Wednesday, May 10

How To Eat Vegan For Under $50 A Week (For Two People!)

One of the most common concerns I hear from people with regards to becoming vegan or simply eating a plant-based diet is, "It's too expensive." The truth is that, yes, being vegan can be expensive... if you let it be. Just last week my husband and I spend a whopping $140 on groceries! We splurged on mock meats, chocolate, wine, sparkling water, you name it we bought all of the things (we must have been hungry when we shopped or something because that was about twice our normal weekly spending!).

However, it can also be very, very cheap... if you plan, stick to the basics, and buy what's on sale and seasonal. Think about it, what are some of the cheapest, most filling, and most nutritious foods? Rice, beans, potatoes, bananas, etc. These are all plant foods!

So to show you just how affordable a whole foods plant-based vegan diet can be I decided to create a little challenge for myself (with the added benefit of making up for our epic splurge week last week). I wanted to create a full week's meal plan and spend under $50 for it.

Here's how I did it, what I got, and what I ate.

Focus On Whole-Foods

The main reason why I spent so much on groceries the week prior to this challenge and why many people have the misconception that being vegan in general is expensive is because of expensive processed foods. As delicious as they are they're not budget friendly. When eating a plant-based diet on a budget be sure to focus your meals around whole-foods such as beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and starches. Cooking from scratch will take more time but it's cheaper and better for your health too!

Buy What's On Sale

The first thing I did was to check out my grocery store's website to see what was on sale for the week. I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi because it's very affordable and they also only sell the basics (as opposed to last week when I went to a larger grocery store which sells mock meats and I went absolutely crazy). I wrote down all of the items which were on sale for the week and built my meal plan around them. This particular week happened to have Cinco de Mayo fall in it so a lot of salsas, tomatoes, and the sort were on sale. Berry season is also coming so blueberries were on sale so I knew I had to get some for blueberry pancakes/waffles. Yum!

Create A Meal Plan

The next step was to make my meal plan for the week so I'd know exactly what I'd be making and eating all week. I made sure to keep in mind the things I knew were on sale this week. I wanted to choose things that could utilize some of the same ingredients (tacos and chili will use the same veggies, my pasta salad and veggies wraps will have the same things in them, etc.) so I could feel like I was eating a variety of meals without having to buy too large of a variety of ingredients. I also wanted to make sure I planned for a decent variety of fruits and veggies for optimal nutrition!

Create A List

Once you have your meal plan created it's time to make a list. Don't buy anything that's not on the list! This is key to sticking to your budget. No adding chips or candies that look good; not if they weren't planned into your budget and your meals.

Here's what was on my list:

  • blueberries
  • bananas (3 bags - approximately 2lbs each bag)
  • cucumber
  • cantaloupe
  • bell peppers (bag of 3)
  • mushrooms (2 bundles - 1lb each bundle)
  • roma tomatoes (one 1lb bag)
  • lettuce (one 9oz bag)
  • baby carrots (one 1lb bag)
  • zucchini (one 2lbs bundle)
  • mango
  • cilantro
  • flour (5lb bag)
  • peanut butter
  • canned pumpkin
  • almond milk (half gallon)
  • canned white beans (2 cans)
  • canned kidney beans (2 cans)
  • canned black beans (2 cans)
  • tortillas (small, 20 total)
  • canned refried beans
  • jarred salsa
  • hummus
  • small can of tomatoes w/ green chilies
  • pasta (1lb box)
  • coffee
I was also planning to use a few things I had left in the cupboards including rice, oatmeal, onions, potatoes, spices, sugar, oil, and a can of fire roasted tomatoes.

My Total

My total for all the items I bought for the week was $38.35! However, since I used several things that I already had in the cupboard I decided to title this article "Under $50 A Week" rather than "Under $40 A Week" because I figured I'd have to spend around another $10 max to buy the extra items I used that I already had. Since we're going on vacation the day this experiment ends I want the fridge and cupboards completely cleaned out (so we don't come home to moldy food or ants!).

Our haul! It looks a bit sparse since all the produce is piled up in the front basket but rest assured, we'll be eating good this week!

How To Make It Cheaper

My goal for this week was to keep it under $50 (including items used in my pantry) but this challenge could be made even cheaper by cutting a few corners and putting in a little extra work. For example, using dry beans instead of canned beans would save a little more in the long run. Beans are economical no matter how you slice it but per bean dried is the way to go on a tight budget. You just have to remember to soak them ahead of time and take the time to cook them. You could also make your own refried beans from dried pinto beans you cook yourself. Making your own tortillas from scratch is another way to save a little dough (haha get it, dough?). I thought about doing this myself since I needed to buy flour this week but decided that $1.79 was worth it for me to save a bit of time this week. I love homemade tortillas but I'm not the very best at making them just yet (I really should practice more). I also got a few "luxury" items like cilantro and coffee which could easily be cut out to save an extra $5. As far as coffee goes though Aldi has the most affordable of anywhere I've seen. It cost just $3.99 for fair trade coffee!

What I Ate

I followed my meal plan all week and mixed and matched what I ate each day so I wouldn't get bored. Here's an example of what I ate in a day. (My husband ate the same meals as me each day!)

Example Day 1-
Blueberry Banana Waffles - How To Eat Vegan For Under $50 A Week (For Two People!)
Blueberry banana waffles!


  • two blueberry waffles made with mashed banana (same ingredients as we'd use to make pancakes but we decided to throw them in the waffle iron this morning)
  • two large cups of coffee each with sugar and almond milk
  • pasta salad made with tomato, sliced cucumbers, white beans, and salad dressing
  • baby carrots and hummus
Vegan tacos - How To Eat Vegan For Under $50 A Week (For Two People!)
Tacos for Cinco de Mayo!
  • tacos made with tortillas, refried beans, bell pepper, onion, potatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, salsa, lettuce, and cilantro
  • banana ice cream made with frozen bananas, almond milk, peanut butter, and sugar

Example Day 2-

  • oatmeal made with banana and peanut butter
Veggie wraps - How To Eat Vegan For Under $50 A Week (For Two People!)
Veggie wraps
  • veggie wraps made with tortillas, hummus, tomato, cucumber, and white beans
  • cantaloupe
  • black beans and rice with mango and cilantro
  • banana bread with peanut butter (I also ate this for breakfast a few days)

I also drank copious amounts of water throughout the day!

So that's it! We successfully ate for a full week on a modest budget and it went surprisingly well. So well in fact that when we get back from vacation I think I may want to try an "Under $40" challenge (because goodness knows we'll be eating out a lot and blowing through cash fast while out of town!). What do you think, would you be interested in some more cheap eating ideas? Let me know in the comments below! And if you're interested in learning about any of the recipes I used to eat this week let me know so I can be sure to do a future blog post about it.

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