How to: Vegan on a Budget

Ever since my mom and stepmom transitioned to full vegans my freshman year of college, I decided to make the switch, too. When is there a better time to totally change your diet and lifestyle than entering into your college years? At first I was a little nervous, because I had heard that being a vegan isn't smart economically, and as we all know, college students aren't rolling in the dough. However, I was doing pretty well being a vegetarian, so how different could it be? Turns out, I've actually saved some money since being vegan, and here are my tips and tricks on how to make the transition while working with a college budget!

1. Shop at Trader Joe's. Seriously, I have saved SO much money every month by just getting the majority of my groceries at Trader Joe's. They have a ton of amazingly delicious frozen meals for when you just can't bring yourself to cook (my favorites are the vegetable biryani and the vegetable gyozas). They also have insanely cheap cereals, oatmeal, coconut/almond milk, bathroom products and supplies, vitamins, snacks, and produce. The only annoying thing is that a lot of their produce comes in plastic packaging, so it's not really environmentally friendly, but unless you are used to shopping at a farmer's market, this is pretty normal. 

2. Know the staples. Every vegan has their staple foods that can be used in almost every dish, and if you play your cards right, your staples can also happen to be the cheapest foods. My staples are beans, rice, spaghetti, curry powder, and the soy sauce flavor of ramen noodles. You can put beans in your salads for protein, make your own veggie burgers by mashing beans and mixing it with some oats as a binder, and just add beans to any veggie stir fry. Spaghetti is always cheap and fast, not to mention delicious. Ramen noodles are the perfect base to add in mushrooms, kale, peppers, jalapenos, onions, and whatever other veggies you like in soup... and of course you can't get any cheaper than Ramen noodles. I always have curry powder on hand to just add flavor to any and every dish. 

3. Frozen veggies. This one is super easy and typically super cheap. Buying a bag of mixed frozen veggies and popping them in the microwave and serving over rice is a delicious, quick, and cheap meal that you seriously just can't go wrong with. 

4. Rice cakes or tostadas. I know some people hate rice cakes, so the other option here is a corn tostada. These are great vehicles for just slapping on some veganaise, spinach, and tomatoes as a snack, or some rice and beans as a meal. Not only are they cheap, but they are so versatile that you can really use them for anything, including a nice snack by smearing on some peanut butter. I love making open-faced tacos with corn tostadas and just piling on some beans, rice, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and salsa. 

5. Oatmeal. One of the cheapest things you can buy at the grocery store, oatmeal is a perfect breakfast food and can also be used in many other recipes. I have oatmeal with frozen berries on top for breakfast every morning, and I also use oatmeal in my smoothies (for fiber and to make me full) and in my homemade veggie burgers. 

6. Potatoes. Another super cheap and versatile food, I always have a bag of potatoes on hand. Shredded and cooked in olive oil, they make a delicious potato hash for breakfast, as well as a great addition to soup, curry, and vegetable stir fry. If you don't want something super filling and you need something easy to make, baked potatoes don't take long and can be turned into a hearty snack or a meal by spreading it with vegan butter and veggies! Also, baked potatoes are delicious with Trader Joe's vegetarian chili on top. 

Typically, eating meals like this can cash me in at around $20 per week on groceries, give or take a little, depending on where I shop. Just make sure when switching to a vegan diet that you are getting your b12 from some other source, since vegans can't get it naturally anywhere in their food. As always, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor about making any lifestyle or diet change, and this includes going vegan. I hope these tips helped, and happy eating!

[Photos courtesy of Pxhere