating a diet consisting of $1-menu burgers and tacos historically increased my levels of fatigue, dependence on caffeine, and incidence of illness all the same. My student insurance had crappy coverage, and every visit to the urgent care clinic for a UTI or upper-respiratory infection set me back at least $100. I knew that I couldn't afford to be anything other than as healthy as possible during my time back in school. 

It was so incredibly empowering to take responsibility for my own health. As a person who works in healthcare, it can be extremely frustrating to continually see patients who feel powerless in their own bodies. I no longer wanted to wait for something bad to happen; I wanted to prevent as much as possible. 

I'm the first to admit, prevention isn't sexy. Pills, surgery, and youth-defying potions are way more glamorous, and they happen with that impatient urgency of RIGHT NOW, rather than over time.

But prevention is pretty cheap. 

Buy in bulk (online).

We like to use the Amazon subscribe-n-save feature (btw, we don't get any $$$ for saying this). 

Other awesome sites for bulk items that we eat a lot of include sites like Vitacost and Thrive Market

The items we like to buy in bulk are usually things like spices and super foods (cacao nibs, goji berries, cinnamon, hemp seeds). We've done some research, and we've found that things like cashews, rolled oats, and oils are just as expensive in smaller quantities. 

Stick to whole foods.

Ingredients that are less processed typically cost less to purchase. Instead of going crazy on frozen fruit, we would buy a bunch of the fresh fruit about to go bad in the produce section and freeze it ourselves.

Banana ice cream (literally just frozen bananas with desired toppings) is way cheaper to make than buying the pre-made coconut ice creams at the store.

Frozen burger patties, pre-sliced "convenience" foods, and things in cans (pre-made tomato sauce) are often more expensive and less nutritious than just buying the whole ingredients separately and doing the blending at home. Veggie burgers are made of beans, grains, and spices-- some of the least expensive ingredients out there!

Use the internet for free recipes:

My favorite method for finding inexpensive recipes includes finding bloggers who use simple ingredients, without too many exotic items. Some of our favorite budget-friendly bloggers are:

The Minimalist Baker

Emily Von Euw

Delicious Knowledge

So here is my challenge to you:

1) Track your spending on food, and see if it surprises you

2) Eat out only once per week

3) Make a list of meals for the week, and put it into a grocery list

4) Buy food from the list at the store (or online)

5) See how much money you save at the end of one month.

6) Share and comment below! :)


Happy October, y'all!