College Vegan on a Budget: The Newbie

This is a new series I’m testing out and it’s all about shopping on a college girl budget, as a vegan who has healthy (and expensive) tastes. Enjoy!

I’ve never really grocery shopped for myself before. Yes, I’m a college junior and have been “on my own” (with my parents help) the past 2 years, but until now I never had the means to go grocery shopping. Sure, sometimes when I was home and had access to a car I’d pick up a couple splurges for myself at Whole Foods, but I never had to pay for staples and such. Now that I have a car and am living off campus with a full kitchen, grocery shopping is a necessity. I can’t always rely on my mom to get me what I need every two weeks, so I’m having to start grocery shopping for myself. Call me a nerd, but I’ve always had fun doing it! But now, it’s serious business–I have a budget I have to stick to. This week, it was $50 (plus $20 in cash that my mom gave me). Could I do it? Let’s see how my weekend shopping trips turned out!

So excited about the chiles, the coconut flour and the coconut Greek yogurts!


Can I just say that I love this place? Seriously, I can’t wait til the Sunflower Market back home turns into a Sprouts because it’s such a great alternative to WF. Now that I’m back at school, though, I have access to Sprouts which is great for my tastes and my budget.

I looked up their weekly deals and sales before I headed out so I knew what I should stock up on based on my not-so set-in-stone shopping list. And I tried to tell myself to stick to that list, but being the first time I’ve ever bought a lot of stuff on my own, I was like a kid in a candy store. I kept seeing all these things I wanted to try and I ended up getting a few things not on the list, but it didn’t turn out too expensive.

What I Got: fresh roasted Hatch chiles (made in store that morning!),  2 red mangoes , whole raw cashews in bulk, coconut flour in bulk (excited to try it), dried mango slices (nothing added!), 2 So Delicious coconut milk Greek yogurts (yay!) and a Luna Fiber bar. 

What It Cost Me: $15.43 (I used cash)

Verdict: I will try to shop here more often (even though it’s a little out of the way) because I got a lot of great stuff pretty cheaply. And they have a lot of products Whole Foods doesn’t stock, like the fiber bars, coconut flour and vegan Greek yogurts.

Oh peanut flour, how I’ve missed you!

Whole Foods

Ah yes, my favorite store! Unfortunately, it doesn’t always love me back. When my parents take me there, a typical stock-up trip can cost $60 or more. Since I was just planning on getting a few fill-in items, I figured I wouldn’t have to worry. Just to be safe, I kept my cell phone’s calculator handy so I could add up totals as I went along (and I’ll be doing this from now on).

Again, though, I went a little too crazy and bought several things not on my list. Good for my foodie curiosity, bad for my budget. But you live and learn.

What I Got: fresh black figs, raw agave nectar, maple almonds (got a little too many of these…), nooch (always necessary), kelp noodles, dark chocolate chunks (ran out and couldn’t live without ’em for a week!), frozen edamame (running low), frozen pineapple, PB2 (impulse buy…I was missing peanut flour, which I haven’t had in a couple months), vegan cookie, coconut milk caramel from checkout counter.

What It Cost Me: $39.32 (yikes!)

Verdict: I will definitely be sticking to the list in the future at WF! Too many impulse buys add up, especially the PB2 which was $6! I also need to be careful with the bulk stuff, since it can be expensive. I ended up with a bunch of almonds, and while I’ll definitely eat them, they weren’t cheap. Also, the figs were supposed to be $3.99 for a pound, but somehow ended up costing me almost $6  even though they weighed a little over half a pound (maybe they were priced wrong?). Definitely need to read labels more closely and avoid buying multiple things that cost $5 or more. The other items were really cheap, so if I had been more careful, I could have stayed under $30.

Obviously, I am such a beginner here when it comes to budget shopping. I wasn’t able to use any coupons, which could have saved me, and while I did try to avoid buying all the things I’ve been dying to have or try, I need to make more of an effort to do that. I will definitely use up all the items, but in the future I need to be more conscious of cost and if I really need it or if I can wait a couple weeks. However, I am excited to try all the new-to-me items!

Do you have experience budget shopping? What is your biggest grocery shopping splurge?

