How to Save Money on a Dairy-Free Diet

Specialty products such as nondairy cheese and soy yogurt can be expensive to buy on a regular basis — especially the organic varieties. To go dairy-free for the long run, you’d be wise to think of ways to economize. The good news is that doing so isn’t difficult.

When you’re shopping on a budget, one of the best ways to save a little money is to be a comparison shopper. In particular, compare the prices of name-brand, store-brand, and private-label products. Private-label and store-brand foods often cost substantially less than similar name-brand products. The quality often is just as good, too. Look for private-label and store-brand versions of soymilk, rice milk, soy yogurt, and other nondairy products. Compare prices of similar products between stores, too.

Check the unit pricing shown on the grocery shelves near each product. For example, unit pricing may show you the price per ounce of one product compared with another. Comparing unit prices can help you find the best values.

The specialty foods marketplace is changing rapidly, so don’t assume anything. Check around to make sure you’re getting the lowest price. More conventional supermarkets have started stocking soymilk, rice milk, and other nondairy milks, yogurts, and cheeses. As more people buy these products, you may see prices drop.

One way to be practical when buying nondairy specialty foods is to purchase varieties that can be used for more than one purpose. For example, soymilk and other forms of nondairy milk are typically sold in plain and flavored varieties. The flavored products, such as vanilla and chocolate flavors, usually are slightly sweetened. Although these sweetened varieties are tasty for drinking, they aren’t always useful for cooking savory dishes. Nondairy cheese is another example. You’re more likely to find multiple uses for cheddar- or mozzarella-style cheese than for pepper jack cheese.

Larger quantities often are a better value. That’s because the more units a company can sell of the same item, the more efficiently it may be able to produce the product. As a result, the company can shave a little off the price, pass the savings on to you, and still make a profit. Everyone wins.

This bulk business strategy is the premise behind the savings at warehouse stores like Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club. It’s also the reason you often get a discount of as much as 10 percent when you buy caseloads of foods at other stores, too.

Generic, store brand, and private-label products typically cost less than their name-brand cousins. The same manufacturers that package brand-name items often make these no-name products. By buying the generic, you frequently get the same high-quality product for less than you’d pay for the leading brands. Examples of dairy-free generic, store-brand, or private-label products you’re likely to see in stores include soymilk, rice milk, nondairy yogurt, and nondairy cream cheese.

A great way to save some money when eating a dairy-free diet is to use coupons. You can find coupons all around you. You just have to look. Consider the following options:

  • You can find coupons in food-themed magazines, within in-store circulars, on store shelves, and on the products themselves (just peel and save).

  • Another good place to look for coupons is on manufacturer Web sites. It’s becoming common for food companies to include on their Web sites not only recipes but coupons, too, which you can print and take with you to the store.

  • You also can look on coupon Web sites. You can find hundreds of coupons for a wide range of products consolidated in one place.

Coupons can be a nice way to save money on staples or to get a discount on a product you’d like to try. Be smart, though, and don’t let a coupon entice you into buying something you don’t need or would ordinarily buy in its less expensive, store-brand form.

When clipping coupons, stay organized. Keep coupons together in one central spot — an envelope, basket, file folder, shelf, or even a favorite dish — where you know to look before you go to the store. Regularly look through your coupon stash and throw away any that have expired.

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