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Is A Vegan Diet Expensive?

If you asked me what’s the cheapest diet in the world, I would repeat back to you the sage words of financial guru Dave Ramsey:  “Rice and beans, beans and rice.”

Now, Dave Ramsey is no vegan; his expertise is in advising debtors how to scrimp and save in order to save money. But he’s right. When looking at the diets of the poorest countries in the world, you’ll find that meat and other animal products are scarce, often not making the menu at all.

While many people still tend to think of a vegan diet as being pricy, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the opposite is the case, with many folks tentatively exploring the economics of a plant-based diet, only to find that it actually turns out to be cheaper. 

The question is: when a vegan diet is so much more cost-effective, why does veganism receive such a bad reputation, budget-wise?

Despite its growing popularity, veganism has always been considered a niche diet. Many people learn what they know about veganism from the internet. Social media influencers and celebrities can paint a very different picture of a plant-based diet than what the average vegan is consuming. From diet detoxes, specialty-store organic foods, and expensive convenience products, the most visible vegans create an extravagant picture that for many can appear unattainable. 

Even well-meaning vegan cookbooks sometimes include ingredients that a person might only use once. 

But there are many unnecessary expenses that can be easily avoided, making veganism accessible to those across the financial spectrum. 

As we explained in 8 Tips for Going Vegan on a Budget:

The myth of vegan eating as being unavoidably expensive is exacerbated by the fact that many people equate a vegan diet with pre-packaged foods and specialty items such as meat alternatives, dairy substitutes, and certain other ingredients that are convenient to be sure, but might not be so affordable for low-income consumers… There is no single ‘plant-based diet’ though, and there are plenty of ways to eat vegan on a tight budget.” 

Here is some practical advice for new vegans, looking to save money and work within their budget:

  • Buy cheap staples in bulk, such as beans, rice, lentils, potatoes, and oats:
  • Choose dried over canned versions wherever possible
  • Buy frozen fruit and vegetables to reduce spoilage
  • Buy bananas and apples over more expensive fruits such as berries
  • Buy food in season
  • Use simple recipes that don’t require unusual ingredients
  • Grow your own food if you can!
  • Cook from scratch wherever possible
  • Make your own plant milks, cheeses, and ice cream! Even meat substitutes like seitan can be reproduced in your own kitchen. 

Pressed for time in the kitchen?

Not everyone has the time or the know-how to cook. But there are some time-saving approaches that can help, such as batch cooking beans and rice, to be reheated over the course of the week. Pre-cooked beans can even be stored in the freezer for later use. The beauty of this method is that with small adjustments these foods can be made into a variety of dishes without wasting extra time. 

No time to batch cook? Try a slow cooker, which cooks your meal while you’re at work.

Beyond the grocery bill:

The cost of a vegan diet depends on the individual’s choice and preferences. It can be as expensive or as cheap as you make it to be. More and more, it can even be healthy and convenient! 

But there’s a bigger picture involved.

Plant-based diets have been shown to prevent multiple chronic diseases, including various cancers, obesity, heart disease and diabetes, which are some of our most widespread health conditions. A recent study calculated that if Americans gave up animal products altogether, the country could save $250 billion dollars annually in associated health-care costs. 

That’s a lot more significant than a few extra bucks a week off your grocery bill.