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“I can’t afford to be vegan—it’s too expensive.”

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Some have claimed that going vegan is expensive and, for some, unaffordable. The implication is that eating a vegan diet is a luxury that only the affluent can afford.

Vegan diets are usually less expensive.

If you continue eating the same amount of fruit and greens but replace your meat with staples such as potatoes, beans, rice, oats, and corn, then it’s hard to see how you would spend more.

Mayo Clinic considers lower costs to be one of the benefits of meatless meals. In stating that meatless meals are budget friendly and can be used to save money, they add that some plant-based proteins “tend to be less expensive and offer more health benefits than meat.”1“It’s Time to Try Meatless Meals.” Mayo Clinic, July 26, 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/meatless-meals/art-20048193

Registered dietitian Ginny Messina confirms, “replacing the meat, dairy, and eggs in diets with lower cost foods like grains, beans and tofu isn’t just frugal, it’s much more healthful.”2Messina, Ginny. “The High Cost of Ethical Eating.” The Vegan RD, January 20, 2010. http://www.theveganrd.com/2010/01/the-high-cost-of-ethical-eating/

Research bears this out. A study published in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition concludes that even an economic version of a government-recommended meal plan costs $745 more per year than a plant-based meal plan and provides “fewer servings of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.”3Flynn, Mary M., and Andrew R. Schiff. “Economical Healthy Diets (2012): Including Lean Animal Protein Costs More Than Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition 10, no. 4 (October 2, 2015): 467–82. doi:10.1080/19320248.2015.1045675

Many foods cost the same.

You may be surprised to find that many common foods in the grocery store are already vegan and, consequently, your costs for these items won’t go up.

These include everything in the produce department, all bulk items (except jerky), most cereals, most breads, all grains and beans, most canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, most condiments, such as mustard, ketchup, pickles, relish, and sauces, and virtually all spices.

Vegan specialty foods are optional.

Some vegan items, such as burger patties and mayonnaise, are no more expensive. Vegan milks cost no more than organic, hormone-free cow’s milk. Vegan cheeses and meats can be more expensive but are becoming less expensive as demand increases.

Prepared foods will almost always cost more, vegan or not, and many of these foods you can make yourself for considerably less.

All of these processed foods are optional  you can choose to just leave them off the menu.

Your medical bills may decrease.

A study published by the National Academy of Sciences calculates a health-care savings of over $1,067 billion annually with a vegan diet.4Springmann, Marco, H. Charles J. Godfray, Mike Rayner, and Peter Scarborough. “Analysis and Valuation of the Health and Climate Change Co-benefits of Dietary Change.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113, no. 15 (April 12, 2016): 4146–51. doi:10.1073/pnas.1523119113 That’s over $3,000 for each person in the United States. The savings are a result of less medical care needed because medical problems are less likely on a vegan diet.

Consider the cost to animals.

We are often willing to pay more for convenience. We are often willing to pay more for items that have a smaller carbon footprint. We are often willing to pay more for designer items.

Eating vegan is not more expensive. But even if it were, shouldn’t we be willing to pay more for items that don’t support, directly or indirectly, the breeding, enslavement, mutilation, and slaughter of sentient beings who have lives that are as important to them as our lives are to us?

Here are some tips for saving on groceries.

Here are a few tips for saving on your grocery bill:

  • Buy in bulk and at farmer’s markets.
  • Shop seasonally.
  • Buy vegetables frozen, since they often cost less and are just as healthy.
  • Compare prices. A pound of green peas costs around $1.30 at Walmart, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods Market. The same pound of peas can be as high as $3.00 at other grocery stores.
  • Limit specialty foods, such as vegan meats and cheeses. They are unnecessary. While they may be more healthy than animal-based meats and cheeses, they are not as healthy as whole foods.

