Top 8 Cheap Vegan Foods & Dirt-Cheap Meal Ideas

A vegan diet is becoming increasingly popular due to its health benefits and ethical considerations. However, many people believe that a vegan diet is expensive and not feasible on a tight budget. Contrary to this belief, a vegan diet can be both healthy and affordable. In this article, we will discuss the top 8 cheap vegan foods and dirt-cheap meal ideas that can help you save money while following a vegan diet.

Switching to a vegan diet can help you save money in the long run as it eliminates the cost of animal products. Moreover, vegan foods are often rich in nutrients, fiber, and protein, making them a healthy and sustainable choice. This article will explore the different food groups that can be incorporated into a vegan diet on a budget, including legumes, grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and tofu and tempeh. Additionally, we will provide a list of affordable vegan meal ideas that are quick, easy, and delicious. By following the tips and ideas provided in this article, you can enjoy a nutritious and budget-friendly vegan diet.

Key Takeaways

  • A vegan diet can be both healthy and affordable, and saves money in the long run.
  • Legumes, lentils, grains, rice, quinoa, oats, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, squash, fruits, nuts, and seeds are all budget-friendly vegan foods that provide vital nutrients and plant-based protein.
  • Meal planning, using budget-friendly swaps, shopping locally, buying in bulk, making vegan staples, and using frozen vegetables can all help save money on a vegan diet.
  • Tofu, tempeh, chia seeds, and flaxseeds offer versatile and nutrient-rich sources of plant-based protein, and meal planning can help reduce food waste and avoid last-minute grocery trips.

The Benefits of a Vegan Diet on a Budget

The financial advantages of adopting a vegan diet are considerable, as it can provide individuals with a cost-effective means of consuming nutrient-dense foods. One way to make veganism more affordable is through meal planning. By planning ahead, individuals can avoid impulse purchases and ensure that they have all the necessary ingredients on hand. This can be particularly helpful when shopping for fresh produce, as it can reduce waste and prevent spoilage.

Another tip for finding affordable vegan options is to shop locally. Farmers’ markets, co-ops, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs can be great sources of fresh, affordable produce. Additionally, many grocery stores now offer a wide variety of vegan products, such as plant-based milks, tofu, and tempeh, at competitive prices.

Legumes are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients, and they are also a budget-friendly vegan staple. From lentils and chickpeas to black beans and kidney beans, there are countless ways to incorporate legumes into your diet. Whether you use them in soups, stews, salads, or as a meat substitute in tacos or burgers, legumes are a versatile and cost-effective way to eat vegan.


Legume based protein sources are budget-friendly and nutritious options for individuals following a vegan diet. Lentils, in particular, are versatile and serve as an excellent source of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Lentil recipes are widely available and easy to prepare, making them an ideal ingredient for budget-friendly meals.

One of the benefits of incorporating legumes into a vegan diet is their high protein content. Legumes contain all nine essential amino acids, making them a valuable source of complete protein for individuals following a vegan diet. Moreover, legumes are high in fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar levels, promote healthy digestion, and reduce the risk of heart disease.

There are countless budget-friendly lentil recipes available online, making it easy to incorporate this legume into your diet regularly. From lentil soup to lentil salad, lentils are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Additionally, lentils are affordable and can be purchased in bulk, making them a cost-effective ingredient for individuals on a tight budget. With legumes being such a valuable and cost-effective ingredient, it makes sense to incorporate them into your diet regularly and enjoy the benefits they offer.

Moving on to the subsequent section about grains, incorporating legumes and grains into a vegan diet provides a complete source of protein. Grains are also a budget-friendly ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. There are numerous options for incorporating grains into a vegan diet, making it easy to create a diverse and nutritious meal plan.


Grains are a vital component of a healthy, balanced vegan diet, offering a range of flavors, textures, and nutritional benefits. Rice, in particular, is a versatile staple that can be prepared in a multitude of ways, from sushi to stir-fries. Quinoa, on the other hand, is a protein-rich grain that comes in a variety of colors and is perfect for salads and grain bowls. Finally, oats are a fiber-rich grain that can be enjoyed in a variety of forms, including oatmeal and granola, providing sustained energy throughout the day.

The Delightful Diversity of Rice

Rice, a versatile staple food, is a great addition to any vegan diet due to its affordability and versatility in various dishes. This grain is a perfect base for many creative rice-based vegan dishes that can be enjoyed by all. The versatility of rice lies in its ability to be paired with a wide range of flavors, spices, and herbs, making it a go-to ingredient in many vegan recipes.

Rice can be used in stir-fries, curries, salads, and soups, among other dishes. Its mild flavor allows it to absorb the flavors of the other ingredients, giving the dish a unique taste. Brown rice, in particular, is a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it a healthy choice for a vegan diet. With its low cost, rice is a great way to stretch a budget while still creating delicious and nutritious meals.

