How going vegan affected our budget

vegan grocery budgetFOOD AND YOUR WALLET

 

About three years ago, my wife and I decided to switch to a vegan diet. The decision was a difficult one but after some quick research into the type of foods we were eating, we decided we wanted to make a change.

Personally, I wanted to start avoiding meat products and processed foods that were heavy in calories and made me feel tired after consuming them.

Along with the health benefits that come with eating a more healthy diet, the decision to go vegan affected our monthly food budget in a few ways (and some were surprising).

 

EATING VEGAN

 

What is a Vegan?

A vegan diet eliminates meat products and ‘strict’ vegan diets also refrain from consuming eggs, dairy products and other animal-related by products. The term vegan is described as “non-dairy vegetarian” and typical vegan diets are usually high in fibre, magnesium, vitamin C/E and iron. They also tend to be lower in saturated fat, cholesterol, omega 3 fatty acids and zinc.

Since most processed foods tend to include animal-related products, a vegan diet usually consists of eating more raw, lean and healthier foods.

Some notable vegans include Ellen DeGeneres, James Cameron, Al Gore, Brad Pitt, Demi Moore and Bryan Adams.

 

Shopping Habits

 

I’ll be the first to admit going vegan was a complete shock to my system. I’ve grown up eating meat and dairy products and used to love a steak dinner grilled on a BBQ (even if it led to gaining weight over time).

Since most grocery stores didn’t carry some of the specialty food items a vegan would require, switching to vegan meant I had to shop at some specialty grocery stores.

I began shopping at specialty organic food stores that carried many of the items I wanted to try.

 

Monthly Budget

 

Switching to a vegan diet also meant changing the monthly food budget. While overall spending per month did increase, there were a few things that I surprisingly no longer needed:

  • Items that are specific to meats like BBQ sauce, steak spices and different seasonings for grilling chicken were no longer needed
  • I had an old BBQ I considered replacing but since I knew I wouldn’t be cooking meat any time soon, I sold it and kept the money rather than replacing it with a new one.
  • Since I no longer froze large amounts of meat in the freezer, this freed up space to store different items like tofu burger patties or homemade vegetarian soups.
  • I’m a big fan of pizza and I quickly noticed most pizza places don’t offer a vegan pizza. This was a good opportunity to make my own pizzas at home with the toppings and ingredients I wanted

There were also a few items that I needed to buy that were not previously on the shopping list:

  • Instead of buying expensive meats, I would buy meat replacements like tempeh and tofu to add protein to meals
  • Instead of buying regular dairy milk, I buy rice (or soy) milk
  • Instead of buying regular cheese, I buy dairy-free cheeses that are available at most grocery stores

Overall, switching to vegan has caused the monthly grocery spending to increase slightly. The amount previously spent on meats and dairy products has simply been replaced by other (specialty) items.

I was initially surprised to see that the monthly spending had gone up. I assumed that after I cut out expensive meat products and cheeses that I would definitely save money each month.

Although that simply isn’t the case, the difference is barely noticeable.

 

Food and your grocery budget

 

How To Go Vegan (and still save money)

Even though going vegan hasn’t saved me money, I still think it’s possible for others to save money by going vegan.

Saving money by going vegan can be done by spending more time and effort on the foods that you consume on a daily basis. Cooking meals at home, baking your own foods and buying all raw ingredients to prepare items in bulk (and storing them to be used later) are all things that can help save money when going vegan.

Sure, it takes time to prepare foods from scratch, but it fits well with a vegan diet because it tends to be restrictive on what types of ingredients are used in everyday items.

Although I don’t make all food from scratch, we make our own homemade soups, granola bars and vegetarian burger patties to avoid buying the more expensive (and unhealthy) alternatives in the grocery store.

Conclusion: switching to a vegan diet takes time, effort and money. I’m not a ‘strict’ vegan because I do eat the occasional food that contains dairy products (such as cream in a coffee) but I still do avoid meats.

A vegan diet has improved my health overall but it hasn’t saved me money because the meats I used to buy have been replaced by specialty food items like tofu, tempeh and nuts.

Would youconsider switching to a vegan diet?

