Vegan on a Budget 101
One of the biggest reasons I hear for people not going vegan is that they can't afford it. And i totally understand vegan food at first glance can seem all fancy health food shops and overpriced processed items. But if you are willing to put in a little effort, and stick to some of my golden rules, eating vegan is the cheapest way to eat! Staples like veg, fruit, pulses and grains are far far cheaper than meat and cheese. So here is my handy guide to eating vegan on a budget.
Cook your own - Vegan food is super trendy, and the supermarkets are fully aware of this. Vegan ready meals and processed items can be as much as three times the price of a non vegan equivalent. Cook more food from scratch and you will find it's cheaper. You don't have to be a master cook, start with basics, such as pasta, rice and beans, and curry and before too long you will be able to do anything the supermarket can but better.
Bulk cook - When making dishes, particularly one pot dishes such as stews and curries make more than you need and eat for days to come. Freeze anything that won't last too long.
Take your own lunch - That bulk cooking will come in handy here. Use some of last night's dinner as today's lunch. It's not just ready meals that get the vegan price tag, sandwiches and take away lunch foods are far more expensive when labelled vegan.
Use fruit and veg markets - If you are lucky enough to live near a fruit and veg market, use it! My first discovery of a fruit and veg market was when I lived in Birmingham. The Bull ring market became my favourite place, I remember ringing my mum super excited saying "I can buy a ton of tomatoes for a pound!" That was more tomatoes than I could possibly need but I was up for making the most of it. I did this buy bulk cooking tomato pasta sauce and freezing it. That way I as long as I had pasta in I always had a quick, tasty, homemade meal if I needed it. Now I live near Ridley Road market, in Dalston, which may not quite be as cheap as the Bull ring market five years ago, but sure isn't bad. It's a LOT cheaper than the supermarket, plus nothing is wrapped in plastic, so you're doing your bit for the earth too!
Use the foreign foods section - Most large supermarkets have a foreign foods section. This section will regularly have items like spices, rice, and coconut milk for much cheaper than elsewhere in the supermarket.
Shop in bulk - In the foreign foods section you will also often find items in bulk, 1 kilo of rice may seem like more rice than you could ever use. But as rice is a grain, that when stored in cool dry conditions, will not go off, it is worth buying in large quantities as it's cheaper. You can also find things like spices in bulk in this section too. Another great place to buy bulk is online, this is a great option if you have less access to large supermarkets.
Always check the reduced section and deals in supermarkets - You will often find seriously discounted items, but don't be drawn in by stuff you don't need. Stick only to what you know you need, that way you will be saving money and not wasting food. You can also opt for items that are on offer if they are a good alternative to what you originally planned to buy. For example my local supermarket normally has a least one plant based milk on offer, so I choose to buy whichever option is cheapest at the time, rather than always going for the same type.
Buy nuts from lidl/aldi - Nuts are stupidly expensive in most UK supermarkets. It's really crazy how much they can charge you for a cashew. The best supermarkets I have found have been lidl or aldi, where they sell nuts in larger quantities and for cheaper. I've also heard costco are very good, so if you have a costco car put it to use!
Don't buy the refrigerated plant based milks - In most supermarkets, if you go to the long life milk section you will find all the plant based milks, and they are around 50p cheaper than the plant based milks in the refrigerated milk section.
Organic oats and gluten free oats are the same thing -(not strictly vegan but for my gluten free gals and guys) Supermarkets will often mark things as gluten free unnecessarily, I've seen ketchup marked as gluten free when most ordinary ketchups have no gluten in. And guess what it was twice the price of normal ketchup! So always check if you need something to be gluten free. Oats for example contain no gluten but often pick it up in the manufacturing process, gluten free oats are hella pricey tho! If you go for organic oats you avoid the glutenous manufacturing and you save yourself some moniez.
Know your store cupboard staples - I've mentioned a few of them already, but always have things like rice, pasta, lentils and spices on stand by. That way you can always whip up a simple dinner, varying the vegetables to what you have in.
Curries are leftover champions - Curries are the perfect way to use up leftover vegetables. One slightly old carrot, half a broccoli, and a couple of sweet potatoes that may have seen better days, is a curry in my book. I often vary the spices so the result is different every time. Throw in a can of tinned tomatoes, or coconut milk and you got yourselves a curry!
Store veg correctly - Find out how vegetables are best stored. Some belong in the fridge, while others will do well in a cool, dry cupboard. Some vegetables last a matter of days, (I'm looking at you avocados) while others such as root vegetables and squashes can last for weeks. Storing vegetables in the optimum way will help them to last longer, and for you to get the most bang for your buck from them.
Eat seasonally - Vegetables and fruit that are in season will be cheaper than those out of season. If you're buying strawberries in mid December in the UK, they will have been shipped half way across the world and the price will reflect that. Also it's better for the planet so win win!
Use water instead of oil - Where you can swap oil for water. You can fry most things in a small amount of water. Oil isn't exactly cheap, as it's very labour intensive, and if you want that virgin cold pressed stuff you're looking at breaking the bank. Water on the other hand is free from your tap!
Make your own stock - Stock is a super handy ingredient to have around, you can add it to pasta sauces, curries or soups. Fresh stock is often expensive, and all stock will come in packaging some of which will be plastic. The thing is stock is super easy to make yourself. As you are cooking collect your vegetable scraps (all vegetables will do except brussel sprouts as they will give your stock a bitter flavour) and place together in a freezer bag in the freezer. Once you have collected enough scraps to fill a large saucepan, place the frozen scraps into the pan and cover with water. Place a lid on the pan. Bring the water to the boil and allow to simmer for a couple of hours, until the water is a nice dark colour. Drain the liquid into a jug. and then pour into freezer moulds. Pop out an ice cube or two of stock every time you require it for cooking. Save yourself some pennies, and reduce your waste!
Don't buy avocados - For real, just don't do it! They are overpriced and more often than not they go off before you can eat them. Ok I sorta take this back, you can buy 6 avocados for £1 in my local market. But steer clear of the supermarket ones to look after your purse strings.
Ps. If anyone is interested the bag I am using in these photos is from my fave babes over at The Revival Collective, click here if you wanna get your hands on one too!