Outline

 Talking Points OutlineKnowledge Base
  • Context
    • Some have claimed that going vegan is expensive and, for some, unaffordable.
    • The implication is that eating a vegan diet is a luxury that only the affluent can afford.
    • This belief is often defended by pointing out that:
      • Some fruits and some vegetables are costly.
        • However, no one denies that we need fruits and vegetables.
      • Gourmet vegan restaurant items are expensive.
        • However, no one expects gourmet restaurant items to be cheap.
  • Vegan diets are usually less expensive.
    • If you continue eating the same amount of fruit and greens but replace your meat with staples such as potatoes, beans, rice, oats, and corn, then it’s hard to see how you would spend more.
    • Mayo Clinic considers lower costs to be one of the benefits of meatless meals. In stating that meatless meals are budget friendly and can be used to save money, they add that some plant-based proteins “tend to be less expensive and offer more health benefits than meat.”5“It’s Time to Try Meatless Meals.” Mayo Clinic, July 26, 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/meatless-meals/art-20048193
    • Registered dietitian Ginny Messina confirms, “replacing the meat, dairy, and eggs in diets with lower cost foods like grains, beans and tofu isn’t just frugal, it’s much more healthful.”6Messina, Ginny. “The High Cost of Ethical Eating.” The Vegan RD, January 20, 2010. http://www.theveganrd.com/2010/01/the-high-cost-of-ethical-eating/
    • A study published in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition concludes that even an economic version of a government-recommended meal plan costs $745 more per year than a plant-based meal plan and provides “fewer servings of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.”7Flynn, Mary M., and Andrew R. Schiff. “Economical Healthy Diets (2012): Including Lean Animal Protein Costs More Than Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition 10, no. 4 (October 2, 2015): 467–82. doi:10.1080/19320248.2015.1045675
    • Extra
      • The purported Voucher Codes Pro study, which claims that a vegan diet costs more, is a fabrication.
        • Several media outlets reported8Scott, Ellen. “It Costs an Extra £2,000 a Year to Have a Vegan Diet, Apparently.” Metro News, December 27, 2016. http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/27/it-costs-an-extra-2000-a-year-to-be-vegan-apparently-6345753/ 9Connor, Liz. “It Costs ‘an Extra £2,000 per Year to Be Vegan or Gluten-Free’, Research Suggests.” Evening Standard. Accessed September 22, 2017. https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/it-costs-an-extra-2000-per-year-to-be-vegan-or-glutenfree-research-suggests-a3425741.html that vegans spend over £2,000 more annually on food, based on a study claimed to be made by UK-based Voucher Codes Pro. There is no evidence that such a study exists.10Starostinetskaya, Anna. “Fake Study Spreads Rumor That Veganism Is Expensive.” VegNews, December 26, 2016. http://vegnews.com/articles/page.do?pageId=8799&catId=1
  • Many common foods cost the same because they are already vegan:
    • Everything in the produce department.
    • All bulk items except jerky.
    • Most cereals.
    • Most bread products.
    • All grains and beans.
    • Most canned and frozen fruits and vegetables.
    • Most condiments, such as mustard, ketchup, pickles, relish, and sauces.
    • Most beverages.
    • Virtually all spices.
  • Vegan specialty foods are optional.
    • Some vegan items, such as burger patties and mayonnaise, are no more expensive.
    • Vegan milks cost no more than organic, hormone-free cow’s milk.
    • Vegan cheeses and meats can be more expensive but are becoming less expensive as demand increases.
      • This is at least partially because of subsidies provided to the animal agriculture and feed industries.
    • Prepared foods will almost always cost more, vegan or not.
      • Many of these foods you can make yourself for considerably less.
  • Your medical bills may decrease.
    • A study published by the National Academy of Sciences calculates a health-care savings of over $1,067 billion annually with a vegan diet.11Springmann, Marco, H. Charles J. Godfray, Mike Rayner, and Peter Scarborough. “Analysis and Valuation of the Health and Climate Change Co-benefits of Dietary Change.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113, no. 15 (April 12, 2016): 4146–51. doi:10.1073/pnas.1523119113 That’s over $3,000 for each person in the United States.
    • The savings are a result of less medical care needed because medical problems are less likely on a vegan diet.
  • Consider the cost to animals.
    • We are often willing to pay more for convenience. We are often willing to pay more for items that have a smaller carbon footprint. We are often willing to pay more for designer items.
    • Eating vegan is not more expensive. But even if it were, shouldn’t we be willing to pay more for items that don’t support, directly or indirectly, the breeding, enslavement, mutilation, and slaughter of sentient beings who have lives that are as important to them as our lives are to us?
  • Tips for saving on groceries:
    • Buy in bulk and at farmer’s markets.
    • Shop seasonally.
    • Buy vegetables frozen, since they often cost less and are just as healthy.
    • Compare prices.
      • A pound of green peas costs around $1.30 at Walmart, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods Market. The same pound of peas can be as high as $3.00 at many other grocery stores.
    • Limit vegan specialty foods, such as vegan meats and cheeses.
      • They are unnecessary.
      • They may be more healthy than animal-based meats and cheeses, but their nutrition value pales in comparison to whole foods.
  • Meta
    • Purpose
      • To show that a plant-based diet is not necessarily more expensive than a more carnivorous diet and can, in many cases, result in a lower grocery bill.
    • Revisions
      • 2017-03-31 First Published
      • 2017-09-29 Copy editor’s first pass   isn
      • 2017-10-09 Added Mayo Clinic statement as an authoritative source.   glf
      • 2017-10-12 Copy editor’s second pass   isn
    • Contributors
      • Greg Fuller   Author
      • Isaac Nickerson   Copy Editor

