If anyone knows how to save money on healthy food, it’s Frugal Vegan authors Kate Kasbee and Katie Koteen. After coming up with hundreds of money-savers for their book, we asked them to share their 10 absolute best tips for keeping a tight budget—while still eating incredibly nourishing, nutrient-packed foods. Here’s what they said.
1. Make a shopping list.
You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s the foundation of smart shopping—make a list! Writing out a shopping list before you leave for the grocery store or farmers market will save you both time and money. When you have specific recipes in mind, you’ll buy only what you need and avoid making impulse purchases.
2. Shop from the bulk bins.
The average American family throws out $640 of food each year simply because it spoiled before they were able to eat it. When you buy in bulk, you can purchase as much or as little of an ingredient as you need. Buying spices in bulk is an especially big money saver. They’re guaranteed to be fresh, and you can avoid investing too much money in something you’ll use way too little of.
3. Order groceries online.
Another great way to avoid buying things you don’t need is by using a service like Thrive Market. Imagine an online version of Costco meets Whole Foods—all of your pantry items at a discount, delivered right to your door for free. If that isn’t enough, buying most of your pantry items online makes weekly shopping trips a breeze—just a quick stop for fresh produce and a few odds and ends from the aisles. Amazon and Vitacost are also great choices for pantry staples.
4. Visit ethnic markets.
Some of the freshest produce and spices are tucked away in your local ethnic markets for far less money than you would pay at the bigger stores. Think chilies, curries, mushrooms, and herbs. If you live near an Asian market, you’ll be rewarded with the freshest tofu you’ve ever tasted. These stores are treasure troves of interesting and affordable items just waiting to be discovered.
5. Try big-box stores.
You might think that being healthy or plant-based closes the door on big-box discounts, like good old Costco. Not even close! You can totally make that membership count. In addition to loads of budget-friendly, organic produce, you can get great deals on pricey items like hemp seeds, cooking oils, and nut butters.
6. Watch the sale days and flyers.
Almost every store has an online sales flyer, and many include coupons. Before you make your shopping list for the week, check ahead for what’s on sale and take advantage. For example, Whole Foods has a different item from a different department on sale every Friday. Even if you don’t make Fridays your full-blown shopping day, you can still check to see if you can score any goodies at a bargain.
7. Follow your local stores online.
Subscribing to your local grocery store’s email newsletter can help you be your most frugal self. They’re chock-full of specials and coupons that can save you money on healthy ingredients. If you spend more time on social media than email, opt to keep up with store specials via Facebook or Instagram. If there’s a bargain to be had, you’ll be there!
8. Get produce in peak season.
Buying in-season produce is not only delicious—it’s also easy on your wallet. Fresh and ripe usually means there’s a discount to keep that produce moving. Plan your meals with the season in mind to make the most of your grocery budget. Pro tip: Fresh summer fruits freeze well for smoothies all year long.
9. Batch cook and freeze.
Batch cooking is a great way to eat healthy, delicious, inexpensive meals every day of the week. Once you get in a flow of prepping your meals for the entire week in one day, freezing is your next best friend. It’s one of the best things you can do to avoid eating out and making extra trips to the grocery store. Plan your meals and freeze the rest in perfectly portioned containers to stay on budget.
10. Start a fridge triage box.
How many times have you opened your crisper drawer and pulled out a spoiled unopened bag of spinach? A fridge triage box is an effective visual cue that reminds you of the food in your refrigerator that’s nearing its expiration date. All you need is a plastic bin and a sign that says "Eat Me First!" Then, go through your entire fridge and fill the bin with fruits, vegetables, and herbs that need to be eaten ASAP.
Want to get started on batch cooking? Here are tons of easy, healthy ideas to kick it off with. Plus, each of these healthy, plant-based dinners costs less than $1 a serving.