How to Be Vegan on a Budget (The Complete Guide)

by Alena

Plant-based foods don’t have to be expensive! Learn how to be vegan on a budget with smart planning, our everyday tips, food lists, easy recipes & more.

If you think that food cost keeps you from going vegan, this article is for you! Changing your diet and life can seem daunting enough but with our tips for saving money while eating delicious food, being vegan on a budget is totally possible.

We’ll share cheap vegan meals, accessible plant-based staples, shopping tips, free printables, a meal plan and much more in this article!

No matter if you’re vegan in college or want to become a plant-based family, this lifestyle can be tailored to your needs — regardless of income.

Forget about superfoods or expensive powders! Here’s how to make a plant-based diet work if you’re low on money.

Free budget printables

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How to be vegan on a budget

Keep track

First and foremost, create a weekly budget for food. It’s a good idea to make it a bit higher in the beginning and then see if it’s doable for you.

Next, write down everything you purchase and how much it was. You can also calculate in your head during your shopping trip as you add items to your card and adjust as needed.

Not only does it help you to focus on a certain number and be conscious about what you buy but you might also find a few “offenders” that increase your grocery bill more than you would want!

Perhaps you’ll be able to find good replacements for these items.

Prepare your own meals

Restaurant or diner meals are much more expensive compared to self-made ones since you’re paying for the service. Eating out should only be an occasional treat if you’re on a budget.

If you’re out and about, try to prepare meals or snacks in advance and take them with you in a lunch box. Find our favorite vegan lunch ideas here!

This way you also have full control over what goes into your meals and know that they are fully vegan!

When you prepare your own meals, consider cooking large batches and freeze the leftovers in meal-sized containers.

Budget-friendly vegan foods

Try to make these the basis of your diet and use them in most of your meals:

  • Rice
  • Bread
  • Pasta & noodles
  • Dried or canned beans & lentils
  • Potatoes
  • Seasonal produce
  • Canned tomato products
  • Tofu
  • TVP
  • Soy Curls

These ingredients might not sound super exciting but you can create so many dishes out of them from chilis to pasta marinara, potato bakes, stir-fries, sandwiches and so much more.

Buy in bulk

Big packages or family packs usually provide much better value for the cost than small containers or bags. 

Look out for the unit price which tells you the exact cost per pound, liter, etc. This makes it easy to compare products and choose the cheapest option!

You can also visit bulk stores that let you load up on items like oats, rice, pasta, nuts or seeds for a very good price since you’re not buying for packaging or a brand name.

Buy what’s in season

Foods that are grown in season not only taste better but also are a lot cheaper. That may be root vegetables and citrus fruits in winter, squash and figs in fall or watermelon and nectarines in summer.

For a full overview of what foods are currently in season, have a look at this seasonal calendar.

Visit your local farmers market to be inspired by the variety of flavorful, in-season produce.

white table with several bowls containing chopped zucchini, chopped potato, sweet potatoes, carrots, ginger and onionpin it

Keep recipes simple

Simple doesn’t have to mean boring! Make starches your base and experiment with simple but flavorful ingredients and spices. 

Think baked potatoes with beans and salsa, roasted pumpkin with guacamole or banana ice cream. Sounds delicious, right?

We suggest that you combine filling starches with protein-packed legumes and some seasonal veggies for your main meals — this is a super budget-friendly and nutritious formula.

Vegan Nutrition Guide

Start meal planning

Take out one day a week to roughly plan out your meals and snacks ahead of time. See which food you already have at home and if you can reuse it for several meals.

Try to be realistic about portion sizes, don’t forget about snacks and ask your family what they want to eat to get more ideas! 

As mentioned above, focusing on whole foods isn’t just healthier in general but can also help you keep food costs low.

Check out our meal planning tips, vegan meal plan and easy recipes below.

Stick to your grocery list

Impulse buying can cost you quite a bit of money and buying too much perishable food that you won’t be able to finish isn’t helpful either.

