Affordable Vegan Eating: Busting the Cost Myth

April 17, 2024

Today’s topic is affordability: one top-of-mind issue for many who are exploring a more plant-based diet.

The myth that vegan food isn’t affordable

Hand in hand with the myth that vegans don’t get enough protein (see our previous blog) is one that vegan food isn’t affordable. Today, we will explode this myth as well. We know that inflation has been particularly hard on food costs. Plant-based foods are not immune to these price increases. However, they have fared better than many non-vegan options (for example the Avian Flu has not only caused great suffering for birds, but it has raised prices for eggs and chickens). And there are ways to minimize the impact of inflation.

Beatrix Olson shares her tips for how to keep a vegan diet affordable 

Do more home cooking! Vegan foods such as rice, pasta, vegetables, and legumes are easy to afford. It’s easy to look for recipes online or in cookbooks to find something that piques your interest, without the financial stress.”

-Beatrix Olson

Eating whole plant-based food is key

Eating whole plant-based food is not only healthier but it can also help keep your costs down. Many packaged foods can be expensive, including yummy vegan versions. These can be kept as treats. Eating foods in their most intact form is often the cheapest option. That includes fruits, vegetables, and dried beans.

In this blog article, Jill Erickson of Rooted Green Wellness shares many tips to keep your plant-based diet more affordable. Spoiler: two big suggestions are buying dried legumes and frozen vegetables and fruits. And frozen is often even healthier because they are preserved at their peak. She also gives great tips on where to find cheaper groceries and how to minimize costs when you eat out.

Community input for how to eat affordably on a vegan diet

Be sure to check out the tips below from our community. They expand and personalize some of what we just outlined. We hope these tips will help you control your food expenses. And if you attend some of CAA’s events, you’ll have the opportunity to ask others how they are tackling the issue of affordable food. Since we are all confronted with inflation, you’re sure to get a lot of great tips. Hope to see you at one of our events soon. And free free to email us with any questions.

Input from our community:

  • Plan ahead to avoid food waste. Make meals ahead of time. -Stephanie Paquin
  • Shop at regular supermarkets for whole foods, make simple things with whole foods, minimize processed foods (whole foods are cheaper) and don’t really require much time to cook…… it’s less expensive than eating meat and taking health into account it’s really less expensive. -Don Price
  • Look for reduced price food that is otherwise fine but may be bruised or blemished. Plan your meals so you are not buying something that goes bad before you can use it. Lots of foods like beans, lentils, etc., can last for extended periods of time in their dehydrated state until they are ready to be cooked. -Roland Halpern
  • (Focus on) in-season produce and frozen produce as well as a well-stocked pantry with legumes and spices from around the world. -Juliet L. Hutchings
  • Embrace cooking! Use beans, lentils, tofu. Use recipes from vegan chefs (Isa Chandra Moskowitz is my favorite but there are many others). Vegan chefs know what they’re doing – I’ve found that vegan recipes are usually better than veganizing a recipe that originally contained animal products. -Nicola Philpott
  • Asian groceries usually have cheap tofu and may have cheap produce. I like to buy frozen fruit and vegetables to have on hand since they’re usually more affordable and will last a long time. I cook with mostly whole foods instead of processed vegan alternatives, which feels like it is more cost effective when I look at prices at the store. -Grace Prins
  • I would suggest farmers markets and community co-op garden spaces. Look around for opportunities to eat organic fruits and vegetables locally. -Kim Milligan
  • Buy staples like rice, beans, pasta, tofu, and baking supplies in bulk when you can. Meal planning can also help so you can use a big quantity of certain ingredients in different ways. -Catherine Krummey
  • The high dollar items are the least healthy… fake meats are a good “every now and then” option, but it’s near impossible to replicate a “meat and potatoes” diet with vegan processed substitutes. I cook lots of potatoes and tofu, which get easier to cook over time. -Micah Norman-Pace
  • I rely on staples like rice, noodles, tofu, beans, frozen/fresh fruit and vegetables. I love Asian grocery stores for good cheap produce, noodles and tofu. Buying the premade/processed vegan items and eating out sparingly as they can really add up. -Hannah Milos
  • Focus on whole foods over processed. Grains, beans, and frozen veggies are all super cheap. I like to cook soups, stews, and roasted veggies, in big batches and freeze the extras — an easy way to use up what you have and have meals ready to go later! Or prepare big batches of grains, veggies, beans, etc. and use them to create a variety of meals throughout the week — salads, grain bowls, wraps, etc. -Sara Beth Olson
  • (L)earning how to cook with beans and red lentils is super easy and very inexpensive. I get lentils at the Indian grocery store as well as large bags of rice.  One can learn to make a nice sized pot of vegetable lentil soup and a separate pot of rice; they stay good for many days in the fridge. One can warm up the soup and add some different spices or even a bit of tofurkey gravy or anything and each day you are eating the same basic thing but with a variation in the flavor. It is also incredibly simple to make things ahead of time.  I store many of these in the fridge and have a range of soups, chili, beans and such.  -Phil Martens
  • For egg replacement – try making chickpea flour omelet! A bag of Bob’s Red Mill chickpea flour is cheaper than a bottle of egg replacer and makes more servings. I like to buy a giant bag of raw cashews and then use that to make my own creamy sauces and cheeses instead of buying much vegan cheese. -Grace Prins

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