It is an extremely common misconception that following a vegan diet is expensive and un-attainable. Sure! This will more than likely be true if you are eating vegan junk food, shopping only at high end grocery stores, and dining out a couple of nights a week! These habits can turn any lifestyle into an over-expensive one.
It is undoubtedly true that you can go to a fast-food restaurant every night of the week and get an animal-based takeaway meal for under €4.00 – and this lifestyle will remain pretty low cost. However – where are the nutrient dense foods? They will remain completely absent from your diet if all you are eating is quick, cheap, unhealthy, oil-laden fast food. Fast-food chains are often devoid of vegetable options, and the food served within them is typically, extremely calorific. Therefore; fast food chains are an extremely unhealthy option. Yes, they are low cost – but expensive in terms of your long-term health.
Buying vegan alternatives such as vegan cheese, vegan ice-cream, vegan mock meats etc. will obviously increase your food expenditure. These alternatives are not as in-demand as non-vegan foods (yet), and the companies who create such foods do not receive subsidiary government funding like the animal industry does (to lower the price of the meat/dairy/eggs etc for the consumer). Therefore, these vegan products tend to be more expensive than their non-vegan counterparts. For example; 6 vegan sausages can be bought for €3.99 in Tesco, whereas 6 pork sausages in the same store can be attained for just €1.00.
If you think that eating vegan is expensive, you’re probably basing this opinion off of an individual who ate vegan for a couple of weeks, and relied almost entirely on processed vegan foods, such as the above mentioned; mock meats, vegan cheese and various dairy alternative foods. For me, I looked towards going vegan as a way of improving my overall bodily health. This does not include processed foods. My diet emphasises a whole food approach to veganism. Think about some of the cheapest foods you can find in a supermarket; oats, potatoes, rice and pasta. Relying on these whole foods as a springboard for each meal will ensure that your breakfasts, lunch’s and dinner’s are all affordable and cheaply attained. This way of eating is extremely cost efficient and has actually saved my family and I money!
I have decided to share some tips on how to retain a low expenditure while enjoying a plant-based lifestyle. This way of eating (despite common belief), will not make you go hungry, and will more than likely actually improve your overall health while saving your money too!
- Stay away from Vegan ‘Alternative’ foods: (e.g. Vegan cheese & mock meats) These options tend to be over-priced and highly processed. Think of these options as ‘treat’ foods, eating them less regularly will actually make you appreciate them more. Opt for creating your own alternatives! Make your own Vegan cheese from cashew nuts. Cheap and delicious.
- Stay away from highly processed foods: Processed foods such as ready made meals, biscuits, pot noodles etc. tend to be quite expensive considering the fact that they usually do not actually resolve hunger (for me anyways). Yes, they’re vegan, however; they are a waste of money and their false hunger resolution will only force you to eat more food.
- Eat WHOLE FOODS: Whole foods (foods in their truest form) – are typically inexpensive and extremely affordable. This is due to the fact that these foods have had extremely few (if any) modifications during production. This is also the healthiest way to consume food products.
- Make your meals from scratch: This may seem daunting at first, however; simple meals can be created by adding a few whole-food ingredients to a pan! Creating meals from scratch with whole food ingredients will save you money. Make enough dinner for lunch the following day! Believe me, making all of your own meals from scratch will not mean that you will have to spend all day over the stove.
- Eat staple foods in abundance: Do not let potatoes, rice, pasta, oats and other grains scare you! These are low-cost food options. Ensure that you are eating enough starchy carbohydrates so that you feel less hungry between meals. This in turn will lead to less snacking, and therefore less food expenditure.
- Buy what you can in bulk: This is an extremely efficient way of saving money. Specifically in terms of non-perishable foods such as oats, nuts, seeds and spices etc. I buy nuts, tahini and certain spices in bulk when I can from asian and oriental stores. I then create my own nut butters as a result. This saves me a lot of money and is a great way of ensuring that you always have a stock of non-perishable foods available to you. You can also buy dried beans in bulk from certain stores – but for me this isn’t a great option at the moment, as canned beans are more convenient. I hope to use primarily dried beans in the future, however.
- You do not need to opt for Organic food options: Organic produce is often more expensive than non-organic. If you are looking to reduce your food expenditure, do not spend your money on purchasing organic options! All you need is fruit and veg – ditch the organic label if you want to save money.
- Opt for fruit and veg that are in season: Eating in-season foods will save you money! These options are usually lower in cost while in season due to the fact that they are more readily available. They also taste much better when they are in season – and have more than likely travelled over less of a distance! Better for the environment AND better for your pocket.
- Buy frozen fruit and vegetables: Frozen fruit and veg can be a much more affordable option than purchasing all of your produce fresh. Frozen alternatives often yield a higher nutritional value due to the fact that they are frozen so soon after farming. This is in comparison to fresh produce, which may have to travel overseas etc. after production, before even sitting on your store shelf. Using frozen fruit in particular avoids the risk of having to discard gone-off produce. Ensuring less waste, and a greater value for money as a result.
- Choose a store’s ‘own brand’ products: This honestly will save you so much money in the long run. Own brand products are usually at a fraction of the cost of named brands – with little to no decrease in quality. Buying a stores own-branded oats, vegetables, salad, nut milks etc. will save you anywhere between €5.00 to €10.00 between every shop. Believe me – these savings will add up over time.
