No - Going Plant-Based Won’t Cost You a Fortune
The subject of plant-based living is shrouded in myth, misinformation and misunderstanding. Whether it’s the extent to which you can get your fill of key nutrients or creative limitations in the kitchen, people often make up their own weird and wonderful conclusions.
Unfortunately, some of these completely inaccurate assumptions can lead some to overlooking the prospect of a plant-based lifestyle. A prime example of which being the apparent costs of going vegetarian or vegan, which many people genuinely believe to be prohibitive.
This applies to veganism in particular, which is genuinely regarded by millions as a comparatively expensive lifestyle.
It isn’t - going plant-based can be just as affordable as including meat and dairy products in your diet, if not more so.
A Case of Pure Common Sense
Technically speaking, you could argue that any preferred dietary regime has the potential to be extremely expensive. If you’re a meat eater, you could spend your life eating the finest Filet Mignon three times a week, spending a small fortune in the process. For pescatarians, there’s no shortage of seriously expensive fish and seafood in the sea.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have those who stick exclusively to plant-based products. When compared to the overpriced indulgences on the market for meat eaters, there really is no comparison at all price-wise.
Since when was any conventional fruit, vegetable, nuts, grain, herb or anything else even nearly as expensive as meat and seafood?
At this point, you should be questioning how and why plant-based diets have ever been associated with overspending.
Truth is, you can spend as little or as much as you like on a vegetarian or vegan diet - just as is the case with a carnivorous diet. If you want to buy all the priciest organic artisan products and top-shelf vegan convenience foods, then yes - your grocery bill will be pretty high. But if you shop and eat like 99% of vegetarians and vegans do, you could end up spending less than a comparable carnivore.
Still not convinced?
Try the following 10 low-cost plant-based eating hacks for yourself and you soon will be:
1. Get into the habit of shopping seasonally
This tends to be something you only understand the importance of when you go predominantly or exclusively plant-based. Suddenly, you realise just how dramatically different fruit and veg prices can be from one season to the next. You also find out that by getting to know what’s in season and when, you can save a small fortune. While at the same time, enjoying the best seasonal produce that’s at its absolute freshest and tastiest.
If new to the whole thing, grab yourself a seasonal fruits and veggies calendar and download it on to your phone. You’ll then always know exactly what you should be shopping for, 365 days a year.
2. Better still, get into the habit of growing your own
An obvious no-brainer, but nonetheless worth bringing into discussion. One of the biggest benefits of going plant-based is being able to grow at least some of your produce yourself. If you have a decent sized garden, you could reach a point where you become partially self-sufficient. If not, a sunny windowsill or unused corner around the home can be more than enough to set up a few pots.
Some of the produce you’ll be using most often of all (like tomatoes) can be spectacularly easy to grow, with little to no TLC required. Once you get into the swing of things, you’ll save a fortune and will get so much more satisfaction out of everything you eat.
3. Avoid winging it at the supermarket
This ties in with the whole seasonal shopping thing, but extends beyond fresh produce. Planning ahead holds the key to ensuring you never waste money on anything you don’t genuinely need. Meal planning as a vegan or vegetarian will enable you to write sensible and informed shopping lists that keep things affordable. The alternative being to make things up as you go along, stuff in your basket with weird and wonderful stuff that’ll gather dust or go rotten in your pantry.
Meal planning and strategic shopping are essential for budget-conscious households, irrespective of preferred dietary choices. Though they are of particular importance if looking to keep a plant-based lifestyle as affordable as possible, while still enjoying every meal to the max.
4. Avoid canned food and discover the delights of dried produce
A long list of plant-based staples you can pick up in cans in most supermarkets are also available dried. Examples of which include various types of beans, chickpeas, lentils and so on. When you buy canned, you pay an exponentially higher price for nothing more than the salt and water in the package. When you buy dried, you get infinitely more for your money and need much less storage space to house your staples.
True, dried foods take a little more time and effort to prepare than canned counterparts. But this really is a small price to pay, when considering how much money you will save long-term.
5. Shop in bulk or with a wholesaler
The key to getting more for your money for when buying almost anything at all lies in buying more of it. Something that applies to all plant-based staples and essentials without exception, where bigger packs bought in bulk lead to bigger savings. If there’s a selection of options available, it’s almost always better to go with the bigger packs that save you money.
Better yet, shopping with a specialist wholesaler can be an even more economical option. This counts double with those that operate primarily or exclusively online, which almost always price their products lower than a traditional supermarket.
6. Try the batch cooking method
The list of plant-based meals that can be frozen and reheated without losing any of their quality or flavour is more or less infinite. In fact, there are even countless recipes that are better when they’ve been cooked, cooled, frozen, defrosted and reheated. This is something to consider carefully when planning your shopping list, shopping seasonally and buying in bulk. Along with buying plentiful quantities to save money, it can also be more economical to cook the same way and freeze a bunch of meals for later.
This can be particularly useful for anyone with a busy lifestyle, as it at least partially quells in the temptation to reach for convenience food and takeaway menus. Both of which are guaranteed to put a serious dent in your plant-based budget.
7. Minimise consumption of convenience food
On that note, convenience food for the plant-based lifestyle is no different to conventional convenience food. On the surface, it seems like a quick, easy and cheap way of getting your fill when time is a factor. In reality, convenience food almost always works out significantly more expensive than home cooking. And unless you’re buying the very best convenience food available - which isn’t cheap - it could also be just as processed and problematic for your health as meat-based convenience food.
Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence. Nor is denying yourself a cheeky takeaway the way to go. It’s simply a case of ensuring you don’t become heavily reliant on convenience food, which has a tendency to be way too expensive.
8. Find new places to shop
Last but not least, don’t make the mistake of assuming your local supermarket (irrespective of its size) is the cheapest and most sensible place to pick up your plant-based staples. Depending on where you live, any international stores or speciality stores you have nearby are definitely worth checking out. African, Asian, Indian, Latin American, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean joints in particular can be fantastic for stocking up on staples at low prices. These are also the best places to buy exotic ingredients, spices and staples from other countries, which can be quite overpriced in typical supermarkets.
Indulge your adventurous side and get to know this all-too often overlooked and underrated side of the Great British High Street!
Just because a plant-based diet has the potential to be expensive doesn’t mean it has to be. As is the case with all dietary choices and lifestyles in general, it’s entirely down to you to determine how much you spend.
There will always be needlessly overpriced products and fad items in specialist vegan stores that are no less than extortionate. Likewise, the temptation to buy things you don’t really need is always there - as would be the case with any other diet.
But if you are serious about going plant-based on a budget, it can actually be quite easy. Shop at the right places, pick up the right products and plan ahead - three steps to a plant-based lifestyle that could easily save you money long-term.