Is it possible to eat a plant-based diet on a limited budget?

For environmental reasons, I want to switch to a vegan diet. So I went to the grocery store and checked-out their vegan section. But everything was super expensive!

I couldn't believe how much I paid for so little! What I bought:

  1. Vegan Almond "Milk"
  2. Vegan "Meat"
  3. Vegan "Cheese"
  4. Vegan "Burgers"
  5. Vegan "Chicken" Tenders
  6. Vegan "Fish" Sticks
  7. Vegan Cream "Cheese"
  8. Vegan "Butter"
  9. Vegan "Ice Cream"
  10. Vegan Frozen "Pizzas"
  11. Vegan "Milk" Chocolate
  12. Vegan Frozen Waffles
  13. Vegan Cookies
  14. Vegan Soap
  15. Vegan Cake
  16. Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (Vegan "Nutella")
  17. Tempeh

Also tried to order vegan at a restaurant, but the vegan items on the menu were almost double their items with meat!

I'm a student on a tight budget. I'd really like to be vegan, but if I can't find a cheap way to eat then I may have to switch back to eating meat because it's cheaper.

Are there any guides on how to cheaply eat vegan on a budget?

  • "Also tried to order vegan at a restaurant, but the vegan items on the menu were almost double their items with meat!" Really? Vegan "alternatives" like the stuff you listed are, no question, often expensive (also, I make my own yogurt from cashews and almonds and it costs a whole lot more than dairy yogurt), but I've never seen vegan options on a restaurant menu cost more than the meat options.
    – Zanna
    Aug 25, 2022 at 6:49

3 Answers 3


Generally, it's cheaper to eat vegan than to eat a diet with animal-based products.

An Oxford University study published in The Lancet Planetary Health (October 2021) found that high-grain vegetarian diets can be over one-third (34%) cheaper than "current diets" and that vegan diets, generally, were cheaper than vegetarian diets.

Everywhere I've ever lived (even in Scandinavia where vegetables are super expensive), it's been cheaper to eat vegan. Here's the thing:

  1. Don't buy processed foods that come in a box
  2. Do buy fresh whole foods (fruits and vegetables)
  3. Do buy legumes (eg lentils & garbanzo beans) and grains (eg flour & rice) dry in 1-20 kg bags (ie not canned or frozen)

Image of whole foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, etc). Credit Adobe Stock.

For recipes, my favorite website for college students with limited time and money is The Vegan Stoner and The Cheap Lazy Vegan

And more generally, checkout the following cuisines, which are very cheap:

  1. Mexican
  2. Indian
  3. Chinese

All the things you've listed in the question are processed foods. By that I mean that you don't just dig up vegan "Meat", you start with various vegetables, often soya beans or wheat and then put those through various industrial processes before you get vegan "Meat". All of that processing takes energy, equipment and time and therefore costs money.

So the simplest and cheapest vegan diet is one where you eat unprocessed vegetables and then do any processing you need such as cooking yourself.

Meat of course has at least one level of processing as animals themselves eat things so there's an inherent processing cost in meat in that you need to feed animals in order to raise them.

So to eat cheaply, find some vegan recipes online that are made with vegetables rather than processed ingredients, buy the vegetable ingredients you need for those meals and then cook them yourself. Do note that some vegetables are cheaper than others so check your local shops to find out which ones you like that are within your budget, and to really go as cheap as possible, you can always grow your own vegetables if you have access to somewhere to do so.


I found that the foods that are "vegan" and meant to imitate animal products are very expensive, whereas eating a true vegan diet is quite economical. I'm not saying that those "fake meat" products are bad; we use them for convenience and (OK, I admit it) laziness from time to time. But if you learn to make your own seitan from wheat gluten, use tofu, tempeh, and beans, your protien values will be fine and you'll save a lot of money. There are a lot of cookbooks that will help with techniques for cooking vegan without using a lot of prepackaged imitation meat. I especially recommend anything by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, of "Post-punk vegan" reknown. Here is her website but I prefer physical books myself and have three or four of her books on my kitchen shelf. I guess my favorite of hers is Isa Does It. When I became a vegan a long time ago, the products that abound now in stores were nonexistent, and the few "fake meat" products on the market were just not very appetizing. So we had to learn to cook ;)

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