What?? You CAN Save Money on a Whole Food Plant Based Diet, Pt. 2

Last week I talked a little bit about how we managed to spend only $404 on groceries last month. $330 it would have been, if we hadn’t had dinner malfunctions. I quickly realized that you CAN save money by eating a whole food plant based diet, but you do have to make wise selections. Things that go far, even if you have to work a little for them.

So today I’m sharing some things I put in my grocery cart that may need a little bit more work, but last us usually the whole month through. And they are super cheap. First I would suggest sticking to a simple meal plan. Make a list of all of your favorite meals. When I did this, I realized that my favorite meals weren’t fancy meals with specialty spices in them. They were the basics: bean burgers, chili, soups adapted for our vegan diet, whole grain pasta. It has allowed me a freedom because I don’t have to buy all of those specialty spices. If I’m stocked on dry veggie broth mix, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, and chili powder, I’m usually ok.

So, what do I grab and place in my cart as soon as we get our grocery allowance?

1. Dry Beans and Rice. A bag of beans is between $1-$2, depending. I can usually get 4-5 ‘cans’ of beans from one bag. Yes, it takes work and preparation. I need to rinse and soak the beans 24 hours before I cook them. What I usually do is take a day when I’m at home, not busy, and make that a bean cooking day. If I know that Tuesday at dinnertime, I’ll be home, Monday at dinnertime, I rinse and soak the beans. You can read about how I make beans here.

Rice comes in all shapes and sizes. There is a lot of variety. Usually I stick to the basics. White rice runs for $6 for a 10# bag. Brown rice is pretty comparable. Brown rice has a chewier, nuttier flavor, and is definitely a better option fiber-wise. But it does take longer to cook, so I stock up on both, that way if time is not on my side, I know that if I make the white rice, it will be ready in 20 minutes. A tip my husband learned is to rinse your rice first, especially the white rice. This will help clean off the excess starches and it will have a better texture.

2. Something else we do, especially off season, is buy frozen instead of fresh. Once a month, at least, I can find these veggies frozen for $1/bag: carrots (this is great for soups!), broccoli, cauliflower, corn, green beans. Usually these bags last us two meals, at least. I also get stir fry vegetables and pepper onion stir fry mix for $2 bag. The pepper onion stir fry is a go to staple…we use it for soups, chili, a potato or rice topper, in tortillas, with pasta…it’s in most of our dishes.

We also do frozen fruit, especially for smoothies. We sometimes do canned fruit, but be sure to drain and rinse the fruit first that is canned, especially if it’s packaged in syrup.

I’m learning that frozen fruit is usually frozen at the peak of freshness, so nutritionally, it’s just as good as fresh. It never goes bad, which is also something I was struggling with when I bought everything fresh. A lot of times we didn’t eat it quickly enough, and it went bad. I still buy things fresh, especially when on sale, but generally, I stock up in the freezer section once a month.

Some things I do buy fresh all or most of the time: potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, squash, onions, apples, grapes, and oranges. Once strawberry season hits, I do buy those fresh also. But they never last long!

3. For soups and chilis, unless they are on sale or are going to go bad in my kitchen, I use diced tomatoes instead of fresh.

4. I also use minced garlic instead of cloves. This may change, I am just used to the convenience of minced.  I also can get a huge jar of minced garlic for $5 that will last me a long time, and I like that price. Altho for the quality of taste, I have not ever tried clove garlic, so I may be missing out! Have you ever tried clove garlic? Is there a difference in taste? I’m curious to find out!! Keep in mind if you do this route, keep in mind that 1/4 tsp. of minced garlic is approximately 1 clove of garlic.

Next week I’ll write about some snack options that hold me over and keep my grocery bill down!!

What? You CAN Save Money on a Whole Food Plant Based Diet!! Pt. 1

Part of the reason why I wanted to try this diet is that I wanted to financially challenge myself. I wanted to see if it really was more expensive to eat healthy, mostly because I’ve heard and said myself that I could never afford to eat healthy.