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1.“It’s Time to Try Meatless Meals.” Mayo Clinic, July 26, 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/meatless-meals/art-20048193
2.Messina, Ginny. “The High Cost of Ethical Eating.” The Vegan RD, January 20, 2010. http://www.theveganrd.com/2010/01/the-high-cost-of-ethical-eating/
3.Flynn, Mary M., and Andrew R. Schiff. “Economical Healthy Diets (2012): Including Lean Animal Protein Costs More Than Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition 10, no. 4 (October 2, 2015): 467–82. doi:10.1080/19320248.2015.1045675
4.Springmann, Marco, H. Charles J. Godfray, Mike Rayner, and Peter Scarborough. “Analysis and Valuation of the Health and Climate Change Co-benefits of Dietary Change.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113, no. 15 (April 12, 2016): 4146–51. doi:10.1073/pnas.1523119113
5.“It’s Time to Try Meatless Meals.” Mayo Clinic, July 26, 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/meatless-meals/art-20048193
6.Messina, Ginny. “The High Cost of Ethical Eating.” The Vegan RD, January 20, 2010. http://www.theveganrd.com/2010/01/the-high-cost-of-ethical-eating/
7.Flynn, Mary M., and Andrew R. Schiff. “Economical Healthy Diets (2012): Including Lean Animal Protein Costs More Than Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition 10, no. 4 (October 2, 2015): 467–82. doi:10.1080/19320248.2015.1045675
8.Scott, Ellen. “It Costs an Extra £2,000 a Year to Have a Vegan Diet, Apparently.” Metro News, December 27, 2016. http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/27/it-costs-an-extra-2000-a-year-to-be-vegan-apparently-6345753/
9.Connor, Liz. “It Costs ‘an Extra £2,000 per Year to Be Vegan or Gluten-Free’, Research Suggests.” Evening Standard. Accessed September 22, 2017. https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/it-costs-an-extra-2000-per-year-to-be-vegan-or-glutenfree-research-suggests-a3425741.html
10.Starostinetskaya, Anna. “Fake Study Spreads Rumor That Veganism Is Expensive.” VegNews, December 26, 2016. http://vegnews.com/articles/page.do?pageId=8799&catId=1
11.Springmann, Marco, H. Charles J. Godfray, Mike Rayner, and Peter Scarborough. “Analysis and Valuation of the Health and Climate Change Co-benefits of Dietary Change.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113, no. 15 (April 12, 2016): 4146–51. doi:10.1073/pnas.1523119113