Vegan on a shoestring

Vegan on a shoestring

Photo by Mei Ying Chan

Over the years I have been surprised by how many omnivores declare that being vegan ‘would be too bloody expensive.’ I always respond with: “however much a healthier diet costs me now won’t be nearly as expensive as your hospital and medication bills later in life.” Whilst a little cheeky, this is indeed a truth bomb. There’s no denying the myriad health benefits that come along for the ride when you choose to embrace a compassionate lifestyle — enormously reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and Type 2 diabetes just to name a few.

Admittedly, if you have a diet jam-packed with endless blocks of raw chocolate, the latest trending superfoods, and imported cheese and meat substitutes then your wallet is going to take a savage beating. But most healthy vegan diets will view these items as occasional treats and the rest of the grocery bill is unlikely to have a higher total than that of an omnivore’s. In fact if you’re a student or a low-income family on a tight budget, going vegan can even save you money.

So let’s look at dispelling the myth around veganism being an expensive lifestyle choice with some quick and dirty tips for budget-friendly shopping.

Build your diet around whole foods

Fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds are the staples of a balanced vegan diet. And they are cheap! Yes sir-ee. If you avoid pre-packaged foods and focus on filling your basket with these health-boosting whole foods you’ll not only have more change in your pocket you’ll have more spring in your step too.

Go local — grow your own or find your local farmers’ market
It doesn’t get more local than your own backyard. The idea of growing your own produce may seem daunting but it’s simpler than you think. It’s easy to start small with a couple of pots and some herb seedlings and, with a little experimentation, in no time at all you’ll be developing a Shrek-sized green thumb. It is also worth doing some online research to find out where and when your closest farmers’ markets are. They usually fall on a particular week in the month and they are a great way to support your local farmers as well as get fresh, affordable and seasonal produce.

Get creative with fresh produce! (photo by Ricky, via Flickr)

Fruit and veg box schemes

Some fruit and vegetable box delivery schemes are expensive but some are also very affordable, especially if they forgo delivery to your doorstep for a neighbourhood collection point. This can be a cheaper way to get organic produce if you want to move away from the heavily-sprayed supermarket fruit and veg but balk at the prices at organic grocers.

Buy bulk
Volume purchase grains and legumes and you can save big dollars. These items have a very long expiry date, especially things like brown rice and dried beans. If you spot a ripper deal, buy a few packets and store them in air-tight glass jars in your pantry. Buying your nuts and seeds in bulk will always work out cheaper and you can actually freeze these, only pulling out what you need for the week ahead, to stop them from going rancid. If you find a store that has bulk bins then you’ve hit the jackpot. You can buy everything you need, from cous cous to lentils for a fraction of the packaged cost. Plus you can buy very small amounts of things like flours, herbs and spices that you use less often or only need for one recipe which not only saves wastage but also avoids adding to the environmental burden of all the plastic packaging. Hot tip: wash out every glass jar you buy sauces or spreads in and reuse it to store bulk bin items in the pantry.

Slow cook it
We associate the idea of slow cooked meals with gross hunks of meat but there are many vegan slow-cooker recipes out there. This is where your bulk bin items can really come up a treat. You can throw your ingredients in as you brush your teeth in the morning and by the time you get home from work your house can be smelling like a Mexican fiesta or Indian curry house! You can make dahls, stews, baked beans, soups, chillies or even heavenly overnight oatmeal brews while you sleep. It all goes in one pot, it saves you time and most importantly it saves you big bucks.

Don’t fear the freezer
Once you’ve skipped out to your backyard to pluck some homegrown basil and rip out some kale, and thrown your farmers’ market produce and bulk bin bargains into your slow cooker too, you’ll have more food than you know what to do with. This is where your freezer becomes your best bud. Keep containers of different meals in your freezer, ready for work lunches or nights when you don’t have the time to cook but don’t want to waste money on take-out. You can also freeze excess bread, fruit or items that are glutting in your garden. Waste not, want not.

The Vegan Box
TVB can help you save $$$ too! Your monthly box offers you samples of the newest and best vegan products so you can try them without committing to buying full or larger packets of the items. Once you’re sure you love them then you can shell out for them regularly. Your Vegan Box often has discount vouchers and special offers on different snacks and beauty products too! Savings, homies.

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