I try to keep my veganism inclusive, I myself am not rich. My entire life I have lived in a low income single parent household and at one point my family did need assistance from food banks. I am no stranger to poverty or budgeting.
Many people will tell me that veganism is a privilege, that my assumed raw organic whole foods vegan lifestyle is unattainable for most people. That would be correct- if I led a raw, organic, whole foods vegan lifestyle.
The fact of the matter is that plant based food is cheaper. Before you comment how expensive mock meat is compared to your regular processed grocer meat, that’s not at all what I mean!
Most of countries least expensive food staples are vegan! In most other countries (I cannot think of one where this is not the case) the cheapest staples are some sort of lentil, cheap grain, and a fruit or vegetable. This makes sense because when you buy meat you’re buying the time it took to raise the animal, the food and water it took to feed the animal, and the labor for all of this included!
That being said, a plant based diet can be accessible for other low income households! Here is how I would suggest you shop if this lifestyle interests you for either health, animal rights, environmental or even social justice reasons-
You need a good base protein. Your choice of this is in no way limited and while there are many vegan proteins I’m trying to stick to the cheapest stuff.
– Kidney beans
– Lima beans
– Chickpeas (you can also turn this into hummus for a quick and cheap snack)
– Pinto beans
– Black beans
– Black eyed peas
And I really like to have a grain side with that! It’s filling and tastes good with just about any bean-
(In order of what I assume is least to most expensive)
– White rice
– Brown rice
– Jasmine rice
– Black rice
Another cheap meal is one with a pasta base! I can usually find pasta for $1 a pound or at LEAST under $2. Nothing fancy just regular dried pasta. (Check the ingredients for egg!)
– Angel hair
– Rigatoni, ect.
I have these with vegetables or sauces to make a meal! Here are some examples of how you can make cheap pasta:
Boil broccoli until soft. Add more water if there isn’t much left, and add the uncooked pasta to the broccoli. Leave it to boil with the broccoli until the florets become mushy. Drain the water and serve with seasoning! I add vegan friendly Italian dressing or balsamic vinaigrette.
Sautee zucchini, tomato and onions in oil and seasoning until soft and set aside. Boil pasta noodles, drain, and mix with the vegetables.
Pasta with marinara sauce-
Just cooked pasta and marinara sauce! Both ingredients are around a dollar and if you want you can add baked tofu or textured soy protein to the mix! Both should be on the cheap side since soybeans are such a widely grown ingredient.
More cheap foods:
– Other canned vegetables
– Frozen vegetables
– Potatoes (like $2 for 30 potatoes!)
– Fruit (I’ll go more into this)
– Cereals (try original cheereos, bran flakes and add your own raisins, nut milk is usually the same price as dairy milk!)
Soups are also a very good and lasting meal for low income families to make! Make a good vegetable soup with vegetables broth, corn, squash, zucchini potatoes, frozen veggies, beans, tomatoes, onions, and make it to last days! Serve it with rice or alongside pasta (or better yet add the pasta inside!) to have a good, hearty, and long lasting meal that will yield leftovers.
Back to fruit. There are fruits that are pretty much cheap year round- oranges, apples, bananas. And then you’ve got your fruit that’s least expensive by season.
Grapefruits, lemons, oranges, tangelos
March – April
Apricots, cherries, mangoes, pineapples, strawberries
Apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwi, mangoes, plums, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon
Apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwis, mangoes, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon
Apples, apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwi, mangoes, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon
Apples, cantaloupe, grapes, mangoes, persimmons, pomegranates
Apples, cranberries, grapes, persimmons
Cranberries, oranges, pears, persimmons, pomegranates, tangerines
Grapefruits, oranges, papayas, pears, pomegranates, tangelos, tangerines
And I’m not saying these fruits are cheap in these months! I’m saying they’re cheaper than usual, if you’re on a tight budget you definitely probably want to stick to apples, bananas and oranges as your base fruits!
Melons especially are cheap around these times mainly cantaloupes and cantaloupe / banana smoothies are delicious!
Also- check if your store has a damadged produce section! You can get damadged or otherwise ‘defective’ fruits and vegetables for almost free! The fruits especially I use for smoothies and the vegetables sautee or soups!
For those of us who have more than one job or don’t have a lot of time, on the go snacks are important too!
Most of the snacks I suggest include peanut butter! It’s cheap and full of protein, (if you have a peanut allergy try another nut butter, if all nuts, don’t worry there are some more quick and cheap nut free snacks)
– Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
– Ants on a log
– Pretzels and hummus
– Peanut butter and banana sandwich
– Dried fruit and nuts (mainly cheap dried fruit like raisins and nuts like peanuts)
– Dried cereal (rice crispies, cheerios, ect.)
– A tin of smoothie
So based on that, your low income grocery list will probably look something like this:
– Beans (pinto, chickpea, lentil, kidney, black, ect.)
– Peanut butter
– Wheat bread
– Onions, Tomatoes
– Frozen veggies
– Squash / Zucchini
If I forgot something, let me know! Of course you can add and subtract to fit your budget and taste, but I just wanted to supply a general guideline for affordable plant based food! You can let me know what I can improve in the comments ~
Edit: Some people have told me that they live in an urban food desert and can only or mostly afford fast food. If that is the case for you, don’t worry! There are a lot of vegan fast food options.