Going vegan actually cost me more money

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Author Leo Aquino with a fish taco and a number 2 candle.

The author, Leo Aquino.

Courtesy of Leo Aquino

I like food.

I grew up in the Philippines eating Jollibee Joy Chicken, and other meats and seafood at every meal. I even worked at my uncle’s restaurant when I was a kid and only got paid in spaghetti.

When I lived in Brooklyn in my twenties, I was able to explore the many cuisines New York had to offer. I even traveled to Oaxaca for an entire week just to eat authentic Mexican food.

What I mean is, I never thought a foodie like me would consider going vegan. I consider myself more of a vegan sympathizer – a lactose intolerant person who is grateful for dairy-free alternatives, but still loves meat.

After moving to Los Angeles, I decided to make an ambitious New Year’s resolution to go completely vegan. Yes, I wanted to get healthier in the new year. But I was also concerned about the rising price of groceries, and thought a plant-based diet would help me save an extra few hundred dollars a month.

I was completely wrong.

Changing diets is expensive and time consuming

Every month, I usually allow myself $400 for groceries and $300 for eating out. I don’t always spend all that money, but I like to give myself some space so I don’t feel guilty.

I had a vegan fantasy of filling my grocery cart with vegetables and cooking every meal, but as someone who works full time and has a very active social life, cooking every meal is just unrealistic.

I ended up going to the grocery store more often because I ran out of food. Vegan snacks and frozen foods are also much more expensive than your usual Marie Callendar’s chicken pot pie, and that added up fast.

Desperate to learn more about vegan cooking, I turned to vegan restaurants to see if I could learn a thing or two about the ingredients they used. It was a nice little research project, but definitely not economical, costing me an extra $100 a month.

I constantly snacked and cooked because I was hungry again two hours after lunch or breakfast. There were times when I was really hungry, looking at a pile of sad vegetables in the fridge, then going straight to my phone to order takeout.

Lesson learned: having a resolution in place without a plan for gradual relaxation towards the end goal is a recipe for disaster. I’m tired of blindly following wellness industry trends and putting my body – and my wallet – through all the ups and downs of dieting.

— Leo Aquino, spending and saving reporter (pictured above)

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