Five Ways to Save Money on Groceries

Ways to save on groceries while vegan or plant based. The picture is of our co-founder, Molly, with a wagon full of produce from the farmer's market.

Pop quiz: If I want to eat a healthy whole food plant based diet, I need to 

  1. Shop at an expensive organic supermarket 
  2. Sell my car 
  3. Follow these tips for big savings and flavor
  4. Give up on my dreams of retiring

The answer is… #3!

Many believe that eating a plant based or vegan diet is expensive and out of reach. We’re here to show you eating whole food plant based is cheaper than you may think! This 2022 study showed people who ate primarily plants saved up to 34% on food compared to those on a standard diet. Let’s pass those savings on to you with these five ways to save money on groceries.  

1. Plan your meals

Don’t fret. We’re not asking you to buy a giant calendar and plan 82 different meals each month. Keep things simple as possible. 

  1. Have a short list of breakfast items you can rotate. Our co-founder, Molly, keeps her breakfast healthy and simple with Gluten-Free Porridge daily. It’s a nutritional powerhouse and a great way to use in-season produce and cheap grains from bulk bins. 
  2. Utilize leftovers and simple ideas for lunch to save the headache. A wrap with hummus and chopped veggies, avo-toast, a big ass salad with oil-free dressing, or a bowl of rice with peanut sauce and edamame can be a tasty no-brainer. 
  3. We have dinner planned for you with our plant based meal plans. Simply shop and follow along for five nights of flavor. As you stock up on staple ingredients, you will spend less on groceries each week because most of your list will come from the produce section and the bulk bins. Buying a Plant Fueled Life membership to save money might seem counter-intuitive, but you’ll save so much following our plans it practically pays for itself. 

2. Grow or make your food

If you have garden space, get those gloves on and put the Dirty in Clean Food Dirty Girl! The more you grow, the less you’ll have to buy. Pro tip: start saving seeds from your produce now, and your garden could be practically free! There are lots of resources online about how to do this.

Sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, bread, and sprouts can be pricey, but with a little patience, they can be made at home! Plus, you’ll enjoy them at optimal freshness without additives.

easy pickled beets recipe
Check out these Pickled Beets made without oil. They are perfect on a salad or gyro for a fraction of the cost.

Sprouts can be made for pennies on the dollar with a jar, this sprout jar lid, and a bag of sprouting seeds. These little fuckers are tiny explosions of nutrients and perfect on your salads, plant powered sandwiches, and in green smoothies

3. Shop smart for the bulk of the savings

First, hit up a farmer’s market or produce stand. Buying what’s in season is typically cheaper, especially if you’re getting it straight from the source. 

Then, head to the bulk bins to get pantry staples. Bulk bins can be found at co-ops, health food stores, natural markets, and sometimes large discount stores. 

  • Say goodbye to the dozens of heavy cans taking up space in your pantry and embrace the bulk beans. A simple overnight soak and some time in the Instant Pot or stovetop will have you soaking in the savings. 
  • Bulk bins often have the best prices for nuts. As long as they’re raw and unsalted, cheaper cashew pieces are perfectly fine for our famous dairy-free cheesy sauces. Store nuts in the freezer for ultimate freshness. 
  • Whole wheat flour, gluten-free flour, and tapioca starch can super expensive prepackaged, so buy these babies in bulk.
  • Hemp hearts and flaxseed meal are crazy cheap by the scoop. If you want to save on tahini, buy lots of sesame seeds, obliterate them in your high-speed blender, and enjoy tons of hummus for pennies per serving. 
  • Refill your existing spice jars at the bulk bins to save up to 90%! 
  • Some stores have soy sauce, liquid aminos, and coconut aminos on tap. BYOJ! (Bring your own jar is the new BYOB!)
  • You’ll find many grains here, from amaranth to millet, brown rice to whatever freekeh is. 
Save money with bulk bin shopping grains, nuts and more
Got grains?

Don’t forget to label and date your bulk bin bags—we see members in our Facebook group posting their mystery bags all the time, looking for help identifying past bulk purchases. 

