Vegan on a Budget: Money-Saving Tips from The Stingy Vegan

Are you a vegan on a budget? That’s great, welcome to The Stingy Vegan Blog! The whole idea behind this blog is to dispel the myth that eating a vegan or plant-based diet is expensive. It’s absolutely not! No matter the fatness of your wallet, a vegan diet is appropriate for you!

The key to eating vegan on a budget is simple: eat whole foods that are in season, cook at home when you can and take the time for a little bit of planning. Below I've compiled a list of some of my personal experiences of eating vegan on a budget and my favourite money-saving tips and tricks.

The key to eating vegan on a budget is simple: eat whole foods that are in season, cook at home when you can and take the time for a little bit of planning. Below I’ve compiled a list of some of my personal experiences of eating vegan on a budget and my favourite money-saving tips and tricks. Most of these tips you may already be familiar with or are intuitive; I mean, we’re grocery shopping, it’s not rocket science amiright?

Once you’ve read through my tips here, feel free to peruse the recipes on this blog. I’ve calculated the total cost and cost per serving of each recipe. Obviously, the cost to you will not be exactly the same as for me, we’re not roommates or lovers (do you wanna be?), but you’ll see that by practising what I preach, I manage to cook a variety of delicious meals that are more than just beans and rice and all for under two bucks a serving.

Stock up when items are on sale


Cook beans from dry

Yeah, I know it’s a pain in the ass to remember to soak them the night before and simmer them for hours, but dried beans are much cheaper and a bag will last you longer. The good news is that cooked beans can be frozen, so why not cook up a big batch on Sunday and freeze them for the rest of the week?

My usual weeknight meal when I’m too tired to cook is a grain- and bean-based salad with whatever bits of veggies I have lingering in the fridge. It’s a great way to use up leftovers before they go rotten and a filling dinner. Simply cook up your favourite grain, defrost a container of beans and mix with the veggies and a simple vinaigrette.

The other added bonus of cooking beans from scratch is the preservative-free aquafaba you’ll have as a by-product. Aquafaba is a vegan egg replacer for desserts such as meringue and condiments like mayonnaise. Once my beans are cooked, I pour the cooking liquid into ice cube trays to freeze. Then I transfer it to a ziplock baggie for longer storage. To make vegan mayo, I simply defrost three (one tablespoon each) ice cubes and blend with half a cup of oil and whatever seasonings I feel like: garlic, lemon juice, sriracha, chipotle, etc.

Make your own condiments

Vegan mayo isn’t the only condiment that’s super easy to make, you can also make your own salad dressings, spice mixes (garam masala is way better made from scratch) and nut butters. BTW, have you tried fermenting? It’s my new favourite thing! With just 10 minutes of preparation and a few days to let it do it’s thing, you can have fresh sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented beets, or basically fermented whatever, to add to flavour to salads, soups, bowls, sandwiches and avocado toast! Check out Cultures for Health for more ideas.

Shop at Asian markets

Asian markets are great for big blocks of tofu, rice, noodles, soy sauce, miso, and coconut milk, all at better prices than supermarkets. Weirdly, the Asian supermarket is also where I get the best price on peanut butter (and the only place where I can get it without palm oil, so weird).

I go once a month to the Asian supermarket, buy several one pound blocks of tofu, cut them in half and freeze them in plastic containers (in water). Freezing also improves the texture of tofu, especially for marinating.

I also freeze coconut milk as buying one litre tetra bricks is cheaper than cans. I usually need just a cup for a coconut curry so I measure out the remainder into one cup increments and freeze them in separate plastic containers for my next curry.

Soy sauce and miso are my secret ingredients to add that savoury umami flavour to a host of dishes like vegetable soup, lentil taco “meat”, gumbo, etc. so I always buy the biggest bottle I can find.

Buy in bulk

This one is a no-brainer, bulk food stores and the bulk food section of supermarkets are almost always cheaper for beans, pasta, flours, and grains than pre-packaged products. Also, if you’ve got a recipe for an unfamiliar ingredient, you can buy exactly what you need rather than risk buying an entire package that just sits in your cupboard taking up space.

I have to admit that bulk food isn’t popular where I live (in Spain) and usually confined to trendy organic markets at exorbitant prices, so I don’t shop there. But when I’m in Canada once a year I go nuts at the Bulk Barn. Then I fill mine and my husband’s checked luggage with five-pound ziplock bags of semolina, barley, farro and freekeh. Oh, the things I’ll do so save a few cents!

Comparison shop

What could be more fun than spending your Saturday visiting all the grocery stores and markets in your neighbourhood? Okay, maybe not, but if you do it once you might learn something surprising.

