There's no denying it — vegan food has become popular in recent years.
A 2016 study from the University of Oxford found that if the world went vegan, it could save roughly eight million human lives by 2050, decrease greenhouse gas emissions (from agriculture) by two-thirds and save around $1.5 trillion dollars in climate damages and health care-related costs.
Veganuary, an annual challenge that takes place during the month of January, has sparked many plant-curious folks to try a vegan diet and educate themselves on veganism.
However, despite the rise of veganism in grocery stores and the mainstream media, vegan diets have a reputation for being expensive — which isn't attainable for every household.
A rising cost of living and skyrocketing food prices in Canada also makes adopting a plant-based lifestyle increasingly difficult.
Luckily, Toronto-based dietitian and food blogger Abbey Sharp believes that all isn't lost.
"[Vegan diets] actually aren't inherently more expensive, and can actually save you money if you're careful with food choices," Sharp said in an interview with Yahoo Canada. "One of the biggest expenses at the grocery store right now is animal protein (meat and chicken)."
Read on to learn Sharp's best tips for eating vegan amidst inflation.
"[Vegan diets] actually aren't inherently more expensive, and can actually save you money if you're careful with food choices."Abbey Sharp
Stay away from 'faux'
While "faux" meat options that replace traditional meats are a way for vegans to transition to a plant-based lifestyle, they aren't always the cheapest — or the healthiest.
According to Sharp, it's more economical to swap meat substitutes with high protein vegan whole foods such as beans, legumes, grains and tofu.
"It's great that we have faux meat options that allow plant-based folks a similar experience with their meals as those who eat meat," Sharp said. "But ... to get the most nutrition bang for your buck, you're better off choosing mostly simple plant-based proteins, like beans and legumes.
"You're going to end up saving money."
Nutritionally, the food expert added that since fake meat products are highly processed, it's a benefit for your wallet and your body to choose simple whole foods.
Nonetheless, meat substitutes are, on occasion, "fun ways to enjoy classic meat-based comfort foods."
Buy in bulk
Generally speaking, buying at a bulk store is cheaper than the supermarket because you aren't paying for excess packaging or brand names.
Sharp explains that buying items like oats, nuts, seeds and grains in bulk can reduce the cost per unit, and you have the freedom to buy how much or little you need.
"Load up on pulses! Beans, lentils, chickpeas are all super inexpensive sources of protein. To save the most money, go with dried and soak and cook them yourself," she further explained.
"To get the most nutrition bang for your buck, you're better off choosing mostly simple plant based proteins like beans and legumes."Abbey Sharp
Head to the freezer
Frozen food, including vegetables and fruit, can be much cheaper than their fresh counterparts — and sometimes can even be healthier.
"When in doubt, opt for more inexpensive frozen produce to save money. Frozen produce is flash frozen at the peak of ripeness, so it's often more nutritious than fresh," Sharp shared.
Options for frozen food are also typically endless. Cauliflower rice, chopped butternut squash, smoothie cubes and spiralled zucchini are some choices that await in the freezer aisle.
"Large bags of frozen fruits and veggies can definitely save you money, especially in the off seasons when they aren't available locally fresh."
"Before shopping make a list of the items you need, and stick to your list when at the store so you don't buy things on impulse," Sharp explained. "Buy only what you need, but be willing to make substitutions if something is more expensive than expected. For example, if you wanted peaches but strawberries are on sale, make the swap."
Moreover, the dietitian recommends planning your meals before you shop, and choosing recipes that reply on some of the same ingredients.
"If you need teriyaki sauce for one recipe, try to find another recipe that could utilize it. ... Then use that recipe list to build out your grocery list and try your best to stick to it," she added.
Similar to meal planning and making a list, Sharp recommends going as far as planning your route at the supermarket or bulk food store. This way, you don't run into anything you can't resist or don't need.
For example, if chips are your weakness, steer clear of the junk food aisle. Every impulse purchase that doesn't make it into your cupboard is money saved for items you really need.
Buy only what you need, but be willing to make substitutions if something is more expensive than expected."Abbey Sharp
If you've decided to try veganism, or you simply want to include more plant-based foods into your daily life, it can be hard to know where to begin. With so many unknown foods and new products, as well as cooking styles, changing how you eat can be overwhelming.
Still, Sharp believes that vegan food and cooking can be both delicious and easy.
For some of her quick, fool-proof meals that won't break the bank, try the following: