Is it very expensive to be vegan? This question gets asked (and argued about) quite a lot these days as supermarket shelves become more and more lined with vegan alternatives.
Most of which come at a higher price than the non-vegan alternatives.
But the truth isn’t as simple as that . . . so in this post we’re going to break it down.
Table of Contents
Is it Very Expensive to Be Vegan? The Conditioning Factors
- The perceived cost of going vegan depends on many things, starting with which country you live in, what you plan to eat and what you used to eat before going vegan.
- Did you eat a lot of expensive meat? Did you spend money on fish and seafood? And what about cheese and dairy? Not to mention dairy in yogurts, desserts, cakes and biscuits. If the answer is yes, all these costs will be eliminated, giving you plenty of additional spending power for your new vegan shopping bill.
- Did you use to buy a lot of processed foods and are you planning to replace them with vegan processed foods (more expensive) or will you eat mainly whole foods (cheaper)?
- Do you buy organic where possible? Organic produce is more expensive than chemically sprayed, but worth it in many people’s opinion.
- Have you given up any other extras since becoming more food conscious, like cutting down on processed sugars or alcohol (for example) as these changes should all be included in your calculations.
- When looking at the cost of going vegan, compare the overall costs, not just a few isolated items which are more expensive.
- For the cheapest and healthiest way to go vegan, adopt a whole foods plant based (WFPB) way of eating. If you find being vegan is more expensive than before, you probably aren’t making he healthiest vegan choices.
- The overall costs of eating a healthy vegan diet, are most likely cheaper than before going vegan as long as you choose wisely. When you take everything into account, eating a healthy whole foods vegan diet won’t be as expensive as a standard American diet and in this post I’ll explain why.
Processed Vegan Foods Are More Expensive Than Their Vegan Counterparts – Yes
This is stated by Peta and can also be easily seen by walking into any supermarket and checking out the vegan burger prices for example. Processed vegan food is expensive.
You may be going vegan because you want to stop supporting animal abuse and want to start contributing to better planetary decisions by going vegan for the environment, but does it also include becoming more healthy yourself?
If you opt for a whole foods plant based diet you’ll be taking a big step towards reducing plastic in your home and choosing not only the healthiest but also the cheapest vegan lifestyle.
There’a a huge divide between the two ways of eating: vegan processed foods or vegan whole foods.
If you take your standard processed meat diet and just replace the processed foods with vegan alternatives, then it’s likely you’ll end up spending more on your vegan diet than you did before.
And the answer to the question, do you feel better physically since switching to a vegan diet, should be a resounding 100% yes.
Yes, yes, yes.
Anything less and you should take a good look at your diet. Maybe you’ll even find some items in there that are expensive and non-health giving which you can cut out of your diet.
Unless you find a way to cook using primary foods, you won’t be giving yourself the huge health benefits of a whole foods plant based vegan diet. And you will be spending more of your hard earned cash on convenience foods.
Solution to the Expense of Processed Foods
When you decide to go vegan, why not investigate a completely new way of cooking? A way of eating and living that promotes optimum health as well as saving the animals and the planet.
Eat for your heart, your skin, your longevity and your vitality. By doing this, you’ll find the vegan diet being cheaper than your old way of eating.
If you haven’t heard of the WFPB diet, you can read more about it in this guide to a whole foods plant based diet.
- Bottom line: eating a whole foods plant based vegan diet is cheaper and healthier than eating vegan processed foods.
Specific Vegan Ingredients
There are some inevitable ingredients which you will be buying as a vegan. Here we have a look at them and the relative expense involved.
The question of whether a vegan lifestyle is more expensive way of life is just one vegan FAQ when starting out as a vegan.
Plant Milk Vs Cows Milk
Plant milk is more expensive than cow’s milk.
Cow’s milk is the industry that’s been pushed and promoted by governments for years. It’s established and subsidised whereas plant milk is a relatively new market aimed at a minority population.
