It is so expensive to be vegan! I can’t afford the vegan lifestyle! I can’t find vegan items anywhere!
Those are just some of the excuses I hear when someone tells me why they can’t be vegan. Notice I said excuses because that is just what they are. With veganism and plant-based eating being the latest trend, plenty of stores, markets, and restaurants are jumping on the bandwagon. This not only means that vegan items are more readily available, but it also means they are more affordable. Don’t get me wrong, there are some high priced vegan options on the market, but if you know where to shop and what to get, things will be a lot easier for you and your wallet.
Think veganism is expensive? Think again. Try these 7 staple vegan pantry items and save big!
#1. Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are a staple item for many different diets. Whether raw vegan, vegan, whole foods plant-based, vegetarian or other, we should all strive to consume fresh fruits and vegetables no matter our lifestyle or fitness goals. Fresh is best, but frozen steam-able options come in second place for me, especially when I don’t have a lot of time to prepare a meal. If you have a little time to spare it is much cheaper to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and cut and freeze them yourself. This will save you money, especially if you use reusable freezer bags or containers.
You can find really good deals on fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. When I used to live near a Harris Teeter supermarket, I would wait for the frozen Birds Eye Steamfresh vegetables to go on sale, buy one get one free. I would stock up enough frozen veggies to last me several months. The Kroger in my area would also have a 10 for $10 sale on some canned goods. Your area may have deals similar to this or better. Frequently check with your local stores and see what coupons or deals they have to offer.
Organic produce is usually more expensive and can put a major dent in your wallet if you’re not careful. Stores like Lidl, Aldi, Trader Joes, and some local farmers markets have reasonably priced organic options. With that being said, purchase what works best for you and your budget.
If you choose to purchase canned vegetables and fruits, make sure you look for items that have low sodium or no salt added. Also, look for items that are canned in water or fruit juice. There are some canned organic options out there as well. Canned foods are usually inexpensive and easy to find.
#2. Grains and beans
Grains and beans are a must! They can easily be purchased in bulk, stored for long periods of time and are easy to prepare. They also make meal prepping a dream. If you go to my fridge right now, I have several large bowls filled with black beans, Spanish rice, and a quinoa and brown rice mix. Pair one or more of those items with a veggie or protein of my choice and I have a quick meal for lunch or dinner. Your meals don’t always have to be the super glamorous five-course meals we see on the internet. As long as it is tasty, and filling, that’s all that truly matters.
If you haven’t tried lentils, you are missing out. Lentils are a very delicious and versatile legume. Lentils can be made into a variety of dishes, such as Mesir Wot, which is an Ethiopian stewed lentil dish, you could bake a lentil loaf or even whip up some sloppy joes! A bag of lentils won’t break your bank account either.
Rice is another affordable option. Unless you are purchasing the prepackaged, already seasoned boxes from Zatarain’s or Rice a Roni, you can get a pretty large bag of rice for less than $8. Quinoa and dried beans are also inexpensive options to consider adding to your shopping list if you haven’t done so already. Remember to read the labels and be mindful of what you are purchasing. Some of those prepackaged, already seasoned items may have non-vegan ingredients.
#3. Herbs and spices
Garlic salt, garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, onion powder, parsley, oregano, sage, paprika…should I continue? To add flavor to your meals and spice things up a bit look no further than your spice rack. Herbs and spices in most stores are affordable. Find a few staple products and expand from there. I use garlic salt and black pepper in the majority of the foods I prepare. I also like to experiment with different curry recipes and for those, some of the spices like fenugreek, cardamom, and garam masala may be harder to find and more expensive.
#4. Sauces and condiments
Sauces and condiments are going to be your best friend! Looking to try something different? Maybe spice up an old recipe or add flavor to a particular dish? Look no further than your local grocery store or market. You can also have some items shipped to you using websites like Amazon, Thrive Market, and Vitacost.
Ketchup and mustard are an easy favorite for veggie dogs and veggie burgers. Almost all ketchup and mustard options are vegan. But, be sure to read the labels and look out for any sneaky ingredients like gelatin, whey, casein, and honey.
Are you craving BBQ sauce, maybe some sweet chili sauce to go with your veggie lumpia? Sweet Baby Ray’s original sauce, Kraft Hickory BBQ, Sweet Brown Sugar BBQ, and the Thai Kitchen Sweet Red Chili sauce are all vegan!
