Monday, September 21, 2020

The Budget Vegan Challenge


I grew up in a family where we didn’t exactly have a lot of money. To be more accurate we were homeless for some of my childhood. We just never had money in our family. My Dad, a college graduate took any job he could, liquor stores, shoe stores and construction. My Mom was a stay at home Mom with 3 kids, and all of us had various health problems that meant my parents could never really dig out of poverty.

People have very skewed views of poverty, frankly it sickens me some of the stereotypes that are perpetuated by the media, certain news outlets and simply bad information.

Being in poverty does not mean that someone did something wrong. It can happen to ANYONE. I know this first hand because I worked a lot with the homeless in a previous job. Sure, were there some people who were addicts? Yes. But were there former professors, hard working mechanics, school teachers, military men/women? Yes.

I’ve heard people in all communities put down people who live in poverty, and it really saddens me. Behind many of those people begging on the street is a story, a family, a history.

And because you might have seen a few ‘bad seeds’ in the poor community, does not reflect on the community as a whole – just like every other group of people in our country, there are the good and the bad. Just like you would not want to be judged for the worst people in the community you are in, neither do people living in poverty.

I say all of this because I believe that many people think that being Vegan would be far too expensive for them. And I believe that in part can be blamed on some of the stigmas (fair or not) about Vegan eating. Let’s face it, some of the equipment and ingredients some of us use are on the expensive end. Let me say this now, I am in no way judging you for having a fancy blender, food processor, dehydrator or for using raw cacao made from a rare cocoa plant only grown in the northern region of Argentina. I’m saying that it can be intimidating and can come across in the wrong way to many people who struggle to just buy a box of mac & cheese every week, and who have to struggle to feed their children.

My parents lived on crackers when I was born because they could not afford my healthcare and food for themselves.

But my parents are nowhere near alone. Millions live in poverty. The saddest part of this is that so many living in poverty believe that they have to eat the worst foods, because they can not afford to eat healthy. This perpetuates even more problems.

Because most people who are struggling financially  end up becoming ill, because of that they end up going into severe amount of debt because of healthcare that they can not afford to begin with. (I will be the first to say that living with out health care is near impossible, and yes hard working people can not get it for themselves or their children).

This in turn leads to the government having to step in (some of the time) and that is why our debt and our health care in so out of control in this nation. We spent 143 billion dollars on diabetes last year, and close to 170 billion on heart disease. Two disease in which are completely preventable and reversible.

It’s an issue of epic proportion.

Welcome to the “The Budget Vegan Challenge”

This is what I’m asking:

  1. For one week you agree to live on a $50 food budget (per person in your household). This is the food stamp budget.
  2. Do not use any equipment that costs more than $15, with the exception of the following: oven, microwave.
  3. Spices that you currently have can be used, but you should subtract $3.00 from your total food budget per person.
  4. I personally use no oil or spray oil (nor do I recommend anyone use it) However, that is not the purpose of this challenge, if you are someone who uses it I will be asking you to deduct $3 from your food budget. (To be clear if you are using your own spices and if you use oil you would be on a $15.00 food budget)
  5. Write about the dishes you make including ingredients and the cost per meal.
  6. Include a shopping list.

What I am hoping to accomplish:

Let’s help people who are on a very limited budget by showing them that not only can they be Vegan, but they can do so in a healthy way and have enjoyable meals.

It would be awesome to  have references for people outside of the Vegan community on how to eat a cruelty free diet. I want people to be able to look up your blogs accounts and learn how to shop and make meals.

It would be great for  those participating to understand  some of the challenges that people who are struggling financially go through.

Please  pick any week between now and the end of August. I will be putting links to your blogs accounts up on a special page starting this Sunday.

I am really excited for all of my vegan blogger friends to participate! I think that it will help so many people in their quest to live a cruelty free life despite any financial troubles they might have.

Budget Vegan Questions & Answers

First I want to clarify – this is not to judge people who like to splurge on a pint of organic blueberries or container of chia seeds, this is to raise awareness about a very real problem in our country (and beyond our country). You do not have to participate, but I would encourage you to look at your grocery budget and ask yourself where you could save money if you had to and what meals could be made more affordable.


