Ditch the meat, save the money: East Coast vegans say it’s cheaper these days to stock your fridge with veggies

With the rising cost of food, especially meat products, many are considering switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet in hopes of saving money.

But is a plant-based diet better for the wallet?

Jessica Power, who lives in Grand Falls-Windsor in central Newfoundland and Labrador, says yes.

“I don’t know where the idea that eating vegan is so expensive comes from. With the price of meat right now, it would literally be impossible for me to eat anything other than a vegan diet, even if I wanted to,” she says.

Power says a family member recently posted their meager grocery store that cost them $175 and didn’t include enough ingredients for a full meal.

Meanwhile, Power and her fiancé spent the same amount and had more than enough food for the week.

“It breaks my heart that people spend so much on so little food when there are other, better options,” Power says.

Jessica Power, who lives in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland, says a family member spent $175 on groceries, which didn't include enough to make a week's worth of meals.  Power, a vegan, says she can spend the same amount and have more than enough food.  - Contributed - Contributed
Jessica Power, who lives in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland, says a family member spent $175 on groceries, which didn’t include enough to make a week’s worth of meals. Power, a vegan, says she can spend the same amount and have more than enough food. – Contributed – Contributed

Fight against rising prices

Seana Collins says that while prices have absolutely gone up, living as a vegan in the farming community of Port Williams, Nova Scotia, she doesn’t believe she’s experiencing the substantial increase in her grocery bill like the are currently her meat- and dairy-eating friends.

However, Collins makes everything from scratch and buys seasonally and locally. She says vegans who buy pre-made and processed foods will experience a substantial increase in their grocery bills because nut milks have increased significantly.

Seana Collins - Contribution
Seana Collins – Contribution

“If you consider the basis of my vegan diet to be beans, legumes, legumes, and local vegetables when available, my budget is very manageable,” Collins says.

The most expensive items in her grocery cart, she says, are fresh fruits and vegetables from parts of the United States like California or Mexico. These foodstuffs have doubled in price over the past two years.

Zuppa Tuscana Stew is a hearty vegan meal that Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia resident Seana Collins loves to make.  She says she can buy vegetarian food without breaking the bank - and for much less than meat-eating diners.  - Contributed - Contributed
Zuppa Tuscana Stew is a hearty vegan meal that Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia resident Seana Collins loves to make. She says she can buy vegetarian food without breaking the bank – and for much less than meat-eating diners. – Contributed – Contributed

To combat rising fruit and vegetable prices, Collins buys a lot of frozen vegetables and frozen fruits. Although the price of frozen food has also gone up, she says it’s nowhere near as high as the meat and dairy products she doesn’t eat.

Buying local helps. Living in a farming community with greenhouse growers who produce produce like tomatoes, cucumbers and green vegetables year-round has allowed Collins to keep his budget manageable.

Collins says most people who aren’t vegan don’t understand how simple it is to follow a vegan diet, or as expensive as one might think. It’s really just a simple formula to replace the meat protein on your plate with a vegan protein. Start by trading one for the other, she says. Simple vegan recipes are now readily available to help you.

That’s why Collins will soon be launching a new blog called Valley Vegans, which will focus on local, seasonal ingredients for simple and healthy family-friendly vegan recipes. She also documents her vegan food journey through her Instagram account.

Planning and preparation

Samantha Blizzard, registered dietitian at the Atlantic Superstore in Charlottetown and Montague, PEI, agrees on the price savings.

She says a vegetarian diet can save you a lot of money with a little planning and preparation.

By choosing specific plant-based protein sources, consumers can save significantly, she explains. For example, she suggests using black beans as a protein source for a “Taco Tuesday” meal instead of ground meat. A can of beans costs less than $2, while ground meat can cost between $10 and $20 per package.

“There are definitely vegetarian foods out there that are more expensive,” Blizzard says. “However, there are so many budget options – it all depends on how you shop.”

Blizzard says you can save a lot of money by choosing vegan and vegetarian options that are in their natural form – think chickpeas, lentils, or tofu.

But the savings aren’t there with all vegetarian foods – if you choose meat alternatives that are made to mimic protein for recipes, like vegan meatballs, vegan cheese, wrapped veggie burgers, nuggets or sausage, be prepared to spend more.

Blizzard encourages its customers to take advantage of the most profitable vegetarian protein options on the market, not only for their wallet, but also for their health. Learning to use foods like beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, edamame, quinoa and more can get out of our comfort zone – especially here in Atlantic Canada where we eat a lot of meat and potatoes. But with a little practice and a few tasty recipes, Blizzard says it’s possible to enjoy these foods as part of your regular diet.

“If you consider the basis of my vegan diet to be beans, pulses, and local vegetables when available, my budget is very manageable,” says Seana Collins. She enjoys dishes like this harvest makloubeh. – Contributed – Contributed

For example, Blizzard says to start with simple trades. Use edamame beans instead of chicken or beef in stir fries, use canned lentils instead of ground beef in spaghetti and shepherd’s pie, or add hemp seeds to peanut butter toast, cold cereal and oatmeal.

With more and more people turning to a plant-based diet, Blizzard says it’s easier than ever to find vegan food straight from the grocery store. You can find several options for vegan yogurts, cheeses and sour creams, she says.

“You name it, it exists,” she adds.

If you’re looking for ways to cut the grocery bill, then start turning to a more plant-based or vegan diet. With the growing season approaching, it’s easier than ever.

Simple vegan saving ideas

The NL Vegan Facebook group offers the following tips on how to save money by following a vegan or plant-based diet.

Buy in bulk – dried, frozen or canned. Stock up when things are on sale. Frozen foods are just as nutritious and often less expensive.

Make preserves. If you don’t mind working, you can pick and store many different berries and mushrooms.

Avoid artificial meat as it is highly processed and more expensive.

Find recipes in a cookbook or blog. You need a good seitan recipe and a good veggie burger that you can freeze.

Chickpea flour is inexpensive and versatile.

Cook from scratch. Processed foods are expensive. Having a stellar food processor is worth it, as is a blender, tofu press, and immersion blender.

Stock up on staples. Foods like lentils, tofu, beans, pasta and oats can be some of the cheapest but most nutritious in the supermarket. Bananas, potatoes, carrots, turnips, cabbage and onions are among the most affordable products.

Shop at Costco. Buying nuts and seeds such as chia, hemp, flax, etc., in large bags from Costco can be cost effective. Tofu is also less expensive and you can also find Yves ground “beef” at Costco for a very good price as well, which can be used to make tacos, shepherd’s pie or chili.

Learn to forage. The Newfoundforage group and Newfoundland bush groups have information on this and when it is available.

Freeze your vegetable peelings until you have enough to make vegetable stock – just be sure to clean the vegetables before peeling them. Don’t throw away the boiled peels – you can compost them to make waste-free vegetable broth.

Turn chickpeas into a vegan chickpea salad sandwich, says Samantha Blizzard, registered dietitian at the Atlantic Superstore in Charlottetown and Montague, PEI.  - PC.ca - PC.ca
Turn chickpeas into a vegan chickpea salad sandwich, says Samantha Blizzard, registered dietitian at the Atlantic Superstore in Charlottetown and Montague, PEI. – PC.ca – PC.ca

Make it at Home: Chickpea Salad

Makes 4-6 servings

Source: PC.ca

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon mustard (yellow or dijon)
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • To taste salt and pepper

Add the chickpeas to a medium bowl and mash well with a potato masher. Mix all the other ingredients. Taste and adjust flavors if necessary. Serve on your favorite bread and enjoy!

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