It is a commonly held belief that it is cheaper to eat processed food than it is to consume a healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables.  But when we think about a vegan (or plant-based diet) versus a diet that contains animal products, it would be difficult for anyone to reason the former is more expensive than the latter, simply because meat, cheese, and other animal-derived products are relatively expensive when compared to other items in the average shopping trolley.  It is also true that some plant-based ingredients can be extremely expensive; pine nuts, for example.  So how can you eat a plant-based diet on a budget and mitigate the rising cost of food in your household?

Can you really eat a balanced vegan diet on a budget?

Yes, it is entirely possible to eat a balanced vegan diet on a budget with the correct strategy.  Buying ready-made vegan food in any form can significantly ramp up the family food budget, so preparing fresh meals based on whole foods is key.  The main reason that a plant-based diet can be achieved inexpensively is that whole foods are predominantly staples such as rice, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.  It is fair to say that some fruit and vegetables can be expensive, especially if not in season, but choosing items that are locally sourced and seasonal can reduce costs substantially.

How can you keep the cost of your vegan diet as low as possible?

Here are some tips for lowering your plant-based diet food budget:

  • Grow your own fruit and vegetables at home – and trade items with neighbours, friends, and family
  • Shop at an international food market for your staples – the prices for some items at large international markets will likely be substantially lower than your local supermarket
  • Buy in bulk – this link with the above tip, as ethnic supermarkets often have large bags of ingredients which work out much cheaper. This may require a larger initial outlay, but you will not need to replenish your stocks as often.  There are also an increasing number of zero-waste/packaging food shops on the high street selling everything from flour, rice, beans, and lentils to washing up liquid and dishwasher powder.
  • Buy frozen fruit and veg – this isn’t always cheaper, but depending on the time of year and the discount deals available, it may be. In addition, frozen fruit and veg can be kept for much longer while preserving flavour and nutrients
  • Avoid paying for expensive or known brands – by being brand agnostic, you can save a great deal of money each month

Where possible, one of the easiest ways to save money and eat a healthy vegan diet is to prepare simple large one-dish meals (e.g. a curry, casserole, or pasta bake) which can be used for more than one day (depending on the size of your family of course).  For example, a large curry consisting of potatoes, mushrooms, a couple of carrots, an onion, a tin of chopped tomatoes, some frozen peas, plus stock, spices, and rice will only cost a few pounds but can feed a large family, and most importantly it is packed with flavour and nutrients and can be made in 20 minutes.  Buying a takeaway or several ready meals would, by contrast, cost much more.

Need some Instagram inspiration?

There are a wealth of vegan Instagrammers who love to share their hints and tips on how to keep to a budget:

Final words

There is no limit to the number of resources online which will enable you to stick to a plant-based diet on a strict budget.   One excellent resource which has both meat and non-meat recipes is savings4savvymums.co.uk which includes a vegan shepherd’s pie for a total of £3.31, and stir-fry for the princely sum of £1.06.  For the recipes containing meat, you can easily use meat alternatives that are readily available from all supermarkets or remove that ingredient entirely.  Remember, eating a vegan plant-based diet need not be costly in the slightest; after all, you are removing some of the most costly elements – meat, cheese, and fish.

Alternatively, try our Recipe section which is dedicated to vegan cuisine; making tasty meat-free recipes for all budgets and occasions.  Try our Sweet Pasta Dessert with Strawberry Sauce, Vegan Chicken Teriyaki Over Noodles, or Cheesy Protein Pasta with Roasted Vegetables.

With some planning and by shopping around, bulk buying, and preparing one large meal for everyone, you can achieve some extremely impressive results and boost the health and wellbeing of your family at the same time.