Vegan on a budget guide and meal plan
The main reason why I write this post is because people ask me quite often if it is expensive to eat 100% vegan and still be healthy. Well it depends on how you do your groceries. You can live on a healthy plant based vegan diet super expensive and super cheap!
The second reason I write this post is because I have just finished a vegan budget meal plan (YAY!) that is live in the Fivesec Health app. It is called “Vegan on a budget”.
In this post I will walk you trough of what cheap healthy vegan food is, why you should buy frozen food, and is it really more cheaper to buy in bulk? Lastly I will give you some practical straight on tips on how to be vegan on a budget and lastly give you tips on how to think when making your healthy vegan budget meals.
What is cheap vegan food?
So what is cheap vegan food really? The processed vegan food (substitutes) like vegan cheese, meat substitutes and sweets are always more expensive than whole foods. One exception is tofu. So stay away from the vegan processed substitutes and go for the whole foods, both your wallet and health will thank you later.
Good examples of cheap vegan food are legumes of all kinds, potatoes of all kinds, grains like oats and brown rice, vegetables and fruit, some nuts and seeds like sunflower, flax or pumpkin seeds.
If you buy fruit and vegetables that are not in season where you live, then it is probably going to be expensive. So try to do your shoppinglist according to what’s in season. You can also try to do some groceries on the farmers market, the fruit and veggies are often organic and often also cheaper than in the local store.
Buy Frozen Food
When I talk about frozen food I do not mean frozen pre-packed “food” like pizzas, I talk about fruit, berries, vegetables and herbs.
Let us go straight into this, you will almost always get more for your money when you buy frozen food than if you should have bought fresh. Try to find the big packs! Frozen food are also SO convenient, they are often pre-washed and chopped and ready to be used in a stew, stir fry or to be steamed.
You should definitely try to find the big packs of frozen fruit and berries, especially if you want those who are not in season. You can save huge amounts of money by buying frozen fruit and berries. You will not have to worry about them getting old and they will always be ready for your morning smoothies.
I will give you one example to make it more clear: I bought a frozen 1.1lb (500 grams) pack of pre-chopped and washed broccoli florets for $1.5. In the same store I found a fresh 0.5lb (250 grams) broccoli for the same price, so I would get less broccoli and I would also pay for the stem and leaves. I would probably also worry about it getting old in the fridge.
Worth to be mentioned before we jump to the next section is that there is no significant nutrition loss when food have been frozen.
Buy in bulk
To buy food in bulk may seem extreme to some people but this is one of the methods that can save you the most money. Not all stores but a lot of them have a “bulk section” where you can grab a paper bag and fill it up with grains, dry legumes (beans & lentils) nuts, seeds, dried fruit and so on. The price per pound/kilogram is often lower in these bulk sections. A bonus is that this is more environmental friendly.
If you don’t find one of these bulk sections in your store then try to buy in bulk by finding the big packs. As I mentioned about the frozen food, the price per pound/kilogram is often lower the bigger package you buy. Lentils, grains, dry beans, frozen corn and pasta are great examples to buy in big packs. Dry beans and lentils are often cheaper to buy than canned (even though canned already are cheap) and healthier.
This concept also goes for spices. Try to find the spices you use the most in a big pack or in refill packages instead of buying a new spice “bottle” each time. I have for example managed to find cinnamon, sea salt, paprika powder, cumin and curry powder in big packs!
I have now walked you through what cheap vegan food is (whole foods), that you should buy frozen food (fruit, veggies, berries & herbs) and to buy in bulk. But there is one thing to have in mind while doing these actions - compare prices.
In most stores the food products have a comparison price per pound, ounce or kilogram. Always look at this. If you for example find two big packs of rolled oats or two big packs of frozen mango, check their comparison price and choose the one with lowest price per ounce/pound/kilogram.
The difference on the comparison prices may not seem a lot there and then, but I promise you that this will add up in the long run!
Tips for your kitchen
So how could you arrange your kitchen? To make this budget thinking easier for you I will give examples of how to structure your dry store, fridge and freezer with cheap vegan food.
Potatoes: all kinds of potatoes
Grains: pasta, rice, oats, quinoa, barley, etc. (big packs or bulk)
Legumes: all kinds of dry beans and dry lentils (big packs or bulk)
Canned: tomatoes, beans etc.
