Living compassionately can come with a price tag, as many ethically produced items outprice their conventional counterparts. A dollar more here and there can add up at the end of the month. Since 2020 has been full of many challenges, including financial hardship, our staff of money-savvy non-profit workers is sharing some of their clever ways to shop compassionately to help you stick to your budget.

1. Go Wholefoods!

No, we don’t mean “go to Whole Foods.” Instead, make unprocessed, real ingredients the foundation of all your meals! Grains, legumes, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta are cheap, healthy, and filling. Add a variety of steamed veggies, baked tofu, and toss with your favorite sauce for a colorful plant-based bowl. While the fancy meat substitutes are delicious, they can also be pricey.  

2. Buy in Bulk!

You know those ginormous 20-pound packs of rice you see in supermarkets and wonder who buys them? It could be you with a little help from your friends. Make use of bulk discounts usually only available to people with ample storage space by splitting with a friend. Or two.

3. Become a Seasonal Shopper!

Nowadays, you can put on your snow chains and head to the supermarket to pick up some strawberries. However, fruits and veggies that are in season are often cheaper. They are also locally grown, fresher and better for the environment as they don’t require long-haul transportation. Your neighborhood farmers market is the perfect place to purchase in-season produce while supporting small-scale farmers. 

4. Go Treasure Hunting!

The dollar store can be a treasure chest for vegan deals. Staples like pasta, rice, bread, oats, and dried beans are always up for grabs, but if you have time, go on a scavenger hunt and explore. The snack section almost always has Oreos and chips that are free of animal products. Check the fridges and freezers to find accidentally vegan items like veggie dumplings and spring rolls. And grab some frozen fruits and vegetables for your smoothies while you’re there. The produce section is loaded with fresh, and sometimes organic, produce at bargain prices. Organic raspberries for 99 cents anyone?

Read our blog post on shopping vegan at the dollar store here.

5. Choose Dried Over Canned and Frozen Over Fresh!

A pound of dried legumes can cost as little as $1. Soak them overnight and they will cook in only a few hours. Skipping the cans will save you a lot of money in the long run. 

If you like smoothies, you know that berries can be quite pricey especially when they are not in season. Choosing frozen berries can be a cost-saving alternative and even be better for you and our planet. During winter, berries are shipped in from far-away destinations, which means their environmental footprint increases. Additionally, to be ripe on our supermarket shelves they have to be picked early. This means they lack many of the nutrients and anti-oxidants that berries develop when they ripen in the sun. 

6. Let’s Get Growin’! 

Growing your own food does not require much space and can be a very rewarding experience for the whole family. Children will actually be excited to eat the kale they helped bring to life. Skip the nursery transplants and opt for seeds for the biggest savings. Most plants happily grow in small pots and, for example, whole romaine lettuce can be grown in space-saving seed cells. Before you start growing, ask yourself what you like to eat and only grow those foods, especially if your space is limited. Studies have also connected gardening to improved mental health and we can all use some of that during this crazy year. 

7. Plan & Prep!

Reduce food and subsequent money waste by planning your meals for the week. Only buy the ingredients you actually need (make a list) and cook recipes that require similar products. Spend some time over the weekend to prepare and pack your breakfasts and lunches for the week. While eating out of your Tupper container might be less glamorous than buying lunch from a restaurant, being able to spend more on a vacation, or paying off your credit card each month, is worth it.