In a world where healthy eating seems to cost us more money (e.g., Whole Foods has been referred to as “Whole Paycheck”, whereas convenience stores filled with cheap processed foods and fast food restaurants are vastly more accessible, especially in lower income neighborhoods), it’s easy to believe the myth that being vegan is also more expensive than a meat-, dairy- and egg-filled diet.
Whole Means Healthy and Affordable
You can get more bite for your buck when you buy in bulk, such as dried lentils, beans, quinoa, rice, oats, etc. That’s one of the things I’ve learned when shopping at Whole Foods: buy in bulk when you can, and just invest in containers like these or these to store your dried foods.
The great thing, too, is that fresh produce, legumes and grains can be found at any local grocery store. You don’t need a specialty store like Whole Foods or even Trader Joe’s for ingredients to make a healthy vegan meal.
Pay More for Processed
I’ve learned that it’s the processed vegan foods and specialty items that can easily add up and break your budget. These are things like vegan cheese, vegan frozen foods, vegan meat alternatives and certain snacks and desserts. The good thing is that none of these foods are essential to a healthy vegan diet. But hey, being vegan doesn't mean being boring and depriving yourself of not-so-healthy foods, so go ahead and treat yourself to them several times a week. As with anything, the key is moderation.
Pre-Cut and Cooked Foods Cost More
While pre-cut fruits and veggies, canned beans and cooked lentils can save you time and energy, it can also cost you more. If you’re really watching your budget, again, it’s best to buy in bulk when you can, chop the foods, and cook the legumes and grains yourself.
I found that this isn’t so bad when you make huge servings like a stew, soup, pasta or curry for the week. You put in all the effort in one day, and depending on how many times a day you eat the dish, it can last you a few days to a whole week.
For instance, on Sundays, I usually cook a big pot of vegetable and lentil soup that yields about eight servings. Pair it with quinoa and you'll be able to stretch that out even longer for almost a whole week. The same idea goes for a pot of chili or vegetable curry. Quinoa is the perfect way to add nutrients plus density to your dishes for even more servings.
Saving Money When Dining Out
You'll find that when you eat out at restaurants, replacing meat with veggies and/or tofu actually costs less. This holds true whether you're dining on fast food or at a fancy restaurant. Next time you go out to eat, just take a look at the menu items and compare the costs between vegetable entrees versus meat and seafood. Opt for the vegetable substitutes and your wallet will thank you.