By: Allison Reineck
I have slowly been transitioning from a vegetarian diet to a vegan one throughout the past few months. At first I followed all of the how-to guides and starter diets, but that ultimately resulted in expensive purchases of vegan alternatives. Maintaining enough vitamins in a vegan diet and having to find the funds for store-bought alternatives has been hard, but giving up Caprese sandwiches at Fridge and Pantry or the mac bites at Mac n Joe’s has proven to be the biggest difficulty. However, I have been able to pick up tips on how to sustain a well-balanced, vitamin-filled vegan diet while staying within a budget. I have also found great vegan options for pick-up and delivery in Oxford.
I typically find the cheapest products at Kroger, but it’s always great to support local businesses–Moon Co-Op is run by an awesome group of people. If you can afford to spend a bit more money or if somewhere else is personally a better choice for you, the estimates of prices below will look a little different from yours.
Most of the tips you find on how to go vegan recommend a lot of main brand substitutes, which are usually great sustainable companies, but they aren’t easy on your wallet. There are a lot of great staples that are high in protein (and many have lots of great carbohydrates) that aren’t direct meat or dairy substitutes. The following are foods that I frequently go for:
- Red lentils ($1.99/lb) (8g protein/serving)
- Black beans ($0.69/lb) (7g protein/serving)
- Kidney beans ($0.69/lb) (7g protein/serving)
- Quinoa ($3.99/lb) (6g protein/serving)
- Peanut butter ($1.50/lb) (7g protein/serving)
- Banza pasta ($3.49 per box) (14g protein/serving) (a cheaper alternative is Barilla Protein+ but they are not vegan certified)
- Tofu ($1.79/lb) (9g protein/serving)
- Garbanzo beans ($0.69/lb) (6g protein/serving)
All of these staples are great because they’re extremely versatile. With legumes, you can add them to soups, eat them with a side of vegetables, stuff them into vegetables and bake them, or use them in thousands of recipes available online. With peanut butter, you can make a quick, classic pb&j or some easy peanut butter bites as a late-night snack. Peanut butter is also great for a healthy dessert option.
Most meat alternatives are expensive to buy regularly, but if you are someone transitioning from eating meat or you just enjoy the nostalgia, my best recommendation is an underdog, Simple Truth Emerge Plant-Based Grind ($6.99/lb and 20g protein/serving). It’s comparable in quality and intent to the Beyond and Impossible brands, but it’s cheaper and my friends and I love it in our pasta sauces and tacos.
Bread is a staple I didn’t include above because the price differs based on whether you are concerned about vegan certification, which many commercial companies don’t have because most breads contain traces of whey protein. Commercial bread can run for $1.40/loaf, but if you want vegan certification there are specific brands you should look for. This list includes 20 brands of vegan-certified bread. Another alternative to buying bread is to bake it, which is an even more affordable process as long as you have some baking staples. The only thing that you need aside from basic ingredients is active yeast, which is sold in packets (3 for $0.99) or a larger 4 oz. jar ($5.50).
Of course the stars in a vegan diet are fruits and vegetables. It takes some planning to determine what nutrients you’re looking for. For example, making sure you buy and eat extra leafy greens if you’re low on iron, but it is generally recommended to have a variety of five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. My recommendation is to always buy fresh, and then freeze your fresh produce if you aren’t able to use all of it in time. I’ve found this to be more affordable than buying frozen fruits and vegetables. The most affordable fruits and vegetables are as follows:
- Bananas ($0.23/each)
- Apples (Granny Smith, Fuji, or Pink Lady) ($0.50/each)
- Oranges ($0.67/each)
- Plantains ($0.59/each)
- Grapefruit ($0.99/each)
- Bartlett Pears ($0.57/each)
- Bosc Pears ($0.83/each)
- Roma tomatoes ($0.99/lb)
- Green onions ($0.50/each)
- Sweet/Red/White onions ($0.99/lb)
- Bell peppers ($0.69/each)
- Baby carrots ($0.99/lb)
- Cauliflower ($2.49/head)
- Idaho potatoes ($0.49/lb)
- Cucumber ($0.59/each)
- Kale ($0.89/bunch)
- Collard Greens ($0.89/bunch)
- Green or Red leaf ($1.49/bunch)
Fruits and vegetables are the biggest contributor to food waste because people tend to buy much more than they can eat, and they have a very short fresh life. It helps to plan out ahead of time how much you’ll need for one or two weeks between your shopping trips. Ask yourself, will I eat this whole bag of apples before they go bad? Oftentimes, it makes more sense to purchase food individually, and you spend $1 for two apples as opposed to $5 on a whole bag. These small differences add up very quickly. There are countless recipes to change up how you eat your fruits and vegetables, or you can always stick with a quick salad or smoothie.
Supplements are necessary for some people wanting to drastically change their diet or who have vitamin deficiencies. However, there is a lot of marketing towards vegans who may not necessarily need supplements with a balanced diet. Everyone should do some detailed research before deciding which supplements to take for health and financial reasons. The one vitamin that is normally recommended for vegans is a vitamin B12 supplement which is difficult to fulfill in a diet without consuming animal products, but it’s important to research how much of any supplement you should take for your body size, lifestyle, and needs.
Pick-up and Delivery Options
Although eating out is expensive, sometimes there just isn’t enough time to make a meal or pick up groceries, and maybe a friend wants to grab some food together. Oxford has so many places to order food from, but these are the cheapest vegan options in town right now:
- Burger King: Impossible Whopper (ask for no mayo or sauce) with fries or hash browns (meal is $7.59)
- Bodega: The vegetarian club (ask for no cheese) ($9.60), Hummus and Stuff ($9.60), Bowl of Soup (depending on the day), ($6.30)
- Brick House Cafe: Miso Soup ($3.25), Edamame ($4.95), Veggie Wrap $4.99), Inari ($4.50), Sweet Potato, Asparagus, or Avocado Rolls ($4.25-$5.25)
- Doughby’s: 5 different veggie calzones (ask for no cheese) ($8.95), some of the sweet crepes (like the oreo monster crepe) ($7.95), and veggie crepes (without cheese) ($8.25).
- Fiesta Charra: Mega Burrito/Bowl (no cheese or sour cream) ($9.95), Salsa and Chips (free!) rice, and anything from the vegetarian combo section of their menu ($8.75).
- Kofenya: Lattes ($5.50) and Iced Coffee ($3.60) are available with either macadamia and oat milk, and other coffee items may be available with these added as well. Avocado toast ($7.20), one of my favorite things in town, and the honey bunches toast, without honey ($6.60).
- Jimmy John’s: #6 The Veggie (with no cheese or mayo) ($7.20), great with extra sauce and oregano
- Rapid Fired: Personal build your own (whatever toppings and vegan cheese) ($10.63)
- Chipotle: Sofritas or Veggie anything ($7.90)
- Taco Bell: Ask for most any item to be vegan by asking for it “fresco style”, my favorite is a black bean crunchwrap supreme ($4.55), also all of the sauces aside from the verde are vegan.
Photo courtesy of Pexels.