This was originally something I published as a zine. I just wanted to get the information out there more since I’ve almost run out of copies!
on the Cheap
Many folks I have talked to about veganism share a similar complaint/concern. They are worried about it being affordable.
And let’s be real- there are many ways that veganism is presented in a classist way.
I have a bunch of vegan cookbooks that call for ingredients that are just totally obscure. I’ve been vegan for 10 years and I’ve never used them. These sorts of cookbooks/recipes can make veganism seem really intimidating and inaccessible to folks.
Another reason veganism can seem classist is definitely the unchecked privilege often found amongst vegans. There are plenty of militant asshole white-dude vegans, for example, who give other people a hard time for not being vegan in shitty ways. These types of folks (though clearly not limited to just white dudes) give the rest of vegans a bad name.
There are some things about a vegan diet that can make it less accessible for low-income people. But there is also a ton of kind of urban legend/misconception type stuff around veganism. This isn’t going to be a total coverage of all info relating to these topics. This zine is for folks interested in eating vegan, and want to/ need to be able to do it on a low-income. I am totally into having these conversations with people though if you want! My contact info is at the end of the zine, let me know what concerns you!
First though, I do want to take a little bit to briefly touch on some of the (many) things that can make eating vegan difficult for folks.
“A food desert is a district with little or no access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet but often served by plenty of fast food restaurants.” wikipedia entry on food deserts. Check out more about the significant and intersectional issue here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_desert
Living in a food desert basically means in this context that it is a lot more difficult for people to access vegan food. There are all kinds of transportation and expenses related to accessing a real grocery store if you live in a food desert, and believe me, the corner store does not provide all of the things a vegan needs to survive.
If you are vegan, and have the ability, (or even if you aren’t vegan), you can take action to try to get more fresh produce and food into food deserts. Simply creating access where there wasn’t access before is both an act of vegan activism and social justice. You can organize a Food Not Bombs meal, or just produce distributions in neighborhoods where people lack access to healthy food. Talk to people to see where the need is, and what the community wants.
Time is Money:
Even when vegan food is affordable and accessible, there is the further complicating factor of whether or not someone can afford the time it can take to cook much of their own food. The convenience of fast food, prepared foods etc. which are mostly available in non-vegan forms is something that folks working multiple jobs, busy with families and kids, taking care of elders, going to school while working, etc. can understandably want to take advantage of. Folks who are low-income, or any of the things listed above, or other things not listed, often are already pretty stressed out, busy, and might not feel like they have the time or energy to make home-cooked meals all of the time. And home-cooked food is certainly one of the healthier, cheaper ways to eat a vegan diet.
There are plenty of other challenges, and I might go into them more in a later version of this zine. But I am a procrastinator, and I want to have resources to offer folks tomorrow- so I’m going to start into the ideas for how to deal with the challenges and difficulties of being vegan on a low income!
From the Richmond Rag- A Free Calendar of low cost or Free Events and Collective DIY Spaces in Richmond, VA. Available online at www.therichmondrag.blogspot.com so check for updates and other rad goings ons in RVA! They include in their calendar the information on Food Not Bombs in Richmond as well as local farmer’s markets where you can find cheap, local veggies and food!
Below are listings that we include in our printed version, all the farmer’s markets and the Food Not Bombs in Richmond, VA.
FOOD NOT BOMBS
Free Delicious Vegan Meal
Monroe Park – Every Sunday 4 pm
17th Street Market
17th St. & Main St.
Saturdays & Sundays 8:30 – 4 pm
Free Yoga Exercise Saturdays 9 am
Byrd House Market
William Byrd House – 224 S. Cherry St.
May – October Tuesdays 3:30 – 7 pm
3300 W. Cary St.
Sundays 10 am – 2 pm
Farm 2 Family
2817 Mechanicsville Turnpike
Monday – Friday 11:30 – 7 pm
Saturdays 10 – 6 pm
Sundays 12 – 5 pm
6110 Lakeside Ave.
Wednesdays 8 – 7 pm
Saturdays 8 am – Noon
South of the James Market
Forest Hill Ave. & 42nd St.
