When I first switched to a plant-based diet, I fell into the trap of spending way too much money on fancy vegan meals and ingredients. It was a lot of fun at the time, but definitely not sustainable. I’ve also come to learn that it’s not necessary.
The thing about a plant-based diet is that it mostly consists of – surprise! – plants. So there’s really no reason for it to be expensive to eat this way.
Over the years I’ve developed my own strategies to save as much money as possible while still eating an abundant, deliciously healthy diet. I never feel deprived or like I’m missing out on anything, simply because I’m not!
My savings account is looking much healthier these days, and my body is feeling even better. So I’ve decided to share these nine ways to save money on a plant-based diet to provide a little inspiration for anyone who wants to switch to whole foods without breaking the bank!
Stock up on the staples
It’s not all fancy vegan cheeses and exotic fruits – plant-based food often consists of some of the cheapest ingredients on the planet.
Take beans and rice, for example. They’re eaten daily in some of the poorest countries in the world, and for good reason. So much nutrition is packed into these seemingly unassuming husks and you can buy huge sacks of them for literally pennies.
Lentils are another super-cheap source of protein, keeping you fuller for longer and providing essential nutrients and vitamins. My favourite thing about lentils is how incredibly versatile they are – you can pop them in a shepherd’s pie, mix them into pasta sauces or add them to a curry. The list is endless!
I buy the biggest bags of dried lentils, oats and rice that I can find and store them in my pantry. Stocking up on these cheap, healthy essentials and using them as the base for many of your meals is one of the most effective ways to save money on a plant-based diet, and you’ll never be stuck for ingredients again.
Take advantage of sales
A few years back, I started doing my weekly supermarket shopping online. I’ve never looked back – it’s faster, stress-free and so much easier than roaming the aisles of my local Sainsbury’s searching for that one elusive ingredient.
But by far the biggest benefit of shopping online is the amount of money that I save every week.
It’s so much easier to spot sales and special offers from the comfort of your sofa – they’re clearly marked and you can take the time to work out which deals will save you the most money.
If you know that you use a certain ingredient fairly regularly, make sure to stock up on it whenever you spot a sale. I always have tinned tomatoes, oat milk and vegan pesto in my pantry – they’re essential staples in our household, so I make sure to buy in bulk when I find them at a good price. It can seem counter-intuitive to purchase these items when you don’t actually need them, but you’ll save a surprising amount of money in the long run!
Visit your local farm
Fun fact – supermarket prices aren’t always the best value for money. So many fruits and vegetables are grown across the country (or even overseas!) and then transported to your local store, adding extra cost and reducing the freshness of the produce.
It’s also impossible to know exactly when the items were picked, and how long they’ve been sitting on the shelves. Freshly picked produce always tastes better – especially if you pick them yourself!
A visit to your local farm is both a fun day out and a cheap shopping trip. You might be surprised at how close you live to one! As I live in London I was convinced that I’d need to venture far out into the countryside, but a quick Google search brought up Hewitt’s Farm just a short drive from my apartment.
There’s something uniquely satisfying about plucking apples from a tree or digging up a beetroot. It’s even more satisfying when you realise just how much money you’re saving! I always use kabocha squash as an example, but I’m constantly amazed that I can find them at Hewitt’s Farm for less than £2 each while Ocado are selling them for over £5 a pop!
Every time I visit, I fill up bags of fresh produce for just a few pounds. There’s nothing better.
I’ve written an entire blog post on the benefits of picking your own fruits and vegetables – check it out!
Plan your meals
I touched on this point in my ‘5 Healthy Tips For Navigating The Supermarket‘ post, but I can’t stress it enough – planning your weekly meals in advance will save you so much time and money.
In the past I would wander the supermarket aisles and just pick up whatever appealed to me. This led to me spending way more than I had originally budgeted for, and I would arrive home with bags full of random ingredients and snacks that didn’t really make up any meals!
Now, I make my weekly grocery shop a habit. I browse Pinterest for interesting recipes and come up with a list of meals for the week, making sure that many of the ingredients overlap (another money-saving tip!) When it comes to purchasing everything, I’m way less tempted by those random items as they simply don’t fit into my meal plan.
These days I actually look forward to my grocery shopping routine – is this proof that organisation is the key to happiness, or a sign that I’m getting old? Either way, I’ll take it.
Fresh is best
It’s no secret that veganism is a huge trend right now.
While I’m overjoyed that more and more people are reaping the benefits of a plant-based diet, the explosion in popularity has resulted in an influx of vegan junk food.
Expensive vegan junk food.
When I first went plant-based over three years ago, there weren’t many options to choose from. I had to cook most of my meals from scratch using fresh ingredients and if I wanted a treat, I had to make it myself.
While the lack of vegan options was a little annoying, it did mean that I was forced to eat an extraordinarily healthy diet. I ended up loving fruits and vegetables, as I didn’t really have any other choice! I also saved a lot of money on impulse purchases as I couldn’t just grab a treat off the shelves.
These days, you can pop into almost any supermarket and come out with bags filled with vegan junk food. Cakes, biscuits, chocolate, ice-cream… no matter what you’re craving, there’s a vegan version out there!
