When it comes to going vegan, I’ve heard every excuse in the book…“I could never give up cheese” or “I wouldn’t be able to get all the necessary protein on a vegan diet” or my personal favorite: “Vegan food is way too expensive.” While I can easily destroy each one of those silly arguments with my vegan super powers, today I’d like to focus on the last one.
There is a preconceived notion that vegan food is ridiculously expensive. I find that slightly humorous, considering the absurd amount of money people will spend on on a sliver of cheese or a pound of cow flesh. Granted, not everyone purchases those items, but I am convinced that even the thriftiest “omnivore” can save money by going vegan. Take a gander at these 13 ways to go cruelty-free without spending a fortune.
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13 Ways to Save on Making Vegan Meals
While it may seem like a no-brainer, planning ahead by making a weekly or even monthly menu is an easy way to save money as a vegan. Try to purchase items that can be used more than once that week, that way you aren’t wasting half a head of cauliflower or most of a block of tofu. Plus, sticking to a menu helps reduce impulse purchases.
While you can easily plan your own menu, there are a couple really great services out there to take the brain-power out of planning your meals like Well Vegan and The Fresh 20. Both offer a sample menu so you can determine if they would be a good match for your family before subscribing. Other services, like the 5 Dollar Meal Plan, offer specialty menus for vegetarians. If you haven’t committed to going full vegan yet, these plans are a good start!
Make Your Own “Meat” and “Cheese”
Despite what some may think, most of us did not go vegan because we disliked the taste of animal products. Hell, I loved steak and could down a block of cheddar cheese in two days. So, if you’re like me and enjoy meat, dairy, and eggs, doing your best to find suitable replacements will definitely help you stick to your cruelty-free lifestyle.
One way to save on these substitutes is to make your own. While there are hundreds of cookbooks out there that cover this topic, the king of realistic animal product replacements is hands-down Chef Skye aka The Gentle Chef. His cookbooks The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook and The Gentle Chef are both necessary editions for every vegan household. Plus, Chef Skye has a Facebook group where you can go to ask questions, get inspiration, and see the latest concoctions he has come up with.
Indians, or more specifically, Hindus, have been experts on living meat-free for thousands of years. Therefore, becoming familiar with Indian staples is a great way to live a healthy – and cheap – vegan lifestyle. That being said, before making a trip to your local Indian store, become familiar with some of the basics otherwise your head might explode. #Truth.
I was lucky enough to nanny for two different Indian families who took me under their wing, teaching me about lentils (dal), how to use a pressure cooker, and how to make simple Indian dishes. If you aren’t friends with any Indians, head to the library and check out some Indian cookbooks. While not all Indian dishes are vegan – or even vegetarian – many are, and you will easily find plenty of options to try.
And, if you’re looking for cheap vegan meals, Indian food is the way to go! Seriously, their staples are cheap. Like dirt cheap. Specifically, their dry goods section will blow you away. I recommend picking up some moong dal – which has as much protein as chicken – masoor dal, dried beans (a huge money saver), rice, flour/atta, and spices. I make a dish for my son called kitchari and I spend less than a buck for 4 servings since I keep all of these staples on hand.
Make a Friend
I can’t stress this enough: Support and camaraderie are absolutely essential when going vegan. So many times I have gotten inspiration for cheap vegan meals, a tip on how to survive a dinner at a non-vegan friendly restaurant, or help on how to veganize an omni meal from fellow vegans. Here’s the thing: The more you know about veganism and vegan food, the less time and money you will spend. Knowledge is power, especially when going plant-based.
You can make friends by searching for vegan Facebook groups, volunteering with an animal rights organization, or signing up for a free mentor through Vegan University. Friends make this all worth it, not to mention fun.
Become Buds with Joe
While Trader Joe’s is known for their cheap natural and organic food, they also have a gigantic selection of vegan food. If you are the type of person who hates cooking from scratch, Trader Joe’s has pre-made vegan meals that will save you big bucks. They have their own brands of meat substitutes, “nice” cream, vegan snacks and cookies, and tons of other tasty goodies for a fraction of what you’d pay at other stores. (I’m looking at you Whole Foods.)
In addition, Trader Joe’s keeps an in-store list of their vegan foods, making shopping a bit easier. That being said, not every vegan item is on their list. I’d recommend taking some time on your first trip to peruse their store, being sure to read labels.
My favorite Trader Joe’s vegan foods include:
- Chickenless Crispy Tenders
- Black Bean & Corn Enchilada
- Cherry Chocolate Chip Soy Creamy Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert
- Meatless Meatballs
- Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls
- Penne Arrabbiata
- Soy Creamy Mini Vanilla Sandwiches
- Pad Thai and Peanut Satay
- Speculoos Cookie Butter
- Chicken-Less Mandarin Orange Morsels (MY FAV!)
