One of the first things you’re likely to be asked when you’ve told someone that you’re eating a plant-based diet is, “doesn’t that cost more?” In fact, this question isn’t exclusive to vegans, and anyone who proclaims to eat a healthy and balanced diet will have no doubt been asked this question.
A quick Google of this query returns an article from the NHS, breaking down exactly why the belief that unhealthy food is cheaper, is so widely held. A study was conducted by the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia, using UK government data from 2002 to 2012, to discover how the costs of healthy & less healthy foods change over time. The NHS article explains,
“Prices were assessed per 1,000 calories, as this is a standard way of assessing food poverty. However, as healthier foods tend to have a much lower energy density (fewer calories per gram) than less healthy foods, this measure may not always give a realistic comparison of different food choices you might buy.”
Consumers don’t shop ingredients by calories, we shop by quantity and weight to cook comprehensive & balanced meals! The point here is that, just because a reputable study has found that healthy foods cost more per calorie than unhealthy foods, this does not mean eating healthily is expensive. Check out this article that explains how foods from the same group, compared by weight, can offer a more meaningful measurement. With this debate put to bed, let’s dive into how you can save money when eating a vegan diet!
13 Ways You Can Save by Going Vegan
Here are our top tips and observations for how you can save money on a vegan diet:
- You’ll Buy More Wholefoods
Meat-style substitutes may not be cheap, but real meat isn’t cheap either. This is caused by the cost that goes into processing these products. For example, to create a beef burger a cow needs to have been bought, housed, fed, watered and slaughtered and in between all of this, there’s often the added cost of antibiotics. Wholefoods, which are essentially just plant foods that have been processed as little as possible (if at all), do not have such complex needs as living, breathing animals & so these are often much cheaper for consumers to buy. This can be true for other processed foods – for example, instead of buying frozen chips just buy potatoes to chop, season and roast. This is cheaper, healthier and you could batch cook and freeze them to eat later!
- Saving Tip: Avoid Cooking Fad ‘Hipster’ Dishes
We know, you want to try that fancy veggie bowl with watermelon radish, purple cauliflower and broccoli sprouts… but realistically, will you be able to use these ingredients for other dishes in your repertoire? As delicious as some specialist ingredients can be, you often have to travel far and wide to find a shop that stocks what you’re looking for. You don’t need to change who you are and sacrifice your time & money to eat a varied and tasty vegan diet. If you find yourself buying an unusual ingredient for a dish you’ve set your heart on, try to choose other recipes for the rest of the week that also need it, if you think it’s likely to go off quickly.
- You’ll Become More Creative when Cooking
There’s no doubt that veganism has never been easier, but the ‘convenience’ element still has a long way to go. Any vegan who has switched from being an omnivore or a vegetarian will know the horror of realising just how often you’ll find milk and eggs lurking in your favourite staples. A vegan diet will help you to become resourceful and to master the art of using what you have. Chickpeas are a perfect example of this – use your chickpeas to provide a delicious and vital source of protein for your meal, and save the water from the tin to make aquafaba (a whipped cream substitute) to use in baking.
- Saving Tip: Grow Your Own Windowsill Food
You probably have a few staple foods that you absolutely love having in your meals on a weekly basis – so why not grow them yourself? Did you know that you can save kitchen scraps and plant them to grow your very own veg in your kitchen? Our favourites are Lettuce, Celery, Tomatoes and Bell Peppers. Coming Soon: our how-to video guide for making your own windowsill garden.
- You’ll Feel Full for Longer
Steven Witherly, a food scientist who published a report on Why Humans Like Junk Food, references a fascinating observation on why we never feel full when eating junk. Witherly uses the phrase ‘vanishing caloric density’ to describe the behaviour of foods that ‘melt in the mouth’, and hence trick the brain into consuming more food and at a faster rate. Wotsits (Cheetos for our visitors across the pond) are a perfect example of this phenomenon. Cooking real food and eating healthier, less processed plant-based snacks, will leave you feeling fuller for longer, and with any luck you’ll be making fewer trips to the shop.
