Vegans get asked a lot of questions about the lifestyle, but one that comes up time after time is, “Isn’t living on a vegan diet expensive?”.
Well, we’re happy to report that it really isn’t. Not only that, we’ve gone and made a list of 15 fabulous foods that prove you can live perfectly well on a vegan diet without breaking the bank.
Let’s take a look at these fabulously frugal foodstuffs!
When people think of veganism, lentils are often the first thing that springs to mind. In spite of being something of a joke to non-vegans, lentils are actually a really cheap, nutritious and versatile ingredient.
As lentils are usually bought dried, you can buy them in bulk to save money and keep them in your kitchen cupboard for long periods of time to make lots of tasty meals. Plus, there are many different varieties of lentils that each have their own texture and flavor, including red, yellow, green, puy and brown lentils.
You can use these little packages of goodness in a multitude of ways each and every day if you wish as they are a fantastic ingredient for use in soups, stews, sauces and curries.
As non-meat eaters, vegans need to find alternative sources of protein and lentils are a great choice. And, as an extra bonus, they’re also high in dietary fiber, too.
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Many vegans find that mushrooms add some substance and texture to their meals. There are plenty of varieties to choose from, too, with each having their own flavor.
Portobello mushrooms are good for stuffing or topping with your favorite ingredients while shiitake mushrooms are a tasty addition to stir-fries. Using a mixture of different varieties will allow you to make a cheap, flavorsome and filling soup, risotto, or even a vegan stroganoff.
Although mushrooms are low in calories, they are an excellent source of minerals and B vitamins. Therefore, adding a few mushrooms to your meals regularly will help you meet the daily nutritional requirements for a healthy and balanced diet. (1)
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When it comes to versatility, tomatoes are a must have ingredient for vegans as there are so many dishes that they can be used in. Soups, sauces, pasta dishes, curries, salads, homemade ketchups, and many more recipes all benefit from the addition of tomatoes.
The cheapest way to get this ingredient is to grow them yourself. Don’t worry, you won’t need green fingers or a large garden to manage this as they are one of the simplest plants to grow and care for. You can even grow the smaller varieties in pots on your windowsill.
Consider buying the tinned tomatoes as well as fresh tomatoes as these can be bought in bulk cheaply and stored until needed. Sun-dried tomatoes are a little more expensive, but they add a sweet and rich flavor that is completely different. They are a great way to bring depth to meals and salads.
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This group of food gives you so many more options than the regular tin of baked beans in tomato sauce!
Beans are part of the legume family and they’re an ingredient that you can stock up on in bulk at minimal cost. Across the globe, more than 40,000 varieties of beans are produced, though not all of these are mass produced for human consumption.
Runner beans, green beans and broad beans are some of the most common varieties to buy fresh and you can even grow these yourself at home just like tomatoes, if you wish. Common tinned and dried varieties include kidney, navy (haricot), butter, mung and pinto beans.
The list of things you can do with beans is almost endless, but some suggestions include bean burgers, tacos, stews, soups, dips, and rice dishes. All of which can be made cheaply, keeping the cost of your vegan diet down to a minimum.
Rice can be used both as the main part of a meal or as an accompaniment to the main dish. Buying in bulk is advised as larger bags will cost a lot less than buying smaller bags regularly.
Wholegrain rice is the healthier option and is a good alternative to serving meals with potatoes. This fabulous grain works particularly well with spicy dishes and it can often be found accompanying curries and other dishes that are full of flavor.
A further benefit of always having rice in your cupboard is that it is a great ingredient for rustling up a quick meal when you are in a hurry and need something filling to eat fast without making your vegan diet expensive.
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Like lentils, tofu comes high on the list of ingredients associated with veganism. Contrary to popular non-vegan belief, you don’t have to like it to survive as a vegan!
What people do not necessarily realize is that there is more than one variety of tofu available and each type is suited to making different types of food.
Soft and smooth tofu is ideal for creating smoothies while firm pieces of tofu are fantastic for savory dishes as a replacement in meals where non-vegans would add meat.
If you’re still not convinced, check out out tofu recipes roundup for inspiration.
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Nuts are a good source of nutrients, such as protein, unsaturated fats and essential vitamins and amino acids (check out our Best BCAA article if you’re looking to build muscle). They are great for snacking on or for adding texture to your meals, both sweet and savory.
Unfortunately, many nuts are expensive to buy, but opting to purchase larger quantities can bring the price down somewhat. The good news is that you really don’t need all that many each day to make a difference to your health.
Just a handful is plenty to get you a whole host of nutrients and goodness, and that amount won’t make your vegan diet expensive.
This should be a staple store cupboard ingredient and making the effort to learn how to make a range of bread products will save you a lot of money in the long run.
