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Sunday, February 12, 2012

: ask a vegan : week 3 : how to be vegan on a budget :

happy sunday, everybody!
i hope you have had an amazing weekend!

what is ask a vegan?
read about it here.

one of the most asked questions i get is 'how in the world can you AFFORD to be a vegan?!?!'
azia asked me this question on facebook & its the question we are going to knock out today!

some background for you : 
blake and i do our grocery shopping at whole foods, trader joe's, our neighborhood co-op [we are members] & target.
we go shopping twice a month [maybe a third time to pick up more fruit!] & spend about $85-100 per trip.
we get the sunday paper each week for the coupons [thanks, mom] & i also subscribe to a bunch of newsletters & emails.
i clip tons and tons of coupons & pay attention to certain sales.
we also don't buy 'fake' meat & cheese, which is a huge money-suck.

now, i know this sounds a bit 'extreme couponing,' but its not.
its a few simple changes that make a HUGE impact on my life.
i know that blake and i are fueling our bodies SO well & we are saving tons of money that can go directly to our future [read : pay off student debt!]

below are my tips to eat better, save more & consume a little less 'animal' ;)

how to be vegan on a budget
1) make WHOLE food!
buying 'real', unprocessed foods and cooking at home will save you SO MUCH MONEY. i mean it. 
perfect example : buying a roasted veggie kashi pizza at the grocery store [not vegan] can cost you $5-8 [depending on where you live]. if you buy a whole wheat pizza crust [.99 at trader joes] + mushrooms + peppers + broccoli + onion + garlic + tomato sauce = probably a bit more than $6 BUT you will have enough of everything [except the crust] to make at least a few more dishes.
i cant say it enough : buying whole foods will really save your life!

2) USE COUPONS & shop store sales
on average, we save $20-35 PER grocery trip with coupons. before we go to the store, i take stock of what we have [food], what we need & what meals we want to eat in the next 10-14 days. from there, i create a list, incorporating our coupons.
and i ALWAYS bring my own bags to the store! 
[a lot of stores will give you .05 cents off for every bag you use, MAKE SURE YOU ASK]

also, we love whole foods. but its expensive. so we only shop there when they have great deals. most stores will have flyers//info on their website to let you know of upcoming sales.

3) join a CSA // join a co-op
this one is tricky because a) not everybody has access to a co-op // csa and b) there can be a pretty big up-front cost.
what is a csa?
Community Supported Agriculture ; basically, you pay a farmer for a share of his/her land. and in return, you get the bounty from that share.
if you live in minneapolis, i highly recommend this csa.
last summer, we got a 16 week fruit & veggie share. each week, we got a 10-15 pound box of fresh veggies AND a 10-15 pound box of fresh fruit.
the cost?
$800 ; we were lucky to put it on the [no interest] credit card and pay it off, but i know its steep.
if you were to buy all of that food individually, it would cost WAY MORE than $800!
other benefits of csa?
you are supporting a local farmer who is giving you homegrown, organic produce. there are few things better than 15 pounds of blueberries that were picked the day before.
AND paying for fruits and veggies you may be unfamiliar with forces you to learn new things & try new foods.

4) shop the right websites // blogs
another way to find great coupons // deals // free samples is to bookmark a few 'deal saving' websites & check back often.
below are a few of my daily reads. i have gotten quite a few great samples & coupons from these sites.
mama cheaps // the deal-yo // the frugal girls // organic deals
and if you have twitter, this is a great vegan deals site. its like groupon, but for veg-friendly products // companies.

5) get on the mailing list!
i know that getting TONS of junk emails a day is a pain [and can be totally stressful] but create a separate account, if you need to.
think of your favorite brands & stores. now sign-up for their mailings.
i get coupons all the time for whole foods, seventh generation, rudis bakery & tons and tons of others.
another good tip?
those same brands you just thought of? follow them on facebook & twitter. send them an email & ask for a coupon.
a while back, i contacted the folks at rising moon organics & told them their vegan ravioli were amazing.
the woman sent me 3 coupons ; two for FREE ravioli [they are $5 each] & another for $2 off.

6) buy a blender, a crock-pot & a bread machine.
few things are better than smoothies, crock-pot meals and homemade bread.
we do not have a bread machine, but i have toyed with the idea for quite a while.
smoothies are so great. they are fast, easy, portable & its pretty hard to ruin a smoothie.
crock-pots are great for busy families. you need veggie stock // soup + grains + veggies + a few hours and you have supper & leftovers for days.

7) buy frozen!
i really love fresh fruit. especially in the summer, but when you compare pound for pound, frozen fruits and veggies are almost ALWAYS a better deal.
take strawberries for example. right now [WINTER] at  target, 1 pound of conventional-grown [read : NOT organic] strawberries are $3+//pound. a 5-lb bag of FROZEN strawberries are $9.99. you totally save $5!!
and the benefits of frozen? no worry about them going bad. berries are SO great for your body & brain ; i love thawing them while we are making dinner, so when dessert rolls around, i can melt some chocolate chips and have my berry dessert!

8) get prepped.
i think one of the misconceptions of eating whole foods is that it takes SO LONG. and sometimes it does. but, little tricks can def speed up your process.
bought a bunch of veggies? wash & cut them up as soon as you get home from the store.
want to make a bean dish? soak your beans overnight, so they are ready to go for supper time.

9) hit up the bulk bin!
most grocery stores have a bulk bin.
and time and time again, buying bulk pasta, pancake mix, grains & flour are almost ALWAYS cheaper than their packaged friends.
my fave [and affordable] grains = rice, quinoa, cous cous, barley & lentils]

what do you think?
what do you do to save money at the grocery store?!