Veganuary: the one time a year when people decide to give up animal products for an entire month. Vegan January was started in 2014 by a UK non-profit organisation that aims to promote and educate all about veganism. Their goal is to encourage people to follow a vegan lifestyle for the month of January annually.
I have been living Veganuary every day for the last 9 years. I have since tasted many not-so-great cheese alternatives, amazing fake meat (the Impossible Burger? Revolutionary) and learned how to bake treats that my non-vegan family loves. I won’t sit here and pretend that it was an easy lifestyle change. It took lots of research along with trial and error to find foods I really liked.
Many people think that being vegan is expensive, and yes, it definitely can be. If you have a craving for a vegan cheeseburger, that’s going to cost more than an OG burger. For context, in 2021 Beyond Burgers set you back around $2.50 per patty and ground beef was about $1 per patty. Sigh… But, I think a plant-based diet can be done on a reasonable budget. In fact, according to a study by Kantar, on average, vegan households actually spend 8% less on each grocery trip than non-vegan households. Another study done by Sous Vide Guy found that going meatless can save you $23 a week. So, I conducted an experiment. I tried to eat vegan on a £20 budget for a week. Now that may sound like a lot for some people and cheap for others. Of course, everyone’s circumstances are different. However, this was doable for me as a working student so I decided to try it.
This Veganuary I decided to challenge myself to go into the grocery store with a strict budget to see if I could eat a plant-based diet without all my fancy faux meat and vegan treats. I live in London and the closest grocery shop near me is Sainsbury’s. Going into this, I knew that I probably would need to skip picking up veggie burgers, Vivolife cheese and other alternatives because those are usually expensive. Vegan Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, though delicious, costs £5! I avoided the berries as well because they also tend to be pricey. I made a list of my essentials:
- Peanut butter
- Pasta & pasta sauce
- Bell peppers
I ended up spending £17.80. Two pounds under budget ain’t bad! I probably could have picked up another fruit with that extra change for a snack so that’s what I’ll do differently in the future. I did not include the oils and spices that I used on this list because if you cook often, these should already be pantry staples. And if you don’t season your food, I’m low-key judging you. 👀
To stay within budget, I kept my meals very simple.
Breakfast & Lunch:
I’m usually not hungry in the morning so I just drank coffee with oat milk. Then for lunch, I would have either peanut butter with banana on toast or tofu scramble. Tofu scramble is like a vegan version of an egg scramble. I just throw some onions, chopped bell peppers, and mushrooms into a frying pan with some oil, cook that for a few minutes, then add tofu. To season it I use garlic, salt, pepper, turmeric and nutritional yeast.
For dinner, I had either pasta with broccoli or a burrito bowl. For the burrito bowl, I would use any remaining bell peppers from the tofu scramble I prepped along with some chopped courgette (zucchini). Then with some beans, I served the veggies over rice with crisp romaine lettuce and guacamole. Avocados are expensive but the guac makes them worth the splurge.
What I Learned
Eating vegan on a £20 budget was possible! Not much fun, but definitely possible. These groceries lasted me 6 days. I was able to enjoy a few of my favourite foods but I missed my berries and nuts! If you’re more of a snacker this challenge would probably be more difficult. Not being able to buy chips or biscuits helped cut down on the number of extra calories I was consuming. I’d say to enjoy my little luxuries, I’ll stick with my £35 grocery budget. This challenge encouraged me to confront the way I was spending money on food. I was spending way too much money on takeout. Sometimes I would spend £20 on ONE Deliveroo order! That is not okay! Doing this challenge helped me realize how far I can stretch my money while maintaining my plant-based lifestyle.
Imani Campbell is an American writer from Albuquerque living in London. She loves all things fashion, travel and personal finance. When she isn’t conducting research and writing scripts at her day job, you can find her studying for her MA, catching flights and not feelings, baking, or obnoxiously singing to show tunes.