If I had a nickel for every time someone said “you must spend so much money being vegan,” well then, I wouldn’t have to be a vegan on a budget. Obviously, I’m exaggerating, but there are a lot of myths around the cost of veganism and I have found that eating vegan can be really cost-effective and budget-friendly as long as you employ some simple techniques and tricks, which I’ve outlined below.
1. Create a diversified shopping list with ingredients that can be used for totally different dishes in the same week:
For instance, this week, I wanted to make homemade Pho. So fun, right? I wanted my Pho to be totally decked out with all the common toppings – cilantro, jalapeño, scallions, bean sprouts, lime, etc. which quickly added up for the one dish. Luckily, I remembered to pick up a few avocados which were on sale and realized I could use my leftover cilantro, jalapeño, and lime to make a hearty guacamole.
Let’s say you bought tortillas for a Mexi-themed dinner. Don’t also buy bread in the same trip – see if you can go the whole week using tortillas in it’s place. Whip up some tofu scramble breakfast tacos, fresh veggie wraps, and tortilla pizzas! I’ve even made PB&J tortilla roll ups and not only are they wonderfully portable, they’re also super tasty.
2. Stock up on staples that go a long way:
I always have brown rice, quinoa, beans and legumes stocked in my pantry. That way, I always have a solid base for a meal and I can swap out fresh veggie toppings based on whats in season/on sale/at the farmer’s market. Grains and legumes lend themselves so well to different flavors, so even if you’re eating brown rice and veggies every night for a week, make curry one night, fajitas the next, and a zesty stir-fry the next!
When you’re short on cash, there’s no denying that rice and beans will keep you well-fed and your pocket book happy.
3. Stager splurges:
Sometimes the worst thing can be falling in love with a recipe only to realize you need to purchase several pricey ingredients at the same time in order to make it. This used to always happen to me when I made my vegan Reubens for St. Patrick’s Day (my favorite holiday) because, in one trip, I needed to get sauerkraut, veganaise, vegan cheese, vegan worcestershire sauce, whole grain mustard, and several whole spices. For one sandwich, I was spending around $40 just to get all the ingredients!!
So this year, I planned ahead. I picked up the veganaise and sauerkraut several weeks before on separate shopping trips before St. Patrick’s day. It wasn’t a big deal to buy the ingredients ahead of time since they both have a long shelf life and I was actually able to get the veganaise on sale saving me at least $12 on my typical Reuben shopping spree. (Oh yeah, and that giant jar of leftover sauerkraut lead to one of my new all-time favorite recipes – the sauerkraut quesadilla!)
You can use this same logic for any big holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, etc. Think of the specialty ingredients you will need. Can you order them in bulk online to save yourself some cash? Can you pick up special ingredients over several weeks in preparation so that your final shopping trip doesn’t blow your budget? Can you repurpose and use these special ingredients in a new way?
4. Shop Around:
This money-saving trick takes a little extra time and effort but it’s totally worth it. Being vegan, many times we have to go to natural food stores or specialty food stores to find all the ingredients we want. But just because you have to go to a boutique store to stock up on nutritional yeast, doesn’t mean you have to buy your whole week’s worth of groceries there.
Trader Joe’s has an amazing selection of organic produce and even vegan prepared foods for super reasonable prices. Check out your local farmer’s market. How do the prices compare to when you get stuck buying produce at your local natural food store?
Additionally, some vegan brands have gone mainstream! You might be surprised to know that national chains such as Meijer and Trader Joe’s now carry Earth Balance vegan butter. Why would you pay the specialty store price of $5.79 when you can find it at a larger store for around $4?
5. If you love a product, speak up!:
A few weeks ago on Instagram, I entered a contest for Beyond Meat. I really fell in love with this vegan meat sub that is soy and gluten free! I kept cooking with it and tagged them in a couple recipes. They reached out to me to say thanks for trying their product and told me to e-mail them to get a free coupon!
6. Keep your refrigerator organized:
This tip actually comes from Alicia Silverstone’s book The Kind Diet and is a philosophy I adopted a few years ago that has saved me so much money!
She organizes her refrigerator by keeping all perishables on the top shelf. Anything with a long shelf life can move to the bottom, and mid-life-span items can stay in the middle. That way, every time she opens her refrigerator, she see’s the foods she needs to eat first right on top!
I know many refrigerators have the vegetable drawer at the bottom, but how many times have you let half a bell pepper go to waste because you forgot you had it? I bet you’re wishing you had it on the top shelf as it would have been a lovely addition the that kale salad you had for lunch.
What are your best tips for being vegan on a budget?
Also see: 4 Tips to Ordering Vegan at Non Vegan Restaurants
8 Tips to Healthy Eating on a Budget
How to Adjust Your Budget and Save Money
Photo: Christina Ramirez