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Are Groceries Cheaper for the Vegan (or Nutritarian)?


One of the things people have frequently said to me (besides asking how I get enough calcium and protein) since we changed our diet is, “You must save so much money on groceries!” Now that we’ve lived the lifestyle for several months, I can actually provide an educated answer.

You may have seen my earlier couponing post. At first glance, it might seem like we would save even more oodles of money–meat, dairy, and processed foods make up the bulk of most people’s grocery purchases, after all. However, there are several reasons why the savings aren’t as substantial as you might first believe.

  • There aren’t usually coupons for fresh produce, which is a substantial part of my purchase. I still try to buy fruits and veggies when they are in season and on sale, but it’s rare to find a coupon–a recent exception was Cuties brand clementines. A bag of baby spinach may not be that expensive at $1.99, but if we eat 3 bags in a week, it adds up.
  • More and more, I am buying organic produce. I will write a post later on the tons of research backing up this decision, but suffice to say, I will never buy a non-organic strawberry for my family again. Organic produce tastes better and contains less toxins, but is more expensive.
  • A large number of the coupons in Sunday papers are for dairy (butter, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, milk, ice cream), meat (deli meat, sausage, chicken nuggets, fish sticks) and nutrient-poor processed food (Pillsbury biscuits, gummi snacks, frozen taquitos, etc). None of these are part of my purchase any more.
  • Although meat is expensive, so are nuts, and we eat nuts and nut butters almost every day.
  • Whole food options are often more expensive–I still love to bake, and dates are more expensive than white sugar and whole wheat flour is more expensive than white flour.

Still, I am averaging about a 25% savings each shopping trip using a few techniques.

  • Stockpiling–When items we use do go on sale, I buy a lot of them (for example, canned beans, diced tomatoes, applesauce). We have heavy-duty shelves set up in the basement to store surplus and we rotate them out.
  • Match sales to coupons–This is a great general couponing tip. Match store sale ads against the coupons you have in your binder, accordion file, or wallet and buy when they match up. For me, the biggest savings lately have been in hygiene and baby items, like diapers.
  • Preview ads–The grocery store I usually shop at let’s you preview the next week’s sales a few days early, so I always check to see if I’m better off buying needed items this week or waiting until after Saturday.

I will admit that I could eat vegan and do it extremely cheaply. I could eat rice and beans and salad and nothing else. But giving up meat and dairy has meant embracing a whole new culinary and health experience for me and my husband and I don’t mind spending a little more in this area of our lives, because it is the most important to our current and future health (and that of our children). We can spend a little more on groceries now, or pay the price down the road in doctor and prescription medicine bills. I choose now.

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