25 Frugal Items for Your Organic Vegan Grocery List
With all the talk about plant-based diets these days and the expanding market for organic foods, developing an organic vegan grocery list that’s actually affordable is becoming more of a priority for some families. While it’s true that many organic items can feel out of financial reach, it’s equally true that a number of organic vegan items are within the price range of the typical American family. If you’re looking to develop a list of go-to items to put on your vegan grocery list, these 25 are affordable, organic, and flexible enough to go the distance in a variety of meal plans. (See also: 6 Plant-Based Diet Tricks for Carnivores)
1. Flax Seeds
Full of essential fatty acids and nutrients, flax seeds are a powerhouse addition to the vegan grocery list. With the organic version available for a per-pound rate that’s less than conventional walnuts, it’s tough to argue against them. Great as an egg replacer in vegan baking, they can also be ground and added to baked-good batters, oatmeal, and breakfast smoothies.
2. Brown Lentils
When it comes to making your organic vegan grocery list frugal, stocking up for an assembly cooking round of lentil recipes obviously makes good financial sense. If you really want to pinch your plant-based diet pennies, then it’s time to bring brown lentils to center stage. Suitable for curries, loaves, and soups, these bargain beauties can also be used in a variety of ways as a vegetarian ground beef substitute. I’m able to purchase organic brown lentils using my bulk bin bags for roughly $1.50 per pound. Since they double in size when cooked, this gives us a price of seventy-five cents per pound of organic, ready-to-eat product.
At less than a dollar per pound for the organic variety, incorporating as many banana recipes as possible into your weekly menu plans is an affordable way to add both nutrition and flavor. Bananas are a great year-round vegan grocery item that can be used for frozen treats, baked goods, vegan pancakes, and even French toast. They are also an easy pack-and-go item for brown bag lunches.
Essentially a wheat-free version of soy sauce, tamari is available in a low-sodium organic version as well. Smaller bottles are available at several grocery stores in my area, but the larger bottles are available for the six or seven dollar range at the nearest Whole Foods. Considering how long the supply lasts at our house, and the fact that it can be used for anything from creating my own soy burger crumbles to seasoning a homemade peanut sauce, this makes it a huge bargain in my book.
When I think of cheap food that’s also organic, carrots are one of the first items that come to mind. At Costco, I’m able to purchase whole organic carrots for roughly seventy-five cents per pound. However, even at most of the grocery stores in my area, organic carrots are still only a dollar per pound on average. This makes them one of the least expensive items you can have on an organic vegan grocery list. Grate them for a coleslaw, cut them for dipping, or chunk them up for a soup. There are many other ways to use carrots, of course, but the point is they are flexible and cheap, even if you are shopping organically.
By shopping at the warehouse store, I’m able to purchase one-pound tubs of organic baby spinach and mixed greens for roughly four dollars each. That’s half of what I pay per pound for the conventional variety at most chain grocery stores. With these large tubs of greens, I’m able to make a wide variety of vegan sandwiches, dinner salads with hummus and bruschetta, and homemade spinach-and-mushroom pizza. I can even chop up either type of green to use as a taco topping. Many people pass on these when they shop using their club memberships because they think they won’t eat that much salad per week. However, at our house we’ve found that by using the greens for other things we are indeed able to use the entire amount.
7. Balsamic Vinegar
I purchase mine at Super Target, and the price is consistently within a dollar or two of the conventional variety. With regards to usage rate, I put balsamic vinegar in the same category as tamari. Since it lasts for some time and I’m able to use it to season and sauce several different meals, the one or two dollar difference in price is an acceptable expense to me. Paired with a few sassy salad add-ins, it adds and elegant touch to dinner as well as a bit of zing.
8. Cider Vinegar
Not only can you use organic cider vinegar for homemade salad dressings like this berry vinaigrette, you can also use it for sauces, dips, and to “curdle” non-dairy milks for certain vegan baking recipes. Generic versions are available for those who are looking to get the best price possible. If you’re trying to save money by stocking your pantry with organic vegan baking supplies, cider vinegar is a great place to start.
9. Coconut Milk
Whether you are using the richer canned version or the So Delicious brand in the half-gallon cartons, organic coconut milk is a serious secret weapon when it comes to going vegan. It can be used to make soups creamier, sorbets richer, and even as a coffee creamer. Another fun use for coconut milk is to blend it with roasted garlic and use it as an alternative pizza sauce.
10. Frozen Costco Veggies and Berries
One of my favorite sources for affordable organic groceries is Costco, and several of the items available are also vegan. At the top of my cheap list is their selection of frozen organic vegetables and berries. Having a bag of each type in the freezer is great if you want to be prepared for company. Mixed frozen peas and carrots can be used for potato-stuffed samosas, fried rice, or simply steamed and seasoned as a basic side dish. The frozen broccoli florets work in stir fries, pasta salads, and creamy soups. Their organic blueberries are priced comparably to the conventional ones I buy elsewhere and are a go-to item in our house for desserts, smoothies, and muffins.
A regular on our grocery list at Whole Foods, we purchase organic oatmeal from the bulk bins and use it as a breakfast cereal, baking ingredient, and smoothie thickener. It’s a heart-healthy item that keeps your budget in check and provides an easy-to-prepare meal option on a busy morning. Oatmeal raisin muffins and hearty homemade sandwich bread are other frugal recipes you can try.
