“I would consider a vegan diet if it wasn’t so expensive”. It’s a statement that we hear quite often. But…is it really true? Do you – as a vegan – really need a bigger budget than the average omnivore? It is a great question that I have tried to find an answer to…and that worked out pretty well. These are the 15 best money-saving tips for your vegan diet.
Is a vegan diet more expensive?
Unsurprisingly, the answer to this question is both yes and no. After all, it depends on what your eating habits are and which ingredients/products you buy. This applies to both omnivores, vegetarians and vegans.
First and foremost; there are quite a few things that we would like to save money on but food definitely doesn’t belong to that list. After all, food is a) something you need to stay alive and b) something we can enjoy tremendously. So instead of saving money on food, we rather preserve al smaller budget on stuff like clothing, shoes, cars, furniture, stamp collections and/or rubber ducks in all sorts of color except the usual yellow. To name a few 😉
That being said: it does not mean that we throw in shitloads of money every week to stuff ourselves with all sorts of delicacies. As said, eating vegan and how much you spend on it really depends on what you buy and what your personal habits are when it comes to cooking. That really makes a budgetary world of difference. So here we go!
The purer, the cheaper
You have probably experienced it yourself: you go to the supermarket, arrive with a cart filled to the brim at the cash desk and then you get the ‘amazing’ bill presented. ‘Amazing’ because the one time that bill turns out to be a pleasant surprise, the other time because you see your monthly income go up in smoke. However, in both cases, it’s a full shopping cart of groceries.
Well, the answer to that mystery can easily be found on that very same bill. As well as a closer look at the stuff you bought. It will quickly turn out that the most money is swallowed up by ready-to-use products (in the case of vegetarians and vegans, these include alternatives to dairy, meat, and fish, ready-to-eat veggie / vegan bread spreads, etc.) and the so-called luxury products such as wine, spirits and chips. In other words: things you enjoy but do not necessarily need. Though they are of course delicious and convenient … you always have to pay extra for that luxury.
In case your shopping cart was stuffed with ‘pure’ (meaning: unprocessed) foods, you will definitely notice that you bought a lot more food for a much smaller amount of money.
The moral of the story is therefore very simple: in case you want to save money, you should opt for foods that are nonprocessed. Or to speak with the words and wisdom of our grandparents:
only buy foods that you can immediately recognize as food.
A cauliflower is a cauliflower, you know. In contrast to that one ‘Deluxe Vegan Gourmet Burger’, the process of a cauliflower from production to the store does not require that much ‘processing’. Price wise, it makes a huge difference.
Organic or non-organic (buy healthy and smart)
If we continue to elaborate on that ‘pure’ thing, we simply can’t ignore organic foods. I believe that I’m allowed to speak for every vegan (or vegetarian) that we are already more conscious about our diet than the average omnivore. That we tend to opt for vegetables, fruit and other foods which have as little impact as possible on people, animals, and the environment. With the emphasis on ‘as little as possible’ by the way. But that’s another story 😉
For this story, it is, in any case, a fact that organic foods are a lot more expensive than their non-organic varieties. One of the main reasons for this is that growing and producing organic foods requires more attention and working hours. For example it saves a lot of time and money when a farmer ‘protects’ his fields and plants from weeds and potential diseases by spraying them with chemical substances than when he/she has to attack every square meter of arable land, armed with nothing but a rake and a deceptive amount of patience. Okay, that’s probably a bit exaggerated, but you get the point. After all, in economic terms ‘time’ is still a synonym for ‘money’. And time covers a large part of what you ultimately pay for.
Certainly, in an ideal world, this shouldn’t be an issue at all. In a perfect world, people would have to pay extra money for products that have a big impact on the environment or slowly pollute your body with all kinds of gross stuff. At least, that’s my opinion. But well … that will probably remain a utopian thought for a while 😉
Anyway: we were talking about food and budget, right? It’s a fact that your choice for buying organic products definitely affects your weekly expenses. Honestly, I like to admit that the ‘durable little angel’ and the ‘financial devil ‘on my shoulder sometimes also make a big fight out of this 😉
In short: whether you want to pay the extra price for organic products (and whether you can afford it at all) is a purely personal issue. And sometimes simply a consideration of the moment.
