Since I am a stay at home mom, feeding our family of five on a healthy vegan diet and relying on one income to do so, I figured I could share some tips on what I buy and how we stretch our money to stock our fridge and pantry with only wholesome plant-based foods.
I can’t believe how full of information I am when it comes to how to grocery shop to save money! I have so many tips and am so excited to share. I just wish I would have thought of this post sooner.
First, I would like to say that I am a horrible meal planner. I try, but it just never seems to work out and I believe the reason is two-fold.
- My husbands shifts change every two weeks. Sometimes he is here for dinner and sometimes he is not. I love to have meals together so sometimes we have a bigger lunch if that is when he is home and then dinner is something easy like peanut butter sandwiches and bananas (which both the girls and I like). 😉 So our meals are not exactly ‘normal’ all the time. Sometimes I even bake some oatmeal cookies or granola and we eat that in the evening after a veggie loaded lunch. The shift work makes it very difficult to settle into any sort of routine and meal plan, at least for our family anyways. When he is home for dinner, I find it better to plan what we will have for dinner and make enough to have leftovers for the next day’s lunch. That is probably the extent of my meal planning. Breakfast is the one meal that is pretty much planned because it is almost always oatmeal with either chopped apples and cinnamon or thawed frozen berries, maple syrup and nuts, unless I am on a pancake kick.
- I find it hard to stick to a meal plan because I have trouble with making decisions and sticking to them. That is just how I am. So, if I plan for burgers on a certain day and I don’t want burgers that day, then I have all of the ingredients for that planned meal left hanging around, which means money not put to good use or (GASP!) wasted produce, both of which do not sit right with me.
Here is a list of the items that I buy every paycheck when we make a trip into the city (1 hour and a half drive away from our small town) to stock our vegan pantry. We usually try to make a trip into the city every two weeks or once a month because we save so much more money when we shop there. We do the bulk of our shopping at Superstore, but sometimes have to make a trip to an organic or health food store for some specialty items like the vegan soy cheese.
The following is a list of the items that I keep stocked in our pantry to create our nutritious snacks, meals and sugar-free sweet treats.
- Rolled Oats – 1 or 2 (2.2 kg) bags for granola, cookies and other baking recipes. Costs $4.98/bag.
- Quick Oats – 1 or 2 (2.2 kg) bags. Our family’s breakfast nearly every day, unless we are having pancakes. Lasts for months and costs only $4.98 a bag.
- Pure Maple Syrup – 3 or 4 (1 liter jugs) to satisfy my baking addiction. Costs $12.69 each. In our town the price of pure maple syrup is $12.98 for 375 ml! Such a savings and so important to me. We also use syrup on our beloved pancakes.
- Whole Wheat Flour – A 10 kg bag lasts a month or so and costs $7.98. My baking staple for bread and any other baked goods.
- Sunflower Oil – A 3 liter jug for $10.98. A good price and a staple for cooking and baking.
- Apples – (at least 5 lbs) for snacking and adding to our morning oatmeal. 6 lbs of gala apples usually costs $5.98 compared to $1.99 a pound in our town.
- Frozen Berries – A 2 kg bag of frozen strawberries costs $7.98. A 2 kg bag of blueberries costs $13.98. This is such a savings compared to fresh berries. I just thaw them out and use them for oatmeal or for baking. See Maple Oatmeal Blueberry Breakfast Squares.
- Almond Milk (Unsweetened Almond Breeze) – 3 or 4 (1.89 L) cartons of unsweetened almond milk. We can’t get this in our town and it is the milk that I enjoy the most because it is unsweetened. I stock up on this because it also keeps in the cupboard until it has been opened. Costs $1.97 each and we usually pick up a case or two of twelve cartons.
- Silk Organic Soy Milk – I usually buy 2 (1.89 L) cartons of soy milk. This is the girls favorite milk and the milk that Craig uses as well. I use it for recipes like cheesy sauce for our mac and cheese or in some baking too. Costs $3.97 each. We also use it in cereal (if we buy some) or in our morning oatmeal or granola.
- Natural Nut Butters – Significantly cheaper at Superstore! A 500 ml jar of Adams natural peanut butter out here costs $7.96/500 g jar and in the city costs $3.99/500 g jar. I save $3.97/jar! It is like buying one and getting one free! Almond Butter and Cashew Butter are not available in our town and are yummy and nice as a break from peanut butter, although they do cost more. Almond Butter costs $9.99/500 g jar and Cashew Butter is $8.79/500 g jar. We love our nut butters on toast, sandwiches, in oatmeal or used for baking. See Coconut Cashew Butter Crispy Squares or Chocolate Almond Butter Stuffed Cookies.
