Despite what many think, a vegan or vegetarian diet doesn't have to be expensive. With this $20 vegan and vegetarian grocery budget, you may find yourself spending less than if you were eating meat.
Since my stepdaughter went vegetarian and eventually vegan last year I have really had to learn a thing or two about frugal shopping for vegan and vegetarian diets. My husband and I are meat eaters, so we buy her separate food for the most part. Occasionally I make a dish that just happens to be vegan or can be adapted. In the time I have been shopping for vegan and vegetarian foods, I have learned some tricks for saving money. I have also found some cheap vegan/vegetarian staples that we always add to the basket when I shop for my stepdaughter. This $20 vegan and vegetarian grocery budget includes these frugal staples. A few are only suitable for vegetarians, but most work for vegans too. Keep in mind that getting everything on this list may be over $20, depending on your area.
$20 Vegan and Vegetarian Grocery Budget
Beans – The staple protein source for non-meat eaters, beans are cheap and easy to prepare. They also are great substitutes for meat in many recipes. You can buy them for next to nothing in the bulk foods section if you are willing to prepare them, or look for deals on canned beans (which are typically less than a dollar anyway).
Grains in bulk – Buying grains in the bulk section of the grocery store is the best way to save money on them. In my local grocery store, I can buy brown rice as low as 40 cents a pound and lentils around 60 cents a pound. Stock up on a variety of grains to give yourself lots of variety.
Nutritional Yeast – You may think this is a silly thing to add to a bare bones grocery list for vegans or vegetarians, but I use it a lot to add flavor and extra protein to vegan recipes. Since I buy it in bulk it costs me almost nothing.
Spinach – Around here, spinach is almost always very low cost so I always buy a bag of it for my stepdaughter. Spinach can be used for simple salads but it is also great cooked into stir-frys, placed in rice dishes, and even used as the ‘lettuce' in everything from sandwiches to tacos. It's an awesome frugal source of iron, too!
Eggs – Eggs are a staple for vegetarian diets and they are super low cost. Use them for every meal and you could save a lot of money.
Tortillas – There are several brands of tortillas out there that are free of lard and are vegan. My stepdaughter loves to use them for wraps or just simply spreading some hummus or refried beans on for a quick meal.
Peanut Butter – My stepdaughter eats this daily as a source of protein and we buy it in bulk. If you don't eat that much of it, you could easily find peanut butter for $2 per small jar.
Oats – One of our vegan breakfast staples is oats. They are easy to make and if you add in frozen fruit or even vegan jam (as my stepdaughter does) it is a fast and filling meal that cost's little.
Frozen Veggies and Fruit – Because of my location up north, I have found that frozen veggies and fruit are usually cheaper and they work well for stir-frys, baked goods, casseroles, and more.
Soy Milk – Soy milk can usually be purchased for around $1.50 here and it is great for making ‘creamy' sauces for less.
Oriental Flavor Ramen Noodles – I know what you are thinking. Ramen noodles are not good for you and are full of sodium, and generally, I agree. The truth is, they are also very low cost and can be used in ways that are healthier. We like to add frozen veggies or tofu to them to create a meal.
Tofu – Tofu really is an amazing protein source and it's very low cost. I usually get a brick of it for around a dollar. Extra firm tofu works well as a meat substitute in recipes and silken tofu is great for scrambles and smoothies.
Bananas– I can never seem to keep these in my home. They are gone pretty quickly around here and I don't mind since they are one of the cheapest fresh fruits in the store.
Tips for Eating Vegan and Vegetarian on a Budget
Shop Trader Joe's – If you have one near you, I highly recommend shopping there for vegan and vegetarian foods. Their foods are nicely labeled and they have a large variety for such a small store. They also tend to have lower prices for ‘special' vegan and vegetarian foods.
Get most of your foods in bulk sections – Bulk bins are a great place to find most vegan and vegetarian staples on this list such as rice, oats, beans and even stuff like cornmeal, dried refried beans and a plethora of spices.
Keep your meals simple – Don't worry about getting too elaborate with your meals. Many vegetarians and vegans (or those cooking for them) make the mistake of thinking they need to make ‘special' foods. In reality, many conventional foods are already vegan and/or vegetarian.
Read labels and be surprised – We were surprised that many foods we didn't think were vegan actually are. By now, you probably know that Oreos are vegan, but did you know canned or jarred pasta sauces are often vegan?