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Posts: 6
5/26/13 6:22 P

Thank you for your reply! That was helpful. I did a mostly raw food diet for a few years and felt really great, but I was the only one doing it and it was just so hard to keep the food budget in check and feed everyone. We are trying now to get everyone eating the same things and more healthy foods to our day. I am a vegetarian, but the rest of the house eats chicken. Easy enough to work around though. I think we would all do better to limit our cheese a little more though! Thanks for all your tips, I will check out your food log too!

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5/26/13 6:12 P

Not sure if you were asking me or just anyone in general. Here's my general plan and you are welcome to look at my food tracker. The link is on the bottom of my spark page.

Daily: 4 - 6 fruit servings (fresh, frozen, dried without sugar, one must be berry, one must be citrus, usually have a banana, frozen)
1 ounce raw nuts or seeds
1/2 - 1 cup cooked legumes
2 salads, each with 5 ounces salad greens, and then at least 1/2 pound other raw veggies
2 servings whole grains: might be oat groats, wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, barley, farro, or a mixture. Might be a sprouted grain English Muffin. Might be millet and flax chips. Carrots and potatoes count here also.

Note: I bake a cup of brown rice which makes 4 servings. I also bake a mix of 4 other whole grains, 1/4 cup each. Cover each dish and required water with foil and bake an hour. Cool. Package each serving in ziploc bags and freeze. You can fix a grain bowl later with fruit and nuts; or with steamed veggies.

You can freeze a serving of mixed veggies like peas, carrots and corn with the grains. Instant meal, just by defrosting. So if you are the only one eating this way, you're in and out, ready to eat very quickly.

I had grain, chopped apple, cashews and celery flavored with cinnamon and ginger for supper. Tasty.

Oh, think of flavoring the baked grains. One time savory with garlic, onion, celery, rosemary sprig. Another time a cinnamon stick and ginger. Remove the cinnamon stick or rosemary sprig before using in other recipes.

Weekly: 2 servings animal products: I rotate between fish, chicken, yogurt, and cheese. For cheese, I buy a mesh bag of Babybel Gouda. it keeps a long time which is important since I eat so little of it. It doesn't seem to spoil and it's already portioned.

Minimal fat, usually coconut oil, minimal means about 1 tsp.
I like to make dressings with avocado and lime or lemon juice.
I also eat cooked vegetables, usually roasted or steamed.

When I'm at the store, I make sure I'm buying greens, onion, mushrooms, berries, and seeds like sesame or sunflower seeds. Tomatoes and broccoli are also a mainstay. I have raised my own sugar snap peas but they are done now, so I will need to buy them this summer. I also grow salad greens in the shade in containers under my trees. Leaf lettuce does well there.

I drink almond silk and Trader Joes coconut milk beverage. As opposed to the canned sweetened coconut milk.

I keep Sami's Bakery millet and flax chips and Ezekiel sprouted grain English Muffins and Arnold whole grain sandwich thins on hand. And it's pricey, but I buy Cheesy Kale Krunch (no cheese, no chemical additives, all whole foods on the label)

I also buy almond butter (sole ingredient).

The basis of this plan is Dr Fuhrman's Level 3 of 3 Steps to Incredible Health. I haven't found the Kale krunch on his info, but I believe he'd approve of all the ingredients.

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5/26/13 5:41 P

What does your typical meal plan look like for a week? I am trying to do more of stocking up on the beans and grains and such and just buying the fresh veggies and fruits weekly, but I am afraid I will only eat beans and rice with some veggie variety and fruit for all my snacks. Just looking for some meal ideas with what you are eating. (Although we do often make hungarian mushroom soup, cajun red beans and rice, brown rice risotto, and a few other things..)

Thanks for your input!

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5/25/13 5:23 P

I think the idea that plant based eating is more expensive comes from thinking you have to have something on your plate that looks like "meat" or a "hamburger." Those processed plant based foods are just as expensive and probably just as unhealthy for you as the animal alternatives.

Check the ingredients for a vegetarian hamburger at the store. Besides all the chemicals and sodium, you will see a combination of a cooked dried beans, maybe seeds or chopped nuts, a grain like oats, and some veggies like grated carrot, onion, tomato, broccoli, spinach, all chopped fine so that the only think recognizeable when you eat it might be little carrot pieces.

So, you can throw all of those things together into a casserole for 8, bake, and you have your whole meal: maid dish and accompanying vegetables, and grain for a fraction of the cost of a cut of meat or the processed vegetarian dishes. OR you can form the mixture into your own patties or balls. I like to bake mine in muffin cups then freeze. The "pucks" might find themselves in a tomato sauce, crumbled on top of a salad, or as a topping on other casseroles.

My monetary issue comes with wanting the fresh fruit. At times fresh fruit is very cost saving, when in season locally. In March I was able to buy huge boxes of strawberries at the farmer's market for $1.50. I took a rolling crate and filled it with strawberries each week and carried the veggies in bags out to the car. I froze half the strawberries right in the boxes they came in. And had fresh strawberries daily. And not much more than strawberries. $.40 for a cup serving of fruit is pretty good.

