I often encounter the “eating vegan is expensive” preconception when talking to people about adopting a plant-based diet. I don’t know how that idea came about (possibly with “vegan” or “plant-based” being confused with “organic” and “raw”), but I do know it doesn’t have to be true. Just like with any “diet”, you can end up spending a lot or very little.
In fact, if done properly, eating vegan can save you money (seeing that meat is a lot more expensive than most vegan staples).
A majority of vegan staples (grains, legumes and some vegetables and fruit) can probably already be found in your cupboard:
- Beans and other pulses;
- Pasta (egg-free);
- Seasonal fruit;
- Seasonal vegetables;
- Herbs and spices;
If these sound bland and boring, don’t worry! These are some of the most versatile food out and can be repurposed multiple times. As an example, you could serve fried rice with vegetables one evening, only to use the rice in a wrap the next day and vegetables in a soup. You could bake potatoes one evening, only to use them to make a “cheese” sauce for your pasta the next day (yes it’s possible to make a cheese-like sauce with potatoes)! You could eat a chickpea salad one day, enjoy them baked as a snack with some chilli the next, and then turn them into a hummus the third day.
Some of my tips for eating vegan on a budget would be:
1) Cook large batches and refrigerate/freeze the leftovers.
A lot of meals can easily be prepared in large batches and enjoyed later (chillies, stews, soups etc.) This is much cheaper than buying ready meals and is also convenient ie. just heat up a meal in the microwave or on the hob if you don’t have time to cook.
2) Buy seasonal and local vegetables and fruit.
Recently I went back home and I was shocked to see that one sweet potato costs the equivalent of £2,5, which is far more expensive than in London (and that tells you something). That being said, if you’re on a budget, stick to plain old potatoes that grow where you live. They’re just as yummy, and you get to save some money!
3) Buy supermarket brands.
Often, supermarkets have their own brands of produce that cost far less than “branded” goods. Furthermore, most of them are not inferior in quality to more famous “brands”. Pro tip: This is the case for a lot of legumes, rice and plant milks in particular.
4) Plan, plan, plan.
Weekly meal plan is the holy grail of saving money and eating on a budget. It’s also incredibly useful if you’re eating vegan and don’t have a lot of options to eat on the go. When you plan meals for the week, you make sure not to waste any food and you minimise the chances of eating out/ordering or buying expensive ready meals. This also means you’re eating healthier and it’s also far less stressful. Pro tip: Plan snacks too!
5) Don’t shy away from frozen.
There’s this misconception (which I had too) that frozen fruit and vegetables are less healthy and lack nutrients (compared to fresh produce). There’s been a lot of research proving that frozen goods contain all nutrients that fresh produce does (if not more) because they’re frozen “at their best”. So go ahead and stock up on frozen veggies and fruit.
6) Don’t make a fuss about organic.
Of course, in an ideal world, we’d all be able to enjoy organic fruit and vegetables in all meals. In a lot of cases, it’s preferrable to buy organic as a lot of commercially produced vegetables and fruit are treated with a lot of pesticides. However, if your main goal is to save money, don’t dwell on it. Try to buy as organic as you can (always check the sales and promotions – sometimes organic is cheaper), but if you can’t – don’t give yourself a hard time. You’re still saving animals and the planet and improving your health by not eating meat and dairy!
7) Keep your diet mostly focused on whole foods.
If you’re buying a lot of vegan substitutes, the plant-based diet can get expensive. Vegan cheese and meat substitutes tend to be more expensive than its non-vegan counterparts. This being said, stick to mostly whole foods diet and avoid vegan substitutes if you’re on a budget. You can get all the nutrients you need without reaching out for the processed substitutes.
8) Make your own!
I’ve already pointed out that it’s far better to avoid vegan substitutes if you’re on a budget, but if you’re really craving “cheese” and “meat” textures and taste, you can make a lot of things on your own (e.g. this black bean burger or this “cheese”).
You can also make your own almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk, ketchup, pesto and a lot of other things that would be more expensive if purchased ready-made.
9) Invest in a couple of game-changers.
If you want to jazz up your meals, invest in a couple more expensive items that can last you a long time. For example, chia seeds can be used to make breakfast yoghurts, they can be added to your oatmeal and smoothies, and they can even serve as an egg replacer. Nutritional yeast will give a lot of your meals a cheesy flavour. Invest in items like these and use sparingly if on a budget. Just remember, pricier super foods aren’t imperative to achieve a balanced, vegan diet.
10) Get out there!
Get out of supermarkets and explore your local markets! A lot of the times you can find really good deals and even negotiate with sellers to get a better price. Also, some very expensive “health foods” like medjool dates or coconut milk can be found in local Indian or Palestinian shops for less money (if you live in an area where a lot of cultures mingle).
A plant-based diet can easily be tailored to fit into most people’s lives, regardless of income. Don’t let the myths discourage you from trying. Eating plant-based is a beautiful, compassionate and healthy way of living.
P.S. Let us know if there’s anything food-related that you’d like me to write about! Would you like to see a specific meal plan for eating plant-based on a budget?