Lastly, check out smaller grocers like Aldi’s, Sprouts, or Trader Joe’s. One of our team members (who is probably shopping at Trader Joe’s as you’re reading this!) feeds her family of five plant based for less than $2/per person, per meal by following a similar shopping plan. 

4. Make plant based meat and cheese substitutes at home

Plant based meats and cheeses are growing in popularity and in price. Although faux meat has its place, we can teach you how to make delicious meaty, cheesy goodness without any oil, additives, or a high price tag! Some of our favorites are:

Garlic and Chive Cream Cheese is a great homemade vegan spread for a fraction of the cost.
Italian Baked Tofu is an excellent replacement for lunch meat.
Tofu Taco Crumbles will wow your family and can be made in bulk before freezing. 

These were fantastic!!! I used them on a taco pizza, in a standard soft taco, and also in a taco wrap…perfect for all! Two of the dishes I shared with my omni kids and omni husband, and they only realized it wasn’t meat because I was eating it as well!

Plant Fueled Life member
Marinated Carrot Dogs are perfect replacements for hot dogs.
Baldwin Park Burgers use oats and beans for a cheap and oil-free hamburger patty.

Our favorite plant burger. Freezes well for when you need a quick easy meal.

Plant Fueled Life member
Crispy Toficken Nuggets are loved by teens, omnis, grandmas, you name it! Make in bulk and freeze for future meals you can throw together quickly.  
Provolone-style Cheesy Sauce is stretchy, spreadable, and practically a miracle. It can be used in pasta, as pizza sauce, sandwich melts, quesadillas, and more. You can’t find sauces like this in stores, trust us! 

One of my favorite cheese sauces, and I always have all the ingredients on hand.

Plant Fueled Life member

5. Stay flexible with substitutions

Some of the most expensive ingredients can be reduced or substituted for a more affordable option. 

  • Don’t have almond flour? Use oat flour instead. You can make oat flour by putting old-fashioned oats in a dry blender and pulsing a few times. 
  • Ume plum vinegar can be hard to find and has a hefty price tag. Substitute equal parts soy sauce blended with a little water and a dried date for sweetness.
  • Maple syrup costs an arm and two toes! Try using date syrup, coconut sugar, or date sugar instead. 
  • Reduce the amount of cashews needed in cheesy sauces by half and replace them with white beans or tofu. This helps save on fat and cashola. 

Get creative with recipes.

Don’t have cilantro? Use parsley! You don’t always have to run to the store to buy the exact ingredients. Most of the time, recipes are flexible. Zucchini can often be swapped for mushrooms. Pinto, kidney, and black beans are often interchangeable. You can check out our awesome plant based substitution guide for more pointers!  

Most importantly, there’s no shame in visiting a food bank if you need help 

Did you know 30-40% of the food supply is wasted in the United States? Read that again.

If you need help (you don’t have to be literally starving with a negative bank account to need help), find a local food bank/pantry and see if you qualify for free produce. Many pantries have a produce room where you can pick up lots of fresh fruits and vegetables that would otherwise rot in a lonely trash can. There’s no shame in using the resources provided.

Do you have tips on how to save money on groceries?

We’d love to hear them! Drop them in the comments below. You might also like to read our Plant Based Money Saving Tips from various team members and OG Dirties. Then, read how our co-founder saves money with plant based batching.

Get in on our meal plans, complete with batching directions, grocery lists, reviews, notes, and much more. Sign up for a free 10-day trial of Plant Fueled Life, no credit card or perfection required, and get started by batching our Budget Friendly meal plan

Free recipes that are light on the wallet

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Our Sweary Saturday Love Letters are written by our ex-boozer, ex-smoker, plant-loving co-founder, Molly Patrick.

1 Comment

  1. Sheena on November 13, 2023 at 3:48 am

    About 7 years ago I was chatting with a social worker. He was a fit guy eating a pretty healthy diet considering… and was very obviously committed to helping people.
    He was astounded to learn what I ate and how comparatively little I spent on food. He kept me talking for quite a while because he, like so many others believed vegan, plant based, vegetarian diets were unaffordable for low income people.
    He told me I’d changed his prospectives and he was going to hit the books and find out more!

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