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grocery shopping

i've been a vegetarian since i was a small child and haven't had to do any cooking to sustain the diet; my mother was always accomodating and i eat out quite a bit. i'm getting ready to move out and will be a poor college student, therefore i am going to attempt to do a lot of meal preparation and cooking myself. i've found many helpful recipes on here that i've added to my recipe box but now i'm curious as to how expensive it will be to cook these meals. i'd love it if a helpful individual could give me a price range on a grocery store trip. right now, i've budgeted about $100/week for groceries, which would obviously include toiletries and all. but strictly regarding food, any ideas?

I live in Canada (Vancouver), where things are a little more expensive than the US and I spent about $100 per week for two people (we are vegan), including toilet paper, shampoo, etc. I think $100 a week will be more than enough! I am also in school, and when we are really struggling, I've been able to feed us both for $50 a week. We eat veggie burgers or veggie dogs about once a week, and also buy products like Veganaise, Better Than Cream Cheese, and Soy Delicious every once in a while.

Typically, grain and bean meals are the cheapest. Tofu and tempeh are also much less expensive than processesed fake meat and fake cheese products. If your diet includes a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans, tofu, tempeh, soymilk, etc. you will find yourself saving some money.

I make a meal plan every week (for dinners). I try to use up ingredients throughout the week (like a half-can of coconut milk in some cupcakes and the other half in a curry). When I first started doing the meal plan, I costed out each ingredient. Now it's like second-nature to me and I always stay within my budget. Also, if I know I'm going to buy one of those Annie's frozen pizzas ($10 each), I'll make something really cheap (rice and bean burritos) to balance it out.

I would say that a vegetarian diet can be less expensive or way more expensive than a typical omni diet, depending on what type of dishes you are making. If it is a chickpea curry, it will probably be less expensive to make than a tofu cheesecake calling for chocolate or fresh berries. If you are cooking a lot of veggie burgers and organic instant dinners, it can get really pricey. I spend much less than when I ate meat, but I have also changed my diet to exclude a lot of packaged foods like frozen lunches.

Good luck!


emilee, my family (there are 3 of us) made an over-night switch to vegan diet about 5 months ago & I've noticed that my grocery bills have gone way down :) I will buy frozen prepared meals for a quick meal but prefer to cook my own because 1) I LOVE to cook, 2) I prefer homemade to processed & 3) it is much cheaper.
On average, my grocery bill is about $75/week & we've got a hungry teenager! And boy can he eat!
If you buy fresh fruit & veggies that are in season, it's less expensive than buying frozen. Also, check out a local farmers market. If you can afford to & have freezer space, buy larger quantities of fresh fruit, you can freeze & package it. It's always nice to have fresh-frozen strawberries or blueberries in the winter.
I hope this helps....& good luck at school


Budgeting for 100 bucks per week means you'll have to eat A LOT! really, that's a huge amount of food you'll get for 100 bucks.

I'm a poor student myself, and I keep costs down by buying huge packs of dry beans that I soak and boil myself, and put in the freezer in meal-size bags. I try to eat seasonal (fall= apples, winter=potatoes and oranges, spring=carrots and everything fresh, summer= fruit). Doing everything from scratch, avoid eating out, plan my meals and investing in SPICES help keep costs down.

And, my magic tip is to have oatmeal porrige for breakfast. Great with soy milk and rasins, it holds proteins and good carbs. And, it's super cheap. For one: 1/2 cup oatmeal and 1 cup water, bring to boil, then simmer for just a few mins. Et voila! Breakfast is here!


I agree with every one else here; you should be eating fairly well for $100 (usd).
I like rice a lot and buy a 5 pound bag. Adding a protein source like tofu, tempe
is not to expensive. Using lentals or beans is down right cheap. You can buy
lentals and spice them up a variety of ways. They (after cooked) will last a couple
of days in the fridge. Then all you need to add to you diet is fresh veggies and
fruits. Getting stuff that is in season (and often on sale) is a good approach.

I sometimes stock up on stuff that is on sale. Some things (cooking oil, vinegar,
spices....) store fairly well and you can take advantage of special sales. A little
planning can help you.

One issue I think you might face is equiping a kitchen, if you are just starting
out. You really need very little in the way of kitchen stuff. A small number of
pots and pans, two or three kitchen knifes and a couple of other things and you
should be ready for the majority of thing to make. Here I recommend getting the
best you can afford. The cheap stuff I purchases did not last, while some better
stuff has lasted a life time.


Grains, beans, and fats are cheapest calorie sources. But vegetables are healthier, especially raw green vegetables like lettuce. Unfortunately the healthiest foods are the most expensive.

I'd concentrate on cheap produce: bananas, cabbage, carrots, onions, and seasonal fruit. Your local farmer's markets or Asian stores might be a lot cheaper than a regular grocery store. Try to get as much of that as you can, the rest can be the "filler" grains, beans, and fats.


