Yes We Can (Why Eating Vegan Doesn’t Have to be Expensive)

By Published On: 15 January 2013Last Updated: 17 January 2017

Eating a healthful vegan diet can benefit our wallets now, at the register, as well as later, when we're not paying for medical care that stems from the standard American diet.

What's in this post


“I could never go vegan. It’s too expensive!”

Chances are, if you’ve been vegan for any amount of time, you’ve heard this before. Repeatedly. Perhaps even from the same people, whenever you sit down for a meal.

There are many ways to go about your vegan grocery shopping – but, and I must say this – the same rings true for an omnivore’s shopping. It’s a perpetuated myth that veganism is what makes a vegan’s food expensive, and it’s not true.

Let’s start with something obvious to many of us, but maybe not to the wider population: vegans are not the only ones who eat vegan food! Do you see omnivores shying away from apples, oranges, bananas, bread, beans, nuts and seeds? Well, maybe some of them do. But I’m pretty sure that the stray piece of toast finds its way onto the plate of a couple of non-vegans each morning with breakfast. These foods are not expensive, and they’re already in many shopping carts!

So what does make eating – vegan or otherwise – expensive? Processed food. Ok, yes – if you’re filling that cart with Gardein, Boca burgers, Field Roast, and Daiya cheese wedges, I can see how your weekly bill isn’t something you can sustain affording. But the same can be said for the non-vegan counterparts to those products. This is a case where moderation is a good thing… go easy on the convenience foods!

And while we’re on the subject of convenience foods, let me just point out that you can be a junk food vegan. Potato chips and soda for everyone, and cheap, too! But that’s not really where we want to be. We’re supposed to be ambassadors for how incredibly awesome the vegan life is, after all, and it’s not very awesome when it’s filled with grease and high fructose corn syrup. If someone tells you it’s too expensive to be vegan, and your argument is ramen noodles and Coca-Cola, please stop it!

If any of us wants to save money at the supermarket, we’re going to have to stop watching Extreme Couponing and put down the sugar, salt, and artificial colorings. Step away from the four dollar package of Oreos, people; you can buy at least three pounds of lentils for that kind of money! (note: I don’t have a source for this, except my last trip to the Shop Rite a town over)

Yes, you heard me – three pounds of dry lentils for around four dollars at your local supermarket, and it will yield fifteen cups of cooked. That’s thirty servings of lentils. Is anyone out there willing to tell me that’s too expensive? Do you know how many meals you can incorporate that amount of lentils into?

“But I can’t just eat lentils for the rest of my life!” you say. Fine – buy yourself a cookbook and get cooking! Ellen Jaffe Jones’ Eat Vegan on $4.00 a Day is proof that veganism does not have to be expensive… and that four bucks covers all your meals for the day, so tell me again why you can’t afford to eat healthy? The beauty of a cookbook like this is that it not only walks you through eating well for less, but it gives you the recipes to make tasty meals. If you aren’t a natural cook, that’s really an important part of it.

And what if times are really tough? What about people who are relying on food stamps to eat? Earlier this year, Rory Freedman, author of my personal vegan-maker, Skinny Bitch, tried eating vegan for a week only on what the average Californian gets in food stamps: thirty-three bucks. And she did it.  Eating vegan on a budget – even the smallest – is not impossible. It just requires some mindfulness in what’s going into the shopping cart and the willingness to prepare some meals.

It’s true that the wrong foods are subsidized and that there is so much wrong with the food industry today, from what they serve to children in schools to the fact that it’s easier to find a fast food joint in some cities than it is to find a supermarket. But it’s up to us to vote with our dollars. It’s up to us to change a system that is obviously not working. Eating a healthful vegan diet can benefit our wallets now, at the register, as well as later, when we’re not paying for medical care that stems from the standard American diet.

I’ve heard it said that eating vegan is something that only the privileged can do. Not true, at least in the way it was intended, but let’s twist that around. Yes, we vegans are privileged – with the opportunity to make our voices heard, to lead by example, and to eat really great food for less than what people may think.

Photo credit: anitasarkeesian via Flickr


  1. Vince Adkins May 13, 2022 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Hi: What if you eat no lintels, no beans?

  2. Poorandgoingvegan February 4, 2017 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    Todays times in Canada produce is so expensive. Even when shopping just the sales i always end up spending around 30 a week for fruits and veggies. Its really.tough when 1/2 a pint of blueberries is almost $4, and 1 green pepper is $2.79 at any local grocery store.

  3. […] it is so much cheaper eating this way! I previously thought that going vegan could be cost prohibitive but you can buy so […]

  4. Brandon July 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    Great article (and site)! I agree that eating a plant-based diet doesn’t need to be expensive. And you’re completely right, everyone (for the most part) eats vegan foods. The only thing that I find expensive are the mock meats (which I don’t eat), organic veggies and fruits, and nut milks. Of course, being vegan doesn’t mean buying all of the expensive stuff. Here’s a list of a typical day for me and how much it costs: I can eat for less than $11 a day! Like you mentioned, buying in bulk is the best way to go: rice, beans, lentils, etc. I am known for hoarding these grains and legumes in my pantry. It’s nice to just have extra stuff on hand too. Thanks again for the article. I look forward to reading more from YDV.

  5. Daria January 17, 2013 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    You’re right, Jamie – vegan or not, too much of that kind of food is going to cost you medically. So even if vegan food *were* more expensive, it would be a good investment in health. Fortunately, it’s not!

  6. Jamie January 17, 2013 at 8:15 am - Reply

    On the other hand I think that if you eat processed, junk, additive, preserved up food your much more likely to have recurring health problems which could cost way more than a weekly shopping cart of vegan food.

  7. Daria January 17, 2013 at 6:55 am - Reply

    Thanks, Josh! Your tips are definitely helpful and worth a try for most. I know I didn’t know what quinoa was for most of my life, either. As for foods and nutrients, Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis & Vesanto Melina was invaluable when I first started ditching animal products!

  8. Josh January 16, 2013 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Fantastic article, Daria!! That is one of the most common objections I hear about being vegan.

    Two things have really helped me: 1) planning meals at the beginning of the week and 2) doing a little research about what foods provide protein, calcium, etc. The average American knows so little about food..or how to pronounce quinoa ; )

    Thanks for writing this!!

  9. Daria January 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    @Justin: It’s true! It’s kind of a double-edged sword; it’s a great time to have the option of eating vegan processed food, but we still have to be careful with it like we would with the non-vegan stuff!

    @Samantha: I can’t wait till I can say I’ve been vegan for 19 years. I think longtime vegans provide great evidence that you can sustain, financially and medically!

  10. Justin Chick January 15, 2013 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Yes! I whole heartedly agree! Not only are processed foods expensive but more times than note they’re not all that great for you.

  11. […] Yes We Can (Why Eating Vegan Doesn’t Have to be Expensive) […]

  12. Samantha Grayson January 15, 2013 at 9:21 am - Reply

    I have been a vegan 19 years and fully agree. I find a vegan lifestyle is cheap. I can buy a lot of food for very little and grow my own, but I buy very little processed food

Leave A Comment

HELLO! I'm KD Angle-Traegner.

Writer, activist, and founder of Four Urban Paws Sanctuary. I’m on a mission to help people live a vegan life. Read more about KD…