Something that I often hear is that being vegan is too expensive. This is simply untrue. Veganism can be tailored to fit into anyone’s lifestyle, regardless of income. I believe the reason that most people think that veganism is expensive is because they think that vegans live off of kombucha and acai bowls, or they see the prices of processed vegan foods like pizzas, ice cream, and nut based cheese. Yes, processed vegan food can get extremely expensive, but that is not the healthiest or cheapest way to eat vegan. I VERY rarely purchase these items and most of my meals come from whole, unprocessed foods.
Did you know that most of the poorest counties in the world eat a mostly vegan diet, not because they want to, but because that is all that they can afford? No matter what a person’s financial status is, no one should be denied healthy, sustainable food based on income.
Prepare Your Own Food
Prepackaged foods are often more expensive than preparing your own food from scratch. Preparing your own meals also allows you to be aware of exactly what’s in your food. A large bag of popcorn that I used to buy from the grocery store costs around $4. Now I purchase popcorn kernels and cook them on the stovetop. If I spend $4 on popcorn kernels, I could probably make around 10 times as much popcorn as what comes in the 1 bag of popcorn from the grocery store. Like I said earlier, you don’t need to live off of kombucha and acai bowls to be vegan, but I do enjoy these things so I make them at home. At a local juice shop in my city, acai bowls are sold for $8 for a small bowl, $10 for a medium, or $12 for a large. I purchased this 8 ounce bag of organic acai berry powder from Amazon for about $22. With one serving of this acai powder, I can make a smoothie bowl comparable to the large size sold at the local juice shop. This 8 ounce bag has 75 servings in it. If I purchased 75 large acai bowls instead of the powder I would spend $900 compared to the $22 that I spent on the acai powder and made the smoothie myself. Of course the smoothie bowl has other fruits in it that have additional costs, but the savings are still massive. The same goes for kombucha. One bottle of kombucha purchased from the store costs around $4, but it only cost around $0.50 per bottle if I brew it myself.
Stay Away From Vegan Alternatives
Imitation meats and animal product alternatives are great for people transitioning to a vegan diet, but they can get really pricey. You don’t have to give up these products entirely, but you should be conscious of how often you buy them. Now that I have been vegan for a few years, I only buy vegan alternatives if I see something new that I really want to try. Once I was at Whole Foods and saw a vegan cheese that I had heard a lot about that was around $6 and had 10 slices in the package. This is around $0.60 for one slice of cheese, which I find to be a little too expensive. I decided to purchase it to try it once. It was delicious and probably the best vegan cheese out there, but I don’t need it in my diet to enjoy the food that I am eating so I have never purchased it again. If you need something like vegan cheese or vegan butter to be a vegan than go for it, but try not to center your diet around these products.
Center Your Meals Around Grains, Beans, and Starchy Vegetables.
Some of the cheapest foods on the planet are rice, beans, potatoes, and oats. All of these items are vegan and all of these items are good for you. Most of my meals are centered around one of these things and then I add some additional fruits, vegetables, and spices to mix things up so I don’t get bored. These foods can also be purchased in bulk at many grocery stores which will cut down on the cost even more.
Buy Seasonally From the Farmer’s Market
The best way to save money on produce is to buy it in season. Yes, sometimes I really want a sweet strawberry in the middle of winter, but budget-wise it’s not the best way to eat. The easiest way to purchase in-season produce is to go the farmer’s market. In-season produce is usually more affordable, has more nutrients, and is better tasting compared to the produce that is not in season and is shipped from a far away location. Shopping locally forces you to learn about the seasonality of food. I love the farmer’s market because I often don’t know what I’m going to find available when I go, so I love buying different vegetables than I am used to eating and coming up with new dishes and ways to use them. A quick farmer’s market tip: don’t forget to bring cash! A lot of vendors will only accept card if you spend a certain amount of money, and some only accept cash.
Organic vs. Non-Organic
I am a big believer in eating organic. Unfortunately buying all organic raises my grocery bill quite a bit each week. I will happily pay the extra money for organic food because I am a firm believer in voting with your dollar, and I want to live in a world where only organic food is available. I know that this is not the case for everyone and some people just cannot afford or are not willing to pay the price for organic food. I would much rather someone eat vegan and never purchase one organic product than to not be vegan at all.
Based on antioxidant and phytonutrient levels, organic produce may be considered 20-40% healthier, but organic produce is also around 40% more expensive. With the money that you will be saving by purchasing conventionally grown produce, you could actually buy more produce and get the same amount of nutrients. From a purely nutrients per dollar standpoint, organic foods are not any better. The reason that I purchase organic foods is avoid chemicals, not because it is more nutritious. If you are concerned about the pesticides that are being sprayed on your food, but you are also trying to save money, I recommend only buying organic if the item is on the Dirty Dozen list. The Dirty Dozen is a list of foods that are produced with the highest loads of pesticide residue. The 2017 list includes: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and potatoes.
If you are looking for grocery lists and meal ideas for exactly what you can make each week on a budget, here are a few resources: