Ever since I was in college, I would buy groceries and cook my own food at home. I was raised in a household where almost everything we ate was home-cooked by my mom, who also taught me my way around the kitchen, which I’m so grateful for.
When I left home to go to college I really started learning the value of preparing my own meals at home. With our newfound freedom, my roommate and I would eat out frequently and I would spend every dime I had without thinking about budgets or savings accounts.
It didn’t take long to realize that it was important to eat at home if I wanted to avoid flushing all of my hard-earned money down the drain. This was especially important after I graduated college and started having to re-pay my student loans, while working an entry-level job that wasn’t exactly paying me the big bucks!
Over the years I started getting in a routine of going to the store once a week and preparing meals for myself and my roommates, then we would all split the bill. It was important to me because I could prepare healthier food at home than we would find at most restaurants and it would still taste good (thanks again, mom!).
These days, I’m even more passionate about the importance of cooking our own food at home. I know a lot of people agree with me, but maybe struggle with sticking to a budget, finding time to cook and avoid food waste. I’ve experienced all of these things, too. That’s why I want to give my top tips for saving money on groceries. I hope these tips help you keep up the important habit of preparing home-cooked meals!
Stick to once a week.
Tell me if this sounds familiar…
You find a recipe that sounded so good you cant wait to try it. You go to the store and buy all of the ingredients for that one recipe and make it for dinner. The next day, you realize you have a few random bits of ingredients leftover from the previous night’s recipe, but not enough to really make a new meal. You’ve already spent 30 or 40 bucks the day before on groceries but find that in order to cook dinner at home you would still have to go BACK to the store again today to get more ingredients.
Repeat. Again and again.
The problem with this is that every time you go back to the store there is the possibility that you will end up buying something you don’t really need.
By pre-planning your meals, you can create a list and go once a week, limiting the opportunities to purchase un-needed items that hike up your grocery bill.
Don’t go to the store when you’re hungry.
It always makes me laugh when I say this. It is funny. But don’t lie – you know it’s 100% true! If you go to the store with a rumbling tummy you are most certainly going to reach for anything that could provide instant gratification for your cravings.
Sriracha flavored potato chips? Um, hell yes!
Buffalo Cauliflower? Get in mah belly!
You get the picture… And most of the time, these unplanned items will be things that you would be much better off not consuming. Not only are they unnecessary, they rack up the grocery bill like crazy!
I like to do my weekly grocery shopping trip after yoga on Sunday mornings. I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing an apple or a KIND bar in my bag so I can eat it on the way to the store. This helps keep my hunger at bay until I get home so I can stick to my actual shopping list.
Use what you already have.
Before you go to the store, always do a quick scan of your pantry and fridge for items that can be used or that have an approaching expiration date. By using items you already have, you’ll save money by actually using the stuff you’ve already paid for as well as avoid letting food go to waste.
Keep it simple.
One of the best ways to keep your grocery bill down is to plan meals that have fewer ingredients or for which you already have a lot of the ingredients. It can be expensive to buy all of the ingredients for new recipes all the time. Things that you might only need a little bit of, but you have to by a giant bottle of it – like herbs and spices, oils, vinegars, etc. Try to stick to recipes that use the things you already have on hand. If you do make a recipe with new ingredients, try to make a point of seeking out other recipes that will also use them.
Shop In the Bulk Section.
Whenever possible, buy things in bulk. I’m not referring to Costco here (though certain things might make sense to get here – things that won’t go bad and that you will always need like say, toilet paper). I’m referring to the bulk bins you will find at places like Whole Foods and other natural grocery stores.
Prices for brand name products are marked up to cover the cost of marketing, packaging and transportation. If you purchase in bulk, you can avoid these extra costs. Another perk is that you can buy only what you need. Things I like to buy in bulk are grains (like oats brown rice and quinoa), beans, nutritional yeast, nuts(cashews, almonds) and seeds(sesame, chia, flaxseeds, sunflower).
Buy whole foods.
A common misconception about a vegan diet is that it’s more expensive. On the contrary, eating plant-based foods is more affordable for a variety of reasons, including the fact that you can often-times buy in bulk(see last tip). One of the keys to eating a vegan diet on a budget is focusing on whole foods. No, not the store! I’m talking foods that are minimally processed and as close to their original form as possible. Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
There are tons of amazing vegan products on the market these days. I’m so grateful that these things exist: Vegan jerky, vegan mac n’ cheese and vegan ice cream. But if you’re trying to save your money, packaged products like these should be considered a splurge, and not part of your everyday diet.
Always have a plan.
And finally, the one you were probably expecting this whole time… drumroll please! The number one rule of saving money on groceries = DO NOT go to the store without a list! This one is kind of two-fold because in order to have a list, you have to have already picked out the meals you are planning to make before you make the list.
This is the part that seems to be the one that people struggle with the most. Perhaps you’re new to a vegan diet and unsure what to eat. Maybe you’ve tried to make a plan in the past and you buy a bunch of groceries only to get home and realize you still forgot necessary items. Maybe you do great with your grocery shopping but then never get around to making the meals you planned and all of it goes to waste.
I totally get it – the struggle is real, my friend! It took me years to perfect a system for meal planning on a budget that didn’t take all of my time.
I want to teach you all of these skills so that you can save time and money while still eating healthy delicious meals at home.