College Vegan on a Budget: 2 Weeks & Counting

One clean-eating college girl’s goal to save as much money as possible at Whole Foods and beyond.

Well folks, there’s just over two weeks left until I’m officially done with my junior year of college (it’s also just under 3 months til I’m 21, but who’s counting 😉 ). It actually feels so weird to be saying that–I feel like I was just in 5th grade. It’s crazy to think that a year (or less) from now, I could be at my first big-girl job. Wow.

Like I mentioned in my last CVB post, this little series will be taking a hiatus over the summer as I transition back into life at home with my family. Obviously I’m looking forward to that, and also to be taking a break from budgeting! I’ve learned a lot, but I’m ready to have my parent’s financial support again for a few months. Considering that I may be living completely on my own in a year, it’ll be nice to rely on my parents for a little while to save up money for that!

I went to both Sprouts and Whole Foods this weekend, but I’ll only be listing and photographing my Whole Foods buys here, as I feel like I’ve come a long way with my budgeting skills there. Not too long ago, I was spending at least $80 there per week, sometimes upwards of $100. Yikes. Lately, I’ve been reigning in my impulse purchases, and it’s helped me stay below $60 almost every week there. I even spent under $40 there the other week…and who says it’s called Whole Paycheck? You really can shop there on a budget (maybe not a super-tight one), you just have to watch what you’re buying. I even buy more expensive things there sometimes, and still come in below $60.

Whole Foods produce

Whole Foods produce

*=organic

Whole Foods

What I Got: baby spinach*, lemons x2, romaine lettuce*, Ataulfo mangos x3, strawberries*, watermelon, bulk section almond flour, bulk section coconut flakes, bulk section raw cashew pieces, grind-your-own raw cashew butter, coconut aminos*, Thai curry cashew mix*, Vega One bar, Vega vanilla chai protein powder sample pack, Theo dark chocolate orange bar*, Tessemae’s paleo BBQ sauce (on sale, and the only BBQ sauce I know sweetened only with dates), Skinny Crisps cinnamon (like grain free graham crackers!)

What I Spent: $58.48

Verdict: I bought a LOT of produce this week (most of it organic) and it still didn’t eat up my budget! As I’ve said before, produce is typically about 1/3 of my budget per store and trying to stick with the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 guidelines can help me save money and decide what really needs to be bought organic when I have the choice. Buying from the bulk section in only the amount I need saves me a lot (for instance, I bought 1/3 a pound of almond flour for only $1.88!) and looking for deals helps when I make impulse buys. I like the Tessemae line of dressings, and when I saw their new BBQ flavor was on sale for about half the usual price, I had to try it, especially because I’ve been looking for a clean BBQ sauce. Some things, like the coconut aminos, cost a lot upfront (at least more than traditional soy sauce or even tamari/Bragg’s) but the quality ingredients and taste are worth it to me, and it lasts me a few months too. Basically, I try to make tradeoffs and figure out what the ‘real’ cost of an item is (good ingredients, how long it’ll last, etc.)

Other Whole Foods buys.

Other Whole Foods buys.

Are better ingredients/nutritional benefits worth it to you over low cost? How much does the organic label matter to you?

College Vegan on a Budget: Makin’ Changes

An occasional series on my trials and successes in grocery shopping for myself for the first time while on a college budget.

It’s getting to be that time of year ago–finals week. Okay, technically it’s not for another 4 weeks, but close enough, right? With that being said, these CVB posts will probably be on hiatus soon for the next few months, as I move back home for the summer and hopefully go back to my parents paying for most of my groceries. I’m excited for that, but truth be told, I’ve been having fun and learning a lot doing this budgeting thing and I don’t plan on going crazy with the groceries once my parents are doing the purchasing.

So I’ve been doing a great job at keeping my weekly Whole Foods trips at around $60 or under, but I’ve failed at keeping my whole weekly grocery budget at around $80. I shop at Sprouts on a weekly or every other week basis and keep my costs to around $30 or under, but I get into trouble when I go crazy over their Larabar selection, or when I hit up yet another natural foods store in the same week (as I did last week, going to Natural Grocers and spending $20 on some super-expensive coconut flour bread, dark chocolate and cappuccino Larabars that were on sale) or when I buy food online from iHerb or Amazon (as I did two weeks ago). So for the rest of the semester, I’m going to be limiting those purchases as much as possible, probably only making one more purchase from iHerb to restock my peanut flour. And since I’ll be moving out of my apartment in a month, I need to get rid of some of the pantry staples I have, like beans and flours, so I’ll really be watching my grocery list and eliminating unnecessary purchases.

Sprouts buys.

Sprouts buys.

*=organic

Sprouts

What I Got: ALT  and Uber Larabars, Kit’s bar*, chocolate Kale Krunch* (not planned, but I’d never seen it before and was intrigued), cherry cola Zevia (on sale for only $2.99!), pineapple, Gone Nuts chipotle pistachios, unsweetened applesauce*, avocados x3*, serrano peppers

What I Spent: $32.70

Verdict: The raw nuts and kale chips were the only things not on my list (and the two most expensive by far) but I bought them because I’ve never seen them anywhere else and wanted to try them. I stocked up on the Zevia (a new-to-me flavor) even though I have some others in my pantry because they were a steal at just $3, compared to the usual $5 or $6. The avocados were bought organic because they were the same price as conventional and buying organic whenever possible is always best.

Whole Foods purchases.

Whole Foods purchases.

Whole Foods

What I Got: Gone Raw Thai curry cashews (it’s a problem, I’m obsessed), raw cashew butter (this stuff is AMAZING, and only getting a little bit from the bulk aisle saved me tons of money), bulk unsweetened coconut shreds, bulk white Turkish figs*, Medjool dates*, Veggie-Gos fruit and veggie strips*, canned green olives, Tom’s kids toothpaste (I had a coupon, and have been looking for a more natural toothpaste), cherry chocolate Vega One bar, plain Skinny Crisps (for an upcoming recipe), eggplant*, watermelon (yes!), 1 lb. strawberries (finally we’re getting into berry season), Ataulfo mangos X2 (tastiest mangos ever!), baby spinach*, fair trade vanilla extract (on sale and one of the only clean extracts I could find), Hail Merry raw chocolate tart (another thing I need to stop buying, I love it too much!), bulk fair trade 65% dark chocolate chips*

What I Spent: 60.76

Verdict: I have gotten SO much better at spending less at Whole Foods while still getting a lot. Produce is usually about 1/3 of my total purchase, which is really decent, especially for such great quality and sometimes organic produce. I still got a few fun purchases, but I’ve been better about not buying all my favorite splurges all the time. 

What fruit are you most excited to eat this summer? What’s the best grocery store deal you’ve encountered lately (for me, it’s either the Zevia, or the Larabars I found for under $1 each)?