However, there is one way to make the choice easier if you face a similar dilemma. For example, you can consult this list with the most (and least) sprayed field plants. The so-called ‘dirty dozen and clean fifteen’.
With regard to the least sprayed field plants, you can then opt for the cheaper non-organic variety. Simply because they will contain a much smaller amount (traces) of pesticides. Fruits and vegetables from the other list (such as strawberries, red bell peppers, celery, …) are better bought organic.
Vegans have smaller supermarkets
Also more or less in line with the previous tip: what you spend more on organic products can easily be saved because the supermarket will be a lot smaller for you as a vegan. Not literally of course, but when you consider which racks with foods you can simply ignore, then that is really the case.
Check this for yourself when you are in the supermarket (or another food store of course). Then you quickly establish that the rows with meat, poultry, fish, dairy and any other products that contain animal ingredients take up a large part of the surface. Ans we all know” less choice is most of the time better for your wallet 😉
Impulse buying (and how to avoid it)
The word ‘impulse buying’ says it all: these are the purchases that you did not intend to load in your shopping cart, but which you (impulsively) have purchased anyway. because you suddenly became hungry, a handsome guy or woman was staring at the same product at the same time and/or the discount price was just too good to ignore. At least, that’s what you thought. In the end you just ended up spending more money than you originally intended. Cursing yourself by the time you start to unpack your groceries in your kitchen.
Please note: this does not mean we detest impulse buying. We’ll be the last to proclaim that you are stupid if you allow yourself to be ‘caught’. After all, life would be pretty boring if you couldn’t give yourself something unexpected. Hell no! It does however not detract from the fact that impulse buying is detrimental to your budget planning. Fortunately, there are a few useful tricks to prevent it as often as possible.
- NEVER go shopping with an empty stomach. Really … this makes a huge difference.
- Avoid the products at eye level. In case you are craving for something specific, have a look down and up in the store shelf. There you will often find the cheaper version of what you have set your mind on. In the worst case, the quality is a bit less, but that will not always be the case.
- Check the house brands. Private labels (even including organic ones) of supermarket chains are often cheaper and rarely worse than the better-known brands.
- Prepare a shopping list in advance and do not deviate from it. It will definitely help you to ignore the ‘impulse products’. Just finish your list and go straight to the cash register. Oh, and never look back, left or right in the meantime 😉
Comparing prices (and discounts)
Although this is by far our least favorite tip (comparing prices is boooorrrriiing!!!) We simply can’t ignore it either. Price comparisons simply do make a big difference budget wise. It’s just a fact that food pricing in supermarkets can differ hugely. Of course, there might also be a difference in quality when it comes to food and food brands. Only one way to find out …
In addition, there are of course the discounts. Sometimes you come across a stunt offers that you simply can’t ignore. At least when it comes to products that you really, really need and can preserve for a long time (canned, frozen, easy to process…).
For example, you noticed a stunning discount such as ‘3 leeks for the price of 1? Do not hesitate and buy immediately. Cook a portion for your evening dinner, freeze the rest (washed and cut) and/or make a soup that you can also freeze in portions. Financially, that tiny bit of extra effort is always worth it. By the way: keeping an eye on discounts does not mean you need to start collecting encyclopedias full of discount coupons (like an idiot (you also have a life;)), but if something interesting comes your way. … make sure to take advantage of it 😉
Zero waste shopping
It’s not the case that zero waste stores are by definition cheaper than others. Although it remains a fact that you do pay extra money for the packaging of food. In some cases, the packaging is even more expensive than the food itself. Both for the producer and – ultimately – for you as a consumer.
Anyway: apart from the fact that zero waste shopping is much more environmentally friendly, it also weighs on your budget in various other ways. Making less waste means that you can save costs on processing it. You need fewer waste bags and do not have to go to the recycling park every single day. In case there is such a store in your neighborhood, zero waste shopping is a real ‘must do’.
