vegetarian on a budget
Updated April 21, 2021

Vegetarian on a Budget: 11 Money-Saving Strategies

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More than 7 million people are vegetarian in America, with 1 million of them being vegan. It is good to note that an additional 22.8 million  Americans follow a vegetarian-inclined diet.

Being on a vegetarian-inclined diet simply means that when given the option, people will avoid meat. Depending on where you live, being on a vegetarian diet can be costly.

Advantages of the Vegetarian Diet

  • It is healthier than the average American diet
  • It can prevent up to 70% of common diseases
  • It keeps your weight down
  • It helps build strong bones
  • It promotes longevity
  • It boosts your energy levels
  • It regulates the immune system and digestive system
  • It helps you consume food with fewer chemicals
  • It is better for the environment overall
  • It can be cheaper if done right.

In this article, we will focus on the last point we just made. We did a lot of research and we bring you 11 money saving strategies on how to be a vegetarian on a budget.  We hope that our tips reveal to you how to create a cheap vegetarian grocery list and become a pro in budgeting.

1.  Buy Your Groceries in Bulk

This is a good strategy overall. If you have the space available in your kitchen, we highly recommend that you begin buying in bulk certain food items. This is a must in order to create that cheap vegetarian grocery list.

FYI: In almost all supermarkets, and especially the bulk food markets, foods like beans, grains, pastas and flour are always cheaper when purchased in bulk.

  • For example, you can save a lot of money if you buy flour in bulk and learn how to bake your own bread.
  • It will be cheaper and healthier, as you won’t be adding any preservatives. Everyone loves homemade bread, so if you decide to bake it instead of buying it from the stores, you can make more for friends and family.

Good to Know: There are many stores all over the country that will allow you to buy exactly as much, or as little you need, so you don’t waste money. Not only you become more conscientious toward a healthier lifestyle, you also stop wasting on quantities you don’t need by using these types of stores.

Suggestion: Buy in bulk items that you know you will use for sure and have long shelf life; and buy the rest in stores that allow you to buy exactly what you need.

Bonus: Here is a list of 31 common household Items you should buy in bulk and save money.

2. Use Your Local Farmers Market

If you have the option try and visit your local farmer’s market weekly. For those who have already experienced shopping at a farmers’ market, it is hard to go back to store bought fruits and vegetable.  It is a colorful, authentic experience, filled with people that love what they do. Farmers’ markets are full of vendors who produce fruits, vegetables and grains using organic methods. If you are a vegetarian on a budget this is a must!

Benefits

  • The produce is organic
  • Pricing is better (consider that producers usually get only 20% of the proceeds from what they grow. This means that when you buy your veggies and your fruits in a store you are paying 80% over what the price might be at a local market).
  • The taste of the produce is much better
  • It is better for the environment
  • It is so much fun! You get an opportunity to meet people and become part of the community
  • You can learn more about food
  • You are supporting your local farmers
  • It is a whole “new world” full of people who want to help you, teach you and share their own recipes
  • You spend time outside.

Suggestion: Click here for the directory of all the farmer’s markets available, and sort it by area.

Bonus: Check out this recent list of the 99 apps that help you get cash back on your purchases.

3. Research Your Local Options

This can be a lot of fun for some people, and we hope you are part of that group. However if you are looking to become a vegetarian on a budget, we suggest doing this at least once.

Pro Tip: Spend a Saturday morning and visit all your local stores. Take notes on their prices. You will see that some stores price cheaper their vegetables, while others have really good deals on baked beans for example.

Good to Know: The best way to do this is to make a small spreadsheet, or just simply use a notepad. Once you visit a store, write down the store name, and next to it have a list of all the items you want to compare to other stores. Compare store prices to local farmers market prices as well.

FYI: There are many reasons why prices fluctuate so much from store to store. Some have to do with quality, and some simply have to do with branding (which in essence has no value when it comes to food)

Suggestion: We think it is a great idea for you to get to know your local options, in quality and in pricing.

