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-Written by Cel
Our grocery costs for two people for a month averages around $230 a month. When most people hear this, they assume we must live in a place with a low cost of living. In fact, we live in Vancouver, Canada, reputed to be the most expensive city in North America.
How do we accomplish this? It doesn’t hurt that we’re vegans, but that isn’t the main reason. We certainly don’t rely on rice and beans (one of us is even allergic to beans). Some of our staples like soy milk or veggie burgers are just as expensive, perhaps even more so, than the omnivore equivalents.
The biggest factor is that we’ve managed to identify the cheapest place in town to obtain most foods, particularly the ones that we buy frequently.
For instance, many people would buy a 1.89 litre box of soy milk for $4.99 at their local grocer, which is the standard price. Maybe they’ll pick up 2 or 3 boxes when it’s on sale for $3.99, and feel like they’re saving.
We buy 3-packs of soy milk (a carton with three 1.89 litre boxes) for $8.69 at Costco – which is $2.90 a box. Given that we go through 12-13 boxes of soy milk per month between us, that adds up pretty quickly.
We don’t own a car, so you may be wondering how we transport heavy goods from Costco. Enter our secret weapon – a pet stroller designed to transport cats, rated up to 30 pounds, though you could easily buy a larger one. We happen to live a 10 minute walk away from Costco, but you could easily bring a stroller on transit.
You want to identify the various stores in town that sell the items you buy for the lowest price, and buy accordingly. This can vary – the best deal for most produce might be at an Asian grocer, while Whole Foods might have the lowest price for specialty “foodie” items.
But wait – isn’t it a waste of time, and perhaps gas, to go to a million stores? Isn’t it worth it to pay a premium and just go to one store?
It depends. We are lucky enough to have a Western grocery store across the street, a large Asian supermarket 3 blocks away, and a Costco 10 minutes away. There’s also another grocery store on the path back from my work, which is about a 20 minutes walk from home. One of our staple stores, NoFrills, is a 25-30 minute bike ride away – that is the most time we ever spent travelling, and we go there once a week or less.
Figure out the situation in your area, see how much money you could save, then figure out whether it’s worth it. It might make sense to visit a slightly further store once or twice a month, if it means a substantial savings.
Lastly, we try to let sales dictate what we buy. For instance, when it comes to produce, we usually buy whatever happens to be on sale, and cook meals accordingly – instead of deciding what we want to cook, and then buy ingredients based on that. Of course, we would never buy something we dislike just because it’s on sale. And there are some staples that we buy regardless of sales, like soy milk or vegan margarine (which we use for baking). But by and large, we try to buy whatever is cheapest.
So, to sum up:
1. Buy goods at the cheapest place in town.
2. Try to walk or bike to the grocery store. If you need to drive, try to stock up so you are not making frequent trips.
3. Buy whatever is on sale (as much as possible) and cook accordingly, rather than deciding what you want to cook and buying regardless of price.