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Shopping at Trader Joe's as a Broke Vegan

Written by Kendall Olson

When first stepping foot into a Trader Joe's, one of the most noticeable things is the friendly employees who welcome you, the store aisles will be laid out very simply and compactly, with organic produce in abundance, and much more closely, but just as important, are the reasonable prices.

As someone who lives on a very tight budget, one of the most important aspects of a grocery store is price. That being said, doing so as a vegan is not always a simple endeavor. Learning to budget and actually stick to that budget can be a tedious and monotonous part of life I wish I could forget. When the rare occasion pops up that I don’t necessarily have to be quite so tight with money, it is all too exciting.

Unfortunately, these occasions are very few and far between. Admittedly, I do the majority of my shopping as discount markets with bulk bins such as Winco or other similar stores. Many vegan staples are cheapest when bought in bulk, such as rice, lentils, flour, nuts, and beans. I always have these on hand and plan meals around most of these items as a base.

Although bulk shopping is sensible and necessary for most of us, it can be boring, which is why I always make a point to go to a more exciting (albeit more expensive) grocery store such as Trader Joe's to get some exciting products to keep cooking and eating exciting.

During a typical week, my grocery budget is about $40 a week. I opted to shop at both Winco and Trader Joes this time, splitting my budget between the two stores. I came in at just above my budget at $25.84, but felt confident that none of the items I bought would go to waste.

This week is just an example of what I like to get, but it really does vary from week to week! I love that the organic produce is often the same price as the non-organic produce from Trader Joe's, and that they have a great selection of frozen meals to choose from.

My favorite frozen meal is the vegetable fried rice and the “chicken-less” mandarin orange morsels. It makes a hefty amount, good enough for two meals. I often will take the leftovers to work the following day. It costs about $6 for both items together, but split apart into two meals, thats a manageable price per meal! It is also very quick to make and perfect to throw together after a long day of working.

When I shop at Winco, they carry a lot of vegan essentials, but lack other items that I like to snack on during the work week. I always buy a few protein bars from Trader Joe's when I go, as they have a great selection for a reasonable price! My favorite item are the protein bites. They come in two flavors; sunseed butter and dipped banana. Both are amazing!

This week, my splurge purchase was the pickle flavored popcorn! I have seen a trend of pickle flavored food at Trader Joes lately, including pickle flavored hummus, which I have yet to try. It was only $1.99 and the bag was at least ¾ full of actual popcorn instead of just air.

No matter what your budget is, it is definitely possible to stick to a vegan diet and not spend too much money. Being a vegan for several years now, I know how to navigate the world of grocery shopping and not let the bill become astronomical, but while still eating delicious food!

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