As shelf-stable bargain produce items go, raisins rock. While fresh fruit needs to be eaten right away, raisins can remain at the ready for granola, trail mix, muffins, scones, and more. If you feel like something more exciting, consider a homemade rum-raisin vegan ice cream or zesty, meat-free mince meat.
13. Sunflower Seed Kernels
Less than two dollars per pound at the health food store, organic sunflower seed kernels are one of my favorite ingredients to put a little protein into homemade bread, snack on with dried fruit, and even use as a salad topper. Some people with nut allergies use a food processor to create their own seed butter. Sunflower seed kernels, along with flax seeds, are one of my favorite ways to save money on a plant-based diet. We use nuts quite frequently instead of meat, but seeds are way more affordable to stock up on (often costing several dollars less per pound) and provide similar nutrition.
14. Romaine Hearts
At three dollars per pack, organic romaine hearts can make easy, low-carb taco shells or sandwich wraps, and are a great salad ingredient. Even a simple three-ingredient salad of grape tomatoes, romaine, and onions sprinkled with a little Italian seasoning makes a decent side dish for steamed fish, grilled polenta, or baked chicken legs.
I purchase the generic Whole Foods 365 brand for a buck fifty per pound. For those that don’t have access to a Whole Foods, most grocery stores carry organic tofu in the refrigerated section. While I don’t rely heavily on this particular vegan grocery list item, it is handy to have on hand for Pad Thai, stir fry meals, and certain soups. Some people grill it in slices or cubed and threaded onto barbecue skewers.
16. Corn Chips
One of the easiest strategies for buying organic groceries on a budget is to purchase generic, store-brand versions of your favorite foods. Super Target carries a boatload (technical term) of store-brand organic items, including yellow, white, and blue organic corn tortilla chips. They cost less than my favorite vegan Doritos and have more in the bag. A bag or two of these per month is an affordable luxury for family movie night and a reasonably healthy snack to have with lunch.
Large jugs of organic salsa can be purchased affordably at Costco. Because it’s such a low-fat, nutritional power house, I use salsa to accompany not only the organic corn chips mentioned above, but also with vegan quesadillas, as a salad dressing, and even to jazz up crock pot vegetable soup when I have leftovers at the bottom of the jar. You can also puree salsa for when you want a thinner sauce to use on tacos and other Mexican dishes.
Another affordable organic item for your vegan grocery list is Newman’s Own marinara sauce. At the Super Target near my house, it sells for $2 per jar and can be used for pizza sauce on a homemade crust, breaded eggplant sandwiches, homemade calzones, and more. Paired with conventional or vegetarian breaded chicken patties, it also provides a time-saving hack to have Chicken Parmesan on the table in a flash.
For my money, organic potatoes are one of the more affordable items to put on your list. They last for some time in the fridge or root cellar, can take center stage at dinner time with a few simple toppings, and have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to side dishes. They are also a helpful go-to item when you are trying to prepare hearty meatless meals for people with big appetites.
20. Peanut Butter
If you want your organic peanut butter to be affordable, then where you purchase it will make a big difference. The two most affordable places I’ve found are the grind-your-own station at Whole Foods and the large-jar multipack at Costco. Once you have a deep supply on hand, you’re all set to go for after-school cookies and tasty ramen recipes,
By purchasing loose or generic-brand tea, I’m able to enjoy the organic version at a comparable to lower cost than I’m able to buy conventional brand-name teas. Green and flavored white teas are our favorites for health reasons, but there are certainly a variety of others on the market. Making your own sun tea and adding a splash of pomegranate juice is fun way to make your own health drink without paying for the bottled drinks with all of their excess packaging.
As with peanut butter, where you buy your organic ketchup will great increase its affordability as a regular item on your vegan grocery list. I’ve always found the Hannaford brand of organic ketchup to be comparable to conventional alternatives, and they don’t use high fructose corn syrup.
23. Canned Tomato Products
Purchasing canned tomato products by the case at Costco is one of my top strategies for bringing home this grocery item affordably. Buying in bulk is something we do frequently, and with fresh tomatoes fluctuating in price so often, canned is what we use the most of in the winter months. While everyone uses this product in their own way, our top methods include homemade pasta sauces, tacos, curries, and even as a soup broth ingredient.
24. Black Beans
I’ve always been a fan of black beans, but when I discovered that they have antioxidant properties comparable to cranberries, I started collecting black bean recipes with gusto. Salsas, wraps, hummus, and salads are just a few of the simple ways I incorporate them into our regular menus. I’ve never paid more than $2 per pound for dried organic black beans, and cooking them in large batches to freeze for later is simple enough to do on a Sunday afternoon.
What’s not to love about quinoa? A nutritious protein source that cooks easily in your rice cooker, quinoa can be used for breakfast porridge, as a stir fry base, and in a chilled summer salad such as this quinoa-mushroom pilaf. It’s also shelf stable, making it a perfect vegan grocery list item with which to stock your pantry. In the bulk bins at my favorite health food store, I’m able to purchase organic quinoa for less than $3 per pound, which I try to make my cut-off price for dry staple ingredients.
Developing an organic vegan grocery list doesn’t have to throw your budget off the rails. With so many people being directed towards a plant-based system of eating by their doctors these days, I felt it was important to start providing resources on the subject. As always, I’d love to hear which items the readers put on their short list for organic, plant-based groceries.