When you create your grocery list, keep in mind what’s already in your kitchen and which meals you have planned for the coming week.

However, if you see some items at the store that are on sale, you can buy larger quantities of them and use these foods over the course of the next few days by incorporating them into your meal plan.

two printable pages to create a vegan grocery list

download our free printable vegan grocery list

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Make easy swaps

Would you love to make a certain dish that calls for harder-to-find or expensive ingredients? 

Look around on the internet to see how you can replace individual spices or add-ins with what you have at home.

Things like mock chicken or vegan cheese sauce are super easy to make!

Choose nutrient-dense ingredients

There should always be some room for fun foods for sure but you should spend your money first and foremost in a way that meets your nutritional needs.

If the majority of your weekly budget is used on vegan burgers or potato chips, you won’t feel great!

Nutrient-dense doesn’t mean lots of salad, either — just go for filling and healthy staples like oatmeal, tofu or potatoes instead of cereal or fries.

Visit Farmers’ markets

Farmers’ markets offer you a great variety of local, seasonal, and nutritious produce. Buying directly from the grower not only supports your local community but is also cheaper in some cases.

Sometimes the sellers have tables with reduced fruits and vegetables that have a few blemishes and there’s almost always the option to get a discount if you decide to buy in bulk.

Going to the farmers market shortly before they close is also a good way to make some bargains because the sellers want to get rid of their produce quickly at this point.

Buy frozen food

Frozen fruits and vegetables are extremely convenient and often cheaper than their fresh counterparts. Frozen foods are picked ripe and then flash-frozen right away to maintain a great nutritional profile.

Especially in the wintertime, when the variety and quality of fresh produce aren’t optimal, buying frozen could be your best choice.

Read the ingredients label, though, and watch out for any animal products like butter or milk!

Vegan Ingredients Checker

Freeze leftovers

If you recognize that you bought too many fruits or vegetables and they’re about to turn bad, go ahead and freeze them.

Ripe or even overripe fruit can still be frozen and turned into a delicious smoothie later on and frozen vegetables can make a tasty stew or soup!

Whenever you find an exceptionally good deal on fresh produce, you can stock up and freeze them as well.

Eat before you shop

Go grocery shopping after you’ve eaten. You always want to be full and satiated when buying your food. 

By eating right before you go shopping, you are far less prone to make any impulse decisions — especially when it comes to these little overpriced snack foods!

Grow your own food

While it surely is an ambitious project to start, growing your own food can be highly satisfying and joyful. 

You will have full control over the end product from soil composition to fertilization and will be able to eat it right after harvesting. It doesn’t get any fresher than that!

Not everyone is so blessed to have their own backyard, but even in small places or apartments, there are possibilities like using pots, window boxes or containers.

Drink water

If your tap water is of decent quality, try to get most of your liquid straight from there! Store-bought water is usually also cheaper compared to soft drinks or other beverages.

If you don’t like plain water, you can flavor it at home with some fruit juice!

You can also check out findaspring.com to see if something in your local area can provide you with fresh and clean water totally free of cost — all you need is a big container to store and transport the water. 

Do it yourself

The prejudice that vegan diets are expensive doesn’t come from nowhere — many vegan replacements like pre-made sausages, cheese or spreads can cost twice as much compared to their animal-based counterparts.

Luckily, you can prepare many of these foods easily by yourself! It surely requires a bit of time and effort, but the savings can be huge if you compare pre-made mock meat to TVP, for example.

Dry legumes can be up to 5 times cheaper than canned — plus, animal protein is even more expensive.

Other items that could be prepared by yourself include plant milk, yogurt, sauces or meatballs. Here are a few recipes to inspire you:

Go off-brand

Opt for store brands whenever possible. They often times offer the same quality at a much lower price as you save on advertising and packaging.

These lower-priced items are usually on the bottom shelves, so look down! Pricier stuff is located at eye level.

Don’t buy organic

Not only does it not have any real health benefits to do so, but it’s also usually much pricier and simply not necessary.

