It’s not uncommon to be under the misconception that a vegan diet costs significantly more than an omnivore one. Good news for your bank account: That’s not the case at all.
Combing through vibrant recipes that have spirulina, coconut flakes, and soaked cashews on the ingredients list can be stimulating, but also overwhelming: It’s the reason why some people think a plant-based diet is so pricey. Sure, you can whip up a bowl of creamy nut-based mac and cheese or a pastel blue smoothie bowl on occasion, but most days it’s incredibly simple to eat healthy on the cheap.
These Are the Easiest Ways to Eat Vegan on a Budget
1. Prepare Your Own Food
Stepping into the kitchen will end up saving you a lot of money, as prepackaged foods and going out to eat are typically more expensive. Plus, you’ll have peace of mind knowing exactly what’s going into your meals. With that being said, try to avoid buying too many vegan substitutes like mock meat and cheese, which can be a little more pricey. A Beyond Burger is delish every now and then, but those patties can add up quickly.
2. Buy in Bulk
The largest package might be labeled as the most expensive, but it’s usually the cheapest by weight. Spices, flours, and grains are great items to buy in bulk. And if you have the space for it, you can stock up on frozen fruit and veggies, canned beans, and other staples, too. You might even want to consider getting a wholesale membership somewhere like Costco. Even with a yearly membership, you’re still saving a lot of money in the long run.
3. Go for Generic Brands
Name brand products tend to be marked up just because they have a specific label slapped on their packaging, so opt for generic brands to save money without sacrificing quality. If you compare the products in a taste taste, there’s a good chance you won’t even be able to tell the difference.
4. Make a Grocery List
Ever since I started compiling a grocery list before I went to the store, I’ve saved around $40 each trip. Having an actual list stops me from picking up random snacks and extras I don’t need and might not ever eat. Plus, if you’re interested in meal prepping, a grocery list will be extremely helpful in ensuring you have exactly what you need for the week.
5. Don’t Skip the Frozen Section
When certain fruits and vegetables aren’t in season, the frozen section is a good place to look for better prices on your favorite produce. Contrary to popular belief, frozen goodies are just as healthy—if not more healthy—than fresh varieties. Since they’re flash frozen right after being picked opposed to being shipped across the country, all the nutrients stay locked in.
6. Make Recipe Substitutes When Necessary
You might be dying to make a certain dish…until you look at the ingredients and realize it calls for 12 different spices. Instead of spending all your money stocking up your spice rack, skip some of those ingredients at your discretion. Because are you really going to miss that one teaspoon of cardamom? Probably not.
7. Plan Your Meals Around the “Big 3”
To keep your meals affordable, start with an inexpensive base. No Meat Athlete suggests centering your meals around either pasta, a variation on “a grain, a green, and a bean,” or soups and stews. All of these staples are easy to prepare, satisfying, and most importantly, cheap—even when you get the whole-grain and organic options.
8. Explore Your Options
If you’re afraid of getting stuck eating the same meals every week, utilize all the free resources available to spice things up. There’s an ever-growing amount of vegan YouTube channels, recipe blogs, and Instagram food bloggers who are always sharing their healthy meals and budgeting tips at absolutely no cost. From My Bowl even did an entire video on how to eat vegan for under $1.50 a day.
Updated from November 3, 2018 on June 27, 2019.