How to Be Vegan and Fit on a Budget

The good news is that with the increasing popularity of veganism, stores are starting to bring more budget-friendly in-house vegan brands to the market. Making your own food from scratch is exciting not only with new culinary discoveries, but also with health benefits – ready-made soups, sauces and meat substitutes can contain high doses of salt and sugar.

We researched where to stock up on a variety of foods and found some great vegan options on a budget.

Nuts and Seeds

Look for 100% own brand nut butters. Thanks to the growing popularity of this high protein product, nut butters can be quite inexpensive. But resist the urge to buy them in bulk – nut butters can go rancid.

Whole nuts can be cheaper per 100 grams in national cuisine stores than in the bakery section, although there is a good chance that you will buy more than you need right away. You can freeze nuts (especially discount ones) to keep them fresh longer. Don’t be afraid to substitute cheaper nuts in recipes. Almonds, peanuts, and cashews are much cheaper than pecans, pistachios, and pine nuts. The most inexpensive are mixtures of chopped nuts.

Ground flaxseed is a good egg substitute. Buying ready-made ground seed will cost twice as much as grinding it yourself in a coffee grinder. A small amount can also be made in a pepper mill. The cost of a pepper mill is almost half that of an electric coffee grinder. But a coffee grinder will quickly pay for itself, as it is also great for grinding spices.

Self cooking

Semi-finished products, although vegan, are still the same semi-finished products. Their composition is filled with mysterious ingredients or contains excess salt and sugar. Of course, ready-made products can be convenient, and some packages promise significant savings, but in the long run they will cost more than homemade ones.

In truth, you might need a set of tech. An immersion blender is a worthwhile investment, especially one with a small food processor. You can get by with an inexpensive blender, or spend a little more and be sure you can grind just about anything.

Using a blender, you can make vegan mayonnaise from aquafaba magic liquid in 10 seconds. Just mix the water from canned chickpeas or the leftover from cooking them with a few tablespoons of vegetable oil, salt, vinegar and mustard. Aquafaba also makes delicious meringues and mousses, makes cupcakes light and helps bind cookie dough.

Alternatives to honey can be relatively expensive, so consider replacing it with a pinch of brown sugar in recipes. There is no evidence that any type of sugar is better (or worse) for our health than others, so don’t fall for the gimmicks of so-called “natural” sugar products.

Purchasing groceries

If you can visit an Asian store, then this is the perfect place to invest in your inventory that will bail you out time after time. Spending a small amount every other week on spices, sauces, and pastas will give you an immediate opportunity to master an endless variety of quick and easy vegan recipes. Miso, soy sauce, rice vinegar, tahini, dry mushrooms, tamarind seaweed and chili sauce will add flavor to your life and cost less than in the supermarket. You can also mix in your own spices to avoid the temptation to use packaged sauces.

In such stores, a wide selection of different types of round and long grain rice, cereals, legumes, noodles and flour is not much more expensive than the same type of products in the supermarket. Potato starch, corn flour and cassava starch used as an egg substitute are generally cheaper in Asian groceries.

You can also find inexpensive coconut oil here. Refined coconut oil is more affordable (and has less coconut flavor) than unrefined coconut oil. But it should be noted that coconut oil is a suitable baking ingredient when you need solid fat. You can also fry on a more budgetary mixture of olive, rapeseed or any other vegetable oil.

Also in the Asian store you can buy interesting vegan products. Canned jackfruit is great for wrapping in flatbread/pita bread or as a filling for jacket baked potatoes. The variety of tofu is staggering (just make sure there is no fish sauce in the marinated product). If you want to save money, buy unleavened tofu and marinate it yourself. Silky tofu is suitable for whipping into mousses and even cakes, while firm tofu is better for stir frying.

Roasted wheat gluten called seitan can be successfully paired with noodles or used for stew, chili or stir-fry, and it’s also high in protein.

Dairy alternatives

What you should invest in is plant-based milk, although finding one that you enjoy and works well with your tea, coffee, morning cereal or muesli can be tricky. Always opt for calcium-fortified plant-based milk and pay attention to the added one.

Prices for non-dairy yogurts can be impressive, but plain soy yogurt is usually inexpensive in supermarkets. If you’re not a fan of soy yogurt, you can try making your own. Take your preferred plant-based milk and add some starter. After these initial expenses, you will be able to use your own live yogurt for each new batch. But you will need to spend some time and products until you adapt the recipe to your liking.

Coconut milk varies in price and quality, with some products containing surprisingly little coconut. Cost is also not an indicator of quality. Check the percentage of coconut in the composition before buying. A block of coconut cream can be used as a substitute for coconut milk in recipes by dissolving a little at a time in hot water. Leftover coconut milk can be frozen as it spoils very quickly in the refrigerator.

Every day there are more and more types of vegan cheeses. But if you want a rich, cheesy flavor, buy dried nutritional yeast. Mix them with breadcrumbs for crunchy, cheesy toppings, or add them to sauces, vegetables, and soups. The taste is very attractive and the yeast can be fortified with vitamin B12.

Beans and Lentils

Beans and lentils are a vegan’s best friends, providing inexpensive, satisfying protein. Dried and canned beans do not differ much in price in large supermarkets. Dried beans are more convenient to carry home, and raw beans or chickpeas will almost double in size when cooked, so a 500-gram package gives the equivalent of four cans. This is half the price of the most inexpensive canned food. If you’re buying them for convenience, try just boiling more legumes and freezing them. Once frozen, they cook very quickly.

Canned food has a different range of prices, so buying them in large packages (tomatoes, vegetables, legumes) when they are on sale is the best way to save money, as they are stored for a very long time and can always come in handy.

Fruits and vegetables

Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables should be part of your daily diet. Some products are better to buy in the market or in vegetable shops. So, greens, avocados, citrus and seasonal fruits are usually cheaper in the market.

Reducing waste is the best way to maximize fresh produce costs. Freeze ginger, herbs, pesto, chili and you can use them when you need them. You can make a large batch of soup by using up various leftover ingredients and then freeze it. This way you save a vegetable that does not freeze well on its own. If you have a small refrigerator, you may need to shop more often and in small amounts. 

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