Berries don't stay in season long. And cherries don't even grown here. So I go to the big box freezer aisle and buy huge bags of all kinds of frozen berries. Usually around $.15 an ounce. Right now, I'm buying 1 pound frozen blueberries at the Dollar Tree. that's 6 cents an ounce. Can't beat it!!

The last steak I bought was $9.00 a pound or $.56 an ounce. Even hamburger is $3.99 or $.24 an ounce.

It was a shock to my pocket book when I started to eat in a more healthy way, but not because fruit and veggies were too expensive. It was because I hadn't been buying fruits and vegetables except for maybe a bag of apples and a bag of frozen broccoli.

If you start to eat 5 - 7 fruits and vegetables (at least) daily with a little bit of meat at your meals, then all you need to do is substitute something else for the expensive meat!!

And legumes, eggs, nuts, and seeds become a great substitute with various price points, most cheaper than most cuts of meat.

So you really aren't substituting fruits and veggies for meat. They should already be in your omnivore diet.

Edited by: BRAVELUTE at: 5/25/2013 (17:27)

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5/24/13 2:52 P

I am on a plant-based eating plan, and I am alone so only have to cook for one. I have #10 cans of all varieties of beans, plus I stock up on bulk grains, quinoa (actually a seed rather than a grain), lentils, etc., so I only have to shop regularly to buy fruits and vegetables, plus regular and sweet potatoes. I often buy frozen, simply to prevent spoilage when I can't eat the fresh fast enough. At first I thought I couldn't afford the expense, especially of the fresh fruits, but I found that you really get a lot more food per pound than you would think! I can spend as little as $10, or rarely more than $20, for a week's worth of plenty of healthy food to supplement the beans and grains I already have on hand. And keeping up my supply of those is cheap, too. I am picking up a Bountiful Basket tomorrow morning ( and only fear I won't have room to store everything (I share a refrigerator with a roommate)! You don't know what you'll get ahead of time, so it's not the best choice for someone with a lot of food prejudices.

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5/24/13 2:39 P

There is a very easy way to cook beans, without the expense (and for some, fear or uncertainty) of using a pressure cooker. Canned beans are convenient, but are often canned in cans lined with BPS plastic and have too much sodium. Here is how I cook mine: Put your rinsed (sorted if necessary, mine don't need it) in a pan of plenty of water (8 cups for a pound of beans) and bring to a boil for 2 minutes - yes, just two minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for at least one hour. I start mine earlier in the day before I need them, so mine often sit for several hours. That doesn't matter - the instructions say one hour. Then drain the water and rinse; fill the pan with fresh water (6 cups) and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (until tender - I find that garbanzo beans may take longer, but most take closer to 1/12 hours). I'm always amazed, because I've soaked mine all night, or cooked them literally all day in a crock pot, and still had hard, inedible beans, and no more!

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5/24/13 10:40 A

I don't know where the idea that vegetarian/vegan eating is more expensive than carnivorous eating comes from. When I briefly went carnivore for allergy testing, my food bill doubled (so did cleanup time... But the cats were thrilled). Definitely going veggie is a good idea if the budget is tight. Processed veggie protein (hot dogs, burgers, deli sandwich slices etc.) are pricey though convenient. But beans are cheap, especially if you cook them from scratch in a pressure cooker or stock up on sales for canned. There's a lot of protein in grains and bread, if you bake your own bread you can really pack it with good stuff besides wheat. Peanut butter is a good protein source as well. Other legume, seed, and nut butters as well as nuts and seeds will be pricier. Fruits and vegetables don't cost any different for veggies than for carnivores, and we all should eat as much of them as we can afford. Fresh sometimes requires taking out a bank loan, but watch for sales and canned/frozen. There's actually a lot of protein in veg and fruit. The body just breaks protein from any source into amino acids to build up the ones our bodies need, and all essential amino acids for humans are plentiful in plants. So don't worry so much about protein, with a varied diet it's hard not to get enough on even a vegan diet. Carnivores in the USA tend to overdose on protein because they eat so much animal food, which explains some of our health problems. If 12% to 15% of your calories are protein, you're doing fine. It's easy to get that much or more even on a vegan diet.

SparkPoints: (2,791)
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Posts: 57
5/23/13 3:23 P

check the website for bountiful baskets (i think it is .org) to see if they have it in your area. for $15 you can get a basket - it is actually 2 baskets - filled with fruits and vegetables. they put in whatever they can get the best deals on and try to buy local when possible. you can get te organic basket for $25. they also have all kinds of add ons like specific fruits, breads, granola, etc at good prices. it is fun to see what you end up with each week and it sometimes inspires you to look up new recipes for the items that were in the weeks baskets.

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5/23/13 2:31 P

Good topic, and I have been struggling with the same especially since I'm trying to buy organic whenever possible. I'm excited that the Farmers Market season is kicking off, but I'm worrying about when the weather turns cold again in the fall... I love all of the suggestions here.

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5/23/13 9:10 A

@ Brew99 My office is actually in the heart of the Vietnamese district of my city, and I know they have a few markets. Maybe I will take a look and find some great options right here. Thanks!