Q: Oil: Your estimates of $3.00 per week seem really high, why is that?

A: If you have ever shopped on a very limited budget, you know that buying one big thing of anything is really hard. If I were to buy a bottle of oil that cost 6 dollars even if it was just for one week (and lasted a month), that would mean I would have 6 dollars less to spend on other groceries that week.

We do not need oil to cook or bake, so I see it as a luxury item. If someone was on a budget I would recommend cutting it out to save money (and their health for that matter).

If you are fortunate to live near a place in which you can buy bulk liquids, you could do that for the week, and only buy what you would use.

Q: Your estimates for spices seem high, why?

A. Same reason as above really, I want to closely simulate for people what it would be like to really be on a lower budget for groceries. If you bought one spice for 3 dollars in one week, that would probably mean you would be going with out bread or some other staple for you and your family.

Q: What about salt and pepper?

A. It’s really up to you if you want to include things like this. We used to get salt and pepper packs from salad bars. But again, I want you to think in terms of  living on a very restricted budget. If you are buying rare pink sea salt, chances are it would not be something you could easily budget for on a restricted budget.

Q: I live in Europe/Malaysia/Australia/Canada/Mexico  what would my budget be?


Europe: 44 euro

Malaysia: 204 ringgit

Australia: 71 aud

Mexico: 974 pesos

Q: My (insert kitchen appliance here) is really an investment, it saves me so much money! Why can’t I use it?

A. I agree that some kitchen appliances are investments. However, if you are living on a very restricted budget, chances are you don’t have the luxury of purchasing anything that is more than 15 dollars every so often. If you wanted to go all out you could look at thrift stores and on the free stuff on craigslist.

Q: What about kids? What is the budget for them?

A. I’m going to leave this up to you a bit – but most budgets would not allow for $50 extra for each child. In real life parents on a budget have to choose feeding their children over feeding themselves. When I was young, my parents would live on crackers in order to make sure we could eat. I don’t want people to starve themselves doing this, so just be aware of your budget and stick as close to it as possible.

Q: I can’t do this right now, but I would still like to help people out, what can I do?

A. If you can’t participate for some reason, but would like to help, you could do something like a post on low budget meal planning, or plan on tweeting about low budget meal plan.

Q: I can’t do this! It is impossible!

It’s ok if you can’t do this, I don’t expect everyone will be able to, again, this is to raise awareness. Millions of people are living on very restricted budgets – in fact some would say that 50 dollars per week is high! My goal is to help people who are on limited budgets who want to go vegan.

Thoughts on The Budget Vegan Challenge

It was Christmas one year, and my family was living in a small apartment. My little brother had a lot of health issues, and the house was really cold. I don’t think that I really understood poverty at that point of my life. I knew we didn’t have a lot, and I knew I couldn’t just ask my parents for new things, but that was about it. That Christmas, there wasn’t that much in the way of gifts, but we kind of understood that was how it was going to be.

I remember my Mom being startled when someone knocked at the door. The next thing I knew there were 2 men dressed as Santa with huge bags, unloading tons of gifts under the tree. They also brought bags of groceries and lined the kitchen with them. It was one of the best Christmas Day’s ever. We got to eat fancy cereal (by fancy, I mean sugary name brand stuff). It was a really amazing day (well what I remember of it).

There were so many people in our lives growing up that pitched in when we needed it, people who let us live with them when we were homeless, people who gave us food and clothing, and for those people I am so grateful.

It’s interesting – in the past few days I’ve had some really awesome people email me, totally on board with doing this challenge, but I have had some people who were really upset and even offended by my post. I was not expecting to strike a nerve at all, more so, I was expecting that people would realize one of two things:

  1. That it is hard to live on a very restricted budget when it comes to food, and something needs to be done.
  2. We need more resources for people living on a budget, websites with inexpensive healthy recipes and ideas and so on.

