Many claim that a vegan diet is more expensive than a omnivouros diet, while others claim that a vegan diet is much cheaper than a non vegan diet. The answer is that it can be either or…. it can be both expensive or cheap depending on what you eat and even how much you eat. I.e if you have a high calorie requirement everyday then you will more likely spend more money on food than someone who doesn’t eat as much. Or if you are someone who likes alot of variety, tastes and textures you will spend more than someone who just eats noodles and pasta each day. Or if you are someone who prioritizes organic and eco friendly food you will most likely spend more money on food than someone who just buys the cheapest version of a food product.
So comparing weekly or monthly food shopping budgets isn’t advised because we all have different priorities. I personally have a rather high monthly food budget but that is because 1) i eat alot, 2) i priortize food, 3) i buy organic as much as i can, 4) i buy alot of fake meat and vegan cheese and non dairy products. So for me a vegan diet isn’t exactly cheaper than my previous non vegan diet.
I thought however i would give some advice on cheap vegan foods to have at home if you are a student or just don’t want to spend alot on food each month. Of course how much the food costs will depend on where you buy, example bigger shops or asian shops often sell beans and lentils cheaper than smaller food shops, but also on what country you live in.
So first. If you want to save money, buying vegan fake meat is not advised, also staying away from vegan cheeses and specifically “vegan” products as they are often more expensive. However, in asian market shops you can often find cheap tofu and that is recommended both because tofu is so versatile it is also a good protein source.
2) Lots of dry beans and lentils which you cook yourself. Don’t buy the canned or presoaked and cooked versions as they are alot more expensive. Dedicate 1-2 days a week where you soak and cook up beans and lentils and have ready for the week. Also the bigger pack the cheaper – in the long term anyway. With beans and lentils they are a good source of protein, fiber and carbs as well as very versatile… make soups, curries, burgers and other filling and nutritious dishes.
3) Big packs of rice, oats, flour will be your saviour. Oats is one of the best cheap student meals as its both filling but also nutritious and with rice you can make lots of different dishes with rice and flavour it in different ways and with flour you can make simple pan fried bread, scones, pancakes with and 1kg packages should last a rather long time. Not to mention that oats, flour and rice can be used when making different burgers or balls with beans and lentils!
4) In season and on sale vegetables! Whatever fruit and veggies are in season and on sale should be a big part of your diet that week. If you have enough space in your freezer you can even cook up and freeze in certain vegetables which you can eat later as fruit and veggies don’t often last so long. For example if bananas are on sale then buy a bunch and chop some up and have ready in the freezer for if you want to bake with them or make nice cream (even if nice cream isn’t exactly a cheap breakfast/snack.) Also note, that frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh ones, infact some frozen vegetables have even more nutrients as they are frozen directly and don’t lose any through transport or preparation. However when you heat them up the frozen veggies can lose some nutrients… but not so much that it should hinder you from buying frozen vegetables. They are cheap, nutritious and last longer.
5) Go to food markets. If you have the time and availability, go to food markets as they often sell fruit and vegetables alot cheaper than normal food stores.
6) Potatoes, lots and lots of potatoes. They are the second cheapest carb source compared to rice (or maybe pasta). They don’t last so long which is a negative and also don’t so good if they are kept in the fridge too long after cooking. However they can be prepared in so many different ways nt to mention are filling and can be used in different dishes and are incredibly cheap so they should definitely be on your weekly shopping list!
7) Big packs of almonds. Now this might be a weekly investment as well as takes a little extra time, but with almonds you can make your own almond milk and then use what is left to make almond flour which can be used for making pancakes or bread or even when making patties or different dishes. So when you buy a big pack of almonds you get alot of use from it.
8) What about healthy fats? Avocados and nuts and seeds are rather expensive to buy every week and most likely not a part of your everyday diet. But my recommendation would be either buy a big pack of flax seeds or chia seeds to consume everyday such as 1 tbs (note, DON’T buy crushed flax seeds.) Also buy oil which you can use to fry and cook with so that you get some healthy fats that way! Also if you buy dried chickpeas and cook them up you can make alot of hummus (minus the tahini because that is expensive) and there you get healthy fats, protein, fiber and carbs and eat that with bread and you have a complete meal/snack!
9) What about snacks? Make bread… its cheap and filling and perfect to combine with lentil soup, curries, eat as a snack, combine with hummus, eat for breakfast etc
10) Meal prep and buy food on sale. If you see food on sale in the stores then you can cook it up and freeze it, for example sometimes they have certain vegan products such as tofu or seitan 50% off making it rather cheap then you can cook it up and freeze it for later. And meal prep will be your saviour… it means that you know you have food ready at home and you will be less inclined to buy food out when you know all you have to do is heat up food when you come home!
11) Extra tip! Crushed tomatoes, garlic and microwave popcorn/popcorn kernels are also cheap and amazing to have at home as garlic adds flavour, crushed tomatoes adds sauce and perfect in soups and curries and popcorn for snacks!
And to finish off. I always talk about variety… that variety is key to a healthy diet and that you get all the vitamins and minerals you need. And when you are on a budget that might be harder to achieve, so my advice is…. vary what you buy each week. One week you buy chickpeas and red lentils the next week you buy black beans and green lentils. One week you buy frozen brocolli the next week you buy frozen cauliflower etc So then over a month you have variety even if you may eat the same 2-3 meals each week with just a little variety, you will still get different vitamins and minerals over a month!
When you are on a budget you most likely won’t be able to buy all the new vegan food products, HOWEVER you will be saving money and you will still be eating enough and getting all the vitamins and minerals hopefully so you will be healthy and happy nonetheless!
**Note, this advice is given so that you can still eat healthy and get all your vitamins and minerals despite being on a budget. Because you could quite honestly just eat noodles, sliced white bread and potatoes as a vegan and trying to save money but then i can guarantee you that if that diet is followed for a long time you will end up with deficiencies.