My Health is My Wealth – How to be Vegan on a Budget

As a food-loving university student, I like to think I’m somewhat of an expert at budgeting. And after being vegan for most of my adult life, I like to think I’m pretty good at that too.

Whether you’re a struggling university student like me, saving for that overseas trip or feeding a family – I’m here to challenge the myth that being vegan is expensive (and that university students live off of baked beans and 2-minute noodles).

Here are 3 of my top tips for maintaining a healthy vegan lifestyle on a budget:

1. DIY
I can’t stress this one enough. Do. It. Yourself. Sure, eating out is fun – especially when you find an amazing vegan restaurant and you want to keep going back until you’ve tried EVERYTHING on the menu – but the sad truth is that this is probably what’s breaking the bank. Why not have a night in and try to recreate that delicious vegan pizza or burger? You could even make dessert too. I bet you will have lots of fun experimenting and it’s most likely going to be a lot cheaper than eating out.

I try to wait until the weekend to get takeaway or eat out. It’s usually a Saturday night dinner and drinks with friends or a Sunday brunch with my partner. That way I’ve got all week to decide where I want to go (and search the menu on Google to decide what I want to eat days in advance – that’s totally normal right?). I end up feeling excited when the weekend comes around so I can reward myself by splurging a little and not feeling guilty at all.

2. SHOP SMART
You don’t need to be buying the latest superfood you’re seeing plastered all over Instagram. Sure, one day if you have the spare funds you can splash out, but it’s totally not essential for a healthy vegan diet. A good place to start your budget-friendly shopping is opting for supermarket brand alternatives. If you read the ingredients list, they’re probably exactly the same as name brand products, at only a third of the price. I also recommend stocking up on tinned goods – beans, lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, coconut milk – the list goes on. In my experience, they make great recipe bases and usually cost between $0.60 and $1 (again, go for supermarket brand!).

The next stop on our smart shopping trip is the frozen fruit and veg section. As much as I love fresh produce, I have found it can be more economical to purchase frozen. Firstly, because you tend to get more bang for your buck and secondly, because they last a lot longer so you won’t accidentally let it go bad and end up wasting it!

My last tip for budget-friendly grocery shopping is (you’re going to hate me for this one) – avoid speciality “vegan” products like faux meats and cheese. As delicious as they are, they tend to be pricey and processed. You can get all of the necessary nutrients from whole foods anyway! In saying that, if you really love the taste, or find it makes the transition to veganism easier, perhaps try purchasing only one speciality item per week. You could even change it up and try something new each week!

And don’t forget to shop around. You might find cheaper produce or ingredients at your local markets or bulk food store.

3. COOK SMART & COME PREPARED
While you don’t want cooking and eating to become a military-style operation, being prepared will ultimately help you stick to a budget-friendly vegan lifestyle.

Preparation should begin before you even hit the supermarket. Take 20 minutes out of your day, once a week, to create a rough meal plan. Decide on a few recipes that will get you through the week and from this, write your shopping list. This will make the whole supermarket experience more efficient and will help you stick to your budget.

So you’ve done your grocery shopping, now I’ve got 2 words for you: Food. Prep. And I don’t mean bodybuilder style, same lunch, same dinner, 7 days per week. Surely they end up getting sick of eating the same thing over and over, right? So, I recommend getting creative and making a few different combinations of ingredients that you can alternate for lunch and dinner across 2-3 days. By doing this, you’ll still have lots of variety in your diet without having to think twice about it. And if you do get bored of it, freeze your leftovers and use them later so there’s no waste!

And lastly, a bonus tip: NEVER do the grocery shopping when you’re hungry! If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably end up spending more and treating yourself a little too much.

At the end of the day, as long as you’re eating a vegan diet you’re making a difference – for the animals, for the planet, and for your health.

Written by Montana Price - (@montana_price)

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