Bonus: There are many online price comparison tools that can help you budget for your purchases. See this article which outlines the 13 best price comparison tools.

4. Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time

This is a great tip for everyone and not just those who wish to be a vegetarian on a budget. Getting organized and finding simple vegetarian meals has never been easier. This is something I personally did, and I found that it made a huge difference to my savings, as well as to the time I spend weekly on food preparation.

How?

  • Get and small blackboard or a whiteboard and write the days of the week on it.
  • Place it on your kitchen wall, or on the counter.
  • Every Sunday do some internet surfing and note down 7 simple vegetarian meals.
  • Chose a meal per day and write it on the board.
  • Write down the ingredients of these meals on your shopping list.
  • When you go to the store get only what is on the list (plus your few extras for breakfast and snacking).

Benefits of Planning Ahead

  • No more stress from wondering what to cook for the family every night.
  • You eat better by avoiding delivery and junk food.
  • You eliminate and wasteful habits because you buy exactly what you need.
  • You eat fresh because each week you have new items in your fridge.

Pro Tip: Check out “Budget Meal Planning Tips That Actually Work and Will Save You a Lot” for more ways to be a vegetarian on a budget.

Bonus: Take a look at more helpful tips on how to avoid impulse buying.

5. Grow Anything You Can

If you are lucky enough to have a garden, then go ahead and zone out a small portion and plant some veggies. Even if you live in an apartment, find a small space on your porch or kitchen and grow some herbs so you have can add some super fresh ingredients in your recipes. Many fresh herbs are really expensive, and they go bad within a few days of purchasing them.

It makes more sense to keep them in your yard, and only cut a small piece whenever you need it.

List of Essential Herbs You Can Grow

  • Parsley
  • Oreganon
  • Lemongrass
  • Cilantro (yum)
  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Chives.

If you have a garden, then you can expand your list to include cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots or even peppers. There are so many benefits to growing your own herbs, veggies, and fruits. You get to eat healthier, plus gardening helps ward off depression, stress and anxiety.

Suggestion: Look for a local class in gardening and connect with other like-minded people so you can learn faster and get new ideas.

Bonus: Take a look at these 21 zero waste tips that will help save money and the environment.

6. Eat Seasonal Food

Older generations used to eat only what was in season. There are so many benefits to this, that now many wellness places and restaurants use seasonal food only to create amazing, healthy and tasteful recipes. Ancient traditions support that our bodies are primed for this type of diet, since in the past there was no way to preserve food or transfer food to far away places. People would just eat what was available based on the climate they lived in.

Benefits

  • Food tastes better
  • You have something new to look forward to each season
  • Food is cheaper because it is in season
  • Fruits and veggies have a higher nutritional value when in season
  • It avoids cross-sea contaminates
  • It supports your body’s natural needs
  • It is environmentally friendly.

There are several cases where people used the “seasonal food method” to heal their bodies from serious disease.

Suggestion: It will not always be possible to eat seasonal food, but we wanted to outline the benefits to hopefully prompt you to make the right choice when given the opportunity.

Bonus: Take a look at these 19 grocery mistakes that most of us do.

7. Make You Own Condiments

If you can find the time, we believe making your own condiments is a great way to save some extra cash. Condiments and seasonings are a perfect example of how we spend more money for convenience, when we are capable of making these condiments on our own. For vegetarians t,his is a great activity to place in your monthly routine. One of my friends started doing this, and she told me how much she loved the challenge of trying to figure out how to improve her condiment recipes.

Good to Know: You might end up striking gold while you experiment, and create something you can brand and sell.

Bonus: Take a look at the essential guide on how to reduce food waste at home.