There were some that realized those things, but a very big majority of people ended up asking me really strange questions and became offended by the challenge. I got e-mails saying that “this is impossible and not healthy” or “I am NOT giving up (fill in the blank) just to do this” or people who were asking about a specific spice or oil or appliance or any number of specifics – what if you take the bus to work and don’t have a car? What if you walk? What if you can’t get enough calories?

What I was reminded of, is that a lot of people have never had the reference point of living in poverty. This is not something I am judging anyone about, it is wonderful that so many have not had to go through things like choosing between medicine or groceries or feeding your children before you can feed yourself.

I think that this is part of the problem when it comes to understanding poverty – many people do not have a reference point, and many people make assumptions about how people got there, and what people could do differently.

The truth is that when you are living in poverty you never think about if you can use a certain spice or oil, it doesn’t matter if you walk/bike/take the bus or drive to work, because you still in the end have a certain budget.

This challenge was meant to help people who are living on a budget for  food of less than 50 dollars a week and to bring awareness to the vegan community about the difficulty of doing so. It is not meant to help you budget with your very specific set of circumstances. There is no bargaining when you are living in poverty, or when your weekly groceries in part come from a food pantry of a church.

The entire goal of this challenge is to become aware of how difficult it can be to live on a restricted budget and for all of us, as a community to help find solutions.

I can assure you that people who have to worry about if their children will get their medication or food that week, are not concerned with if you can use your special salt, even if it was on sale at the time. They are not concerned with buying organic produce or things with out GMO all the time, because the alternative is that their family goes hungry. They are not concerned with if they are getting enough healthy fats from nuts, if they have to clothe their children for school in a few weeks.

In order to do this, I am going to ask you that you truly sit down and think through your day to day life and the things that you might take for granted, no matter how small they might be. Perhaps you have land for a garden, which is awesome and saves lots of money – but maybe think of the family who lives in a tiny apartment with no land to grow a garden. Perhaps you ride your bike to work, which is great and saves money – but think about the Dad who can only find a job doing day labor 40 miles away. If you have a blender, dehydrator and mixer – all awesome things, think about the mom who has 2 pots and a spatula and could never think about buying an extra appliance over ten dollars. If you shop for organic foods all the time, think about the family who struggles to buy a loaf of bread. If you shop at a organic grocery store, think about the family who has to go to the church food pantry to get some of the basics for that week.

What I would love to see more than anything is, hope. Let’s start thinking of ways the vegan community can help those in need. What if we all committed to dropping off 1 bag of vegan groceries to a food pantry or soup kitchen?  What if some of the big vegan communities (like in NY or LA) started vegan soup kitchens or volunteered to make one meal a month for a local soup kitchen. This would not be vegan outreach as much as it would be providing healthy meals to people in need.

I worked in a soup kitchen for a while, and I can tell you they use whatever is donated, and people are very appreciative. You don’t have to advertise the meal as vegan (I would actually advise you do not do that) but instead you are just providing a meal to people who might need one.

My goal in all of this is to foster understanding and hope.


  1. Rob

    Thanks for the great info. You’re absolutely right – a diet focused entirely on compassion may sometimes miss the mark on both health and environment. It is important to more closely examine many aspects and impacts of our food. By building our awareness we help ensure the long-term health of ourselves, other animals, and the only planet we all call home.

  2. simple vegan

    Hopefully many of you will be joining the challenge to eat a little more simply, and a little more healthy. I want to say again, this is not to punish you or to deprive anyone, this is just about living a little more simply, a little less processed and hopefully in the end, teach you that there is really a lot you can do with vegetables and other whole foods.

    I just want to encourage you to give it all a chance. I’m going to be posting A LOT. Hopefully by the end of the month you will have a really good jumping off point to a healthier, simpler, less processed life.

    So, be sure to check in and see what is going on. I’ll be posting a lot of information about healthy eating, recipes, and food ideas. At the end of February my husband and I will get to participate in another “Engine 2 Diet” immersion in Austin, TX , which hopefully will be a great way to end the month.

