Advice Article

The Cost of Living Healthy

I think one of the biggest misconceptions about being vegan is that it’s “too expensive”. Well, actually, did you know that the majority of the poorest countries in the world eat accidentally vegan and vegetarian because that’s all they can afford? Rice, beans, bread, na’an, pasta, potatoes, etc, are all the cheapest foods on the market. And guess what? They happen to be vegan.

Eating meat is a luxury for most people. It is only here in North America and few other countries that this luxury is taken for granted by fast food chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King where anyway can just drive up through a window and pick up a burger. But in other countries, where people have to hunt their food and survive off the land, eating meat isn’t so easy.

Eating healthy/vegan is only as expensive as you make it. If you want to go out and buy cacao powder and goji berries and tubs of protein powder, sure, it’s going to get expensive. But those things are not necessary. You can literally survive off bananas, spinach, potatoes, and rice. Maybe throw in some broccoli and beans for good measures. But seriously, those foods have so many vitamins and nutrients in them that you would be getting all that you are required!

Each week I spend around $30-$40 on groceries.. and that’s super cheap. I just buy a few vegetables, some frozen fruit, oats, pasta, beans, etc.

If you have some money to spend and want to buy maca powder and goji berries, then go for it! I buy expensive things sometimes. My point is that you don’t have to. Besides, health is wealth; so if you’re paying a bit more now, you won’t pay for it later in life through sickness.

Below I will break down basic costs, key foods to buy, and a few tips on how to save as well as how to get more with your money.

Key Foods and Their Costs

*I live in Ontario, Canada, so the prices listed below are what is available around me. But fruits and veggies in most countries are never too outrageous in price*

  1. Bananas – 57 cents per pound (approx. $5.00 for 21 bananas)
    I know every country differs in price, but I live in Canada, and now that it’s June, bananas are more in season I guess so the price is cheaper. At my local stores they are usually 57 cents per pound, so I usually get a box full of 21 bananas which costs me around $5.14. This is a good deal and the bananas last me about a week. (Depending on how much I eat a day.) Usually I put 3-4 in my morning smoothie, and 1 banana on my oatmeal if I have it that day. I also add it to fruit bowls, nana ice-cream and fruit platters.
  2. Spinach – $6.00 for a 2.5 lb bag
    Don’t take pills, EAT SPINACH. Spinach is one of the best foods in this world! It has almost every single vitamin that you can name, and has so many health benefits for you. If you aren’t having spinach at least once a day, I highly recommend you change that. I buy a giant bag of spinach from the Whole Sale store for about $6.00. Again, this usually lasts me a week or so. I add a huge handful to my morning smoothies, and 3 big handfuls to my salads for dinner. Spinach is amazing and I just love it.
  3. Fresh Fruit – $1.80 – $2.50 per container (or 2 for $5)
    One can never have enough fresh fruit. I go to the store every week and stock up on blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, bananas, apples, oranges, kiwi, mango, pineapple etc. The price differs for each one, but I try to get them when they are on sale or a cheaper price. At the store near my house, mangos are usually $1.27 each. (Really expensive). But recently they went on sale and were 60 cents each, so I bought a whole bunch and stocked up. They’ve also recently had boxes of 9 mangos for $5.88 which is a good deal. I usually get a 1kg (2.2 lb) bag of kiwis for $4.00. Blueberries have been $4.00 for a little pack (outrageous) but this week they were 2 for $5.00. So watch out for sales and good deals at other stores.
  4. Oats – $3.00 for a 1 kg bag of regular oats, or $3.50 for a 453g bag of organic oats.
    Who loves oatmeal? I know I do. I highly recommend buying a big bag of whole grain oats (not the little one minute packages). Oats are so delicious and easy to make. And you can load fruit and nut butter on top. I now buy Bob’s Red Mill Organic Gluten Free Oats because I try to eliminate wheat from my diet. Oats are naturally gluten free but because of the processing some of them go through, wheat/gluten can often become incorporated into the oats. If you have no problem with this, then just buy regular oats. (It’s not a huge difference.) If you don’t eat wheat or gluten, you can look for either organic oats or gluten free oats. They are a bit more expensive, but for me I think it’s worth it because it’s the food I am putting into my body.
  5. Pasta – $3.00 for a 16oz/454g bag.
    I always stock up on pasta (I buy rice pasta) because it’s pretty cheap and always good for quick/on the go meals.
  6. Beans -.80 cents a can
    Beans are amazing. I never used to like them, but now I love adding them to meals. Packed with so much protein and vitamins, they will keep you feeling full and satisfied. They are also super freaking cheap…… From the cheapest I’ve seen them was .77 cents, to the most expensive, which was $1.20, that is still really cheap. Experiment; try black beans, kidney beans, brown beans, black eyed peas, chick peas, etc. If you don’t like the taste, disguise them in things. Make burritos or nachos. Make chili. Put them in sauces. Yay for beans.
  7. Coconut Sugar – $3.00 for a 454g bag (1lb)
    This stuff is great. It’s much better for you than regular sugar or even brown sugar. I don’t use it too much, but I like to use it for baking, sprinkling onto oatmeal or granola, etc.
  8. Quinoa – $3.00 for a 400g bag
    This is the super grain of the future. Quinoa is also amazing for you and it’s really easy to make. So if you are one of those people on the go who doesn’t have time to make a big dinner, just cook some quinoa. I make quite a bit one night, and then put the leftovers into containers for the following days. It’s also great on salads. You can buy it really anywhere now because so many more places are starting to sell it since it came in demand. I buy a ton of it and keep it in my cupboard. Then you just boil water, add 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of quinoa, and let it cook for about 10 minutes while stirring it! Easy Peasy.
  9. Sweet Potatoes – $2.47 for a 2.27 kg bag (5 pounds)
    This is one of my favourite vegetables and I eat it every other day. Sweet potatoes are so good for you and they aren’t that expensive at all. You can get a big bag for only a few dollars. You can either mash them up, cut them and boil them, or my favourite thing to do is cute them up into fries and bake them! So healthy, easy and delicious.
  10. Peanut butter – Maranatha – $6.00 for a jar. Regular organic peanut butter – $3.50 a jar
    I know I know, $6.00 is really expensive for peanut butter. But I can’t help it – Maranatha is my favourite brand and I’m kind of obsessed with it. I sometimes watch for it to go on sale and then buy 2 jars which lasts me quite a bit. Or I also buy regular organic peanut butter which I put in smoothies and use for baking. It also tastes really good but I just love my Maranatha. There are so many brands out there though, so just keep an eye out for good deals on whatever nut butters you like.
  11. Silk Almond milk – $3.50 for a 1.89 L container
    Almond milk or coconut milk is a great substitute for regular milk. We always keep 1-2 containers stocked in our fridge because I’m slowly getting my entire family to switch from regular milk to almond milk. It’s not too expensive and you can get a 1.89 litre container for $3.50.
  12. Broccoli – 99 cents per pound
    My FAVOURITE vegetable next to sweet potatoes. I get broccoli as much as I am able to because I love it so much, and it’s so good for you. If you don’t like broccoli, trying squeezing some lemon onto it with a sprinkle of sea salt and it will taste incredible. I put it on salads or just eat it plain. It’s best to eat broccoli raw to get it’s full nutritional value, but I like to cook it sometimes as well.

