So one of the biggest concerns a lot of people have about going vegan is cost, because the popular narrative about veganism is that it’s a really expensive way to eat. While it definitely CAN be, it doesn’t have to be and I find that my food cost over-all is lower now than it was when I ate meat. Transitioning to ANY diet that’s radically different from how you currently eat is going to involve a little bit of an up-front investment, but with a little bit of legwork you can really minimize the cost and make it feasible on almost any budget. So, here’s some ideas to keep food costs down while transitioning AND as an established vegan (my average weekly food cost is about $30-40 living the the New York metro area, for reference).
- Transition gradually. Obviously the easiest way to keep your up-front costs down when going vegan is to do so gradually, replacing your normal meat/eggs/dairy products with vegan versions as you run out of them. This is a really good option for people on a really tight budget, or who understandably don’t know if they can handle making such a massive change in one go.
- Sales fliers are your friend. Seriously, if you don’t already read the sales circulars that get sent to your house START NOW. When I went vegan two years ago I timed it with my local grocery store’s “can-can sale,” where they basically put every non-perishable item in the store on sale, which allowed me to stock up on stuff like beans and almond milk for a reasonable price. I still read the sales fliers every week and make a list of what’s cheapest where, then plan my shopping trips accordingly. These usually have coupons you can clip for extra savings, too.
- Try to avoid specialty vegan foods. Mock meats and vegan cheeses like Daiya are great, but they’re expensive as fuck and drive your overall food cost up. They definitely have their place, since they’re convenient and help with cravings especially at the beginning, so if you want to include them that’s totally understandable, just remember that moderation is key. I try not to buy more than one of these items per shopping trip, or if they happen to be on sale I’ll buy a couple packs and freeze them (Daiya especially freezes well, just make sure if you have a block that you grate it beforehand or it gets weird). Otherwise, try to find whole-food options that you can sub instead: make veggie burgers from rice and beans, use avocado on sandwiches instead of cheese. These tend to be both cheaper and healthier.
- Buy dried beans instead of canned. Dried beans are a LOT cheaper than canned, and usually taste better so it’s sort of a win/win. I’m not gonna lie to you, they ARE time intensive but you can get around this easily by 1) cooking them in a slow-cooker if you have one (soak them overnight in the cooker pot thing, throw them on low before you leave for work in the morning and VOILA) or 2) cooking big batches and freezing individual servings once or twice a month (this is my preferred method because I’m awful at meal planning and never realize I need beans until I’m already cooking).
- Invest in spices. Spices will make even the cheapest, blandest food taste awesome. Rice and beans for the 6th night in a row because it’s an off pay week? Add some cumin and chili powder, delicious. Pasta again? Throw some Italian seasoning and garlic in there, or make peanut sauce with some ginger powder. Dollar stores typically have a good selection of spices for cheap, or if you have a health food store nearby with a bulk section that’s a good option too.
- Find a cheap source of produce. Obligatory disclaimer this may not be possible for everyone, but one of the biggest godsends for me was finding a place to buy fresh produce on the cheap. I live in an area with a lot of indoor “farmers markets” (which is misleading because their produce is 99% of the time not farm-fresh) that have awesome prices on fresh produce (like, 1/2 the price of the supermarket), but in your area you might want to try a discount grocer like Aldi or actual farm markets/stands. Comparison shopping is definitely key here. Even just buying in-season produce can cut costs significantly.
These are just a start, and how cheaply you can eat is definitely gonna vary by your geographic location, the season, etc. But keeping this in mind you can definitely go and stay vegan without spending your entire paycheck on food.
Aight, here’s the deal about veganism:
It isn’t about whether or not humans are meant to be omnivores, and it’s not about whether or not we’re smarter than other animals.
It’s the fact that we can live a life that doesn’t involve harming other creatures. We have the ability to thrive on only plants, and we have the cognitive ability to choose what we eat, or wear, or support.
We can choose not to harm others, so why would you ever choose otherwise?