Take a notepad and make a list of your staples: rice, pasta, beans, your favourite fruits and vegetables. Visit each store and note down the prices. You don’t have to visit all the stores in one day, just remember to bring your list and shop at a different place each time. You might suss out some better prices that you didn’t know were there!

I did this and discovered that two locations of the same veggie store five blocks apart had some very different prices, wtf!?!?

Also, check the price by weight if it’s displayed. You’ll find it can often be cheaper to buy the seemingly more expensive larger quantity. That’s where the next tip comes in.

Plan your meals in advance

Since it’s often cheaper to buy in larger quantities, make sure that you have a good repertoire of recipes lined up to use up any leftovers of perishable items. I try to make that easier for you in the Got Leftovers? section of each recipe I post. Check there for other recipes using one or several of the fresh ingredients listed in the recipe and use them up before they go bad.

Don’t buy “vegan” products

Seriously, your veggie ground round and Daiya cheese will run you into the ground (round, teehehe). That’s where the myth that eating plant-based is expensive comes from, but you don’t need those things! Here you are on my blog looking at recipes (hopefully) and cooking real food. The total cost and cost per serving is indicated at the top of each of my recipes (the price for me, it won’t be exactly the same where you live).

Most of the recipes I post on my blog are less than $2.00 per serving and I never use specialty vegan meat analogues or vegan cheese (I can’t even buy those here so I’ve got no choice). Now, that’s not expensive, is it? Of course, you don’t have to read my blog (but you should!), there are lots of great vegan blogs out there where you can learn new recipes and look at the pretty pictures. Minimalist Baker, Lauren Caris Cooks, Vegan Richa and Connoisseurus Veg are some of my favourite vegan blogs. Keep an open mind and try new things!

BTW, if dishes at less than $2.00 still seems expensive to you, you can make additional savings on many of my recipes by swapping out the more expensive items like avocado and asparagus for broccoli or spinach. Also, check out Darshana Thacker’s post on Forks Over Knives about eating vegan on $1.50 a day (albeit without much variety and lacking in fresh fruit and veg).

Grow whatever, wherever you can

Even if it’s just a couple pots of fresh herbs on your windowsill. Seriously, fresh herbs are expensive and go bad super fast – it’s much more economical to keep a couple of pots and pinch off what you need for a recipe. Just don’t forget to water (guilty!).

I live in an apartment and can’t have the garden that I dream of. Luckily, we have access to the roof so I build a one metre square box garden out of pallets that I picked up for free off the street. I get good crops of tomatoes, peppers, radishes, lettuce, kale and herbs up there and although it’s not a lot, nothing in the supermarket compares to the taste of a freshly picked ripe tomato!

You might be surprised by what you can grow in a pot and if you’ve got a small balcony, a window with a railing to hang a pot on, or a table in front of a sunny window you can experiment with growing your own food!

Forage like a bear!

It’s fun! When berries are in season go crazy. It makes absolutely no sense to spend $5 on a small punnet of berries when you can pick them off the bush for free. Recruit your partner, friends, children, etc. and make an afternoon of berry picking (just watch the thorns). You can freeze what you don’t use right away to throw into smoothies, muffins or crumbles throughout the year, or make jam – it will be the best tasting jam you’ve ever had!

If you live on a coastline, lucky you! You don’t have to shell out big bucks for fancy Asian seaweeds and powders that are all the rage right now. (If you’re skeptical of how versatile seaweed can be, be sure to check out the book Ocean Greens with 50 vegan seaweed recipes). If your neighbour’s got tomatoes, wait till it gets dark and hop the fence (just kidding…or am I?)

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  • Reply
    June 7, 2017 at 6:51 am

    Great Tips… I too am Cheap but never thought to check out the Asian markets for Peanut butter….who new!!! Great tip!!!

    • Reply
      June 7, 2017 at 10:26 am

      You can find wonderful and unexpected things at Asian supermarkets!

      • Reply
        July 1, 2018 at 12:15 pm

        Just found your page, thanks for the good advice. How about doing an article about what can be found at different kinds of Asian markets? Indian and Middle East markets have a lot of things that aren’t at East Asian markets and vice versa. Papadams , okra, amaranth, za*atar and chickpea flour add so much variety to my cooking.

        • Reply
          July 12, 2018 at 2:17 pm

          Good idea!

    • Reply
      August 23, 2017 at 10:25 am


  • Reply
    June 11, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    love these tips! i’m trying to get into making my own condiments (mostly in the interest of cutting out unnecessary sugars). do you have any ketchup and bbq sauce recipes you use?

    • Reply
      June 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

      I’ve tried a couple of bbq sauce recipes but haven’t found one that I really love yet. Sorry, no recommendations as of yet!

