Eating vegan has gotten a bad reputation for being expensive and only available to people who earn an above-average income. But, budget meal planning on a vegan diet is not only possible, but it’s actually the healthiest way to eat vegan too!
Let’s shatter that myth for you today.
I’m giving you 3 simple steps you can take to start eating a healthy, well-balanced plant-based diet under budget!
To help you with figuring out what to swap your favorite foods with when you go vegan, I’ve created a free tool called the Vegan Swaps Checklist.
This checklist takes you through all of the Standard American and Canadian foods like meat, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, etc. and gives you a list of choices that are vegan to swap them out for!
You can choose healthy options, like whole plant foods, or you can indulge and discover new and interesting vegan comfort foods to try.
Did you know that most people who switch to a whole foods plant-based diet actually end up saving a significant amount of money on their grocery bill?
When you think about the cost of meat, cheese, and processed foods like ready-made meals, it’s no wonder you’d save a ton by taking those expensive items off your weekly list.
That alone is a pretty great reason to start eating vegan, but when you also learn how eating vegan benefits your health, the environment and helps our animal friends, it’s hard to not wanna start eating vegan.
But, a word of warning here….what you replace those things with matters a lot when you’re wanting to improve your health and save money at the store.
How Budget Meal Planning on a Vegan Diet Works
The key to eating vegan on a budget though comes down to 3 things:
Eat as close as possible to whole plant foods
Eat in season as much as possible
Eat starches and whole grains for the base of your meals
Let’s break each step down a little bit so you know exactly how you can eat well on a vegan diet and save money while you do it!
Eat as Close as Possible to Whole Plant Foods
When we process a food, that takes effort, inputs (different additives), and packaging to hold that new food.
Companies who process the food need to pay to source it, pay their workers, and pay for the added ingredients and packaging used to create this new processed food.
Plus, there are all sorts of behind the scenes costs companies pay like taxes, business overhead and payments to merchants to stock their products.
These costs of producing the processed item, plus the profit the company wants to make are then passed onto the consumer. Otherwise, the company wouldn’t make any money from the new food they just created.
When we eat a close as possible to food in its original form, then we are cutting out the extra payments made to companies to process this food for us.
A bag of potatoes is far cheaper than what we would pay for that same amount of potato chips.
Eating Whole Foods is Healthier
Eating whole plant foods is much easier on our budget, but it’s also a lot easier on our bodies.
Our bodies have developed over time to be able to easily digest whole plant foods.
The new processed foods that have high sugar, fat, and salt content are just not good for us.
And our body tells us that too by feeling bloated, gaining weight, and having sugar highs and lows, and cravings.
Eat in Season as Much as Possible
I’m writing this post right now at the end of February.
Where I live, we are still in the dead of winter.
It’s impossible to grow fresh food here at this time without an indoor growing space or heated greenhouse.
That means if we want watermelon, strawberries, melons or an other warm weather crop, we need to import it.
So, for me, when I go to the grocery store to buy fresh produce, I need to stick to foods that are inherently less expensive like bananas, apples and oranges.
A 1-pound container of fresh strawberries was $7.99 CAD yesterday ?.
That doesn’t mean we only eat apples, bananas, and oranges throughout the winter here though.
Instead, I switch to frozen.
Often, you’ll get significantly more for your dollar-especially when it comes to greens like spinach and kale.
Eating Frozen Foods is Healthy
Get the most nutrition budget meal planning on a vegan diet by using frozen foods.
Frozen foods are picked at the height of ripeness. All of their delicious flavors are sealed in when they are first quickly blanched then flash frozen.
Quick tip: I love adding frozen kale, peas, corn, and broccoli to soups and stews because they cool it down right before serving.
There has never been a more convenient healthy food than frozen fruits and vegetables.
They don’t go bad, and they are a fraction of the cost of fresh.
Eat Starches and Whole Grains for the Base of Your Meals
Even if you’re eating in season and eating a lot of frozen fruits and veggies, when you make those the base for most meals, your grocery bill will still climb.
Instead, lets take a look at how the majority of the world eats.
Most of the world’s population live in second and third world countries.
“Two-thirds of the world population live on less than 10 $-int per day. And every tenth person lives on less than 1.90 $-int per day.”
Many of these cultures have relied on plant-based diets for years out of necessity.
Some of the cheapest foods you can buy are rice, oats, beans, lentils, and potatoes.
When you make these foods the base for your meal and you add in nutrition from your fruits and vegetables, you’ve got a winning combination for your wallet and your health.
How to Meal Plan a Vegan Diet on Budget for the Week
I’ve created a video and blog post all about the method I use to meal plan a balanced vegan diet here.
It’s all about choosing your favorite plant-based proteins first, then planning around those based on what you have on hand and what’s on sale at the store.
This little nugget of info will help you put theory into practice, so be sure to read/watch it next!
So, as you can see, eating vegan is not more expensive than eating a standard American or Canadian diet, when you plan it properly.
It all comes down to what foods you use to swap out your meat, dairy and eggs.
So why all the fuss? Why does everyone think eating vegan is only for the rich?
Circling back to our chat about processed foods.
The same is true for processed vegan foods as it is for processed non-vegan foods.
The more steps involved in the processing, the more expensive the item becomes.
But, there is another principal that comes into play here when we are talking about expense and vegan processed foods:
Supply & Demand
Because veganism isn’t as widely adopted by society as a Standard American or Canadian diet, our processed products tend to be exponentially higher than similar items that are not vegan.
Take a look at ice cream for example.
If you go to the store right now and look at Coconut Bliss ice cream (super delicious BTW).
Their ice cream sells for $1.79/100g.
It’s a smaller company than the big players like Breyers who clock in at only $0.36/100g.
There’s Never Been a Better Time to Go Vegan
But, even though Coconut Bliss is still considerably higher than Breyers, the cool thing about going vegan now is that these big companies are starting to realize that dairy isn’t going to be around for much longer.
They are diversifying to save their companies.
And now, we have amazing non-dairy ice cream flavors from the big players like Breyers, Haagen Daze, and Ben & Jerry’s
Today, Breyers Non-Dairy Cookies & Cream flavor is on sale for only $0.24/100g.
If your wallet has room, than I would advocate for supporting the grassroots vegan companies over the big names who wanna cash in on the trend, but I wanted to show you that you can still eat a delicious, varied vegan diet on budget-for the same or less than what you were paying at the grocery store before becoming vegan.
How Much Money Could You Save by Going Vegan?
Now that you know budget meal planning on a vegan diet is possible, and I wanna know how much you’ll save!
Look up your favorite foods at your store right now…is there a vegan option?
Is it more expensive or less than what you would normally pay?
Can you swap it out with a healthier, whole-food choice?
Megan Kerry is a Vegan Lifestyle Educator and Licensed Practical Nurse. Her content focuses on vegan recipes and ethical living. She is a mom of four children, a long time vegan, and an even longer time foodie. She loves veganizing any and all dishes and sharing her recipes and lifestyle tips with all of you!