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Vegan on the Cheap

July 6, 2009
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One of the things we never really understand is when people tell us they’d be Vegan if only they could afford it. This lament is one we hear quite often from people on the cusp of leaving the land of animal suffering behind. It’s true that if your diet is made up of pre-made frozen dinners, junk food and mock meats (which, don’t get us wrong, we do love!) that it could cost you a pretty penny from week to week but it doesn’t have to be that way.

People often gasp when we say we don’t spend more than $80 a week on groceries and that includes breakfast, lunch, dinner AND desserts for the week. One of the big tricks to this is to actually plan our meals out for the week so we can head to the grocery store with a list. Yes, this does take some time up front (but really only about 20 minutes or so) and we aren’t left wandering around the aisles of the store asking “What do you want for dinner?” only to get the response “I don’t know, whatever you want.”

For instance, this week we are having shepherd’s pie, white sketti, portabello burgers, chickpea cutlets, falafel, potato soup, and a rice dish called Mexicali. Throw in a couple fruits a day and cereal every morning and you’ve got yourself a basic week with the Hungry Hungry Veganos. How much did all the ingredients for all these dishes come to at the grocery store, anyway?

receipt

Your eyes do not deceive you, the total for a week’s worth of groceries did indeed only cost us $47.40. So, with the extra money, we may splurge on some Coconut Bliss (Vegan ice cream at its best!) throughout the week or save it up for a night of Vegan sushi. We did make sure to get these from a local co-op on our way home just because who on Earth could pass up yummy cupcakes when you have over $30 left over in your grocery budget?

coopcupcakes

So we, quite frankly, call bullshit on whomever says it’s too expensive to go Vegan. We do it on the cheap and don’t for one minute feel deprived on anything. No sir, not for one moment. We think it’s time for some homemade cookies now. NOM.

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2009 10:09 PM

    Great article!! One thing – you may want to clarify that the ice cream you might splurge on will also be vegan (soy, rice, whatever).

    -Alicia

  2. July 6, 2009 10:25 PM

    Well done :)

  3. wozzie permalink*
    July 7, 2009 7:49 AM

    Elaine – thank you. :)

    Alicia – thank you and thanks for the suggestion on the wording. I’ve clarified and also linked to Coconut Bliss, which we have indeed already splurged on! If you haven’t tried it yet, let me recommend the cappuccino!

    • July 7, 2009 9:37 PM

      Mmm, Coconut Bliss!! I haven’t heard of that, but it sounds yummy! :-) Good clarification, too. :-)
      -Alicia

  4. Carol Dawn permalink
    July 7, 2009 11:57 AM

    I have lived as a vegetarian and felt healthier and had more energy when I did so. However, I have never understood the vegan thing. Having milk, cheese and butter does not harm or kill an animal. It is simply using the products they give us freely while living life. The same for eggs if they are not fertile.

  5. July 7, 2009 3:02 PM

    I love Coconut Bliss too! But I’m a bit biased, I do work there :)

  6. Sara permalink
    July 7, 2009 7:41 PM

    I’m curious if the author of this article has done much research on the ability of low-income people in the U.S. to access healthy (ie vegan, organic, local etc.) food. The following two articles and blog post are worth taking into consideration when making sweeping statements like ‘We call bullshit on whomever says it’s too expensive to go Vegan.’

    http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_11228.cfm

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/17/AR2009051702053.html

    http://peoplesgrocery.org/brahm/peoples-grocery/why-we-call-it-food-justice

    • wozzie permalink*
      July 7, 2009 9:33 PM

      Many fellow Vegans know all too well what I meant by hearing people they know claim that being Vegan is too expensive, yet those are the same people who continue to get several items from the McDonald’s “value menu” because they find that to be affordable. It’s a statement that people like to hide behind because they are too afraid to commit to something more and use finances as an excuse.

