Last year over at Canadian Budget Binder I wrote about how going vegan affected the monthly food budget. The article generated some interest in a vegan diet and was featured in the Globe & Mail.
Since then I’ve had a few emails from people asking how to switch to a vegan diet and whether the costs compared to the foods we used to eat.
A vegan diet is considered a “non-dairy vegetarian” diet which eliminates meat products and a ‘strict’ vegan diet also eliminates dairy, eggs and any animal-related products.
The decision to switch to a vegan diet was made almost purely for health reasons. I love saving money but sacrificing my health to save a few dollars isn’t a priority so we tend to buy higher quality foods even if they cost more.
We didn’t like how most of the foods today are processed, mass-produced and seem to be generally unhealthy. Many of the foods people eat in their meals are high in salt, sugar and contain unhealthy growth hormones or other things we’d like to avoid.
I read a few books last year about switching to a vegan diet and the health benefits from it, so I started to consider if it was something we could do.
Numerous studies have been published throughout the years about vegan diets and they’re still considered controversial, but we became interested in a vegan diet because it was generally shown to lower the risk of getting certain types of cancer.
Vegan diets were also considered to be ‘lighter’ consisting of lots of healthy vegetables, so I also read it helped to boost the energy level of some people who made the switch.
Some people advocate that switching to a diet that focuses too much on vegetables can do more harm than good, while others advocate the opposite. But almost everyone can agree that a diet with less processed foods and lower salt/sugar levels can be beneficial.
I’m far from a nutritionist, but I felt like my diet could use some minor improvements and going vegan would definitely be one way to achieve that.
Time & Effort
Eating unhealthy food is much easier than eating healthy foods made from scratch, so we automatically knew switching to a vegan diet would be a lot of time, effort and research.
A vegan diet requires a lot of meal planning, since most people use some form of meats or dairy products in the recipes they use. If you buy takeout often, almost all processed foods contain either meat or dairy products which makes it tough to eat at certain places.
The other big factor was how we bought our foods. In the past we would buy groceries at the closest grocery store, but since then we have switched to the convenience of getting our groceries delivered right to our home from Spud. It’s worked out well because Spud offers tons of healthy, organic and vegan products that we’d need to buy. (If anyone’s interested, click here to read the full review and a coupon code valid for $20 off your first order)
Changes to the Food Budget
I was a bit hesitant to change our current shopping habits because I feared it may lead to an increase in our grocery bill.
At first the process was overwhelming – buying new products with unfamiliar names. Regular milk was replaced with soy milk. Meats were replaced with substitutes like tempeh, quinoa and tofu. These changes were made on almost all the foods we used to buy, and up until that point I didn’t even know what quinoa was.
The initial costs to replace everything we had with vegan-friendly substitutes was expensive; we spent about $200 initially just to buy ingredients used to make new recipes.
Luckily, after that the costs started to go down and they are only slightly higher than what we used to pay for groceries. One of the biggest benefits of going vegan is that we no longer have to worry about the rising costs of meats which were starting to take up more of our grocery budget.
We spend about $450 per month on food which also includes a monthly trip to Costco to get things in bulk for cheaper prices. This is comparable to what we used to spend before going vegan and I’m happy with it because it means we swapped out many of our processed foods for local, organic ingredients that we use to make recipes from home.
Could we spend less on the foods we are eating? Yes, but sacrificing our health to save money isn’t something we’d like to do.
The real challenge with any diet change is finding the time to prepare homemade meals – which is the best way to save money and ensure you’re using the healthiest ingredients. We aren’t ‘strict’ vegans as I find it nearly impossible to eliminate all dairy products from my diet, but I do still avoid eating meats.
Conclusion: after switching to a vegan diet within about 4 weeks I noticed I had more energy and wasn’t as tired at the end of each day. I still worked the same hours but by the end of the workday I felt like I had more energy to be physically active and didn’t feel as sluggish. Switching to a vegan diet meant we spend only slightly more than we used to on groceries. The most difficult part has been finding the time to prepare meals at home when we’re both working.
Would you consider switching to a vegan diet if it meant you spent more on groceries but ate healthier foods?