But dairy is an inflammatory food which promotes inflammation in the body. It is also the most common allergy among infants and young children and the third most common allergy among adults. That should tell us something about its suitability as a staple part of our diet.
According to this article in WebMed, milk allergy has now overtaken peanut allergy to become the most serious allergy threat. People don’t realise that milk allergy can cause anaphylaxis and be life threatening and they mistake it for lactose intolerance which is a completely different condition.
According to the article, about 70% of adults lack the enzyme necessary to break down lactose (a sugar found in milk), resulting in bloating, stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
So when you give up dairy, you’re giving your body a break from an unnatural (to humans) substance and replacing it with a health promoting milk.
Bear in mind that every time you buy some plant milk, you are forgoing all the other milk products you would have bought before, making your plant milk much cheaper than the entire dairy segment of your previous shopping list.
- Bottom line: you aren’t substituting just cow’s milk for plant milk but rather you are swapping out cow’s milk, desserts, yogurts etc for plant milk: you’re still saving money.
- TIP: Don’t get into the habit of buying vegan cheese.
You may think that you used to love your cheese so much that you need to replace it, but if you give yourself some time eating a whole foods vegan diet, you’ll find that one day the thought of dairy cheese is repulsive and you don’t need or want to replace it.
(When you make a vegan ‘cheese’ it isn’t cheese at all. Nut cheese is delicious and nutritious and much better than the shop versions. Take a look at this post on why vegan cheese is so bad.)
If you must buy vegan cheese, keep it as an occasional extra. Remember, it isn’t cheese and it isn’t high in protein or nutrition. You don’t need to buy it with the same zest that you used to stock up on dairy cheese. Keep it for emergencies.
Part of going vegan is changing our subconscious beliefs. If you only change your actions without embracing the altered belief you could end up with cognitive dissonance, where your actions are in direct opposition to your inner belief.
And that will lead to you thinking that you’re ‘missing out’ on things like cheese, when in fact you’re not. You’ve gained something by not eating dairy.
When you truly recognise that you don’t want (on any level) to drink the inflammatory liquid from a cow’s udder even when it’s been solidified into a solid mass, then you will be free of trying to replace it too.
- Bottom line: make some tasty vegan nut ‘cheeses’ at home. They have nothing to do with cheese or shop bought vegan cheese. They’re healthy and tasty and affordable. Keep vegan shop cheeses for the odd special occasion rather than a daily thing.
Organic Fruit and Vegetables are More Expensive
Going vegan can become so much more than just changing your eating habits. Going vegan opens up the world of reading the ingredient lists and questioning why we were eating something in the first place.
It makes you more aware of the underlying harmful ingredients which are added to commercial foods to create more profit for the food industry rather than to help the consumer to live a healthy life.
While some of those additives are downright disgusting, the issue of pesticides is more comprehensible (not saying it’s right) because by spraying all our food with poison, the farmer can rest assured that the bugs won’t steal the food before it can be picked.
But of course, poison sprayed onto human food can’t be healthy for us to eat.
It’s crazy isn’t it. When you call it what it is, you wonder why any of us would ever eat it.
But the sad truth is in today’s market, it isn’t always possible to eat organic. You may not be able to source organic veggies or you may not be willing to spend the extra money on them.
Whatever your choice, organic may be more expensive but it’s the most obvious logical choice when it comes to supporting our body and health.
So if you take the leap to buy and eat organic fruit and vegetables (Yaay!) then yes, they will most definitely be more expensive than your previous vegetable shopping but then again, with no meat, fish, seafood or dairy on your shopping list, maybe you can afford to take this leap.
- Bottom line: whether you buy organic vegetables or not will affect the overall cost of your vegan shopping list. You can reduce it by buying regular vegetables.
Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil
These oils are all expensive to buy but as oil is completely unnecessary in the vegan kitchen you don’t actually have to incur this cost.
