One of the most common myths about veganism is that being vegan is expensive. When the average omnivore thinks of a vegan, I think they imagine someone who only shops at Whole Foods and spends $4 on an organic beet. I can tell you emphatically that we – the authors of this website – do not fit that description at all.
According to the USDA, the average family of two – one male and one female – spends between approximately $400 and $800 per month on food. Yikes! We only spend a fraction of that on our vegan diet and lifestyle.
If you are resourceful and willing to cook your own meals, being a vegan is actually very cheap. One of the main things we do on this website is publish our own recipes that we make at home and photograph. Every month we create and share several recipes, and our budget for making the food is $180. That not only includes all of the ingredients we need to make our recipes for Vegan Food Lover, but also all of our other groceries for the month. Yep, that’s it. Just $180 covers all of our food for a month for our family of two. Sometimes we splurge and spend a little more, but all in all, we typically stay under $200.
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How We Keep Our Costs Low
It’s no accident that we eat like kings on such a small amount of money. We could easily spend double, or even triple the amount we spend if we let ourselves get carried away.
One of the main ways we save is by mainly purchasing whole food ingredients, rather than ready-made, prepackaged stuff. For example, dried beans and tortillas are a lot cheaper than canned beans or frozen burritos. If you buy food that’s even semi-prepared, it’s always going to be more expensive than if you just bought the base ingredients, unless it’s on sale for a significant price reduction.
Another way we save at the grocery store is by shaping our grocery list around what’s on sale. Our go-to grocery store at the moment – Fred Meyers – always has “Buy 1, Get 1” deals on various items, so that’s what we keep our eyes out for. We also look for what’s on clearance. Sticking to this one simple tactic alone can save you huge amounts on food.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to find lots of great produce hanging from trees or bushes in public spaces, ripe for the picking. When we lived in Austin, TX, we were able to harvest huge amounts of pecans just by picking them up off the ground as we walked to work each day. At one point in time, we had accumulated so many pecans from doing this, the sheer thought of cracking all of them seemed overwhelming and insurmountable. At this same time, pecans at the grocery stores were selling for about $6 to $8 a lb!
Back in Florida, my parents live in a neighborhood full of orange trees. When we lived there, I would eat buckets of free oranges for months on end. Some days I would eat as many 12 oranges. We had a seemingly endless supply.
Now, we live in the Northwest, and while there doesn’t seem to be any pecans lying around, there are certainly plenty of fresh berries when they’re in season – another food you’ll pay through the nose for at the supermarket. We’re also fortunate enough to live in an area where many of our neighbors have backyard gardens, and are more than happy to give away free fruits and veggies from time to time.
Apart from foraging, another – slightly more obvious and conventional – way you can get food virtually for free is by growing your own food. Of course, this option is best for people who have a yard and live in an area with permitting weather, but you’d be surprised how many foods you can “regrow” indoors. For example, if you put the stem of a green onion in a glass of water, it will grow back again a few times.
As you may already know, a lot of clothing isn’t vegan. However, vegan clothing isn’t as expensive as you might imagine. In fact, the vegan versions of garments that typically are made with animal products, like leather jackets and sneakers, are often times less expensive than their counterparts because they’re synthetic or made from inexpensive organic fibers, like cotton and linen.
We hardly spend any money on clothes. We buy most of our clothes secondhand at thrift stores. Sometimes we even find clothes and restore them – for some reason people seem to abandon clothing a lot… maybe it’s just because we live near a big city. As far as expenses go, clothing is near the bottom of our list.
Hygiene products are where being a vegan can start to get a little bit pricier. Good vegan hygiene products tend to be more expensive than their counterparts, or at least offer fewer less expensive options. For example, a tube of Tom’s toothpaste is typically between $4 and $5 at most stores, which is more expensive than most other brands; however, you can get it on Amazon for about $3. Nonetheless, the little extra we spend on toothpaste and deodorant hardly compares to the amount we save on food.
Some vegans make their own shampoos, toothpaste, and other similar hygiene products, which takes a good amount of effort but saves a lot of money.
We don’t purchase cosmetic products because we hardly use them. Taryn has some makeup and face creams, but it’s stuff she’s had for ages, and most of it was given to her.
As you can see, there’s nothing intrinsically expensive about being a vegan. It’s really all about your shopping habits and your lifestyle in general. If you are a frugal person, being a vegan will not increase your cost of living. It might even save you some money.