Check out these money-saving tips on plant-based foods at 3 discount grocery stores: Walmart, Aldi, and Trader Joe’s. As you are well aware, the cost of food has really increased lately. So I have gathered tips to help your budget from other Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and myself, and put together lists of my favorite vegan and plant-based finds at each store, plus included a few recipes you can make from each one too.
According to the USDA, the grocery store Consumer Price Index increased 11.9% from May 2021 to May 2022! That makes it more important to stretch your food dollars further. Despite this increase, eating at home will still help you save money compared to take-out and restaurant food. Look for produce stores and discount grocery stores to help manage higher prices.
Money-Saving Tips for Vegan Food
Try store brands. They tend to costs about 25% less than name brands, according to Consumer Reports. Their research shows that many generic foods taste as good as name brands, Some foods may also be the same as the name brand, but with a different label. I do use store brands from the 3 discount grocery stores in this article regularly.
Find seasonal produce or use frozen produce if it’s out of season. This Seasonal Food Guide allows you to enter your location to see what is fresh in your area. This usually translates to lower cost, higher quality, and fresher produce that retains its nutrients better than food that has traveled a long distance.
Try more whole foods for protein sources instead of highly processed meat alternatives, if practical, and if you like them. For example, a burrito bowl made with rice and beans plus veggies may cost very little to make (especially if you start with dried beans), whereas using a vegan ground beef substitute will cost more plus may have more sodium too.
“Try purchasing produce that hasn’t been pre-chopped, and beans/lentils in the bag versus ready-to-eat alternatives. While it’s generally a huge time-saver to buy food that is already prepared, that also racks up extra expenses more quickly! Time can be saved in other ways such as batch-cooking, cooking in an Instant Pot/crock pot, or asking family members or friends to help out with some of the prep work in the kitchen.” –Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT.
“Compare the price per weight (or unit) with similar products. You might be surprised that the cheapest total price may not be the best deal!” – Christine Milmine, RDN
“Check what you have at home before going to the store and create a list of what you need so you aren’t buying duplicate items. Create a meal plan for the week so you can plan how you will use what you will buy. Buying lots of fresh veggies and fruits is great, for example, but you need to know how you will use them so they don’t spoil. Wasted food is wasted money.” –Christina Iaboni, RD
Sign up for a customer account or get the app for your local grocery store. Check if they have digital coupons or a reward program. You can review and clip any digital coupons before you shop. Some have free points you can accumulate and use for gas discounts, grocery discounts, or free items. Walmart, Aldi, and Trader Joe’s don’t have these reward programs currently. Look out for any circulars for sale items at Aldi or Walmart in your mailbox.
Check if your local supermarket offers discounts on certain days for seniors, military, or first responders.
Consider growing some foods at home. It can be as easy as regrowing food from cuttings with some tips from this Gardentech article. I have tried this with a lot of success for green onions and romaine lettuce. An indoor hydroponic garden is an easy way to grow your own salad greens, herbs, tomatoes, and even peppers. Container gardens are good for small spaces, and with more land, you can grow vegetables, fruit trees, or berry bushes,
Favorite Vegan Foods from 3 Discount Grocery Stores
If you have a Super Walmart near you, you will find the best selection of fresh and frozen foods compared to regular Walmarts. Here are some foods that I like to buy from Walmart:
- Salad greens
- Citrus fruits
- Natural almond butter
- Cold cereal
- Dried and canned beans, vegan refried beans
- Whole wheat flour
- Frozen veggie burgers
- Nasoya Thai basil dumplings
- Beyond Breakfast sausage
- Equate vanilla almond milk
- JUST Egg
Recipes Featuring Ingredients Found at Walmart
Favorite Vegan Foods from Aldi
Out of these 3 discount grocery stores, Aldi is the one I visit most often. There are over 2,000 in the U.S, offering discounted prices. Here is a comparison of prices between Walmart and Aldi, based on each category, with Aldi coming out as slightly less expensive overall. They tend to roll out more vegan foods in January for Veganuary.
Remember to bring a quarter to put in the grocery cart and bring some shopping bags (or they often have empty boxes you can use in the store, or bags to purchase). Here are some of my favorite items to buy:
- Fruits: bananas, mangos, frozen blueberries
- Vegetables: salad greens, arugula and spinach mix, asparagus, garlic, sweet potatoes, zucchini, green onions, cilantro, avocados, plum tomatoes
- Snacks: nuts, dark chocolate chips, dark chocolate bars, significantly spicy hummus, pita crackers, woven wheat crackers
- Coffee: fair trade, organic, arabica beans, and ground coffee (not all flavors may be vegan)
- Organic vanilla soy milk
- Corn tortillas
- Canned pumpkin
- Maple syrup
- Pasta: whole=wheat pasta, vegan spinach ravioli (refrigerated)
- Meatless meatballs (frozen)
Recipes Featuring Ingredients Found at Aldi
Favorite Vegan Foods from Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s has a large variety of prepared and private-label foods like vegan dumplings, spring rolls, and fried rice. Their prices are often lower than Whole Foods and sometimes lower than regular supermarkets. They offer terrific seasonal foods: definitely go in the fall for all of their pumpkin-flavored items! Also, they have beautiful, reasonably priced flower arrangements.
I enjoy visiting Trader Joe’s occasionally, but it’s not super close to me, so see this article from VegNews for more ideas: 70+ Essential Vegan Products at Trader Joe’s.
- Bags of mini avocados
- Different types and flavors of olive oil
- Spices including Everything But the Bagel
- Frozen tri-color bell peppers
- 3-grain tempeh
- Vegan kale, cashew, and basil pesto
- Frozen vegan tikka masala
- Vegan Tzatziki
- Whole-wheat hamburger buns
Recipes Featuring Ingredients Found at Trader Joe’s
- Farmers’ Market Tips for the Best Produce
- Top 10 Ways to Use Frozen Food in a Plant-Based Diet
- How to Stock a Plant-Based Pantry with Thrive Market
- 20+ Free Food Resources in Central Bucks County, Pennsylvania
What is your favorite tip for shopping at your local discount grocery stores? Please let me know in the comments.
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