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!!