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Thinking of going vegan, but unsure if you can because you’re on a budget?
Or, maybe you already are vegan and have hit a temporary tight spot in your finances and aren’t sure how to eat healthy for cheap…
If you’re wondering how to go vegan on a budget; well then, I’ve got you covered!
There have been times where I’ve earned as little as $1200 a month at a job to keep a family of 4 afloat. So, know that I understand what it’s like to eat on a budget, and to eat vegan on a budget.
And, to be completely honest, it’s way easier to eat vegan on a budget than it is to consume meat or dairy on a budget. Unless, of course, if you depend on vegan junk food!
But, if you take a look at any receipt for groceries, you’ll see how the produce is always the cheapest and any animal products are the most expensive, especially when trying to eat healthy!
So, keep reading and we will cover:
- What to Do Before Going to the Store
- Meals to Eat
- What to Buy
- What to Avoid Buying
- Where to Shop
- How to Cook
- Stretching Your Dollar Further
- How to Prepare for a Tight Food Budget in the Future (Just in case!)
Want to Remember This? Pin Going Vegan On A Budget: The Complete Guide to your favorite Pinterest Board!!
Trying to eat on a tight budget can be hard despite trying to stick to a specific way of eating. So, before we dig in, let’s go over a few common questions…
Is it cheaper to be a vegan?
Of course, it depends on what you buy and how you ate before being vegan. Obviously, if you lived off of ramen noodles and water, eating healthy and vegan is going to be more expensive.
But, if you ate dairy or meat before, then you’ll notice a huge savings in your grocery bill..if you stay away from vegan junk food and vegan meat and dairy alternatives.
Just face it; if you want meat or dairy, or meat or dairy vegan alternatives to make it seem like you’re still eating it, it’s not cheap!
Which brings us to the next question…
Why is vegan food more expensive?
It’s not that vegan food is more expensive, it’s that you want to keep eating the same food you always have, meat and dairy, without having the health or environmental impact.
True, healthy vegan food is more so associated with a plant based diet. And, if you want to eat healthier, more sustainable, and cheaper for your own wallet, a plant based diet should always be your goal.
There’s nothing expensive about vegan food when you consider the majority of it comes from plants.
Beans and lentils aren’t expensive.
Most produce isn’t expensive.
Pasta, super cheap!
Even quinoa is cheap compared to meat and fish.
So, it’s not that ‘vegan food’ is expensive, it’s that you don’t want to give up your animal products fully!
If you’re still wondering if a vegan diet cheaper than eating meat?
The answer is still a big fat YES!!
How do vegans live on a budget?
Vegans live on a budget just as anyone else does.
Eating whole, plant based foods, and being smart about it, makes it even easier.
Plus, vegans don’t have as much temptation, yet, to eat out and spend money on a whim, like non-vegans do.
Make sure you read the part about what to do before going grocery shopping to find out more on how vegans live on a budget!
How can I go vegan with no money?
Honestly, it’s easier to eat vegan with ‘no money’ than to eat animal products.
For starters, you could start growing your own food.
Other than that, how have you been getting by eating with no money?
How do I convert to vegan?
To convert to being vegan, start by eating more plants.
Eat more grains, healthy proteins like beans and quinoa.
Add in more fruits and veggies.
This increase in healthy plant foods will help push the animal products out of your diet.
Stop buying animal products, either entirely or start by decreasing the amount you buy.
Becoming vegan isn’t always an overnight thing, it can be a process, and that’s alright!
When you do become completely vegan, be sure to take a vitamin B12 supplement.
To learn more, read this.
Now, Let’s Get Into The Actual Guide For Going Vegan On A Budget
What to Do Before Going to the Store
If you’ve ever wondered ‘How can I eat healthy for cheap?’; know that it all starts with what you do before you even step foot into a grocery store, or even outside of your home!
First step is to find cheap vegan recipes.
Generally, the simpler a meal is, the cheaper it will be, especially if you’re just starting to eat vegan. You may not have any food stored up, or the right spices. So, this is what I’m going to assume while we go through this guide in eating cheap and vegan.
My favorite place to go look for recipes is Pinterest, you could also use Google, if you’d like.
Meals to Eat
But, to get you started, here’s a list of some cheap meals:
- oatmeal (this is my go to cheap and delicious oatmeal recipe– picky eater approved!)