Tips to Prolonging Your Money

  1. Buy in bulk
    The more stuff you buy, the cheaper it will be. (In some cases. Like some places will give you discounted prices if you buy a box of 50 bananas for example)
  2. Visit farmers markets and shops with cheaper foods
    Not every store has prices that are the same, so look around at a variety of places.
  3. Don’t Buy organic
    I know that sounds so bad not to promote organic, but hey, if you’re poor or on a budget, you simply cannot afford this luxury. I know that it sucks having your food sprayed and injected with chemicals, but ay, it’s cheaper to buy conventional, so just go that route. It’s totally fine. That’s what I do.
  4. Look for sales
    Always look at the fliers when they come in the newspaper or grab them at the store. Watch out for when good prices come on, or when certain foods are cheaper at other stores.
  5. Shop in season
    Some fruits/veggies and other products are going to be more expensive in off season, so try to buy the foods that are in-season for better deals.
  6. Look at the damaged rack
    At our local No Frills there is a rack that has fruit and veggies on it that are “damaged” or “bruised”. The prices are reduced because they think no one wants to buy those items. Little do they know that the bananas that are brown and ugly are secretly beautiful and perfect on the inside, so I always buy from that rack and get such a better deal, AND perfectly fine bananas. (They also put tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, etc on that rack as well).
  7. Don’t buy TOO much of one thing unless you know you’re going to use it all
    For example: don’t buy 2 huge bags on kiwi because they’re a good price, but then only eat 3 a week. The kiwis will go bad and then you’ll have to throw them out. Buy smaller amounts of stuff you eat occasionally. Unless you know you’re going to be eating a certain product in abundance (me with bananas) then stick to buying smaller amounts.
  8. If one thing is too expensive, use substitutes (blackberries for blueberries)
    For the past month, blueberries here have been really expensive. So my mom suggested just substituting them with blackberries. I know they aren’t the same, but when something is really expensive and you can’t afford to keep buying it, then switch to something else temporarily until your item has its lower price back. When this was happening, we also bought frozen blueberries because they were cheaper. I’m not a huge fan of frozen fruit, but it tied me over temporarily until we got our fresh ones back.

Shopping List:

If you are looking to make some healthier options, try to include some of the foods I listed on your shopping list. Below is a list of a bunch of foods that I would highly recommend buying when grocery shopping.

  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Apples
  • Mangos
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber
  • Sweet Potato
  • Rice
  • Lemon
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Granola
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Peanut Butter
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney Beans
  • Lentils
  • Almond Milk
  • Coconut Oil and Butter
  • Coconut Sugar

Add ons and extras:

  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Goji Berries
  • Hemp Hearts
  • Cinnamon
  • Super powders:
  • Maca
  • Noni
  • Acai
  • Raw Cacao
  • Baobab

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  • Reply
    June 12, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Don’t you like kale? 🙂

  • Reply
    June 12, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Nice blog!

  • Reply
    Hong Minh
    June 13, 2014 at 3:49 am

    Hi Katrine,

    I’m an international student studying in Japan for an exchange program. Even though I’m not a vegetarian or vegan, I’m in love with healthy food, especially plant based one. I go meatless day once a week and fill my fridge with lots of veggies and fruits. Your blog is very interesting with useful tips for going healthy. It’s difficult to find fruit and veggies in japan as they are very expensive but I sometimes could find cheap ones with the tips you wrote in the post. You are one of those who inspire me to live healthier. Thank you and keep doing!

  • Reply
    June 13, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Hi there! Thank you so much. I’m so glad I could be of assistance to aiding in your healthy lifestyle 🙂 Keep up the good work xo

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