It stands to reason, that if India managed to accomplish their “Mars Orbiter Mission” with a lower budget than the movie “Mission to Mars”, it’s only fair to imagine that our vegan meals budget could work out a lot cheaper than an omnivore’s diet.
In fact, many of the poorest people in the world rely on some of the beloved vegan staples like rice, beans, lentils, corn, wheat, sweet potatoes, cassava, to survive the day–thus cost by no means should be an issue to be a vegan on a budget.
Armed with this vegan budget guide, you’re bound to save yourself money while enjoying all the other benefits a vegan diet has to offer!
1. Get Creative
Making sure your cupboards are stocked with a few affordable staples is the best way to begin. Supermarket-own or in-house products are usually less expensive than branded products.
So pack your shelves with some of these, and you’ve got the basics you need to inspire some healthy and delicious vegan meals!
- Vegetables and fruits (particularly in-season varieties and items that keep well like onions, potatoes, squash, and pumpkin)
- Legumes/pulses of various types
- Grains such as whole grain rice
- Wholemeal bread
- Culinary herbs and spices
While they may not sound particularly exciting on their own, these ingredients can come together in some truly magical ways helping with your vegan budget!
Think curries and chilies, wraps or burritos, pasta dishes, stir-fries, stews, and casseroles; it will only be limited by your imagination (and with the wealth of vegan recipes added to this site frequently, it will be a breeze!).
2. Compare Prices
Learn to keep an eye not just on the individual item prices displayed at the grocery store, but also the price by weight.
This can give you a better idea, how two products actually compare price wise – one may be cheaper, but is the packaging volume smaller? If the “cheaper” item were to be the same weight or volume as the more expensive one, would it still be cheap?
Don’t feel whipping out your phone’s calculator to help you as an inconvenience. The minor inconvenience and time spent doing the maths may make for a major saving on your vegan meals budget!
Where possible (especially if grocery stores are located nearby), visit a variety of stores and make a mental note of the price differences on your favorite items. After buying, keep all your receipts to make comparisons in the future. It may be a little bit of an extra effort, but you might be surprised to find many ways, you can save money.
Keep an eye open for special deals, sales, and markdown items at the grocery store. Getting to the store just before they close or shortly after they’ve opened is another great way to find special markdown prices on produce that they’re trying to clear off.
3. Bulk Buying
Of course, you don’t need a gigantic shopping cart like the one in the image, but bulk buying certainly has its advantages.
Large packages are often sold at a lower price per volume, the biggest package may often work out to be the cheapest option in the long run.
So again, don’t just go and buy the cheapest prices on the shelves, but actually compare what quantity you are paying for, as buying in bulk can often save you a lot of money.
Some Great Vegan Options for Bulk Packages Include:
- Legumes, beans, and pulses
- Nuts and seeds
- Herbs and spices
- Milled products like flours
- Whole grains like rice, wheat, and barley
- Dried fruit
Another option you may have is excellent combo deals, such as getting a free sack of butternuts when you buy a sack of potatoes. You can find some really awesome deals like that which you may not have been opened to before you started making bulk purchasing part of your lifestyle!
If the option is open, joining forces with others in a buyer’s club or food cooperative is a fantastic way for you to save money, and support local suppliers of vegan food products.
Essentially, people in these organizations come together to increase their collective buying power and unlock the benefits of group bulk purchasing with discounts, lower prices and better access to local suppliers, and even free delivery if your group is large enough.
While the core concept is the same, the way a co-op and a buyer’s club work slightly differs:
A buyers club (also sometimes called a buying club) is a group that organizes its members together with the goal of increasing their collective buying power. This means that they are able to make purchases at lower prices than are available to the general public.
Start by checking for groups in your area online, or even forming your own. Get your hands on the grocery lists of some interested participants, and compare to see what common items you all buy on a regular basis. Now you can see how much money you can save by buying together in bulk and distributing to all the members.
