How to Eat Vegetarian on a Budget

Eating vegan or vegetarian doesn't have to cost a bundle. Here are a few tried-and-true ways (and recipes!) to help you save at the supermarket while still loading up on plenty of nutritious, organic meatless foods.

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Eating vegan or vegetarian doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. As the resident cheapskate here at VT HQ, I’ve picked up a few habits over the years that have saved me bundles at the supermarket. Here are my wallet-friendly favorites:

Buy in Bulk 

It’s almost always cheaper! According to the Bulk Is Green Council, bulk buying will save you an average of 89 percent over buying packaged goods. Plus, you can get just as much or as little as you need rather than splurging on a big bag of, say, whole-wheat flour that’ll go rancid before you can finish it. Bulk is great for veg staples like nuts, seeds, spices, whole grains, and dried beans, but be careful: some specialty items like sprouted walnuts or goji berries can be expensive—in bulk or not—so always check the cost per pound before taking a scoop.

Eat in Season 

Forget about fresh berries in winter and persimmons in summer. Instead, go for what’s at peak freshness, which is often also on sale. Right now, that means things like kale, winter squash, and citrus. Choose clean-out-the-fridge-style recipes that are easily adaptable to what you’ve got on hand. Think soups, lasagna, pot pies, and hearty lunch bowls (protein + whole grain + veggies). Check your local farmers’ market, where you can usually be sure everything you see is seasonal. (And make friends with vegetables that are always cheap, regardless of the time of year: carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, broccoli.)

Remember the “Dirty Dozen” 

Buying organic produce all the time can get mighty pricey mighty quickly. Best bet: use the Environmental Working Group’s list of the most pesticide-laden conventionally grown fruits and veggies to help you pick and choose. As a rule of thumb, go conventional for stuff with a thick skin (banana, avocado, pineapple, onion), but stick with organic for berries, stone fruit, grapes, and anything with a thin skin. And remember: if you shop at the farmers’ market, you can still buy produce that’s organically grown but not certified organic—it’s often cheaper that way. Organic eggs and dairy usually cost less at the FM too.

Cook From Scratch 

Sure, it’s convenient to use veg pantry favorites like canned beans, boxed broth, and heat-and-eat rice, but those things typically cost way more than making the same stuff at home (and they don’t taste as good). Here’s what to do: throw together clean-out-the-fridge veggie stock and cook big batches of beans and rice in a pressure cooker, then freeze most of it. I like spreading cooked brown rice out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freezing for a few hours, then sticking the grains in a freezer bag and squeezing out excess air. Veggie stock and beans (with their liquid) can go in wide-mouth Mason jars—just don’t forget to leave some room at the top!

How about you? What’s your secret to saving on the grocery bill?