How to Eat Vegan on the Cheap: Your Thrifty Meal Plan

How to Eat Vegan on the Cheap: Your Thrifty Meal Plan

Time to Read: 10 minutes


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Giving up meat is hard enough. You go to your favorite restaurant and all you see is meat. It taunts you.

Then you decide that you want to take it a step further. You decide you want to go vegan.

And then you panic. Even the vegetarian options aren’t vegan! Fortunately, most of this is in your head. No, really. There is always a way. If you’re eating out, you can ask for substitutes. If you are eating in, there are thousands of combinations you can work with.

Fortunately, most of this is in your head. No, really. There is always a way. If you’re eating out, you can ask for substitutes. If you are eating in, there are thousands of combinations you can work with.

If you’re eating out, you can ask for substitutes. If you are eating in, there are thousands of combinations you can work with.

If you want to know how to eat vegan, look no farther than your own grocery store for options. Being vegan is easier than you think. You just have to be a little creative.

“But isn’t it super expensive to be vegan? Don’t I have to eat a bunch of fancy things to be vegan?” Maybe if you want to sound cosmopolitan and “world conscious” you can eat a bunch of expensive “fancy” things.

But the truth is, the earth produces so many cheap vegan products, you don’t have to be “fancy” and rich to eat vegan. You just have to know what to grab from the market.

This article will touch on how you can fix meals at home. If you want to find someplace nearby that has great vegan options, you can check out websites like Happy Cow.

How Cheap Can I Go With A Vegan Diet?

According to the USDA, a thrifty meal plan in the United States should come out to anywhere from $200-250 per month. That’s at most $8 a day. Now, this is based on intake recommendations and probably doesn’t take into account typical eating habits.

But, the good news is, vegans can actually get their daily meals down to five dollars a day if they wanted. Ground beef costs

Ground beef costs around $3-4 a pound. But vegetables are only $1-2 per pound on average.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to show you. How to eat vegan on five dollars a day or less.

How To Eat Vegan On A Budget: Day 1

Sometimes, to really be cheap, you have to be unconventional. You have to expand your definitions of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sometimes something savory and cold can be the perfect thing for breakfast. You just might not know it until you’re chomping away on it.

Sometimes something savory and cold can be the perfect thing for breakfast. You just might not know it until you’re chomping away on it.

In each section, I’ll tell you the ingredients and my under five dollar plan for that day.

  • 1 lb black beans (dry)
  • 1 lb of brown rice
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • 1 lemon
  • .32 lb of potatoes
  • .64 lb tomatoes
  • 1 serrano pepper
  • fresh ginger

= $5

Breakfast

For breakfast, you could make some potato salad. This just takes a little bit of boiled potato, some tomato, some chopped green onion, and some celery. If you chop it all up, it’s a fresh start to your day.

If you chop it all up, it’s a fresh start to your day.

Lunch

Lunch could consist of a nice black bean stew. If you have a crockpot, you can make stews overnight. Really, the crockpot is the boon of all vegans and vegetarians. You can soak your beans during the day, toss them into the crockpot along with a bunch of vegetables and seasoning, and boom! you have a vegetable stew!

If you have a crockpot, you can make stews overnight. Really, the crockpot is the boon of all vegans and vegetarians.

You can soak your beans during the day, toss them into the crockpot along with a bunch of vegetables and seasoning, and boom, you have a vegetable stew!

Dinner

And dinner would be some nice sticky ginger brown rice. Chop up the ginger, the serrano pepper, and some green onion. Slip them into a pot with the brown rice and two cups of water and then cook for 30 mins. You can eat this with your black bean stew leftovers.

Chop up the ginger, the serrano pepper, and some green onion. Slip them into a pot with the brown rice and two cups of water and then cook for 30 mins. You can eat this with your black bean stew leftovers.

You can eat this with your black bean stew leftovers.

How To Eat Vegan On A Budget: Day 2

You’re going to have left-overs. Please don’t feed them to the dog. One of the great things about being vegan is wasting nothing. You really can be conscious of waste while being healthy. Actually, sometimes knowing how to eat vegan helps you be conscious of waste.

One of the great things about being vegan is wasting nothing. You really can be conscious of waste while being healthy. Actually, sometimes knowing how to eat vegan helps you be conscious of waste.

Spices can either be super expensive or really cheap. The amazing thing about our world is the fact we are so multi-cultural. Unless you live in a town of less than 1000, you probably have at least a Mexican market nearby. And if not, most stores now carry Mexican items.

Unless you live in a town of less than 1000, you probably have at least a Mexican market nearby. And if not, most stores now carry Mexican items.

If you need spices for any recipe and yet have little money, look for the little bags of Mexican spices.

And, since they are sold in the United States, the manufacturers actually thought to print the English name on the packaging.

