How To: Vegetarian Food on a Budget

Whether you’re a student, a parent on a tight budget, or just trying to save money, a vegetarian diet can be a money-saver as well as providing you with a healthy and varied lifestyle. We’ve brought you some tips on eating vegetarian food on a budget.

Stock up on Essentials

Basic EssentialsHaving a store cupboard full of essentials will prepare you for those days where you haven’t planned what to cook. Supermarket branded items are often a lot cheaper than the known brand alternative and you will often be able to buy rice, pasta, oats, canned vegetables and beans in this range. Having these basic items in stock will provide you with the base for many different meals that can be prepared without fuss or without spending money on extra ingredients. Pasta with a tin of chopped tomatoes mixed in is a really cost effective and quick meal and you can use basic ingredients to create this easy dish.

Get Variety in Your 5-a-day

When shopping for fruit and vegetables remember that frozen, dried, fresh, canned and juiced all count towards your 5-a-day. This is great if you’re on a budget as it can often be cheaper to buy frozen food - for example frozen peppers, broccoli and spinach. They taste just as good and you’ll still be getting all of your nutrients but they will keep fresh for a lot longer. If you try and vary your fruit and veg intake then you won’t get bored and it will enable you to come up with lots of different meal ideas. Don’t throw your fruit and vegetables away when they start to look a bit worse for wear. Browned bananas still taste great in smoothies or you could make a banana loaf. Wrinkled peppers may not taste great in a salad but added to stir fry’s and casseroles will really bring out their flavour.

Plan Your Meals

Before you go shopping a great tip is to plan which meals you would like to make that week and put together a list of the ingredients you will need. Before you head out to the supermarket, check your cupboards and freezer and cross off any ingredients you already have to save you money. Another great tip is to buy enough food to enable you to double your portions for your lunch the next day.

Shop Carefully

Veg Shopping ListBy planning your meals you should be able to write your shopping list and stick to it, buying only what you need and not on impulse. You are less likely to overspend and won’t end up buying items that you won’t have time to use up. Also check the reduced section of the store to see if you can grab a bargain. Consider buying frozen fruit and vegetables. These generally cost less to buy frozen and have long shelf lives. They are just as nutritious as their fresh substitutes. ASDA have just started selling ‘wonky veg’ for £3.50 a box. It aims to feed a family of four for a whole week which is a great bargain. If you visit your local supermarket near closing time you may benefit from dramatically reduced prices on fresh produce and bakery items. Reduced pastries and bread can be put in the freezer and defrosted when needed. If you end up with more food than you need there is always the option of using it the week after, read our article on ‘Making Your Groceries Last Longer’ for top tips to extend the shelf life of your produce.

Buy in Bulk

It’s always cheaper to buy in bulk and is great for food that has long use by dates and non perishable items such as nuts, seeds, rice, pasta and dried beans.  It may take longer to cook beans and grains from their dried state but they are often cheaper and can be bought in larger quantities. Most fruits and vegetables can be kept for months in the freezer so if you can grab a bulk bargain on those - stock up! Be sure to make sure you keep an inventory to avoid forgetting what you already have.

Eat in Season

Seasonal VegEating fruit and vegetables that are in season will save you money and they will be at their peak freshness. Fresh berries such as strawberries and blueberries are often more expensive in the winter as they are harder for the supermarkets to source when not in season. Check out your local farmers market where you can guarantee they will be selling fresh seasonal stock. A lot of vegetables are cheap and in season at all times of the year so cook plenty of meals using potatoes, carrots, broccoli and onions all year round.

 

Cook From Scratch

It may be convenient to use ready made vegetarian meals but typically these can cost a lot more than making the items from scratch. Not only will it taste better, it will be fresher and you’ll know exactly what has gone into it. Vegetable stock and soups can be frozen for convenient meals. Vegetable soups can be made very cheap and in large quantities. Batch cook large portions and freeze them so you have handy grab-and-go healthy meals if needed in a hurry. As mentioned earlier, you could even cook double and take some for lunch the next day or have it for dinner later in the week. 

Grow Your own

The cheapest way to stock your cupboards with delicious vegetarian food is to grow your own from the comfort of your own garden or allotment. If you’re restricted for space, why not start with a small herb garden or a small chilli plant. A single bunch of herbs costs the same amount as a small plant which you can place on your windowsill and harvest when needed. Rosemary, thyme, basil and sage are all very easy to grow and cheap to buy in a starter pot. It will save you money in the long run if this is something you’re regularly buying in the supermarket.

What is the Verdict?

MoneySavingPigWe hope these tips will help you buy vegetarian food on a budget. What are your secrets for saving money on vegetarian food?  We love feedback so please use the comment section below. 

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