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. 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!
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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