Since today marks World Vegan Day I thought now was as good a time as any to write a blog post which sheds some light into what is perceived to be a tricky, nearing impossible challenge for many university students. Aside from the most obvious, “What do you eat?” question, the conundrum “How on earth do you afford to eat vegan on a student budget?” is one which follows in close succession.
Whilst the general consensus across the student population is that surviving on a vegan diet is by no means a financially safe route to take, the thought of doing a weekly shop and avoiding every animal-derived product on the shelves is enough to send anyone into a financial frenzy. Of course with the sight of their student loans imprinted on the back of their eyelids, for many the option of making the switch doesn’t even rationalize a ponder.
So, with that in mind, I’m on a mission to open people’s eyes to show just how simple, cheap and delicious living a vegan lifestyle can be whilst bridled by a student budget. Taking it back to basics, for those who are unsure of what a vegan diet actually is, it is one which abstains from consuming any animal-based products including meat, dairy, eggs and fish. A plant-based diet is richly diverse and encompasses a variety of wholefoods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, beans and pulses – most of which can be bought in bulk and do not break the bank.
Hitting the supermarket for your weekly grocery haul need not be a burden. In fact, it’s no falsehood that meat, dairy and eggs are actually often among the most expensive grocery items you can buy, with plant-based foods being much cheaper. When visiting the grocery shop, it’s always a good idea going with a plan in mind of what it is you actually need to buy. An effective way is to plan your meals for the following week and make a list of all the ingredients which you will need. This way, you’re less likely to go overboard and splash out your already bounded budget.
Stocking up your store cupboards with a sufficient amount of staples, things like spices, pasta, rice, lentils, canned beans, and other pulses and grains will make your life a whole lot easier. Since these items can be brought cheaply in bulk and have super long shelf lives you won’t need to be worrying about running out of these anytime soon. Plus, since most plant-based meals are centred around some sort of carby-staple, having these in ready supply in your cupboard immediately helps cut down the cost of your shop. So even when you’re fast approaching the dregs of your student loan, I can assure you, you will never go hungry.
The biggest expense when you transition to a vegan diet is forking out on the more specialised ingredients such as nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, flaxseed meal, agave syrup and chia seeds. However, since these are used in such small quantities, once you have them tucked away nicely in your kitchen you won’t need to be buying them again anytime soon.
Admitting the fact that these bulk ingredients may not sound the most exciting on their own, and to the omni-population consuming a bowl of beans, pasta, or rice as a meal with no smidgen of meat or cheese in sight a pretty bland, boring and tasteless predilection. But really, you’d be amazed at the variety of flavoursome dishes these ingredients can make with a little seasoning of knowledge. From three-bean chillies, chick-pea curries and tofu scrambles, there is a world of endless recipes which can be made from a few simple ingredients.
Another key tip is to make up a bigger batch of your evening meals, pop the leftovers into a Tupperware box and freeze them. This way when you’re short for time or need a quick and convenient meal all you need to do is defrost and reheat! On the topic of frozen produce, you will often find that buying frozen vegetables and fruits like peppers, spinach, kale and berries are much cheaper than buying fresh. Plus, if you’re cooking for yourself it may be difficult to use up all of the fresh foods before they hit their use by date, so this way you’re saving on cost and avoiding throwing foods away!
It’s easy to sometimes be drawn to heavily branded products when whizzing around the supermarket. Let’s be honest, as students we have plenty of other things we could be doing instead of trooping around the supermarket grimacing through gritted teeth when we see the cost of a 12-pack of toilet rolls. But don’t shy away from checking out the ‘value’ products too. Quite often the products in the low-budget supermarket brands are surprisingly vegan, when their more expensive counterparts are not! Would you believe Tesco’s Everyday Value Garlic Bread is vegan and only 32p?
If you ever find yourself ambling past a supermarket near closing time, don’t miss the opportunity to call in and check out its reduced aisle. A lot of fresh and chilled produce tend to be discounted to crazy cheap prices, a great chance to stock up on hummus being sold for pennies a pot! You can even stock up on supermarket own brands of plant-based milks like soya, almond and oat milk to divert the inflated prices of chilled branded products. Another helpful tip is to have a peep at the prices of UHT milks, since these tend to be a little cheaper than those in the chilled aisle. The bonus when buying UHT milk is that they last much longer too, my cupboard has about ten cartons of soya milk!
Remember, eating vegan is a journey. It is a learning process which takes a little time to adjust to. It’s not about eating perfectly, nor is it about eating like everyone else you know who is vegan: it’s about eating a healthy, plant-based diet in a balanced way that works for you. There will be slip ups and it will take time to adjust to this style of living, but stick at it and you will get there.
Fancy giving vegan a go yourself? Download my Plant-based E-Book called Simplistically Raw for 99p to discover the many more useful hints and tips to eating vegan and making the transition to a plant-based lifestyle much easier. With over 66 vegan recipes from breakfasts, brunches, lunches, mains and sweet treats, you’re bound to be amazed at the abounding flavours and joy eating vegan can bring.
Spinach and Banana Nice-Cream
- 2 frozen bananas, thawed slightly
- Handful fresh/frozen spinach
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 3/4 cup plant-based milk
- 1 tsp peanut butter (optional)
- Granola of choice
- Fresh berries or additional fruit, to serve
1. Remove the bananas from the freezer and allow to thaw slightly (about 10-15 minutes). Add these to a food processor along with the plant-based milk, oats and spinach and blend until smooth. If you wish, add the peanut butter for a nuttier taste and pulse a few more times.
2. Serve the nice-cream in a bowl, top with fresh fruit, a sprinkle of granola and peanut butter. Tuck in and enjoy this super easy, deliciously sweet banana ice-cream. For more of my recipes visit Simplisticallyraw.com.