8. Make Your Own Snacks

If you have children this tip, not only saves you money, but it helps to make sure your children are eating healthy. Most of the damage we do to our health through food is due to unhealthy snacking. Most packaged snacks are packed with sugar and preservatives. Anything low fat can be super high in sodium for example. This is to compensate on the taste factor, so the companies can sell more product. By making your own snacks you get to control what you put in your body, and customize the snacks best for your own needs (or your family’s needs). You will also get the satisfaction of reducing any waste that comes from packaged snacks.

If you are looking for some ideas we got you covered.

Examples

  • Trail Mix (throw in some Goji berries and make it super nutritious)
  • Sliced fruits with cashew cream
  • Nut butter stuffed dates
  • Crackers with peanut butter and fruit
  • Apple chips
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola bowls
  • Kale chips (or other similar chips such a sweet potato chips etc).

The above suggestions are not only part of the vegetarian foods list, but can only be included on the vegan food lists (if you are part of the 1 million vegan Americans).

Bonus: Find out how to save money on groceries and cut your family’s expenses by $1,000 a Month!

9. Substitute Ingredients

Vegetarian foods and vegan diets tend to sometimes include some expensive ingredients. When you have a recipe in front of you that calls for some truffle or chia seeds, don’t worry about it. Vegan diets are notorious for that due to the limitations the diet imposes. Learn to play around with recipes, and to substitute expensive ingredients with less expensive ones.

Good to Know: This tip counts even more for cases when an item on that recipe cannot be used for any other meals. Many of us feel the need to follow recipes down to each little grain of salt. But in reality, that recipe is someone else’s interpretation of how that meal should taste. Part of eating healthy, is learning to experiment, discover new combinations and replace ingredients in existing recipes to make them better for you.

We are confident if you follow this tip you can end up saving over $20 per grocery trip.

Suggestion: Read 51 money saving cooking tips and kitchen hacks you have to try and optimize your kitchen talents.

10. Stop Eating Takeout or Delivery

BLS reports that the average American spends over $3000 a year on eating out. Of course, we know that life is hectic, and we sometimes do not have the energy or the time to cook. Our palates have also gotten more sophisticated with all the options we have, that sometimes we just need to eat that particular food from that place down the street. We get it! But if you want to be a vegetarian on a budget, takeout food and delivery food needs to be minimized.

FYI: Think about that $3000, which if divided by 12 months comes out to be $250 per month. What else can you do with that amount over time? You can invest the money, or travel and create amazing memories! You can create a retirement account, or help less fortunate people. There is a lot you can do with an extra $3000 a year.

Suggestions:

  • For a month, every time you feel the need to eat out, don’t.
  • Cook at home or make a sandwich.
  • Make sure you place the money you saved in jar.

Once you see the money building up we think you will have an easier time saying “no” to yourself when you want to splurge on delivery food.

  • Figure out how much money you were spending eating out / delivery, and take it out of your budget at the beginning of the month, deposit it in a savings account so you don’t even have the option to use it.
  • Calculate what you can make by investing that money and start growing your savings.

Suggestion: Learn how to find freebies, they are everywhere. Check out this article on ways to get free food and save even more cash.

11. Learn How to Use Technology to Save and Stay on Budget

We have identified a number of apps and services that will help stick to your budget, and even save you money.

For your convenience we are listing them below. 

  • Download Ibotta and get cash back every time you go shopping. These guys will pay you back real cash for shopping at the places you shop anyways.
  • If your primary motivation is to get healthier with a vegetarian lifestyle, then why not use HealthyWage where you make money for losing weight!
  • Use Savingstar app, which comes highly rated from its current users, and get cash back on your grocery shopping.
  • With Shopkick you earn free gift cards while you shop at your favorite stores.

Bonus Tip: Make sure to check out “The Ultimate List of Budgeting Apps to Help You Spend Wisely in 2019”.

And for those of you who are looking for extra ways to make money, take a look at this article listing over 100 ways to make extra money.

 If you are  vegetarian on a budget and you have discovered ways to more strategies to help your budget, we would love to hear from you. Comment below!

Logan Allec, CPA

Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.

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