Vegan student on a budget; tips and tricks


Getty Images photo by Enrique Diaz/7cero Photography

Rayanne Painter

With many college students struggling with issues such as housing or food insecurity, or just struggling to pay for tuition and textbooks, it’s reasonable when college students eat what they can to get by.

There are many students whose main reason for not trying out a vegan diet is because of the cost of vegan food. This is a valid concern, as there are a lot of plant-based items, particularly alternative meats and dairy free items, that cost more than their meat or dairy counterparts. This is why trying out a vegan lifestyle is particularly difficult for people in college. A lot of the time new vegans are highly dependent on meat and dairy alternatives while making their transition.

While there are obvious barriers between students and vegan diets, there are ways to lower or completely eliminate your animal product intake cost efficiently. Other vegans may or may not agree with me, but I believe that it is acceptable to not have the time or energy to put the amount of research, and food prep it takes to successfully become a student vegan with a budget. It’s not the easiest, and I’ve luckily had the resources to become and remain vegan.

There are very basic ingredients that are a staple for any vegan counting coins while grocery shopping. These come down to beans, legumes, tofu, bread, rice, fruits, vegetables and nuts. It doesn’t sound like much, but there are so many recipes that could be made with any number of these food items. This can be as simple as throwing together veggie sandwiches, salads, stir-frys, rice bowls, tacos, you name it! Plus, anything you make with these ingredients is going to be healthy and filled with whole foods.

Cheap meat and dairy alternatives are usually hard to come by, but sometimes they go on sale if you keep your eye out for them. The best place I know to get alternative meats reasonably priced is at Winco Foods, but they still tend to be pricey.

Fruits and vegetables can be on the more expensive side as well, but I’ve found that both Trader Joe’s and Winco have a wide selection of low priced produce, that goes for tofu as well. As for beans and rice, these items can be found cheaply by the can or bag at nearly any store, but to get a real deal then you will need to shop in bulk. It’s not always the case that bulk foods are cheaper, but with proper research and comparison to the prices of packaged food, it can really pay off.

A good place to start if you don’t have a lot of time or money to put towards the cause is to buy plant-based milk instead of cow’s milk. Not only is plant-based milk better for you and the planet, but it can usually be found within a dollar’s difference to dairy milk.

The Chico Vegan Meetup page on Facebook is a group I recommend for any general questions about vegan products, as there are often postings about sales or cheap items around the Chico area.

Rayanne Painter can be reached at [email protected] or @rayphenomenon on Twitter.