When doing vegan outreach, I often hear people say that they couldn’t go vegan because it’s too expensive. It astonishes me that this is still such a widely held viewpoint, so I thought I’d try to dispel it. Here goes.
It depends what you eat
Imagine if I said to someone, “Being a meat eater is so expensive! Have you seen the price of lobster recently?” There’s an obvious flaw in this argument – being a meat eater doesn’t necessarily mean you buy lobster! The same applies to veganism. Just because I avoid animal products, it doesn’t mean I buy luxury dairy-free truffles or exotic tropical fruits. Veganism is as expensive as you make it.
Yes, some substitute products are more expensive
People will often bring up the fact that cows’ milk is cheaper than substitutes like almond milk. Generally speaking, this is true, but substituting milk doesn’t have to be expensive.
Lidl, Aldi, Tesco and Morrisons all sell basic soya milk for 59p, hardly more expensive than cow’s milk. If you don’t like soya milk, Aldi’s almond milk is not too bad at 99p. Also, plant milks are often on offer.
When I didn’t have access to cheap soya milk, I sometimes used to make my own oat milk. It worked out ridiculously cheap – 30p per litre at the most. Plus it was fun, and I had control over exactly what went into it.
Other dairy substitutes like soya yoghurt and ice cream can be expensive, but this is getting less true as time goes on. Tesco has its own range of soya yoghurts for as little as £1.25 for a pack of 4, plus big pots for the same price. Sainsbury’s vegan cheese is about the same price as an equivalent-sized block of dairy cheese. It also sells big blocks of dairy-free ‘milk’ and white chocolate for £1. Meanwhile, Aldi has started selling affordable vegan ice cream. There are far too many options to list here, so go explore your local supermarket. You may be surprised by what you find. And see my post on cutting out dairy for more ideas.
All that aside, any extra money you spend on dairy substitutes will likely to be offset by the amount you save in other areas. For example…
Meat substitutes are often cheaper
Meat is increasingly expensive – many people are cutting down on it solely because of the cost. As an example, Tesco beef mince is £4 for 500g, whereas its vegetarian mince is £1.75 for 454g. That’s quite a difference.
There are plenty of budget meat-free options available. For example, Vegetarian’s Choice sausages, found in many health food shops, are £1 for a box of six. Their burgers are £1 for a pack of four. Most supermarkets also have their own range of affordable meat substitutes. Cutting out meat can save you a lot of money.
Base your diet on whole foods
You don’t have to swap meat for meat substitutes. Most of the poorest cultures in the world eat a predominantly plant-based diet. So what are they eating? Hint: it’s not soya sausages or dairy-free ice cream.
Animal products are by nature resource-intensive to produce, meaning they’re typically more expensive. Meat is a delicacy in many cultures. In fact, the only reason meat and dairy are affordable in developed countries is that they’re heavily subsidised. Even then, many farmers struggle to make a profit.
Basing your diet on whole plant foods is both the cheapest and the healthiest way to live. Eating mainly whole foods was what allowed me to spend as little as £12 a week on food whilst at university. So how about trying chickpea curry instead of chicken curry, or a delicious vegetable stew like ratatouille instead of a meat-based one? See this post for tips on learning to love vegetables and more ideas for incorporating them into your diet.
Finding cheap treats
Head to the Free From aisle, and you’ll find lots of delicious vegan treats… often at completely unaffordable prices. So how are you supposed to satisfy your sweet cravings? I got really into baking after going vegan, making all sorts of cakes, cookies and crumbles. But if you don’t want to make your own, look for things which are ‘accidentally vegan’. For example, many biscuits like Oreos, bourbons, ginger nuts and Party Rings contain no animal products. Some shop-bought desserts like apple strudel are vegan, as are the Co-op’s jam and custard doughnuts!
I hope this has been enough to convince you that avoiding animal products doesn’t have to be expensive. For some extra resources, check out my post on eating vegan on a budget and Cheap Lazy Vegan’s YouTube channel. And as always, feel free to get in touch if you need any support or advice on your vegan journey.