It’s time to kill the myth that veganism is expensive. The truth is that being a vegan doesn’t cost much. Veganism is cheap.
First, the evidence:
According to a 2007 MSN MoneyCentral article, the cheapest cuts of beef, such as ground round, average $3 per pound; boneless chicken breasts cost $3.40 a pound; and canned tuna costs around $2 per pound. In comparison, dried beans and lentils cost less than $1 a pound, and rice is cheaper than $1 a pound. Tofu usually costs less than $2 per pound. Even vegans who buy costlier products like soy sausage and nondairy ice cream can still spend less than people who load up on beef, chicken and fish.” (source)
And there’s this, from Iowa State University using information from the USDA:
“Protein comes from both plant and animal sources. Plant protein is usually less expensive than animal protein.” [...]
“Since meat is often the most expensive part of the meal, filling up on meat can challenge your food budget.”
They provide a chart that demonstrates how inexpensive plant-based diets are:
(If you can’t read the chart, it compares the cost of hamburger, nuts, eggs, peanut butter, and beans. It concludes that the cheapest two options are peanut butter and beans cooked from dry. Canned beans are slightly more expensive, but still cheaper than hamburger.)
Next, let’s make sure you know how to keep the costs low. COK offers this advice:
- Plan your meals in advance: It might sound time consuming, but it can be as simple as jotting down dinner ideas a few days ahead. Make lists of things to buy for the week (or month!). This can save you time and money!
- Pack a lunch: Don’t be tempted to eat out everyday.
- Buy in the bulk sections of grocery stores: You can often buy bulk pasta, rice, dehydrated meals, spices and beans. These items are usually cheaper than buying them pre-packaged, and you can get as little or as much as you need.
- Use a crock-pot: Soak dry beans overnight; cook them in the crock-pot while out for the day.
Here’s one of my all-time budget-saving methods: stock up on potatoes:
The potato became famous in seventeenth century Europe because it was recognized as a food source that could save people in times of famine.
While our economy is shaky, we’re certainly not a country on the verge of starvation. Conversely, we’re overweight. Unfortunately, many health food items are more expensive than junk food.
The good old potato, however, is a healthy staple that costs pennies, can be bought in bulk, fills you up, and delivers nutrients that every body needs.
You can get two potato recipes here >>
And previously here on Vegan Soapbox, we’ve listed many ways to save. Some were:
Use cookbooks and guides designed for cheap living: This book, Student’s Go Vegan Cookbook, is designed for the frugal vegan. There are other vegan guides, too, like Alternative Vegan, that focuses on easy to find vegan foods. And you can often adapt advice about frugal living geared for omnivores to fit your vegan lifestyle because most of it is about saving money, not about consuming animal products.
Shop at green markets: Farmer’s markets are invariably cheaper than Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or other large groceries. And farmer’s markets are often organic. (Many states now allow you to use food stamps at farmer’s markets.)
Look for sales: Often groceries will put produce on sale if they have an excess quantity or if it’s ripe and will over-ripe tomorrow. You can snag these items in large quantities, prep them at home, and toss them in the freezer for use later.
Stop buying substitutes: You don’t need meat substitutes or vegan cheese. If you like them and can afford them, by all means get them. But you don’t need them. So if money is tight, opt for lentils and rice instead of frozen fake chicken.
To read the other suggestions, click here!
Finally, a great tip I heard about is called 1-2-3. It’s a cost-saving method for buying fresh fruit and veggies (and really, it applies to everyone, not just vegans). Here it is:
- buy plenty of the produce that’s 1 dollar or less per pound,
- some produce that’s $2 per pound, and
- rarely buy produce that costs $3 or more per pound.
Got any more great tips for saving money while eating healthily as a vegan?
This post was originally published in 2010. It has been republished to reach a new audience.