How to be vegan and stay within budget

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If you aren’t vegan, you probably know someone who is. Just under a million people follow a vegan diet in the UK in 2019, with that number set to triple over the coming years.

As more people become aware of the environmental impact and animal welfare concerns of eating meat, some are deciding to do away with it all together. A decision that’s getting easier, with more animal-free options available when you’re food shopping or eating out.

But there’s some debate around whether leading a meat-free lifestyle is actually more expensive. So we spoke to two vegans, Ciaran and Beth, to find out how you can go vegan while staying within your budget.

Don't get tricked by fancy brands

The vegan replacement products that are heavily branded and positioned to catch your eye in store are often the most expensive! Linda McCartney sausages and VioLife slices may be delicious, but they aren’t cheap.

If you’re on a budget, indulging in these ‘high-end’ products isn’t necessary, as lots of supermarkets now stock their own alternatives. Beth, a student in York who’s been vegan since 2015, loves making spaghetti bolognese and tacos. But popular meat substitutes like ‘Gardein’ cost £4.50 per bag from Sainsbury’s and are shipped over from America. Not the most cost-effective (or environmentally-friendly) option. Instead, Morrisons do a huge bag of soy mince for £1.50, which Beth goes for, making a big saving.

"Once you know what you like and what ingredients you’ll need, make a plan to find out where you can source them locally or online and you’re good to go!"

Another staple that you could get short-changed on if you’re not savvy is dairy products. Beth says Aldi sell a litre of soy milk for 59p, which also lasts a lot longer than normal milk so you also don’t need to buy it as frequently. (Honestly, Beth sounds like she has her life 100% together and we’re just going to start going to her for general life advice).

Be savvy when eating out

“Eating out as a vegan can be really expensive,” says Ciaran, 25 and from Newcastle, who’s been a veggie since 2016, but started 2019 off by doing Veganuary and has never looked back. “But this only tends to be in places that are specifically geared towards vegans. Most restaurants will have vegan options that are reasonably priced.”

Ciaran says that from experience, most specialty vegan places are pretty pricey across the board, especially when you’re trying to stick to a budget. Normal restaurants obviously won’t have as many choices, but the situation is improving as last year over half of restaurants added a vegan option to their menu.

"Most restaurants will have vegan options that are reasonably priced."

Bulk cooking is even cheaper as a vegan

Whether you’re vegan or not, if you’re cooking for one person it can be expensive and a pain. Bulk cooking meals can be a great way to make sure you don’t waste ingredients, and can also save you money buying lunch at work every day. Ciaran says he bulk cooks his lunches for work on a Sunday, usually chillies, curries, and lots of bean and veg-based dishes, easily getting five portions for £10-£12 of ingredients.

By not including meat, your costs come way down per portion. And you save time by not having to prepare lunch every day and avoid spending £15 a week on meal deals which, let’s be honest, never leave you feeling full.

"Bulk cooking meals can be a great way to make sure you don’t waste ingredients."

Breaking news: Some of your favourite supermarket treats are already vegan, you probably just didn’t know

“So many of your go-to supermarket snacks are accidentally vegan,” says Beth. Lots of crisp flavours, Oreos, and lots of sweets now don’t have gelatine in them.

And, here’s another secret trick of the trade from Beth, Co-op’s jam and custard donuts are suitable for vegans and are only 75p for a pack of 5. “However,” Beth adds, “this knowledge has proved very dangerous for my diet!”

Vegetables in supermarket

Shop at co-operatives for cheaper prices and less waste

If you’re looking to lead a vegan lifestyle, it’s likely that at least part of the reason is because you’re concerned about how eating meat impacts the environment. So cutting down on food packaging and food waste are principles that can complement your vegan diet.

Food co-operatives are great places that often stock a great range of vegan products. And whilst they may not stick out on the high street, you’ll be able to google one that’s local to you. Beth says she has one at her university.

These stores aren’t organised as private companies looking to make a profit, so prices are often more reasonable. And they also put the environment at the forefront of their operation, usually offering zero-waste buying options like refilling staples in your own jar or container, rather than buying in plastic packaging.

Local markets are also a good place to buy fruit and veg in bulk for much cheaper prices than the supermarket. But the big stores aren’t necessarily all that bad either! Lidl sell wonky veg boxes for an outrageously cheap £1.50, again limiting food waste.

Overall, being vegan doesn’t have to be more expensive, and often can be a much cheaper alternative to a diet that includes meat. All it takes is a bit of research and a few pointers from people who’ve been vegan for a while for you to lead the lifestyle too, without breaking the bank.

"Lidl sell wonky veg boxes for an outrageously cheap £1.50, again limiting food waste."

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