Q. Is being vegan expensive?
A. I’m so glad you asked. The short answer to this is no, being vegan is not expensive. The more accurate answer is although being vegan is not necessarily expensive it’s really dictated by you and your preferences. It also comes with its own set of thought-provoking questions, such as expensive compared to what? Lets delve deeper into this juicy topic.
If you’ve seen this weeks grocery haul then I think you can agree with the short answer. Eating a whole food vegan diet of minimally processed foods is cheaper in comparison to eating a typical western diet.
If you truly feel compelled to eat vegan then the cost should not be seen as a limiting factor. However there are many issues to consider that truly determine if a vegan diet would be expensive for you.
Are we judging expense purely on monetary value?
This may sound like a pedantic question but I feel it has real power to sway a person’s perception of expense. Making the assumption that you are privileged enough to make reasonable food choices for yourself lets address the notion of expensive.
Is the final cost to you the only factor worth considering? If you were aware of the true inherent cost, to the farmer, the environment and your health could your idea of what is and isn’t expensive be swayed? Should innocent animals be the only ones to pay the ultimate price? What value do you put on the services provided to you by the animal agriculture industry? How much is your ignorance and sterile separation from everything that occurs before the animal lands on your table worth? At what cost do you keep your hands clean and your eyes closed?
Ultimately it is answering these questions that will get to the heart of the matter of what expense means to you. The top 2% of the richest people on the planet may never consider searching within themselves for these answers whilst some of the poorest communities live in close harmony with the animals and environment around them. Here we see that no amount of wealth can determine the true cost of a persons choices.
Are you ready and willing to change old habits?
The first few months after I turned vegan were without doubt the most expensive grocery bills I’ve ever paid. “HAHA” I hear you cry! “Proof that being vegan is expensive.” Well not really but it is proof that I was scared, and naïve and still had a lot to learn.
With a family of three to feed I was determined that my decision to go vegan should have minimal impact on our overall eating habits. This meant that I set about trying to veganise every recipe I’d ever learned overnight. I was desperately trying to stick to what was familiar so I went down the expensive route of replacing everything I used regularly with vegan alternatives. You name it, I bought it. Vegan Cheese, mince, chicken, burgers, sausages, pies, sauces, yoghurt, chocolate and ice cream. I bought it all and for the most part hated every bit of it.
Vegan cheese makes me nauseous. I’ve never been a lover of dark chocolate. The yoghurt was sickly sweet and the texture of most vegan meats made me gag. There is a steep learning curve that comes with the new vegan territory and I can safely say from experience that seeking solace in vegan junk is not the way.
Don’t get me wrong once I gave my vegan taste buds time to adjust I found lots of very enjoyable familiar products. When I became confident in what ingredients to avoid I discovered trusted brands and accidentally vegan items. These are available for a fraction of those in speciality stores or the free from aisle.
Do you have the time or inclination to cook?
This is closely linked to the question of changing old habits but deserves addressing in its own right. If you don’t cook now is it realistic to assume you’ll be soaking beans and sprouting seeds like a pro. The fact that cooking from scratch is by far the cheapest way to eat vegan makes no difference if you’re not able to commit. Are you prepared to pay the extra for pre-cooked meals? Can you find ready meals locally or will you need to rely on expensive speciality stores? Where can you save money by making more of an effort and where is it worth spending the extra?
If you’re willing to start experiencing new flavours, refreshing your cooking skills and experimenting with simple ingredients there’s no reason that vegan meals need be any more expensive than your previous way of eating. I’ve lost a lot of cravings for expensive luxury items like chocolate and cheese and discovered a love for healthy, simple, whole foods prepared well.
Are you ready to hold yourself to a higher standard?
This more than any other factor will decide if your vegan lifestyle is expensive. Vegan does not necessarily mean organic, fair trade, ethical, natural, nutritious, healthy, carbon neutral or sustainable. Vegan does however mean that with a new sense of awareness comes responsibility. The more you educate yourself on the benefits of being vegan, nutrition and food politics in general the more acutely aware you’ll become of the all-encompassing issues and impact of your actions on your health and the world around you.
It can seem daunting and overwhelming and can feel as though you’re falling headlong down the rabbit hole. That’s really no excuse not to start where you can and work with what you’ve got. You’ll be learning and improving as you go. Your new-found knowledge will lead you to make alternative choices, contemplate opposing theories and ask more questions. For the most part the answers you uncover will be individual to you and your values.
Holding yourself accountable is not a bad thing, but will certainly make you assess your priorities and question your options. This often leads you to putting your money where your mouth is. Choosing how and where you spend your money accordingly.
In addition to raising questions of your own regarding the true cost of being vegan I hope these points have helped you see that when it comes to making the change the real question is can we really afford not to try?