After a few trips to the grocery store and a few too many high shopping bills, I came to the conclusion I must be doing something wrong. Being vegan doesn’t have to be expensive. I just had to find a way to get healthy good for me vegan foods without having to sacrifice my bank account.
It is possible to eat really well on a vegan diet and not have to spend an extravagant amount each time you step into the store. With some planning, substituting, and budgeting, I could make buying vegan food much less expensive and still be healthy.
Read on to find out how I am vegan on a budget.
The first step to take is to decide how much you can and are willing to spend on food each week. You have to be realistic about how much you are going to spend before you can set up any type of plan.
It is possible to eat vegan for $20 a week, but just be prepared to eat the same meal at least three times that week. I have seen it done. I did it while I was in college. I always stocked my kitchen with my three staples: broccoli, rice, and tomatoes. Yes, it wasn’t very fun and exciting, but it was doable.
Don’t worry, I am not expecting you to live that bare bones unless you want to.
1. Prepare your own meals
If you prepare your own meals, you are going to eat out a lot less often. This is going to save you so much money every week if you are used to eating out several times a week. A typical low-end meal at a restaurant will cost you between 10-15 dollars per person. You can easily cut this in half by preparing your own meals. It’s possible to feed a family of four on ingredients that cost only $10.
It isn’t hard to prepare your own meals. Most recipes shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to create. Pick ones that you think you can pull off at first and when your experience cooking increases, you can add new and more exciting meals to your plan.
Think about how simple it is to create a salad at home is. There is practically no cooking time involved. That same salad you made at home would cost you at least $10 at a restaurant.
2. Skip processed foods
Processed vegan food is where you are going to see a spike in your grocery bills. Vegan prepared food is ridiculously expensive. It isn’t that it takes more money to produce, it’s that if you put the vegan label on it, you can market it to those who want to eat ethically. I know I pay more for the same types of food as a conventional product of similar style and quality.
Most of the processed vegan food you will find isn’t that great for you anyways. It’s loaded with sodium, sugar, and preservatives. Skip these and make your own versions. Instead of buying veggie burgers, make your own. You can even make your own vegan cheese and it’s not that complicated.
It’s okay to include these foods once a week into your meal plan if you aren’t super tight on your budget. It’s good to have one easy meal on hand in case you get strapped for time or something comes up. I love my Beyond Burgers so I splurge on this one item.
3. Buy in bulk
Bulk food costs way less per pound. So the bigger the package you buy, the less money overall you are going to have to spend per meal.
Buying in bulk works really well with ingredients that you’re going to be using a lot of. This is a time when I buy bigger in brown rice and other grains that I use quite often. I also like to buy the big packages of frozen fruit rather than the little bags. I know I am going to be making smoothies most days and will use quite a bit of fruit. Frozen fruit holds up a long time in the freezer too.
Buying from the bulk bins at your grocery store is also a great idea. These are usually the most economical of all options because the manufacturers don’t have to individually package any of it.
The bulk bins are also a great resource for ingredients you don’t need that much of. Have you ever wanted to try a recipe and it called for an ingredient you don’t have on hand and chances of you using it again are slim? The great thing about the bulk bins is that you can take just half a cup if that is all you need. This will save you on paying for a whole container of something that will just sit in your cupboard.
4. Prepare simple recipes
The more simple the recipe you prepare, the fewer ingredients you have to have on hand, which means you won’t have to buy as many ingredients. This will do wonders for keeping yourself on budget. If every recipe you want to prepare that week has 15 ingredients, then you are going to be going broke trying to buy them all.
As a rule, I try to keep my recipes around 8 ingredients. Check out the minimalist baker for recipes with 8 ingredients or less.
The only time I break this rule is for spices and herbs that I always keep stocked in my cupboard. If I don’t have to buy it for the recipe, I am more lenient in the length of ingredients needed to prepare my meal.
Preparing simple meals will keep you cooking at home too. If you don’t feel overwhelmed by a recipe and having to cook a complicated meal, you will be less likely to throw in the towel and just order out.
5. Freeze leftovers
I think leftovers have got a super bad rep over the years. I love leftovers. If I only have to make a meal one time but get to stretch it into two different meals, I save time and money.