This doesn’t have to mean baking loaves of bread each day; there are many quick flour-based recipes you can use to create items such as flatbreads, naan bread, wraps, soft and hard pretzels, pasta, bagels, and homemade vegan pizza bases. (To find out more about vegan breads, check out this post: Is Bread Vegan? What Types of Bread Can Vegans Eat?)
It is possible to use each of these as the basis for creative and fun vegan meals, proving that the stereotype of vegans eating nothing but lentils and tofu is wide of the mark. Whole wheat flour is the healthiest and nutritious option, so try to use this whenever possible. (2)
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Whether you are a meat eater, a vegetarian a pescatarian or a vegan, potatoes are often a staple ingredient in most people’s diets. One of the cheapest ingredients available, there are a great many varieties to try and each of these are suitable for different types of cooking.
When served as an accompaniment, potatoes are typically either mashed, boiled, roasted, chipped, fried or baked. However, to maintain a healthy lifestyle, your cooking choices should always try to minimise the amount of oil that you use wherever possible.
Using potatoes as an ingredient is a great way of adding carbohydrates to a meal and also of adding bulk to a dish. They are particularly useful for adding some substance to soups and stews.
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Sweet potatoes are a colorful and tasty alternative to using white potatoes, and they are absolutely jam packed with goodness, too. Just 1 cup (200 grams) of baked sweet potato provides you with over half your vitamin C for the day and DOUBLE the amount of vitamin A that you need! (3)
Cubed and roasted, baked, boiled, spiralized, or mashed; whichever way you choose to cook these, you will enjoy a delicious and filling dish that proves the vegan diet needn’t be expensive.
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Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables and are just as tasty whether you eat them raw or cooked. Not only are they full of minerals and vitamins, they also make a meal more visually appealing as they add a splash of color to the plate.
Roasting chunks of carrot in a little oil releases the sweetness and is a tasty alternative to simply boiling. Carrots are also a good ingredient to use in salads, veggie burgers, casseroles, soups and stir-fries. Avoid buying packs of pre-prepared carrots as these are often expensive and use excess packaging.
If you are a large family and you eat carrots on a regular basis, then buying a sack directly from the farmer is the cheapest option. However, avoid doing this if you are only cooking for one as you will end up wasting many of the carrots. Instead, buy unwashed carrots from a local farmers market whenever possible.
Kale, spinach, collard greens and cabbage are also absolutely packed with essential nutrients, so vegans should try to include these in their diet as much as possible.
When these are in season, you can buy them surprisingly cheaply. Many people simply boil green leafy vegetables, but this is not necessarily the best way to enhance the flavors of these ingredients nor get the most out of them nutritionally. Instead, try to get creative in the ways that you use them and try combining them with different flavors.
They are fabulous in burgers, wraps, sandwiches, salads and, best of all, raw in smoothies. Greens also work well in pasta dishes and are delicious when sautéed and tossed in a tiny amount of olive oil and lemon juice.
Try to think outside the box when using your green leafies and you’re sure to enjoy some amazing results that won’t make your vegan diet expensive.
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New vegans are often worried that their food will lack taste and flavor.
Thankfully, there are endless options for ways in which a vegan can add different levels of flavor to their food and one of the best and cheapest of these is the much loved chilli pepper.
Ranging from mild to eye watering, chillies add heat to any dish and can even be used to liven up salad dressings and dips. Dried chilli powder is another really cheap store cupboard ingredient that you can add to almost anything when you require a spicy kick to liven up meal times.
Another cheap ingredient that can transform the taste of a dish is garlic and the amount you use in your meals will determine the level of the flavor in the dish.
Garlic is an ingredient that is used in many different cuisines internationally, including Italian, French, Indian, Chinese, Thai and Spanish to name but a a few.
To create dishes in the style of your favorite cuisine, try combining the garlic with a range of herbs and spices. Or, how about grinding together a little bit of salt and a few cloves of garlic in a mortar and pestle to make your very own garlic paste?
Experiment with what works well together and create dishes that are tailored to meet your individual tastes and preferences.
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If you prefer to buy ingredients in bulk as part of your frugal vegan lifestyle, then rolled oats are an essential ingredient to include on your shopping list.
Rolled oats are a healthy alternative to processed cereals at breakfast time and you have the option of adding various fruits to create different tasting breakfasts each day.
If you enjoy baking, then rolled oats are a useful item to have in your store cupboard so that you can make super healthy breakfast bars, cookies and cakes.
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See, following a vegan diet doesn’t have to be expensive!
So, there you have it, 15 foodstuffs that knock the Is a healthy vegan diet expensive? question out of the park. There are dozens of other cheap things that can adorn your pantries, let us know your absolute must-haves in the comments section below!
About The Author:
Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.
Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!
- Weight Loss Resources | How Many Calories in Mushrooms | https://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/calories-in-food/veg/mushrooms.htm
- Mayo Clinic Staff | Whole grains: Hearty options for a healthy diet | https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/whole-grains/art-20047826
- SELF Nutrition Data | Sweet Potato | https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2667/2