There is a common belief that living a healthful plant-based lifestyle is more expensive than being a meat-eater, and therefore only for people with a certain income level.
Thankfully, this is NOT true.
Just like a standard diet, a vegan diet is as expensive or as cheap as you make it. If you are cash-strapped but inclined to try a health-focused vegan diet to experience some of the many benefits you've been hearing about, here's how to do it without breaking the bank:
1. Make these nutrient-rich bang for your buck items the staple of your diet.
Beans (red kidney, black-eyed peas, garbanzo, fava, haricot, lima, cannellini, soy, etc.), lentils, potatoes — both white and sweet — rice and oats. Make these the basis of your meals and you'll be happy, satisfied and well-nourished, and have some change left in your wallet.
2. Hit the bulk bins.
Bulk bins are your new best friends. They are fabulous for two reasons: the beans/rice/lentils/nuts/seeds they hold are cheaper than if you buy them packaged, and you can buy exactly how much you need at one time if cash flow is an issue.
3. Stock up on frozen fruit and vegetables.
Nutrient-wise, it can actually be better than fresh, as it's often frozen directly after being harvested, and so retains the vitamins better than fresh produce by the time it hits the shops. Not all veg tastes great frozen, but works really well for throwing into stews and soups.
4. Do NOT invest in a ton of new cookbooks.
There is a whole world of vegan recipe websites out there to delight and inspire you. Some of these are even written especially for broke vegans!
5. Grow your own.
If you have a tiny patch of garden, a wee balcony, or even if you have space for a window box, grow what you can. Lettuce and cherry tomatoes always work well, and home-grown veg tastes so much better than supermarket produce. You can also sprout seeds (like alfalfa, mung beans and lentils) insanely cheaply, for tasty and nutritious additions to salads and sandwiches.
6. Choose and stock nutrient-rich snacks.
If you have a family, some of whom are permanently ravenous kiddos that seem to be constantly demanding snacks, make sure those snacks are cost-effective powerhouses of nutrients. This way the snacks are more satisfying, and hopefully this will reduce the number of snack requests per day. Try bananas with peanut butter, any nuts (if not allergic) with raisins, leftover cold baked potato with tahini sauce, or wholegrain toast with peanut butter or hummus, or mashed avocado with soy sauce and lemon juice. Need a top-up snack? Don't forget popcorn — pop your own for peanuts.
7. Consider ethnic supermarkets.
Asian and other ethnic supermarkets are fantastic places for fresh fruit and vegetables at great prices, and huge bags of lentils, beans and split peas of every description. These bags are incredible value because being dried food, they last for eons.
8. Consider ethnic for eating out.
Need to get out of the kitchen for just one night and let down your hair? Try Middle Eastern, Indian or Ethiopian restaurants. These foods are usually very reasonably priced, and jam-packed full of exciting, dazzling flavours. There are plenty of vegan options, and you can try lots of different small dishes. You can have a great night out without feeling like you've overspent.