RE: Interested in the vegan diet but...
Posted Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 9:04 AM
There was a good thread on this in the January forum. I can't remember what it was called, but maybe the search function will help you find it.
I actually found our grocery bill went down after going vegan. It does make a difference if you buy mostly ingredients (whole foods) vs. prepared (processed) foods though.
And regular grocery stores have a REALLY bad habit of jacking up the prices on anything that can be considered "specialty" or "health food." For instance, the regular supermarket in my town charges $1-$2 more than Whole Foods on stuff like Amy's veggie burgers and Silk soymilk. And the Whole Foods store brand 365 items are even less. That was not the result I was expecting when I started comparison shopping!
Here are some of the basic tips:
1. Check Local Harvest for a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. This is the cheapest way to get veggies! And they are super fresh, and usually organic. We spend approx $14 a week from May-Nov on a huge box of veggies that's enough to feed 2 adult vegans. I still have some broccoli in the freezer from last season. Family-sized shares can be an even better deal, and you can partner up with friends or other families, to split a large share: http://www.localharvest.org The same site will also list farmer's markets in your area, another great deal.
2. Make the time to comparison shop in your area, at least once. With a notebook and basic list of the things we eat most often, I went to several of the local stores in my new area after we moved in 2007. I hit a family-own grocery, a large Stop & Shop, Wegmans, Whole Foods, and two health food stores. I found that for most of the things I buy, Whole Foods is actually the best deal! Their store-brand organic tofu is $1.49/lb. They have a much better selection of organic frozen fruits and veggies, at better prices than Stop & Shop or Wegman's. They carry many key items that are simply hard to find elsewhere (tahini, raw nuts and seeds), and their bulk section is large and well-priced. One of the health food stores has a big bulk section too, which includes spices at the best price in town, and a few other things--though the rest of their stuff is high. Later we got a Trader Joe's and it's on the way to Whole Foods, so I stop there first and get whatever is a better deal before heading on to WF to do the rest.
Once you get an idea of which store has what, it's just a matter of rotating so you don't have to make several trips in the same week. I do WF every week or 2 weeks (less during CSA season), TJ's 1-2 a month, Costco (see below) every 2 months or so, the health food store when I need spices or other bulk items I know they have, and Stop & Shop only when I need to quickly pick something up.
3. Discount clubs: Don't underestimate Costco and Sam's! Last weekend at Costco I got 4 lb bags of organic quinoa and 12lb bags of organic brown rice, along with organic mixed baby greens and spinach at prices way better than any of the groceries. The quinoa figured to about $2/lb and the rice $1.10. That's several dollars less per lb than any of the local groceries. They also have organic soymilk, frozen vegetables and fruits, Boca veggie burgers, etc. I don't usually shop their produce section because we have the CSA, but there are very cheap deals there too, especially if you are flexible about organics. Our store is a few towns away, so I got once every 2 months or so.
4. Shop online for pantry staples. Amazon.com has a large selection of pantry items in their grocery section and things frequently go on sale or come in cases at a discounted price. We have a prime shipping account (flat fee for the year with free shipping on most items after that), so it's actually less expensive than driving to the store.
5. If you do tend to buy packaged/convenience foods, search online for coupons, and pick up the store circulars. Whole Foods prints one called The Whole Deal which had coupons for tofu, Lara Bars, etc. this week. The One Frugal Foodie blog frequently highlights online printable coupons (note that she's not completely vegan but features a lot of vegetarian/vegan stuff): http://www.onefrugalfoodie.com/
Hope those things help!