Friday, May 13, 2011

Vegan Equals Frugal?

I've always associated going green with being frugal. The two concepts just seemed to go together, until now. I understand that long-term savings will often come through for me in the end, but the initial financial output can be intimidating. At the very least it's putting a cramp in my ability to consume less.

Case in point: prepping for our veganism. Let's just say, Zach isn't the only one who needs a new lunchbox. Rob will have to take lunch with him from now on (a courageous change I applaud – as long as he stops leaving it on the counter when he leaves for work). But, my mismatched, lidless tupperware collection seems unable to take on the job. Enter a fabulous sale at the grocery store on Lock & Lock containers, and the spending begins. 

Then comes restocking the pantry. We have been trying to use up everything that would be considered off-limits for the next six weeks – both in an effort to reduce waste and get rid of temptations. The Postal Service's Stamp Out Hunger food drive tomorrow will take care of the rest. It seemed like a good idea, but now we are left with having to stock the fridge, freezer and pantry from scratch. Even our condiment choices and dressings need to be replaced. On the bright side, the kitchen has never been so clean empty.

We're starting to pack the fridge with veggie goodness, but there is an unmistakable balance necessary here – keep on hand enough vegetation for each of us to eat as close as possible to the goal of 2 pounds of produce per day without having it rot in the fridge before we get a chance to eat it. It looks like this may require grocery shopping more than once a week. How does adding another day of errands affect the bottom line when gas prices are just under $4 per gallon? Ugh.

I'm not used to doing price comparisons when I shop. I prefer to get everything in one place, even if something is on sale for less elsewhere. I'm curious though to find out where the best deals are when it comes to good produce. Thankfully, the local Farmer's Markets are getting into the swing of things, so I have plenty of options for fresh, local, organic fruits and vegetables, supplemented by Whole Foods when necessary.

Even with the pantry staples, seasonings and dressings, I believe a side by side price comparison of my typical grocery cart containing meat and snack foods would still run higher than a cart full of produce – even organic produce. I'll have to hold onto some receipts for fact-checking on that one.

But the real savings comes in the form of eating out less. There are still vegan restaurant choices available, but not many in our immediate vicinity, which should put an end to the “I don't feel like cooking, let's just get take-out” syndrome we had been experiencing. Now that there will always be salad fixings on hand and soup in the freezer, throwing together a quick dinner should still be possible without cooking a large main dish. The budget is saved. 

My prediction is that eating vegan will give us the kick in the pants we need to get our spending on food under control. Good for our health and our wallets.

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