    Be kind to yourself, know that it is hard to make changes and it is okay if it doesn’t always go your way. I’m still learning, and still trying to battle some of my own issues with food, and changing the way I approach it all. But that is what life is all about – doing the best you can do.

  3. Bill

    When I think I can’t learn anymore from you, I do. Thank you for being the human being that you are.

  4. Christiane

    Thank you so much for such a great challenge. I find it so hard to believe that you’ve gotten ANY negative feedback whatsoever, or that anyone would take offense at this. I don’t remember you telling anyone that this was done to be healthy or that it was mandatory or that you were requiring everyone to give up their favorite things.
    I, for one, think it’s a fantastic challenge, and even if one does not complete it, it definitely provides fodder for though.
    I’m hoping to do it next week, but in the meantime, I shall be grateful for my well-stocked kitchen and the things I take for granted in my life on a daily basis.

  5. David

    I’m just now seeing this and I’m excited about it. While technically my family’s income is not poverty level, because of some factors (job losses-mine and my partner’s-and then both of us getting jobs that pay way less than before) we are now shelling out more money every month than we are bringing in. We both have degrees; one of us has a master’s degree. It is stressful, frustrating, depressing as hell. Of course we’re trying to remedy this situation but until that happens our budget is not just tight, it’s nonexistent. We do not currently have health insurance for us or our child.

    Add to that that I’m 130 pounds overweight and eating Ramen noodles for lunch a couple of times a week and the stress I’m feeling and the worry that I’m going to have a heart attack pretty much every moment that I’m awake, I think I might be your target audience.

    It is a fantastic challenge. I can’t believe that anyone would complain about it. It’s tough out there and this sort of discussion is needed.

  6. Sara

    Great blog entry. I loved your idea about dropping off a bag of vegan groceries. After I get my next pay check, I’m going to do that. I’m not making a lot of money, but I’m still very fortunate. I’m sure I can get a few friends on board with idea as well!

    I am also surprised you’ve gotten negative feed back!

  7. Molly

    For people who are interested in the intersection of hunger and veganism, there’s an organization called “Food Not Bombs” that cooks vegan food for the homeless (and anyone else who wants to eat). They get most of their supplies from donations from grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries, and individuals (and sometimes dumpstering).

    There are hundreds of these groups in the U.S. (and more world-wide), so you don’t have to live in a city with a giant vegan population to participate.

  8. budget gurl

    It was great to meet you today! I am not surprised you received negative feedback. When people begin taking an honest look at things, they can find their own accusing finger pointing back at them and so they get defensive. I’ve done it myself in other situations. Ah, ego. Anyway, I think this is a great idea and can’t wait to see how people do! I hope to try it out myself later this month.

  9. vegan foodie

    Food Not Bombs is a great example of an organization feeding people vegan meals without over-publicizing that they’re vegan. The meals are very popular, because hey—who doesn’t like free food?

  10. budget vegan

    I agree with you that without a reference point for poverty the $50 thingy is going to boggle some people’s minds. My family and I have been on welfare and have depended on a small foodbank. When you go to the grocery store with twenty bucks and no idea when the next time is that you’ll have money for food it gets real basic real fast.

  11. Allana

    I think you’re right, that most of us have never really known poverty. I lived on ten pounds a week for groceries during grad school in England, but it was because I was cheap, not because I had to. Sadly, things on the budget-end of things went a bit downhill after I got married to someone who egged me on whenever I was tempted to buy dried porcini mushrooms or add to my overflowing spice collection. (Also, I apologize about my Twitter remark about giving up extra virgin olive oil over my dead body — it was a flippant remark that I did not think through.)

    I kept thinking about your challenge this week, though, and I’d like to suggest that spices — that really add quite a lot to otherwise plain food — don’t have to be bought. Just around my condo complex and in other public spaces nearby, I can get rosemary, lavender, mint, California bay, lemons, chives, and probably lots of other things I haven’t bothered to learn how to identify. I’ll think about trying your $50 challenge using just the spices I can gather.