May 5 – December 1
Saturdays 8 am – Noon
South of the James Winter Market
Playground of Patrick Henry School 3411 Semmes Ave.
December – April
Second Saturdays 10 am – Noon
Tricycle Gardens Farm Stand
2107 Jefferson Ave.
Thursdays 4 – 7 pm
West End Market
12450 Gayton Rd. (Gayton & Ridgefield Prkwy)
Wednesdays 3 – 6:30 pm
Saturdays 8 am – Noon
Crock Pots and Slow-cookers!
If you have a crock pot or a slow cooker, you could be using it to be making vegan food on the cheap, with limited time requirements for the cooking!
Dried beans/lentils and other ingredients can be put in a slow cooker in the morning and be ready for consumption at night. There are many simple, delicious recipes which use cheap cheap cheap ingredients.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, you might find friends or relatives who have one you can borrow or have, since some folks have multiples or rarely use theirs.
Crock Pots can save you time and money and result in delicious soups, stews, chilis, and more!
There are tons of specialty vegan and vegetarian cookbooks out there. You might find some you are totally in love with. In my experience however, you don’t need to go and buy a cookbook to make awesome vegan food.
For one, with a little bit of learning you can figure out how to take almost any non-vegan recipe and translate it into vegan. I do this with the Fanny Farmer cookbook all the time. It’s the classic old cookbook my mom always used when I was a kid, and I just use the recipes and substitute vegan replacement items for non-vegan ones.
Also- you don’t have to own cookbooks to have access to them. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks and zines available for browsing at the Wingnut Radical Lending Library. You can go online at www.wingnutrva.org to see when Open Hours are so you can stop by and check them out. Your local public library most likely has some good vegan cookbooks too, and if they don’t you can always try suggesting they purchase some.
You can ask your friends or people you know who are vegan for their favorite recipes.
And of course, there is the internet, the great source of all that is evil and awesome. You can surely find vegan recipes online.
Translating a recipe from not vegan to vegan is something that you will find your own preferences for. I’ll list some of mine. I tend to go for the low-cost, low-maintenance replacer. The most expensive thing I use is Earth Balance.
Non Vegan – Vegan
Meat – Beans
Eggs – Ener G Egg Replacer, apple sauce, banana
Butter – Earth Balance or non-dairy margarine, sometimes oil
Milk- Soymilk, rice milk, false milk of choice- or in baking and gravy I frequently just use WATER instead, it’s way cheaper
Just in general with substitutions, keep in mind, that eating vegan doesn’t always mean eating the vegan version of a dish designed around meat and dairy. Vegan food is delicious on it’s own. Eating well prepared fruits and vegetables with things like rice, pasta, beans, etc. is awesome. Vegan food does not need to pretend to be meat/dairy food to stand on its own. Which basically brings us to the next subject.
Soy Products/False Meats and Dairies
You don’t need these things to be vegan. I really can not emphasize this enough. I went vegan when I was either 15 or 16, and I lived in Hanover county. We just had a Food Lion with sticky floors. Food Lion didn’t have soy milk or any fancy ass vegan shit (now they do, times are achangin). I was vegan anyways and just ate lots of fruit, veggies, pasta, bean burritos, etc.
If you choose to use soy products/fake meats and dairies, it can always be good to keep in mind that you don’t have to, and that just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it is healthy.
Get ready, I’m gonna talk about my mommy again. My mom Kathy is awesome, by the way. When I was a kid, and I’d go grocery shopping with my mom, she taught me some tricks for finding the cheapest thing that I still use to this day. So these are all credit of my mama (who has been a vegetarian for I think about 30 years now).
If you see advertisements for a product on TV or in magazines, it is overpriced. Kathy says that the cost of the advertising is factored into the cost of the food or product. If you pay for something advertised for on TV, you are paying for more than it is actually worth.
