- I’m a vegan living outside San Francisco, and I spend about $US175 a month on groceries.
- I cook most of my meals at home and typically rely on a few key staples that I use over and over again.
- I get my groceries from two markets near me: Trader Joe’s and Safeway. Here’s exactly what I buy.
That’s why I need to spend only about $US175 a month on groceries.
I have a few reliable, easy meals I make often: baked veggies and tofu, rice with stir fry, and baked sweet-potato fries. I try to experiment with the few items I have to work with in the kitchen – for example, adding a different vegetable to the mix or opting to steam, rather than bake, one or two of the existing ingredients – to stave off boredom.
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The hardest obstacle to staying on budget is premade foods such as veggie burgers, prechopped produce, and microwaveable meals, so I have to be more conscious of those items when I go to the store. I’ve cut most of those out of my usual grocery list to keep costs low, but I try to give myself at least one or two of those quick meals a month. That way, I can relax for those days when I’ve got three deadlines, piles of laundry to do, and my dog has a vet appointment.
I also try my best to stick to my grocery list, shop seasonally, and put blinders on when I go past all the tempting last-minute buys that used to entice me. That said, I’m willing to go a bit over my budget if I need to stock up on things such as spices, sauces, or other items that tend to last at least a few weeks but cost more up front.
Here’s a breakdown of my typical $US175-a-month grocery list in Brentwood, California, about an hour outside of San Francisco.
Trader Joe’s — weekly: $US31.44
I love Trader Joe’s – there are plenty of vegan options (read: delicious junk food that’s conveniently marked as vegan, such as cookies and vegetable panang curry), their store-brand products are solid, and the produce is usually high quality. I’ll occasionally treat myself to a new-to-me vegan item, but for the most part I stick to my staple foods:
- Canned garbanzo beans – $US3.16
- Tofu – $US5.37
- Canned corn – $US1.78
- Spinach – $US1.99
- Sweet potatoes – $US3.67
- Avocados – $US2.99 (Note: I won’t buy these when the cost is more than $US1.50 per avocado.)
- Bananas – $US1.33
- Fuji apples – $US4.67
- Cucumbers – $US1.49
- Grape tomatoes – $US2.49
- Cauliflower – $US2.50.
Trader Joe’s — monthly: $US13.44 (or more)
There are also some items I buy at Trader Joe’s only about once a month:
- Vegan tikka masala – $US3.69
- Bell peppers – $US1.99
- Pasta – $US1.29
- Marinara sauce – $US1.79
- Marinated artichoke hearts – $US2.69
- Peanut butter – $US1.99.
Safeway — every other week: $US10.61
For some reason, Trader Joe’s doesn’t have cheap staples. I can’t justify buying small amounts of organic rice when I so frequently use it, so I usually go to the local Safeway to stock up on such items. Lucky for me, it’s on my way home from Trader Joe’s, so I can easily pick up a few items:
- Rice – $US4.12
- Cracked wheat sourdough – $US2.99
- Almond milk – $US3.50.
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