      So I’m afraid you’ve missed my point wondering if I’ve researched about the low-income population of this nation. This post was not aimed at said population (and frankly, you have no idea if I’m even in that category before making your sweeping statement) but since you mentioned it, some of the most affordable items available are indeed Vegan. Fruits, vegetables, beans, rice, grains…these are all Vegan items and some of the cheapest items on the shelves. You brought up the issue of organic food, but again, you’ve missed the point of this post as I did not once mention organic food being one and the same with affordable to most people.

      Not too long ago, the Governor of Oregon was challenged to live on $3 a day, as an average food-stamp budget is $21 for the entire week, which would be $42 dollars in our household. What did we spend this week? Just shy of $48 putting us $6 above a food-stamp budget…and we weren’t even trying to do this. We could live on less if we really tried by eliminating some of the “extras” that we include in our weekly menu. I know other Vegans who do it on less (one being a chef in NYC who feed himself and his husband quite nicely on $20 a week) I make these comparisons only because you brought up the point, but again, that was not what this post was about.

      Most people are amazed at the money (or lack thereof) that we spend on groceries per week and we do so not feeling deprived. I actually know other Vegans who do that same and will tell you the same.

      Perhaps you could check out these links:
      http://www.tryveg.com/cfi/toc/?v=07budget
      http://www.veganfamilyliving.com/vegan-shopping-budget
      http://veganonabudget.wordpress.com/2007/09/25/tips/

    • July 29, 2011 7:07 AM

      thank you Sara :) I’ve gone vegan but am struggling to afford it. I just put $100 of organic veggies on my credit card…..I’m a fulltime student single mother who wants to set a good example and rasie a healthy kid but am struggling to do it…..I just goggle vegan on the go and cheap vegan, I’m very disappointed in what I’ve found :(

  7. Kaz permalink
    July 7, 2009 10:32 PM

    one of the questions people need to ask when considering the expense of different types of food, is whether these foods are going to be beneficial for their health. If one of the main reasons for changing to a mainly plant based diet is to reduce illness and disease, then you are not only saving by not buying nutrient/energy dense animal foods, you are also saving on health expenses. If there is any question about the health benefits of not eating animal foods, read The China Study for conclusive evidence based on data from 6,000 participants.

  8. Sara permalink
    July 7, 2009 10:40 PM

    I’m surprised at the defensive and hostile tone of your response – I fully understood the ‘point’ of your post and was curious if you were interested in expanding the discussion to other interconnected issues of food justice. My comment was not to correct or undermine the points in your post, as a vegan who is actively involved in issues surrounding food justice I think that there is an opportunity to address the issues faced by everyone who tries to make ends meet and put healthy food on the table. I fully comprehend that it is possible to eat a healthy vegan diet while living below the poverty line – as someone who struggles to do so. Lashing out at people who are seeking to further the discussion is a curious way to respond, especially when the people you’re lashing out at are allies.

    • wozzie permalink*
      July 7, 2009 11:05 PM

      My response was hardly hostile. You did not frame your post as a question in which one would have assumed was an invitation for dynamic discussion. Accusing someone of making sweeping statements and questioning their research without identifying oneself as an “ally” is something I, too, find quite curios.

  9. rantingsteve permalink
    July 7, 2009 11:07 PM

    I fail to see anything defensive or hostile in Wozzie’s reply, and I don’t see how that was “lashing out.” Why is disagreement on the Internet always reduced to taking everything personally?

    Anyways, I went shopping today for some essentials. Our grocery bill for this week was under $30. That’s for both me and my partner, and living in New York, and I was able to stock up on coffee and rice. Most of our vegetables now come from a CSA, which help greatly with our food cost. We’re on a very tight budget at the moment, and we’ve managed on even tighter budgets, and we’re still able to eat healthy.

  10. July 7, 2009 11:10 PM

    We posted a similar entry way back when, for more info on being cheap and vegan, if anyone’s curious!: http://sistersvegan.blogspot.com/2008/04/eating-vegan-on-cheap.html

    :3 You can be vegan and eat cheaply and still be concerned with other food and social justice issues, too, btw, commenters. Advocating a vegan diet is one of the many ways I fight the imperialistic food combine that is supported by our (the US) government.

    Dairy & eggs = the slaughter of mothers and babies. Meat = the slaughter of fathers and sons. All = not cool.