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5/23/13 9:07 A

@ Lolaturtle Thanks for your words about juicing. I am supplementing my fruit and vegetable intake with home juicing, so I am still eating the un-juiced items (usually raw) and getting the benefits associated with them. There are several reasons I even considered juicing.

1) You mentioned getting "enough". I've seen some of the demonstrations of how much fruits and vegetables you should be eating everyday and, if they are accurate, that's a lot of food! I don't have the desire to do that much eating, but juicing allows me to condense some of that into a small package.

2) There are some F & V's I simply prefer in juice form. Tomatoes, for example. I'm not real keen on eating the actual tomato and usually only have some small pieces on a salad, maybe a slice on a sandwich. But I love tomato juice and can easily consume 3-4 in a juice. Kale is another one. Yes, I like kale and will mix it into a salad (maybe the leaves of one stalk). But I can juice several stalks at once and use the whole stalk instead of just the leaves. Cucumbers, beets, etc. while I do eat un-juiced, I will consume a lot more in a juice than I will eating raw.

3) I'm using juicing to swap out less-nutrient packaged products. For years I've been having a glass of juice with my breakfast. Now I'm replacing that with my own juice. I usually juice in the evening and drink a glass right away for maximum nutrients. The rest I jar up (using methods I researched for storing fresh juice) the next morning. I figure even if the morning juice has lost nutrients overnight, it's probably better than what I was currently buying in the store.

4) It's fun and interesting to try new things, and anything that makes this interesting can only help.

Posts: 856
5/23/13 9:00 A

I'm not sure where you live but seeing as you have a farmers market every month throughout the year it sounds like a larger place. Every place I have lived I have found Asian stores (usually Chinese) to be the cheapest place to purchase fresh produce and vegetarian/vegan options. You can even purchase soy milk and tofu for a ridiculously low price seeing as they have a higher demand that brings down the price (always look for non-GMO). Seems like others have already mentioned the other great advice I would suggest.

Posts: 1,175
5/23/13 8:48 A

I love using the bulk bins. It's an easy way to try new things without the expense of an entire package plus the waste if I don't like whatever it is. I try to get to a large farmers market once a month. It runs year round and even with product brought in from other places it's still much cheaper (and they can tell me where the food comes from).
I'm mostly a vegetarian, and have found a local store that has great sales on boneless skinless chicken breast (pretty much the only meat I eat), so I buy more on sale, vacuum seal it then freeze it. Lasts a long time.
I've started canning my own vegetables from the local farm stands and that works out well. I dislike frozen foods only because I think it tastes freezer burned fairly quickly so it does end up being a waste for me.
I enjoy trying new vegetables, and usually incorporate them into stir frys to see if I like them.

Posts: 1,000
5/22/13 11:15 A

I just took a look through the Appetite for Reduction cookbook online and the recipes look really good! Thanks for posting this!!!

Posts: 359
5/22/13 9:04 A

Definitely echoing that you will save the most money by making homemade meals rather than buying meat and dairy replacements. The loaf studio link is a great one! Makes it easy to use up whatever you have around into a great meal.

The milk thing will be tricky, because 1) there are so many brands available, 2) many are expensive, and 3) they are extremely varied in taste. Some that I have seen people recommend as their favorite I found absolutely disgusting. You will probably just have to try different things until you find one you like.

The question is - what purpose does milk serve in your diet? If you just want something to put on your cereal, you can make home made almond milk cheaply, with almonds from a bulk bin and a good blender and strainer. You can find many recipes online for this.

However, if you use milk as a main source of calcium, you will probably want a store bought brand that is fortified.

Mainly I wanted to recommend this cookbook, Appetite for Reduction:

This book is awesome for people interested in more plant based meals who are also trying to lose weight. None of the recipes use "fake" meats or non dairy products, just vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, spices, and the occasional tofu. They are all low calorie, have the full nutritional info listed in the cookbook, and tasty! Many are already in the SP database for tracking as well.

This is my go-to cookbook; we eat meals from it anywhere from 2x a week to daily.

Finally, if you don't mind, just my personal opinion on juicing. As I understand it, the idea is to get more of the nutrients from fruits and veggies into someone's diet. I personally think juicing is mainly important for people who 1) have trouble eating *enough*, 2) have digestive issues with fiber, or 3) are ill or have some other health problem that prevents them from eating regular meals.

Otherwise, if you are just trying to eat healthy, one of the main health benefits of fruits and veggies is fiber. When you juice you are throwing a lot of the fiber away. It is better for you, cheaper, and less wasteful to just eat the fruits and veggies.

The occasional smoothie is great if that's something you enjoy (blending stuff whole including fiber) but I just feel like juicing is wasteful and unnecessary for most people. And it's the last thing you should do if you're trying to save money.

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5/21/13 2:29 P


Thanks for sharing the recipe websites! I have been craving something different, have been feeling repulsed by meat for quite awhile - even fish, and have been relying on oatmeal for dinner very often lately. I am excited to try some of the recipes that I saw at the two website that you shared! I am going to try Zucchini Noodles with Sesame Peanut Sauce this week.

Thanks again! For anyone who reads my post and doesn't know what websites I am referring to. Here they are - thanks to ABJOTV who posted awhile back.

