Vegan on a Budget
One of the most common things I hear when discussing vegan and vegetarian diets with people is “I could never go vegan/vegetarian. It’s too expensive.” And while it would be more expensive if all you buy is expensive substitutes to replace meat and dairy, a healthy vegan diet can actually be significantly cheaper than a traditional diet. Here’s an easy grocery list for a week’s worth of vegan groceries…on a budget!
I do the majority of my shopping at Aldi, and then get anything else that they don’t have at Kroger. If you live near an Aldi, definitely start doing your shopping there! They have a great selection and even better prices. Just don’t forget to bring your own bag and a quarter if you want a shopping cart!
Fresh Produce – $20
I try to plan my meals around produce since it’s something that I need to buy fresh each week and use up before it goes bad. Here’s an example of what you can get for $20 or less:
- Kale – $2. Kroger usually has organic kale for $0.99 a bunch. However, if you buy a package of precut kale, it will be more expensive
- Apples – $5. I buy a pretty large bag of apples at Aldi every week. Depending on the variety, the bag can range from $3-$5.
- Potatoes or sweet potatoes – $5. Starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes are often cheap and very filling. And they can be versatile (seriously, just think of all of the ways a potato can be cooked). I buy a bag of either at Aldi each week, or sometimes I splurge and buy a bag of each!
- Bananas – $3. I buy organic bananas at Aldi (although I think they’re about the same price at Kroger). I usually buy more than one bunch because I use one in my breakfast smoothie every morning, and I like to eat a banana as a snack sometimes.
- Other fresh fruit or vegetables – $5. Use what’s left in your produce budget to buy some of your other favorite vegetables or fruit. I like to get either asparagus or Brussels sprouts, which both can range in price from $2 to up around $5 depending on if they’re in season or not. I also can get a package of 5 or 6 jalapeño peppers for less than $1 at Aldi. Every few weeks, I buy a bag of carrots for around $2. Carrots will keep for a while, so it’s not something I need to buy every week.
Prices change, so many times I spend a good bit under my $20 allowance. However, fresh fruit and vegetables are extremely nutrient dense, so I’m fine with spending the full $20 on them if I need to!
Grains – $5
Grains are often the base of most recipes. This is something you probably won’t have to purchase every week, especially if you’re just cooking for yourself.
- Rice or quinoa – $3. You can buy a HUGE bag of white rice that will last you months for less than $2 at Aldi. However, if you want brown rice or a specialty type of rice, you’ll pay about the same price, but for a smaller bag. It should still last you more than a week most likely. Or you can opt for quinoa or a specialty grain like millet or teff. Quinoa is easily found at Aldi now. If you have a store with bulk bins near you, you can buy smaller amounts of grains so you can mix it up each week.
- Pasta (and sauce!) – $2. Buy a box of spaghetti or penne or whatever pasta you prefer and also get either a jar of premade sauce, or some cans of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to make your own. Boxes of pasta are usually $1, and cans of tomatoes/tomato paste are usually around $0.75. Premade sauce is $1 or $2. Pasta is a quick, delicious meal, and you can throw random veggies in the sauce!
Legumes, Nuts, and Seeds – $15
Instead of buying expensive meat substitutes, get your protein from legumes! Beans and lentils are delicious, filling, protein- and fiber-rich, and eco-friendly. You can buy cans of beans, but you’ll get way more for your money if you buy dried.
- Beans – $2. Either get two or three cans of different beans, or buy a bag of your favorite dry beans. Beans are great in soups, curries, Mexican dishes, and lots of other things. White beans go great with tomatoes and can be thrown in with your pasta sauce.
- Lentils – $2. Lentils are great, especially in Indian and Ethiopian dishes. They are pretty cheap, and you can get a decent sized bag for your money.
- Peanut butter – $3. Get the kind that’s just peanuts and salt. Kroger’s Simple Truth organic creamy peanut butter is my favorite! This is another item that you won’t need to buy every week.
- Tofu – $4. When cooked properly, tofu is DELICIOUS. Learn to cook it the right way, and you’ll have many delicious meals ahead of you. I recommend investing in a tofu press since getting as much water out as possible is important in making tofu not be gross. Tofu usually costs about $1.60 and I usually buy 2 packages each week.
- Non-dairy milk – $3. I included this in this section since non-dairy milks are made from legumes or nuts. Get the unsweetened version of whatever your preferred milk is, otherwise you’re just giving yourself unnecessary and unhealthy added sugars.
- Favorite nut or seed – $4. Buy this on the weeks when you don’t need to buy peanut butter. Almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, or cashews. There are a lot of options here. Again, if you have a store with bulk bins, that might be your best bet as nuts can sometimes be expensive and you can get smaller amounts from bulk bins.
Frozen Goods – $10
Frozen fruit and vegetables are a great way to supplement your fresh produce with items that you plan on adding to cooked dishes since you often won’t notice the lack of freshness. Frozen produce is just as healthy as fresh produce, and sometimes it actually has retained more nutrients since it’s frozen very soon after being picked
- Frozen fruit – $5. I use frozen fruit in smoothies since it’s cheaper than fresh, and then I don’t have to add ice to my smoothie to get it to be frosty and delicious. Frozen fruit is also great in healthy desserts.
- Frozen vegetables – $5. I always have a bag of frozen chopped onions on hand and add it to almost all of my savory dishes. I also often keep frozen sliced peppers and frozen cut broccoli. I add these to stir-fries, curries, and soups. Frozen vegetables are often cheaper than fresh, and they come pre-cut so it cuts a lot of time on prep as well!
Total budget: $50. Again, many of these things won’t need to be purchased every week, so your budget will often be much lower. I usually spend around $25-$30 each week, and only spend the full $50 when I need to stock back up on items that last longer. Obviously, there are items here that I buy that you might not need, and they may be items I don’t buy that you do. Having a list is often half the battle, and you can adjust this budget to fit your needs. I have also left off spices since different people have different needs, and spices usually last for several months.
Also keep in mind that this is an average budget. You can definitely eat way more cheaply if necessary for your income. Or you can add more things or upgrade some things if you’re able to have a larger budget. Do what works best for you!
How do you grocery shop on a budget? What are your top tips for eating vegan inexpensively? Let us know in the comments!