If you don’t want to give up oil and you’re living on a budget, buy olive oil and use it sparingly.
- Bottom line: Adopt a whole foods plant based vegan diet and give up oil altogether for a further reduction in shopping costs and a boost for your heart health. Plus by removing added oil from your diet you’re naturally removing the empty calories which you eat.
Tofu in a Vegan Diet
Now tofu is that kind of food which you may not immediately fall in love with. You may find it bland, or you may not like its texture.
My advice would be to keep an open mind and try tofu in all its various ways because you can learn to love tofu and then you’ll love to make different tofu snacks or complete meals at a very low cost.
I guess the cost of tofu that may depend where you live. I buy tofu in Lidle and it isn’t expensive.
At the time of writing, one packet of tofu costs about 1€ so can be categorised as a cheap food to include in your vegan diet as a source of protein.
There are two camps when it comes to eating soy products and tofu and you can read an article on whether soy is good for you or not, over on Healthline, where they break down the benefits of eating soy and go over the concerns that some people have about it.
For me the jury is in: I love tofu and I eat it most days.
Buying Nuts: Is it Very Expensive to Be Vegan?
Nuts are expensive. But if you’re on a budget, you can limit the expense of nuts by just buying cashews.
I can get a kilo of cashews for 15€ at that will last me a month.
Conclusion on: Is It Very Expensive To Be Vegan?
If you want to reap all the gains: helping animals, helping the planet, claiming or reclaiming good health and reducing your shopping bills, then instead of just going vegan, the best option available to you is to go whole foods plant based vegan.
Eating becomes simple and you remove all the clutter from your shopping list and your system. If it’s new for you to cook this way, start slowly and build it up.
Take a look at this post on learning to cook without recipes for some more simple ideas in the kitchen.
Cheap Items on Your Shopping List for a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet
- Fruit and vegetables
- Wholemeal Rice
- Red lentils
- Black lentils
- Dried beans
- Lentil pasta
- Potatoes or sweet potatoes
Expensive Items on Your Shopping List for a WFPB diet
- Cashew nuts
- Nutritional yeast
- Plant milk
All the Things You Don’t Need to Buy Anymore. Save Money From…!
- Processed foods
- Cow’s milk
- Sugary drinks
- Milk chocolate
- Desserts . . .
When you take into account all the items you’re saving money on it becomes clear that a vegan diet isn’t expensive unless you go down the processed foods path.
Learn to cook from whole foods and you’ll be paying a fraction of your previous bill because you’ll be buying a fraction of the products.
The biggest variable will be whether vegetables are expensive in your country and whether you can source organic.
How Cheap is My WFPB Gluten Free Vegan Diet?
You may have already got the idea that the cost of your vegan diet will depend very much on what you decide to include and exclude in your diet.
But next time before you think that it’s very expensive to be vegan, please imagine this.
I am walking into a supermarket. I walk past all the processed foods, past the cakes, the biscuits, the pizzas, the fizzy drinks, the dairy, the meat, the fish, the frozen and the ready made meals.
I walk past the crisps and I stop in front of the vegetables to fill my trolley.
Next I visit the fridge for 7 packets of tofu and the nuts and pick up 6 packets of cashew nuts.
I add a packet of wholemeal rice and some chickpeas.
And I head to the checkout. That’s it. Done.
What about the Cost of a Vegan Lifestyle for Things Other Than Food?
Sourcing vegan products can be more expensive than their non-vegan counterparts.
There’s no doubt that at the moment you’ll still pay more for a pair of vegan sneakers than a pair of cheap standard ones. But you can find products that are accidentally vegan. They don’t have to be labelled.
You can also shop for second hand items which means you aren’t creating more demand and therefore aren’t supporting the kill industry.
If you want to keep the cost down, the trick is to buy products which are made without animal cruelty but aren’t specifically aimed at the vegan market.
You can still do your bit without raising the cost beyond your budget.