Gail emoticon

Posts: 486
5/21/13 11:19 A

Bulk Bins are especially helpful for trying new things. Check out amaranth or quinoa or steel cut oats or something else you've never had/heard of. Get 50 cents worth and see if you like it!

Posts: 1,000
5/21/13 10:55 A

Muffy - I never thought of bulk bins .... My new favorite grocery store has a ton of bulk bins .... I'll have to go take a look at them and see what I can use!

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5/21/13 10:04 A

the same rules apply that frugal people apply to any food shopping. Buy what is in season, use every part of what you by, if only in the soup pot (that is to say for example beets, eat the root, eat the leaves, eat the stems), and eat the leftovers. Waste nothing. The least amount of packaging and handling usually means lower prices, grow what you can if only in pots on your patio or balcony.

Posts: 486
5/21/13 9:34 A

Bulk Bins!

Stores like Whole Foods and Wegman's have bulk bins in what I lovingly call The Hippie Section where you can get grains, beans, oats, nuts, nutritional yeast, even chocolate. I can get exactly (and only) what I want and it's cheaper than buying a big bag of something.

Ditto what others have said about farmers' markets and buying whatever's in season while it's fresh and stocking up on frozen stuff when it goes on sale.

I also keep a veggie scrap container in the freezer, so broccoli stems, onion and garlic peels, carrots, etc. all go in there and when the bin is full I simmer it and turn it into veggie stock to cook rice/grains.

I'm also big on batch cooking, in particular the rice & beans like others have said. You can get a whole bag of (organic even) beans (about ~4 cans worth) for the same price as one can. Sure it takes effort to soak and then cook them, but they're so much better and so much lower in sodium it's totally worth it.

Posts: 1,000
5/20/13 10:04 A

Thanks for posting the link to the Vegan Lunchbox! This is exactly what I need to help me along the way of plant based diet!

Edited by: CANDACEMM at: 5/20/2013 (10:05)

Posts: 473
5/19/13 10:48 P

Altho i do not get food stamps I noticed if you look in the produce isle the store does label

the fruits and vegetables stamps are allowed to buy. Often these are lower in price as a bag

of Western Gold oranges I saw this sign on. I purchased them at a low price and they are the

best oranges seedless too I have ever eaten.

Since I have about given up most meats my food budget is lower as i spend now on

produce isle or fruits and only a few other areas of the store for a fast grab and go.

Stay out of box foods to be healthier and save on costs also.

Just a hint if possible you can pick your own fruit if you have a farm nearby.

Good luck

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5/19/13 12:34 P

Lots of good advice on this thread!

I buy fruits that are in the discount bin. Black bananas, bruised apples, etc. because they go into my blender as smoothies most of the time. Or any fruit that is turning and I haven't used also goes into the blender so I'm never throwing out fruit.

I buy any frozen fruit that goes on sale, especially in the winter. Costco is great for prices. I have a chest freezer, though, so I have lots of room. I routinely stock up on any frozen fruit, like cranberries after thanksgiving or christmas.

I'm starting to grow my own veggies. I haven't bought any lettuce so far this spring since I've been using fresh from my garden. Same with herbs! I'm growing dill, basil, thyme, and chives. The dill and basil has already saved me tons of money!

For veggies, I have a few recipes that I use when I just need to clean out the fridge before the vegetables go bad and need to be tossed. Scrambles, gardener's pie (shepherd's pie but without meat), etc. or tossing in the blender means I'm never wasting produce.

Another trick is to buy veggies and fruits at different stages of ripeness. I'll buy avocadoes that are almost ripe and some that are still hard and light green, which gives me time to use up the first ones. Or if I buy apples and berries, I eat the berries first so they don't spoil since apples keep longer. That way I'm usually not trying to stuff myself with produce that went ripe at the same time, nor am I stuck without before my next grocery trip.

I try not to eat processed foods more than twice a week. The stuff I do buy, I load up when it's one sale and toss in the freezer. Amy's cheeseless pizzas went one sale for $3 apiece awhile ago and I bought ten! I also buy the clearance vegan stuff that goes on sale right before it expires and throw it in the freezer. (I'm a student and when finals hit, I eat more processed foods just for time's sake).

Another big thing to consider is if you're going vegan, you save all the money you spent on meat and cheese. Meat and cheese is way more expensive than produce and people tend to go through it faster. My grocery bills were reduced when I went vegan, even though I bought more produce. Beans, lentils, grains (all those whole foods) are way cheaper.

And sometimes you have to just not buy expensive produce and substitute with cheaper. Lemons were a dollar at the grocery store the other day, so I bought limes. I'll use limes in my cooking until lemons come back down to a reasonable price.

If you're looking for a good website that uses whole foods as a base for recipes, check out

There are other good vegan websites out there but they tend to rely more heavily on processed foods.

