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Vegan food is tasty, nutritious and cost-effective. Here are some top tips for eating vegan on a budget and still love your grub.

Vegan food is, of course, made without using meat or animal products of any kind. For this reason, it is sometimes derogatorily referred to as ‘rabbit food’, meaning it lacks excitement or substance. However, as the first fully-vegan Michelin star restaurant, Origine Non-Animale (animal-free origin), demonstrates, vegan dishes are far from boring.

There are now more options for vegans out there than ever, who are thankfully no longer reduced to chips or salad whilst out and about. You’ve probably noticed the burgeoning ‘fake meat’ trend and maybe even sampled some vegan cheeses. It’s an exciting time for veganism!

Even still, going hardcore vegan still requires a little extra planning and label inspecting. It’s also true that some of the vegan alternatives to everyday staples, e.g. oat milk and some of the meats substitutes, are costlier. Having said that, if you avoid these, and replace them with good quality plant-based protein, you’ll likely find your weekly food bill actually decreases.

A recent study in the UK found that, on average, vegan meals are 40% cheaper than their meat and fish counterparts. There are other benefits too, including reduced risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, and a significantly reduced carbon footprint

How to shop for vegan food on a budget

Contrary to popular belief, cutting animal products out of your diet is already a good way to save on groceries. Tasty, nutritious meals can cost as little as a few pennies/cents. Here are our top tips to maximise the cost-savings of a vegan diet. 

Plan ahead

As with a non-vegan diet, it’s generally more efficient, and therefore wallet-friendly, to plan meals ahead and work with fresh raw ingredients as opposed to processed foods like fake meat (also healthier, too). There are thousands, if not millions, of cheap, tasty vegan recipes out there to experiment with.

Make a weekly meal plan before grocery shopping to manage the budget and avoid overbuying. It’s fun to use this as an opportunity to explore new dishes and ingredients, which brings us to our next point.

Buy seasonal

Those of us living in developed economies have access to pretty much everything we desire all year round. But, for reasons you’re no doubt aware of, this isn’t natural. Depending on where you live, different produce is only in season for a limited period. Buying seasonal produce reduces food miles and, because of this, can offer cost savings as well. This is a great way to follow the rhythms of nature and try new ingredients and dishes, and if you can support local farmers then even better. 

For a guide to seasonal vegetables, look no further than our favourite vegetable lover’s Periodic Table of Veg.

Buy bulk and/or frozen

Many of the staples of a vegan diet—rice, legumes, whole grains—can be bought in serious bulk. To track down the best bulk deals, it’s a good idea to check out farmer’s markets, as well as Indian, Asian or Latino stores, or ‘international’ food aisles in supermarkets. Bulk cooking will also save time and energy = less money and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Don’t discredit the frozen foods section either. Frozen food is generally less expensive and will last a long time, so you can fall back on it in a pinch. Of course, another tip is to buy fruit and vegetables in season or when they’re on offer and, either cooked as part of a dish or witha little prep, you can freeze and save for a later date. Freezer surprise, anyone?

Buy in bulk to reduce costs

Vegan staples

Whereas buying seasonal is a great way to try new ingredients and take advantage of cost savings, there are some vegan staples that are cheap to buy all year round and will form the base of your grocery list (and dishes). These are:

Carbs
  • Legumes - dried generally costs less
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Egg-free pasta and noodles
  • Wholemeal bread
  • Potatoes - regular or sweet

Vegetables 
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes (fresh or chopped)
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Courgette
  • Lettuce
  • Chillies
Fruit
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Satsumas
  • Lemons
  • Limes

Frozen
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Sweetcorn
  • Carrots
Processed
  • Tofu
  • Soy mince
  • Vegan yoghurt - soy, coconut or almond

With these core ingredients, plus some herbs, spices, seasonal veg, and a little creativity, it’s possible to concoct a wide variety of cheap, tasty, healthy and low-carbon dishes.

Ready to take the vegan challenge?

Not only can going vegan help you save money, there are also health and environmental benefits too.

As mentioned, a plant-based diet has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. But you still might be worried about getting enough protein? Well don’t fear, there’s still plenty of protein to be found in vegan stables like legumes, peas, grains, tofu and nuts (although nuts can be expensive so we didn’t include them above). 

Note: like with any diet, it’s important to eat a lot of variety to get all the nutrients you need.

Lastly, another benefit of a vegan diet is that the environmental footprint is significantly lighter than meat. In fact, going plant-based is one of the most effective ways we can reduce carbon emissions and help save the planet. There’s power in those greens!