Buy in bulk
Some foods almost never expire and can, therefore, be purchased in bulk (large quantities in 1 time). Such packages are often a lot cheaper. As a result, you can really save some money in the long term.
Fine examples of food that you can buy in bulk are flour and various sorts of dried grains, fruits and legumes. Certainly dried legumes – instead of the pre-cooked ones in canned goods – can make a world of difference when it comes to budget. This self-preparation will cost you a little more time (dried beans must be soaked in advance and the cooking time is pretty long), but trust us … in terms of budget it will be definitely worth it.
You think bulk buying (ranging from 5 to 25 kilograms of one single food product) is a little too much? Then you probably have a friend or family member with whom you can purchase and share with each other. After all, you are never the only one who wants to save costs. And sharing is caring, you know that 😉
Your freezer as a cost-saver
This one is a bit related to tip number 5. Your freezer may consume some energy, if you approach it wisely it will save you a substantial amount of money on food. Considering the aforementioned discounts that – except for vegetables – also apply to vegan burgers, sausages, cheese alternatives, et cetera. After all, you can freeze all these things.
Another tip is to pay special attention to foods that are offered at a discount because they are (almost) past the expiration date. First of all, they usually remain edible longer than the expiration date suggests and second: that date is not even relevant anymore once the product is frozen. Conclusion: you pay about half of the normal price but eat like a king. Crazy, right?
Check also tip number 10 about food waste.
Buy directly from the farm
Our ‘everything under one roof’ store culture makes us almost forget the farmers who ensure that our beloved vegetables are available for us anyway. If the possibility exists then it’s always wise to buy your vegetables, fruit, whatever, … directly from these hard workers because a) there are no transport costs involved and b) it is often cheaper to eat locally produced and seasonal fruit and vegetables anyway.
Besides that, you must know that these same farmers often get badly paid for their products. Supermarkets in particular dare to make heavily exaggerated demands when it comes to the purchase price. While you as a customer do not necessarily benefit from it. When skipping the step from farmer to the supermarket, you will certainly make the farmer himself happier. Same goes for your budget.
Avoid food waste
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one-third of the global food production (about 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year) is wasted. A rather hallucinatory figure. Especially if you know that you can reduce the waste problem considerably with minor effort.
One of the biggest causes of food waste is the aforementioned expiration date on food products. These are mandatory by law and can, of course, be justified in the context of food safety. On the other hand, those imposed deadlines are often far too short. As you could already read about this in tip number 8, you can consume most of those foods for days, weeks and sometimes even months later! Still tasty and without any health risk.
Unfortunately, this expiration date mainly frightens consumers (people often do not even buy products that almost expire) and the chain stores have to remove masses of articles from the shelves just about every day. Simply to throw them away. Products that are still perfectly edible! Simply don’t let that happen.
On a smaller scale, you can also ensure that you use all ‘parts’ of foods (especially fruit and vegetables) as smartly as possible. Residual processing in other words. For example, you can use the peel of some vegetables perfectly for broth (okay, you still throw it away afterward but at least you got the most out of it). Also, the inside of a lettuce, stalks of a cauliflower, broccoli and parsley, the leaves of carrots and many, many other ‘parts’ of vegetables can be processed perfectly in all kinds of dishes.
With a bit of imagination, you can really save huge amounts of food from the ‘depths of senselessness’. While you also get financial benefit from it.
Grow your own food
By growing your own fruits and vegetables you can save a lot of money. Although this naturally requires some effort and a bit of workable soil.
We ourselves grow tomatoes, blackberries and various herbs in our (relatively small) garden. They are pretty easy to grow and it all looks nice too. For example, we have seven vines of tomatoes and the yield of these was sufficient to avoid having to buy any other tomatoes during the season. So there you have it.
In case you like to get started but have only little (or none) gardening space …fear not…for there are many other solutions. With a little bit of luck, your township may offer cheap plots of horticultural soil that you can use to breed and grow. You see these initiatives becoming more and more frequent. Or maybe you know someone who wants to share his garden with you?
