Every time I hear someone claim that
eating vegan is just too expensive, it really makes me wonder where he or she is shopping. Because I have shopped as a meat-eater, vegetarian and vegan, and without a doubt, the cheapest choice for my budget came when choosing vegan.
Now, of course, there are certain ideals of eating that must be established. Namely, buying a bunch of store-brand frozen pizzas and burritos, packs of ramen noodles, doesn’t constitute real shopping. This is the best diet that will provide anyone with the nourishment that we need. In fact, if we really get down to it, anyone who is trying to eat vegan could shop this way as well. There are — by default — vegan packs of ramen, cans of soup, chips and salsa, whatever else. But, that’s no way to live.
Let’s assume the goal is to shop as if to cook well-balanced, nutritious meals. This, then, will only help the vegan shopper’s cause. Here’s what I do.
Buy Various Starches to Carry Meals
Starchy carbs are super cheap and filling, even in more nourishing varieties like brown rice or whole-wheat flour. Essentially, assume that a starch will be the bulk in each meal, but not necessarily that it must be the same one. There are pastas, noodles, rice, oats, barley, other whole grains, as well as good old-fashioned breads. Then, even for those out there trying to avoid too much processing or gluten, there are also cheap veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes and any other host of starchy root vegetables.
- Two Tips: Be sure to change up the starches. Rotate them so that nothing gets overplayed and the nutrition you are getting from them varies. As well, buy it all in bulk, such that the price drops, and there will always be something filling around the house to make.
Buy Fresh, Seasonal Vegetables and Fruit
Of course, going to the farmers market would be ideal, as would an all-organic menu; however, this may not be possible for everyone. Regardless, meat or not, the cost of an appropriate amount of vegetables would be the same. The trick is to buy things on special, to choose things that grow locally or nearby and to not focus only on your favorites. Sure, just about any produce imaginable is available at any time, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best for our health, our environment or our budgets.
- Two Tips: Finding the local, independent fruit and vegetable market is sometimes a bit easier than making it somewhere on market day, and these markets are often better priced than big chain supermarkets pushing products over produce. Also, always keep an eye-out for sell-by tables, with prices dropped to next to nothing.
Try DIY Over Canned, Packaged and Processed
It doesn’t take much investigation to figure out that the cost of a pound of dried beans or other legumes is less than buying the canned versions, so it is much cheaper and healthier and flavorful to make them DIY-style. The same is true for many things: pasta sauces, soups, and anything bought in individually packaged sizes or as an all-in-one kit. Cook in bulk and portion it with the bowl or plate; otherwise, the cost goes up for more packaging, for having cooked and preserved the food and for having put it all together, even though it’s not as healthy.
- Two Tips: A pressure cooker saves time and energy with dried beans. Put them to soak in the morning, and they’ll cook in a pressure cooker in twenty minutes that evening. Snack stuff—health bars, cookies, cakes, etc.—are much cheaper done at home, and they more readily become something special and enjoyed when our time and effort goes in to them. Try some of our recipes for lots of ideas.
Buy What You Need for Good Health
It’s important for vegans (and everyone) to make sure all their nutrient bases are covered. A whole foods diet will provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals, but certain vitamins such as Vitamin B12, should be prioritized in the budget. We have to keep this in mind when shopping, and when we splurge on something it should be in aid of getting the most nutrients into our diet through our food choices. You can choose a supplement, while some people opt to get fortified Vitamin B12 from plant-based milks or nutritional yeast. The point is that, if we are going to buy something that pushes the budget, better to buy something that’s useful than being marketed junk.
- Two Tips: Having a routine shopping list helps, starting with the beans and the grains then finding the fruit and veg and, finally, filling in the rest to meet needs. Impose limits as opposed to doing without, which for many of us equates to one bar dark chocolate as part of the weekly shopping list and learning to make it last.
Lead Image Source: Kristy Westendorp/Flickr