This question has trumped so many would-be plant-based enthusiasts
I want to give you a True or False Pop Quiz starting now…
True or False: A Plant-based diet is married to a humongous price tag.
Well, that depends.
If you limit your options to paycheck swallowing stores, then true.
BUT if you use dollar-stretching hacks, then false.
Over the years, I’ve tried to crack the code for shopping without pocket damage. If you’re a plant-based newbie, and need some life-tested hacks, this is definitely for you.
Here’s my 3-step money-saving strategy to get you what you want without going out on a limb.
Step 1: Know How To Shop
- Set a number. Stick with it. Common sense, but often overlooked. Simply, look at your monthly spending limit, set a cap, and stick to that number when you shop. Shopping without a cap is like shooting in the dark. So find that sweet number you can afford, and escape the unnecessary drama.
- Set a shopping schedule. Shop once a week. This avoids unnecessary midweek spending trips. If you can shop every 2 weeks, more power to you! The goal is to only hit up the store when necessary.
- Build your smart list. After you set your number, build your grocery list. Not the reverse. Next, review your list carefully. For each item, ask: Is this a need or a want? Is there a cheaper option? Would I buy it if it wasn’t on sale? Answer honestly. Only buy what you need and keep an eye out on the weekly deals. You might be able to find some staple items for low prices. And remember a good coupon is a budget buddy.
- Shop after you’ve eaten. If you shop when you’re hungry, impulse items (and unhealthy ones) can squeeze into your cart. Eat first and enjoy a productive and less tempting shopping experience. If you use a delivery or curbside pickup service, you’ll avoid this temptation.
- Substitute to stretch goods. If the ingredient is too pricey, try swapping it out for another. For example, cashews are pricey, so I use them sparingly. Sometimes, I replace them in recipes with sunflower seeds which are much cheaper. A pound of cashews can cost roughly $13 (or more) but a pound of sunflower seeds can cost $3 (or less).
- Rotate items of similar nutrient value: For example, flax and chia seeds both provide omega 3s. You don’t need to use them both at the same time. Rotate them, and still reap the benefits. The same goes for other foods like fruit and veggies.
Step 2: Know What To Shop For
- Buy cheap foods. Purchase inexpensive ingredients that are high in nutrition, to get more bang for your buck. For example, beans are my go-to for protein. Five dollars of dried beans produce a week’s worth of dishes for my family of four. Five dollars of canned beans won’t cut it (and it’s less healthy). A $5 packet of tempeh, another plant-based protein, only makes enough for 1 day. Dried beans for the win.
Other cheap foods that are high in nutrition
Tip: To maximize on beans, I use my Instant Pot to get cooked beans in 45 minutes or less (or I cook them overnight in a crockpot). I make several dishes from this batch–easily (snag my FREE Black Bean fact sheet for benefits, meal ideas and more).
- Buy what you can afford, even if it’s not Organic. Organic foods are great, but if you can’t afford it, that’s ok! I like to follow the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen recommendations when making non-organic selections.
- Don’t major in the minors. A plant-based diet isn’t about packaged alternatives: pre-made mock cheeses, frozen veggie burgers, and $8 salad dressings. They’re nice, but you don’t need them to thrive. Treat these as occasional fillers.
- Do it Yourself: Pre-made items are convenient, but you can save a ton by doing it yourself. A pre-made guacamole spread can cost $5.00. An average avocado costs $1.50. Mix the avocado with some salt, garlic powder
andlime, and you have something fresh for less than half the store bought price.
- Compare Costs: Shop around and widen your price options. Compare prices at nearby stores, and online. If you can’t wait for a sale, you might get it cheaper someplace else.
- Stretch the limits. Squeeze every penny out of your ingredients. Don’t let them go to waste. Freeze before uneaten food spoils and use it later!
- Substitute: Just because a recipe calls for it, doesn’t mean you need to buy it. Be creative. Explore other food options and substitute. Asparagus too expensive? Swap it for another veggie. Make recipes customizable to your budget.
- Buy items that are in season. Check out what’s in
seasonvia this Seasonal Food Guide. If an item in a recipe is too expensive, replace it with an in-season ingredient, to save more money.
Step 3: Know Where To Shop
- Shop in the Bulk Section. It’s cheaper than packaged items. Plus, you can save extra at the cash register, by controlling the amount you buy. If you want raisins, but only have a $1, not a problem! In general, I pay about $1 less for items, when I shop in bulk. Sometimes less!
- Grow it. Why buy if you can grow it? A $2 pack of seeds, can yield several heaping grocery bags of veggies. No need for a green thumb. I sprinkled a few swiss chard seeds, following the directions on the packet, and reaped massive swiss chard plants. No yard space? Consider container gardening, window boxes, countertop herb pots, a raised planter on wheels, or even a local community garden. You’ve got plenty of options to choose from.
- Shop at a Farmer’s Market. Fresh, homegrown produce at your fingertips–for a steal. Look for some in your area. You won’t regret it.
- Shop pick-up/door-to-door style. Easily eliminate unnecessary items, with shopping services that allow you to see your total ahead of time, online. And for a small fee, if saving time is as golden as saving money, shopping pickup or door-to-door delivery
style,is a smart option. For me, a $5 fee doesn’t compare to a 3-hour traffic-fighting shopping trip with 2 kids in tow.
- Check out produce donation services. In a tight buck bind? Check out produce donation services in your area. Some farmers are kind enough to share surplus goods.
The next time you’re about to shop, personalize your new 3-step, money-saving strategy:
1. Know how to shop: Review your budget, set your spending limit and stick to your list.
2. Know what to shop for: Choose smart ingredients by swapping expensive ones for cheaper and in-season selections, and stretch them as much as you can.
3. Know where to shop: Find your nearest farmers market and explore nearby grocery stores with online shopping services. Shop bulk deals. Grow your own food, and check out generous farmer donations!
Strategize your next shopping trip. Create a budget, an honest shopping list, then choose where you’ll shop.
Many plant-based newbies simply don’t get enough nutrition to sustain themselves, and quit the journey for fear of withering away. But not you! Not after you read and implement tomorrow’s game changer, “Help! I’m plant-based but starving like a hungry cow”.
Hey friend, I'm Mel!
I'm a certified holistic nutritionist, certified health coach, plant-based food instructor, and a certified personal trainer. My passion is helping people like you transition to a plant-based diet, with easy step-by-step strategies that work. I'm committed to empowering you to heal through a plant-based lifestyle so you can freely live out your God-given purpose and thrive. Let's start today!
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