A guide to eating vegan on a student budget – it’s easier than you think
But where DO you get your protein from?
With the likes of Beyoncé, J-Lo, and Miley Cyrus advocating a plant-based lifestyle, veganism has never been more à la mode than it is now.
But on social media, veganism has become synonymous with the ‘clean eating’ trend, advocating Instagram-worthy meals made from ingredients you’ve probably never heard of that are only available in specialist health stores where a weekly shop will require you to remortgage your parents' house.
Whilst many would love to be able to follow this lifestyle, it is simply impossible for those limited by time and money.
This doesn’t, however, mean that following a vegan diet is impossible – it has never been easier to make the transition, whether you want to go full vegan or just make the effort to have meat-free Mondays.
Lidl is your friend
The selection of fresh produce in Lidl is amazing and worth bearing the usually ridiculously long checkout queue for. The deals they offer are a great way of getting variety into your diet by encouraging you to buy different fruit each week.
Tins, frozen vegetables, and all the carbs are also great to stock up on and significantly cheaper in Lidl than elsewhere. One litre of soy milk costs just 59p in Lidl, which is cheaper than cow's milk from Tesco.
Plan, plan, plan
Although it might take a little bit longer, pre-shop preparation is essential. Especially when cooking for one, planning your meals ensures that you can buy in bulk, which is generally cheaper, confident that you will use that kilogram of carrots in multiple meals before they go soggy. Instagram accounts like @vegan.roey give great meal ideas and detail not only the rough price, but also protein content.
Planning makes it easier to ensure you’re getting all the necessary nutrients, including the apparently elusive plant-based sources of protein – for the record, the best ones are nuts, whole-grains, beans and lentils, oats, peas, broccoli, and many other vegetables.
Channel your inner Instagram gym lad and meal prep to your heart's content.
Substitutes – are they worth it?
When giving up meat, cheese and eggs, the instant logic would be – how can I replace them? But the reality is, direct substitutes for these products are often not worth the hefty price tag.
Linda McCartney sausages have been elevated to a cult-like status and whilst they are amazing, they’re even better when they’re half price so I usually wait and stock up then.
Quorn have recently expanded their vegan range and again, it’s amazing, but just not a necessity. As the demand for meat substitutes is increasing, supermarkets are bringing out their own-brand ranges which are significantly cheaper and just as convenient – yet they are still not the only way to replace meat.
Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and black beans are versatile, healthier and cheaper ways to bulk up meals with protein and fibre. Potatoes, sweet potatoes and butternut squash are also filling, cheap and great additions to curries to replace meat.
Vegan cheese still leaves a lot to be desired, but this shouldn’t put you off making the switch. The lack of cheese encourages more creativity with flavours not simply to replace cheese, but to show it is not necessary.
If it feels restrictive, find a few substitutes that you like and are willing to pay a bit more – for me, it’s Cauldron Tofu and Tesco free-from vegan mayonnaise.
Invest in flavour
Whilst many perceive veganism as restrictive, when preparing your own meals you can be as inventive as you want – provided you have the ingredients.
Buying herbs, spices, sauces and different oils (helloooo sesame) to furnish your cupboard is essential. One initial investment (perhaps even shared between your flatmates) will reduce the weekly price of your shop as you won’t have to fork out for a pot of a specific herb each week when all you need is one teaspoon. Making your cooking more interesting and flavoursome is the key to keeping it up.
Find the accidentally vegan surprises
Contrary to popular belief, vegans can indulge in the simple student pleasure of a post-night out feast, all thanks to chips. Chip-shop chips (provided they’re fried in vegetable oil – most are but ask beforehand) are probably the cheapest, quickest and best option to pick up on your walk home from the club.
Even better, if you have the patience, stocking up on oven chips and waiting 20 minutes for them to cook when you get home is an even more economical way to sober up and alleviate your hangover the next day.
To the surprise of vegans and non-vegans everywhere, Co-op bakery's jam and custard doughnuts are also vegan, and at just 65p for five (plus 10 per cent off with an NUS card) they are the solution to all vegan sugar cravings without making even a dent in your bank account. As are Oreos, Party Rings, Pringles, dark chocolate – the list goes on. Instagram accounts like @accidentlyveganuk make finding vegan surprises much easier.
Love it or hate it, veganism is a trend that’s here to stay. Whether for the animals, the environment, or your health, it's more accessible than you think – and definitely doesn’t have to break the bank.