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5/19/13 6:53 A

I stock up on organic tofu when it's on sale and freeze it. It freezes beautifully, and when defrosted it is 'sturdier' and can be pressed between the palms of your hands to get the moisture out. Also, it gives it a somewhat chewier texture. We actually prefer frozen/defrosted tofu. I buy a mix of frozen and fresh produce to cut down on waste, and I grow sprouts in a jar on my counter top to use instead of lettuce on sandwiches and to add to salads and stir-fry. Like others have mentioned, beans and lentils are incredibly versatile and super cheap. I gave up buying fake meat a long time ago, I'd rather spend my money on the real thing. If I want meat, poultry or fish, I eat it. I just don't eat much of it, and make sure it is local/organic/sustainable.


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5/19/13 5:44 A

One of the things that makes eating a plant-based diet more inexpensive is eating whatever is fresh. Several people mentioned a CSA membership, and to me, one of the best things about it is that you are forced to try new things. If five beets show up in your box one Friday, you need to be able to open a cookbook and figure out what to do with them. In season produce lasts longer, is less expensive, and generally has more nutrients than produce that has been shipped across the world. (Although, if you live in Minnesota, it is much harder to eat locally in January than if you live in Southern California.)

Also, ethnic food markets are frequently the best place for inexpensive produce. The Supermercado across the street from the regular grocery store in my old Chicago neighborhood was generally less than half the price than the big store for produce, and even cheaper than that for beans and rice.

I will also admit a love for the Boca vegan burgers, but I eat them maybe once a month or so. They are pretty processed, and while low calorie, are high in sodium. When I was being a vegan, and now on my more plant-based but not animal free diet, I ate a lot of wraps and burritos. Homemade refried beans, veggies, rice, salsa...YUM

Edited by: LULUBELLE65 at: 5/19/2013 (05:47)

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5/18/13 9:38 P

Local farmers markets are great. Upick places are also good because you can pick what you want at the peak of freshness. i love getting cheap strawberries.

i also enjoy legumes. i like dried lentils because they cook quickly. others can require a bit more.

Posts: 983
5/18/13 4:34 P

Get a CSA share! It's a lot of money up front (our cost us $800 for 7 months of vegetables), but then for the durations of the growing season you'll have enough veggies that you won't have to buy any at the grocery store. In fact, between the CSA and our garden, we're actually going to be able to blanch and freeze some of the veggies to last us into winter! We also get a lot at Costco (meat, which obviously you won't be getting, coffee, paper goods, nuts, frozen berries, etc.). Again, you pay a lot up front, but the investment really pays off. If you broke down the cost of what we spend on the CSA and everything at Costco, it's about $65/week. Thanks to those investments our usual grocery bill of $140 per week dropped to about $55-60, so we're saving between $80-100 per month on food!

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5/18/13 9:38 A

At first this might be a big expense but , in reality think of the money you will save in the long run. Less medication , less visits to the physician and so forth. I think that pretty much I agree with the good advice that you received already. Good luck to you and your family.

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5/17/13 4:08 P

and i can't believe i forgot this link. and that no one else posted it.

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5/17/13 3:04 P

Something else to consider, that sort of was already mentioned, is a lot of those "fake" meats are very processed, and, in my opinion, no better for you. You'd probably be better off just buying good quality meat direct from a farmer than eating some of the junk that's out there as meat substitutes. Just be sure you are vigilant about reading the labels of anything you eat that comes with one.

But, finding homemade ways to make things like veggie and bean burgers, lentil loafs etc is great, and I think that's a better way to approach it than just figuring out how to afford the packaged stuff.

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5/17/13 2:50 P


I'm a vegetarian, and it is amazing how cheap you can eat. I eat a lot of veggies and fruits in season, because out of season the prices can nearly double. I also eat a lot of beans and lentils. I try to stay away from fake meats, or only have the occasional product (Veggie Farms hot dogs are so good I have to have a few every six months or so!). Tofu is also a good protein source, and yummy once you get the prep down!

I actually became a vegan after a lifetime of omnivory in 2009. I stuck with it for a year, but it was super difficult, especially socially. So I've been a vegetarian since 2010. The best source I had for the transition was the Veganomicon. It was super helpful, and I've never made anything that wasn't totally tasty. Hope that helps!

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5/17/13 2:48 P

Thank you everyone for your information and suggestions. I've read some things that I didn't know or didn't think of. Other suggestions affirm what I've been learning from other sources. To respond to every point would take too long and, frankly, make for a boring read. However, I did want to address a couple of recurring topics that have been brought up.

Cost vs. other diet styles.

I'm going to split this into two parts. The first is the cost of fresh fruits and veggies. To be perfectly honest, much of my concern in this area comes from ignorance. I'm looking at the cost of the fruits and vegetables (many of which I've rarely, if ever, bought in the past), what quantities I will need to buy (I'm juicing, as well) and somehow working that into my current shopping bill. I know much of this cost will be offset by meat items I will no longer be purchasing, but I haven't gained enough experience to truly know what the cost comparison will be.

The second part is the cost of the "fake" meat and dairy products, and the main catalyst for me starting this thread. Once again, this is a process. When thinking of meals to make, my main point of reference is what I know. We eat burgers, so veggie-burgers (which I've eaten in the past) seemed like a logical substitution. I like sausage in the morning, so I tried veggie-sausage. And so on. As I learn new recipes and try new things I will probably be eating less of those types of meals and will not be buying as much of those products. But what is even more exciting to me is what I found while looking at some of the links you have posted, and that is homemade versions of the prepackaged "fake" meats, such as black-bean burgers, lentil meatloaf, etc.. It makes sense that these options can be significantly cheaper than the pre-made versions.