Cook fresh as often as possible
Home cooking with fresh products is the most obvious thing in the world to us. Although we are aware of the fact that this ain’t obvious to many others. Despite all the popular tv-cooking shows, the art of home cooking became less and less important. Mainly caused by the fact that jobs (actually life in general) became more hectic. Most modern families consist of two earners to be able to cover all costs. On the other hand: the alternative for home cooked meals (take-away/ready to eat meals and/or frozen meals) have a heavy price tag.
What’s that called? A vicious circle? 😉
Of course, food ain’t the only thing you have to work for. Nonetheless, home cooking instead of stuffing yourself with prefabricated meals can save you a lot of money. Besides that, it is a lot healthier. And jolly good fun as well.
No idea about how to get it all done? There are various ways to make it all possible with just a minor extra effort. Like meal prepping for instance.
Make your own plant-based milk
We just LOVE nearly all types of vegetable milk like almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and oat milk. These products are available in almost every food store, are easy to use and taste delicious. You can use them as a regular drink or as a cooking ingredient.
The downside of being a fan is that frequent use of such products can become quite pricey. But instead of considering not using these alternatives anymore, you can also make all these delicious vegetable drinks yourself. It’s even ridiculously simple!
All you need is the main ingredient (any type of nuts, grains or seeds you like), water, a blender, and a so-called cheesecloth. Simply weigh a number of nuts, grains or seeds and put them in the blender, add water (the amount is important of course) and blend as smooth as possible. Sieve the plant-based milk through the cheesecloth and there you have it. A homemade and delicious dairy-free milk alternative!
Even the pulp that remains after sieving can be processed in a wide variety of dishes. Zero waste, remember? 😉
The only drawback of homemade vegetable milk is that the shelf life is a lot shorter. At most a few days. But hey … it’s really quick and easy to make. Your bank account and the environment (no more tetra packs) will certainly benefit from it.
Use simple ingredients
In addition to all vegan alternatives for meat, fish, and cheese; there are many other products that can make it very easy for you to cook as you used to…but in an animal-friendly way. For example, think of something like vegan egg substitutes. If you take your first steps toward veganism, such products can really useful to counter the most difficult things when it comes to transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. For instance: when you just started to explore veganism but always loved cake baking, it might be a challenge to get the job done without using eggs.
That’s when the easy-to-use egg-replacer comes to the rescue!
The disadvantage of these egg substitutes is the same as that of other vegan alternatives to animal products: being tremendously expensive. Especially when you consider that you don’t need these products at all. You really don’t need an egg-replacer (or eggs for that matter) to make a delicious cake. You just need to know how to do it with simple ingredients that are a lot cheaper and work just as well.
We hope to prove that with this excellent egg-free cake recipe 🙂
Superfoods versus simplefoods
Although we have the impression that the trend is over its peak, there was a period when the so-called Superfoods were extremely popular. For those who do not know: superfoods are foods (nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, …) that are known for their high nutritional value.
The problem with those superfoods was that eventually the most exotic products were put on the market. Including the statement that they were absolutely indispensable if you took your personal health seriously. At one point the bags full of acai and goji berries, bottles of wheatgrass and bags of spirulina, maca and chlorella powder were everywhere. With price tags that make you consider doing a bank robbery.
For the record: we won’t deny the fact that these foods are indeed very healthy. The point is however that you certainly do not need any exclusive berry that is harvested at a godforsaken Peruvian mountaintop to optimize your personal health. Every country in the world has it’s own superfoods that you can recognize instantly and are a lot cheaper. Examples? How about (organic) apples, lemons, asparagus, broccoli, garlic, beets, Brussel Sprouts, nuts, ginger, …the list is endless.
So again: keep it simple, eat as varied as possible (read: lots of different vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds) and avoid expensive foods that you don’t need at all.
Did you find this article useful? Be sure to leave a comment. Especially when you have good tips on this subject yourself!