- Bulk Unsalted Dry Roasted Almonds – Costs $ 1.98/100 grams. We like to have almonds to snack on, for Anytime Almond Cookies, in oatmeal or to make almond butter.
- Raisins – Costs $ 5.49/1.36 kg. We use them in oatmeal, for snacking or for baking Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Granola, Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies or Nutty Peanut Butter Raisin Granola Bars.
- Bulk Dried Apricots – Costs $.95/100 grams, compared to $4.99 for a small bag in our town. I buy them occasionally for snacking on or for Coconut Apricot Cookie Granola.
- Pecans – $19.99 for a 907 g bag. Use in oatmeal, salads, for snacking or baking.
- Chopped Walnuts – $14.99/1 kg bag. Use in oatmeal, salads, to snack on or Extremely Addictive Walnut Banana Bread, my family’s most requested baking recipe.
- Tahini – For delicious hummus which I use on wraps or sandwiches or for eating with raw vegetables. Also for mac and cheese or Tahini Cranberry Cookies. Costs $7.99/500 g.
- Apple Butter – My love and something my little babe loves to eat too! Costs $6.99/482 g jar. Can’t get this in our town and is something we enjoy from time to time with peanut butter on sandwiches or in some baking recipes, Apple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls.
- Unsweetened Applesauce – For baking and for the girls to have as a snack. Costs $2.00 /796 ml . In our town costs $3.99 for the same amount. Saving of $1.99 per jar.
- Tofu – I usually buy 4-5 (350 g) packages of Extra Firm Tofu. I use tofu to make tofu bacon, tofu salad for sandwiches, tofu nuggets or in stir-frys. Costs $1.99 each. I also pick up 2-3 (3oo g) packages of soft tofu. I use soft tofu to make tofu mayonnaise for the tofu salad. I also use it in my perogy dough recipe. Costs $1.27 each. We can’t get tofu in our town either.
- Whole Wheat Pasta (375 grams) – macaroni, penne, rotini bows or spaghetti. Costs $1.97/box. Here in our town it costs $4.99/box. A savings of over $3.00/box!!
- Canned Beans – 456 ml black beans, chickpeas, mixed beans or red kidney beans. Costs 88 cents each. I use them in many main meals, such as burgers, soup, taco casserole, tamale pie, stuffed peppers or chili. Way cheaper in the city.
- Diced Tomatoes – 796 ml can diced tomatoes costs $1.37 compared to $2.69 /can in our town. I usually pick up 4 cans of these because I use them in many of our main meal recipes as well.I also use them to make my own Homemade Italian Onion and Garlic Tomato Sauce.
- Vegetable Bouillon Powder – $3.99. I like to have this on hand to use in soup, a meal that always lasts a few days and saves us money.
- Whole Wheat Bread – We pick up a few loaves of bread for $2.88 a loaf compared to $4.99 a loaf out here. I often make our own whole wheat bread or buns, which saves a lot of money. Besides, what is better than fresh baked bread?
Things we buy on occasion/bi-monthly –
- Craisins or Fruit Source bars – These are nice to have for the girls to snack on. Sometimes I use Cranberries in recipes like cookies or granola. A 2 kg bag of Craisins costs $8.59, a very good price! They are $3.99 for a 170 g bag here in our town. The fruit source bars are $9.99 for a pack of 12. These are also 100% natural whereas the craisins are sweetened with sugar.
- Cereal – Mesa Sunrise $7.99. Kamut Puffs $2.99 (used to be $1.99) Cheerios or crispy rice cereal, jumbo box for around $4.99. I find cereal to be pretty pricey so we usually just buy oatmeal instead, which is cheaper and healthier too or I make my own granola. Cereal is an occasional treat in our house.
- Soy Cheese – Used on occasion for pizza, pizza rolls or calzones! Costs $6.98/284 g.
- Organic Blue Corn Chips – Just plain yummy! Cost $3.49.
- Veggie Ground – For Tamale Pie, Taco ‘Meat’, Lasagna or Macaroni Goulash. Costs $3.99/340 g.
I am such a price watcher and I keep a mental note of which items cost what at the different stores and mostly buy whatever is on sale. For example, I only buy the apples that are on sale or only get the 3 pack of bell peppers when they are on sale for $3.48 or less.
I also only buy the overripe bananas for 44 cents a pound (which are not usually that overripe). I can get a lot of bananas for around $3.00 and I often bake banana bread or muffins for snacks. I also prefer my bananas on the browner/sweeter side, as do my girls.
