You may have noticed that your grocery budget isn’t filling your cart as much as it used to. That’s because food prices are on the rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that grocery prices have jumped 10.4 percent over the last year – that’s the greatest 12-month increase in over 40 years!
So, it’s more important than ever to shop mindfully and stretch your grocery budget as far as it’ll go. Meat, dairy, and other animal products are usually the most expensive items on the grocery store shelves, so transitioning to a more plant-based diet can help you slash your grocery bill (while still nourishing your body!).
Check out these tips to help you adopt a plant-based diet on a budget.
1. Shop in season.
Each season offers a variety of fresh produce to add to your grocery list.
Spring brings asparagus, apricots, mushrooms, and peas, and as the temperatures warm and summer is in full swing, you’ll find an abundance of sweet corn, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, and melons. Autumn lends vibrant pumpkins, sweet potatoes, yams, and pears, while winter yields Brussels sprouts, winter squash, leeks, and parsnips.
Choosing in-season produce minimizes transportation and travel for your fruits and veggies and is your best guarantee that you’re getting the freshest and tastiest produce possible. Produce is also usually less expensive when it’s in season, so eating seasonally is a great way to cut down on your grocery budget, too.
Keep in mind that your geographic location, weather, and growing conditions impact your seasonal produce. Check out this resource to find out what’s in season near you.
2. Reconsider pre-sliced fruits and vegetables.
Pre-sliced fruits and vegetables are convenient, but they’re also more expensive.
Sometimes you may feel like your time is worth the extra cost of pre-prepared produce, and purchasing produce that’s already sliced helps you include more fruits and vegetables in your diet. If that’s the case – go for it!
But, if you’re on a tight budget, buying whole fruits and veggies may be a better option. It takes a little time to cut, slice, and dice your produce at home, but if you prep your fruits and veggies all at once, it won’t feel like such a burden throughout the week.
3. Stock up on frozen and canned fruits and veggies.
There’s a common misconception that frozen and canned fruits and vegetables aren’t as healthy as their fresh counterparts. But that’s simply not true. They’re just as nutritious as fresh (and sometimes even better!).
Sometimes fresh fruits and vegetables go on a very long journey before they reach the produce crisper in your refrigerator – especially when the produce you’re shopping for isn’t currently in season. The problem? Prolonged periods of transportation and storage can lead to nutrient losses in your fresh produce.
But frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are processed within hours of harvest, preserving their nutritional content. Their shelf life is much longer than fresh produce, so frozen and canned fruits and veggies are great staples to keep on hand. Plus, they’re often less expensive than fresh produce. Just make sure to compare prices at your local grocery store to ensure you’re making the most of your grocery budget.
Here are a few tips to help you select the best frozen and canned options:
- Choose no-salt-added varieties of canned vegetables. If you can’t find a no-salt-added version of your favorite canned veggie, that’s okay. Just rinse under water before preparing to remove the bulk of added sodium.
- Select canned fruits packed in 100% fruit juice instead of fruits packed in heavy or light syrup to avoid added sugars.
- Choose frozen vegetables without sauce to limit added saturated fats and sodium. Instead dress up your frozen veggies with your favorite herbs, seasonings, and home-cooked sauces.
4. Buy in bulk.
Rice, beans, lentils, and even spices – buying foods in bulk can help you save in the long run. Plus, buying in bulk can help reduce packaging waste – it’s a win for your budget and the environment! So, get familiar with the bulk section of your grocery store and get ready to watch your grocery bill shrink.
5. Plan ahead – but be flexible.
You’ve heard the saying: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” While you can’t really “fail” at grocery shopping, it’s still important to walk into the grocery store with a plan. Here are a few tips to help you plan your next shopping trip.
- Create a meal plan. Figure out what you’re making for breakfast, lunch, and dinner this week. Try to choose recipes with overlapping ingredients to help trim your grocery budget and prevent food waste. And remember, you don’t have to make something different every single day. It’s okay to eat the same thing for breakfast each morning or prepare a large batch of a recipe so you can have leftovers the next day. Meal planning is different for everyone – take some time to find a style that works for you.
- Draft your grocery list. Write down all the ingredients you need to make your meals for the week. Make sure you take inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer before heading to the grocery store so you don’t purchase any items you don’t need.
- Be flexible. Maybe you planned to have asparagus with your pasta for dinner, but you get to the grocery store and realize that green beans are on sale. Simple swaps can help you save money while still incorporating a variety of colorful produce into your diet.
6. Get into gardening.
If you have a green thumb, gardening is a great way to supply your family with fresh produce to bulk up your meals without busting your budget. Check out the cooperative extension office in your state to find out the best fruits and vegetables to grow in your region.
Limited space? Consider starting an herb garden on your windowsill to pack an extra punch of flavor into your plant-based meals.
7. Shop around.
You probably have a few different grocery stores in your area. Take some time to shop around to figure out which store offers the best bang for your buck.
And don’t shy away from the store brand! They often provide the same nutritional content as the name brand – just be sure to compare Nutrition Facts labels. Plus, they’re usually easier on your grocery budget, too.
8. Look closely at price tags.
Price tags are tricky – a product that looks more expensive might actually be the cheaper option. But how?
Each price tag at the grocery store usually provides a “unit price.” This tells you the cost of the product per specific unit, like cost per ounce, pound, or package. Looking at the unit price can help you get the best deal, especially if you’re comparing two products in different-sized packages.
For example, you find a 16-ounce container of oats that costs $1.60. This product has a unit price of $0.10 per ounce ($1.60/16 ounces = $0.10 per ounce). But then you come across a 42-ounce container of oats that costs $2.50. It looks more expensive at first glance, but it has a unit price of about $0.06 per ounce ($2.50/42 ounces = $0.06 per ounce). It’s actually cheaper!
A few cents per ounce doesn’t seem like much but making cost-conscious decisions consistently can help you stay within your grocery budget in the long run.
Plant-based eating doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it’s a great way to help you cut back on spending at the grocery store and stick to your grocery budget. Keep these tips on hand to help you eat more greens – while also keeping more green in your wallet.