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A lot of non-vegans claim that veganism is for a rich elite in Western countries that can afford to shop at fancy health food stores, but the reality is quite the opposite: Meat consumption, in particular, is a sign of wealth (which may be why so many people are unwilling to give up meat).
If you remember the “What the World Eats” photo story from a few years ago you will know that in less wealthy countries people eat a lot more fresh whole foods than processed foods or animal products (http://time.com/8515/what-the-world-eats-hungry-planet/), and, in fact, the staples of a vegan diet such as rice, legumes, and pasta are a lot cheaper than meat.
The myth that veganism is expensive probably stems from the fact that meat substitutes are indeed quite pricey. However, they’re not what vegans live off. Buying fruits, vegetables, beans, pasta, and rice doesn’t magically become more expensive because one is vegan, and these are the same ingredients non-vegans already buy on a regular basis.
What can make veganism more expensive is that you might start doing more research on food and pay more attention to what you buy. I try to buy organic when I can which is sadly more expensive. This is something you don’t have to do, and being vegan is easily possible by just buying pasta, rice, and potatoes (all very cheap) and combining them with seasonal vegetables and legumes. This is probably the cheapest way you can eat. Sure, there are a lot of convenience foods out there, but a healthier and cheaper way is to buy whole foods and cook your meals based on the available ingredients. The difficulties start when you try to follow very specific recipes and need to get ingredients that are not easy to find where you live. That’s why I like to adjust recipes where possible or cook meals with cheaper ingredients.
Fake meats and dairy products are not essential to being vegan. Yes, smoothies taste better with vegan milk than with water, but why not use a bit of coconut milk which is actually very cheap? An advantage is that vegan milks and cheeses can easily be made at home if one is willing to invest the time. This is going to be both cheaper and healthier.
Going out to eat can be more expensive than if you're not vegan but this is based on the quality of food. A good restaurant is of course going to be more expensive than a fast food place. If you compare a vegan restaurant that uses high-quality ingredients to a non-vegan street food place it’s obvious that the vegan one is going to be more expensive, but if you go to a place that offers both falafel and kebab, the falafel is not going to be more expensive than the kebab.
At the end of the day, if you try to maintain a healthy diet you will always pay more than if you decide to live off of pasta and cheese. However, a healthy vegan diet is not more expensive than a healthy non-vegan diet.
Two Quick and Cheap Pasta Sauces
I'm not very good with recipes and usually just randomly add ingredients in whatever quantity I feel like, but below are two recipes that are pretty accurate.
Pea, Pine Nut, and Parsley Pesto
75g pine nuts
4 garlic cloves
Juice of 1 lemon
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons parsley
This is about the easiest pesto you can think of. You simply have to toast the pine nuts and set aside as many as you want to top off your pasta with. Add the rest of the pine nuts and the other ingredients to a blender and blend until you get the right consistency. You may need to add more water.
Cashew Mushroom Sauce
2 garlic cloves
Blend the cashews and water. Slice the vegetables and sautee them in some oil. Add the blended cashews, bring to a boil and add salt, pepper, and parsley to taste.
If you’re interested in more healthy and cheap vegan recipes let me know in the comments.
Half Bulgarian Turk, half German living life as an expat in Greece.