Another thing that has been mentioned a couple of times is growing my own vegetables. I wanted to let you know that even before starting this thread I began to research what I can grow in my climate and how to start a garden. The thought of growing some of my own food does have a bit of inherent thrill. Realistically however, if I do end up giving it a try, it will probably be many months from now.

Again thanks for all the responses and thanks in anticipation of any future responses. Hopefully this thread can be of help to others with the same questions.

Posts: 841
5/17/13 9:03 A

I've been vegan for almost three years, feeding myself and an athlete boyfriend on a budget. :)
We save money by:
*buying in bulk (both at grocery stores and at Costco)
*avoiding "fake meat"-the ingredient lists are long, and the products are pricey
*making a meal plan and sticking with it
*eating lots of beans and rice (and variations on that: millet, quinoa, barley with lentils, split peas, etc.)

Good luck! I also have an e-book about going vegan that might be helpful:

Posts: 1,962
5/17/13 7:55 A

One thing that will save you time and money is buying dried beans and buying brown rice in bulk. Soak the whole package of beans overnight, then cook them and freeze what you don't use in one-cup portions in freezer bags. You can make large quantities of brown rice and freeze them in whatever portions suit you as well. I also freeze a ton of produce when it's in season - anything from strawberries to pumpkin - and I get it at Pick Your Own places, not only for the price but because it's fun.

I think a mistake that a lot of people who are new to the veg world make is trying to find processed vegetarian foods to substitute for the foods they are used to eating. You can do this, but it's expensive.

The best advice I can give you is to get a book like Vegan Planet (you don't have to be a vegan to enjoy it) or some of the Moosewood Cookbooks and look through those recipes. Most are simple to follow and will teach you basic veg cooking techniques, tell you how to choose produce, how to freeze it and how to balance your diet.

Posts: 11,809
5/17/13 6:37 A

i will echo that substituting is going to be an issue here. head to your local library and check out some vegetarian cookbooks. the best [and cheapest and most balanced] meals tend to be ones that were designed veg rather than made for meat and subbed in.
the mediterranean vegan kitchen
vegan on the cheap
vegetarian meat and potatoes cookbook
vegan planet
are four of my favorite and most used cookbooks. one of the reasons i like them so much is that they use basic sorts of ingredients that you can find in any moderately stocked grocery store. if a specialty item is called for [particularly with robin robertson who is the author of the last three] there is often a note indicating a cheaper and more commonly available ingredient.
so instead of buying the 4 pack of quorn patties for $6 [or $1.50 per patty] you make the better bean burgers for vegan on the cheap [.30 for dried beans, .30 for wheat gluten, .20 for breadcrumbs, .20 of onion, .10 parsley and .10 olive oil in my area plus a little salt and pepper] and spend $1.20 to make four patties. or you make a pasta dish that uses olive oil [ten cents], pasta [a dollar], peas [sixty cents], beans [twenty cents] with some herbs and spices and makes four generous portions for roughly $2.

Posts: 1,646
5/17/13 3:30 A

I find eating a lot of vegetables really saves me money overall! I buy mostly at Trader Joe's and CostCo, with occasional items at the regular grocery store or Whole Foods. I mostly buy fresh, but I also use frozen. I make a lot of soups and stir fry dishes. And I try to have some sort of vegetable most meals (veggie omelet, scrambled egg with veg, sliced tomato at breakfast etc)

SparkPoints: (3,855)
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Posts: 36
5/16/13 3:33 P

I found that the more I got used to eating vegetarian meals, the more savvy I became about what it makes sense to buy at the whole foods type stores, and what makes sense to buy on sale at safeway. I often do my shopping in two trips, the pricey place where I try to limit to the pesticide free items, and then the less expensive place where I can get pantry staples. Beans, rice, lentils, whole grains--all fairly inexpensive, nutritious, and can form the basis of many varied meals. For example, if my base is lima beans and wheat berries, I can add the pricier treat of fresh berries, organic lettuce, beets, and cucumbers on top and make a great salad.

Posts: 492
5/16/13 1:48 P

I am not crazy about the mock meats and they can be expensive. Tofu is versatile and is nice when baked. Here's a link to a good recipe:
fect-baked-tofu. Google a bean based "burger" recipe and make your own with the herbs and spices that you like. Good luck.

Posts: 197
5/16/13 1:10 P

Shop around!

My roommate and I spent a whole Friday going around to different stores, fruit/veg stands, Farmers Markets, in order to see where the best prices for fruit and veggies were. (It turned out to be the little independent stand across from Trader Joes. 3 cucumbers for $1! I can get ONE from our grocery store for 89 cents.)

Also, if you're in an area that has it, keep a look out for road-side produce sellers! When I lived in California, during the summer you couldn't go five exits without seeing signs for cherries, corn, tomatoes, and other local grown items from nearby farms.