    • Reply
      Soraya Watkins
      January 28, 2018 at 8:34 pm

      avantgarde vegan has a ketchup one

  • Reply
    Solar cat
    July 1, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    Wonderful tips! I practice all of these except the Asian market which I will definitely now do! Thank you

  • Reply
    August 22, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    My family and I just went vegan. Newbie over here???? I want to grow some herbs. What herbs do you find yourself using most?

    • Reply
      September 1, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Probably basil and parsley 🙂

      • Reply
        April 27, 2018 at 1:42 pm

        parsley and coriander

  • Reply
    Angela Long
    March 2, 2018 at 12:03 am

    AWESOME tips! My mom complains that I pay way too much $$$ for my vegan life – style. I kinda do when I cook all the time. But it’s usually salads I’m eating! I know they get pricey when I buy Organic Girl……Love~ Obsessed with arugula, dandelion greens, Swiss chard, mache except SPINACH….uk.love crunch! Radish obsession!
    I’m going to use your tips and especially the Asian market for PB. I buy dried beans and canned chick peas if it’s 99 cents no more. I’m rexcited about using the aquafaba to make veganise. It takes a while to use up a jar unless I’m craving “Mock Tuna” never had it until this past summer. Better than the real… we are the real deal! Yep!
    Any tips on nuts? Should they be a bulk item? I use nuts everyday! Walnuts are a favorite. Is it to much when it’s buy 1 get one free? Hilary’s Root Veggie Burgers?
    Thank you so much. I’m so glad I found your blog! Please keep posting! I was wondering do you take B12 since we suppposedly don’t get what is needed?

    • Reply
      March 6, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      Yep, nuts can be a great bulk item as well. For me I get the best price on nuts at the Asian market but bulk food stores are my second choice when the Asian market doesn’t have what I need. Pretty much anything is cheaper than pre-packaged supermarket nuts! Yes, I take B12 and choose B12 fortified plant milks even though they’re a bit more expensive – better safe than sorry when it comes to your health.

    • Reply
      January 20, 2019 at 12:01 pm

      When it comes to nuts I buy 1kg bags and stick them in the freezer. I then make up a mixture by scooping out a cup full at a time and emptying them into a plastic food container which I keep beside me on the sofa. That way, when I’m feeling peckish I can just grab a handful of nuts rather than something less healthy.

  • Reply
    September 11, 2018 at 4:15 am

    Hello! I am so excited to see that you live in Spain, and eat vegan! I am in college, and will be studying in Spain Jan-July! Could you share some tips with me about how best to eat vegan there? Also what is it like eating out? Thanks!

    • Reply
      September 17, 2018 at 1:25 pm

      Get the Happy Cow app, it’ll show you all the vegan options in your area. If you’re in a big city, eating out will be much easier of course, but don’t be afraid to speak to the servers and see if the kitchen can make up something special for you. I’ve been surprised a few times to find restaurantes with entire vegan menus already prepared that they didn’t advertise at all!

  • Reply
    Kierstyn Taylor
    December 4, 2018 at 12:15 am

    I love these tips! I’m trying to be vegan right now but it’s really hard because I’m only 16. My parents can’t afford expensive foods and told me I’d have to either pay for it or find cheaper foods that work for me. I actually heard about this site after watching What the Health. Anyways thanks for the tips I’ll sure be informing my parents about them!

  • Reply
    January 20, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    “The other added bonus of cooking beans from scratch is the preservative-free aquafaba you’ll have as a by-product. ”

    Is this all beans? I’ve only heard of it being done with chickpeas.

    • Reply
      January 29, 2019 at 3:56 pm

      Yes, all beans. Chickpeas are the most common, though.

  • Reply
    Carol Wexler
    May 9, 2019 at 8:43 am

    I’m surprised you buy vegetable broth. Where I live it is expensive and not very appealing. So I started to make my own. Chopped lots of veggies and cooked them up. But what a lot of work and I hate to throw out cooked anything. So then I tried it the Happy Herbivore way which is to cook the scraps from cleaning and cutting veggies, great idea and cheap but it all tasted like garbage. I finally hit on a way to make great vegetable stock absolutely FREE and with almost no fuss. I save all the liquid from the vegetables that I cook in water. If the cooking liquid seems watery tasting I boiled it down for a more intense flavor. I keep the water in a receptacle in the freezer and keep adding to it . The veggie stock is in the freezer ready for use. Tips: Some vegetables may seem to produce strongly flavored liquid like cabbage and broccoli but when mixed with other vegetable liquids are no problem. Even a little kale water or spinach is ok. The best liquid from vegetable is corn. Even after the kernels are off the cob, the cobs can be boiled up and make a lovely broth. And it’s all a free byproduct of vegetable cooking.

  • Reply
    October 29, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    I always cook dry beans . . . but I never knew you could freeze the cooking juice to use as aquafaba. That just blew my mind- thank you!

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