The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Is it more expensive to eat a vegan diet?

Posted on June 24, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Casey Brown

Some people think that vegan diets are expensive and time-consuming, however that is not the case any more than meat-based eating. Vegan diets can be affordable and convenient by focusing on whole foods rather than specialty vegan products and convenience foods. If you are looking to go vegan on a budget, here are some tips!

Tips for budgeting:
● Don’t focus meals around vegan alternatives such as vegan cheese, mock meats, and other specialty items. These make a treat every now and then (even once a day), but they are more expensive. It is healthier and less expensive to focus more on a whole food, plant-based diet that is rich in grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit.

● Shop around. Go to a few different grocery stores in the area to compare prices and find the best deals.

● Stay local. Farmer’s markets are a great place to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables at a lower cost. While some of the produce may be more expensive, they often have better deals on in-season harvest. Make sure to look for sales and compare the prices with other stores in the area. If the produce is on sale, items can be bought in bulk and frozen for later (this works great for berries). Many farmers markets also offer ‘seconds’ (blemished and bruised produce) for a discounted price.

● Buy in bulk. As mentioned previously, many vegan staples can be bought in bulk. Wholesale stores, health food stores, and normal grocery stores offer large quantities of food for a lower cost. It is helpful to compare unit prices when shopping in order to determine the best deals. Some foods that are best to stock up on include nuts, seeds, produce, pasta, rice, oats, and other items. Buying large quantities can seem expensive, but it will provide more food for its value. With this being said, it is important to only buy food you will actually use. Otherwise you will end up wasting food and money.

● Buy canned and frozen options when less expensive. Beans and vegetables are good items to buy canned. Dry beans are also inexpensive, however they take more time to prepare. Frozen fruit and vegetables are a great way to stock up on these items, and they will last longer than fresh produce. Frozen options are not always cheaper, so it is best to always compare prices while shopping.

● Prepare your own food. Prepackaged and pre-cut foods are more expensive, so it will save you money to prepare them yourself. Preparing your own meals, hummus, trail mix, and other foods can help to eliminate costs.

● Buy store brand foods and go for sales. Store brands typically contain the same ingredients as name brand foods, but at a much lower cost.

● Invest in a reusable water bottle. This way you do not have to buy water bottles at the store every week. These can be filled up at home and while on the go! Opting for water over other drinks is also a cheaper and healthier option. Plus these bottles are better for the environment!

● Plan meals ahead of time. Make a grocery list according to your meal plan and stick to the list while shopping. This will prevent you from buying more food than needed, eliminating food costs and food waste.

● Grow your own garden. This may not be practical for everyone, but growing your own produce or herbs can cut costs, and it is also a really fun experience!

Need some cost effective ideas for meals? Here are some meal ideas you can make while on a budget.

● Oatmeal with soymilk, a banana, and peanut butter or other toppings (cocoa, fruit)
● Smoothies – these are great if you find a good deal on fruit!
○ You can even make a smoothie bowl and top with granola, fruit, or nuts

● Beans with rice, veggies, and any kind of dressing or seasonings you want to add
● Stir-fry with veggies, tofu, and rice
● Pasta with tomato sauce, nutritional yeast, avocado, and spinach
● Burritos with rice, beans, and vegetables

● Banana ice cream
○ Blend together 3-4 frozen bananas, 1 cup non-dairy milk, and fruit, cocoa, PB, or anything else (for flavor)!
● Carrots and other veggies with hummus
● Trail mix, nuts, or seeds
● Fruit

Price Comparison:
(Prices were obtained from Giant Supermarket in Maryland. Prices will vary by brand/store):

• Homemade: $1.19 ($0.21 for one tortilla wrap, $0.20 for 1 serving/0.5 cups black beans, $0.16 for 2 servings of cooked white rice/1 cup, and $0.62 for 1 serving of Daiya cheddar cheese)
• Frozen vegan burrito: $2.69 for 6 oz. Amy’s Organic Non-dairy burrito made with beans & rice. ($0.49/oz)
• Frozen meat burrito: $2.50 for 5 oz. Red’s Natural Foods Burrito Chicken and Cheese ($0.50/oz)

The store-bought burritos are similar in cost. Amy’s burrito is an organic burrito, and it consists of a flour tortilla with pinto beans, rice, and veggies in a Mexican sauce. It costs more than the non-vegan burrito, however it was slightly cheaper per unit price. Red’s Natural Foods Burrito is also organic, and it consists of a tortilla filled with chicken, brown rice, pinto beans, a cheese mixture, and a red chile sauce. These burritos are similar in contents and in price. The homemade burrito is less expensive, and it consists of a tortilla with black beans, rice, and vegan cheese. Other toppings and sauces could be added for minimal cost. Buying any of these options in bulk when possible (either the frozen burritos or the ingredients for the fresh burrito) could help to reduce the cost. But remember, don’t buy more food than you will be able to use.

Ice Cream:
• Pint (2 cups) of homemade banana ice cream: $1.24 ($0.90 for 3 bananas and $0.34 for 1 cup of store-brand almond milk)
• Store bought pint of nondairy ice cream: $4.99 for any flavor So Delicious dairy-free ice cream
• Store bought dairy ice cream: $1.00 for pint serving of store-brand vanilla ice cream (sold by the gallon)

The homemade banana ice cream comes in at a similar price as the store-brand vanilla ice cream. Of course, other ingredients can be added to the banana ice cream for more flavors, which will slightly increase the cost. The non-dairy So Delicious ice cream is fairly expensive in comparison. This is an example of one of the vegan ‘specialty’ items previously mentioned. Meat and dairy replacements can be more expensive at the store, however they make for a nice treat every now and then. Banana ice cream is a great alternative in this situation!
While some of the vegan options might not have been cheaper than the non-vegan options, they are typically similar in price. As mentioned before, as long as you are not relying on specialty vegan products, then your budget should not be more expensive!
See more info at:

The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

Casey is doing an internship with The Vegetarian Resource Group this summer.


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