Moving on to the subsequent section about the fantastic flavors of quinoa, this grain is another great addition to any vegan diet.

The Fantastic Flavors of Quinoa

Quinoa, a gluten-free pseudo-cereal, boasts a nutty flavor and a slightly crunchy texture that makes it a versatile ingredient in vegan cuisine. This ancient grain is not only delicious, but it is also packed with nutrients. Quinoa is an excellent source of plant-based protein, fiber, and essential minerals such as magnesium, iron, and zinc.

For those looking to incorporate quinoa into their vegan meals, there are endless possibilities. Here are a few recipe ideas and cooking tips to get you started:

  • Quinoa salad with mixed vegetables, avocado, and a simple lemon vinaigrette
  • Quinoa stir-fry with tofu and mixed vegetables
  • Quinoa chili with black beans and corn

Incorporating quinoa into your diet can be an easy way to boost your nutrient intake while enjoying a tasty meal. Up next, we will explore the nutritional benefits of oats.

The Nutritional Benefits of Oats

Quinoa may have been the star of the previous subtopic, but the next cheap vegan food that deserves the spotlight is oats. This humble grain is one of the most versatile and nutritious foods out there, making it a staple in many vegan diets. Oats are rich in fiber, protein, and several essential vitamins and minerals, making them an excellent choice for those looking to boost their overall health.

The versatility of oats is incredible, and there are countless creative ways to use them in vegan meals. Oats can be used to make breakfast staples like oatmeal, granola, and overnight oats, but they can also be used in savory dishes like veggie burgers, meatloaf, and even as a substitute for breadcrumbs. Oats can also be used to make smoothies, baked goods, and energy balls, making them a must-have ingredient in any vegan pantry. With all these options, oats are a cheap and easy way to add a nutritious boost to any meal.

As we move on to the next section on vegetables, it’s important to note that oats can also be a great addition to many vegetable dishes. By adding oats to veggie burgers or using them as a substitute for breadcrumbs in roasted vegetable dishes, you can create a more filling and satisfying meal while also adding an extra dose of nutrition.


Vegetables are an essential component of a healthy and balanced diet. Among the vast variety of vegetable options available, leafy greens stand out for their abundance and nutritional value. Sweet potatoes are another delicious and nutrient-dense vegetable that are also relatively affordable. Additionally, squash is a versatile vegetable that can be used in a variety of dishes, making it a popular choice among vegans.

The Abundance of Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are a nutrient-dense and affordable option for vegans looking to incorporate more greens into their diet. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making them an excellent choice for those seeking to boost their overall health. Moreover, they are versatile and can be easily incorporated into a wide variety of dishes, making them an ideal ingredient for creative recipes.

To make the most out of leafy greens, one can consider some cooking tips. First, one can try to chop or slice the greens thinly to make them more manageable for cooking and eating. Second, one can add them to a stir-fry or soup, which can help soften the leaves while adding flavor and nutrients to the dish. Lastly, one can consider budget-friendly shopping strategies such as buying leafy greens that are in season or opting for frozen options, which are often cheaper than fresh ones. With these simple tips, incorporating leafy greens into one’s diet can be both simple and affordable.

Leafy greens are just one of the many affordable and nutritious vegan foods available. Another example is sweet potatoes, which are not only delicious but also packed with vitamins and minerals.

The Deliciousness of Sweet Potatoes

Undoubtedly, sweet potatoes are a versatile and nutritious option that can add a burst of flavor to any meal. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for maintaining good health. Sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index, making them an excellent choice for individuals with diabetes or those who want to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Moreover, sweet potatoes are known for their antioxidant properties, which help in fighting against oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

Sweet potatoes are not only good for you, but they are also incredibly delicious and can be used in a variety of sweet and savory vegan recipes. They can be roasted, boiled, mashed, or baked, and can be used as a substitute for regular potatoes or as a base for soups and stews. Some creative sweet potato-based vegan recipes include sweet potato nachos, sweet potato fries, sweet potato pancakes, sweet potato curry, and sweet potato chili. The versatility and health benefits of sweet potatoes make them a must-have ingredient in any vegan’s kitchen.

Moving on to the subsequent section about the versatility of squash, it is worth noting that squash is another nutrient-dense vegetable that can be used in a variety of vegan recipes. Squash is rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber, and can be roasted, grilled, sautéed, or pureed to make soups, stews, and casseroles.

The Versatility of Squash

While sweet potatoes are certainly a delicious and nutritious food, there are other vegetables that can provide a similar level of nourishment and versatility. One such vegetable is squash. Squash comes in many varieties, including butternut, acorn, and spaghetti, among others. Each type of squash has unique flavors and textures, making it a versatile addition to any meal.