- Japanese Style Fried Rice
- Soy Creamer
- Almond, Coconut, Rice, and Soy Milk
- Coconut Yogurt
- Soft-Baked Snickerdoodles
- Organic Animal Crackers
- Beefless Ground Beef
- Reduced Fat Mayo Dressing
- Stone Ground Wheat Crackers
- Trader Darwin’s Vanilla Soy Protein (SO YUM!)
This is just a smattering of their yummies, so be sure to take a gander yourself the next time you’re near a Trader Joe’s.
If I was a Transformer, My Name Would Be Amazon Prime
Honestly, without Amazon Prime I would be spending hundreds of dollars more a year on vegan meals. Not only does Amazon Prime sell thousands of vegan foods, clothing items, and health and body products, you can save even more by shopping their Subscribe & Save and Prime Pantry sections. Not to mention, I save a huge amount of time and gas money not having to run across the entire Twin Cities in search of a random vegan health product or ingredient. There are also other great online shopping sites that can help you save money like crazy, check out our ebates review for more info!
A few of the items I purchase on Amazon include:
- VeganEgg by Follow Your Heart
- Ener-G Egg Replacer
- Natural Balance Vegetarian Dog Food
- Just Corn Freeze Dried Corn
- Just Peas Freeze Dried Peas
- Baby’s Only Soy Organic Toddler Formula
- Roland Quinoa
- Druids Grove Organic Soy Milk Powder
- Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (Yes, they’re vegan!)
- Deva Nutrition Vegan Supplements
Not an Amazon Prime member? Join here.
Costco, My Happy Place
To make cheap vegan meals, you’ve got to find bargains on food. Believe it or not, Costco is chock-full of cheap and delicious vegan vittles. But, unlike Trader Joe’s, Costco does not keep a starter list of vegan food. Plus, because the food at Costco is different depending on what region you live in, you won’t always find the items that other vegans post online. That’s kind of a bummer, but the prices on their staples – especially on their organic foods – is reason enough to get a membership. Not to mention they are absolutely wonderful to their employees, unlike Sam’s Club which is owned by Walfart (or Walshart as my hubby lovingly calls it).
My favorite staples to purchase at Costco include:
- Kirkland’s Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
- Organic produce, including apples, mushrooms, peppers, melons, oranges, strawberries, cucumbers, lettuce, blueberries, potatoes, carrots, and squash
- GIGANTIC tubs of hummus (aka “vegan crack”)
- Organic soy milk – both shelf stable and refrigerated
- Cruelty-free laundry detergent
- Organic frozen strawberries, peas, corn, and broccoli
- Tortillas, bread, and buns
- Coconut and cooking oils
- Organic sugar and flour
- Organic canned tomatoes, beans, fruit, pickles, and applesauce
- Chips, cookies, and crackers
A Few Other Tips for Making Cheap Vegan Meals
There are so many ways to make saving money on vegan food an achievable endeavor that it’s impossible to list them all. Here are a few more that have proven to be super helpful to me:
- Download the Target CartWheel app. They often list deals on vegan food, including Gardein and the new Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream. You also get an extra 5% off when you check out using your Target debit Red card.
- Shop at ALDI for staples. Don’t forget to bring a quarter for that obnoxious cart deposit.
- Have a co-op or Whole Foods near you? Pay attention to their weekly and monthly sales. You can save big bucks on otherwise spendy items. Plus, buying from their bulk section can save you a bundle.
- Invest in an electric pressure/slow cooker combo. When you stop paying for convenience foods and start using dried beans, rice, and lentils, you will save money.
- Consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) if you enjoy preparing and eating lots of different kinds of veggies.
- Believe it or not, Dollar Tree has a crazy amount of vegan goodies, especially in the frozen section. You can score veggie burgers, fruits and veggies, soy milk, and even amazeball soft pretzels. Mmmm.
- Invest in a separate freezer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stumbled across an epic deal on refrigerated or frozen vegan food and the only way I was able to really take advantage of it was because I had TWO chest freezers at home. These freezers also allow me to stock up on food at Trader Joe’s or the local co-op so that I only have to make the 75-minute round-trip every other month. They’re also great for hiding the dead bodies of your enemies.
Get It? Got It? Good.
So, have I convinced you of the real possibility that you can go vegan without breaking the bank? Pshaw, of course I have. Remember, when you go vegan you will not just save money. You’ll also be saving hundreds of innocent lives, not to mention the earth and your health. Talk about a win-win (or is that a win-win-win-win?). Use these tips and start planning your cheap vegan meals today!