Here’s my day two plan:

  • 4 bananas
  • 1 small opo squash
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 serrano pepper
  • sea salt
  • 1 head of butter lettuce

= <$5

Breakfast

Bananas are a great breakfast food. They are bready and sweet and give you the necessary potassium for your sleep cycle.

Lunch

You could use your leftovers from the day before. Make yourself some bean burgers.

Just mix the leftover rice, bean stew, and potato salad in a bowl and add salt. Then make the mixture into patties.

This can go into the oven at 375 degrees F for thirty minutes. Afterward, just use the lettuce to wrap them up and add whatever condiments you desire.

Dinner

This is where you will use your opo squash. Cut up the onion and the squash.

Add them into a pan with whatever stew you have left plus three cups of water. Cook until squash is squishy.

Now, blend the soup in a blender, add 2 cups of water, salt, lemon juice, and then let cook for another two minutes.

How To Eat Vegan On A Budget: Day 3

Pasta is probably the cheapest and most filling starch you can cook with besides potatoes. It’s an easy go-to when you don’t know what to cook.

And, if you have a family around, everybody loves pasta. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone turn away pasta.

Here’s how to eat vegan in under five dollars on day three:

  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 lb of fresh green beans
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 lemon
  • some garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 Gala apple
  • 1 can of chickpeas (12 oz)
  • 1 package of whole wheat pasta

If you have a place nearby to go bulk, that will be your cheapest option for pasta.

Remember, if you want to average $5 a day, you can always use what you saved the day before to decrease what you buy today.

That’s the amazing thing about saving. It actually gives you some freedom later on.

Breakfast

Bananas! Again. Yeah. I know. You feel like you should eat something different every day.

But that’s the thing about being a budget. Sometimes, to stay in your budget, you have to sacrifice a little.

Don’t worry. The next couple meals are worth it.

Lunch

If you want to know how to eat vegan on a budget, learn to cook great pasta. With what you have you can make a great vegetable pasta.

And, if you have any left-overs from yesterday, you can heat that up and eat it too.

Boil the pasta and strain it, setting it aside.

Add 1 cup of water, onions, tomatoes, serrano pepper, and some garlic. Cook for a good 15 minutes or so.

Then add the carrots and green beans to cook for an additional fifteen minutes. Lastly, add the zucchini and cook for another five minutes.

You should now have an amazing sauce to add to your pasta.

Dinner

Dinner is another amazing stew.

Toss one cup of chickpeas, 1 1/2 cups of diced potato, 1 medium chopped tomato, 1 chopped stalk of green onion, 1 inch of grated ginger, 1 teaspoon of celery chopped, and 1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro into a crockpot.

Cook that for a couple hours on medium heat. Then serve hot. You will absolutely love the taste.

How To Eat Vegan On A Budget: Day 4

A place to get some of the most amazing produce during the summer is your local farmer’s market. I can remember as a kid going down to the city farmer’s market and realizing for the first time in my life there was a whole world of possibilities outside the city.

The peaty smell of earth abounded, every sample my mom let me try was exquisite, and nobody was grumpy.

Today’s meals are fresh to the core:

  • delicata squash
  • spinach
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 onion
  • roasted peanuts
  • rice
  • bananas

Breakfast

Bananas. There is something to be said about consistency in your diet.

Lunch

Salad is another staple for those who want to know how to eat vegan on a budget. It’s filling, you can eat a lot of it, and you can be creative. Plus it’s super easy to fix.

Chop up the cucumber, tomato, cilantro, and your leftover lettuce and the spinach. Toss it with peanuts. You can dress with olive oil or regular oil and salt.

Dinner

Delicata squash isn’t something most people would even think to buy. But it’s a hearty vegetable despite its name.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cube the squash, chop the onions, and mix them with salt, pepper, lemon juice and garlic in a bowl.

Take a baking dish and spoon in two tablespoons of water. Spread the mix on the bottom. Bake it for a good 20 minutes.

Remove it from the oven. Toss the squash.

Bake it uncovered for another 20 minutes. Garnish it with the cilantro and crushed peanuts.

Now that you’ve seen how to eat vegan on a budget, you can keep going.

Don’t give up on being vegan. It’s completely worth the effort.

If you have any fantastic ways to eat vegan on a budget, let us know in the comments below. And as always, stay vegan.

About the author

Julia Ott
Hi! I'm Julia and I'm a junior developer, vegan recipe inventor, furniture collector and mum to a little boy. I've been a vegetarian for 20 years, and a vegan for 3. I spend all of my spare time visiting farmers markets, searching for antiques at flea markets and cooking up a vegan storm in the kitchen! I co-founded Vegan.io to make the world a better place.

Want to try a vegan diet?

We created a meal planner app to help you! Get your fresh customized meal plan full of delicious, quick, budget friendly, healthy recipes.

GET YOUR MEAL PLAN!