Take some advice from a cheap vegan: Saving some extra money is as easy as cutting out animal-derived foods. Eating healthy and vegan is simple on a budget, and over time, the money you save with each trip to the grocery store by swapping out cruelly obtained (and expensive) foods for cheap vegan ones will add up.
There are plenty of delicious, healthy, and cheap vegan foods that you can find at most grocery stores. We checked out the current prices for vegan staples at popular grocery chains across the country. (Prices vary based on store and location.)
Here’s a helpful shopping list:
Beans and Legumes
Versatile and rich in protein, beans and lentils are cost-effective and easy sources of essential nutrients.
- Black, pinto, red, or garbanzo beans (3.5 servings): $0.78
- Dry black beans (about 10 servings): $1.58
- Lentils (13 servings): $0.99
Grains and Starches
Generally, you get more bang for your buck when it comes to grains and starches, and complex carbs like brown rice, oats, and potatoes have tons of fiber. Pastas and breads are also good to have around when you want to whip up a low-effort meal, like toast with peanut butter or spaghetti with tomato sauce. (Tip: Buy extra canned tomatoes when they’re on sale, make a big pot of sauce, and store it in the freezer—it’s cheaper and healthier than store-bought sauce.) To avoid wasting money on moldy bread, store your loaf in the freezer.
- Brown rice (about 20 servings): $2.42
- Instant oatmeal (about 11 servings): $1.16
- Potatoes (10-lb. bag, 30 servings): $7.50
- Whole-wheat bread: $2.88
- Whole-grain pasta (8 servings): $0.97
Don’t underestimate the versatility of spreads. Peanut butter can go on toast, oatmeal, fruit, or vegetables and even in different sauces. Hummus is also good to have around, and to save extra money, it’s pretty easy to make it yourself.
- Peanut butter (16 oz. jar): $2.79
- Jam (18 oz. jar): $2.84
- Hummus (17 servings): $4.72
Fruits and Veggies
At 57 cents per pound, bananas are the cheapest fruit on the market, and luckily, they also make wonderful additions to any breakfast—buy a bunch to put atop your morning oats or throw them in the freezer to blend into a breakfast smoothie. You can even wait until they’re brown and spotty and use them in banana bread, pancakes, or any other banana-flavored baked goods. When it comes to vegetables, a large frozen bag of them—like spinach or broccoli—can be tossed into pretty much anything, and veggie blends go well in stir-frys, pasta, and so many other dishes.
- Bananas (1 lb., 3 servings): $0.57
- Frozen mixed berries (about 3 servings): $5.49
- Frozen veggie blend (22 servings): $5.68
- Broccoli florets (17 servings): $5.68
- Chopped baby spinach (6 servings): $1.92
Soy milk is generally the cheapest vegan milk, and it doesn’t depend on the cruelty of the dairy industry, which forcefully inseminates cows and then takes away their babies. Meat from slaughtered cows, pigs, and chickens not only comes from immense suffering—for example, workers cut off the tips of turkeys’ beaks and stun pigs with electric prods—but also is much more expensive than tofu, which is protein-rich, healthy, and easy to prepare.
- Tofu, firm (5 servings): $1.68
- Veggie burgers (4 servings): $2.83
- Soy milk (64 oz.): $2.58
Here are some cheap vegan meal ideas:
For the most important meal of the day, healthy vegan carbs and fats will give you the long-lasting energy that you need.
- Overnight oats or hot oatmeal with vegan milk (topped with nuts or peanut butter, banana slices, or mixed berries)
- Baked beans on toast
- Toast or a bagel with peanut butter, jam, hummus, or vegan butter
- A smoothie made with frozen banana chunks or berries, vegan milk, and peanut butter
- Tofu scramble with roasted potatoes
- A banana with peanut butter
Lunch and Dinner
Meal prepping for the week saves time, money, and unnecessary trips to the drive-through. You can make large portions of meals at the beginning of the week and store your leftovers in the fridge or freezer. Start with staples—rice, lentils, beans, potatoes—on meal prep days. These can be stored in the fridge and used in different meals throughout the week.
- Veggie sandwich (Spread hummus on whole wheat bread and add lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and any other fresh vegetables of your choice.)
- Bean burrito (Wrap some beans, veggies, rice, and hot sauce in a tortilla.)
- Vegan chili
- Lasagna with tofu and spinach
- Tofu and veggie stir-fry with brown rice
- Beans, rice, and vegetables with corn tortillas or chips
- Pasta with homemade tomato sauce and frozen veggies (Splurge and mix in some meatless meatballs.)
- Tacos with beans, rice, and veggies
- Brown rice with steamed vegetables and soy sauce
- Baked potato topped with salsa, baked beans, or chili
- Veggie burgers or veggie hot dogs (Top with chili or baked beans for variety.)
- Fresh salad (Add some zing by tossing in raisins, chopped “deli slices,” or diced apples.)
- Top Ramen (The Soy Sauce flavor is vegan.)
- Stir-fry vegetables and tofu and serve with rice, noodles, or another other grain (Add garlic, oil, and soy sauce for extra flavor.)
- Mashed potatoes topped with broccoli
- Cheese-less pizza topped with veggies and garlic
- Chips and salsa
- Pita and hummus
- Celery, apples, or carrots with peanut butter
- Popcorn (Sprinkle with salt, and add vegan butter.)
- Raw vegetable plate: carrot sticks, tomato wedges, and celery
- Potato wedges (sliced, baked, and topped with spices and salt, vegan butter, or barbecue sauce)
- Trail mix (Make your own with nuts, raisins, and sunflower seeds.)
Tips to Save Time and Money
- $ Stock up on staples during sales. Frozen vegetables like spinach, broccoli, green beans, and mixed veggies can stay preserved for a long time and can be added to just about any meal. Uncooked beans and legumes are also cheap, versatile, and protein-rich. Uncooked pastas and grains can last for a long time in the cupboard, too. When canned foods are on sale, essentials like beans, lentils, crushed tomatoes, and chickpeas are great to have on hand and can be used in a variety of dishes. Shop in the bulk sections of grocery stores and health-food stores or at bulk stores like Costco.
- $ Download grocery store apps. Many major grocery store chains have apps that will help you find the best deals.
- $ Take advantage of rewards points. Most stores also have a rewards system, and by joining, you’ll likely be able to save some money with each trip to the grocery store.
- $ Plan your meals. Jot down dinner ideas a few days ahead and make lists of things to buy for the week (or month!). Knowing what you need in advance will also help reduce expensive impulse purchases.
- $ Avoid eating out. As tempting as it is, try to eat out only on special occasions as a treat.
- $ Make enough to have leftovers. Don’t be afraid of the freezer—leftovers are great the next day, but many things (from soup to pasta) can be frozen and kept longer.
- $ Don’t doubt your local discount store. A lot of vegan essentials can be found at your local dollar store. Click here for a guide to cooking cheap vegan meals with discount store ingredients!