Back in the day, I wasn’t necessarily swimming in cash. I was a student, so you can imagine how empty my pockets were. When I found out that animals suffer miserably on cramped factory farms for our food, I was determined not to let my financial situation deter me from going vegan. But I was surprised to learn how affordable vegan foods are and that I could actually save money by ditching animal-derived foods and planning my meals.
I created a budget and became a money-saving ninja. And now I’m here to pass on what I’ve learned. Here’s how I saved money by going vegan:
Brainstorm Meal Ideas Before Making Your Grocery List
Some folks make the mistake of creating a shopping list without actually thinking about what they’re going to cook. Don’t do that. Instead, sit down and think, “What dishes do I want to make?” By doing this key first step, you’ll avoid overspending at the store and start saving money.
Here are some ideas for meals that are cheap and easy to make:
Stir-fry: This can be made up of anything, and it only takes one pot. Just chop up your fave veggies, heat up some oil, and start frying. Add some cooked noodles and tofu.
Pasta: You can buy pasta for as little as $1—and pasta sauce is just as cheap. Add veggies like onions and mushrooms for texture.
Chili: All this dish requires is beans, veggies, and spices, and voilà—you’re done! You can’t beat this simple go-to meal, plus chili can be used in a variety of ways: Put it on fries, on Fritos, on nachos—the list goes on. If cooking isn’t your thing, most grocery stores carry “vegetarian” chili that’s actually vegan. Just check the label to make sure that it doesn’t contain animal-derived ingredients.
Don’t Forget the Staples — and Buy in Bulk
Food is usually cheaper when you buy it in large quantities — and if your kitchen is always stocked, you won’t be tempted to order expensive takeout when cravings hit. Stock up on staples like beans, grains, nuts, and frozen fruits and veggies. (I like to buy quinoa in bulk because it can be more expensive in smaller amounts.) Sometimes, I prepare a large portion of beans and rice to eat with other dishes that I cook during the week. This saves me time and brain power, as I don’t have to come up with a meal from scratch.
We all love a good deal. Plan your grocery shopping around when stores and markets have sales. And don’t skip the dollar store — most stores carry staples like beans, rice, pasta, and frozen produce as well as other vegan options. Go to your local dollar store and browse the aisles — you never know what you may find.
I started cooking when I was 6 and was quite the little chef — although it involved mostly meat-based dishes. When I went vegan, I realized that preparing meat-free meals is far simpler. Cooking your own meals saves you money, too, while sparing your body the negatives effects of eating unhealthy takeout.
While cooking at home will save you money, there’ll be moments when you need to grab a bite to eat on the go. Taco Bell, Subway, and other vegan-friendly fast-food places have meals that’ll fill you up for just a few bucks!
Try Mock Meats and Tofu
Mock meats like those made by Gardein and Tofurky are great sometimes. Don’t focus on replacing meat with mock meat, though. Instead, concentrate on eating more whole foods — and don’t forget about our friend tofu. One block can cost as little as 99 cents, it’s extremely versatile, and it’s also a better, cheaper substitute for meat that can be found at pretty much any grocery store.
By going vegan, you’ll be able to eat well for cheap and you won’t contribute to animals’ suffering. Knowing that piglets’ tails are cut off without painkillers, male chicks are ground up alive, and cows are separated from their calves inspired me to change my lifestyle — and as a result, I was able to cut my spending in half. I no longer buy meat, dairy foods, or eggs, which accounted for most of my budget in the past. I now buy and prepare affordable, nutritious plant-based foods. What could be better than saving money and being kind to animals and my body?