There is a common misconception that being vegan is more expensive than a standard American, omnivore diet. People are always surprised when I tell them that it’s actually considerably cheaper – especially if you know how to shop smartly!
When comparing the prices of meat, eggs, and dairy to the prices of fruits, vegetables, legumes & grains, vegan foods are actually some of the cheapest & healthiest items in the grocery store. There are exceptions of course, including various meat and dairy substitutions (i.e. plant-based burgers, vegan cheese, etc.) While substitutions are awesome and taste amazing, they are definitely not necessary for maintaining a well-balanced vegan diet. Plus, there are SO many amazing & delicious meals you can make from plant-based whole foods.
If you’re interested in going vegan, or are even vegan now and would like to save some extra money, here are 12 easy ways you can shop vegan on a budget:
1. Create your meals with a focus on plant-based whole foods
When deciding what to make for dinner, focus on meals you can make with vegetables, whole grains, herbs, nuts, starches and legumes. When you replace meat with plant-based protein options, your grocery bill can go down substantially!
2. Cook meals with minimal ingredients
If you’re looking to save money on your vegan meals, try to find recipes that require simple & minimal ingredients. When making more elaborate meals, you’re obviously going to spend more money on ingredients. You’d be surprised at how filling a simple and delicious plant-based meal can be!
Here are some examples of meals you can make with minimal ingredients:
- Avocado toast
- A smoothie
- Hummus wrap
- Vegan soup
- Vegan tacos
- Rice & beans
- Grilled veggies
3. Buy in Bulk
How much you buy at once can make a big difference. If you shop at high end grocery stores such as Whole Foods, your bill could be a lot more expensive. Look for produce and canned items at stores such as Aldi, Costco, Sam’s Club or any store that sell in bulk rather than individually. You will get a lot more bang for your buck, and it will end up saving you in the long run. This is especially true if you tend to cook for multiple people at a time!
4. Shop for Frozen produce
Frozen vegetables are often much cheaper than fresh produce, and they’re just as good for you! Frozen veggies have been proven to retain the majority of their nutrients and flavor, even after cooking. Plus, they last in the freezer almost forever!
5. Make your own meals
As much as I wish I could go to restaurants and order food to be delivered to my doorstep every day, it is considerably more expensive to eat out than it is to cook at home. Pre-made frozen dinners and restaurant options are not only pricier, but they also usually contain more salt and unnecessary ingredients. Cooking at home will save you a lot of money in the long run and will be healthier too!
6. Plan your meals in advance
Another way to save money at the grocery store is to plan your meals in advance. This will help prevent you from aimlessly wandering the isles, wondering what ingredients you could buy to make your next few meals. You can also make multiple meals with similar ingredients, which will help you from buying more than you can use (Anyone else guilty of letting vegetables go bad because you over purchased ingredients? No, just me? Okay)
7. Buy off brand labels
We all have regular brands that we know and love, however when it comes to beans, rice, and shelf stable canned goods, the brand really doesn’t make a big difference (if any at all). Off brand and store brand canned goods will usually be quite a bit cheaper than more well-known brands. You can also try comparing prices between grocery stores for items you buy regularly!
8. Make enough food to have leftovers a few nights a week
One of the best ways to save on the cost of vegan meals is to make enough food for leftovers the next day (or even the next few days!). I love to meal prep on Sunday’s (Read my blog 5 Easy Vegan Meal Prep Ideas) in order to plan and proportion my meals out for the upcoming week. Meal prep not your thing? No worries – put what you don’t finish into a Tupperware container and save it for your lunch tomorrow! You can also freeze items such as chili or casseroles to save for later.
9. Buy discounted produce, or join a CSA
There are companies & farms that will actually deliver fresh produce to your door for a heavily discounted rate. If you join a CSA, or Community Sponsored Agriculture program, you can pay a flat rate for a certain time period, and the farmers will deliver you fresh produce to your door (or somewhere close by). There are also programs that sell unused or undesirable produce to help reduce food waste and save you money!
10. Eat seasonally
One of the easiest ways to rack up your grocery bill as a vegan is to eat fruits vegetables that are out of season for your local area. Sometimes vegetables are flown in from the other side of the world to stock shelves and fill inventory orders. These are often MUCH more expensive options. I love to shop at my local farmers markets in the summer for the freshest vegetables and cheapest options. If you don’t have one available near you, try researching what produce is in season where you live and what grows locally. These will usually be the cheapest and best tasting options – especially during the fall & winter!
11. Grow your own food
One of the absolute cheapest ways to eat vegan is to grow your own produce. Even a small garden can produce a large amount of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, etc. Wherever you live, a garden is a great way to eat fresh produce for very little money. Plus, home-grown veggies always taste the best!
12. Make your own meat & dairy substitutes
Did you know you can make your own meat and dairy substitutes? For example, jackfruit is an amazing substitution for meat! In fact, jackfruit is often confused with pulled pork due to its unique texture and ability to absorb the taste of its marinades. There are hundreds of FREE recipes online showing you how to make your own meat & dairy substitutions will very minimal and non-expensive ingredients. I recommend checking out Pinterest for the best free recipes (you can follow me on Pinterest HERE). If you’re crafty and adventurous, this would be a great option for you!
I would love to hear from you – what are your favorite ways to eat vegan on a budget? Do you have any questions about veganism in general? Let me know in the comments below!
Photos by Elena Cuellar