Flours: all kinds of flours you use (big packs or bulk)
Spices: all kinds of spices (big packs or bulk)
Seasonal vegetables (those you can’t find frozen)
Leafy greens (wrap them in a damp paper towel to last for longer)
Sauces and condiments (compare prices carefully on these)
Tofu and tempeh (I find these in asian stores for the cheapest price)
Frozen veggies (big packs)
Frozen fruit & berries (big packs)
Frozen herbs (big packs)
Whole wheat bread (buy fresh and freeze)
Cook vegan food on a budget
Now to the fun part, cooking! I love cooking but I know that some of you hate it. Anyway, you still have to eat and now that we are on a budget we will have to cook our own food ☺️.
First tip is to base your meals on cheap whole foods. Whole foods such as grains, legumes and potatoes are great to have as a foundation in your meals. They are filling, cheap and nutrient dense.
Second tip is to plan your meals (breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner) for 5-6 days depending on what you already have at home. By this way you can easily write a shoppinglist and do the groceries once a week. By doing the groceries once a week you will minimise the spontaneous purchases.
Third tip is to eat leftovers. For every meal you make, make the double (or more) so that you can either have it for lunch the day after or put it in the freezer for stressful days. You could also go hardcore and meal prep the same meal for the entire week.
Fourth tip is to have fridge cleaning days. I wrote above about planning your meals for 5-6 days to keep a day or two open or you can use these days as making meals out of what you have. You will be surprised of how much you can make out of “nothing”. Me and hubby do this every Sunday. You can basically make a whole meal out of your dry store such as a bean chili with brown rice, yum!
Sixth tip is to track how much you spend. This is not a cheap hack really but it helps you to get an idea of how much money you spend on food and hopefully you will find it fun to challenge yourself! Keep the track every week for 1-2 months and then make an average for each month. The first week will be more expensive than rest of the month because you will have to bulk up on food you don’t have.
Examples of Vegan on a budget meals
If you are new to this I understand that this is difficult and overwhelming, but I promise you that it is worth it in the end! The longer you keep having a budget mindset, the easier and cheaper it will be. In a while you will have all the grains, dry beans, lentils etc. and you will not have to buy these for a while and only buy what is missing for your meals.
Anyhow, I will give you examples of how you can build up budget breakfasts and budget dinner/lunch that still have good nutrition. The costs may vary depending on store, I did the calculations on Whole Foods Market prices.
Vegan breakfast on a budget
Oats are one of the cheapest and healthiest grains to eat! You can make so much with these, oatmeal, pancakes, smoothies, milk, overnight oats, vegan burgers.. etc. Oatmeal is on of my favourite breakfasts, it’s really simple and the flavour combinations are endless!
My standard oatmeal base for one serving is 1/2 cup rolled oats and 1 cup water. You can add a half of a mashed banana to add a nice sweet flavour and to get more nutrients without noticing it! I also like to add cinnamon and cardamom, and to top with sliced banana, applesauce or peanut butter. One serving oatmeal with peanut butter or other fruit topping costs rarely more than $1, often around $0.50.
Vegan Lunch/Dinner on a budget
Legumes, rice and potatoes are also one of the cheapest and healthiest whole foods to eat. These are great to use as a foundation in your meals. You can make endless of combinations with just legumes and grains!
I like to do soups with lentils as the base and filled up with seasonal vegetables and potatoes. Or you could make bean patties. One of my favourites are bean chilis with rice! These are so simple, yummy and perfect meal prep food. A simple bean chili (crushed tomatoes, mixed beans, spices, corn) with brown rice often costs less than $2 per serving.
And don’t complicate things! You can do simple meals that taste great, are healthy and cheap. A tip is to focus on one main ingredient as foundation, for example potatoes, legumes, or grains, and then build your dish around that. If you choose oven baked sweet potatoes as the base you can add panfried chickpeas, greens and a peanut butter dressing, done!
The “Vegan on a Budget Meal Plan”
For you who need help with this budget mindset and/or inspiration, I have that covered for you! In my “Vegan on a Budget Meal Plan” there are 5 complete days with breakfast, lunch and dinner for under $25 (for the full 5 days). The best part is that I have focused on developing simple and nutritious recipes. So we are not talking about pasta and ketchup here 😉.
The Vegan on a Budget Meal Plan is available in my recipe app Fivesec Health. Since the app only is available for iOS I have got many questions about how to access the meal plan without an iPhone. Well, I have listened to you guys and released a PDF with the same meal plan! You can buy it below 👇🏼
What you will get
5 dinner/lunch recipes
5 breakfast recipes
Ability to choose servings*
* The servings are set to 1 person by default in the PDF
* The shoppinglist in the PDF is based on 1 person