This may be the perception, but in reality, this does not seem to be the case. Research shows that in western countries, vegan and vegetarian diets are about a third cheaper than other diets, which the researchers said contradicted the perception that plant-based diets were the “preserve of a privileged middle class.”
The study found that in high-income countries, vegan diets were actually the most affordable, and reduced food costs by 21-34 percent compared to average diets, depending on specific food choices. Vegetarian diets were a close second, with a 27-31 percent reduction in cost.
A second study of UK shopping habits also found a great saving, with vegan diets being 40 percent cheaper than meat-based ones. And it’s easy to see why. Chickpeas are cheaper than chicken, and a beet burger costs less to make than a beef burger!
Of course, if you add in lots of dedicated vegan foods, those prices can rise but since eating a whole food plant-based diet is significantly more affordable, it’s possible to buy some of these products—plant milks, yogurts, and cheese, for example—and for the overall cost to remain lower.
WHAT IS WHOLE FOOD PLANT-BASED?
This is a way of eating that prioritizes plants in their natural form, and this includes grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, salads, herbs, and spices. Many of these can be bought dried, canned, or frozen, reducing costs again.
It certainly helps to have a few good recipes up your sleeve that utilize these types of ingredients. Meals like lentil dahl can be very cheap and very tasty, as can a rich marinara sauce or a hearty vegetable soup. And since these products often last a lot longer than animal products, you’ll waste less food, be a lot less likely to risk food poisoning, and save money too.
When eating out, you may have noticed that the meat-free dish is usually the cheapest one on the menu, and that’s because—even with our tax dollars propping up the industry—meat is really expensive. We currently subsidize animal agriculture to the tune of $38 billion a year. Just imagine what we could achieve if that money was directed to ensuring healthy, affordable, plant-based foods were available in every neighborhood instead.
Then there are the environmental costs. Animal agriculture is responsible for a huge amount of the climate-changing gases emitted, and is also a key driver of deforestation, pollution, and other serious environmental impacts. These cost us dearly in taxes, as we finance ways to protect our planet. In many areas, the cost of home insurance will rise as the impacts of climate change—fires and floods, in particular—risk our homes.
WHERE TO START
There are some excellent websites dedicated to budget vegan recipes, so explore them and you’ll be amazed at the delicious, healthy meals you can make, even on a tight budget. These are three of our favorites.