Will going vegan break the bank?

There are many myths about veganism floating around, but the idea of going vegan as a more expensive choice than eating a meat diet is one of the most pervasive. People frequently dismiss veganism for this reason, saying that they can’t afford to go on a vegan diet. However, vegans usually counteract the claim, saying that veganism can actually be a cheaper choice, and is even less restricted than people might think.

Check out what a vegan living in Bulgaria has to say about this:

Who’s in the right? VegiFact investigates:

Vegan substitutes

‘Vegan’ or ‘Vegetarian’ sections in the supermarket are a big part of the perception that veganism is more expensive. Although plain tofu is pretty cheap, some brands of flavoured tofu, veggie burgers and sausages and other ‘mock meat’ products can look expensive, especially when they’re grouped together in their own section in neat packaging. Soy dairy products— like soy cheese and non-dairy yoghurt— are also pretty pricey compared to the dairy versions.

However, two facts are often overlooked:

1. Meat is pretty expensive too, people!
2. It’s not only products in the ‘Vegetarian’ or ‘Vegan’ sections that are actually vegetarian or vegan.

CC by ratexla

CC BY NC 20.2 by ratexla

This second point seems pretty obvious, but comments like “Doesn’t going vegan really restrict your diet?” betray that it is forgotten more often than not. Obviously, fresh fruit and vegetables are vegan— and whether you’re a meat-eater or not, there should be plenty of them in your diet! Keeping an eye on specials and what’s seasonal can help keep costs down hugely in this area. What’s more, the basis of many great vegan meals can be found in grains and beans. Cans of beans are often on special for less than a dollar, and grains and rice can be bought in bulk for extremely cheap prices. If you’re savvy about using the bases to create great meals with the addition of some seasonal vegetables and the use of some basic sauces, you could be on the right track to cheap vegan eating.

(For a better idea of the HUGE amount of food options you have even when vegan, check out our recipes page here.)

Eating out

While most restaurants have vegetarian options these days, going vegan can be a little more difficult. Thankfully, vegan or vegetarian options are usually a little cheaper than the meat on the menu, or at least around the same price, when eating out for dinner.

Fast food is a little different. Places like McDonalds, KFC and Burger King have very few vegan options, and sell meaty snacks at super low prices. Although they might have vegan options on offer (think McDonald’s salads, sans meat, with dairy-free dressing) they are often more expensive than the cheap meat option (your classic Big Mac or cheeseburger).

CC by Rain Rabbit

CC BY NC 20.2 by Rain Rabbit

Coffee is also a killer in this regard, with soy milk often costing 50 cents to a dollar more than dairy. While this is obviously frustrating for vegans (not to mention the lactose intolerant!) there seems little indication that coffee shops will change this anytime soon. (Except, apparently, for Muffin Break.) This is in part due to the cost of barista soy milk (generally a dollar or two more expensive than usual soy)  and part due to the fact it’s a widely accepted extra charge that most vegans are used to. You could make a coffee at home instead, or maybe just try tea— it’s only the most unsympathetic of places which charge extra for a dash of soy in tea.

Time poor?

One common experience among vegans is that it requires a bit more creativity with cooking than a non-restricted diet. You can’t just cook up a different kind of meat each night for variety— you need to have a repertoire of various things to do with tofu and vegetables, or things could get a little repetitive.

If you’re time poor, this could be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Cooking and freezing meals in advance is a great vegan tip for those who don’t want to be caught short with either nothing or an expensive option. There are also plenty of cheap vegan snacks you can quickly prepare and eat on the go— try buying nuts or dried fruit in bulk and sorting them into snack sized packets the Sunday night before your week starts, or quickly slather vegan nut butter and Vegemite on Vitaweats or another kind of vegan cracker.

Ah, Vitaweats— my vegan saviour.

Ah, Vitaweats— my vegan saviour.

VegiFact Verdict 

Going vegan does not have to be more expensive than a meat diet. Sure, your shopping basket could end up more pricey if you buy the vegan alternatives to all things animal, like non-dairy milk, vegan chocolate, cheese and yoghurt, and mock meat. You’ve got to be savvier, and prepared to put in a bit of time to make sure you’re never caught having to fork out $10+ for a vegan lunch if you don’t have time to pack a salad sandwich. However, if you’re organised and steer clear of convenience stores, you could keep the overall cost of your groceries from ballooning AND be animal friendly.

Head here for To Bean Or Not To Bean’s tips on becoming a vegan in Sydney. You could also check out this post on Alternet, which has 8 tips for cheap vegan eating.

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