23 thoughts on “College Vegan on a Budget: The Newbie

  1. Aja says:

    Awesome job for your first week! I’m on a meal plan for this year but after that I’ll have to do what you’re doing. Good luck with future shopping.

  2. Emily says:

    I love this idea for a series! Even though I’m not technically in college anymore, I’m still on a tight budget and I’m always looking for ways to save money. It’s amazing what bargains you can find if you really look- and being vegan doesn’t have to be expensive! There are definitely things I’m willing to splurge on though- certain organic produce, coconut milk & almond milk yogurt/ice cream/etc., tempeh, raw nuts, and a few other things.
    It looks like you did a great job with your shopping this week! I seriously wish you had access to a Trader Joes- you would be in heaven!

    • Splurges are great! Mine are pretty similar to yours and I’m trying to find ways to slip in a few fun purchases with my staples without going overboard. I wish I had a TJs though, I’ve heard amazing things about them!

  3. moderngirlnutrition says:

    What a great post! 🙂 I love Sprouts too, and the prices are great! Where did you find peanut flour in Whole Foods? I’ve looked for it everywhere haha!

  4. This is a neat post to do and I’m sure it will help a lot of people who are young and trying to stick to a budget but still eat healthy. One thing I’ve learned is that time is money, especially when you live in a city or you’re in college. Sometimes it’s worth going to a closer store to save gas and time even if the food there is more expensive. Also, once you figure out what you really like at stores that are farther away, you can plan trips there every 2-3 weeks just to stock up on those items. That’s how my husband and I do for Trader Joe’s :). But it’s easier for us to do our weekly shopping at the Publix because it’s closer to the house.

    I think all grocery store scales are wrong. Every time I weigh produce or something, it’s also a decent amount off of what it ends up at the register.

    • Time really is money, for sure! It took me more time than I would have liked to get to Sprouts because of traffic, but knowing that they have some products I love makes it worth the trip, at least every few weeks like you said! Whole Foods is a lot closer, but some things are more expensive. It’s all just a balance, I guess!

  5. Shopping on a budget shouldn’t be too hard, but if you’re a foodie… that’s a total different storie. I try to stay in my self-set budget and save some money most of the time. Buying a lot of different whole grains (oats, quinoa, barley, millet, brown rice…) helps a lot, since you can build a lot of healthy filling meals with it. Buying a yogurt maker was also a huge help for me, since I love to have soy yogurt with fruit and making it at home is a lot cheaper.
    But if it comes to exciting new food items or eating out with friends – thats where my weaknesses are.

    • I need to stock up more on the whole grains, they’re always so cheap in bulk and super versatile! But I’m the same with new food items, my eyes just go right to them and I can’t stop thinking about buying it!

  6. caloricandcrazy says:

    Love this post! I’m always on the lookout for coupons. You did pretty good sticking to your budget 🙂

  7. This is great, love the idea of this post series! And I gotta agree with you– sprouts has to be one of my favorite grocery stores hands down. There’s one like 2 minutes from my apartment here…so glad the stuff is cheap or else my wallet would murder me! Haha 😉

  8. As I don’t live on my own,I understand exactly what you mean if you say you haven’t really grocery shopped for yourself before. I guess it’s a great step and definitely a tough challenge,but you’ll get used to it with time. Still,I am really excited to read how it goes! Good luck! 🙂

  9. I really like this series 🙂 It’s a great idea! Although I’m living at home again this year, I lived out for uni last year. Whilst I’m not a vegan I do like to eat healthy food and I have expensive tastes so this is a good series for me 🙂 Food is pretty expensive here in the UK but I think it is possible to eat healthily for a reasonable budget if you’re careful.

    • I hope you enjoy the posts! They’re definitely not going to be geared towards just vegans, but anyone who has expensive and healthy tastes and hopefully everyone reading (and me!) will get something out of it!

  10. I am really glad you are doing this new series Ashley! Although I am not in school at this time, I will be living away from home eventually and budgeting is essential on your own! It is harder for us when we do prefer higher priced items from WF and such, but it is possible to do it all… with a budget and plan of course 🙂

  11. now that I am off the meal plan, I too have to watch what I spend at the grocery store. Walmart, Kroger and Food Lion are my new best friends.

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