What Most People Get Wrong about Vegan Grocery Shopping
I have an "it's complicated" relationship with health food stores. Whole Foods, specifically.
First, I coveted it: When I first began my own business, my #1 financial goal was simply to be able to afford to shop at Whole Foods. Then, I resented it: during my master's degree, we studied the "Whole Foods" effect that makes consumers feel responsible, via labeling and marketing tactics designed to make you feel like you're making "greener" conscious consumer. Basically, I saw through the smoke and mirrors tactics and realized how overpriced and needlessly bougie it was. Now, I strategically shop...sparingly and cautiously: After a few years in my biz when I could afford Whole Foods, one opened across the street from me, and I've started going...occasionally. Only buying the things I know to be actually cheaper, or specialty items I can't find elsewhere.
But when it comes to grocery shopping and saving money, as a vegan or in general, I think the #1 mistake people make is assuming you have to go somewhere like Whole Foods to shop as a vegan.
I hear so many statements like "my town just doesn't have a vegan friendly grocery store" or "I live in smalltown USA so being vegan is so hard!"
Do you believe this? Or tell yourself that veganism is harder for you than for say, your friend in LA or Seattle?
Now, don't get me wrong, options are awesome, and living in super vegan-friendly places with a plethora of stores and brands is fun, but it's not necessary, and actually it's the most expensive route.
When I moved to Denver, I suddenly had multiple Sprouts, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Natural Foods, Kroger, and even the Walmarts and Targets were nicer and better stoked!
Versus, for the majority of my life, in Tallahassee, we had Publix and Walmart, and recently got a Trader Joes and the Whole Foods (across from my house.)
Which is the cheaper way to shop??
Well, I took the time to do a store comparison audit this weekend in anticipation of my free live webinar allllllll about vegan grocery shopping and meal prepping, and did what my mama taught me to do as a small child - compared prices of the same items at various stores!
I looked at four stores: Walmart, Publix, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes. If you don't live in the south, you don't have Publix, but Walmart prices are comparable to anything like Krogers or King Soopers or anything local. Trader Joe's prices, as well as Whole Foods, don't tend to vary much nationwide, though of course there will be some variance based on locale and seasons and such.
I compared the prices of many items, but I'll share the results for:
This took some gas, time, and a tiny bit of math, but here's what I found:
Fieldroast Sausages: $4.97 at Walmart vs $6.29 for the same product at Whole Foods
Peanut butter (natural, just peanuts and salt): $3.39 at Publix vs. $1.99 at Trader Joes (Whole Foods prices were somewhere in the middle of these)
Beyond Meat Beef Crumbles: $3.98 at Walmart vs. $5.69 at Whole Foods
Basmati rice: $3.26 at Walmart, $2.99 at Trader Joe's, vs. $4.39 at Publix. Whole Foods was actually a little more money BUT their rice was organic...so you're getting a better product.
Organic canned tomato paste: .99 at Publix, .79 at Whole Foods (Walmart was more expensive on this too!)
First moral? Don't assume Whole Foods are necessary. You can find all the following staples at ANY grocery store (and come at me...I've tested this out in farmland Ohio and rural North Carolina at the Sav-a-Lot, Piggy Wigglys, and the Icelandic version of "Food Lion." I am well-traveled when it comes to grocery stores! I've shopped in some seriously remote places, and have always been able to find:
Second moral? Don't assume Whole Foods...or any store is the cheapest. Price compare!As a VERY generalized rule, I've noticed mock meats and vegan junk food items tend to be pricier at Whole Foods, but their prices for produce and canned pantry staples are sometimes pretty great - even cheaper than Walmart in some cases, as we saw!But you don't know that unless you take the time to do a food audit and compare in your town! It's a one-time exercise that will continue to save you down the road (plus, it's kinda fun!)
Was this helpful? What store in your town do you find you get the cheapest goods at? Or, like I do, do you store-hop, snagging certain items at one place, and going to another store for others?
Tell me below! I've based this off my experience in 22 states (so far) but would LOVE to hear your experience in YOUR hometown! Comment below with where you're reading from and your fave/most frugal store!Happy shopping!
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