However, sometimes organic produce can go on sale and become cheaper than non-organic! In this case, just go for it.

If you do want to support a local farmer who produces organically and you can afford it, no need to hold back.

Consider memberships

Some stores have loyalty programs you can sign up for to get the best deals. Check out wholesalers such as Costco which require you to pay a membership fee upfront but you’ll oftentimes save well over that amount if you’re organized with your shopping.

Even for a single person or a small family, this step can be worth it, especially when it comes to non-perishable items or even vegan specialty products like crackers or protein bars.

woman in dress standing on the street with a bad of vegan groceries in her handpin it

Look for discounts & coupons

If there is more than one grocery store available near you, have a look at the different offers and discounts. You can find information about current offers and coupons in the newspaper or online.

Doing a little bit of research helps you to find the best deals across different stores and supermarkets. It can also inspire you to adapt your meal plans to the foods that are currently on sale and, therefore, offers more variety.

Keep in mind that this makes sense only if the venues aren’t spread out too much. Getting a discount on products is pointless if you’re wasting the same amount of money or more on fuel. In that case, sticking to just one store is the better option.

Explore new shops & look online

You can compare prices that way and discover new discount stores like Aldi, Lidl or Grocery Outlet in your area. They often offer amazing prices for great quality which can quickly cut your grocery bill in half!

Ethnic supermarkets usually offer cheaper items, too — plus, you can discover new foods and flavors that way.

Then, there are always online retailers that offer special deals for certain items or time-sensitive coupon codes you can use and stock up on personal care products, supplements or snack foods.

10+ Best Vegan Snack Boxes

Special occasions

Make a separate budget for eating out or buying more expensive food that you really really love! 

Being on a budget doesn’t have to mean that you can never “splurge” and treat yourself to a delicious meal that you’re really craving.

Not being too strict regarding your own rules can help prevent you from just throwing all of your good intentions out the window.

Vegan budget meal plan

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Nutriciously Week of Bowls iPad

free 7-day vegan meal plan

Your next week of eating is planned out with these quick and delicious vegan bowls, meal prepping steps & full grocery list.

More vegan guides

We’d love to make veganism easier for you, so check out these articles next!

Let us know in the comments which of these tips you found useful to stay on a budget! We’re curious to learn about your personal tips, too. Feel free to share this article or Pin it here!

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Alena sitting in a cafe with a bowl of fresh plant-based food and a glass of coffee in front of her

About Alena Handwritten FontAlena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.

14 thoughts on “How to Be Vegan on a Budget (The Complete Guide)”

  1. I greatly appreciate this article and the helpful budget sheet. I am taking the steps to transition my family into a plant based wholefood lifestyle and this is very useful. Thank you

    Reply
  2. I love this article, it reminded me of all the things I should be doing. I just wish my husband could understand how much cheaper a vegan diet is compared to his diet. Even when I add up my items on the receipt compared to his, he still doesn’t quite believe me. (By the way, our overall price is about the same every week, but I get about 4 to 5 times more items.) Thank you for writing this!!

    Reply
    • Hi Shawna,
      thanks for the comment and feedback! Sorry you’re husband is not fully on board – maybe when the great results keep rolling in, he’ll get a little more curious and would like to join you more and more. Is money a great issue/huge argument for you guys? Maybe the environment or preventing horrible disease could sway him a little more. Here is a nice overview: http://nutriciously.com/why-go-vegan/
      All my best,
      Alean

      Reply
  3. As a person interested in eating vegan, I found this article very helpful. I usually have no budget when it comes to food and have recently started changing my lifestyle to include health and financial changes. I have always been hesitant about giving up meat and processed foods. As a single father of two, the effort involved to plan, purchase and execute the vegan menu seemed a daunting task. Thank you and I hope to find more valuable information as i continue scouring your site.

    Reply
  4. Very informative and well written article. I am aware of most of the information you provided because I have been a vegan for a few years, but I loved finding new recipes and a few hints that I didn’t know about, like looking on the bottom shelves. Thank you.

    Reply

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