My advice would be to shop around. While the "Walmart" style of one-stop shopping is convenient, it is never the cheapest way to go. My boyfriend and I spend (on average) $60-70/week on food, laundry soap, dish soap, toiletries, etc. Sometimes the bill is a little more if we buy some new spices or I buy some really great baking products or splurge on soy ice cream.

We have our "usual" things that we buy at each store we shop at, which is great because we can keep track of the prices of things better and purchase them somewhere else when we notice they've raised the price by a lot. We shop at a natural foods store called Sunflower Market for the majority of our groceries. We buy all of our fresh produce there and also our beans and grains--the bulk bins can really save a bundle, and if you reuse the bags that you weigh the stuff in, they are much more eco-friendly than buying a new box of oatmeal or bag of beans/rice every time. About once a month, we also make a trip to Costco to stock up on frozen veggies/fruit (which are way cheap and very convenient for quick dinner sides and smoothies). We also buy nuts in bulk there (a 3lb bag of almonds is under $11) and sometimes some spices or fresh produce and our dishwasher soap. If you know someone with a Costco membership, be their friend because it can save you a few bucks every week or so, which really adds up). Occasionally, we'll also shop at Safeway if something we usually buy is on sale in their ad--they've expanded their organic/natural/veg*n friendly stuff lately, which is super exciting! I got Agave Nectar there just the other day!

Being veg*n and being a college student can be a perfectly affordable combination (actually much more so than being omni--meat is a pricey source of protein...and oh so boring!). You'll get a feel for how much the things you usually buy cost and can adjust if you want to "splurge" on something (like veggievulture said about the pizzas). My splurge is going to Whole Foods and buying something for a recipe I've been waiting to try--Whole Foods is so much fun, but it's definitely not somewhere that a person on a budget could purchase ALL of their groceries (correct me if I'm wrong about this).


i didn't work at all this past winter quarter so that i could do a teaching internship.  i spent about 25 a week on groceries. 

as a college student, your two favorite new words should be "rice" and "beans"
a lot of new college students don't understand how important a good diet is.  your brain and body are going to be under a lot more stress than normal, and if you're living in the dorms your immune system is going to be freaking out. 


i'm in college and spend about 75 dollars a month on groceries (food only) for a vegan diet. not even that at times, but i wouldn't say i don't spend much more.

Lordy, baypuppy, how do you spend so little when you cook so much!  :D


100 bucks a week is a large plenty for one person!! I have to feed 2 adults on way less than that and I live in Europe, where things are a great deal more expensive than most parts of the States. As I've said before on another thread, I have about $100 a week for everything concerned in household as well as any household expenses (excluding utilities and mortgage). I end up spending 50-60 a week for 2, and one of them is an omni so that includes meat which can be a lot more expensive than veg products.

Be wise, comparison shop first--literally, take a pad and pencil (or, hey, a palm pilot) with you and do the rounds of various markets and shops in your area without buying. Make a list of the products you consume regularly, and note down the different prices in different places. You may decide to buy all your fruit one place, or somethings here and some there, but you will get the best deal for each item.

If you actually have $100, maybe you can allow yourself organic produce, I don't know how pricey it is where you are. I know that it's about 3-4 times the price of regular local produce here, and since "organic" is a blanket term in Spain, I don't believe every label I read.


Hey Brad, it's good to see you! Not many from the old days are still around. What's new? Got fiddleheads?  ;)

To Emilee, I've found that if you want to eat well, you have to take time to prepare your food. The first week you don't, you will see a huge difference in the quality of your meals. I usually put in about 4 hours a week of cooking. Not all at once, although I do usually have one 2 hour session.

I have these staples in my fridge at all times:
-- Dragonfly's cheese sauce powder
-- cooked pasta or rice
-- baked tofu
-- pesto
-- fresh salad greens
-- bread/muffins/pita for sandwiches
-- casserole or stew

The above list gets two of us through the week pretty good. We spend $150 a week for two adults, one dog, two cats. Our vitamins are not in our grocery budget. But our beer & tequila are!  ;D


On average, I spend about $30-40/week on groceries.  I usually end up eating out maybe once or twice a week, and occasionally  buying snacks when I'm out, so maybe add another $10 maximum to this amount (the approximate amount I'd spend if ate exclusively food that I bought at a grocery store and prepared at home).  This just feeds me - I'd say I eat a pretty average amount of food for a woman. 

I do not, for the most part, buy organic produce.  It is just too expensive and not readily available in the stores close by me.  Nearest Whole Foods is about 30 minutes away; all the other stores I frequent, about 10 minutes away.  If I see a good price for it and the produce looks ok, I'll pick up some organic, but most of my produce, unfortunately, is not. One advantage of there not being too many health food stores near me is that a lot of the specialty vegan products usually don't make it to my weekly grocery list.  This definitely cuts down on the price. 

I shop around to lower the price.  I buy all my produce at a produce warehouse for really cheap; I buy some staples at Trader Joe's because it has good prices for certain things (i.e., tofu, tempeh, soy milk, whole wheat pasta, organic ketchup, pita bread, etc.); I buy other staples at a bargain supermarket; and I sometimes make it out to Whole Foods to buy other things I can't find elsewhere.  Definitely shop around...if I bought everything at the supermarket, I'd be easily spending 50% more. 


