A common and fair complaint ascribed to the vegan community is that the lifestyle is too expensive. Especially with Instagram, you would expect to spend at least £30 or so just on breakfast. A lot of organic produce, specialist foods that you can only get from health shops which obviously charge a premium; exported foods from exotic countries, and a reliance on things that are just pretty damn expensive: like cashews, and dates and almonds. Not everyone can afford to buy these things regularly.
In London, it’s worse. In the gentrified areas, particularly in East London around Brick Lane, Shoreditch and Hackney, veganism is a lucrative business. I popped into Whole Foods for the first time a few months ago and was unable to buy anything in there. I just stared at all the oddly shaped pumpkins and orange courgettes and wondered from which planet they came.
By now, most people know that working class areas have a lower life expectancy compared with middle and upper-class areas. Compare the lifestyle choices of those in Chelsea to the people of Woolwich, for example. In poorer areas there are pizza takeaways and chicken and chip shops in abundance. For £3, you can buy six wings, chips and a drink. If you don’t believe me just ask the Chicken Connoisseur. If you head on over to Pret A Manger, a famous London cafe known for its health foods and vegan-friendly menus, you’ll need to fork out £4 for a sandwich. Then a drink is £2, and maybe if you want a side salad or a piece of fruit, that’s another £3. From what I remember, a bargain bucket at KFC is around £10. You can feed the whole family on that. I know because this is how I grew up.Friday was KFC day. The five of us would eat and be satisfied.
It doesn’t have to be takeaways either. Iceland is a popular shop here and it’s notorious for its cheapness. Frozen ready meals, frozen chicken nuggets, frozen fish fingers–for £1. You also have to factor in time; if you don’t earn much, you’re more likely to have to work extra hours over the weekend, or very long and unsociable hours where cooking huge meals are unworkable.
Veganism is definitely a healthier lifestyle choice when done correctly, but we can’t deny that it comes with an expense that is oftentimes unnecessary and exclusive. There is definitely a way to be vegan on a budget, it’s just not marketed well enough because it’s not pretty. How would we be able to show off our blueberry-laden, sugar-free, raw and organic nice creams expertly swirled in a tin bucket or mason jar otherwise? Honestly, I love taking those kinds of pictures too, because they definitely look appetising, but too much fanciness comes at the expense of excluding other people from the online vegan community.
Hopefully, with this Friday Basket, you can be inspired to prepare healthy meals with ten pounds or less. It doesn’t have to be a challenge.
Where to shop?
Aldi and Lidl are your best places for fruits and vegetables. For about £20, you can get enough fruit and veg to last you two weeks. I would also recommend Tesco because they do a lot of deals on vegetables, like 3 bags of veg for £2. They also have their own brand of free-from produce so you can buy a Tesco brand dairy-free cream cheese at half the price of the Violife version. Asda is also good for cheap food, although I haven’t been there for a long time.
Markets are a great place to get bulk fruit for cheap prices. I’m more talking about local markets, as farmers markets and central-based venues like Borough Market can be quite expensive. Afro-Caribbean shops are great places to get exotic produce at a cheap price. I have never spent more than £2 on a can of green jackfruit. Most of the time I can get them for 50p.
What’s in my Friday Basket?
Today I’m making cabbage and taco bean stew, with roasted carrots and asparagus gnocchi. This meal for two people has roughly six servings, which means it can last over the weekend.
These were all bought from Tesco, as that’s our closest supermarket.
So what’s the cost?
- 1 asparagus bundle: £1.80
- 200g baby carrots: £1
- 240g cabbage medley: £1.25 (it was also on offer of 3 packs for the price of 2)
- 500g gnocchi: £0.75p
- 2 tins taco beans: £1
I could have even got this for much cheaper elsewhere: Aldi asparagus is half the price, and Lidl sells larger bundles of baby carrots. The trick is to shop around, set your budget and plan your meals. We have a chalkboard where we write our “menu for the week”. It really helps us plan where to shop, what to shop and how much to spend. We too are living on a budget, so it’s really been a life-saver.
Why not give it a try?