Posts: 11,647
5/16/13 12:17 P

I love bags of frozen veggies because there is no waste.

SparkPoints: (3,674)
Fitness Minutes: (2,155)
Posts: 1,148
5/16/13 12:08 P

The easiest way to eat plant-based cheaply is to avoid the "substitute" foods entirely. (Or pick and choose carefully which ones you want to include.) Beans (or lentils) and rice, for instance, is the simplest and by far the cheapest way to meet basic protein needs -- almost always far cheaper than the equivalent calories in meat. Rice can be gotten very cheaply at warehouse stores like costco; barring that, Asian grocery stores tend to have better deals than regular grocery stores. It's not bad even there, though. And the point is you can base a meal around that without having to get into expensive things like fake meats and cheeses and so on. Tortillas and pita bread are also not too expensive and can replace the rice in such meals.

For produce, try looking for locally grown/in-season stuff for your fresh choices. It tends to be cheaper. Farmers markets and again, ethnic markets are sometimes good with produce prices, sometimes not. You'll need to check. Organic is more expensive -- you can avoid it and get the same nutrition at the cost of pesticides, or again, pick and choose what you really want to have be organic and what not. Frozen vegetables (and fruit, for some uses) are great when the fresh versions are out of season or too expensive.

SparkPoints: (18,448)
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Posts: 684
5/16/13 11:58 A

One thing that really helped me when I transitioned to a much heavier plant-based diet was buying frozen veggies. The reason being I didn't have that sense of having wasted money because stuff went bad in the fridge before I got to it.

Any kind of transition takes time to get used to, whether it's getting a feel for how much you eat or how fast you go through it, or how long things will last and what the best storage methods are (hint: never put basil in the fridge!), and especially if you're new to a heavily veggie diet, you sometimes just plain forget.

So frozen can be a little pricier than fresh, but the trade-off is it will keep a very long time and you aren't throwing away good produce because you lost it at the back of the middle shelf or you didn't realize it was going to go bad *quite that fast*, or you just ended up buying too much to get through in time.

I prefer frozen over canned because it often retains more of it's nutritional value. Open a bag of frozen broccoli, a bag of frozen spinach, and maybe some mixed veggies or bell peppers or something and you've got a great stir-fry to put over rice. Add in slivered almonds (or better, just buy whole almonds and crush them), some cooked lentils, quinoa, or even tofu for some protein.

The CSA option is great, I did it last year, and it introduced me to a whole range of veggies I'd never though of or tried before. It does really force you to learn more recipes or get more creative. But again, if you aren't used to cooking heavily veggie meals and you aren't sure what to do with what you get, it can be very frustrating to toss good food because it went bad.

So yeah, my suggestion is to buy some fresh and a lot of frozen until you get used to using them as your main ingredients and get a feel for how much you go through.

SparkPoints: (18,322)
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Posts: 305
5/16/13 11:44 A

You can save a ton of money by growing your own meal "base" foods - peppers, lettuces, tomatoes, squash, potatoes and carrots are all pretty easy to grow. Strawberries can be higher maintenance, but don't take much space. Anyway, after you've grown your "base" veggies, you can use the money you've saved on your proteins.

Are you opposed to eggs? 1 whole egg + 1 egg white is an excellent 100 calorie, protein packed addition to most meals.

Quinoa is very nutritious and a little goes a long way. It, too, makes a great "meal base." Think outside the processed soy-based alternatives - quinoa, brown rice, and barley are all great protein sources that are also very affordable, especially if you can buy it in bulk.

Beans, lentils and peas can also be purchased dried, in bulk and with some pre-planning / soaking, you can incorporate these into almost any dish and add a great amount of protein.

You can use these protein sources mixed in with your more expensive seitan or soy meat replacers and stretch them out to make more meals. Instead of using a pound of hamburger or sausage substitute, use 1/3 lb + beans + quinoa.

Get creative and liberal with your herbs and spices, too. Try all kinds of different blends to keep the more "bland" tasting alternatives tasty.

Posts: 12,387
5/16/13 11:28 A

What do you think plant-based foods are?

I'm a near-vegetarian because it saves me so much money! I don't necessarily believe that meat is unhealthy, and I do eat it if someone else buys and/or cooks it. But I live in a very isolated place and am trying to cut my budget to a shoestring to pay off some old debts, and plant-based meals are a huge help. Vegetarian foods are *incredibly* cheap, for the most part. There are thousands of bean dishes, for example, from every conceivable cuisine, and if you buy your spices in bulk, you can make vegetarian chili or Spanish- or French-style lentil stew or curried dal for under $2 for 6 servings. You can get tofu for as little as 99 cents a package if you watch for sales, and that's 3 to 4 servings. (I buy the shelf-stable kind at about $2 a package because I can't get the fresh stuff here.) You can make anything from pie to tacos with that. Vegetarian options are generally a fraction of the cost of meat. And there's less waste. Meat lasts two or three days after you buy it; if you don't plan ahead and use it on time, it spoils. A bag of lentils, an onion, and the appropriate spices can sit around for months until you decide you want to use them. I live almost 100 miles from the nearest grocery store, so that's a big money-saver for me.

