An investigation into the cost of the increasingly popular vegan diet has revealed that convenience vegan foods could cost on average 23% more than their original meat and dairy counterparts. Can new vegans make the move to plant-based diets without spending more at the supermarket?
In 2015, interest in a vegan diet surpassed interest in vegetarianism for the first time in the UK, following new evidence of the many benefits of a ‘plant-based’ diet. In 10 years, the number of British vegans has increased by 350%, solidifying veganism as one of the fastest growing lifestyle movements in the country.
The divide between young and old is palpable, with 15-34-year-olds leading the way in the new wave of omnivore diets; bound by less by traditional values, and increasingly concerned by the ethical questions surrounding modern day animal agriculture, as well as its effect on the environment.
But is being vegan an affordable and sustainable lifestyle choice when it comes to your budget? This is one of many questions which concern individuals who want to take the step towards eliminating meat, dairy, and eggs from their diet. ““It is one of the biggest misconceptions that being vegan is more expensive. On the contrary, with a bit of know-how, eating vegan can actually be significantly cheaper!” explains Jimmy, a spokesperson for the Vegan Society. A non-profit organisation, The Vegan Society promotes the benefits of a vegan diet, by encouraging people to think about what they eat, and aiding individuals in their transition to a vegan diet when they take the plunge.
However, upon researching the average prices of popular vegan counterparts from the top UK supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Ocado, and Asda – with popular brands of meat and dairy products, the comparative findings show that replacing animal products with processed vegan substitutes directly could see you paying up to 50% more for the plant-based alternative.
Replace chicken breasts at £5.52/kg with Quorn Meat-free Vegan Pieces at £7.86/kg, and you will be paying 29.7% more for the meat-free alternative. Similarly, rather than choosing Richmond Sausages at £4.41/kg for bangers and mash, selecting the vegan option of Linda McCartney’s Sausages at £5.00/kg will cost you 11.8% more. After a few quick comparisons, it’s already apparent where the belief – that a vegan diet is a costly one – has sprouted from!
The research revealed direct replacements for dairy products to be among the priciest vegan options. Drinking Alpro Soya Almond milk at 1.75p/litre as an alternative could increase the amount you spend on milk each week by 49.7% when compared to leading dairy brand Cravendale’s cow milk at 88p/litre. Buy Alpro Soya Plain Yogurt at £1.38/per 500g pot rather than Onken Natural Set Biopot Yogurt at £1.19/500g, and you could be spending 13.7% more on yogurt each time you shop.
On the surface, it seems clear the immediate substitutes don’t compete – so how can you make the move to an animal-free diet without adding to your weekly grocery shop? “The comparisons here relate to buying meat substitutes or processed vegan foods, which can be pricier than heavily subsidised meat and dairy products,” Jimmy points out. “Lots of vegans, however, also go for healthier whole foods, which are almost always cheaper than those derived from animals. Take vegan shepherd’s pie, for instance: lentils, the typical main ingredient, cost a tiny fraction of the same quantity of lamb or beef mince” he explains. “A favourite trick of budgeting vegans is to head to the fruit and veg stall at the local market or supermarket just before closing, and check out the reduced section of the veg aisle. You can typically get a week’s worth of food for under a tenner. Extra ripe fruit is ideal for smoothies!”
The new wave of vegans sharing recipes and their experience of the diet online; notably bloggers, fitness gurus and celebrities, have given the diet an attractive new makeover. Defying the archaic presumption they live off mung beans and carrot sticks, vegans are enjoy everything from cakes to biscuits, pizza to vegan macaroni cheese. Don’t knock it until you try it!
Vegan on the Cheap
So how can you get creative in the kitchen to make sure choosing the vegan diet, favoured for its positive environmental impact sustainability, doesn’t add extra costs to your grocery list? There are cookbooks, popular vegan blogs like Oh She Glows and Deliciously Ella, and even Jamie Oliver recipes to inspire you to devise a healthy vegan meal plan which doesn’t result in an expensive trip to the supermarket. We’ve got two cheap and cheerful recipes for you to try, each packed with flavour and nutrients.
Sexy Squash & Beans
1 whole butternut squash
1 can of butter beans
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 large red onion
Torn up chunks of stale bread
1 tbsp of oil
200ml vegan vegetable stock
Seasonal greens to serve
- Chop your butternut squash and red onion into nice chunky chunks.
- Drain your can of butter beans.
- On a low to medium heat slowly cook your onions in the oil until they are soft and sweet.
- Add your butternut squash and fry until a little golden.
- Throw in your rosemary leaves and stir for another minute.
- Chuck it all into an oven proof dish with your beans and pour over the stock.
- Now carefully place your bread on so that it isn’t drowning in stock (it’ll go soggy otherwise and you want it nice and crisp).
- At this point, you could grate a little vegan cheese on top, but it’s delicious without anyway!
- Now bake in the oven at about 200c / Gas Mark 6 for about 35 minutes, or until your squash is tender and most of the liquid has gone or thickened up.
- Serve with some seasonal greens tossed in lemon juice and toasted garlic. Delicious!
Chunky Banana Pancakes & Berries
2 large ripe bananas – mash ’em!
1 cup flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup rolled oats
2.5 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup Oat Milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Fresh seasonal berries or frozen berries defrosted if you want to cut the cost
- Grab a cup measurement – or a small mug will do the trick!
- Mash your bananas with a fork
- Measure out all your dry ingredients into a large bowl, mix together
- Add the bananas, oat milk and vanilla extract
- Stir until you’ve got a thick batter (should still run off the spoon)
- Grease up a hot pan with a little bit of vegetable oil and kitchen roll (or coconut if you’re feeling fancy)
- Once the pan is hot, dollop mixture, two spoonfuls per pancake, into the pan. Cook 3 or 4 at a time if your frying pan has the room
- After 2-3 minutes or when bubbles have formed on the top – flip! (with spatula)
- Cook each pancake until golden brown
- Serve with figs, berries or your fresh fruit of choice, with lashings of maple syrup. Mmmmm.
Tempted? Have a go at these vegan delights for yourself, and relish your new diet in all its affordable, wholesome goodness!
The comparative data for the cost of conventional diet staples and vegan counterparts was collected using mysupermarket.