Sale products aren’t always the cheapest ones. Often things will be marked as on sale or discounted. Don’t get too distracted by the sale tickets on the shelves. It is still possible that the sale price of one product is still higher than the regular price of a different brand.
Brand name things often cost more than off brand or store brand items. This is connected to the advertising piece. But make sure you take the time to look at all of the items to see which is cheaper.
If you want to know what thing is ACTUALLY the cheapest, you need to look at it’s price tag and compare the price per ounce or the price per pound to other items. A lot of people don’t do that, and get mislead by tricky packaging, into paying more for less of the actual product. My mom taught me this, and I use it every time I go to the store. I’ve saved myself and my friends a good bit of money with this trick.
My Vegan Research Shopping Trip
I wanted to get some hard facts for this zine, instead of just speculating what diets are pricier than which etc. etc. I had a suspicion that a vegan diet in and of itself is not classist, if folks can get to a grocery store. I have friends who are both on food stamps, one is vegan, one is not, and they both manage to survive off of their monthly food stamps.
Where I live is technically a food desert, it is about 2 miles to the nearest grocery store.
So I headed to the nearest Kroger with a notebook and a pen, and I spent like an hour acting like a weirdo and writing down the prices per ounce and per pound of a variety of vegan and non-vegan items.
What I found confirmed a lot of what I thought to be true. Vegans and non-vegans have a lot of shared ground. Specialty vegan items are pricier than the non-vegan versions, but the specialty vegan items are by no means a necessary part of a vegan diet, and some vegan versions of canned foods are actually cheaper than the meat versions.
I’ve noticed that sometimes specialty vegan foods are cheaper at health food stores like Ellwood Thompsons or Whole Foods than they are at non-health food/fancy ass stores like Kroger or Food Lion. But that cheapness depends on you having access to those stores, and also, having the time/energy to price compare at a variety of stores before purchasing. One example – box vegan Mac and Cheese at Kroger is over 4 bucks, the same product at Whole Foods is just over 2 bucks. But that doesn’t mean anything if you can’t or its too expensive to get to Whole Foods.
Another significant thing to consider with the prices, is that the price of vegetables per pound is often WAY lower than the price of meat per pound. Amazing, nutritious and fast food can be made from things found for the cheap in the produce department.
Anyways, here are the prices I found.
Green peppers- 79 cents each
cucumbers – 78 cents each
jalpoenos – 99 cents a pound
ginger – 2.99 a pound
yellow squash 99 cents a pound
eggplant – 1.69 a pound
green beans – 99 cents a pound
broccoli – 1.99 each
garlic – 59 cents each
avocados- 99cents each
bartlett pears 99 cents each
tomatoes (local) – 1.49 a pound
sweet onions – 99 cents a pound
potatoes – 88 cents a pound
sweet potatoes – 99 cents a pound
bananas – 49 cents a pound
hummus – 35 cents an ounce
cheese spread – 33 cents an ounce
fresh tuna – 12.99 a pound
tofu- 17.87 cents an ounce
ground turkey- 3.68 a pound
ground beef- 2.33 a pound
vegan ground beef- 28.5 cents an ounce
chicken breasts – 2.15 a pound
kroger hot dogs – 8 cents an ounce
vegan hot dogs- 29.9 cents an ounce
roast beef deli slices- 40.9 cents an ounce
turkey breast deli slices- 36 cents an ounce
vegan turkey- 54.4 cents an ounce
ham deli slices- 40.9 cents an ounce
vegan ham- 54.4 cents an ounce
jimi dean sausage- 23.7 cents an ounce
vegan sausage – 33.3 cents an ounce
bacon – 24.8 cents an ounce
eggs – 17.4 cents each
butter – 16.7 cents an ounce
earth balance- 26.6 cents an ounce
cream cheese- 24. 9 cents an ounce
tofutti cream cheese- 41.1 cents an ounce
american cheese- 30.7 cents an ounce
vegan american cheese- 44.6 cents an ounce
shredded cheddar- 39.9 cents an ounce
vegan cheddar shreds- 62.4 cents an ounce
sourcream- 16.2 cents an ounce
greek yogurt- 20.8 cents an ounce
soy yogurt- 19.8 cents an ounce
yoplait yogurt- 10 cents an ounce
milk- 79.8 cents per quart
soymilk- 4.67cents per ounce
mayo- 13.1 cents an ounce
chicken flavored ramen – 6.67cents per ounce
oriental (vegan) ramen – 8.33 cents an ounce
refried beans with lard- 5.13 cents an ounce
vegan refried beans- 5.13 cents an ounce
hormel chili with meat- 14.6 cents an ounce
vegan hormel chili- 9.93 cents an ounce
ragu 6 cheese spaghetti sauce- 7.46 cents an ounce
ragu vegan version- 7.46 cents an ounce
pinto beans seasoned with pork- 6.3 cents an ounce
pinto beans vegan- 4.6 cents an ounce
bush’s baked beans with meat- 6.39 cents an ounce
bush’s vegan baked beans- 6.39 cents an ounce
So yea, there’s the run down of the stuff I found out at Kroger. I tried to get the cheapest version of the non-vegan and vegan products to give things a fair shake.
