Opening Disclaimer: You don’t have to be vegan to eat vegan, and if you aren’t interested in going vegan, just take this article as advice on how to incorporate healthier plant-based foods into your diet.
There are a lot of reasons that people might not want to go vegan, or might discourage someone from going vegan and one of the most popular reasons I’ve heard has been: “But going vegan is so expensive!” or “I can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods!” or “Doesn’t tofu cost so much money?” At first, I was worried about this, too. If you want to eat exactly how you ate when you ate animal products as a vegan, it’s going to run up the grocery bill, so you’re going to have to tweak your habits just a tiny amount, but it will make a world of difference. My grocery bill has actually gone down since my partner and I have gone vegan, and we haven’t been to Whole Foods in years, and never eat tofu unless we go out.
5. Avoid Processed Fake Meats and Dairy
Like I explained in the intro, you can’t go from having meat or dairy in every meal to having fake meat or dairy in every meal–it’s simply going to be too expensive. Fake meats are often soy based, and to get the realistic taste and consistency, they have to use a lot of it, which makes it a more expensive option. That’s not to say that a little bit of soymilk, Daiya cheese, Earth Balance, and Tofurky once in a while is going to break the bank, but if you eat it every day, you’re going to find yourself spending more.
4. Fill Up on Inexpensive Protein Sources
“But where will I get my protein?” you shout in agony when you realize fake meat shouldn’t be your sole source of protein. I understand your concerns. Protein is filling, important for muscle and brain function, and surprisingly easier to acquire on a plant-based diet. My main sources of protein are edamame ($2 per frozen bag that serves 2-4), green peas ($1.50 for a can that serves 1-2), kidney and black beans ($.85 for a can that serves 2-3), and peanut butter ($3 for a jar that will last me about 3-4 weeks). The proteins become more filling when you combine different types, such as beans and quinoa, edamame and rice, oatmeal and peanut butter, vegetables and rice or quinoa, etc.
3. Canned/Frozen Fruit and Veggies
Some people might have you believe that only fresh fruits and vegetables are the way to go, and there certainly are some benefits of eating fresh, but it’s not always affordable or practical. While canned vegetables can sometimes have extra sodium, but there is almost always a “No Added Sodium” or “Sodium Free” option, and buying this way means the veggies you’re eating are just as healthy, won’t spoil as quickly (which makes bulk buying incredibly easy), and eliminates cutting, washing, and finding refrigerator storage space. If you’re worried about GMOs, many canned foods are now switching to non-GMO.
As far as frozen fruits and vegetables, these offer many of the same benefits without the added sodium. You can even get mixed vegetables that can be steamed in the microwave for a quick, easy, inexpensive meal! For fruit, the frozen kind can be blended up with a bit of soymilk to make “nice cream,” a vegan alternative to ice cream.
2. Buy in Season
The absolute cheapest way to buy produce is to buy it in season and plan your meals around which foods are in season. For example, cantaloupe and watermelon are at their peak in the summer, which means they’re bountiful and cheap, while oranges and strawberries are at their best in the winter months. Due to genetic modification and outsourcing, you can get most of these products year round, but sticking to the seasons will be the best way to ensure you don’t pay $6 for an orange.
1. Potatoes, Rice, and Beans
Potatoes, rice, and beans are some of the cheapest foods in the world, and guess what? They’re vegan! Having one of these three foods as the base of your meal is not only filling, versatile, healthy, and cheap, but also
Conscious consumerism shouldn’t break the bank. Eating more plant-based foods is healthier, cheaper, and literally saving the world.