You may have read about the many health and environmental benefits of going vegan. Vegans don’t eat any animal products — that means no dairy, no eggs, no honey. Anything that originated from an animal becomes off-limits. When you go vegan, you may lower your cholesterol, lose weight, and reduce your risk of getting certain cancers.
Many people mistakenly think that becoming vegan is expensive because it may require buying specialty products, but that isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, you can make this dietary and lifestyle change without blowing your budget.
Six Tips for Becoming a Frugal Vegan
Use these ideas to cut animal products out of your diet while being mindful of your budget.
1. Plan Meals Ahead of Time
Failing to plan ahead usually results in added expenses. When you don’t have anything planned for dinner, you’re more likely to hit the drive-thru for a quick dinner after work. And since many restaurants charge more for vegan substitutes, such as veggie burgers, you end up paying a lot more than you should for a meal.
By planning out your menu, you can save time and money. Start with these tips.
- Decide what you’ll eat each weeknight based on specials at the grocery store so you can take advantage of weekly sales.
- Plan meals that piggyback on each other. For instance, if you make black bean burritos with homemade salsa one night, use the leftovers for black bean soup the next.
- Prepare ingredients during the weekend when you may have more time so that they’re ready to grab on busy weeknights. Make it fun. Chop veggies and put seasonings into portion sizes while you catch up on your favorite podcast.
2. Don’t Purchase Vegan-branded Products
Stores mark up specialty products because people will pay more for them. A box of cookies labeled “vegan” may sell for more than another package that is also vegan but doesn’t carry the product designation.
Become an expert at reading ingredients and picking out vegan products yourself rather than looking for vegan branding. Use these tips to help:
- Learn what ingredients to avoid when shopping for products that aren’t specifically marketed as vegan, such as whey, gelatin, or shellac.
- Skip imitation meats, which are often more expensive than regular meat. Stick to beans and other natural sources of protein.
- Search your store’s natural food aisle if you can’t find a vegan-friendly product in the regular aisles.
3. Start a Vegetable Garden
Growing your own vegetables can help you save money. Typically, seed packets cost only a few dollars. Use these tips to get started on your own veggie garden:
- Add herbs to your garden to add flavor to anything you make with veggies.
- Research everything you plan to plant ahead of time. Veggies require different lengths of time to grow, and you may need to plant some earlier than others.
- Don’t own a home but still want to grow some veggies? Look into community garden options or buy several large planters for tomatoes and zucchini.
4. Buy in Bulk
Going vegan requires finding new sources of protein. Your diet may expand to include all types of beans, seeds, nuts, and grains. You can buy these for less when you shop in bulk (ethnic food stores can also be great options when looking for bargains.) Keep these tips in mind when shopping:
- Canned beans may seem more convenient, but you can soak dried beans overnight and get them for way less in the bulk aisle.
- Look for organic foods in the bulk aisle, which will be cheaper than individual servings you find packaged in other aisles.
5. Visit the Farmer’s Market
Purchasing fresh, in-season produce at a local farmer’s market may save you money versus getting your fruits and veggies at the grocery store, where those items may be shipped hundreds of miles before they reach you. You’ll also get fresher food that’s locally grown.
Below are a few tips and tricks for shopping local:
- Adjust your meal planning with the time of year, since in-season items will be the least expensive. For example, purchase apples in the fall and asparagus in the spring, when each will be readily available.
- Consider signing up for a community supported agriculture (CSA), which gives you deeply discounted produce each week. Investigate local options to find the best price and most optimal delivery times for your schedule.
- Avoid food waste by using your leftover veggies to make your own veggie broth. Just pile them into a pot with water, boil, and strain. Freeze the broth for an excellent base for soups and stews.
6. Use Your Freezer
Freezers are a vegan’s best friend. Here’s how you can use them to save money:
- When you’re shopping in-season fruits and veggies, buy extra and freeze them to have on hand throughout the rest of the year.
- Freeze leftovers in single servings to give yourself an easy meal when you have a late night at the office or when you want to brown bag your lunch.
- Stock up on staples such as chickpea or coconut flour, which stay fresh longer in your freezer.
With these tips, you can save money on food while improving your diet and easing into your new vegan lifestyle. For more tips on saving money, visit our WalletWorks page.