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Your Grocery Bill & How to Reduce It

paleo vegan shopping

Is a paleo-vegan diet more expensive than a “conventional” vegan diet, or a lacto-vegetarian diet? Is it more financially straining to maintain a vegan or paleo-vegan diet than a lacto-ovo or ovo-vegetarian diet? Even though some people–myself included–don’t consider egg consumption “vegetarian”, I’m including it in the comparison here because many self-proclaimed vegetarians do eat eggs.

While I think it’s common knowledge that protein-rich and nutritious foods i.e. broccoli, or beans purchased in bulk, cost a lot less per pound than any cut of meat above grade D, the argument that “a vegetarian diet is expensive” continues to rear its head in all its irrational and outdated glory. So, this post will include certain rebuttals to that argument.




Moreover, the plethora of “meatless monday”-esque books circulated among mainstream audiences in the recent past e.g. Forks Over Knives and The Omnivore’s Dilemna lead me to believe those books and others of a similar genre at least kind of, sort of turned those readers (or readers of the hype surrounding those books) on to eating less meat and/or caring about where their food comes from. Meat, when raised “humanely” or “grass-fed”, or kept in something other than a cage or stall merely twice its size during its meager and miserable lifespan before slaughter, costs a lot more than broccoli, dried beans, or other vegan protein sources.

For resources and tips on maintaining a paleo-vegan diet without breaking the bank, keep reading.

1. Take advantage of the government

The USDA publishes reports on the cost of vegetables and fruits, per pound, per region, complete with spreadsheets, bar graphs, and pie charts. Here is a PDF of the most current report.

2. Shop with your inner skeptic

Buy in bulk, but do your homework first and think critically. Before buying 4lbs of raw cashews or almonds because they’re “on sale”, look at the cost per ounce. Sometimes sales can be deceiving. Do you typically rely on sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame seeds as your main protein source? Are you drawn in by the $2 off nuts when seeds provide the same nutrients and cost $10 less per pound? Also, sales often happen because a product is nearing its expiration date.

3. Organic isn’t always the the answer

Eating organic is of course ideal, in most cases. I’ve learned, after living in various states and countries, to see the benefit in buying locally-grown vegetables and fruit (even when the farm in question hasn’t received a certification regarding its organic status) as opposed to organic produce from New Zealand sold at high-end, gourmet natural-foods stores in Guatemala, Mexico, etc. that cater to tourists. A local crop sold at the mainstream grocery store, open-air market, or direct from a farm is typically cheaper and fresher, with a significantly lighter carbon footprint.



4. Know what’s in season by month

January

broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas, tangerines, turnips

February

broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas, tangerines, turnips

March

artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, pineapples, radishes, rutabagas, turnips

April

artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, pineapple, radishes, rhubarb, spring peas

May

apricots, artichokes, asparagus, cherries, lettuce, mangoes, okra, pineapples, radishes, rhubarb, spring peas, strawberries, swiss chard, zucchini

June

apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, corn, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, peaches, strawberries, swiss chard, watermelon, zucchini

July

apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, green beans, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, okra, peaches, peppers plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini

August

acorn squash, apples, apricots, blueberries, butternut squash, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, figs, green beans, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, okra, peaches, peppers plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, winter squash, zucchini

September

acorn squash, apples, beets, butternut squash, cantaloupe, cauliflower, eggplant, figs, grapes, green beans, lettuce, mangoes, mushrooms, okra, peppers, persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkins, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tomatoes

October

acorn squash, apples, beets, broccoli, butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cranberries, grapes, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkin, rutabagas, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, turnips, winter squash



November

apples, artichokes, avocado, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, chestnuts, cranberries, diakon radish, fennel, guava, kiwi, kumquat, lemon, winter squash

December

apples, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, cranberries, dates, endive, escarole, fennel, grapefruit, kale, kiwi, leeks, lemoms, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, oranges, papaya, passion fruit, persimmons, potatoes, radicchio lettuce, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tangerines, turnips, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash

5. When in doubt, DIY

Hypothetically, let’s say you really enjoyed certain foods as a kid or in the more recent past that you can no longer afford or don’t want to buy on principle because you consider them outrageously expensive. For example, the sprouted almonds that cost $16-$20 per pound, or the plastic containers of Just Peas that cost $17.79 per 8oz container. Raw almonds are easy to sprout, and cost a lot less than $16 a pound i.e. $5. Peas, for example, you can find for less than $1 per pound frozen, at many retailers in the states—and can be easily dehydrated in an oven to mimic the aforementioned Just Peas.

6. Ignore the hype

On the shelves at many mainstream grocery stores exists a vegan “cheese” or faux-meat section stocked with marinated tofu, seitan steaks, tempeh; boca burgers, garden burgers, etc. in addition to a lot of other renditions I assume are up-and-coming and I haven’t heard of yet—and I won’t knock until try. I’m generally of the opinion that pizza doesn’t require cheese or any commercial mock-version of it. From prior experience and attempts at vegan recipe development I learned that nutritional yeast, seeds, lemon juice, and a bit of finesse can make a cheese-like sauce or “cheez” that won’t break the bank—and tastes a lot better than the packaged, store-bought variety. To make your own (while saving $$$) you must bypass the pricy cashews and almonds, even if they’re on sale (see tip #2). Go for seeds instead. They’re cheaper, and nuts aren’t nutritionally superior.

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