Vegan Grocery List and Meal Plan on a Budget (recipes included)

confusedHow many times do I hear “vegan food is too expensive!” “I can’t afford being vegan”? Well, I have been vegan on a low salary for twelve years, and I do not agree that it’s an expensive lifestyle. If it was, I wouldn’t have been able to do it with my pay.

Origins of These Complaints

It is certainly true that years ago, vegan ready-made meals and also some ingredients were very expensive. When I became vegan in 2008 I was living (and I still am) in Los Cabos, at the tip of a Mexican peninsula where most foods have to be imported. In 2008 few vegan foods were available in Los Cabos, and whatever made it here was snatched up immediately. I had to be quick if I wanted vegan hot dogs for example.

Not only was the store shelf life of vegan products extremely short, their prices were incredibly high, and that was due to two factors.

  1. It was a “new thing”, “unusual” food, let’s raise the prices on those items
  2. It was imported (mostly) from the US

So, back then, my occasional splurges to the health store to get those vegan products were always special indulgences. It meant spending money.


Things Change. Demand Changes. Prices Change

Now it’s 2020. It’s no longer 2008, and hasn’t been for a long time. Twelve years have gone by …

I am not going to tell you how much money I make as a school teacher in Mexico, the amount is ludicrous, and it is the reason why many foreigners don’t last when they come to Mexico to work as a teacher. They can’t live of that money (no, they’re not all vegans). It is the reason why foreign teachers drop their work in the middle of the school year and run off to a better paid job or they just return to the US or Canada (there are not so many Europeans here in Los Cabos).


Well, I have been vegan on that low salary for twelve years, and if I can do this, then anyone can. It is not expensive, it is not unaffordable.

Now, I can imagine your brain cells whirring, wondering why I kept doing that low-paid job for so long. Trust me, the thought of leaving has often crossed my mind, but the one factor that made me stay were the students, I call them “my kids”, because in a way they are. I love my students and I love teaching. I care about what happens to them, and I enjoy spending time with them.

But is nothing expensive, really?

OK, some things are high priced. For example, cashew nuts (used for desserts, creams, curries, pie bases, …) Right now I am beating my brain to come up with another item that is really expensive, but all I can think of is cashew nuts, and perhaps apple cider vinegar. I checked on Google and found nothing I consider exorbitant.

Land’s End in Los Cabos.
Source: Pixabay

Things are often more expensive here in Los Cabos than in the US, because – yes, you guessed right – they have to be imported here, and thus it adds to the price. Nutritional yeast, for example, is reasonably priced, but once it gets to Los Cabos, it is a bit of an expense if you don’t enjoy a high salary or a salary from a first world country. But I buy it, because it lasts for a long time, so in the long run it ends up being an acceptable expense.

Still not convinced?

Fine, then let’s talk about non-vegan food. There are plenty of expensive items there. Just like with vegan food, there are expensive and there are cheaper brands. That’s completely normal.

Soy, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and other meat replacements often turn out to be cheaper than meat. And the really cheap meat … perhaps it’s best not to know what’s in it or what was done to obtain it …

Our local grocery stores import items from Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and other countries, and believe you me, those things are not cheap, because – yes, you guessed correctly – they are imported.

Meal Planning on a Budget

Did you know that wild rice is a rich source of nutrients, such as manganese, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and protein? Yes, protein. Yesterday I boiled wild rice and I made up a delicious sauce from scratch.

Photo by Matthew Lakeland on Unsplash

My not so expensive ingredient list

(I am omitting exact amounts of olive oil and almond milk, because this meal was improvised and I didn’t take notes of what I did, but I will give you estimates in the instructions)

  • wild rice
  • vegetable stock
  • olive oil
  • a head of broccoli
  • half a sweet potato (it was what I had left over from previous meals)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 green Bell pepper (another leftover)
  • salt and black pepper
  • turmeric
  • red wine or water
  • almond milk

How did I throw this together into a meal?

  • In a pot, bring water to a boil.
  • Add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vegetable stock
  • Add wild rice and cook until it’s ready
  • Heat olive oil in a frying pan, approx. 6 table spoons
  • Chop up broccoli and fry in olive oil
  • Fry for 4 minutes
  • Chop the sweet potato into small cubes and add to the pan
  • Cut Bell pepper and garlic into small pieces, and add both to the pangarlic
  • Add two teaspoons turmeric, then add half a teaspoon of black pepper
  • Add 3/4 cup of water or red wine (approximately) to the stew and let it steam for a while. I used wine, because I love using wine for sauces, it gives a beautiful taste. I had a Pinot Noir which, after I didn’t enjoy the taste in a glass, was delegated to cooking duties. You can substitute the wine with water if you prefer that.
  • Let it cook for a while.
  • In a sudden impulse I grabbed a package of almond milk and poured in about half a cup. I let it simmer for approximately 8 – 10 minutes.
  • Don’t forget about the rice. As soon as it’s cooked, drain it.
  • As soon as the vegetables are done and the sauce has nicely mixed, mix the sauce in with the rice. Then serve.

I enjoyed this exotic tasting dish, and I made a lot, so I brought two box lunches to work today 🙂

If the mixture of red wine and almond milk makes you cringe, don’t worry, the almond milk didn’t curdle, because I didn’t bring it to a boil, I let it simmer. It heated up nicely, and the combination of the different flavors of wine, turmeric, and almond milk produced a tangy and sweet flavor. Actually, after I finish writing this article, I’m going to heat up some more of that rice. 🙂

==> Check out this free vegan transition course <==

Another quick meal I made the other night

me-eating-my-sandwichI found some eggplant burgers at our local store the other day. So, I fried a shallot and a burger, heated bread on a comal (or you can use a toaster), and made myself a sandwich.