- Saving Tip: Buy from Farmers Directly
By shopping at a farmers’ market, you’ll be cutting out the supermarket profit margin altogether. It’s a widely held belief that food at farmers’ markets are more expensive than at supermarkets, but studies in both the UK and the US have found this not to be the case at all. The PPS (Project for Public Spaces) in the States conducted a study in 2009, and discovered that farmers’ markets can actually work as a strategy to improve access to healthy food for low-income families and communities. UK Research conducted for the Mayor’s London Food Board found that fresh produce can be up to a third cheaper than at local supermarkets. So shop local to support your community and save yourself a little extra – everybody wins!
- You Could Save on Healthcare
This one entirely depends on the person, as health & wellbeing are not always related to diet. However, according to the British Medical Association, the burden of diet-related ill health in the UK is estimated to lead to 70,000 premature deaths annually. Provided you’re mostly eating balanced meals bursting with vitamins & minerals, instead of just relying on vegan fast food, you’re bound to be saving money on medicine and ultimately helping to relieve the strain on the healthcare system.
- Saving Tip: Shop In-Season
Not only does shopping in-season cut down on food waste, but it also saves you money! Buying your food in-season means buying when there’s the highest supply and demand, and this in turn keeps the farming and distribution costs low. This tip often goes hand-in-hand with buying directly from farmers’ markets, as that’s where you’ll see all the in-season produce.
- Bigger Portions Mean You’ll Buy in Bulk
One of the best things about eating foods that are less dense in calories is that you can eat loads! Eating bigger portions means you’ll need to buy in bulk more often. Buying items in bulk is a sure-fire way to save money, and what’s more, you’ll save time from making fewer trips to the shop.
- Saving Tip: Treat Yourself to a Vegan Subscription Box
This tip really depends on your eating habits, as everyone knows that a deal is only a deal if you were buying the item anyway. Subscription boxes can be an unnecessary luxury if you find you’re simply paying more money for stuff that doesn’t increase your happiness or wellbeing, but if shopped correctly they can make your life a whole lot easier. We think these boxes are best for when you’re just starting out! The Goodness Project is fab, because for just £8.50, you receive a box full to the brim with vegan snacks with a much higher collective retail value – you save money and have a stash of snacks to take with you on-the-go.
- You’ll Plan Ahead More – Saving Money AND Time
Conscientious eaters make conscientious shoppers! Although shops and cafes are working to provide more delicious vegan options, you can’t always guarantee you’ll find exactly what you want. This can be used to your advantage to help you save money and time. Does your go-to corner shop only stock crisps containing milk? No problem – buy a multi-pack of dairy-free crisps in your next grocery shop and stash them at work for when you’re feeling peckish. Planning ahead means you’ll rarely go hungry and you’ll save money by avoiding impulsive purchases – plus you’ll save a bunch of time by having food at the ready.
- Saving Tip: Buy Tinned & Frozen Food
The word ‘fresh’ has so many positive connotations, it’s no wonder we still associate fresh fruit and vegetables with the picture of health and wellbeing. As agriculture has changed, due to a growing population, so has the meaning of ‘fresh’. Many Dietitians have explained that fresh fruit and veg in the supermarket is actually not so fresh at all – due to the preserving processes and long time spent in transit. According to Healthline, fresh produce is picked before it is ripe, giving it less time to develop essential vitamins and minerals. Not only do fresh foods lose nutritional value faster than frozen foods, but the processes of preserving and transporting them quickly drives the cost up. Buying frozen and tinned options wherever possible will ensure you’re spending less and that you’re giving your body the best chance at receiving the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it needs in order to thrive. Just remember to check tinned food for pesky added salt!
- Meals are Quicker to Prepare
This one is perhaps more of a time-saver than it is a money-saver, although you’re bound to save a little on your utilities due to shorter cooking times & easier clean up! A lot of meat and dairy products are greasy and leave residue that can be difficult to clean – for example, animal fat should never be tipped down the sink. Meat can take hours of preparation and cooking time, to make sure it’s cooked through to avoid food poisoning, whilst vegan food simply doesn’t come with this risk. Plus, if you decide to eat more raw foods for the health benefits (Sushi Bowl Recipe Coming Soon), then there will be foods in your diet where you don’t even have to cook – saving on things like your gas & water bills, oils for frying and simply freeing up your time to do the things you love.
I hope you’ve enjoyed finding out how veganism can save you money, as well as new eating, shopping & cooking habits you can adopt to make your life a little smoother.
Do you have any tips to add? Let me know in the comments 🙂