Unfortunately, we live in a fast food culture so the temptation for most new vegans is to find vegan junk food first. The thinking is all too often that if junk food is available for vegans, it won’t be as hard to make the switch. The side effect of this is that many new vegans end up spending a great deal more money than they need to on food.
We know that being vegan is a lifestyle; a lifestyle that’s different from the mainstream. So the key to maintaining this lifestyle and not going broke is to remember that this lifestyle is different.
Rule #1 – Junk food is not an everyday thing. Narrow it down to one or two items that you really like and save them for an occasional treat.
Rule #2 – This is kind of an extension of Rule #1. NEVER buy prepackaged meals. Don’t get me wrong, many of them are delicious and they do save time but this is no different than buying prepackaged meals as an omnivore. The only real difference is that they are really expensive. Skip these and make your own meals.
Sub Rule 1-2: One of the things that makes vegans gain weight AND spend too much is what I call “the brown/tan food trap.” Mainstream eaters consume all sorts of brown food: meat, potatoes, pasta, bread and dessert. Take a look at the commercials for fast food. With the exception of pasta sauce or lettuce on a burger, everything is just various shades of brown or tan. More and more vegans are falling into the same trap. Since the first three letters of vegan are veg, the first things we should be eating are veggies. Skip the brown food and go for the greens.
Rule #3 – Make it from scratch. You don’t need to spend outrageous amounts of money on things like pizza, hummus, veggie burgers or prepackaged entrees. Make them from scratch. Once you get used to making some of the easier recipes, branch out, try the more challenging ones. You’ll be really surprised at how much you can save.
Rule #4 – Bring your lunch to work, instead of getting whatever option is accidentally vegan from the local café, restaurant or food truck. There are all sorts of recipes online for foods that are portable and delicious.
Rule #5 – Keep your eye on the budget. Many recipes are increasingly requiring specialty items, many of which are expensive. There are lots of things that you can do to get around this challenge. There are now hundreds of blogs that offer advice on substitutions, start visiting them. If you have to, or want to buy these products, do it a little at a time. Buy one product a month until you have all the ingredients for the recipe you’re dying to make. You’ll be surprised how quickly you have everything you need.
Rule #6 - Don’t shop at Whole Foods for your whole grocery list. It’s way too expensive there. Go to farmer’s markets, local markets and food co-ops. Save Whole Foods for whatever you can’t find. But if it’s a packaged item rather than produce, like agave syrup or Bragg’s amino acids, try Amazon. It’s almost always cheaper. You’ll save even more if you subscribe and get it shipped on a regular schedule.
Rule #7 – Start a Garden. Even if you only have enough room to grow a couple of tomato plants and a few herbs, it will still save you money compared to buying these things at the market.
Mostly you just have to remember more veggies, less junk food and it will be easier on both your wallet and your waistline.