What seems pretty clear is that dairy, meat, and fake dairy, fake meat are more expensive than produce in general. Some vegan dairy or meat products are actually good deals compared to the non-vegan ones, or are similarly priced. Folks can and should make their own decisions about what products they find delicious and useful and therefore will spring for or not.
If you don’t believe me, go look for yourself!
The Cheap Vegan Pantry: What You Need and What Must Go
So you decided to start eating healthy and maybe even vegan but you’re worried about staying on track. One way to guarantee you won’t slip up is to clean out those temptation items and restock the pantry.
So first determine a goal
The Cheap Vegan Goal: The goal of this blog is to provide ways for people to eat healthy and vegan on a low budget. The posts I write tend to be focused on eating whole (non processed) foods affordably while getting the daily recommended nutrients. This pantry guide will reflect that.
What Can Stay
When you’re going through your pantry look at each item and ask yourself these questions:
- Are all ingredients vegan? (list of non-vegan ingredients here)
- Do I know what each of these ingredients are?
- Could I find all of these ingredients in nature?
- Are there less than 10g of sugar in a suggested serving of this food?
- Is this an unprocessed whole food?
- Is this caffeine free?
- Can I cook normally without this food?*
If your answer to all these questions is “yes” then it’s 100% good to go.
If you had to answer “no” to 1 or more of these questions, you need to evaluate if that item is worth keeping. Being truly conscious of what your eating is the first step to eating healthier. Knowing that you don’t know the last 20 items in the oreo’s ingredients list might help you think twice before eating one again.
**If you answered “no” to 3/6 of the questions and you answered “yes” to number 7, chuck it. It’s not like you can never eat those foods again, but keeping them out of your house will help you cut down.
Also Note: Some items such as sugar for baking are a little different. You might want to get rid of white sugar and switch to raw sugar or agave, but you might not find it necessary to eliminate all sugar from your life.
That brings us to alterations. Taking our favorite staples and upgrading them.
- White pasta -> Whole Wheat Pasta or Ezekiel Pasta
- White Flour -> Whole Wheat Flour or Buckwheat Flour
- White Sugar -> Agave Nectar, Raw Sugar, Unsweetened Apple Sauce
- White Rice/Cous Cous -> Brown Rice, Quinoa Seeds
- Vegetable Oil -> Extra Virgin Olive Oil (salad) Virgin Olive Oil (sautee) Canola Oil (high heat)
- Table Salt -> Sea Salt
I’m not going to mislead you, some of these ingredients are slightly more expensive than their less-healthy counterparts, but the extra $1 is worth your health. These are the basic building blocks of all of your meals, save money on the perishable stuff you have to buy weekly.
Now that you’ve tossed and exchanged, here are some cheap vegan basics:
Must Have Shopping List!
- Nutritional Yeast – A great source of vitamin B12, a great unique flavor, great for satisfying those cheesy cravings.
