One of the many arguments against a healthful, meatless diet is its cost-prohibitive nature. Being vegan means shopping exclusively at Whole Foods, right? Wrong. Believe it or not, veganism can be achieved even via Walmart.
Author Ellen Jaffe Jones is all about showing folks how to maintain a heart-healthy, longevity-inspiring lifestyle on the cheap. Her book, Eat Vegan on $4 a Day, offers all kinds of strategies for inexpensive eating. We spoke with Jones for her best suggestions on plant-based penny-pinching. Check it out after the jump.
Jones -- an athlete, author, veg coach, and former investigative reporter -- was inspired to adopt a vegan lifestyle due to a family history of breast cancer.
"I felt like this had become the investigative reporting job of my life," she says. "As a reporter, I wanted answers. There's no money in broccoli, there's no broccoli lobby... you have to try to figure out what's right for you and what's really the truth."
Now she speaks to audiences across the country about vegan living, health issues, and her athletic endeavors.
"The recipes in the book are based on ingredients you can find at Walmart or in any big-box store. Most people are close enough to a Walmart that you can't give me the excuse that you can't do this on a budget," she says.
Here are ten of her money-saving tips:
10. Use your head (not your heart or stomach) at the checkout counter.
"Don't go to the store hungry," Jones says. "Keep a shopping list, and as you run out of items during the week, keep a running list and stick to that." Stay within your budget, and don't use shopping as therapy, she adds.
9. Check the unit price.
This little red sticker is just below the item's retail price on many store shelves. It reveals the product's price per ounce, which is actually the most important determiner of value, Jones says.
Keep in mind that cooked products (such as beans) can be a little more complicated. One dry ounce of beans, for instance, can yield three to four ounces cooked, so they're always cheaper than the precooked kind. "Beans as your main source of protein is the best thing someone can do," Jones says. "That leaves you with plenty of money left over to buy produce."
8. Buy in bulk.
Bigger generally means more cost effective -- but don't buy what you can't use.
"An eight-pound bag of pinto beans will make more than 100 half-cup servings of cooked beans. Each serving is roughly about a dime," Jones says. "But if you buy a lot of stuff and store it in the fridge and don't use it, it's certainly not worth the investment."
Beans can be kept for years in hermetically sealed jars, she adds.
7. Shop the circumference.
Stores tend to put the least profitable products on the outskirts, Jones says. "They're organized to entice you to spend as much money as possible." Don't buy into it! And stay away from most prepared products, AKA convenience foods. They tack on extra costs, and the purity is often questionable.
6. Check the entire supermarket shelf.
In other words, don't grab what's at eye level. That's exactly what the Man expects you to do. Make sure you look up, down, and around.
"Consumers tend to purchase items at eye level, and the most expensive foods are often displayed at this height," Jones explains. "Competition is fierce for placement on store shelves."
5. Try to buy store brands.
Many even have organic lines, Jones adds. (Think 365 at Whole Foods, significantly cheaper.)
"Store brand prices almost always beat the main brands." This is especially true for staples such as flour, beans, grains, and salt.
4. Pay with cash.
When you shop with cash, you'll never buy more than you can afford. Plus, those evil credit cards will stay clean. "Put the amount of cash you have for food for the week or the month in an envelope," Jones suggests. That'll certainly make impulse buys less attractive.
3. Keep your receipts.
Sometimes, sale prices can be applied after the fact. And some supermarkets match competitors' deals. Keep the paper trail where you'll remember it. "Always have them handy in an envelope in the car," Jones says.
2. Track store prices.
When you stay abreast of cost fluctuations, you'll know if a sale item is actually a deal or a load of B.S. There are apps for that too. "If you find something that's on sale, you can buy extras."
1. Do it yourself.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Grow stuff in your backyard. No matter how small your space, you can still plant some of your own produce, Jones says. "I always encourage people to test their green thumbs. Don't be afraid! Even if you don't have a backyard, you can plant alongside flowers in your front yard." There are also Earth Boxes and other products that allow you to grow goodies without a garden.
There you have it. No matter how tight your supermarket purse strings, it's possible to be meatless and fancy-free. For more tips, recipes, and other good stuff, check out Jones' book on Amazon or follow her on Facebook, YouTube, or her website.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.