One of the wackiest misconceptions about veganism is that it’s expensive.
Maybe it is if you insist on buying organic, fair-trade, artisan prepackaged meals, but that’s not necessary. It’s not even all that good for you.
Legumes, whole grains and inexpensive fresh produce kept me going strong when I was a dirt-poor undergrad who lived alone. I made pastas, stews, Indian fare, gumbos and jambalayas for dinner, had oatmeal and an apple for breakfast and ate leftovers for lunch.
I always kept a stocked spice rack and olive oil on hand for sautéing, and ate PB&J’s when I needed a snack.
My diet was almost 100 percent free of processed foods, I had tons of energy and my grocery bills were cheap enough that I could afford to buy the booze I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Life was good!
Don’t believe me? Here’s a sample shopping list from my famous $15/week grocery bill days.
1 lb lentils
1 lb brown rice
16 oz fresh spinach
1 large red onion
2 heads garlic
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 quart soy milk
1 lb quick-cook oats
2 lb apples
To help keep it cheap, I was careful about where I shopped and what I bought. Here are my top three places for staying vegan on the cheap:
International Grocery Stores
You can get incredible deals on produce at these stores. If you’re close to the border, you know what I’m talking about. Do a Google search for your city—you probably have a few that you didn’t even know existed. Don’t be squeamish. You will undoubtedly find some gems if you’re willing to take the time to look for them.
This is a fabulous establishment to visit when you do need your vegan junk food fixes. While their produce is pricey, they have the best deals on the prepackaged stuff that, while not necessary, can be very convenient to have around. Their Soy Creamy soy-based ice cream is almost always in my freezer.
Obviously, you won’t be buying your groceries here, but being vegan is about more than want goes in your mouth.
Clothing and household items are important, too. One way to make sure you’re not supporting the consumption of animal products is to buy everything secondhand. This saves you a ton of money and you end up with unique pieces that you wouldn’t find on the shelves and racks of Target.
A note on Whole Foods:
Just don’t shop there if you want to save cash. I can’t walk in the door without spending at least thirty bucks.
They’re a good company that sells solid products, and they’re a great resource for those hard-to-find items, but your bank account will decrease exponentially if you make them a standard stop in your grocery shopping expeditions.
Don’t fool yourself.
Even if you walk in with a specific list that you have sworn to stick to, you will get taken in by the vegan, whole wheat cookies made locally with only five ingredients, or the organic, fair-trade blood oranges that were hand-farmed by an ancient matriarchal tribe in Botswana.
Accept it and move on, or be prepared to fork over most of your paycheck.
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Apprentice Editor: Jess Sheppard/Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s own