Is a Vegan Diet More Expensive?

One of the most common misconceptions about a vegan diet is that it’s more expensive than an omnivore diet. This is one of the more popular excuses for why someone who is interested in veganism doesn’t go vegan. 

The reason why vegan food seems more expensive is that people are looking at the prices of vegan alternatives to animal products like vegan meat, cheese, ice cream, etc., rather than the cost of vegan whole foods and comparing that to the price of animal products. 

A lot of processed vegan products are newer, made by small companies, and don’t have special subsidies that animal products have, but as more vegan products become mass-produced and easily available, they’re getting cheaper to buy. I have seen this with vegan milk and vegan meat here in Thailand and am starting to see that with vegan cheese as more vegan cheese products pop up in supermarkets. Recently, animal milk became more expensive than dairy-free alternatives in the UK! So even vegan processed food is becoming cheaper!

When transitioning from an omnivore diet to a vegan diet, people typically gravitate towards buying vegan alternatives to animal products. I certainly did that when I first went vegan, but I stopped doing that once I moved out of the U.S. and didn’t have any access to vegan alternatives for eight months. 

Aside from drinking oat milk with my morning tea, I just have processed vegan food once in a while or when a new vegan product arrives at the supermarket that I want to try. I don’t eat very much processed food since it makes me feel sluggish and bloated, and a lot of those products give me allergic reactions. 

You don’t need to buy Beyond Burgers and Follow Your Heart cheese to go vegan. It can be a nice treat once in a while, but if that type of food is too expensive for you or you just want to be healthier, you can eat very well as a vegan and spend less than you would if you bought animal products. 

As a vegan, your main staples are vegetables, fruit, noodles, rice, and beans. If you like gluten, then pasta and bread might be your staples too. In every country I have lived in and visited, all of those staples are very cheap and much cheaper than meat, cheese, milk, and eggs. 

Vegetable stir fry is very cheap to make, and there are so many variations. Mommy Tang has some great stir-fry recipes like this shitake mushroom recipe. Yeung Ma Cooking has so many fast and easy recipes. I really like this 10-minute, easy stir-fry recipe

Noodles are also very cheap too, and there are endless possibilities for dishes you can make using noodles. Pad Thai is the most popular Thai dish and is cheap to make. If you want to try an authentic, Thai recipe, (there are so many bad recipes claiming to be pad Thai but aren’t authentic), check out this pad Thai recipe from Vegan International. I also love this garlic chili noodle recipe from Yeung Ma Cooking.

Beans are extremely cheap, and you can use them for all kinds of dishes like soup, salad, chili, sandwiches, and bean bowls. You can even mash them up and make vegan burgers with them. I make bean and rice bowls about once a week since I grew up eating rice and beans, and it’s my comfort food. This burrito bowl recipe from the Vegan Zombie is delicious. I have made it many times. Making beans from scratch is cheaper than buying canned beans and is also healthier and tastes better. Once you try making beans from scratch once, you’ll see how easy it is and notice the big difference in taste.

When going vegan, it’s important to learn how to cook if you don’t already know how to. This makes it much easier to eat, and it’s also cheaper. I live in a town with only two vegan restaurants, and they’re both mediocre, so I cook 99% of the time. 

When I lived in Bangkok, I ordered out about twice a week, and it was definitely more expensive than cooking. I typically spend $10-$20 for one meal when I order food. In Asia, the restaurant portions are really small and not very filling, so I end up needing to order two or more dishes to feel full, which gets expensive. That’s why I prefer to cook. 

I do most of my grocery shopping at a local, outdoor market instead of a supermarket. The local market here sells fruit, veggies, rice, noodles, and beans, as well as some herbs and spices that I use a lot. Anything that I can’t find at the local market, I’ll buy at the supermarket. There’s a cheaper market called Tops where I try to buy everything that I can’t find at the local market, but if I can’t find it at Tops, then I’ll go to Gourmet Market or Villa which are both very expensive, so I really limit what I buy there. 

I typically spend about $10 at the local market on ingredients for a meal that will last 2-3 days. The cheapest dishes I make are vegetable stir-fry, curry, noodles, and bean and rice bowls. Those dishes cost $3-$6 for all the ingredients and last 2-3 days. 

The most expensive thing I make are bell peppers stuffed with quinoa because quinoa is more expensive than rice, and I use a lot of ingredients in that dish. My stuffed bell peppers cost about $20 for all the ingredients, but I don’t use all of the quinoa and can make a salad with the extra. I can also eat that for 2-3 days.

I recently made pizza for the first time since Violife vegan cheese just arrived at the supermarkets here. It cost $30 to buy all the ingredients, but I was able to make two pizzas with one package of mozzarella and one can of pizza sauce. Plus, now I have everything I need to make many more pizza crusts- I just need to spend money on the sauce, cheese, and toppings when I want to make pizza again. 

I typically spend $100-$200 a week on food. I normally don’t buy processed food aside from oat milk. My biggest food expenses are extra virgin olive oil and organic tea, which lasts a couple of weeks. Even when I splurge on food, I still don’t spend more than $30 on a meal that lasts at least two days and makes several large portions. 

Oats, bananas, raisins, and seasonal fruit all tend to be very cheap and perfect for breakfast, snacks, and desserts. Smoothie possibilities are pretty endless, and those can be as cheap or expensive as you want. I like making strawberry smoothies with bananas, oat milk, and frozen strawberries. 

Being a vegan is not more expensive when you eat mainly whole foods and cook most of your meals yourself. Once you know how to cook and find recipes that you like, you can eat well and not need to spend very much money. Most of the stuff you will end up making will last a few days and can feed a few people. Cooking your own food is healthier, cheaper, and a lot of times, tastes better than the food you’ll eat at a restaurant.

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