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The Ultimate Guide to Eating Cheap Vegan Food: Grocery Shopping, Meal Prep Ideas, Show-stopping Recipes and More!

Myth: 

A vegan lifestyle is more expensive than other diet alternatives. 

Eating a vegan diet does not have to be more expensive than any other diet, you just need to learn some tips and tricks! 

We’ve compiled our best strategies to keep the cost of vegan food low. 

Here’s what you’ll find in this guide:

(Click to jump to a specific section)

Read on to learn how to maintain a healthy vegan lifestyle on a dime!

 

Vegan Grocery Shopping on the Cheap

First things first:

Let’s answer some questions about vegan grocery shopping!

When you are first transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, you might think that you need all of the bells and whistles to eat a healthy diet. 

Luckily, that’s not true. 

Let’s answer the 4 most common questions people have when they start shopping for a vegan diet!

1. Do I Need to Shop Organic?

The USDA found that shopping for organic food is 20% more expensive than their counterparts. 

Is buying organic food worth the cost? 

The short answer:

Sometimes. 

The primary reason that people choose to buy organic products is that it reduces the risk of being exposed to harmful chemicals and pesticides that are used to grow food. 

However, it has been found that a lot of these harmful components do not penetrate the flesh of some fruit and veggies, so it is not always necessary to buy organic. 

So,

How do you decide?

You can look in-depth at each food you are purchasing. Or, you can simply take a look at this tool:

The Dirty Dozen

This resource tells you what produce has been found to be the most affected by harmful pesticides and chemicals, and what is the least affected. 

That way you can save money on produce by buying local and conventional, and save up to buy organic when you can! 

2. Do I Need to Shop at Health Food Stores?

There is a stereotype that vegans and people that are mindful of their health need to shop at health food stores to get all the items they need!

But, is it really necessary?

Absolutely not!

When you think about it, a vegan diet is really bringing it back to the basics- 

Whole grains, produce, legumes, nuts and seeds, and spices. 

You can find all of these vegan staples at your local grocery store! If you are really trying to make your pennies stretch, you can even try shopping at multiple grocery stores to find the best deals. 

Fancier items that might not be at your local grocery store like plant-based protein powder, alternative meats, nutritional yeast, liquid smoke, etc, are not necessary to have a healthy vegan diet. 

Sticking with vegan staples at your local store is the best way to save money. 

3. Are There Any Tips on Saving Money at the Grocery Store?

The grocery bill for a family of four can cost upwards of $600 a month according to the USDA! 

We’re here to help you lower that cost. Here are a few ways you can save money on your weekly grocery runs!

Shop the Perimeter

Pre-packaged foods are often the ones that will rack up your bill! 

Save money by shopping around the edges of the store. You’ll find that this is where all of the whole foods are being sold, such as produce, legumes and whole grains. 

Use Your Coupons

Couponing is not for the faint of heart, but if you have some extra time on your hands and come up with a system for your coupons, you can save hundreds of dollars.  

Go to Several Stores

Get to know the grocery stores in your area really well! 

You’ll begin to notice what stores have the best deals on produce, grains, snacks, and more. If you have the time to shop at several stores to get all of your items, your piggy bank will thank you. 

Buy in Bulk

If you can afford the upfront cost, buying in bulk is one of the best ways to save money! 

While it will be more expensive to buy larger amounts of your non-perishable items like grains and oils initially, these purchases will last on your shelf so you don’t need to put money away next week on those same items! 

4. So, What Should Actually Be on My Weekly Shopping List? 

Now that we’ve talked about strategies for shopping, let’s talk about what to actually buy! 

Here is the ultimate vegan budget shopping list: 

  • Oil (olive oil, avocado oil, your choice!)
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Pasta
  • Tomato sauce
  • Plant milk
  • Nut Butter
  • Produce of your choice: Consistently cheap and versatile items include sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, broccoli, bananas, and apples

Seems too good to be true, right?

If you need some extra guidance on how to save money on a vegan grocery haul, here are some of our favorite YouTubers out there giving it a try!

These YouTubers tell you exactly what they buy for the week and have a ton of money-saving tricks to help YOU out!

 cheap vegan soup

20 Creative Vegan Recipes to Save Money

Saving money on food doesn’t mean that you have to have boring old rice and beans for every meal. 

You can still get creative in the kitchen and create a showstopping meal even if you’re on a budget! 

Here are 20 cheap and creative vegan recipes to make at home:

One-Pot Wonders:

Hearty comfort soups like jambalayas, stews, and soups oftentimes only need one pot!

Here are 5 simple recipes that taste delicious with little effort and money:

  1. Vegetable Jambalaya packed with spices and nutrition by Taste Love and Nourish
  2. Nourishing Miso Soup with healing spices like garlic and ginger by Yummy Mummy Kitchen 
  3. Sweet Potato and Kale Chili which is easy to freeze and store by Wallflower Kitchen
  4. Lentil Bolognese with Spaghetti to satisfy those carb-lovers by By the Forkful 
  5. Sri Lankan Dhal Curry with healing turmeric, green chilis, and coconut flavor by My Sri Lankan Recipe

Sweet and Savory Southwestern Recipes

Beans, quinoa, lentils, corn, and other Southwestern staple ingredients are easy to buy in bulk and whip up into a satisfying dinner for the whole family! Here are some Southwestern favorites: 

  1. Southwestern Buddha Bowl with a bit of spice by Create Mindfully
  2. Cauliflower Taco Bowls with creamy vegan cilantro ranch by This Savory Vegan
  3. Southwest Pasta Salad for a new summertime staple by Plays Well With Butter
  4. Vegan Taco Salad with lentil taco meat by Global Broadcast 4 Kids
  5. Easy Southwest Quinoa Salad for a pack of protein by Its A Keeper

Easy and Nutritious Noodle Recipes

Noodles and pasta are a cheap and simple way to satisfy your hunger! Try these recipes out for a budget-friendly dinner. 