  12. Susan

    Why would anyone leave negative feedback… especially angry, negative feedback. If you don’t want to do the $50 challenge… don’t do it! It’s a way to come together and maybe get some suggestions or ideas for stuff that maybe you wouldn’t have come up with on your own… like something as simple as frozen vegetables, beans and brown rice. It can’t get much simpler than that! Keep the negativity to yourself… that’s what I say!

  13. Lisa

    You are beautiful.

    I admire what you are doing ~ and the amazing, caring energy you are sharing with the world.

    Keep on shining your Light 🙂

  14. Patty

    I’m absolutely blown away by these ideas and by what you are doing. Incredible. I’m on a a tighter budget now than I ever have been in my life but my money issues still don’t come close to this; thank you so much for the eye-opener.

    I do want to participate at some point but I’m at a sort of transition period in my life and I need to get my act together first. But I will definitely be thinking a lot about this.

  15. Vegan Nerd

    It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, or forget the challenges others face when you’ve been fortunate enough to have been spared some difficulties yourself. When I was in school I had to make it on about $25 a week most of the time, it definitely didn’t involve any organic or speciality foods, mostly runs to off-price grocery stores. I’m going to give the $21 a week challenge in a couple of weeks, I certainly hope I can still do it! I appreciate your efforts, your cause is absolutely worthwhile!

  16. Bill

    I am looking forward to this. I am on a very low budget, I lost my job a while ago. I really want to be vegan, but I really do not think I can afford it, recipes, food shopping lists and ideas would be really great. I have heart disease and I would really like to get over it, and I know being healthy and going vegan would reverse it, I also love animals.

    Thanks for doing this. I also love your story, you are amazing.

  17. Laura

    I love this idea!

    What about food we already have in the house, like leftovers that we are unsure of the cost of?


  18. Nat

    That’s a great question!

    Just estimate the cost of the food you use per meal. So if a bunch of kale is normall 1.99 and you already have it – just factor it in.

    So let’s say you have:
    a 1/2 bag of brown rice (one bag is $4, half bag is $2.)
    a can of black beans (estimated 1.79)
    1 tomato (a bunch of 4 is 4 dollars, so the one is $1)
    1 bunch of kale

    you would just estimate the cost of the of the separate items and then divide by how much of it use per meal.

    so if you used only 1/4 cup of the rice you would take the full cost of the brown rice and divide by 4.

    If you can’t estimate the cost you could always go to one of those grocery store websites that does home delivery and check out their prices.

    Hope that helps 🙂

  19. herb

    Yes! count me in! I think this such an important point — I’m always defending the low income families I work with to others. Bad things happens to good people and life is not always fair.

  20. crystal

    This is a great idea but I think the numbers about oil/spray are way off, at least for oil. My family buys a $4 can of oil cooking spray and it lasts us at least one month, sometimes two. We only buy a new canister of oil every four to six months. There are four people living here, but two are gone frequently so I’ll call it three. If you combine the two the cost would still be under $1/week. If you buy vegetable oil, which is very cheap, then you would have to slather it on everything to spend more than $1/week.

  21. Nat

    You can adjust accordingly if you put up the numbers for oil that would be just fine.

    oh on the oil – it was more for people to be aware of the cost of buying something like that all at once – a 4 dollar bottle of oil might not seem bad spread out over a month, but many people don’t have the option to even splurge on a 4 dollar item all at once. Just something to keep in mind.

    *Same goes for spices, on a budget buying a certain spice in one week means you go with out other staples.

  22. Jennifer

    I agree with Crystal that the oil deduction seems high. I just got a pound of olive oil in bulk from Whole Foods for $4, and that’s going to last a whole lot longer than a week for two of us. The same is true of spices, which get used a tiny pinch at a time and last for a year or more.

    We currently live on about $25/person/week, and while I think getting it to under $20 is possible, $15 could get a little painful.

  23. Mai

    I lived for years only using about 60 euros/$75 USD a month on food. The worst part was that most vegetables are extremely expensive here in Finland (some can be 10x as pricey as elsewhere), so there was a lot of stuff I just couldn’t eat, or could only eat 1-2 months a year. But overall it wasn’t that much of a challenge. Omnivores always told me it isn’t possible, but most vegan food is cheap.