- Cashews and Walnuts – Nuts are a great source of protein and cashews are in a lot of vegan recipes, especially raw vegans. Walnuts are a vegan source of Omega 3s and are great in salads and stir fry. Having some nuts to throw in to a meal is always a good choice, not to mention a quick fix when you want a snack.
- Brown Rice
- Whole Wheat Pasta
- Quinoa – Learn more about quinoa here.
- Beans – Beans are a great source of protein, fiber, and iron. Stock up on a variety of beans/legumes so you can see what works for you and keep what you like. If you’re not a big fan of beans learn to like them by using some Cheap Vegan tricks found here.
- Whole Wheat Flour
- Herbs and Spices – Here are the basic must haves: Basil*, Cilantro*, Oregano*, Thyme*, Cumin, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper/Crushed Red Pepper, Chilli Powder, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder (**spices are expensive, growing an herb garden with these plants will definitely save you money and add class your meals)
- (Extra) Virgin Olive Oil – Oil is expensive. Buy a giant bottle of Olive Oil at BJs or Costco and then refill an olive oil drizzler to cut down on waste and save money.
- Unsweetened Apple Sauce – Use as a sweetener or an egg replacer in baking.
- Granola – Can be used as a snack, breakfast, or even dessert. Granola is a great staple to keeping you full and is a nice replacement for a sweet treat.
- Vegetable Bouillon Cubes – Great flavor booster.
- Ener-G Egg Replacer – Great for baking, pancakes, and an emergency thickener.
- Corn Starch – A must have thickener for all types of sauces and soups.
- B-12 Vegetarian Supplement – B12 is very important for vegans to keep track of since you can only find it in animal food sources. Many cereals and drinks are fortified with B-12 but it’s good to take a vegan daily vitamin to be sure you’re getting enough.
- Onions and Garlic
- Oat Meal – Use in baking or for breakfast.
- Potatoes – Preferably small red, purple, or other colorful potatoes.
- Sea Salt
- Hot Sauce – If all else fails during your kitchen experiments, it’s always nice to have some Cholula on hand to spice up a meal.
Next Step: Buying Food to Match Your New Basics
While you’re at the grocery store keep the same questions in mind. If you would have thrown it out when you renovated your pantry, don’t buy it now! Eventually you’ll learn what works for you. And always…
- Buy store brands to save money.
- Try to buy unprocessed whole foods. You’ll find that cooking with only whole foods is surprisingly cheaper than buying processed or pre-made food.
- If you’re budget is truly tight, don’t waste money on fake meats and other processed vegan foods. They’re usually more expensive. Try making your own home made.
- Shop often to ensure you are getting fresh foods and not throwing away your wasted food and money! Always remember, it’s worth your time to eat well.
There are lots of resources on how to eat vegan cheaply. In fact, so many resources are out there that this particular zine is a little redundant!
I’ve included links to relevant websites throughout the text, but I will re-cap them and add more here.
Www.therichmondrag.blogspot.com – local DIY/free events and spaces calendar which includes info on cheap food in Richmond
Cheapveg.tumblr.com – website with tons of tips on how to be vegan on the cheap. You can follow it or check it periodically for new ideas!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_desert – wikipedia entry about food deserts with links to more info on this significant social justice issue
The Cheap Vegan Zine- copy for viewing at the Wingnut, or email email@example.com to ask about getting copies of issues!
http://veganwarfare.com/ – vegan and animal liberation website and clearinghouse. Tons of info and updates on issues.
If you want to talk more about these issues, recipes, etc. feel free to get in touch with me! I can probably help you find resources specific to your needs, I just didn’t want to turn this into the world’s largest list of links!
I’m Mo Karnage, a 26 year old vegan, straighteddge, queer, genderqueer, redneck, anarchist person. Mokarnage.tumblr.com
firstname.lastname@example.org or 2005 Barton Avenue Richmond, VA 23222 email or snail mail welcome and encouraged.
And I have total confidence that you can eat vegan on the cheap in Richmond!!!