A whole-food, plant-based diet—a.k.a. veganism—can improve your health, boost energy, and prevent disease. While eating unprocessed and pure foods sounds ideal, many people who want to dip their toes in veganism get scared off by the potential cost. However, when done right, a vegan diet can be cost-efficient, even on a limited budget.
Most of the staple vegan items (starches, fruits, vegetables, legumes) are not only loaded with essential nutrients, but they’re also cheap. Many “vegan-specific” foods (supplements, superfoods, meat/dairy substitutes) can be delicious and nutritious, but they come with a hefty price tag. Luckily, these alternatives are not necessary to thrive as a vegan. Instead, embrace whole- or plant-based foods that are budget-friendly. ‘Use these tips to be a successful and happy vegan, even on a tight budget.
Make a Plan
From making a grocery list to meal prepping to packing snacks, make a plan to help you succeed with your dietary goals. Consider meal-prepping at the beginning of each week and create your shopping list accordingly. This will prevent impulse buying while at the grocery store. Pack vegan-friendly snacks (fruits, vegetables, hummus, granola bars) for busy days when you may be tempted to eat something unhealthy and costly. Overall, having a plan will help you stick to your diet and budget.
Prepare Your Meals
Cooking your meals can be beneficial to both your budget and diet. You have full control over what goes into the meals rather than depending on restaurant foods with questionable ingredients. Eating can also add up—especially at trendy vegan restaurants. When prepping your meals, choose simple recipes, but remember that simple doesn’t have to be boring! Check out these easy and affordable recipes (with vegan tips) for some cooking inspiration. Over time, collect recipes you love and make them often. Making large batches of food and freezing portions can also save you time and money and reduce waste.
Smart shopping habits can ensure that you save money. Pre-shopping research can help you shop at the right stores to stick to your budget. Check out a store’s website before visiting, or make a mock cart using services like Instacart. That way, you can get an idea of prices and inspiration for meal prep. While shopping, also use the following tactics to stay within your budget.
Create a Grocery List
After planning vegan-friendly meals, create a detailed grocery list and stick to it. Remember that you don’t have to buy fancy ingredients to follow your diet. Choose budget-friendly vegan staples like whole grains, tofu, nuts, and beans.
Additionally, try to go grocery shopping after eating. When full and satisfied, you will avoid making emotional purchases that are not on your grocery list. Just remember that “hangry” shopping helps no one.
Buy in Bulk
Larger food packages usually have a better value than smaller bags or containers. Look at the unit price of items to reveal the cost per liter, gram, etc., for easy price comparison. Buying in bulk is beneficial for nonperishable items such as oats, nuts, rice, or beans that can make the base of many vegan dishes. Grocery stores often have a bulk foods section, or you may consider sharing a membership to a wholesale store with a friend.
Consider Generic Brands
Opt for generic brands whenever possible. Store brands often have the same quality at much lower prices than popular name-brand products. It’s worth giving generic brands a try for a great way to save money.
Take Advantage of Sales
Seek out sales or find coupons and capitalize on them. Discounts offer opportunities to try some of the more expensive items on your vegan wishlist. When you find a great deal, stock up on nonperishable or freezable products. Also, ask if your grocery store has a loyalty program for added savings.
Visit the Farmer’s Market
Farmer’s markets offer a wide variety of local and nutritious produce to inspire your plant-based diet. Farmer’s markets also provide in-season fruits and vegetables. Produce grown in season usually tastes better and is much cheaper. Moreover, farmers may offer imperfect produce (those with slight blemishes or not perfectly ripened) at a reduced price. Check out your local market for delicious produce, and don’t hesitate to ask about defective items that may not be on display.
Utilize Your Freezer
Your freezer may become your best friend if you choose to meal prep, buy in bulk, or capitalize on a great sale. Items, especially produce, that are close to going bad can be frozen for later use. Overripe fruits are great to freeze for use in smoothies. Purchasing frozen fruits and vegetables also help save money. Frozen produce is still nutrient-dense because it is picked at peak ripeness. Don’t forget to look at the ingredients list to avoid added sugars, sauces, or seasonings.
You may also consider cooking in bulk and freezing meals. Pre-cook your favorite vegan recipes and store leftovers in a sealed container in your freezer. Freezer meals are great for busy (or lazy) nights when you may be tempted to eat something costly and unhealthy.
Being a Vegan on a Budget IS Possible
A healthy diet does not have to be an expensive diet. Look for budget-friendly foods that make a nutritious foundation for your plant-based meals. Be creative yet simple with your cooking, and avoid unnecessary pricey ingredients. To further boost your whole food success, seek friends with a similar diet. From shopping together to cooking and sharing healthy meals, a great support system can help you stick to a vegan diet and your budget.