In addition to being delicious, squash is also incredibly nutritious. It is low in calories but high in fiber, making it a great option for those looking to maintain a healthy weight. Squash is also packed with nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium, which can help support a healthy immune system, improve vision, and regulate blood pressure, among other benefits. To help you incorporate more squash into your diet, here are four easy and delicious squash recipes to try:

  1. Butternut squash soup
  2. Roasted acorn squash with maple glaze
  3. Spaghetti squash with tomato sauce
  4. Squash and black bean tacos

Next, we will explore the benefits of incorporating more fruits into your diet.


One essential component of a budget-friendly vegan diet is incorporating a variety of fruits. Fruits not only provide vital nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but they also add natural sweetness to meals without the need for added sugars. Ways to incorporate fruits into your vegan diet include eating them as snacks, adding them to salads, or using them as a topping for breakfast bowls or oatmeal. Additionally, fruits can be used to make delicious vegan smoothie recipes, which can be a great way to get in several servings of fruit in one meal.

To make budget-friendly vegan smoothies, it’s important to choose fruits that are in season and readily available. This not only keeps costs down but also ensures that the fruits are at their freshest and most flavorful. Some affordable fruits that are great for smoothies include bananas, apples, berries, and citrus fruits. To add some extra protein to your smoothies, you can also include plant-based protein powder or nut butter.

Incorporating a variety of fruits into your vegan diet not only adds flavor and nutrition but can also help keep costs down. By choosing fruits that are in season and incorporating them into meals and snacks, you can create delicious and budget-friendly meals. In the next section, we will explore how nuts and seeds can also be used to create affordable and nutritious vegan meals.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are a great source of plant-based protein and healthy fats, which can be incorporated into a budget-friendly vegan diet to add flavor and nutrition to meals. Almonds, peanuts, and cashews are all excellent sources of protein, with one ounce of almonds containing six grams of protein. Additionally, nuts and seeds are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E and magnesium.

There are several ways to incorporate nuts and seeds into your vegan meals. You can add them to your morning oatmeal, sprinkle them on top of a salad, or use them as a base for homemade nut butter. Additionally, chia seeds and flaxseeds can be used as a vegan egg replacement in baking recipes. One recipe idea is to make a homemade trail mix using a variety of nuts and seeds, along with dried fruit and dark chocolate chips. This can be a convenient and nutritious snack option for busy days.

Next, we’ll discuss tofu and tempeh, which are both excellent sources of plant-based protein and can be used in a variety of recipes.

Tofu and Tempeh

Tofu and tempeh offer a versatile and nutrient-rich source of plant-based protein for those following a vegan diet. Tofu is made from soybeans and is often used as a meat substitute due to its texture and ability to absorb flavors. It is high in protein, calcium, and iron, making it a great addition to any vegan meal. Tempeh, on the other hand, is made from fermented soybeans and has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. It is also high in protein and contains probiotics, which promote gut health. Both tofu and tempeh can be used in a variety of dishes, including stir-fries, salads, sandwiches, and even desserts.

When it comes to cooking tofu and tempeh, there are many techniques to choose from. Tofu can be pan-fried, baked, grilled, or even scrambled like eggs. It can also be crumbled or blended into dips and sauces. Tempeh is often sliced and pan-fried or baked before being added to dishes. It can also be marinated to enhance its flavor. Both tofu and tempeh can be seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices to create unique and flavorful dishes.

To give you an idea of the nutritional value of tofu and tempeh, here is a comparison of their protein content with that of a few other vegan protein sources:

Protein SourceProtein per 100g

As you can see, tempeh is a particularly good source of protein, with almost double the amount found in tofu. Incorporating tofu and tempeh into your vegan diet can help ensure that you are getting an adequate amount of protein.

Now that we’ve explored the benefits of tofu and tempeh, let’s move on to some affordable vegan meal ideas that incorporate these protein sources.

Affordable Vegan Meal Ideas

In the previous subtopic, we discussed the benefits of incorporating tofu and tempeh into a vegan diet. Now, let’s talk about how to make affordable vegan meals using budget-friendly swaps and meal planning tips. Eating a vegan diet doesn’t have to be expensive, and with a little bit of creativity and planning, you can enjoy delicious and nutritious meals without breaking the bank.

One way to save money on a vegan diet is to substitute expensive ingredients with more affordable options. For example, instead of using expensive nuts like cashews, you can use sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds as a cheaper alternative. You can also use lentils or beans instead of meat, as they are much cheaper and just as nutritious. Another budget-friendly swap is to use frozen vegetables instead of fresh ones, as they are often cheaper and have a longer shelf life.

