5 vegan tips and tricks to keep your bills down and bellies full
As the cost of living crisis tightens its grip over the country, more and more people seek new ways to curb its effect on their wallets when they go to the supermarket. Whether this involves cutting down on ‘luxury’ choices, cooking more homemade meals, or by eating less meat, the UK’s population is getting creative in order to save its pennies.
Below are five vegan tips and tricks to help keep your bills down and bellies full. V-Land have compiled this advice to give the vegan on a budget the best chance to establish money-saving eating habits!
Maximise your kitchen appliances efficiency
While the air fryer is becoming the best thing since sliced bread, this appliance is not the only device at your disposal: enter the humble slow cooker.
Slow cookers are great for gentle aromas that fill the kitchen throughout the day, and for their excellent energy efficiency. As a bonus, not only will your food retain more nutrients that are otherwise destroyed by cooking at higher temperatures, but it will also absorb additional depths of flavour. Try this vegan crockpot risotto with fresh corn!
If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can use your oven in more economical ways to minimise your energy use. While cooking an oven meal for dinner, why not pre-cook some vegan sausages at the same time for breakfast the next day? They are just as tasty heated up in the microwave the next morning, and this saves you from using the oven twice. If not sausages, why not add a pan of curried chickpeas for a deliciously crisp afternoon snack?
Try new supermarkets
While loyalty schemes such as Tesco’s Clubcard can get you great-value deals, some of the best cheap vegan food may be found away from the ‘big four’. But this tip is not necessarily about visiting Aldi or Lidl. No, this trick relates to supermarkets of particular note for vegans - Asian supermarkets.
Aside from having an impressive range of lesser-known ingredients, Asian supermarkets often sell produce in larger quantities for lower prices. Taste the Orient on Manchester’s Oxford Road, for example, offers a 600g block of tofu for a very reasonable price. Larger, popular brands like Cauldron and The Tofoo Co cannot usually compete on price.
While availability may vary, some Asian supermarkets also sell frozen tempeh at better prices than most conventional supermarkets. If you are looking for cheap vegan protein sources, then a trip to these stores must be considered.
If you rely mainly on the ‘big four’ (Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Morrisons), then the next best option is to time your big shop for the evenings. Often, supermarkets set aside older stock in the coveted ‘reduced section,’ where a slightly shorter shelf-life on particular items can lead to big bargains. Search for the yellow stickers after rush hour, when staff tend to re-stack shelves with the next day’s produce.
Use your cupboard and freezer
Keeping a well-stocked cupboard of staples can help to stave off late-night trips to the shop for instant noodles, and using your freezer can help you to increase the shelf-life of your food so that less goes to waste.
Buy as much as you can in bulk at the supermarket to get the best value: a 2kg bag of red split lentils will be much cheaper in the long run than buying several 500g bags. Also, if you have time, buying dried beans and pulses is often much cheaper than buying tinned varieties - you just need to factor in any extra time that cooking may require (a pressure-cooker may come in handy).
When you store bread in the cupboard or bread-bin, it has a relatively short shelf life. Even when you think a loaf may last, you will often find spots of mould just a day or two later. Instead, put your (sliced) bread in the freezer, and thaw it in the toaster on the defrost setting. In a world where one third of food goes to waste, do your part. You’ll save the planet and your pennies in the process.
Avoid branded meat replacements
In our article on the affordability of a vegan diet, it was established that one of the best ways to cut costs as a vegan is to avoid highly-processed meat and dairy replacements. While a study from the University of Oxford suggested that it is possible to reduce the cost of a food shop by up to one-third by adopting a vegan diet, the biggest obstacle to saving money in this way is expensive meat replacements. NB: plant-based meat and dairy replacements serve an important purpose in helping newer vegans to acclimatise to the diet, and sometimes their cost is a necessary evil.
Do not forget the ‘OG’ vegan meals!
The last of our vegan tips takes a look at our humble beginnings.
Once upon a time, vegans’ diets often consisted of not much more than plates of rice and beans. While many plant-based sources of protein may not contain adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids, a complementary mix of legumes and grains often provides adequate amounts of all nine. It may be the ‘original’ vegan meal for a reason.
Now, we do not necessarily advocate a return to these (in hindsight, quite bland) times, but there is beauty and value in these budget vegan recipes. Rice, grains, beans, pulses, and vegetables are among the cheapest ingredients that you can buy in supermarkets, and once crafted into a stew, curry, chilli, or casserole, these dishes often freeze well and work perfectly for batch-cooking. They are also easily and endlessly personalised.
If you are interested in learning more about the science of a plant-based diet, why not read our interview with vegan nutritionist Callum Weir?