- Shop around at different supermarkets: This option may not be the most convenient for those of you who are tight on time, however; shopping around and comparing prices of products from store to store is one of the best ways to ensure that you are getting the best value for money. For example; I buy my milled flaxseed and cacao powders from ALDI. I buy my tahini, nuts and spices from an asian store and I buy my agave, nut milks and most of my fruit and veg from Tesco! Tesco is my go-to store because it is so well laid out, and they have almost everything that I need. However, not everything that they have on offer is of a good price, so I outsource certain bits from other supermarkets and stores. Doing so allows me to make sure that I never over-spend on certain food items.
- Shop in Asian and Middle-eastern food stores: This is a great way to save a few euro from month to month. I do not attend these stores regularly – however; I do opt for these stores if I want to purchase tahini, nuts and tofu in particular. These products are SO much cheaper in these stores. The tahini and tofu in these stores are the best quality that I have found. They are also about 50% less than the price of the same products in well known supermarkets.
- Opt for discounted produce (fresh fruit and vegetables): There is a section in most stores where certain fruit and vegetables are on offer for the coming week. Base your meals for the week around these discounted options, and you will save money. Don’t worry, they change the options from week to week so you will not be stuck with the same produce variations for a long period of time. When fresh produce reaches, or is about to reach its best before date while still in a store, this produce is usually dramatically discounted. This produce is often beginning to brown or ripen. This is when fruit and veg are at their best in my opinion! Particularly bananas. Brown, spotty, ripe bananas are not to many peoples liking due to their appearance – however; this is when they are their sweetest, and they work the best in baking and for freezing while in this condition. I have often bought bunches of discounted, ripe bananas for just 20c per bunch!
- Use dried spices: Using dried alternatives to fresh herbs will save you so much money. Sure, some recipes may call for you to use fresh herbs – but keep their use to a minimum to save those coins! Dried herbs can be attained for so cheap and they last forever. They can add flavour to the simplest of foods, and can really enhance the experience of different meals for a fraction of the cost.
- Use everything that you buy: Creating less food waste ensures that you are getting the most value out of your purchases. Plan your meals with your remaining food in mind. Freezing food which is beginning to go bad is also a great way of getting the upmost use out of purchased products. I do this with berries, bananas, breads, and different vegetables. There is absolutely no need to let anything go to waste.
- Eat Simply: This is one of the most effective tips on this list. When I first went vegan; I over-complicated my meals and started buying all of these different flours, syrups, pastes, seeds and nuts from health food stores, JUST because I saw that other vegan bloggers were using them! I ended up spending a fortune and I only used such ingredients once or twice before burying them at the back of my pantry. Now, I eat a much simpler variety of whole foods. This saves me so much money and makes every meal very low cost. You do not need to create intricate food with 20 ingredients just to have a nice meal! Eat simple, whole and plant-based foods and you will save a fortune.
- Use Reusable bags: This may seem obvious, but bringing your own shopping bags to the supermarket for every visit will save you money over time. As well as helping the environment, this step will also benefit the environment greatly by lessening your plastic footprint on the earth.
- Use shopping lists: This can be so useful to those of you who are inclined to impulse buy (like myself). Develop a shopping list and STICK TO IT. I tend to over-spend dramatically when I don’t have a definite shopping list on my phone or written down on a piece of paper! Having a pre-developed shopping list is also a good way of budgeting exactly what you will buy during your following shop. Using the Tesco online shopping website, I usually make out a rough estimate of how much my shop will be according to their listed food prices. I bring an almost exact money figure when I do the physical shop so that I will not over-spend during my visit to the store. Save your money – make out a shopping list.
- Reduce the amount of meals that you eat out every week: Eating out used to be a huge part of my life. I would eat out about 5-6 times a week, be-it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I spent a fortune on this lifestyle! Since becoming vegan, I actually prefer creating my own dishes and bringing them with me wherever I go. Don’t forget about bringing your own beverages! Make your own coffee/tea and bring it with you, along with your re-fillable water bottle. This has saved me so much money. This tip is useful in particular for students. All of those coffee breaks, lunches and meals between lectures with your class mates WILL add up considerably. Sure, you may not notice it from week to week – but, if you added up the amount you spend on such trips throughout the school year – they amount to a ridiculous sum!
- Meal Prep: Following on from the previous step; this is an extremely effective way of lessening your money output on food. Always having prepared food at hand will mean that you are less likely to pick some convenient food up from the store, and you will be less inclined to eat out. A prepared meal will usually cost about €2.00 – €3.00 euro, whereas a meal out could cost you upwards of €10.00 to €15.00 euro. Save this money and cook your meals in bulk so that there are always leftovers in the fridge for packed lunches. Just make sure that you eat them all!
There are so many different way to save money, and spend very little on food while enjoying a plant-based diet. I usually eat about €35.00- €40.00 euros worth of food per week – this is my output while consuming good quality food which I desire completely and love the taste of! This is the perfect lifestyle for a student or working individual who is simply trying to save money. Bust the myth for yourself that veganism is expensive! Go vegan today.