I like rice a lot and buy a 5 pound bag.

thats what i was going to suggest.  spend 30$ at the beginning of the semester and get a giant bag of rice.  if you have a week where you really dont have much money this can be a base for most meals.  for dinner, you could jsut get a head of brocolli and have that over rice.

also.  if you are from pennsylvania, there are many amish and mennonite stores around that carry bulk foods for super cheap.  the one in my hometown even carries nayonaise, nutritional yeast and seitan for much cheaper than the grocery store.


thats what i was going to suggest.  spend 30$ at the beginning of the semester and get a giant bag of rice. 

If there's one around you, Asian grocery stores tend to have the best deals on really, really big bags of rice.  Much better than most supermarkets.  Unfortunately, I don't remember prices.  But go there first if you're trying to stock up. 


I'd also recommend investing in 2 quality reusable water bottles (like Nalgene bottles) that you can have on hand at all times. I love cold water and it's basically all I drink most of the time. I never even use cups or glasses. When you finish one, just fill it up, stick it in the fridge, and grab the other one.


Two words:


So good for you.  So easy and can last forever in freezer--don't have to rush to use it like the many rotten bags of fresh I ended up throwing away.  And so much cheaper than fresh.

I started buying frozen spinach when the big e-coli scare happened last fall and I haven't gone back!  It is now my #1 favorite vegetable.  I practically eat it every day.


If you want something "meaty" and cheap, TVP can be pretty cheap; I've gotten a bag (16 oz?) for 2.29 at whole foods of all places. *and* it's dry, so no need to refrigerate until you make it.


Two words:


So good for you.  So easy and can last forever in freezer--don't have to rush to use it like the many rotten bags of fresh I ended up throwing away.  And so much cheaper than fresh.

I started buying frozen spinach when the big e-coli scare happened last fall and I haven't gone back!  It is now my #1 favorite vegetable.  I practically eat it every day.

Do you buy organic? I only ask cause its on the top 12 pesticide list.  I LOVE spinach too and would love to buy it more often but organic gets expensive!


No.  But I was thinking as I wrote the first response that I should be buying organic.

As frozen non-organic blocks is 1/4th the price of fresh, I will buy organic bc even if it's triple the cost of non-organic it will still be cheaper than bagged and there is NO WASTE!

I had no idea about the top pesticides list.  But I have been thinking this week that I really want to push for 75% or more organic as I really want to try and avoid cancer.  That would just be too unpleasant.


At our Asian grocery I buy 5 kilo bags of jasmine rice for about $10 US. That comes out to about 12 lbs or less than $2 a pound and a pound of raw rice goes a loooong way. So yes, if you can find an Asian grocery, things like lentils, rice, different noodles (most Asian noodles are vegan, just flour and water), are good, cheap and filling food options.


I got thisfrom:

A grocery list to help you cut food prices while you boost nutrition.
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Expert Column

1. Brown Rice

Great for: Side dishes, rice salads, fried rice, casseroles, soups, and stews.

What's a serving? 1/4cup dry rice.

Price per serving: 10 cents. A 2-pound bag costs about $1.99 (on sale) and contains 20 servings.

Nutrition info per serving: 170 calories, 2 grams fiber, and 4 grams protein.

2. Whole-Wheat or Multigrain Pasta

Great for: Hot and cold pasta dishes.

What's a serving? 2 ounces of dried pasta. A serving for most people translates into about 2 ounces of dried pasta, which means you get about 7 servings in one of these boxes or bags.

Price per serving? About 28 cents. You can get a 13-16 ounce box or bag of dried pasta for about $1.79 to $1.99 (on sale)

Nutrition info per serving: About 190 calories, 9 grams protein, and 4 grams fiber.

3. 100% Whole-Wheat Bread

Great for: Hot and cold sandwiches, bread stuffing, bread pudding, and breakfast strata.

What's a serving? 2 slices. Labels usually list a serving as 1 slice of bread (about 40 grams per slice) but for our purposes, we'll use the amount you'd use to make a sandwich: 2 slices.

Price per serving: About 31 cents. You can get a 24-ounce loaf of whole-wheat bread for about $1.99 (on sale). Each loaf has about 17 slices, or 8 servings of 2 slices each.

Nutrition info per serving (2 slices): About 180 calories, 8 grams protein, and 6 grams fiber.

4. Whole-Wheat Flour (stone-ground)

Great for: Breakfast recipes like pancakes and waffles, plusall baking recipes (use half whole wheat flour and half white flour), including breads, muffins, cakes, and cookies.

What's a serving? 1/2 cup.

Price per serving: About 6 cents. A 5-pound bag of whole-wheat flour, which sells for about $1.99 to $2.50, contains about 37 servings (1/2 cup each) of flour.

Nutrition info per serving: 180 calories, 8 grams protein, and 7 grams fiber (1.2 of which is soluble fiber).

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