Maybe you miss mayo? Yes, there is vegan mayo! I personally prefer the JUST Mayo (original) and the JUST Chipotle Mayo, but Hellman’s Vegan Mayo and the Follow Your Heart Vegan Mayo are also pretty good. The JUST brand and Follow Your Heart also make a tasty vegan ranch dressing.
Maybe you want to stir-fry some veggies for dinner? La Choy makes a delicious stir fry sauce and marinade in a variety of flavors. Have you ever used the GOYA products? I like to add a few spoonfuls of GOYA Sofrito into my black beans before I make my black bean tacos. I also like to use the GOYA Sazon seasoning in my rice dishes.
The sauces and condiments I have listed don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what’s available to you. Most of these items are very affordable and widely available. There are also plenty of “accidentally” vegan sauces and salad dressings. Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian dressing and the Zesty Catalina one are vegan. Trader Joe’s has a vegan Green Goddess dressing. Newman’s Creamy Balsamic and Poppy Seed dressings are vegan as well.
#5. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are easy snacks that can provide your body with the healthy fat it needs along with many nutritious benefits. One-quarter cup of walnuts provides more than 100 percent of the daily-recommended value of anti-inflammatory plant-based omega-3 fats.
Almonds are rich in antioxidants and also packed with protein – nearly one gram of protein per almond. Pistachios have high levels of lutein, beta carotene, and vitamin E. Past research has shown that people who consistently consumed pistachios reduced their cholesterol, improved their blood sugar and lost a few inches off their waists!
Sunflower seeds are another delicious option. They are rich in B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus and magnesium. These tiny seeds also contain the highest levels of phytosterols of commonly consumed nuts and seeds. Phytosterols are beneficial for your heart and immune system health. Research has indicated consuming sunflower seeds may lower your risk for cancer. Keep in mind that all nuts and seeds are not created equal. Some are healthier than others. My personal favorites are cashews and pecans. Even though both of these nuts are high in fat and low in protein, they still provide heart-healthy benefits like lowering cholesterol and are rich in zinc and B vitamins.
Pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds are all great sources of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and healthy fat. When consumed as a part of a healthy diet they can help reduce blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
All of the nuts and seeds listed here and even the ones not listed can be purchased at most grocery stores. For those of us who are concerned about our budget, buying in bulk, or finding a co-op or buying club are great options to purchase larger quantities at discounted prices. This list is not all-encompassing. There are still plenty of delicious nut and seed options for you to include as a daily snack, in your smoothies or incorporate in one of your meals.
#6. Nut Butters
Peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter, cashew butter, hazelnut butter, I can go on and on about the deliciousness of these nut butters. Some of the different brands like Justin’s and MaraNatha can be pretty pricey, but there are other brands available to satisfy the needs of any budget. You can also make your own nut butter if you have a good quality blender.
Nut butters are so versatile and can be used as a snack with apples and celery or to make a rich and creamy sauce for your stir-fried veggies. Let’s not forget my old school favorites: peanut butter and jelly and peanut butter and banana! Yes, there are vegan jams and jellies. Just remember to stay away from those that contain gelatin! Smuckers Strawberry Jam is vegan, delicious, and affordable in case you’re wondering what my favorite is.
#7. Mock meats and cheeses
Mock meat and cheeses are what some people are using to form their opinions regarding availability and price. While it is true the larger cities tend to have more options, you can also find some mock meats and cheeses in your local Walmart, Kroger, Aldi’s, Target, Sprouts, Wegmans, Farm Fresh, Trader Joes, and Whole Foods just to name a few. If these store names don’t look familiar, a quick google search of grocery stores in your area should give you more options.
As far as price is concerned, depending on what type of “meat” or “cheese” you purchase, as well as the brand, you are looking at between $3-$10, sometimes more. If you are trying to follow a meat and dairy free lifestyle while on a tight budget, I recommend purchasing mock meat and cheese sparingly. I also don’t consider mock meats and cheeses a staple product. I just wanted to highlight the options available to you. You can also make your own ‘meat’ products at home.
At the end of the day, live your life to the fullest and enjoy the food you consume. No judgments over here, I promise! You only have one life to live, so make it count!