Vegan On A Budget
An Obtainable Vegan Lifestyle
It's amazing to me how many people think you have to be rich in order to live a healthy, diverse vegan lifestyle. As someone who has lived as a meat eater in the past, veganism is substantially cheaper than my carnivorous diet ever was, and yet the stigma still stands. In fact, many of the staples in most vegan diets are actually quite budget friendly! Legumes, starches, fruits and vegetables are just scraping the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of communities all over the world have lived off of these foods for centuries, most with very little money to their names, so how can you do the same?
When you slip into the vegan or vegetarian isle of your local market you might be astounded by the prices, but these are things that I consider treats, not fully fledged meals. Just like with meat-filled meals you'll have prepackaged hotdogs, frozen pizzas and microwaveable burritos. They'll probably have fancier names and elegant photography on their packaging, but essentially they're just the same: preservative filled, over priced trite. The root of eating cheaply, whether you're vegan or not, is to prepare your own meals. This may be daunting at first, but when you've got the essentials it's really quite simple!
Buying Vegan Staples
The key to not being shocked by the price when you reach the cash register is to make sure you're keeping your pantry stocked with staples and to only replace them once they've been used. This way you never buy more than you need, as an information overload of food is one of the easiest ways to lose your hard earned cash! More times than I'd like to admit I've bought a veritable bounty of fruits and vegetables only for them to go bad simply because I bought too much. Not only is a waste of your money, but it's harmful to the environment. So, to be a staple in my kitchen you have to meet three requirements:
- Be useful in most, if not all meals
- Have a long shelf life
- Be as healthy and preservative free as possible!
Starches are important in your diet because they help you retain your energy thanks to their concentrated carbohydrates. They're also very helpful in controlling your glucose levels and for maintaining a healthy weight, but too often we buy the wrong kind of starches. However, there are several healthy starches with great shelf life, too!
- Less processed whole wheat foods like breads and dried pastas
- Root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, rutabagas and turnips
- Grains such as rice, oatmeal, quinoa, bulgur, and muesli
- Squashes like butternut squash, winter squash and acorn squash
When it comes to most starches you can usually get away with using the generic brand over the name brand and not tell a difference, especially for pasta and oatmeal. This can usually save you a good chunk of change that you're otherwise just spending on a label.
Another great way to save money is to store your breads such as bagels, muffins, pitas and even tortillas in the freezer until you need them. They'll not only stay fresh much longer, but the temperature also resists mold.
Legumes are little powerhouses full of protein that contain no cholesterol and are typically very low in fat. They are also chocked full of vitamins and minerals, like magnesium, potassium and iron. Not only are they easy to prepare, but if you buy them dried instead of canned you pay substantially less and they taste much better!
- Legumes such as black beans, chickpeas, lentils, edamame, split peas, kidney beans, black-eyed peas and butter beans
A pound of dried beans is usually about 2 dollars, but you can get over 8 cups of cooked beans out of one bag! Canned beans are usually about a dollar a can, but they contain only about 2 cups of cooked beans. It's up to you to decide what is more important; the convenience of precooked beans or the money saved from dried beans.
Fruits and Vegetables
When you think of healthy you often think of your daily dose of fruits and veggies, but with hectic lifestyles they rarely escape the fridge before they wilt into a gross, moldy mess. If you're looking to get more fruits and vegetables in your diet then try buying them frozen! Frozen fruits and veggies are much cheaper than fresh, and as a bonus they may retain even more nutrients. Most fresh produce lose a lot of their substance during their trip to your table from heat and pesticides while frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at peak freshness, blanched and then frozen to preserve their nutrients and taste.
- Frozen vegetables, such as broccoli, onions, cauliflower, carrots, artichokes, peppers, spinach, ect.
- Frozen fruits such as berries, mangoes, melons, grapes, apples and stone fruits.
There are hundreds of things you can do with frozen vegetables. From stir-fry with broccoli and red peppers to creamy dips full of spinach and artichoke. Personally, I love roasting frozen squash, broccoli and peppers in the oven to put in tortillas for a light snack.
Frozen fruit is perhaps even more universal if you can get your mind off of smoothies! Use frozen mango as impromptu ice cubes, frozen blueberries in muffins and pancakes, or get creative and turn them into jam. Use frozen pears to make a delicious pear compote to serve over vegan ice cream or oatmeal in the morning. The recipe ideas are limitless, even if your wallet is not.
Keeping Your Cart In Check
If you're going to push your budget, make sure you do so on the important things. You really don't need to buy the latest animal product alternative if you're wanting to be frugal. Many of these things can be made in your own home for a lot less than they cost on the shelves and end up being much more special, thus less wasted, if you make them by hand. Though many of the alternatives on the market are delicious they are not at all imperative to leading a vegan lifestyle and are generally the most expensive items in your cart.
Keeping a tally in your head of all the things you're buying is key to a cheaper cart. If you're a little bit under budget then feel free to consider a splurge item, but if you're over budget don't sweat it! The only way to start building a shopping list attuned to your tastes is with trial and error. In the end only you can choose what is best for your health and that's something that no money can buy!