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m thrilled that plant-based eating is now more accessible than ever. But my wallet isn’t so happy.
I find it so difficult to resist these new offerings, and it seems like more are being released every day! Almost all the major restaurants and fast food chains now cater to vegans, and there are dedicated ‘Free From’ sections in the supermarkets which are stocked with junk food.
I find it really helpful to take a step back and remember why you switched to a plant-based diet in the first place. Was it for your health? These vegan treats are often loaded with sugar, salt and fat. For the planet? Evidence shows that many vegan treats are actually damaging the environment. Was it for the animals? Palm oil is usually found in these vegan treats, which is destroying orangutans homes.
Of course, it’s important to treat yourself once in a while. But don’t lose sight of the roots of plant-based eating – fresh, healthy meals cooked from scratch. Put down the Gregg’s sausage roll and reach for the lentils – trust me, your bank account will thank you.
Spice up your life
I’m proud to say that I have finally amassed a fully-fledged collection of herbs and spices. I feel like a real adult!
Besides looking pretty on your kitchen shelf, herbs and spices can be a lifesaver on those days when you need to cobble together a meal using the absolute bare bones of your pantry. Hey, we all have them!
Got a tin of black beans, tomatoes, an onion and a cup of rice? Cook it all up with a little chilli powder, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika and you’ve got a super-simple chilli bowl that tastes like it should be way more complicated.
Not feeling that plain potato? Chop it into cubes and roast with a little olive oil and curry powder, and serve with any greens you can find. Trust me, it’s delicious.
If you’re trying to save a little money, buying simple ingredients and jazzing them up with your favourite herbs and spices can be incredibly effective. They’re inexpensive and last forever in the pantry as you only need a little sprinkle at the time, so you really have no excuse not to start your own collection.
But be warned – once you start, you won’t be able to stop!
Grow your own
What tastes better than fresh, organic vegetables?
Super-fresh, totally organic vegetables picked straight from your garden (or rooftop planters, if you live in an apartment!)
I love the feeling of growing my own produce, and it really doesn’t have to be difficult. In the past I’ve tried my hand at tomatoes, coriander, strawberries, spring onions and chives – they haven’t always worked out perfectly, but I’ve definitely managed to get a couple of salads out of them.
My ultimate goal is to become as self-sufficient as possible. I’d love to buy a house with a big garden and turn it into my own personal allotment! But for now, I’m starting small. This summer I’m bringing my little rooftop planters back to life, and Elliott’s parents have kindly agreed to help me start a vegetable patch in their garden.
If you’re feeling a little intimidated by the thought of growing your own produce, I’m right there with you. I’ll be learning and experimenting this summer, and will be sharing my discoveries right here.
Keep an eye out for my ‘Gardening for Beginners’ series, coming soon on the blog!
Keep it clean
There are so many benefits to keeping your fridge, freezer and kitchen cupboards clean. The lack of crumbs and spills means that everything is more hygienic, it’s easier to see and grab what you need while cooking and best of all, it saves you money!
I like to fully clean out my fridge once a week before I pack my groceries away, while my cupboards and freezer are reorganised every two weeks. This may seem a little excessive, but my fridge is so small that I need to make sure all space is fully optimised in order to fit in as much food as possible. Plus, I actually enjoy this task – I find it relaxing and satisfying.
Weird? Maybe. Thrifty? Definitely.
A clean and organised kitchen makes it easy to see which items you already have, which items are about to expire and which items you need to purchase. This avoids a ton of food waste – when you see that bag of spinach chilling on the shelf and know that you only have one day to eat it before it goes bad, you’re more likely to reach for it and use it up. Much better than letting it spoil and then having to repurchase!
Keeping everything clutter-free also avoids that annoying scenario when you think you may already have an ingredient, but can’t be sure. You buy it just in case, and then arrive home to see it sitting in your pantry. Being able to see what you have on a daily basis makes it easier to remember the ingredients that you actually need, and saves you from making those tempting but ultimately unnecessary food purchases.
While I love bagging a bargain when it comes to food, sometimes it’s worth splurging a little to ensure that you’re getting the best quality.
Take organic food, for example. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to buy everything organic. Check out the ‘Dirty Dozen and Clean 15‘ lists – they’re updated every year and let you know exactly which ingredients should always be organic, and which are okay to buy conventional. Sometimes it’s worth spending just that little bit extra on the highest quality produce.
Fresh food isn’t the only thing that’s worth the investment. I make black bean nachos on a fairly regular basis and make a point of spending a little more on the tortilla chips. They can turn a healthy, fresh meal into a sodium-packed bomb, so to me it makes sense to splash out on a healthier version. If you’re interested, these are my go-to!
Everyone is different, so what you consider an essential splurge might be unnecessary to others. Take some time to figure out what you’re happy to spend more money on – maybe you only really enjoy the most expensive almond milk, or that specific raw sauerkraut from the health store.
It may seem a little counter-intuitive for me to recommend spending more in a post about saving money, but I never want to spread the message that money shouldn’t be spent on treating yourself.
Life is for living, and food is for enjoying to the fullest!
Will you be implementing any of these money-saving strategies?