- pancakes (from scratch, no boxed mixes)
- fruity moods (homemade fruit and nuts/seed/dried fruit cereal)
- old fashioned pb&j (make it healthy and do pb&banana instead!)
- veggie sandwiches
- buddha bowls
- home made fries or baked potatoes
- fruit and peanut butter (any kind of fruit)
- veggies and hummus
To make your meal plan as cheap as possible, be sure to make meals around the same ingredients, not a variety of different ingredients.
For example, don’t plan on making pizza one night, tacos the next, then a curry, and then want vegan burgers.
If you want pizza one night, make pasta the next to use up your tomato sauce.
Want curry? Make some berry ice cream to use up the coconut milk.
Veggie sandwich? Salads for lunches all week.
Once you have your meal ideas and recipes down; determine how many meals each recipe will last you, then plan them out for the week.
For example, when I make quinoa soup recipe I know it will be enough to feed my family of 5 for three dinners that week, and we may even have leftovers after that for lunches.
Making sandwiches for kids for the week; actually count out the pieces of bread to know exactly how much you need and if you’ll have some leftover for you to have sandwiches through out the week, too, or if you’ll need something else.
Meal planning for a family, regardless of what you eat, is more difficult than simply meal planning for yourself, I get that.
So, be sure you understand what everyone’s schedule is like, or what your own schedule is like.
Don’t plan meals that take a long time to make on a night when you’re busy!
Write Your List
When you have your meal plan all set, write your grocery list.
Be sure to write down everything you’ll need for your meal plan.
DO NOT write down things you won’t need, but would like to have.
Times when you have a temporary tight budget are not times to splurge on organic fair-trade vegan chocolate. Sorry, but it’s not!
Also, when you get to the store, DO NOT stray from your list. This is why you took the time to write it down. Straying from the list will increase your grocery bill.
To make it easier on yourself, write your list based on the sections of the grocery store.
You’ve been there a thousand times, so go through the store in your mind as you would when you actually go.
What section do you go through first, second, third, and so on. Organize your list in this way to save yourself time and the headache of having to go back and fourth between each section multiple times!
Got it? Good, let’s move on…
What to Vegan Food to Buy
If you’ve actually been reading this guide, then you know to buy what’s on your list based on your meal plan.
If you’ve just been skimming this list, or are dead set on not meal planning, and trying to set yourself up for failure, or trying to prove to someone else that eating vegan isn’t cheap. Let’s see if this section will change your mind. Because eating healthy and vegan is way cheaper than eating animal products!
First, what should a vegan buy for beginners?
Start with your healthy grains and proteins. These will be what fill you up the most,
For grains, start by buying:
- oats (I use this for oatmeal and to grind into flour for baking)
- any other grain that you can find that’s cheap (take advantage of the bulk section in the store, just check prices first)
For proteins, start by buying:
- peanut butter
- nuts and seeds from the bulk section (or baking section, it’s absurd sometimes how much cheaper nuts are when considered a baking ingredient rather than a snack!)
Then, fill up on produce. This is all your fruits and veggies.
The cheapest way to buy fruits and veggies that are fresh is by buying by the bag if it’s a regular item you consumer (like apples or oranges), or to buy frozen. Also, be sure to buy produce that is in season if buying fresh.
You don’t want to be buying fresh berries in the wintertime, that certainly won’t save you any money!
What should I buy as a vegan?
To put as simple as possible; buy foods that are directly from plants.
This includes all the foods listed above, such as beans, oats, and produce!
More specifically, think about what you would buy that’s cheap when not vegan.
Now, think if that food is in fact vegan; check the ingredient list. Don’t know a word, ask Google what it is. But, please be aware that some ingredients, especially in candy, can be quite gross!
I remember a time when a co-worker of mine brought in some red candy and asked if I wanted any. I said no because I saw an ingredient listed on it that was vaguely familiar as something that isn’t even vegetarian. When I had the chance to look it up, I found that it was some type of beetle that gets crushed to make a red color in food. Ewww….
What every vegan should have?