    (I would be happy to participate in this challenge, but sadly I’m very fully booked until early September, at least.)

  24. Nat

    again, it’s more that it is hard for anyone on a budget to take even 4 extra dollars out of their budget for the week in order to purchase something like oil. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t last longer, but if you were on a budget of 21 dollars per week you would have to purchase oil at some point (if you were using oil) and it would then reduce at least 3 dollars from your food budget for that week.

    We are only doing a week long challenge, if we were doing a month long challenge I might change this part of it. 🙂

    It’s totally up to you how you participate though.

  25. Bill

    I have to agree with Nat about oil. I am on a 16 dollar food budget and I can’t not splurge on buying something high priced like oil. I know 4 dollars is not a lot of money for most of you, but it is for me. If I bought one thing of oil it would mean for that week I would have about 12 dollars left over in food.

    But, it’s not healthy and I don’t need it anyway!

  26. Bill

    I also can’t afford to purchase more than 2 spices a month.

    I think the numbers are very accurate.

  27. Nat

    for vitamins and salt and pepper – I’ll just leave it up to you. If you want to deduct you can.

    I’m not trying to be ultra strict with all of this – just more to give people what it’s like overall and to hopefully have some good suggestions for people on budgets.

    We used to get salt and pepper from store salad bars

  28. Lisa

    Beautifully written and very eye-opening article. I appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts. I would love to join in this experiment and plan on choosing a time when I can agree to the above points. I have a family- three little kiddos- who were not raised vegan so I am not sure how to handle the budget amount. However, I would really like to involve them in the vegan diet and do already educate them the best I can at their current ages. I am not sure how I can integrate a vegan diet to the point where they actually turn vegan a remain healthy (they are all pretty picky eaters to begin with) but my love for this earth and all things living make me feel that I need to begin with myself and my family when getting the vegan lifestyle word out there. Thank you for your ideas in this matter. I applaud you for raising some awareness where poverty is concerned an look forward to following you in the future.

  29. ted

    This is so great. I feed our family of four for under $75 a week and that includes a CSA share. It pays to be frugal and it can be done. And also shows that a vegan diet is much cheaper than an omni diet.

    This is wonderful. I look forward to reading how everyone does.

  30. Ki

    Would love to join!
    Living in the Eurozone, too, – would that be 16 Euros per person a week then? 13.50 Euros, when using spices?

    Another question on the oil thing, – I use it for baking and, though it’s sad and pathetic, have used less healthy oils in times of financial troubles to be able to offer the kids cookies and the likes, using oils that cost a lot less than $0.75 a litre…
    since this is meant to boost healt, – those oils would be off limits then, I presume?

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on poverty.
    I think alike and always have to bite hard on my anger when some self-righteous people spread their venom to keep my replies civil…

  31. Ted

    The poverty in our country makes me sad. I also get frustrated because I have seen the list offered by the state I live in for people on WIC. They give a family of four $20 to use for 3 months at the local Farmers Market. $12 a month to use for produce. Then they offer a crapton of dairy, sugar-filled juices, and some cereals with HFCS. It frustrates me because the government is not offering families that are poor more healthier options. Instead they are giving them “money” to buy generic, gmo, pesticide & hormone filled dairy products, as well as crappy cereal, and a minimal amount of produce. They should be offered more produce, grains, and beans and less dairy. Oh, and if a person on WIC wants soymilk and tofu over dairy products, they have to bring in a doctors note which I find ridiculous. Ugh. Sorry for ranting. But as a mum who budgets for her family and still can feed them healthy options, this really ticks me off.

    By the way, I love your page and can’t wait to meet you.

  32. tara

    I so appreciate your writing this! My family was on WIC, but I just couldn’t justify (or consume) that many dairy purchases! It was RIDICULOUS! All I wanted was more vegetables and grains (and wouldn’t that be cheaper for Uncle Sam anyway???). *sigh* Someday our country will place more of a value on nutrition…right?

