How a vegetarian can save money at the grocery store

Sure, there are the usual tactics, like coupon clipping (although, alas, I can never find a coupon for fresh produce or organics) and shopping the sales (only marginally more successful for anyone trying to follow an almost vegetarian diet because they just never give you a price break on the healthy stuff).

But I think I’ve found a better tactic. And not only is it going to save you money, but it is good for the environment, too.

So here's how I go cheap, cheap, erm, cheep!

Cut the waste
I think cutting the waste is the best tactic to save both money and the environment. And here is how I do it.

1. Plan ahead
Make a list and follow it. Yeah, okay, you might pick up some great, oh, oranges that weren't on the list, but add too many items and you'll have way more than you need (can you say waste?) and are spending way more than you want (we have found that when we follow a list we shave a good 20% or so off our grocery budget).

2. Do little shops more often
Skip the once-a-week grocery shops because most of the fresh foods (and you are skipping the processed stuff, right, good almost vegetarian that you are) just aren’t going to last the week in any condition you’ll want to eat.

Instead, do two or three smaller shops throughout the week (schedule permitting; I know you are crazy busy, too).

What we do is get as much as we can at local farmer’s markets. Not only do we find better fruits and vegetables at our farmer’s market, but they are of such superior quality that they last much longer with far less deterioration in flavor.

This is how I discovered this. I bought kale from Safeway, got too busy to cook it, and found it had to be trashed the next day. The following week, I picked up some kale at my farmer’s market. A few days went by before I had a chance to cook it (yes, I have an insane schedule), but it was still gorgeous and tasty.

Nom nom!

3. Use up those leftovers
Well, the idea is not to have leftovers in the first place, but, screw it, we always do. So I use them up.

The two best ways to use up leftovers is soup and munch plates.

Soup: I keep vegetable stock around and happily dump leftover vegetables, rice, whatever in there. I’ve invented some amazing vegetarian soups. And, erm, some truly scary ones. But they’re getting better and better. (And when in doubt, a few sprigs of thyme and a splash of wine does wonders!)

Of course, when the soup thing gets tired, I turn to the other great place for leftovers, the vegetarian omelette!

Munch plate: Every so often (think Sunday afternoon) we have munch plates. My husband loves them because there is such variety. Got a package with two crackers? Last pickle in the jar? Final dollop of mustard? Some cooked asparagus? Some tiny bits of cheeses? A few olives? Even some leftover sauteed tofu?

Dump the tofu on the rice, place the cheeses on the crackers, put the asparagus to one side and top with the mustard, add the pickle and olives and buh bye leftovers and hello Sunday munch plate.

(I’ve also been known to dump appropriate leftovers into my morning smoothie. Banana starting to go a bit brown? Into the smoothie. We made too much espresso? Smoothie. No one wants that last bit of apple butter? Smoothie.)

4. Freeze
When all else fails, pop it into the freezer. I have a vegetarian soup in there, a vegetable casserole, some bread, and, oh, what is that? Well, surprise stuff.

And how do you, oh wise reader, cut the waste?
Do tell, I can use all the help I can get!