Some people are hesitant about becoming vegan because of its perceived higher cost compared to traditional lifestyles. However, going vegan often saves people money in the form of cheaper meals, buying fewer products, and saving on medical bills. How much you save living a vegan lifestyle depends largely on personal choices.
There are many high-price vegan items that can make it a costly lifestyle, while at the same time many options encourage minimalism or happen to be the cheapest options available. Read on to better understand the spectrum of vegan lifestyle choices that can dictate how much money you save.
Is Being Vegan Expensive
The stereotype that vegan food is expensive comes from the comparison between vegan substitutes and the animal-based products they’re based on. For example, Daiya shredded cheddar non-dairy cheese is $5.49 per bag while generic dairy shredded cheddar cheese can be as low as $2.29 per bag, less than half the price.
However, many vegan food items are the cheapest in the grocery store and can be bought in bulk to make them even cheaper: rice, potatoes, beans, pasta, frozen veggies. Compared to these items, animal products like meat and dairy are more expensive.
Buying all organic foods can also increase your budget. Whereas buying what’s on sale will decrease it. Depending on farmers’ prices, shopping at farmers’ markets may also alter how much you spend on food as a vegan. Buying local fruits and vegetables, even at a grocery store, will often be cheaper than buying imported produce which comes with added travel costs.
Vegan restaurants tend to be more expensive than conventional restaurants since they serve specialty dishes that sometimes use obscure ingredients, but you can still find vegan options for cheap outside the house at Asian or Mexican restaurants.
If you prefer a fully vegan kitchen, find a vegan restaurant near you using the website happycow and sort by least to most expensive. If not, a vegan meal can be made at almost any restaurant by ordering vegan sides (like a baked potato, salad, etc) or requesting changes to dishes (remove the cheese, for example). There are even fast food vegan options available now, such as the Impossible Whopper at Burger King.
Ultimately, you’ll save the most money on a vegan diet if you buy bulk simple foods on sale and cook at home. In contrast, you’ll save the least money by buying organic or specialty foods and eating at restaurants often.
Body Care Products
Again, personal choice factors a lot into how much money you’ll spend in this area. Becoming vegan often causes people to want to use fewer body care products and keep chemicals away from their skin.
Using natural moisturizers like aloe gel or coconut oil, or other natural products like baking soda-based toothpaste can save money and is safer.
There are also areas to spend too much money on vegan body care. For example, there are many makeup brands that are vegan/cruelty-free. While some are affordable, others are not. The same goes for hair products, lotions, creams, etc.
Two common affordable vegan makeup brands are Elf Cosmetics and Pacifica Beauty. Their products can be found at most drugstores. There are also many higher-end vegan brands found in makeup stores (like Sephora), such as Milk Makeup and Cover FX.
Buying only what you need and using more natural products will save money directly via price differences but also indirectly by avoiding unnecessary products lying forgotten and expiring before getting used.
Household Products and Practices
As with body care products, vegan household products can range from cheap to expensive depending on your personal choices. For example, you can make a cheap homemade surface cleaner from water, white vinegar, lemon juice, and essential oils (optional for scent).
In contrast, there are cruelty-free, non-toxic brands like Mrs. Meyer’s that are a bit pricier than average surface cleaners.
A vegan lifestyle implies care for the Earth, which can also save you money. For example, you can save money on your water bill by taking shorter showers.
Using fabric cleaning cloths and handkerchiefs instead of paper products can also reduce waste while saving money.
Some animal-based fabrics are the most expensive on the market, such as furs, wool, and leather. Therefore, vegans can save money buying plant-based clothes (made of cotton, synthetics, etc.). On the other hand, there are also high-end and organic/sustainable brands that sell more expensive vegan clothes.
To save the most money, consider thrifting clothes at second-hand stores and reflecting on what you already have. Oftentimes we forget clothes that we have but never wear. Even if you choose to buy higher-price vegan clothes, learning to actually wear those clothes and only buying what you need will help save your wallet and the planet.
Grocery Lists Example for Vegan/Non-Vegan
To show how much money you can save (or not) by going vegan, here is a comparison of typical items on an omnivore’s grocery list vs. typical items on a vegan’s grocery list. The first table shows the diet of a healthier plant-based vegan, whereas the second table shows the diet of a vegan who eats a lot of dairy and meat replacements.
Omnivore vs. Plant-Based Grocery List:
As you can see, eating plants can save you a lot of money, around 33% of the bill in this example. Replacing meat, dairy, and processed foods with whole natural foods is significantly cheaper. It takes more chemistry, machinery, and marketing to create packaged food, which increases prices.
Omnivore vs. Processed-Food Vegan Grocery List:
|VG Whipped Cream
|VG Sour Cream
|VG Burger Patty
As shown, eating more processed vegan foods leads to a higher grocery bill. While these foods can be helpful in transitioning away from an omnivore diet, they are quite expensive and shouldn’t often be on your weekly shopping list.
Since humans eat about the same amount of food every day, around 3-5 pounds depending on the person, prices were compared by equivalent volumes or weights. This is important to note because it shows the value of buying less processed foods. Buying 4 pounds of processed food is much more expensive than 4 pounds of whole grains, beans, fruits, and veggies.
Even within the vegan diet, choosing to purchase whole apples (that will fill you up) for example instead of apple juice (which is mostly empty calories) can help you save money. It’s also healthier to keep the fiber of foods intact. Another example is potatoes, a bag of potato chips costs more per pound (and is less filling) than whole potatoes.
What supplements do vegans actually need?
The only supplement actually recommended for vegans is vitamin B12. By eating a varied diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, you should receive all other necessary vitamins (organic and locally grown produce may have better vitamin content as well). Leafy greens are some of the best sources of nutrients and aren’t very expensive.
Supplementing vitamin B12 shouldn’t add too much cost to the average person’s budget. These 250 NOW supplements B12 vitamins cost less than $15. Consult your doctor for tests of any other deficiencies, but eating foods with the nutrients you’re lacking should take precedent over buying supplements.
Make sure you get enough vitamin D, especially if you live in regions above 37 degrees north of the equator or below 37 degrees south of the equator. Supplementation may be necessary for those who spend much of their day inside or don’t live in a sunny climate.
Vegans are commonly deficient in three nutrients: vitamin B12, iodine, and calcium. Omnivores are commonly deficient in seven: calcium, magnesium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, iodine, and niacin (source). Omnivores usually don’t eat enough fiber either, which can cause a myriad of health issues vegans won’t have to face or pay for.
Is Health Insurance Lower for Vegans
Because vegans tend to live healthier lives and therefore need less care from the medical system, there are sometimes health insurance discounts for vegans. Bringing up your lifestyle with your health insurance provider may decrease your rates the same way non-smokers tend to have lower health insurance prices compared to smokers.
Additionally, even if you can’t receive lower health insurance, going vegan can reduce the cost of medications and copays on doctor visits since it’s less likely you’ll be needing these things when living a vegan lifestyle. Also, vegans are more likely to be at a healthy weight which can decrease the price of healthcare coverage.
Health I.Q. is an online insurance provider that offers discounted life insurance for vegans in the US. Rates are lower for those living healthy lifestyles because they have been proven by scientific studies to have lower rates of hypertension, cancer, diabetes, and more. Visit their website here for a free quote.