How you work out the finer details is up to you. We assume beginning at least with the staple items is a great starting point, and who knows this could form new friendships and even make shopping a fun activity besides helping you with your budget!
A food cooperative is slightly different in that it is owned by the participating members and served in the best & common interests of the members which can be really helpful to be a vegan on a budget.
It is more formally organized than a loose collection of members, where members elect a board of directors to govern the operations according to generally accepted and agreed standards.
These co-ops can become really large–which means greater savings are possible because suppliers like the idea of being able to move a lot of stock.
If you’re in USA you can use the link below to find your closest cooperative:
If you’re outside USA, just do an online search and you may find such cooperatives in your country as well!
4. Consider Store Memberships
Paying for a membership to a large retailer like Costco can save you a lot of money in the long run, whether you’re buying as an individual or a family. You pay an annual fee per year, but enjoy greater savings which outweigh the membership fees on all your grocery items year-round.
Shopping frequently at these markets is a great way to save money. Keep your eyes open for special member discounts, and try to focus on items which are far-dated and aren’t likely to spoil fast.
5. Online Retailers
If you’d rather do your price comparison calculations and deal hunting at the comfort of your computer, there are some amazing deals to be had if you’re vigilant enough.
Make use of coupon codes, promotional discounts, bulk discounts, clearance sales, referrals, subscriptions (for automatic recurring purchases), price comparison tools, and free delivery/shipping. This may save you time and money on traveling costs too!
If a website offers email notifications of extra special deals, sign up! You can always unsubscribe if you need to, but it’s better to be in the know if a product you really like gets offered at a substantial discount.
You will often receive extra discounts for being a member of their mailing list as well, so hit that subscribe button for great deals which may help your plant-based diet on a budget!
6. Brand Names vs. Supermarket-Own/Generic Brands
Large retail chains have a huge buying power that lets them get products with their own supermarket brand at a much lower price, and they can easily afford to pass some of that savings on to their customers.
Similarly when it comes to “generic brands”, they may not aggressively advertise or spend a lot on branding. This too would mean they can charge less for their products than a brand that heavily spends on branding (e.g. a brand that uses a lot of fancy colors and graphics in packaging).
Getting rid of that brand mentality would let you try some of the supermarket own or generic brands, which can surely help your plant-based diet on a budget!
Here are some products that large retailers will typically stock as supermarket-own or generic brands:
- Baking supplies: flours, salt, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder/baking soda, etc.
- Pasta, rice, and grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried fruit
- Plant milk products
- Frozen veggie burgers, and vegan sausages
- Dried vegetable mixes
7. Produce: Compare Raw vs. Frozen
While we all love cooking with really great quality fresh produce, don’t overlook the benefits of frozen fruits and veggies–especially for products which are out of season.
Frozen fruits are extremely convenient for making oatmeal, baking, and smoothies for example.
Because vegetables & fruits are generally frozen at its best ripeness, during offseason, they can be higher in nutrients than their raw counterparts that have been sitting in a truck and on the shelf for some time.
They may even taste quite as good compared to raw produce as well! Many vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and pepper are actually cheaper frozen than fresh, and the fact that you can keep those for longer have the added benefit of less to no wastage helping you further.
If you’re lucky enough to find a great deal with fresh produce even during off-season, buy in bulk and freeze. Exploring your local farmer’s market is a great place to find good deals on all the freshest products “in-season” at a lower cost than the supermarket, and with unbeatable discounts on bulk purchases.
Some fruits in particular freeze very well. Just give them a wash, a rough chop, and freeze in small containers for quick use in a smoothie whenever you want them!
8. Prepare Your Own Food
While convenience foods certainly have their place, you’re going to pay for that convenience! Making your own meals from scratch is not only cheaper; it means you have complete control over everything you’re putting in your mouth.
The ingredients list of microwave meals can sometimes be alarming to say the least, and it’s not always easy to tell, whether an ingredient may be of animal origin.
If time is a problem for you, make sure to make extra-large batches whenever you have the time, so you can freeze a portion for later use.