To start off with, and to be as frugal as possible, you’ll want to have these items stocked:
- dried beans
- frozen fruit
- frozen veggies
- peanut butter (unless allergic)
- dried fruit/nuts/seeds (from bulk section)
- canned goods (coconut milk, tomato sauce, veggies with no added salt)
- spices (cumin, salt, pepper, etc.)
- something with vitamin B12 (nutritional yeast, or check labels, some foods are fortified with this, otherwise supplement)
That is not a complete list, but it will get you headed in the right direction. Plus, taste preferences will play a part in what you actually buy.
My personal taste preferences are more so towards Italian food, a lot of pasta and sauce, vegan pizza, stuffed shells with home made vegan ricotta, etc. I could eat food like that everyday and be perfectly content! So, I won’t be stocking up on things like soy sauce, wine vinegars, or other things like those sauces and dressings. Maybe you will, I don’t know!
What to Avoid Buying
Or course, if there are specific things you should buy to save money, there are certainly foods you should avoid buying to eat vegan on a budget!
These foods are the vegan alternative foods that are meant as transitional foods, such as store bought vegan burgers or other meat alternatives. (Though, the brand Morning Star is making this more affordable, and I sometimes see the vegan nuggets, like chicken nuggets, on sale for less than $2!)
Also, don’t be brand picky. If you’re buying non dairy milk, the store brand is just fine.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you need to buy vegan convenience food. Convenience food will not save you money, whether vegan or not. Some people may think eating vegan is more expensive because their convenience foods are more expensive.
But, if you don’t buy the convenience foods or vegan junk food, then you’ll be able to eat vegan more easily than not!
What junk food is vegan?
Vegan junk food includes meat alternatives, ‘health’ or protein bars, vegan chips, chocolate, etc.
And, some junk food you already eat is vegan, without you even knowing it!
Do you eat oreos, potato chips, soda?
Those are all vegan! Just not healthy.
Here are a few more junk foods that are vegan:
- certain cereals
- some regular candy (like airheads)
- some brownie mixes
- certain popcorns
- cracker jacks
- certain chips
- certain brands of snack bars
- some protein bars
- certain crackers
- hershey’s syrup
- frozen tator tots
- some jell-o or pudding mixes (as long as they don’t contain geletin)
- nut butter cookies
- some frozen pies (certain varieties of sara lee or marie claeenders brands)
- thin mints
- some unfrosted poptarts
- kool aid
Whether these items are cheap or not, it’s cheaper and healthier to just avoid them altogether!
What are some vegan snacks?
Well, there are some unhealthy, processed vegan snacks above, that you probably didn’t even know were vegan.
But, for the sake of saving money and eating healthy while vegan, try out some of the snacks below:
- home made fries or baked potatoes
- apple and peanut butter
- cinnamon apples
- baked apples or pears
- veggies and hummus
- trail mix (shop in the bulk bins)
- banana and peanut butter
- peanut butter and fruit tortilla roll up
- home made coconut ice cream
- fruit salad
- home made muffins
- home made popsicles (from leftover smoothies!)
- chia pudding
I know, there are way more cheap and simple snacks than the ones above. My girls and I even had a challenge a few years ago and came up with 5+ snacks for every letter of the alphabet, you can check that out here for more ideas!
Where to Shop
Sometimes where you shop matters more than what you buy!
For example, if you’re shopping at a store like Publix, Safeway, Price Chopper, or Weis; you have to shop the sales or you’re going to be losing out on money. Their prices are ridiculously high compared to other stores, like Walmart or Wegmans.
Same goes for a lot of the health food stores. Some of the foods may be affordable (or at least the same price as the same product at Walmart), but others won’t be at all.
If you’re fortunate to live near a Wegmans, you’re lucky! They have the best of both worlds, quality and affordability. I am not lucky enough to live near one anymore, so I’m stuck going to Walmart for most my grocery needs. It’s affordable, but the quality isn’t as high.
And then there the super cheap stores, like Aldis and other super saver stores.
Many international food stores may be more affordable, as well.
I now longer live near an Aldis, but I still remember how cheap everything was there. I still remember shopping there, buying what I was going to buy somewhere else, like Walmart or Wegmans, and saving 30-50%. Of course, it depends on what you’re buying, there are certain things they don’t have there.
Where I live now has a Saar’s Super Saver store, there is a lot of produce and international foods in it, things you wouldn’t find at other stores (like spring roll wrappers for the spring rolls I make!). Some items there are much cheaper than Walmart, but other food is much more expensive.
