How to afford a vegan lifestyle?

Hi Sassy!

First of all, I want to express to you how EXCITED I am about your website! My friend stumbled upon it and told me right away about it :)

I've been struggling off and on throughout the years of sticking to a vegan diet. I was successful a few years back, but I found that the thing that made it the most difficult for me to commit to it, was due to the expense of buying fresh produce, special ingredients for cooking, vitamins etc. Why must it be so darn expensive to eat healthy?! :(

I really am excited to get back to a vegan lifestyle, but am afraid it may not be in the budget! Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much for being here for us all :) You are wonderful!!!!

Susie Frye
Salt Lake City, UT

*****

Sassy Sez: Hi Susie! Great to hear from you, and so happy you have found VeganCoach.com. :)

I can relate to your question. When I first went vegan back in 1994, it really didn't cost a lot to eat in this way.

Fast-forward 10 years, and suddenly our grocery bill was over-the-top expensive.

So what was the big change? Slowly but surely over all those years, all the faux meats and cheeses, etc., made their way onto the grocery shelves. It was such fun to eat them, and I think a part of me might have really missed those flavors and consistencies, so I ran with them.

But here it is 17 years from the time I went vegan and it seems I've come full circle. Once again our grocery bills are extremely low.

You can probably figure out what has changed: I focus my meals on vegan whole foods versus spending the money to stuff our diet with those fake meats and cheeses. Because not only are they expensive, but they are not always good for you. Sure, they're fun and you can enjoy them occasionally, but it's best to steer clear of them on a regular/daily basis.

But that's just one idea. Here are some more tips for keeping costs down when you're vegan:

  1. Shop along the edges of your grocery store. This means your focus should be on produce and bulk items and other whole foods. When you begin to move towards the middle of the store, that is where you usually find all the pre-packaged foods which can get very expensive—and are usually not the healthiest choice either;


  2. I mentioned it briefly above, but get to know the bulk section of your favorite grocery store. Buying in bulk not only helps to cut down on needless packaging which helps our landfills, but you can buy so much more for your money. For instance, one can of beans might cost you around $2.00, but you can buy a whole POUND of dried beans (that you later cook up yourself) for under $2.00.

    Jeff and I buy a lot of stuff in bulk. We place orders for bulk items with our local co-op because not only does it save us money, but it helps them out with their bottom line which supports the local economy. You can buy a LOT of stuff in bulk these days, including beans, whole grains, non-dairy milks, toothpaste, coconut water, toilet paper, crackers -- the list goes on and on and on. We buy in bulk, and use a closet in our home to store the stuff. Then, when we run low on any one item in our kitchen, we head to our "store" (closet) - it's just so easy.

    (If you're interested in learning more about how to buy in bulk, be sure to check out Stock Up With Jeff. This is a complete natural vegan kitchen management course that also teaches you how to shop in the bulk section and what to do with all the food when you get it back home.)

    We also use a vacuum sealer to store larger quantities of whole grains and beans so they stay as fresh as possible.

    Ask your local co-op (or other fave grocery store) about how you might order bulk items;


  3. Focus on in-season organic produce, which will be less expensive than those foods which are out of season. The cost savings can be quite dramatic!


This should get you off to a good start. But I would love to hear from others out there -- how do you keep your budget under control when eating a vegan diet?

xo!


Comments for How to afford a vegan lifestyle?

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Sep 05, 2011
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Eating vegan food is expensive?
by: Anonymous

It reduces the risk of getting sick later on that will cost much more to go see a doctor, or lie in the hospital to be cut open.

It's worthwhile to pay a little more to stay healthy. Plus, it isn't really more expensive. For those meat dishes, even it's free, I don't want to eat them.

Our body is the temple of God that we must treat it as holy that can't have the dead animal's bodies in it. There are many vegan restaurants out there that are not much more expensive than meat restaurants. Plus, you can cook your own vegan dishes that are not expensive, either. There are many vegan restaurants in the world that can be searched at www.HappyCow.com

You may also visit the following vegan restaurant that is not expensive:

www.LovingHut.com




Sep 06, 2011
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Shopping Hints--Helpful, I hope!
by: Lynne

Sassy already mentioned staying away from the meat analogs--they're fiesta food, not for every day. If you're shopping for one, you may find you have a lot of wastage. So try buying in smaller amounts by shopping with a friend and splitting things up between you. (And remember, vegan waste makes great compost!) Sassy mentioned buying in bulk to save money. One of the great advantages of buying in bulk is that you can buy only as much as you need. If a recipe calls for a spice that is new to me, I can buy a single tablespoon of it, and not end up throwing it away. Also, look for creative, yummy substitutions. For example, in most recipes, you can substitute chopped walnuts for pine nuts, at a fraction of the cost. And, to reiterate LovingHut's comment: remember that what you spend on healthful vegan food, you more than make up for with fewer medical bills. Good luck!!