  11. July 8, 2009 11:09 AM

    good post. i totally get your point, and i often have to talk to my omni spouse about how being vegan can actually be done cheaper. it’s hard in our house because he doesn’t want to go vegan so we buy two sets of groceries, one for me and one for him–so it appears like being vegan is more expensive. and in some cases if one buys the specialty items i’m so fond of like tofutti cr. cheez, sour surpreme, and veganaise, then yes it is expensive. but i don’t buy those things too often.

    again, great post.

    • July 8, 2009 11:32 AM

      Having to buy two sets of groceries would definitely make it seem like its much more expensive. All those things you listed are delicious! ;) We actually bought a small jar of Vegenaise this week and our total was still that low.

      If you have the ability to buy those things we don’t see any reason not to get them (even on our small budget we can get them). But people shouldn’t use the excuse that Veganism is too expensive based off of items that are not necessary and most expensive but that is what they do.

      Hopefully your husband comes around :) and thanks for the reply Jen

  12. Badams permalink
    July 8, 2009 11:06 PM

    I am severely low income (under 15,000) and a student with a family….. I lived in rural NY (farm country) Great article I just wish there were more details so that sharing it could perhaps be more effective to the speculators, but point made good post :)

    • Badams permalink
      July 8, 2009 11:08 PM

      forgot to mention that this whole time i have been vegan and have definitely not had a shortage of food

  13. Arch permalink
    July 11, 2009 11:41 PM

    I started eating vegetarian about 10 days ago. After 4 days I went totally vegan (I did finish the eggs and milk that was in the fridge). One of the things I find to be much more expensive is organic soy milk. Maybe I’m not seeing alternatives but, for example, a gallon of 2% milk costs $2.75, while a HALF-gallon of organic soy milk is $3.78. As someone who eats quite a bit of cereal, that represents a significant increase in cost. Comments and suggestions welcome :)

    • July 12, 2009 10:16 AM

      Sounds like you are comparing conventional dairy milk to organic soymilk so that is one cause of the difference in cost I believe. So you might be able to save a little if you do non organic if you HAVE to have something that is cheaper. To me $3.78 for half a gallon is good though. How many people do you feed with the soymilk? We usually use 32-96 oz of soymilk a week (cereal, cooking, and baking). So 1/4 to 3/4 gallons. That is for the both of us. You could try eating some breakfasts (and other meals if you are eating cereal at meals besides breakfast) that do not require adding soymilk (or other non dairy milk). We usually stick to cereals with soymilk most days ourselves (sometimes on weekends we make other dishes such as pancakes which either use less soymilk or no soymilk). While some things (non dairy milks) might cost more other things are less such as vegetables and fruits compared to meats and cheeses. Also unprocessed foods compared to processed (so try to keep processed foods low to keep costs lower). Some people do make their own non dairy milks (some recipes are as simple as using a normal blender),but we have not done that but you probably can to some good info searching online. There are also some soymilk powders out there that you add water to,but we have not tried those either. They are cheaper ( even if you order online and have to pay shipping they still tend to save you a couple bucks) per ounce.

    • July 12, 2009 12:28 PM

      I guess it depends on where you live, but trying different grocery stores if you haven’t already, is what worked for me. Try the smaller local stores as well as the different chains, and at different times. My local market sells rice milk usually on sale at 1.79. If its not on sale, I wait until it is and stock up. Also, yes, buying in bulk on the internet is huge as well. The best thing about soymilk is that you can store the containers for years before opening in a room-temp. environment. Lately I have tried to shy away from soy because I use it so much elsewhere (tofu, yogurt, soybeans) but if that is what is cheaper, you also might want to watch the soy intake and limit it to less than once a day. Just a little suggestion. :)

      • July 12, 2009 1:55 PM

        To clarify for Arch, are you finding 32 oz containers on sale for $1.79 or 64 oz (half gallons)? Arch is paying $3.78 for 64 oz (half gallon) which is $1.89 per 32 oz and that is pretty good. He is actually getting a good deal on his soymilk. The problem is (I think) that he is comparing organic soymilk to conventional milk. Some organic milks are $4+ for half gallons which is crazy. Also the research on soy is still out (some say good things some say bad things). Some of the healthiest races/cultures are those that eat large portions of soy as well. Really I think it depends on how processed the soy is and what it is in. Still can’t hurt to decrease soy intake though if that is a fear someone has. As there are alternatives :) Thanks for posting some advice for Arch.