Where you shop to save money should really boil down to what you’re getting and what’s on sale. Be smart, and if possible, compare prices when you shop, write them down based on store, and shop where it’s the cheapest for the majority of your ingredients for the week.
Or, make several shops if all the stores are close enough together!
Vegan on a Budget Meal Prep
Buying cheap and healthy vegan food isn’t going to do you any good if you’re too busy to make it!
Plan a day, preferably the same day you get groceries, or the day after, to meal prep!
Wash and chop all your fruits and veggies.
Mix together nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, for an easy to grab trail mix.
Make a large meal that you know will last for a few days, so you don’t have as much pressure to cook during the week.
Make a large batch of oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast for the week.
Do what you need to do to actually eat the food you bought, rather than having it go bad so you can eat out instead.
New to meal prepping? Start here: How to prepare to meal prep: how to meal prep for beginners
Need help saving money while batch cooking? Check this out: batch cooking tips and tricks you need to know!
Also, consider grabbing a vegan on a budget cookbook.
How to Stretch Your Dollar Further
Other than meal planning, meal prepping, and all of the other tips above, there are still yet more ways to stretch your dollar further with a vegan diet and a family!
First, if you have leftovers from dinner, and was not expecting it, save your bread or whatever else you were going to eat for lunch the next day, and eat the lunch overs instead. Or, give the leftovers to your kids!
Second, plan your meals out for the week, not only according to your schedule, but also based on the perishables you buy.
For example, if you have one meal, like salad, that needs to be eaten within a certain amount of time before going bad, schedule to eat that towards the beginning of the week. If you have a meal that won’t go bad, like pasta, or dishes with beans, rice, tomato sauce, or coconut milk; plan those towards the end of the week.
This way, if you end up having more leftovers for each meal than planned, you can simply push the end of the week meals off and have a head start on next weeks meal plan!
One last quick tip to stretch your dollar; use the bulk bins. Buy only what you need for a recipe, especially if it has ingredients you never used before.
For example, I made brownies with red lentils a couple weeks ago. It was the first time I had ever used red lentils (I should really find more recipes to use them in), and I knew I wouldn’t use them again for awhile. It only called for a third of a cup. Instead of buying a whole bag and having them sit in my cupboard for months without using them, and spending over a dollar; I bought them from the bulk bin, as close to one third of a cup that I could get. (I think I had like ten lentils more.) It ended up being maybe 30 or 40 cents.
When you’re trying to pinch pennies and make every last cent go as far as it can, this is a big deal.
Save buying in bulk and stocking up for weeks that you can afford it; not when your budget is so tight that you’re trying to figure out a 20th different way to make rice and beans so your family doesn’t think they’ve been eating the same thing all week!
If you’d like to know how to prepare for these tight budget times (I know you do), then read on…
How to Prepare for a Tight Food Budget in the Future (Just in case!)
There is so much you can do to prepare for a tight food budget.
And, since this guide is about how to go vegan on a tight budget, not about how to stock vegan food, I’m going to simply list some ways you can prepare;
- stock up on dried good (rice, beans, quinoa, lentils, pasta, sauces, canned foods)
- stock up on food you use often when it goes on sale
- fill your freezer (stock it with fruits, veggies, and more)
- batch cook or make freezer meals for times like these (for when you have almost no money for food)
- make your own food (no eating out, no ‘convenience’ foods)
- grow a garden
- stock up on produce when it season and can or freeze yourself
- always have more than enough non-perishables, so you’ll only need to buy perishables when your budget is tight
Basically, to prevent driving yourself crazy (or to tears) when you realize you only have $25 for groceries for a week, stock up when you can, get used to making food yourself, and make extra freezer meals for times of hardship.
As you can see, even if you’re not able to prepare for your tight budget, you can still easily eat healthy and vegan on very little!
Honestly, it’s the meat, dairy, and processed foods that cost more money and lasts for less meals that’s expensive!
If you’re trying to save money, you’ll have an easier time eating vegan, so don’t let a tight budget stop you, and don’t let a tight budget make it seem like you have to stop being vegan.
Focus on simplicity, a back to nature type of simplicity and you’ll do great!
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