Eating Vegan on a Budget

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eating vegan

A big bowl of beans and rice topped with avocado is a cheap, tasty vegan meal.
A big bowl of beans and rice topped with avocado is a cheap, tasty vegan meal.

Over on Facebook, I asked you guys if there were any common vegan pitfalls that you ran into that made you feel like eating vegan was too hard to manage. One that a few folks brought up was that you saw a vegan diet as an expensive one.

While you can certainly break the bank buying fancy-pants vegan foods, you don’t have to spend a lot to eat vegan. In fact, if you avoid pricey, processed vegan foods you’ll probably see your food spending go down when you cut out the meat. Here are some examples of inexpensive, tasty foods that won’t kill your budget.


Beans are protein superstars. They’re also cheap, filling, and easy to prepare. If you’re on a very tight budget, dried beans are a great way to stretch your food dollars. Tip: If you soak them overnight before cooking, they simmer up much faster than if you try to cook them from dry.

For convenience sake, it’s nice to have a few cans of beans on hand for quick, weeknight meals as well. Beans are great in soups, stews, salads, tacos, wraps…pretty much anywhere you need to add some protein and flavor.

Whole Grains

While protein combining isn’t necessary at every meal, whole grains do help round out your vegan proteins. Grains are easy to prepare, and generally pretty inexpensive. If your local market sells grains in their bulk bins, there’s a good chance you’ll find the best deals there.

Fresh Fruits and Veggies

Want fresh, cheap produce? Shop local and seasonal. A good way to stock your kitchen with inexpensive, fresh produce is to join a CSA or check out your local farmer’s market. Local Harvest is a great resource to help you track down fresh, locally-grown produce near you.

In some places, it’s tough to find a farmers market or CSA, especially in winter. If that’s the case for you, check out what’s local or regional at the local grocery store and plan your meals based on what’s reasonably priced.

Meat and Dairy Substitutes

This is where you can start spending the big bucks, so if you’re on a tight budget, use these sparingly. For example, instead of shelling out the cash for pricey vegan cheese, try making a cheeseless pizza loaded with so much goodness you won’t miss the cheese.

Nutritional Yeast

Yep. I love nutritional yeast so much it gets its very own category. It’s an excellent source of dietary vitamin B12, and that mild, cheesy flavor can turn any dish into comfort food. Prices for nutritional yeast can vary wildly depending on where you buy it, even in the same store.

At the Whole Foods near me, for example, if you get your nutritional yeast in the supplement section, you’ll pay over $10 for a bag. If you hit the bulk bin, though you can often get plenty of nooch for just a few bucks.

I’m sure there are other ways to eat vegan without overspending. Do you guys have any tips or any other questions? Let’s continue the discussion in the comments!

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Sweet on Veg

12 thoughts on “Eating Vegan on a Budget”

    1. I was surprised by that, as well. My guess is that folks are looking at the prices for things like fake meats and faux dairy products. Those things can get really pricey, but they’re not very healthy either.

  1. Yep: eating veg is totally cheaper than what I was doing before! The key is to buy *ingredients*… make your own s***, as much as possible, vs buying processed junk– it’s good for your health, as well as your wallet! Get a good crock-pot & bread machine; these are great for easy/ cheap whole food home cookin’. A dehydrator comes in very handy for keeping cheap farmers’ market fruit/ veg/ herbs good all year; learn to can & dry & make jelly/ jam from fresh/ cheap in-season produce, if you’re interested at all in that kind of cooking; buy bulk beans & rice; peanut-butter is cheap (the natural kind, preferably, for less sodium/ preservatives); lentils & split peas & potatoes are also really cheap & versatile. Oatmeal & bulgar wheat & couscous, same deal… cheapest of all: plant stuff! get ‘Postage Stamp Garden’ or ‘Square-Foot Gardening’, to see just how much yummy supercheap veg food you can grow, right on your patio or along your back fence! Veg food is cheap; processed food is expensive… they’re not the same thing. :-)

  2. We aren’t vegan, but we eat a lot of vegan meals to save money. Which makes me chuckle when people think eating vegan is expensive. One of the best ways to save money is MEAL PLANNING! If you have a list of your favourite recipes and then check out your local flyers you can eat really wonderful meals for cheaper! Just plan your meals to include what is on sale that week and you can save a lot of $$. All of the above are wonderful suggestions. Also, you can freeze cooked beans, which is a much cheaper and healthier alternative to canned beans. Especially if you freeze them in the quantity you would use for a recipe. Also, experiment! We discovered we loved oven baked barley for breakfast! Just add cinnamon, a touch of nutmeg and some brown sugar, a different twist on oatmeal! I really like this site, btw :)

  3. When I became vegetarian about a year ago the one thing I really missed was ground meat. I was missing tacos and meat balls and sloppy joes and all the wonderful things you can do with a lb of that stuff. Well then I discovered TVP and I must say it was life changing. No longer do I look for that llb of meat when I open the fridge but for that precious little bag of tvp. I put a cup of it in a pan or a bowl, add a little less than a cup of very hot or boiling water, let it sit about 15 minutes and then I can make anything I previously made. And its way way cheaper than any deal you could ever get for hamburger. I get it from Bob’s Red Mill through Amazon. I pay appx $9 for 4 10oz bags. Each bag has about 3 cups in it. So basically you get about 12 cups and for me that is 12 meals at appx $1.33 or less per meal. I have also started making my own corn tortillas. I searched for organic vegetarian corn tortillas but never found exactly what i wanted. Now I have total control over what goes into them and how they are cooked. Way better for you, very easy if you set up a good assembly and now I make toe curling yummy tacos and enchillas and know i’m doing my body good :-)

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