Eating out on a budget can seem tough if not impossible- especially as a vegan. Before you freak out on me because “being vegan is so much cheaper!”, hear me out. I wholeheartedly agree, cutting meat, dairy and eggs from your diet will cut grocery costs significantly (assuming you’re eating unprocessed, whole foods).
But eating vegan at restaurants is a whole other story. I’m just as excited as the next vegan to try the hottest raw cafe or vegan pub, but these places can be a real drain on the wallet. Can someone please explain to me why a salad needs to cost twice as much as a burger?
Sometimes I want the excitement and social benefits of going out without working through a month’s paycheck in one night. If you travel a lot or are constantly on the run, you probably also know this woe. Eating out can be necessary for convenience sake, but straining for your funds.
Luckily there’s a whole world of vegan-friendly places out there that offer meals for close to nothing. Here are some spots around the world to hit up for a cheap (or free) vegan meal, no matter where you are or what your needs are.
Food Not Bombs (global)
Food Not Bombs is a free community meal made from donated or “salvaged” food that would otherwise be thrown out. It began in New Hampshire in 1980 as a means of protesting capitalism and combating food waste.
The initiative has now spread all over the world, with groups in every of the 50 states and Canada, plus all other continents except Antarctica. If you are ever travelling and need free vegetarian grub, check out the Food Not Bomb’s website to find a meal nearest you.
–Food Cycle (UK)
Similarly to Food Not Bombs, Food Cycle creates free vegetarian meals from surplus food that is still fine to eat. It hasn’t been around quite as long as FNB, but it shares a common goal- to provide nourishment and social inclusion for community members. There are 21 locations throughout England, where you can cook, eat, or both!
–Lentil As Anything (Australia)
This trendy restaurant and community space boasts art, live music, great vegetarian or vegan 3-course meals/drinks, and themed events at each of its six locations. And the best part is that the grand total is totally up to you.
Lentil’s runs on “pay-as-you-feel” system, with an anonymous donation jar for diners to leave their payment. If you are not able to pay, you can pick up a volunteer shift to cover some costs. All donations go towards funding the space and its products.
–One World Everybody Eats (USA)
One World Everybody Eats is not a restaurant, per se, but rather a network of restaurants with a common goal. They all desire to increase food accessibility by allowing diners to give what they can for good food (just like Lentil as Anything).
Most of the joints included in the site are volunteer run and largely (if not entirely) vegetarian/vegan. Unlike Lentil’s, a specific price is suggested at these restaurants, but you can choose to pay more or less depending on your ability. You can view the list of cafes and restaurants that follow this system here.
–Karma Kitchen (global)
This is one more donation-based, volunteer-run nonprofit with restaurants in the US, Africa, Europe and Asia. Every donation is considered a “payment forward” to fund future resources. Your bill will come to you with a total of $0, and from there you can decide what (if anything) to give towards the next diner’s meal. With over 50,000 meals served, the organization seems to be doing great so far.
In addition to the resources above, Hare Krishna restaurants typically offer all-you-can-eat specials for pretty reasonable prices (think somewhere between $5-10). Additionally, their food is always vegetarian and mostly vegan.
Meetup is also a great place to look when travelling or in a new city. They often have vegan potlucks, which are a great way to feast on a budget and meet people (hence the name)! Just bring a dish to share and you’re good to go!
Have you visited any of these establishments? What’s your favorite spot to grab a cheap vegan meal?
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Photo: Quincy Malesovas