How to Be Vegan On the Cheap

Truth time? Learning how to be vegan on a budget is not hard.

No matter what your story is, I get it: You want to live a vegan lifestyle – or at least attempt one–but money doesn’t grow on trees.

When you think about it, it’s no different than not wanting to blow your month’s salary at Whole Foods (there’s a reason they call it Whole Paycheck) or giving in to Two Buck Chuck instead of the good stuff. We all want to save cash where we can, but still eat well. This is a human desire, not just a vegan desire.

I started this blog with this idea in mind. When I made the switch to a plant-based diet, I had no clue how to be vegan and make it work with a budget. (Not to mention, I was living alone at the time. Trying to cook vegan meals for one? In a tiny kitchen without an oven or stove? Yeah. Let’s just say I got real creative with the microwave.)

But, being the resourceful, scrappy, raised-to-shop-the-discount-racks gal that I am, I figured it out. The revelation came after a few months of trial and error in the kitchen: I’m spending the same on groceries but still eating like a champ. Vegan isn’t that hard to do. Sweet.

Here are some tips I learned along the way:

Make one-pot dishes

One of the best ways to save money as a vegan is to make one-pot or casserole-type dishes. Salads and fancy, foo-foo meals with entrees and sides just don’t have lasting leftover power. Stick with vegan pasta, vegetables or rice-based casseroles. Add in some soy protein crumbles or vegan chicken cutlets for more protein. One of my favorite vegan meals is a zucchini baked ziti that’s under $10 to make and yields about 10-12 servings.

Buy online

The weird stuff you can’t find at your local store? Yeah, buy it online. Especially things like flours, nutritional yeast or other obscure vegan products (vegan marshmallows and graham crackers, hello!). Take advantage of discount sites like Vegan Cuts and Vegan Coupons. I love Whole Foods, but you can often find cheaper stuff if you scout the interwebs.

Stock essentials

Keep all the vegan essentials on hand, all the time: vegan cheese, tofu, pasta, non-dairy milk, fresh veggies, etc. I can’t tell you how many meals I whip up out of thin air when I just have the essentials on hand.

Scavenge Trader Joe’s

OK. I dig the farmer’s market as much as the next person, but Trader Joe’s is a poor vegan’s saving grace. They have so many vegan options. Pick up things like Earth Balance, pasta sauces, soy ice cream, nuts and veggie “meats” here at a much lower price point than Whole Foods or other places. You’ll save some dough that you can then spend on yourself.

Substitute

Don’t be afraid to substitute. If this control freak can learn it, so can you. Don’t have buckwheat flour? Use the regular stuff. Can’t afford vegan Parmesean? Use nutritional yeast. Don’t have tamari? Regular ol’ soy sauce will work. You’ll save money while still learning how to cook vegan. Go for progress, not perfection.

Don’t misunderstand – this is a process. Say it with me: p-r-o-c-e-s-s. You gotta keep tabs and be a smart little money saver. But I taught myself, and so can you. Come back to my blog for recipes and more inspiration. Once you learn how to be vegan on your budget, that’s where the fun begins.

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