Sep 06, 2011
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start slow
by: Anonymous

I have found that if you take it slow in your process of becoming vegan...try to use what you have in your pantry and refrig up before going full vegan. I am just starting out and the vegeterian recipe books help me. I have my Miracle Whip that I use since I always have bought 2 for 1. So until you use up the stuff you already have..go with the beans meals and than salads...and the last thing I will give up will be the milk because I normally have never eaten a lot of meat. After watching Food Inc. I am determined to change the way food is processed in our world, some way some how. These big corp's will lose everything. So the main foods to buy is fruits, veggies, and beans, peanut butter, nut spreads, and just a few vegan cheeses and substitues. You can make your own as well.

I just can't believe all the bad things we are putting into our bodies.

Sep 06, 2011
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Transitioning Vegan
by: Aileen

I didn't want to use up everything in my pantry. I packed it all up & gave it to a local food pantry that serves the poor. That allowed me to start stocking up from scratch & doing the necessary cleaning of my fridge & cupboards =)

Nov 01, 2011
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How to afford a vegan lifestyle?
by: jean

If you eat well...organic and high quality vegan food, it will cost more. I do spend more on groceries than most of my friends and family but at the age of 63, I don't have any pharmacy or doctor bills. Something to think about.

Nov 07, 2011
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Fantastic :)
by: Sassy

Hi Everyone -- Thanks for adding to this thread. All great responses and ideas.

Aileen, love the idea of giving the non-vegan foods from the cupboard away to the poor -- for those who can afford to do it, it's a very thoughtful approach.

Jean, great point about saving on future medical bills! I was just looking through some old journals and realized that Jeff and I were sick a LOT before going vegan. (Verging on too much information (!), but I had TWO abnormal paps before going vegan in 1994, and I haven't had one since.)

Giant hugs to all! xo

Mar 21, 2012
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ideas for staple items
by: Anonymous

Hi there,
My family and I are all vegetarians, however we are thinking of trying the vegan diet. Does anyone have any cost saving tips on some staple items that I can buy in bulk for instance and always have one hand. I am thinking more like certain oils and spices and such!
Thanks a lot!
Kathryn

Jun 24, 2012
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Saving some dough
by: Avocado Mama

I know how hard it can be- I have a family of 6 vegans. Two are more into processed convenience foods, and the other 4 (including me) are high-raw organic vegan. Our grocery bills can be outrageous at times.

I have found, though, that if I skip some convenience foods, like cereals (we use oatmeal or make granola, sometimes out of soaked raw nuts) non-dairy milk (I make my own almond milk), and also skip snacky foods & just make them in our dehydrator, we save a lot of money! We rarely buy from the chip aisle (aside from my teenager's organic tortilla chips) and never from the cookie aisle. If we want cookies, which is rare, we make them from scratch.

I also buy a lot in bulk & keep it mostly in glass jars in the pantry, or ziploc bags in the freezer. (beans, quinoa, rice, nutritional yeast, oats, nuts, seeds, spices, etc.)
I haven't always bought spices in bulk, so I now have lots of spice jars that I can use for our bulk spices. I buy empty spice jars when needed, though.

I know our bill will be much lower when it is just me and my husband in the future. Right now, we have 4 people to raise as healthy as possible & although it's tough to see that cash register ca-ching with an amount I'd rather not pay, I know we are doing the best thing we can do by feeding our kids this way. We need to be able to give our best to our kids and society & need healthy bodies to do that. We are rarely ever sick & when we are, maybe once a year or less, it's very mild & not long-lasting.
No allergies, no ear infections, no summer flus- just clear skin, shiny hair, high energy, healthy digestion, and a positive outlook.
I'll pay for that! :)

Jan 01, 2013
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Whole Foods Are Where It's At
by: Tony