I find that produce is usually around the same price whether purchased in the city or in our town, so we usually just buy it as we need it, unless there are some things on sale when we are in for our shopping, then we buy a few things like a 5 lb bag of carrots or 6 lb bag of apples.
Lately I have noticed that some things have gone up in price! My precious bananas that used to be 88 cents a pound are now up to 97 cents a pound. Silk and Almond milk both seem to be ever-increasing in price everywhere. A 1.89 liter carton of almond milk in our town now costs $7.96! Silk costs $4.99 but often goes on sale for $3.98. Either Silk or So Nice are usually on sale at any given time for $3.98, which is reasonable. We don’t often have cereal so we don’t often use milk unless for baking or in our oatmeal.
Grocery Shopping Tips
- Be a price watcher. Shop according to the flyers and watch for sale items.
- Buy only what you need. Making lists is always helpful to me, that way I don’t end up buying more than what I came for.
- Stock up on the items you buy most frequently when they are on sale.
- Choose oatmeal for breakfast instead of cereal as a cheaper and healthier breakfast.
- Buy frozen fruit and berries instead of fresh.
- Buy only the apples that are on sale.
- Buy nuts and dried fruit in bulk when you can.
- Stock up on bread when it is on sale and freeze the loaves or bake your own. Check out some of the bread recipes on this blog.
- Buy the cheaper brands of condiments, canned beans, canned tomatoes, whole wheat flour or canola oil.
- Buy the larger (1 liter) jugs of pure maple syrup a savings of 60% compared to the 375 ml bottles.
- Buy produce as you need it to avoid having it spoil and not get put to use. In the summer, grow you own garden! Save money and have fresh produce right outside your door.
And that is part one of my series on Eating Vegan On A Budget – A Peek Into Our Vegan Family’s Grocery Shopping and How To Save! I want to do more posts like this and share more on what we spend and how I use the ingredients to make our family’s meals. Perhaps I will even try for a meal plan post again soon. 🙂
Did you find this post helpful? Do you have any suggestions for further posts on this subject or any questions you would like me to answer in another post?
Let me know by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One last little tip and something that we always do when we grocery shop, BRING YOUR OWN REUSABLE GROCERY BAGS!!!!
Thanks for sharing Tiffany. Do you freezer your tofu? Do you have a budget on how much you want to spend on groceries? How do you shop for your other produce? Weekly? Daily? I would really like to start working on not wasting so much food. I some times have good intentions buy the food and then don’t use it and it goes bad. As always love reading.
Hi Kathi! I don’t freeze the tofu because I don’t need to (we use it up before it goes bad), but you could definitely freeze it. We don’t typically have a budget for spending, we just make sure to pay the bills first and then spend on food. I am thinking that once I meal plan better I could also get better at planning a budget. We shop for produce just as we need it, the night before or the same day. The girls and I take a walk to town every morning to check the mail and get out for a walk so I usually stop at the store if we need something on that same day. Thanks for your comment. 🙂
I love posts like this 🙂 i look forward to more, it will help with our budgeting even though prices are a lot different in aus.
This was great! I’m a huge coupon/budget shopper. However shopping vegan has become a bit more challenging with coupons. I don’t exactly get a lot of coupons for veggies. 😉
One quick question. I read that you eat oatmeal for breakfast. I’ve never made oatmeal, only the stuff in packages which are expensive and not that great for you. How do you prepare yours?
Hi Lori! I prepare our oats on the stove top. I just fill a medium sized pot about 1/3 of the way with water and bring it to a boil. I then add 2 cups of quick cooking oats and reduce the heat to low and simmer the oats until most of the water is absorbed. It takes about 5 minutes. Then I just portion it out in our bowls and we add milk, fruit (fresh or dried), nuts and syrup. It is really easy, delicious and satisfying! 🙂
Hi Tiffany, I loved your post! I just wanted to let you know that if you can buy raw almonds on sale they make delicious inexpensive fresh almond milk! yum! just blend one cup almonds with one cup water until smooth, then add another 2 or three cups water and blend. Then strain the milk using cheese cloth or a re- usable nut milk bag from amazon.com. I am telling you it is so good, just add a pinch of salt to help preserve and then if you want sweetened add some vanilla and maple. It lasts about a week and can be used in any recipies calling for non-dairy or even dairy milk
Thanks Katherine! I have been meaning to make my own almond milk someday. I just love it! 🙂
Definitely try making your own almond milk! It is tastes so much richer. I like to use the boxed stuff for when I want a lighter flavor, and the homemade stuff when I want a richer treat.