Build Your Diet around Whole Foods
The wonderful thing about a vegan diet is that the building blocks of all our meals–whole foods like grains, legumes, and pulses are cheap!
The healthiest whole food choices like vegetables, seasonal fruits, beans, pulses, nuts, and seeds are generally affordable, so building your diet around these foods will help your course to go vegan on a budget greatly.
Limit Substitutes for Non-Vegan Products
While these could be wonderful for an occasional craving, convenience or to satisfy some fussier eaters, do note they are often priced similarly to their non-vegan counterparts and the processed products may not be as healthy as whole foods.
No harm in using those occasionally, but do try to keep your focus on homemade, whole food meals as much as possible to keep your health and costs in check.
If you’re having a requirement for non-vegan substitutes (we are talking about meat, dairy, cheese, and egg substitute lovers) then check at large health stores or specialty stores which offer these vegan products.
An Advantage of Freezing and Reheating
A lot of vegan meals are extremely easy to freeze for reheating later. Sauces, chilies, curries, soups and vegan stew/casserole freeze well and make a super quick meal with reheat in the microwave or on the stove.
Make large portions whenever you cook your favorites and freeze to be used later, which saves money compared to buying ready meals frequently.
While making your own food is a great way to have your plant-based diet on a budget, it’s best for your nutrition as well!
9. Plan & Schedule Your Shopping Trips
Have a List and Stick To It!
If you find that you tend to buy things on impulse, or purchase things that you end up not using or letting spoil, then it’s time to get into the habit of keeping a shopping list.
Planning out your week’s meals and making a list of requirements is a good way to stay organized and make sure you buy only what you know you’re going to need, and therefore not spend more than you have to.
It also allows you to make sure you have the ingredients available to make different dishes and keep the menu interesting, healthy and varied.
Have Scheduled Shopping Trips
Failing to plan your shopping list and not making the most out of each trip you make, mean you’re likely to end up having to run out to the store more often, wasting time and money on traveling. Not a way to be vegan on a budget!
The better you plan, the fewer trips you’ll have to make, and you’re far less likely to get stressed out or find yourself missing a key ingredient that you thought you couldn’t possibly forget! A tip from our own experience is, you can benefit by trying to stock up once a week, and then freezing whatever you can which can be reheated later.
Being proactive will make sure your kitchen runs smoothly and efficiently!
10. Keep Exploring New Shops and Markets
While it’s tempting to stick to the shops you know, you might be missing out on some new experiences and money savers if you don’t take the time to poke your nose around some farmers’ markets and explore shops dedicated to the cuisine of other cultures.
Chinese markets, for example, are a great place to find products like tofu (Non-GMO), noodles and sauces at a much lower price than the supermarket. Indian shops often stock some wonderful spices and traditional blends which can add that something special to your meals.
Keep your eyes peeled for new store openings, markets and places you just haven’t tried before that might have some good deals waiting to be discovered!
Once you get used to the tips you’ve learned, having a plant-based diet on a budget becomes a breeze–you just need a little bit of will and dedication!
Eventually, planning your weekly meals and shopping trips will become automatic, and you’ll find yourself with money you didn’t expect to have available at the end of the month.
By exercising, what you’ve learned on how to be vegan on a budget, you should rarely find yourself overspending. Keep an eye for good deals, only buy what you know you’re going to use, freeze what you don’t finish or the surplus.
Need some budget-friendly meal inspiration? Have a look at some of these cheap vegan recipe ideas
- Pasta and rice dishes
- Wraps, sandwiches, tortillas, and burritos
- Stews and curries
- Baked potatoes
- Hummus and fresh vegetables for dipping
- Vegan pancakes
- Oatmeal with toppings, either sweet or savory
Buying on a budget really doesn’t have to mean buying unhealthy food, often it is quite the opposite from the tips you’ve learned here.
Make vegetables, whole grains, legumes, pulses, fruits, nuts and seeds the cornerstone of each shopping trip and you’re all set for successful vegan budget management!
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