Considered going vegan but worried about the cost? There’s no need to believe all the hype… Charlotte Willis shares her shopping tips to keep the tightest of purse-strings satisfied and fully nourished.
Sure, it seems convenient to complete your entire food shop in one fell swoop. But while you save yourself a little more time, you’ll most likely be missing out on an array of your favourite vegan goodies available much cheaper elsewhere! For example, I buy all my peanut butter, jams, dried fruits and nuts, vitamins, toothpaste, certain spices and laundry goods on Amazon. It is often comparatively a lot cheaper, despite being made by the same reputable brands, and delivered straight to your door (or workplace!). What’s not to love?
I also ensure I use supermarkets who offer price comparison vouchers, such as Ocado and Sainsbury’s, so your branded shops will always be as purse-friendly as possible. Another great tip is to keep an eye on Facebook groups, such as Vegan Supermarket Finds UK, who will alert you to the latest and greatest vegan supermarket deals and offers.
Budget supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl are great places to visit to pick up more expensive items like nuts and seeds as well as fruit and veg at a lower price than other supermarkets. In fact, in order to reduce the amount of waste produced by the store, Lidl is currently trialling cut-price 5kg boxes of ‘wonky fruit and veg’ for just £1.50 which is enough to last you all week!
Iceland is also another great low-cost supermarket to visit to pick up things like frozen fruits and veggies for smoothies, and they’re also launching an extensive range of meat alternatives in September which are bound to be priced more affordably than comparable products in other supermarkets.
Don’t be fooled by brands
Speaking of brands, there are a few that I simply can’t live without such as Linda McCartney, Quorn and Provamel. This being said, I am by no means a slave to brands, and supermarkets have undoubtedly upped their free-from games in response to the rise in veganism.
Tesco has one of my favourite free-from dairy alternative isles, including an incredible jalapeño cheddar cheese, soya yoghurt and dessert selection. Asda and Sainsbury’s follow close behind with their own branded free-from products, and most recently Waitrose announced plans to introduce a dedicated vegan section to their isles soon.
Supermarket’s own milks, yoghurts, cheezes and pre-made vegan burgers, sausages and bites are great alternatives to branded goods and come at a fraction of the cost of branded comparatives. Aldi and Lidl also champion like-brands of popular vegan goods, so be sure to have a look at them!
Invest in your freezer
The humble, often overlooked, freezer is the savvy individual’s secret weapon. You can use your freezer to store veg that is the wrong side of ripe and an endless supply of frozen fruit and veg. I use my freezer to store large curries, casseroles, crock-pots and even cakes that I have made in bulk for later use. By using up all your old veg before restocking, you’ll save yourself a fortune in food waste and have a delicious meal ready to go for when you don’t feel like cooking.
Top freezable foods include:
- Herbs: ginger, chillies, fresh herbs, chopped garlic pieces
- Vegetables: peas, beans, sweetcorn, carrots, cauliflower, squash, spinach and Brussel sprouts
- Pulses: cooked lentils, cooked chickpeas, cooked red kidney beans
- Grains: cooked pasta and breads
- Fruits: almost all fruits except citrus fruits and melons
Buying in bulk is one of my favourite pastimes. No, I know, how sad. I buy huge 5kg bags of brown rice, peanut butter in 6x 1kg trays, oats from a wholesaler and pulses in huge 4kg sacks. Why? When you increase the volume of goods that you buy, you actually end up saving a lot of money per 100g! For example, a regular 1kg pack of brown rice averages a cost of £1.50. Buying in bulk, 5kg will cost you about £5.00, meaning you’ll save £2.50 just on buying rice!
If you know you’ll use an ingredient often, I would definitely recommend bulk-buying these staple items to save yourself a small fortune. All you need now is a big cupboard or friend to share with!
Buy local. Buy sustainable.
Buying your fruit and veg from a local producer is a fantastic way to reduce your costs. Not only will you support local farmers and traders, but becoming a regular customer will enable you to cut the best deals, haggle like a pro, and be the recipient of one or two freebies every now and again.
Search out your local fruit and veg markets to get started. If you live in the city or a far-flung location, try a vegbox scheme. I use Wholegood, an organic veg/fruit box scheme who uses wonky veg to provide the best price to customers.
Plan your shopping
If you’ve never planned your meals for the week, you are losing out on a potential goldmine! Even if you plan a rough idea of what dishes you will be making throughout the week, you’ll be able to guide your shopping decisions to prevent overspending. If you prefer to shop on a whim, my best advice is to take stock of what you have purchased before checkout and then again at home.
This way you can begin to plan your meals for the week ahead, prioritising fast-perishing items first, and plan when to make a few larger meals which can be frozen ahead of time.
Check out the basic ranges
More often than not, you’ll find that the supermarket’s own basic range of food items are accidentally vegan. Think biscuits, garlic bread, dark chocolate and baked goods. Obviously be sure to check the labelling, but often these are made without the use of animal products to reduce costs. Basic tins of beans and lentils will also make great protein-rich staples for your cooking. Win win.
Know when to shop
Shopping at a supermarket first thing on a Monday morning might seem like a great idea to get all the fresh produce you want, but what if I told you that becoming an off-peak shopper may benefit your budget? Shopping at awkward times such as on a Sunday and late at night, might well lead you towards the yellow reduced stickers – reduced hummus, tomatoes, stir-fry sauces and veg – the excitement is palpable.
- Grains: oats, rice, pasta, buckwheat, quinoa, polenta and flours
- Nuts & Seeds: these can all be kept for many months
- Fruit: only bulk buy dried fruits in quantities that you will be able to use within two months
- Beans & pulses: dried chickpeas and all dried pulses last years when stored in a dry location
- Miscellaneous: nut butters, jams, protein powders, superfood powders, granola bases, baking ingredients, stock powder, nutritional yeast
Share your shopping bargains! Just pop your pics on Instagram or Pinterest and tag #SimplyVeganFood
About the author
Charlotte is a freelance journalist and health writer who has worked with the Vegan Society and other online vegan publications. Her fields of expertise and interest include vegan nutrition, holistic healthcare, mindfulness and fitness. She is currently researching and studying the various links between food and psychological health while pursuing a doctorate degree in counselling.