This month I’ve gathered up all of my grocery receipts. Usually, my food budget for my family is $500/month. We spent $404.25 this month. This is for my family of three and sometimes five. This includes me, a picky eater who has to have certain brands, my husband, a grown man who loves potatoes, a teenage son who will inhale everything if I let him, a preteen daughter who is not far behind her older brother, and Liam, who you never know how he’s going to eat.

We had three days of eating out. Two of the days were from dinner malfunctions. Our grill acted weird one day, and since it was Mother’s Day Weekend and my birthday weekend, we went to Applebee’s and spent about $40. The other day I made something that ended up green and weird…so we ordered pizza. The final day I was moody and hungry and my husband took us to Burger King. (on a side note, BK Veggie Burger is the best around! And the cheapest!!) If we had eaten at home entirely for the month and eaten what I had planned on us to eat on those days, we would have only spent $330.25.

$330. For a family of 5. Even for a family of 3, that is pretty amazing. That is a $170 savings. I could use that $170 elsewhere, trust me! Please also note that this is for a mostly vegan diet. I still buy meats, dairy, and eggs for the kids. I also still buy some processed stuff for them also. If I were to cut all of that out, I’m sure we’d save even more. Also I’m sure that when my older two are here more often during the summer, our grocery savings will look different, and maybe not as drastic as this month. That’s ok tho, because we are still saving more than we ever did before.

So the next few blogs will be about what I’ve learned about slashing my grocery budget in this dramatic way. I’ve learned a lot on what to buy and what to skip on, and maybe my mistakes will help you save money on your grocery bills.

Even if you eat meat, if  you incorporate more veggies in your diet, you will see how far your dollars will grow. Maybe do a ‘meatless Monday’ or something. The other day my husband and I were at Wal-Mart and bought a 10 lb. bag of potatoes for $4.77. I casually mentioned that the ground beef that I usually bought (and still buy on occasion for my kids) is $4.95/lb. He said, “Wow, so one meal of meat for the family (which, when we all ate meat, we had to use 2 lbs. of ground beef), is $10…but if we were to make a potato dish with veggies, we would spend less than $4.77 (because we wouldn’t eat all ten pounds at one meal).

Yes, you can save money on a ‘whole food plant-based diet’, if you are wise in what you put in your buggy. Today I’ll cover a couple of tips to get you started. 🙂

1. The most obvious and well-known tip is to not shop when you are hungry. I’d add in with this one to shop alone. Try to go when your spouse is home and can watch the kids, even if it is later at night. Or have an older child watch the younger ones if you are able. I tend to give in and spend more to appease my kids (“If you behave, I’ll buy you a Lunchable!”, “Sure, we can get those cookies!”). If I am alone, I can stick to my list, and take more time to make sure I’m getting what I want on sale. If you do have to shop with your littles, try and plan ahead. Go right after breakfast or lunch, and grab a baggie of cereal per kid or a granola bar each to hold them over while they are in the store.

2. Menu Plan: All dinners, most lunches. I have a general menu plan where I plan every dinner. Now I may not eat the meals in the order written, but they are there as a baseline so I know what to buy so I can make fewer trips to the store. I also generally make a list of lunches. This isn’t as strict, but it’s still written down. I usually always make a pot of soup a week, and that constitutes as lunch for several days. I also have on my list: salads, wraps, leftovers, sandwiches. This is basic stuff, but often I’ll go out and shop and forget that I needed lunchmeat for the kids or fresh tomatoes for a salad. If I have that list with my dinner menu, I remember to buy what I need for lunches too.

3. Buy food as least prepared as possible. I was buying containers of orange juice for $4-$6 a jug. I love orange juice and we can go thru a good many pitchers of it a month. I decided to buy frozen orange juice at $1.50/can. You just add three cans of water to it and you have orange juice. Tastes just the same, but you have saved so much money. I started making homemade vegetable stock. I spend about $1/month now on homemade dry stock, where before I’d spend $2/container of veggie broth, and I could use 2-3 containers of broth for a meal at times, especially when I make soups.

Both of these alterations (homemade stock and frozen orange juice) add a little bit more work to my day, but the minute or two that I spend mixing them up (which is literally all it takes) is worth the dollars I’m saving at the store.

Next time I’ll blog about what I throw in my shopping cart, and what stays on the shelf! Have a great day! 🙂