Great tips allround! 🙂 Thanks!
I don’t know where you live but those prices are definately more expensive than where I am at and I live in a relatively small town. It makes me appreciate things here more. We have a small store here that we shop at. I’m not sure how to describe this place. They sell things from grocers and health food stores that are basically ‘rejects’. Perhaps the box has been torn or something or maybe the item didn’t sell well. Everything is dirt cheap and still good quality. I guess the health food store or walmart just didn’t want to have an ugly looking box on their shelf. Saves us a TON of money though. I loved your article. Great ideas! Happy holidays!!!
That sounds great! 🙂 We live in a small town in Manitoba, Canada. The prices at the stores are ridiculous! That is why we often make a trip into the city to shop. We save a ton of money and they have more options for organic and natural foods. Just went in yesterday!
You’re amazing! How much do you usually spend for your family’s monthly grocery?
Thanks Missy! Well, healthy food is priority to us so probably about $700 month for the five of us. I really should try and keep track sometime! 🙂
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I wanted to give you a huge thank you for making this post! We are a family of six, making the transition to being vegans 🙂 I found this post when searching for an idea of how much I should buy of these pantry staples for a large family. Most vegan cookbooks and websites tell you about the pantry staples you’ll need but they don’t help you figure out how much of it you may need or how much you need to budget for it all, and they all seem geared towards individuals or small families. So your post was so very helpful!! I was never taught how to cook from scratch, so this transition is a huge learning curve for me! I also already love your recipes! They seem so much easier to follow than all the others I’ve searched through! Thank you! Thank you!
Thank you for your comment! I’m glad that you found the post helpful and also found some recipes that you enjoy! 🙂
I know this is from 5 years ago, but he m a mama if 4- and one on the way. My husband works week on week off and rotates days and nights on the weeks he works, we are very similar! I hope you still have your blog! And get back to me because I’m interested so see how your family is doing? And if being vegan s going well if your family has grown! Take care!
Thank you for your comment Briann! I can’t believe how time flies! I still do blog, but life is busy with my four kids (one being a 6 month old, another having autism). 🙂 It does sound like we have similar lives. Congrats on your pregnancy!
I still cook everything at home. Right now I am doing a gluten free diet for myself because our son (our baby) has a food intolerance to gluten protein in my breast milk. It took a while to find out that it was wheat. I also eliminated soy for a while as well to see if that was it. I am not 100% vegan anymore, because I found it a bit too hard to stick to all the time, but I’d say that I follow a vegan diet 90% of the time or more. My other family members are not, but our daughter with autism chooses foods that are mostly vegan, natural and wholesome, likely because of how she was brought up. I don’t cook with meat, so if the family wants meat my husband makes it. So half of us are vegetarian/vegan and the other half not. I also always try to still make everything natural and organic whenever possible. I put out a new cookbook last year before Christmas as well called. “SAVOR”, featuring simple, affordable, vegan, organic, recipes. There is a tab with information on that as well at the top of my web page.
I’d love to have more time to blog, but as I said, life is busy. I do have many new gluten free recipes to share sometime as well.
Thank you so much for the advice on larger family vegan shopping and meals! We have 4 kids (#5 on the way) and just went vegan for health, ethical, and spiritual reasons as well. Can’t wait to explore more of your site 🙂
Thank you, Kimberly! I hope that you find many recipes to enjoy!! 🙂
All this is really helpful, thank you for sharing. Our budget is $600 a month for family of 3 and I am trying to bring it down. We live in NYC and prices here are little higher. My favorite budget staples are roasted buckwheat and millet from European stores. Buckwheat costs about $4 per lb. Is there a reason you prefer sunflower seed oil? I always thought it is super high in omega 6.
HI! I am glad that this post has been helpful to you. I know it can be tough when you have a big family! I think it also depends where you live, what is cheapest. The sunflower oil is just the cheapest oil that is not GMO that we don’t mind the taste of. You can use whatever oil you love. I just avoid corn, soy and canola because of GMO. 🙂 Best of luck to you and comment anytime.
Thanks so much for all this informative information. I am a stay at home mother of 5 and my husband works different shifts too. And my family are newly vegan. It’s hard to incorporate meals that they will all enjoy. But you lists really help me with cutting down on over spending
Thanks for your comment! I’m glad that this post has helped you. I hope that you find some recipes here you can all enjoy as well!
Thanks for your tips!
I have a family of 6 and finding ways to cut the cost of groceries while eating healthy is a win win for me!!!!
-All Is Well by D. Wellz 🙂