About the Author: Dan is an accountant from Western Canada and blogs at Our Big Fat Wallet. He is married to his wife who is a teacher. He has a passion for finance and works for a large energy company. He has never had any debt, is able to save money on virtually all purchases and invests in dividend stocks with the hopes of retiring early.

 

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Mr. CBB
Mr. CBB was born and raised in the United Kingdom who then moved to Canada where he is a permanent resident. He recently became a father to a very busy toddler who allows him to be a kid at heart. He bought his first house at the age of 21 after University and his second at the age of 24. Both Mr.CBB and his wife are Debt and Mortgage Free and they did it all in under 5 years using a Budget. Canadian Budget Binder is a place where he shares their financial experiences with his readers and hopes to learn about theirs. Welcome to CBB!
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Comments

  1. I don’t eat much meat, maybe twice a week or so but enjoy it as a way to put flavor in a dish, like a lentil soup with a little bacon. That wouldn’t be too hard to cut, cheese however I would have a hard time doing without. I think I prefer a natural local cheese that has not been processed rather than processed dairy-free cheese.

  2. I don’t mind a primarily vegan diet, but my spouse is the problem! Lately, we’ve been dealing with a few newly discovered food allergies and vegan products have been a godsend. I wish they were easier to acquire in my town, though. Veganaise, when I finally tracked some down, was soooo good; I had missed potato salad something fierce!

  3. Mary F. Campbell says:

    I was a strict vegan for many years BUT because of a strong family history with cancer, hubby & I chose to avoid all soy products as well. Without edamame, tofu, setan, soy milk, soy cheeses or tempeh and strictly controlled serving sizes of nuts…I found I did actually save a lot of money in our grocery budget.

    Now, I also adopted “eating in season” approach and wherever possible a “100 Mile Diet” meal plan. Therefore I was paying the lowest prices on our fruit and vegetables that I could at any given point in time in the year as compared to those that shop the imports in the dead of winter. 🙁 I also got in the habit of buying directly from the farmer and cut out the middle man costs.

    We found it difficult to socialize with our meat eating friends and family over celebratory meals though as strict vegans and we have reverted to a predominantly vegetarian lifestyle. I will admist, we feel better when we stick to a strict vegan plan though.

    I have also developed a gluten intolerance so we’ve modified our eating patterns again to deal with my extreme sensitivity & needed to adjust our acceptable grains accordingly.

    I am lucky to work from home now so it is no longer an issue finding the time to cook the grains or beans and my slow cooker is an economical tool that I use year round for our homemade soups and stews. If my grocery budget is suffering at all… I reconnect with our vegan favorites and the price of the monthly budget can be pretty much cut in half. 😀

    • Hi Mary, that is a good point – a vegan diet can easily change social situations since it tends to be pretty strict. Eating at most restaurants can require some planning beforehand or selectively choosing one restaurant over another. And of course it’s easier to save money when preparing food at home (which I prefer)

  4. We eat a mainly vegan diet as well ( still eat eggs though) and it definitely has an impact on your mental health trying to compute how paying triple the amount for something because it’s vegan is a good choice! Lol, cooking from scratch is truly the best way to save money in a vegan budget.
    We have the added challenge of also shopping for a gluten free little one, so saving anywhere possible is a huge bonus!

  5. I am a casual vegetarian and only eat meat when my children are home from school. Vegan is a lot more work and a lot more more money and I love butter.

    With just one person and using mixed frozen veg in stir fries after a long day at work my food budget is pretty low. I supplement with a cheap protein powder on the days when I don’t get enough protein.

  6. Christine Weadick says:

    Thank you for a very interesting article! I have a cousin and his wife that is vegan for the most part, like you I’m pretty sure they will have milk/creamers for their coffee. He doesn’t make a fuss about it and I had heard about it more from my Aunt, his Mom, than I did from him.My daughter was vegetarian for a number of years before the grandson was born. The only meat she will touch right now is chicken. The grandson will eat meat if you give it to him. He loves cheese so he does eat a fair amount of that.
    I think a lot more people will drift over to a pretty much vegetarian meal plan as the cost of meat continues to climb. I know for myself I am not buying nearly as much meat as I used to in the past. Meatless meals are going to find their way into more menus as the prices keep on rising. So long as people are not replacing the meat with the over processed crap it will be good for all.
    You have given us some good food for thought with this article and I hope people think about what you are saying…..

