How to Save Money on a Vegan Diet
image by Dynise Balcavage
Unfortunately, many people still assume--incorrectly, of course--that veganism is expensive. If you eat costly packaged food and store-bought faux meats every day, being a vegan will certainly bust your budget. Take heart. Even small adjustments to your thinking, habits and food preparation methods can make a huge impact on your wallet, as you'll see from these tips--most of which have the added benefit of being environmentally friendly.
Bake your own bread. It doesn't take much hands-on time and can save you about $3 a loaf. That can add up to a wad of extra dough.
Freeze leftovers, food that's just about to turn, or produce overflow.
Cook beans from scratch and freeze them in plastic resealable bags. You'll have fresh, cooked beans at a moment's notice and at half the cost of canned beans. And canned beans are still a good value--cheaper than take-out!
Consider the long-term financial implications of organic. Sure, buying pesticide- ridden, traditional produce like peppers and peaches may be cheaper in the short term. But since many of these chemicals are banned in other countries, it's not unreasonable to treat them with extreme suspicion. Think of organic as an investment in your health.
Make your own faux meats. Seitan is simple to prepare. Make several batches at once, and freeze the leftovers in plastic containers.
Pack your own lunch. Consider this: a basic sandwich in an urban center costs about $6 plus $2 for a drink. By those calculations, a couple can save about $1,440 each per year.
Don't buy what you already have. Why purchase Tupperware, for example, if you have access to plastic Earth Balance tubs? Don't recycle a plastic lunch bag after just one use. Rinse it out and use it again--and again, and again.
Remember: packaged foods are still cheaper than eating out. (Please choose only healthy versions!) Packaged foods, judiciously used, can help deter you from eating out weeknights, particularly after trying days on the job.
Pass on plastic bottles of water. Bottled water is an environmental and economic bane. Fill your own water bottles to take with you.
Use cloth napkins. Not only are they more elegant than paper, they also cost less in the long run, and are kinder to Mama Earth.
Know how much stuff costs. This takes some practice, but if you become familiar with how much things cost, you will develop a nose for a bargain. Keeping a "price book" can help you develop this money-saving skill.
Stock up when an item you frequently use goes on sale. It's money in the bank, even if you need to store 10 bags of flour under your bed.
Buy seasonal produce. Not only does it taste better, it also tends to cost less.
Grow your own. If you have a yard or patio, raising your own veggies will save you a huge chunk of change. Even apartment dwellers can grow herbs indoors.
Make the time-consuming stuff. Cookies. English Muffins. Bagels. Popcorn. Try it once, and you'll see it's not as hard as it looks.
Borrow your cookbooks from the library instead of buying them.
Ethnic grocery stores are your friends. They'll outprice Whole Foods any day.
Never, ever throw food away. Freeze leftovers, or find a way to reinvent unsuccessful dinner "experiments."
Before you go grocery shopping--make a list. Set a budget. And stick to it.
Some appliances are investments, not extravagances. An ice cream maker, for example, will pay for itself many times over in pints of sorbet and soy cream. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to buy appliances as cheaply as possible.
You can can. A small investment in equipment and time can yield huge savings, especially if you garden.
Give edible gifts. Not only are they greatly appreciated, they are also healthier and less costly than giving traditional presents.
Pay less for kitchen wares. Scout out bargains at flea markets, garage sales and thrift stores. You'll find something chic--and cheap.
Put a lid on it. Water will boil faster, and you'll use less energy, if you put a lid on the pan.
In this age of conspicuous consumption, remember this old New England adage: "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without."