A Complete Guide to Shopping for Healthy Vegetarian Food on a Budget

grocery shopping healthy and budget friendly

Have you been trying to make healthier decisions when it comes to grocery shopping? One easy way is by choosing plant-based products. Cutting animal products out of your diet is not only good for your health, for the environment, and for animals in general, but it can also be a great way to save you a LOT of money. The rumors are false – you CAN be a vegetarian on a budget, it doesn’t have to be expensive! Now more than ever, there are cheaper, plant-based options available for healthy grocery shoppers. So, if you want to eat vegetarian on a budget, one of the easiest things you can do is simply replace your current go-tos with plant-based alternatives.

Healthy grocery shopping can be a challenge all on its own. You want to get in and get out. You want to know what you want and where to get it with as little fuss as possible. Follow along to learn how to easily retrieve healthy, happy plant-based products in a shopping experience that won’t break the bank.

Don’t want to run to the store? Try a grocery pick-up or delivery service. They can save you lots of time and travel.

Buying Fresh or Canned and Frozen?

So the first consideration you must make is to decide how often you cook at home. For example, if you don’t cook much or you don’t like cooking and preparing food, you may want to buy more canned and frozen foods because they keep longer, so you’re less likely to waste items. 

Grocery Shop with a Purpose

Work your way systematically through the grocery store picking out the items on your list. It is easiest to start in the fresh produce section, so that way you make sure you fill up your cart with fresh foods first. End your shopping trip in the frozen section so your frozen foods don’t melt. 

Save Money Buying In Bulk

Find out if your grocery store has bulk bins and explore! Anything you can buy here will save you money on items like nuts, quinoa, and beans. Be sure to look out for expiration dates on perishable bulk items! Or, get a membership to Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s — all of which offer lots of bulk options that are vegetarian and budget-friendly.

Check The Ingredients

It is always good practice to check the ingredient list on foods! You want to be aware of what you are eating. In addition, you can ensure you are only eating what you WANT to eat. Lots of packaged foods have surprise ingredients you would never know about. For example, some frozen vegetables, breads, and salad dressings have milk added. 


Let’s talk about drinks. There are many drinks, like soda, or crystal lite, which may be considered “vegan”… But, these have “empty calories” and provide no nutritional value. Werecommend having water, and flavoring it naturally with fruits like lemons and/or limes which provide very few calories and taste delicious! If you like milk, there are many healthy plant-based milks you can explore to find what fits your taste preferences.

Prepared Foods

Also, some grocery stores may have an area where fresh sandwiches or even sushi is prepared. If you are feeling fancy you can request a vegan option from one of these areas and get vegan sushi or a sandwich for later!

Sweet Treats

For our ice cream lovers, there are many non-dairy and vegan ice creams you can find in the frozen section of the grocery store. Believe it or not, favorites like Breyers and Ben & Jerry’s have non-dairy options! Other good brands include Talenti, KIND, and Daily Harvest just to name a few. There are also many vegan chocolate brands you can buy: Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Bar, Trader Joe’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, and Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate, again just to name a few.

Other Notes 

Cereal. Try getting unflavored cereal rather than already sweetened options. You are much less likely to have as much sugar with your cereal if you sweeten it yourself than buying a cereal sweetened by a company. 

Rice. It is usually more cost-effective to buy your rice in bulk, so look for larger quantities, and compare prices. Brown rice has the most fiber and is healthier than white rice, so that will be the better pick. 

Spices. You should also go down the cooking aisle and pick up some spices to spice up your life! Pick any you may like, or want to try. 

Oils. Olive and canola oil are the most preferable oils in terms of your health. For those who are oil-free, vegetable broth (in the soup aisle) can also be great to cook with! 

The Ultimate Grocery List

This grocery list is a great start to help you eat vegetarian or vegan on a budget:


  1. Tofu 
  2. Lentils: Red, Black, or Green.
  3. Chickpeas
  4. Beans: navy, black, pinto
  5. Split peas
  6. Edamame

Whole Grains

  1. Bread
  2. Bagels
  3. Pasta
  4. Bean pasta
  5. Whole grain cereal
  6. Cereal: plain unsweetened cereal(sweeten with “sweetener” section) or old-fashioned oats with either fruit or a sweetener from the “sweetener” section


  1. Olive oil
  2. Canola oil 
  3. Raw nuts: peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.
  4. Seeds: flax, chia hemp
  5. Earth Balance spread
  6. Avocados
  7. Nut butters
  8. Olives
  9.  Hemp seeds/hemp oil


  1. Seasonings: any you like from the spice aisle or refrigerated section
  2. Sweeteners: agave syrup, Truvia, cane sugar
  3. Plant-based milk (almond, soy, cashew, etc.) 
  4. Canned/frozen veggies/fruit
  5. Vegetable broth
  6. Apple cider vinegar
  7. Tea
  8. Soy creamer
  9. Plant-based cream cheese/sour cream

Now that you have these tools, list and tips, there’s no reason why you can’t go vegetarian on a budget if you want! Plus, to make things easier for you, try ordering your groceries in advance or getting them delivered! After your grocery shopping trip is finished, the magic happens. Find recipes to use all your new items! Eat, enjoy, and thrive!

Eleanor Moran
Eleanor Moran RDN

Eleanor is a registered dietitian with a passion for helping people through healthy lifestyle changes. She is passionate about improving the diet and quality of life of clients by incorporating more whole foods into their eating!

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