When the bread had browned, I placed one eggplant burger on one slice, topped it off with the chopped shallot (I love its flavor), added another slice of bread on which I spread some ketchup. Then I put some pieces of avocado on top of that, ended it with another slice of toasted bread, and I had myself a tasty sandwich.

I love creating meals in the kitchen. I improvise most of the time. Making meals is like writing for me. It is something that inspires me and I can keep on creating and creating, enjoying not only the end result, but also the process.

If you would like to see more ideas, then I recommend you take a look at this article which reviews three cookbooks for vegan meals.

One of these books is aptly called Plant Based on a Budget and it gives you a lot of ideas on how to create breakfasts, lunches, and dinners without having to spend a lot of money. This book also suggests improvising and even replacing ingredients if they are either unavailable or too costly. In my opinion, it’s a great guide book for anyone who isn’t sure about how to go about vegan meal planning.

Wishing you a happy meal planning!

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20 thoughts on “Vegan Grocery List and Meal Plan on a Budget (recipes included)”

  1. I love the vegan diet because according to some researchers it reduces the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diseases of the neurological system, rheumatoid arthritis and, of course, allergies. Consuming vegan foods reduces the risk of poisoning. That’s why I love to consume. I like to eat vegan burgers.

    • Hello,

      Yes, there are many health benefits, very true. And vegan burgers taste great. You should try the Beyond Meat burgers, they are really good.

  2. Whenever we’re not fully compromised with something, our creativity turns on with a big bunch of excuses! I used to say the same until getting to work to my current job, were they deliver an exceptionally good buffet for all employees for free.

    Guess what! I became vegan for 2 weeks and a half.

    I’m fully convinced that a plants based diet is by far the best option for health and wellness. Nevertheless the farthest away I’ve been able to get from meet it avoiding it 3 days on my regular week.

    The good thing, I’m starting to get vegan food on weekends too (just because I want it).

    Thanks for the recipes, I’ll be trying the rice this weekend!

  3. hi, I’ve tried vegan sausages  and I thought they were great. I have tried quote spicy Italian, and just the regular hot dogs. Both tasted very good. I am about to try a vegan ham and vegan turkey. I was not big on the vegan turkey but I I thought the vegan Ham was all alright.  the price for the Italian sausages is pretty good, it is probably cheaper than regular. I found that you can get vegan bacon as well however it is a little bit more expensive. I think it’s cool that you are on a vegan diet even though you are on a low budget. That is impressive that you are making it happen anyway.

    • Hi Jake,

      You tried out many things, that’s great. I also like the Italian sausage. Some brands are awesome and some are less good, I suppose. Have you tried products by Beyond Meat? This company is receiving raving reviews.

  4. I found your article very useful and informative.  I  have learnt a lot from your post. 

    I agree that there is a fluctuation in food price .As Demand increases ,prices increases day by day .and it’s very important to focus on budget and eat healthy diet. I really like your budget recipes .

    Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing this great article  on Vegan grocery list and meal plan on a budget .

  5. Oh, this mentality of yours is typically out of your experience and I totally love it 100%. I have always thought living as a vegetarian on a vegan meal is very expensive and not interesting too. Well you proved me wrong today as a result of this article and your experience too. Despite not having a high salary, you are living on vegan meal for 12 years now. It all bores down to good budget, hence you have shared this article on vegan grocery list and meal plan on a budget. Thanks for sharing your recipes and for recommending those cookbooks.


  6. Hi Christine, I just stopped by to see what kind of inexpensive recipe ideas you had. Just so you know, I am not a vegan but I do enjoy vegan meals. I am what is known as a Pescatarian. If you are not sure what that is it’s an ovo-lacto vegetarian that only eats fish as the meat source.

    I agree that being on a vegan diet can be done on a limited budget, but being in a country where much has to be imported, I can only imagine the costs. But even as a pescatarian I can eat pretty well and stay on a low budget, you just have to know what not to get when not on sale, and I am also one to clip coupons.

    • Hi Robert,

      Coupons are always great, I also keep an eye out for them. The local stores here use coupons and/or points for shoppers who have a members card, that’s always useful too 🙂

  7. Great information on saving money on vegan foods. Meal planning on a budget is so important for folks on limited incomes. You have made some very good suggestions.

    I will share this with my vegan friends. One person of whom I am thinking is a retired teacher and on a strict budget. 

    Thanks so much for sharing these insights. Much appreciated. More and more who I know are going vegan or at least in that direction. There are many advantages to a plant based diet. All the Best.

  8. Hi! I landed on your site searching for a nice green smoothie for breakfast. I read a good article and liked it so much that I stayed here reading some more articles. And this post caught my attention. It’s so useful to have this type of guide. We’re on budget most of the time and knowing what to include in our vegan grocery list is helpful. I’ll check Plant based on a Budget! Thanks!

    • Hello Ann,

      Thank you for checking out my articles. I’m glad you like them. Plant-Based on a Budget is a good guide, and very useful 🙂

  9. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. i love the fact that you recommended cook books. and now i realize that living as a vegan is not expensive as people think it is. thank you for the ingredients displayed. it is helpful.

  10. Hi Christine,
    I appreciate your love and passion for your job and your students. Very few people will ever do that, stay on a low paying job in a costly city for such a long time. Although I agree with you, that when you compare vegan food with non-vegan, the vegan becomes non-expensive


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