One of the most common reasons I hear from people about why they don’t follow a plant-based diet is that it’s too expensive. This is actually a huge misconception as, like any other diet, the cost of what you eat depends on how much effort you choose to put into meal planning, budgeting, and grocery shopping.
To my point, a friend of mine and her husband actually decided to go plant-based (and have stuck to it) because it was cheaper than what they had been eating on a more meat and dairy-rich lifestyle.
My 3-person family’s average weekly grocery bill is around $100-120, or $400-$500 per month. Obviously, this depends on what food I already have in the pantry for recipes I have incorporated into the week’s meal plan, as well as what other household items we might need. It’s important to note that some of these items are bought in bulk, or may be something that lasts us longer than the week ahead. Equally important is that my family chooses to buy non-GMO, organically certified items as much as possible, which affects pricing. And to be honest, we could probably save ourselves even more money with a little more effort in terms of couponing and planning ahead based on sale items.
This $120 per week:
- Feeds three people on a vegan diet, and typically covers six to seven days’ worth of meals for each of us. It, at minimum, feeds us all for 90% of our meals, as there may be weeks that we get take out 1-2 times, costing us, at most, between $16-$30 total per week.
- Roughly equates to $18 per day, $6 per meal, and $2 per person each meal. Or, on the high end, equates to $22.85 per day, $7.60 per meal, and $2.54 per person each meal.
So, how do you minimize your grocery bill on a vegan diet?
- Pay attention to perishables. There will be more of these on a plant-based diet, as many of a your meals will often incorporate some fresh fruits and/or vegetables.
- If it’s not as important to you, don’t buy everything organic. Or, just pay attention to those items on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen to reduce your intake of pesticide-laden produce.
- Look for brands or sizes on sale. You could even make your meal plan by looking through the weekly store sales, and choosing recipes that use those items. My husband is really good at comparing “price per ounce” to determine which one is truly cheaper, depending on how much of something we need that week.
- Shop generic brands.
- When you have “extra money” lying around, use it to stock your pantry when non-perishable items are on sale. This post includes a list of vegan pantry staples that I try to keep on hand in our house. This may make your grocery bill a bit higher that week, but will save you money in the long run.
- Clip coupons. Become one of those crazy couponers with a basement full of shelf-stable boxes of pasta, if that’s what calls to you.
- Sign up for a free customer point card (i.e. a Kroger Plus card), so you will get the prices associated with purchases made using these cards, which are often lower. Kroger now sends us customized coupons for products we frequently buy.
- Meal plan. I don’t know why I put this last– it is probably my #1 tip.
How to meal plan to save yourself money:
Meal plan so that you can use the same ingredients in multiple recipes, especially if it is something that will go bad if not completely used during the week.
I often plan for multiple meals that can use the same protein base, like beans, quinoa, or tofu. That way, I can split the can of beans or package of tofu over two days. For produce, I may buy three potatoes– two to make french fries, and the other to make a thick base for a vegetable soup.
Meal plan around items that are on sale at your grocery store of choice that week.
Pretty self explanatory, but like I said, pay attention to the weekly sale ads and coupons for items you can plan recipes around.
Meal plan so that you can use ingredients you already have on hand.
I love finding recipes for the week that use items I already have. It’s like grocery shopping in my own house…for free. For instance, an enchilada recipe may use some frozen tortillas, canned refried beans, minced garlic, and a jar of salsa from the cupboard.
Meal plan so that more perishable items are consumed earlier in the week, so they don’t spoil before you use them.
I like to make a list of the recipes I want to make for the week, and then depending on how ripe the items are that I purchase, schedule them to be used in order of what is going to go bad first. I hate when I buy produce and forget to use it, especially when it’s not something that could be salvaged by throwing it in a soup or stir fry. Wasted produce = ragey Lauren.
Ultimately, your diet can cost essentially however much you want it to. This depends on what types of foods you buy and what companies you choose to support with your dollar. Sure, you could purchase all processed, prepackaged or frozen foods and still call yourself a vegan; this would probably cost different than incorporating fresh produce into your weekly meal plan. A plant-based lifestyle can look however you want it to look – it’s all about your personal priorities, which will affect how much you invest in the food you eat.
“People who love to eat are always the best people.” –Julia Child