I struggled at first , but "Now" it's actually pretty easy and surprisingly cheap.
I focus all my shopping strictly in produce and bulk section- only venturing to the inner part of the store for olive oil and toiletries!
Stay clear of faux meat/cheese as these are not Whole Foods items. Although Tempeh,Veganaise,and Ezekiel Bread seem to be my weaknesses in moderation though.
For veggies and fruits I strictly adhere to the Organic rule of "The Dirty Dozen Plus" as not all things are grown with pesticides and other nasty chemicals, So- it is O.K. to not buy every thing Organic (which is way too expensive!)
One of my best shopping secrets here near, Tacoma WA where I live, is the international market, alot of the veggies are around 1/3 of the price of the big chain grocery stores = this saves BIG money, plus they have many fruits/veggies that you won't find at the big chains like Dandelions for example, But STAy clear of their Tofu as usually it is made from GMO-soybeans -Yuk!
Focus on "Whole Foods" meaning preparing your own beans, soups, chilis, and sprouting seeds/beans/lentils for quick/easy delicious salads! And fermenting your own veggies can preserve them for up to 8 months!(natural probiotics) Think Saurkraut,Kimchi,Kvass.
It all seems so easy and cheap now, I myself am shocked :) This gives me enough money to spend some extra bucks out of my $200 a month on "Super Foods" like Goji Berries,Spirulina,Chlorella,and Cacao Beans. And as a special treat I just have to add Kombucha Tea! they make me feel amazing ;)
Good luck, and with these tips comes good health, and an extermely lowered grocery bill.

Jan 01, 2013
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A little freezer tip
by: Janie

When I'm preparing veggies, I put most of the 'waste' in a ziplock bag and put it in the freezer. Then when it gets full I use it to make stock. Here's what I put in the bag: onion and garlic skins, the root ends of celery, onions, leeks, etc; leaves, peels and stems the not so appetizing looking parts of veggies - all the stuff that may end up in the garbage (I know I need to bring back my compost pile!). Don't put anything in the bag that you don't want in the flavor of your stock.

To make the stock, I saute up some onion and garlic in olive oil, add in the bag of veggies (usually it's semi thawed) and get that sauteed up and real aromatic. Add water or even the water from beans - add herbs and spices, bring to a boil and simmer for a while. Let it cool and strain. This is where the solids can go into the compost! Anyway I freeze the stock up in 1 and 2 cup portions and have it on hand. It's a LOT cheaper than the store bought stuff, plus you control the ingredients.

Feb 03, 2013
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Organic Rule..
by: Roxijk

I love your sight which I found thanks to a new blog sight through work. I do have one question at this time, what is, "The Dirty Dozen Plus" organic rule?

Thanks - Roxijk

Feb 03, 2013
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The Dirty Dozen +
by: Tony

Reply to Roxijk
On saving money on Organic veggies and fruits (the plus is because each year they seem to be adding to it)
Organic veggies =
spinach,lettuce,potatoes,green beans,celery,redbellpeppers,cucumbers,kale,collards,parsley,cilantro
Organic fruits= strawberries,blueberries,apples,peaches,imported nectarines,kiwis eaten with skin on,grapes grown outside of U.S.
GMO's to avoid (organic are o.k.)= soy,corn,and now coffee is making its way to the scene. (Some not listed)
Hope this helps any and all.
~Happy veggin'

Feb 04, 2013
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Thank you all!
by: Susie Frye

All of these comments are greatly appreciated!I never even thought to buy in bulk!!!! (feeling a little sheepish now) GREAT ADVICE! Thank you all so much!
Susie :^)

Dec 15, 2014
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Rual areas
by: Lasarythe

What if I live in a rural area where Vegan options aren't an option and the produce is never really fresh it's wilted and rotten and only a small portion of all the stores. Its also greatly over priced and very expensive and I can barely afford $50 worth of stuff. $100 a month is about all I have for food.

Apr 24, 2015
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Takes some effort, but definitely affordable.
by: Anonymous


I too live in a rural area, but I find every store has the vegan staples and they are affordable--beans, nuts seeds, etc. If fresh produce is not an option, frozen is better than nothing. Most everything else can be ordered online, such as vitamins and nutritional yeast. We get what we can locally, but make a trip every once in a while to our nearest city to stock up on things we can't find at home. It is still much more affordable than eating meat, which my friends tell me is very expensive.

Apr 23, 2016
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Dried beans
by: Anonymous

I changed from canned bean and chick peas to dried, in order to save money. My home is all electric ( Im stuck here) and cooking all these beans made my elec bill soar! It is costing me an arm and a leg. Just thought I'd put another point of view across with regards to saving money on buying bulk beans etc. Im so poor and dont' know what to do. I have chronic fatigue and cant be cooking all the time; vegan diet has meant Im constantly in the kitchen

Apr 24, 2016
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Chronic Fatigue
by: Sassy

I'm so sorry you're hurting over there. It seems to me that you might consider going back to the canned beans, if they're less expensive for the long-term.

Also, please see this interesting video from NutritionFacts.org about Chronic Fatigue.

Sending you a giant hug today!

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