Meal planning is another great way to save money on a vegan diet. By planning your meals in advance, you can avoid last-minute trips to the grocery store and reduce food waste. It’s also a good idea to buy in bulk, as this can save you money in the long run. You can also try making your own vegan staples like hummus, nut butter, and veggie burgers, as these are often cheaper than buying them pre-made.

Eating a vegan diet on a budget is possible with a little bit of planning and creativity. By using budget-friendly swaps and meal planning tips, you can enjoy delicious and nutritious meals without breaking the bank. So, next time you’re at the grocery store, remember to look for affordable options and plan your meals in advance to save money and eat well.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common mistakes that people make when trying to eat a vegan diet on a budget?

When attempting to eat a vegan diet on a budget, people often make common mistakes that can hinder their efforts. One of the most frequent mistakes is not properly budgeting for their food expenses. This can lead to overspending on expensive vegan products and cause them to go over their allotted budget. Another common mistake is not planning meals in advance. Without a meal plan, people may end up buying unnecessary items or resorting to unhealthy, processed foods. Additionally, people may overlook the cost-effectiveness of buying in bulk or purchasing items on sale, which can significantly decrease their food expenses. By avoiding these common mistakes and following budgeting tips such as meal planning and buying in bulk, individuals can successfully maintain a vegan diet while staying within their budget.

How can someone ensure they are getting enough protein on a vegan diet without spending a lot of money?

Ways to Incorporate Protein on a Budget are important for individuals who want to follow a vegan diet without spending a lot of money. Fortunately, there are plenty of Affordable Vegan Protein Sources available that can help individuals meet their protein needs. Some of these sources include beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, and nuts. In addition to these sources, individuals can also incorporate protein-rich vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and kale into their meals. It is important to note that protein needs vary based on age, gender, and activity level, but most individuals can meet their protein needs by including a variety of these affordable sources in their diet. By doing so, individuals can follow a vegan diet while also ensuring that their bodies receive the necessary nutrients for optimal health.

Are there any vegan-friendly options for fast food or on-the-go meals that are affordable?

There are several affordable vegan-friendly options for fast food or on-the-go meals. Convenience stores often carry a variety of vegan snacks such as fresh fruits, nuts, and seeds. Additionally, many convenience stores now offer vegan-friendly options such as hummus and veggie wraps. Fast food chains such as Subway and Taco Bell also offer vegan options such as black bean burritos and veggie subs. In recent years, there has been a growing demand for plant-based options at fast food restaurants, leading to an increase in vegan-friendly menu items. These options provide a convenient and affordable way for individuals to maintain a vegan lifestyle while on-the-go.

How can someone meal prep for a vegan diet on a budget?

When considering meal prep for a vegan diet on a budget, there are several tips and recipes available that allow for nutritious and tasty meals. One tip is to plan out meals in advance, making use of seasonal produce and bulk ingredients such as grains and beans. Another is to prepare meals in large batches and freeze portions for later use. Recipes such as lentil soup, vegetable stir-fry, and quinoa bowls can be made in bulk and easily customized with different vegetables and spices. Utilizing affordable sources of protein such as tofu, tempeh, and legumes can also help keep costs down while maintaining a well-rounded diet. By being strategic in meal planning and utilizing budget-friendly ingredients, it is possible to meal prep for a vegan diet without sacrificing taste or nutrition.

What are some tips for finding affordable vegan options when dining out at restaurants?

How can vegans dine out at restaurants without breaking their budget? Vegan restaurant hacks and budget-friendly dining strategies can help. Start by researching restaurants ahead of time to find those with vegan options or that are willing to make substitutions. Look for happy hour specials or deals on apps like Groupon. When ordering, consider sharing dishes or ordering a few small plates instead of one large entree. Ask for modifications to make dishes vegan, such as omitting cheese or using a vegan sauce. Don’t be afraid to ask for a side salad or extra vegetables to make the meal more filling. Finally, consider tipping generously to show appreciation for accommodating vegan needs and encourage more vegan options in the future.


In conclusion, a vegan diet can be both healthy and affordable. By incorporating budget-friendly staples like legumes, grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and tofu and tempeh, individuals can enjoy a varied and balanced diet without breaking the bank. Additionally, by planning meals and buying in bulk, individuals can save even more money while still enjoying delicious and nutritious food.

One metaphor that can be used to describe the benefits of a vegan diet on a budget is that of a puzzle. Each food group is like a puzzle piece that, when put together, creates a complete and satisfying picture. Just as each piece of a puzzle is essential to completing the final image, each food group is essential to creating a healthy and balanced vegan diet. And just as a puzzle can be completed without spending a fortune, a vegan diet can be both affordable and fulfilling. With a little creativity and planning, individuals can enjoy a delicious and nutritious plant-based diet without breaking the bank.

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