The issue might be preparation. If you're buying fully-cooked meals or processed foods, then vegetarian is more expensive-- or I should say, the extremely cut-rate cheap products don't exist in vegetarian options. You won't get the vegetarian equivalent of a Swanson's frozen dinner for 89 cents. But most vegetarian prepared foods are easy to replicate yourself. Just go to the vegetarian section, see what they have that looks good, take notes, and look up the recipes on your own. You might want to get a subscription to a vegetarian cooking magazine, as well; having glossy pictures along with the recipes tends to make it less intimidating to try something.

You *can* spend a lot of money on vegetarian foods, and in fact you probably will spend quite a bit at the start as you try things and find there are some you don't like. But in the long run, plants are just plain cheaper than animals. If you jump in and get past the learning curve as fast as possible, you'll find that cost is not the issue.

SparkPoints: (15,605)
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Posts: 2,171
5/16/13 11:17 A

You could look into joining a CSA in your area. Basically you pay a fee (sometimes lump sum, sometimes weekly) and each week you get to go pick up a basket of fruits and veggies. The cost is very low compared to the store, I've seen it range from $10-40/week. The main disadvantage is, you don't get to pick what you get so sometimes you have to get creative with what you are given to use it all. So, you can't be a picky eater if you're doing a CSA. Also some areas are year round but for most of the country, it is only during growing seasons, so winter can be a challenge.

You can go to to find a CSA in your area.

As for shopping at the regular grocery stores, just check the ads. I shop at a conventional grocery store and Sprouts. The ads come out on Wednesdays so I compare, and I try to plan my meals (side dishes anyway since I usually have a meat main) around what's on sale that week. Also, learn your prices at Whole Foods. For certain things, especially in season produce, they aren't more expensive than the grocery store like most people think. I've never had good luck w/ Trader Joe's produce (not good quality, spoils fast) but I bet they'll have some good meat alternatives for you when they open. I also buy some things at Costco. I buy apples, carrots, and snow peas mainly there, since they last a longer period of time. I also bought asparagus there once for super cheap, and managed to get through the 2lb bag in a little over a week, and it stayed fresh the whole time.

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Posts: 1,970
5/16/13 11:17 A

investigate preserving foods by canning and freezing them yourself. If you have not grown up with these processes, it can seem very daunting and overwhelming. I grew up on a farm and these were just part of life, however, I never participated. As an adult, I am learning that it's not nearly as difficult as you might imagine--especially freezing. Canning can be tricky with a pressure cooker, but if you keep and read the directions that come with it, you will do fine.
Growing your own veggies is another alternative.
I agree about the ever increasing prices in the grocery store. Roadside stands are an alternative, but look for smaller operations---like a pick-up truck set up on the roadside. larger facilities may be more costly.
other than that, i just look for what's on sale at the store. Certain days of the week, they "clean out" the produce section and bag things as clearance items. I love this. you just have to look for over-ripe food. otherwise, it's a great bargain. I hope some of this helps!!

Posts: 245
5/16/13 11:09 A

Keep an eye on sales for frozen vegetables and keep a stock in your fridge. For fresh, a lot of Farmer's Markets open starting Memorial day around the country. Some venders will let you negotiate your price, some won't. If you go close to closing, you might get better deals because they don't want to take it home.

Beans/legumes are good staples and can be used in many ways.

The meat substitutes can be pricey, but shop around. Frozen veggie patties are likely less expensive than veggie chicken nuggets. There are a few types of "crumbles" (ground meat substitute) that can be used in a lot of ways too.

Other idea for fresh veggies is to try growing your own - if you have the time/space and desire. I just started a raised bed garden that only takes up 9 square feet. Otherwise I use grow bags and containers. Even something like mixed greens can be seeded in a planter and grown in a small space. If you do want to start gardening, I would recommend starting small and adding on as time goes by. In my experience, starting too big can lead to big frustration.

SparkPoints: (28,692)
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Posts: 447
5/16/13 11:00 A

it's actually a myth that veg is more expensive. here's one comparison:

i imagine it depends what you buy, but faux meat really is processed food and shouldn't be eaten regularly.

Posts: 1,228
5/16/13 10:38 A

For fruit and vegetables definitely buy in season, but don't forget to also consider frozen as an alternative.

For replacing meat I assume you are looking for protein. Fake meats are an alternative, but don't also forget simpler choices like beans.

SparkPoints: (6,731)
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Posts: 73
5/16/13 10:10 A

Recently my wife and I decided to move to a more plant-based diet, strictly for the health benefits. While our goal is not necessarily to completely eliminate meat and dairy from our diet, we are interested in trying many of the vegetable based alternatives and replace as much of our animal options as we are comfortable with. The biggest challenge I foresee in doing this is the cost. Besides the cost of fresh fruits and veggies, the vegetable alternatives mentioned above are much more expensive then their real counterparts; so expensive in some cases that, if we were to compare it to gas prices, they could almost be accused of gouging.

Does anyone have any tips/hints/advice for saving money or finding cheaper options? In addition to several conventional grocery stores in my area, I also have a Whole Foods just up the street, a few Chamberlain's and next year a Trader Joe's will be opening near by.


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