Many ask if you spend more money if you go vegetarian or vegan? How this myth came about is a wonder. The reality is that it is always about choices. But essentially, a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle means that you are removing meat (and fish) from your shopping bill. With this act you are removing a big cost factor (meat). Yet if you still are having trouble with the grocery bill Veggy Malta is offering a few tips that can help you save money by eating vegetarian (and vegan).
Buy in bulk
As consumer we normally choose smaller packages rather than buying in bulk. Manufacturers normally prefer that you buy smaller packages, as they have higher profits on them. And even if their margins on bulk were to be the same as smaller packaging, (which they aren’t), the cost of the packaging versus the volume is lower, meaning the actual hike after cost of product will still be lower. So what can you buy in bulk:
- nuts and seeds
- flours and grains
- spices and herbs
- dried fruit (check that the containers are closed air-tight)
- snack items
Furthermore when buying in bulk you are reducing packaging waste.
Look out for offers
Keep an eye for offers. Sometimes importers try to push their sales with offers. (Always check the date). Certain products like soy milk and other non-dairy milk will last long and can be stored in your larder. In this case stock up. For other products that have a shorter shelf life, purchase moderately, but take advantage of the bargain.
Organic or non-organic
Choosing between going organic or buying non-organic is your choice. Organic foods normally tend to be 15% to 20% more expensive, yet that is not always the case. If buying from a supermarket, compare prices between the organic section and the non-organic, as you might occasionally be surprised. If choosing organic you can save money by buying the food direct from the importer or farmer. I will not debate here the value of the health benefits of organic versus non-organic (that’s up to you to judge). There are a number of reviewed organic suppliers on Veggy Malta (a list of organic suppliers in Malta is coming soon).
Alternatively you can choose to buy your fruit and vegetables direct from farmers or from farmer’s markets. Keep in mind that most locally grown vegetables are seasonal. This means that there will be times when there is an abundance of a particular yield and the price (across Malta and Gozo) comes down. Don’t just buy for your immediate consumption, but buy and freeze. Try to buy as fresh as possible that way when freezing, you can retain all the taste.
Food planning is important. Calculate what you will need during the week and purchase at one go. This avoids you having to go to the store or supermarket every other day. If you want to be strict on your tight budget then keep tabs of what you are throwing away and reduce the volume. Don’t just keep the receipt but also look at it. This can help you understand which items you may wish to cut down or even eliminate next time round.
Low budget meals
Here is a list of food and meals that you can make on a tight budget.
- Salads (obvious no.1 choice)
- Pasta dishes
- Soups and broth
- Vegetables and hummus
- Pancakes (the kids and older kids will love it)
- Baked potatoes (with or without stuffing)
- Smoothies (whatever colour you wish)
Use whole foods
Fortunately for vegetarians and vegans and those that want to pursue a healthy diet, the vast majority of staple foods are always available and cheap. You can find good fresh, organic or frozen vegetables and fruits. Also whole grains, tofu, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds are generally reasonably priced (especially if you use the tips already mentioned).
Keep tab of the prices of your vegetarian/vegan meat substitutes and vegan cheese substitutes. These can become the most costly part of your shopping. Look out for offers and try out new brands. More and more meat substitute brands are being introduced in Malta. Furthermore, occasionally experiment with making your own burgers.
Always make something extra
Try to cook that little bit extra and have some left overs. That means that you have lunch for tomorrow and you can save some money instead of going out to eat during lunch break. If you want you can freeze the left overs and eat further on in the week rather than the day after (to give you a bit of variety). The added benefit is that by making that little extra you can use the full can or packet you opened (as part of the ingredients) to make the dish, rather than putting it in the fridge and hoping that it will not get wasted.
Order your larder and fridge
Find a system that will help you keep order in your larder, pantry, fridge and freezer. Even if you are not on a tight budget you should avoid having food expire and being wasted. Keep tabs of what you have so you don’t need to buy them again. Keep an eye for close by date products and create dishes with them (avoid wasting and throwing away). Remember that there is a difference between best before and use by! Don’t just throw away a best before if you have stored it correctly.
Give it your touch
Don’t follow recipes to the letter. Change the ingredients to what you have available, what is in season (and cheaper). Some recipes have expensive ingredients which can be easily substituted or removed. Take the spirit of a recipe and make it your own otherwise you can end up paying through your nose for some home made muesli!
Grow your own herbs
You might give a try at growing your own herbs. Create your own little window patch with a the odd two to four herbs. Start small. Fresh herbs bought from the shop will not last long, whilst having the plants at home means you can cut the few leaves you need just for the dish. The rest of the plant remains fresh ready for the next plate.
Well I guess there enough to digest for now. You can be a vegetarian or a vegan on a tight budget in Malta, Gozo (and anywhere). Fell free to add your own suggestions. One last thought. Food is essential for your body and good healthy food will have an effect on your body. before slashing you food budget check out how you are spending your hard earned cash (cable, mobile, smartphone, shoes, etc). Prioritise health!