  7. Hi Pauline, I agree – cheese is hard to cut out especially since it is in a lot of everyday foods. There are vegan options available in health food stores but some prefer local, organic cheese as you mentioned

  8. Hi Anne, it’s funny you mention that – I can’t stand the taste of veganaise!

  9. Hi Julia, I find any local/organic/gluten free option tends to be way more expensive than the regular version. The savings come from prepping meals at home using raw ingredients. How have you found prepping gluten free meals for a little one so far?

  10. Hi Beth, I find stir fry dishes to be easy to make because there are so many things that can go into them, you can easily substitute one thing for another and please everyone. We normally add tofu to a stir fry to get some protein

  11. Hi Christine, glad you enjoyed it 🙂 with the rising cost of means and things like ‘meatless mondays’ hitting the media I think more and more people will either cut down meat or stop eating it entirely

  12. Ditching meat is indeed a good way to save money, since it’s usually pretty expensive. We don’t eat vegan, but we also ditched processed foods and all similar stuff. We cook from scratch at home and it does ‘show’. Yet, we do splurge on fresh produce and are very picky with the ingredients, so our grocery budget is still pretty ‘heavy’ 😀

  13. I have been vegetarian for a little over 4 years and vegan-ish for about the last year. I have the opposite experience in the US — it has cut my household grocery budget substantially. Granted, that has come down as we’ve gotten better at preparing quick and unprocessed vegan meals. Our typical monthly budget (household of 2 adults) now is about $150 USD for a month of dry goods, produce, and bread/tortillas, with a bit of tofu, tempeh, and TVP sprinkled in there. Every now and then we replenish spices, sauces, and staples (or we splurge on a pricier meat alternative) which leads to a bit higher bill.

    In the US, I get organic tofu for about $2 per lb (which is a bit less than the average for meat, and much less than “good” meat), tempeh a bit more, and TVP much less (considering what a crazy long time it lasts!) I wonder if US government soybean subsidies help? Meat is pretty highly subsidized as well, so it’s tough to say… I have to stay away from the fancy grocery store with the “good” meat replacers — it’s easy to get carried away with all the options out there! Almond milk is more than conventional (but mostly used just for morning coffee), and I just don’t much like the taste of the cheese alternatives (except nutritional yeast… which is vegan cat nip and, like TVP, lasts for.ev.er).

  14. Hi Dan,

    Interesting take on being Vegan. Here we call the non-strict vegan’s vegetarians, as they still consume dairy products but just eliminate meat. Being a vegetarian or a vegan would be difficult for me… I do enjoy the steak, but maybe if I looked more into the health benefits I would be convinced. For the time being I am in an ignorant bliss :)… that said I am trying to be more conscience for my long term health.

  15. At our house (2 adults), we’ve been vegetarian for 2 years, but still use eggs and dairy. However, we find ourselves gradually eating less and less of them and we have vegan meals more often than not. We don’t buy soy or meat-substitute products, and mostly cook from scratch except for cereal, crackers and pasta. We eat mostly stews, curries and chilis, and have lots of beans and lentils. Our grocery bill is down 15% from our meat-eating days. I thought it would be more, but we buy premium products like pesto and pecans!

  16. It’s been tricky to say the least! It’s truly a science trying to bake with Gluten Free Flour blends, and any other alternatives! We’ve managed so far, the only thing I still havent found a decent recipe for is gluten free bread. It’s the thorn in my WALLET cause I find that’s the most expensive thing on the list every week!

  17. Every MWF, we have decided not to eat meat the whole day. This has been practiced by my family for almost a year now and so far this has given us good figure and some savings. More importantly, I personally feel better and healthier and recommend to try even a day… You will feel something better within yourself.

  18. Very interesting! We actually switched to a primarily vegan diet in order to save money. Our grocery bills are dramatically lower now that we’re not buying meat or dairy. While we still eat meat or dairy on occasion (if it’s free or on mega sale), our weekly diet is vegan for the most part. We eat oats, rice and beans, lentils, quinoa, homemade hummus, and loads of fruits and veggies. We’re so happy with how cheap it is and how healthy it is. Glad to hear we’re not the only ones eating this way! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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