I find if you prepare great recipes, they will taste just as good the second day as they did the first. Sometimes food tastes even better reheated. I might be the only one, but I love tomato based dishes reheated or even cold. The flavor has a chance to really set in and you get an even more powerful meal experience the second time.
I find soups make amazing leftovers. Letting all those flavors sink in and grow is amazing. Soups also freeze really well and are super easy to reheat.
I would stay clear of trying to revitalize fresh greens. These are best served fresh and not saved for a second day. Salad greens just tend to get wilted and bland if saved for leftovers.
6. Make it yourself
How often have you spent $5 on hummus? I know I go through hummus spells when I want to eat it every day. That adds up quickly. Especially if I have to share it. And we all know you will have to share your hummus.
Why don’t you make it at home instead? Homemade hummus is one of those super luxurious foods that are so tasty. I remember the first time someone made me hummus. That was a game changer for me. Now it’s super hard to eat store bought. Food just tastes better homemade.
Another budget killer is store made guacamole. I love guac and have spent $8 at the store for the store made version. Now instead I buy a couple of avocados, a jalapeno, a tomato, and a lime. That’s all you really need. And it costs me a third of what the store was charging for their version.
Take a look at what you are buying and see if you can make it yourself instead.
Save some money and make it at home. You will enjoy it more and feel better about keeping yourself in a budget that you won’t feel guilty at checkout time.
7. Buy in season
Sometimes I really want an orange. I go to the store and am shocked just how much one orange costs compared to what it cost a month ago.
Produce has its seasons. We are at the mercy of the growing season when it comes to our fruit and veggies. Have you ever noticed sometimes you can go to the store and they have packages of raspberries for a dollar and the next time you go in they cost $5? That’s because when they are in season, there is such an abundance of raspberries that they can sell them for $1.
If you buy your produce while it’s at its peak season, you are going to save a ton of money rather than when it’s not and break your budget.
When I find great a buy like $1 raspberries, I like to freeze them for days when they are no longer in season and I really want to use them in a recipe.
It’s not too difficult to create a meal plan around seasonally available produce. You will start to be able to see the pattern to produce seasonality. Check out this page for a list of produce and their seasonality.
8. Make a meal plan
I feel like I am always stressing making meal plans, but seriously it works.
With a meal plan, you can pinpoint right down to each meal how much you are going to be spending. This will help with your budget. You will know where to cut back or where you can splurge a little.
It gives you a great headstart at the grocery store too. I know when I don’t know what I am making for the week, not only is shopping so much more stressful, but I end up buying ingredients I really don’t need.
It is such a freeing feeling knowing exactly what you need. It sounds crazy, but planning can cut back on the stress and you can actually enjoy shopping again.
Try making a meal plan this week and fit it into your budget.
9. Buy generic
This is a great way to save some money. You can get great quality products that are generic. The store brands are usually always cheaper and they are composed of the same ingredients as the name brand.
So many stores even have their own organic line now too. I love that I can buy an organic product and have it not only be cheaper than the name brand organic product but a lot of the time it can be cheaper than the name brands conventional product.
Buying store brand works really well for pantry staples. I buy the store brand herbs and spices and things like brown rice and quinoa. They taste exactly the same but save me a lot of money.
Buy the generic version of your ingredients to keep on budget.
10. Substitute for cheaper ingredients
This brings together several of the tips from above.
You could have a recipe that calls for asparagus, but this week at your supermarket, asparagus isn’t on sale. But broccoli is. Guess what? Broccoli is a great substitute for asparagus. It’s not going to throw your recipe off at all.
Kale and spinach work great for swap outs, strawberries for raspberries, brown rice for quinoa.
Depending on the week and what’s in season or on sale, just switching out one ingredient for another will save you a ton of money on your grocery bill.
Have fun with your recipes and don’t feel like you have to be super rigid and follow them to the exact ingredient. The fun thing about cooking is that it’s so easy to make it your own. Cooking is much more flexible than baking. You can’t mess up a recipe by making simple substitutions.
You can be vegan and stick to a budget. Whatever your budget is, there is a meal plan that will fit into it.
Stick to easy recipes and make swaps when you need to.
Don’t let the cost of groceries stop you from leading a healthy vegan diet. It is completely possible to eat well, ethically, and stay in budget.