  1. 15 minute Vegan Garlic Noodles by Choosing Chia (pictured above)
  2. Easy Vegan Ramen Noodles by Veggie Society
  3. Stir-Fried Noodles with Crispy Tofu by Cheap Lazy Vegan
  4. Cheap Vegan Lemony Garlic Brussel Sprouts Spaghetti by Sophia Aloui
  5. Thai Drunken Noodles with spices that pack a punch by Choosing Chia

Timeless Italian-Inspired Vegan Recipes

Hosting a dinner but looking for budget-friendly options? Italian food is always a crowd-pleaser!

       16 - 20. 5 Italian Inspired Vegan Meals under $3 Each by From My Bowl

All 20 of these vegan meals help your pennies stretch without getting bored in the kitchen! 

 Here's a recap:

 

Low-Cost Meal Prep to Save Major Cash

A great way to save money is to prep your meals for the entire week. 

Meal prep involves setting aside time for one day of the week, and making your meals for the entire week! 

This means that once your meals are done, you won’t have to ask yourself the dreaded question “What should we have for dinner?” every single night. 

Vegan meal prep is a great idea for you if you want to: 

  • Save Time During the Week
  • Buy Budget Food in Bulk
  • Stick to a Healthy Meal Plan

If this sounds like you, grab your favorite Tupperware and try out these weekly meal plans!

Get together with a friend, turn up the music, and spend the afternoon cooking up a storm!

vegan hummus and chips

10 Cheap On-the-Go Vegan Snacks to Save You Time and Money

Luckily, cheap food usually means convenient food. 

Pre-made cookies, chips, crackers and more can end up costing you a pretty penny throughout the week! Save yourself some money by utilizing the items you already have in your kitchen to create some delicious on-the-go snacks

Since the ingredients are fresh, these snacks are healthy, quick, AND cheap!

Here are our 10 favorite cheap vegan snacks to try:

  1. DIY trail mix
  2. Roasted Chickpeas
  3. Apples and Peanut Butter
  4. Veggies and Hummus
  5. Sweet Potato Fries
  6. Protein Balls with Oatmeal
  7. Baked Banana
  8. Popcorn
  9. Frozen Grapes
  10. Rice Cakes and Nut Butter

 

 

Convenient and Inexpensive Vegan Fast Food Options

Do you have a late night where you’re too tired to cook?

Are you in a pinch for time with no alternative? 

Do you simply want to satisfy the craving for fast food but want to save money in the process?

Don’t worry-

We’ve been there too, and we’re here to help. 

In recent years, fast-food chains have been rising to the occasion to meet the increasing demands for vegan food! 

It’s cheap, it’s vegan, and it’s right around the corner. Here is the lowdown of finding convenient and inexpensive fast food:

The 2 Best Vegan Fast Food Joints: 

1. Chipotle

Chipotle boasts a large number of vegan options on their menu! The rice, beans, tortillas, and the famous vegan sofritas offer a hearty meal for a low cost.

2. Taco Bell

Taco Bell also has many vegan options to offer! Their tortillas and black beans are vegan, and they have tons of tasty combos for you to try. 

The best part? Their cinnamon twists are vegan!

Tasty Vegan Options at Fast Food Chains

These vegan options will carry you through if you are looking for an inexpensive vegan meal while you are out and about!

  • Domino’s Thin Crust Pizza: Just ask for no cheese and stack this pizza crust with veggies to your heart’s desire!
  • Subway’s Veggie Delite: Subway’s Italian bread is vegan, so stack your favorite veggies and add some tangy sauces, and you have yourself a low-cost meal. 
  • Wendy’s Baked Potato: You’ll need to order this baked potato without the butter and sour cream, but it makes for a cheap and easy meal on the go!
  • Panda Express Chow Mein and Eggplant Tofu
  • Auntie Anne’s Sweet Almond Pretzel

Beyond Meat Options:

Plant-based meat alternatives are on the rise, and fast-food chains are incorporating them into their menu! 

Here are a few plant-based meat options to try at your fast food joint. (These options vary by location, so call ahead!)

  • White Castle Impossible Slider
  • Subway Beyond Meatball Marinara
  • Burger King Impossible Whopper

Eating fast food every day will really add up in cost, so it is best to shop and cook on your own. 

However, these quick fast food meals will work in a pinch if you are short on time and still want to save a bit of money!

saving money

Eating Vegan Food on a Budget

Are you totally confident in your ability to shop, cook, and eat vegan food on a budget?

Yes?

Then our work is done. 

Remember that the vegan diet does not have to be expensive! You don’t need to run out and buy fancy ingredients at pricey stores, you can still shop local to find everything you need. 

Now you know how to meal prep like a boss and prepare a cheap vegan meal that tastes decadent and expensive. 

The best part?

There are no rules when it comes to vegan cooking! 

Make sure to share whatever fresh vegan concoctions you come up with so that everyone can give it a try. 

Like what you’re reading?

Check out our post "How to Make Incredible Vegan Dishes At Home" for more tips!

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