Vegan Salt –the blog

{August 27, 2010}   Vegan Grocery Bills -Part 1

Is it expensive to eat a vegan diet? There are a lot of pricey vegan specialty foods that could lead you to think so.  Countless hours of research and development have lead to vegan versions of many meat-and-dairy staples.  I’ve tried nearly all of the items below, and I’m quite fond of some of them.  But with very rare exceptions, vegan alternatives to meat, dairy, and other animal-derived products cost significantly more than the items they are replacing.

Of course, there’s a good reason for the disparity in price.  Government subsidies (yep, that’s our tax money) keep the price of animal products artificially low.  In other words, animal farmers and their suppliers are on welfare!  (They have to be, because they’re running an unsustainable industry.  People simply wouldn’t buy much meat or dairy if they had to pay the true cost for it, and factory farms would rapidly start going out of business.)  The makers of these vegan products are not subsidized, so what seems like a high price, is really just a fair price.  Now for some vegan munchies. This is just a tiny sampling of the many incredible animal-free foods now on the market!!

(almond milk  — vegan bacon — roasted vegetable cheese-free frozen pizza)

(strawberry soy yogurt — vegan butter — the latest in vegan meltable cheese)

(cookie dough coconut milk ice cream — chocolate fudge hemp-milk ice cream — the original tofurkey roast dinner)

(soy hot dogs, vegan sour cream, more vegan cheese..)

(vegan chick’n strips — vegan ground hamburger replacement — ice cream sandwiches)

(vegan cream cheese, vegan grated parmesan, vegan burger patties)

(vegan candy bars, vegan marshmallows, and the original Vegenaise)

I’ve listed these products (by the way, clicking on them will take you to their respective websites) to show that you can be vegan and eat just about everything you were used to as an omnivore.  But you can also be vegan without any of these items. Whether they’re out of your budget, or not sold in your area, they’re simply not necessary. Honestly, they’re beyond my usual grocery budget.  Looking up some of these pictures, I thought wistfully, “I haven’t had that in years!”

I eat a vegan diet every day, and I do it without spending a fortune, or having to shop at health food specialty stores.  Here’s how: you cut out the processed foods.  A low-budget vegan grocery list has items like rice, canned beans and vegetables, fresh produce, frozen produce, pasta, bread and oats, bulk seeds and nuts.  Buying whole plant foods not only gives you total control over your meals (because you’re starting with the simplest ingredients and can combine them to make whatever you can dream up), it also gives you the most nutrition for your buck!

Now, I’m not knocking vegan convenience foods.  They’re tasty, and, well, convenient!  They’ve helped many a non-chef  kick the animal-eating habit, and anything that leads to kinder living has my approval.  But they’re also the reason many omnivores think that you have to be rich to eat a vegan diet.  As Natala (of has said: “There’s a vegan section in every grocery store.  It’s called the produce section!”

Speaking of Natala, she recently blogged about eating vegan on a food stamp budget, and issued a poverty-awareness challenge to vegan cooks.  That’s largely what motivated me to write on the subject.  So check out her blogs about it here, here, and here.  And in Vegan Grocery Bills -Part 2, I’ll give you one of my favorite easy, dollar-stretching recipes.


Great post. I find that I eat far less convenience foods now that I eat vegan. I do, however, pick up one or two things when I visit the health food store, and they last a long time. When I started reading vegan blogs I just made a list of things (vegenaise, nutritional yeast, coconut butter, etc) and instead of buying everything at once. I’d just add one thing to the grocery shopping list. After a few months I had a nice selection of quick, go-to items without breaking the bank. To this day I still think the home-made sour cream I made with silken tofu and vinegar is far superior to a store-bought brand!

ailanna says:

The tradeoff for the grocery bill is always in time for me. During the summer, when I have more time to cook, I buy very little processed food and eat splendidly for a few dollars a day. But when I don’t have time to cook, I rely on leftovers and convenience foods when I run out of leftovers. I think if someone could come up with a veg cookbook of really fast, whole foods recipes that taste good, it would be a great solution.

I absolutely LOVE the post about the $21 a week vegan foods.
Also, you’re totally right, these foods are convenient but really not always that good for you and almost always expensive! I recently quit my part-time job to devote my time to school and teaching piano lessons mostly, so I’m on a tight budget too. I definitely need to work on cutting out the “convenience” foods and eating with a little bit more effort! I’d probably feel better too.

Aimee B says:

I love this website. I have a question though. What exactly is nutritional yeast?? What do you use it for?

ailanna says:

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that contains protein and B-complex vitamins that vegans can otherwise have trouble getting in their diets. It has a fairly distinctive taste (nutty? savory? it’s been described as cheesy, though I would hesitate to call it that) and is a good flavor enhancer. I love it on popcorn and sprinkle it in soup. My nutritional yeast comes from the bulk bins at Whole Foods. It’s not cheap, but you don’t tend to need a lot at a time.

Mrs. Nix says:

Nutritional yeast is still somewhat of a mystery to me, but I’ve been using it more often, lately, and it’s growing on me. It gets used in a lot of faux cream sauces, and it tastes a bit like parmesan cheese.

You can buy it from Bob’s Red Mill online store if you have trouble finding it elsewhere.

[…] – One group said they spend more because food items made for vegans are so expensive.   (See Vegan Grocery Bills -Part 1 on vegan replacements for old favorites like cheese and marshmallows.)  Restaurants that cater […]

Mrs. Nix says:

Awesome…awesome post. I’m gonna link to this on my Facebook.

[…] I can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods all the time. […]

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