The Whole (Foods) Shebang

Starting today, I’m living on my own. Which means that I get the joy (and this is only slightly sarcastic because I think it is way more fun that it probably is) of grocery shopping.

Yes, I am fortunate to have funds from my family to help pay for my weekly excursions, but that doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to the number at the register. I had some experience last summer learning how much food can cost even just for one person, but it’s still something to get used to. Throw around the term “millennial ignorance” around all you want, but how are young people supposed to learn how to “adult” without asking the questions and figuring how to navigate these basic parts of modern life?

So how am I going about this grocery shopping, especially as a vegan? What kind of foods am I buying for myself that can still meet some sort of budget? What IS even a reasonable budget as a single lady trying to eat healthy?

First off, when I’m buying for myself, I am quite conscious of the money I’m spending. Partially it’s from the guilt of using my parents’ money for groceries, a blessing for sure. But I also just love hunting down good deals. Whether it’s a weekly special or a couple of cents off of a gallon of gas, I’m on board.

Also important to mention here are my goals for how I want to eat. Obviously veganism is innately healthier than a conventional American diet, but inevitably there is still processed foods and “junk” foods that are plant-based. To fully reap the benefits that veganism has to offer, I want to focus more on eating whole foods: less packaged and processed ingredients and extra junk that we don’t need.

Everything in moderation. I’m certainly still going to have dessert every evening. But if it costs more anyways to buy dairy and meat substitutes or fancier chips and crackers in the organic aisle, I might want to save a few extra bucks. If I do buy something from a box, I want to be able to understand the ingredients rather than preservative mumbo-jumbo. Most people keen on whole foods strive for eight ingredients or less, but I just want to get the most nutrition out of what I’m making for myself.

And when I say these things, I’m sure there are lots of dollar signs running through your head because same here. But it’s not as scary as it seems to be. It’s a learning process all around, especially when you have multiple factors and goals you want to achieve. While it’s easy to be the typical college student buying ramen and Easy Mac, you’d be surprised by how much you can accomplish if you stick to plant-based whole foods.

Obviously foods like rice, beans, potatoes, and oatmeal are all cheap. So are greens like spinach which are extremely nutrient-dense. Stick to the produce section as much as you can, pretending that the aisles don’t exist. Then to fill in the gaps, that’s when you venture to other places in the store.

Don’t forget about fruits and veggies that canned or frozen as those are also great options. Pay attention to what your grocery store might have on sale and what produce is in season. Inevitably berries past the summertime will be darn expensive. Luckily seasons come and go, and that just gives you the chance to try different foods year-round.

If you’re craving foods like cereal, crackers or cookies, do some research as to the best options available and where you can find those. If they’re reasonably priced, at least. When in doubt, I say to make it yourself because then you’re saving money and putting in the ingredients you want to. Plus it’s awesome to know that you made a recipe on your own. If you want to try some fancy-schmancy “super food” or supplement, then that’s up to you. How much I buy some of the food crazes and trends that pop up every so often can really ebb and flow, but you do you.

Now sticking to a budget. My goal for myself is to never go above $50 a week. That alone sounds very intimidating. I hopefully want to lower my goal, too. I know I have to build up my pantry with the staples first, an investment in of itself, before starting to realistically budget. But if all I need every week is mostly produce and a couple of extras if I want to try a recipe, I think I can do it. As long as inflation doesn’t play against me.

Regardless if I have these goals in mind, the ultimate priority here is health. If I want to live a long life, I’m taking care of myself right now. In this moment, if I have the independence to choose what to put in my body, I want to choose foods that nourish me, along with the daily little treat. Food is powerful. It’s our original means of medicine. It’s our consistent source of nourishment. Having that mentality fit into modern life shouldn’t be complicated. Not if you plan accordingly with the best intentions.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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