20 Tips for Going Vegan On A Tight Budget
Message for Savvy Vegetarian: I am on a fixed income and I want to know if two people can go vegan with only $299 a month. If so how. And where I live there are no specialty stores. I am dedicated to making the switch but I have to be able to afford it. J.B.
Savvy Vegetarian Advice:
You should be able to go vegan successfully on a tight budget, if you’re careful what you buy, and you make all your own food from scratch. You probably already know how to squeeze a dollar ’til it begs for mercy. If you’re going from meat eating to vegan, you should also know that vegans on a tight budget need to make every penny count nutritionally.
This subject deserves a long well researched article. It’s at the top of our list, but meanwhile, here are a few tips for getting by:
20 Ways to Squeeze the Most Nutrition from Your Tight Food Budget
1. Buy all your food as close as possible to it’s natural, unprocessed state. Frozen or canned veg and fruit is sometimes an exception, but go for fresh whenever possible.
2. For protein, focus on beans, lentils and split peas, with whole grains, nuts and seeds in small amounts.
3. Eat whole grains such as brown rice, barley, buckwheat, millet, oats rather than store bought breads – way cheaper and more nutritious.
4. Buy dried beans or lentils, cook them in big batches, and freeze what you don’t use for future meals. Most big grocery stores have some bulk foods, and you can also find what you need in the grocery aisles.
5. If you can afford to, and have the time, you can make your own yeast bread, pizza, pancakes, quick breads, muffins, or cookies, much cheaper and better than store bought. However, compared to a bowl of brown rice, any of those are much more expensive for the ingredients and energy used to cook them.
6. For extras, I recommend spending your money on dried fruit, nuts and seeds. They are pricey, but you only need small amounts. Soaking makes them easier to eat and to digest.
7. Choose fresh fruit and veg over prepared convenience foods. Focus on buying the lowest cost and in-season items. E.G. fresh spinach is usually pricey, but cabbage never is. Carrots, celery, peppers, potatoes, parsley, bananas, apples, oranges are usually the most reasonably priced. Other fruit and veg may be low cost when it’s in season and plentiful, e.g, avocados, asparagus, grapes, mangos, strawberries, peaches, etc.
8. Make sure you eat something green everyday, even if it’s just parsley in your soup. Also something yellow, orange or red. And something raw.
9. Making your own sprouts is a very economical way to get fresh raw food packed with vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
10 . With an inexpensive coffee grinder, you can grind your own spices, or flax or chia seeds. Ground flax or chia seeds are a good source of protein and Omega 3′s. Sprinkle on your cooked cereal, or add to baked goods or pancakes.
11. Instead of expensive veggie spreads, use vegetable oil in your baking, have a small amount of nut butter or hummus on your toast.
12. Skip soy based dairy substitutes. They’re expensive, high in calories, and loaded with ingredients nobody should eat (read labels).
13. If you can get to a farmer’s market, you might be able to find fresh local produce at reasonable prices. Sometimes not.
14. You can save significant amounts buying in bulk or stocking up on sale items, but you have to plan carefully to take advantage of it. It doesn’t help you if you haven’t got the cash when the opportunity arises.
15. If you can find a food buying club in your area, it’s a good way to get bulk or case lot foods cheaper, and split them with others in the group.
16. Buy bulk herbs and make your own teas. There’s good nutrition in herbal teas!
17. If you can, grow some of your own food. You don’t need fancy equipment, and seeds are still relatively cheap, especially if you can get them in bulk.
18. Make sure you’re covered for Omega 3′s, Vitamin D (get out in the sun! ), and the B vitamins, esp B12 , and minerals – like iron, zinc, magnesium. You’ll get most of what you need if you have a variety of fresh whole foods.
19. A daily multivitamin will help fill nutritional gaps, if that’s in the budget. Even if you’re getting Vit. B12 in foods like soy or hemp milk, you probably will need to take a B12 supplement. It’s inexpensive, and you don’t need to take it every day. Methylcobalamin sublingual is best, Country Life brand has it, and Vitacost.com has the best prices.
20. For more information on vegan nutrition, read the book ‘Becoming Vegan’ by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis – it’s the nutrition bible I recommend for all vegans.