There’s no doubt about it – veganism is definitely on its way to becoming mainstream. With far more than just a handful of celebrities publicly backing plant-based diets, governments urging countries to cut down on meat consumption and trend data showing an spike in interest for vegan products, we can safely say that veganism is not just for hippies anymore.
One common misconception that hasn’t quite dissipated yet however, is the money matter. Across the board people seem to still be convinced that a vegan diet, while better for your body, animals and the environment, is not so beneficial to your bank account. Of course, this is hardly a new debate; but having been faced with this question a number of times, I thought it best to take to pen and paper (or laptop and keyboard, rather) to settle the answer once and for all.
So, is being vegan more expensive than following a “standard” diet?
The short, simple and truthful answer is no. If you were to pile your shopping basket full of vegetables, fruit, beans and rice, I’m willing to bet it’d cost you less than 5 steaks and an eggplant (kudos to anyone who got that reference). Pound for pound, simple plant-based ingredients are cheaper than their animal-derived counterparts – this is a fact that a quick trip to your local grocery store can indeed confirm.
The long, more complex and brutally honest answer is: no, eating vegan does not have to be more expensive. But it probably will end up costing you more.
Let’s delve deeper here.
While the vast majority of vegetarians and vegans choose to adopt their lifestyles out of concern for animal welfare (among other reasons), most people come to veganism through a much larger exploration. High on the list of motivational drivers are personal ethics, concern for the environment, and most commonly, in our day and age of chronic disease, health.
As a result, many new vegans are also newly converted health-foodies. I know I certainly was. Having always had a soft-spot for cooking from a young age, it really blossomed early on during my vegan journey. Suddenly I became obsessed with buying organic where possible. Health food stores were like disneyland to me. My cupboards started to fill up with more spices than I had ever heard of. I bought every bean and pulse I could find, and my superfood collection was shaping up nicely with chia seeds, buckwheat, goji berries, cacao powder and quinoa becoming staples.
While there are of course exceptions (junk food vegans do exist, trust me) the chances are that if you’re transitioning into a veg*n diet, you’ve probably started to learn a thing or two about nutrition, and are becoming more selective about what ends up in your shopping cart. This may mean opting for more premium items which, admittedly, don’t come as cheap as beans and rice.
Another important factor to consider is the cost of vegan speciality food items. Things like vegan sausages, mock deli-meats, vegan cheeses and other imitation dairy products also cost quite a pretty penny, but for good reason. A vegan cheese start-up, for example, receives few to no government subsidies (as opposed to its dairy-farm counterpart), operates in a much smaller niche market and therefore has a smaller production scale. Not to mention the high costs of R&D – mass producing plant-based versions of animal-based products is no easy feat and takes a significant amount of experimentation, development and testing.