    • July 13, 2009 4:57 PM

      Arch, we make our own Soymilk at home using this nifty gadget called a Soy Milk Maker :) We got one about 6 years ago and it’s one of the best investments we’ve made! It can also be used to make rice milk and other nut milks (but I find it easier to make those with a cooker and blender).

      If you’re interested here’s a link to the brand we have SoyaJoy: http://soymilkmaker.com

    • Nia permalink
      February 4, 2010 7:25 PM

      Healthy Vegan Milk

      1 Part cashews (previously soaked for two hours) (buy in bulk)
      3 Parts water (Purify in a Filtering Pitcher-Brita, etc. first instead of using bottled water)

      Process in a blender on high for 5 minutes. Easy and super cheap!

    • dreamingtree permalink
      March 28, 2011 1:19 PM

      I personally only buy the small paper containers (32 oz) of soymilk, since I’m the only once in my house that uses it. Our local HyVee Health Market offers organic for $1.49. It also makes sure that it doesn’t go bad! Their regular soy milk is $1.19 for a container of the same size, so it’s not too shabby! Especially now that it’s the ONLY place (other than WalMart) where I live to get these sorts of things. Our locally owned health food store was the victim of a large fire in the building where it was located. The owners lost EVERYTHING, and aren’t sure that they will be able to reopen.

  14. Arch permalink
    July 12, 2009 3:47 PM

    Thanks to all for your replies. Very helpful and encouraging :)

  15. July 13, 2009 4:54 PM

    Great post! :)

    People usually take the the eating out cost of being Vegan and compare it with the home cooking cost of not being one. I guess it’s probably because a non-Vegan would likely have tasted Vegan foods only at restaurants. So the examples you’ve used with the grocery bills really helps put things in perspective for new Vegans or prospective ones.

  16. urocyon permalink
    July 13, 2009 8:30 PM

    Good post! Just ran across your blog.

    My circumstances are probably a little different, in that I don’t have much time pressure on shopping. For me, it works better to plan meals on the fly, around whatever fresh stuff I find cheap/reduced right then. That really helped keep our food budget down, even before I cut out the animal products again–and I was already doing most cooking from scratch, with celiac and diabetes considerations. Now it’s running less than half what it was, probably £40/week for two people, even with my husband buying meat and cheese on weekends for himself. I could cut the expenses back some more, but don’t really want to gallop straight into the same kind of extreme cheapness I grew up with. :)

    You have a good point, in that it’s important to have an splurge on things like ice cream at least once a week. It does help prevent feeling deprived. :)

  17. Danielle permalink
    July 30, 2009 10:56 AM

    I gotta say, I wish I’d found this blog ages ago. Great info, great personalities, and great resources. From everyone. Much appreciated. I’ll be back :)

  18. September 17, 2009 12:25 PM

    Cost of groceries is a perennial topic in vegan fora. The same rules apply as apply to any style of eating:

    The more food you prepare yourself, the more money you save.

    Everything else is commentary. :).

  19. September 30, 2009 2:06 PM

    I can’t imagine what my grocery budget would be if I were not vegan and was buying meat (“happy” meat?), dairy, and convenience foods. Sure, there are plenty of ways to splurge as a vegan, but it’s best if you build your diet on a foundation of fruits, veg, beans/legumes, nuts, grains… basically a trip to the bulk bins! Cheap, environmentally friendly, healthy, happy.

  20. Nia permalink
    February 4, 2010 7:17 PM

    Great artcle! Always said Fruits, Veggies, Grains cheaper than meat pound for pound.

  21. April 11, 2013 7:54 PM

    I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a
    great blog like this one nowadays.

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