A few weeks ago I had a question from one of my readers about eating vegan on a budget, which got me thinking about all the ways that I save money on food. Being a vegan can be expensive, especially if you want to buy mostly organic produce, and there’s all those tempting (and pricey) superfoods available these days. Here’s how I feed my vegan family of 5 for about $150 each week.
Grow your own vegetables
Growing your own vegetables is extremely satisfying, and it can be pretty easy too. I aim to grow all/most of my vegetables someday but right now I am content with growing my own herbs and greens (currently spinach, silverbeet and kale). Most years I grow some other vegetables like carrots, garlic, tomatoes, corn, leeks, snow peas, but sometimes the harvests are pretty pitiful. Growing your own leafy green vegetables is quick, and if you drink lots of green smoothies and make lots of salads, you will definitely appreciate the savings from growing your own! Don’t think you need a huge garden to do this either – you can grow a good amount of greens in large containers (see my photo of my spinach growing in a styrofoam box), perfect for those who only have a balcony. Growing your own sprouts is also another way to save money. I estimate I save about $10-15 each week by growing my own vegetables.
Check out the farmer’s markets
I’ll admit, I have become lazy and like to do all my grocery shopping at the supermarket, but once upon a time I was more thrifty (and didn’t have 3 kids to drag to the shops with me). You will find that if you buy fruit and vegetables at the farmer’s markets, you will not only save money, but your produce will be fresher too. I’ve even found that buying as much organic produce as possible from my local organic market was about the same price as buying non-organic produce from the supermarket!
The Dirty Dozen
If you can’t afford to buy everything organic (and I’ll admit, most of the time I can’t), at least try to buy items on the Dirty Dozen list organic. This list is created by the Environmental Working Group and shows which produce items often have the most amount of pesticide residue, and is updated each year.
Cook your own legumes
Instead of buying canned beans and lentils, have you tried buying them dried and cooking them yourself? It might seem like a bit of effort, but I have a few tips to make this easier:
- Cook in bulk: I buy my dried beans in 375g packets which usually results in 3-4 cups of cooked beans, more than what I need for 1 recipe. But I cook them all at the same time, and either store the remaining beans in the fridge (covered in some cooking water) to use later that week, or I drain and freeze the beans in a snap lock bag.
- Get into the habit of being prepared: for best results, you’ll want to soak your legumes overnight or for about 8 hours (sometimes I leave mine soaking for up to 24 hours). I’ve gotten into the habit of checking what I’ve got planned for the next night’s dinner every night so I know whether I need to soak any beans or do any other pre-preparation.
Don’t be afraid to buy store’s own brands
Another way that I save a lot of money on our grocery bills is by buying the store’s own brand of products, when organic isn’t available. For many products, there isn’t much different between “gourmet” brands and the cheapest brand. So if the ingredients don’t contain any animal products or artificial additives, a lot of the time I’ll go for the cheapest option.
Limit eating out
Another leading factor that allows us to save a lot of money on food is by not eating out. I know a lot of people love eating out, but for us (especially with 3
little brats young kids), we don’t dine out very much at all. Also, there aren’t many vegan dining options in my town, so that definitely helps! But if you want to save money on food, I suggest you look at how much money you are spending on dining out/take away food. For example, you might buy lunch everyday and spend $10, but you could take your own lunch for a fraction of the cost (like, $2). I realised my husband was spending over $50 a week on work lunches, but these days I make his lunches and it costs me about $10 for the week.
Make your own
One reason why vegan diets can become expensive is because premade vegan foods (for example, vegan cheese, coconut yoghurt, other processed foods) cost more than their non-vegan counterparts. While I love that veganism is growing and I love that I can find more vegan products in store, I simply can’t afford to buy that $10 tiny block of vegan cheese (true story – each bite of cheese would have cost me $1). Instead, I make my own. My grocery shops contain very little, if any, processed foods.
Are expensive superfoods worth the extra money?
Another trap that many vegans fall into (myself included) is forking out top dollars for so called “superfoods”. Don’t get me wrong, I love superfoods! Give me all the chia seeds, maca powder, raw cacao nibs and goji berries! But don’t feel like you absolutely need them. Moderation is the key – when I do buy superfoods, I make the packet last for at least a few weeks.
With all that being said, I find that a vegan diet is much much cheaper than the Standard American (or Australian) Diet. This is mainly because when you adopt a vegan diet, you often adopt healthier eating habits and stop buying as much processed foods. Of course, you can have an expensive vegan diet if you buy all the vegan cheeses, fake meats, vegan cookies, etc. But if you shop smartly, buy less processed foods, learn how to grow some herbs or leafy greens, and spend a little extra time in the kitchen, you will find you can save a lot of money by following the vegan diet.
What do you think about eating vegan on a budget?
- Do you spend less now than before you were a vegan?
- What are your tips for eating a vegan diet with limited funds?