  33. Ki

    I have started to calculate and, honestly AND pathetically, I am desperate … 11 Euros a week per person… OI!

  34. Monica

    Awesome post! I had to experience this not to long ago. I had $20 to buy groceries for my daughter and I and although it was challenging, it was possible. Some healthy items are more expensive and that is pretty sad. It really made my daughter and I conscious of what others go through.

    I plan on participating. I will email you when I figure out a week.

  35. Ki

    ..would love to know what others have to pay for certain food items, – I keep being told German food was cheap and yet I am having a hard time finding enough food, – and healthy on top of that, for like 3 Euros a day for 4 people, well, I’ll try my best, though lol

  36. Ki

    okay, another question, – my handheld blender was more than 11 Euros, EVERYTHING else I could use to make spreads, milks or the likes cost more, but my hand-held blender was the cheapest at 19 Euros, – you can get them used much cheaper though and it’s like 6 years old… I know I am begging, but… is that off limits, too, or are hand-held blenders cheaper in the US and thus useable?

    Just checking to be able to do some planning…

  37. Susan

    You raise some very interesting ideas that I had not thought of before. But, as you point out, one never knows when they will find themselves in such a situation. Bravo and good luck with the challenge!

  38. Tofu Blogger

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this concept!!

    First of all:
    I LIVE this scenario EVERY WEEK!!!!!!!!! And most of the guidelines are PERFECTLY realistic!!
    I have three kids and our food budget is 55$ a week. That’s less than 15$ per person per week.

    We DON’T always get to choose the “healthier” option (yes, sometimes the cereal has a bit of sugar or the bread isn’t 100% whole grain) , we DON’T always have oil or spices or salt or pepper and when an appliance breaks (currently my blender and my crock pot) we DON’T have the option of replacing it.

    I DO set aside 3 or 4 dollars a week (most weeks) and use them for bigger bulk purchases every couple months. I save a great deal by buying 20# bags of rice, beans, lentils, WW flour and gluten flour very cheaply.

    I DO have an apple tree, berry bushes, and grow carrots, potatoes, kale and cabbage (I freeze and can stuff like Betty Crocker!) and purchase seeds with grocery money. This way summers are a little less painful.

    And I shop very VERY wisely (places a lot of people might be hesitant to even set foot in – local ethnic markets, discount grocer, roadside stands, scratch-and-dent warehouse, Asian markets, Bulk Barn, the dollar store, etc…) so I can buy spices for pennies, tofu for 69 cents a lb., coconut milk for 40 cents a can, etc and sometimes, with careful planning or a fluke sale, I will “splurge” on items that might seem a luxury! Don’t judge 🙂

  39. Nicole

    I adore you, Tofu Blogger! You’ve got the right idea, and are not afraid to tell it. If more people were humble enough to shop at the local ethnic markets, etc., they’d be surprised at the great finds they come across. I am quite thrifty, even to the point that my husband thinks we may not need to be. Being a good steward of what we’re given only leads to a greater abundance of blessings.

    Thanks for sharing. Kudos to you!

  40. be

    I think VegNews had an article of a couple who did a $1 a day vegan challege. Sadly their diet looked very boring–lots of PB and J. I’d love to see a healthy version of this, particularly one that is gluten-free.

    I probably won’t do this for a week but I will see if I could do a $3 raw vegan for just a day. Then I can simply not use my fun extras and not have to worry about calculating them. I do know a few people who are raw vegan and live soley off food stamps. They do not do all organic I know that.

  41. Ki

    Tofu Blogger, thanx A LOT for your comment!

    Now I see I REALLY have a problem!
    I use about all the shopping options you stated and do a lot of cuts, too, where I have to when I have to. But even the cheapest tofu at our faraway Asian center is €0.82 which will be a rough $1.08, – not to count in the transport cost… any closer source (discount grocery shop) will sell less than 1 lbs. for €1.79 which is $2.35… and there is no can of let’s say coconut milk less than 0.69 Euros (bargain) / $0.91 so that I am calculating around making coconutmilk myself using shredded coconut… IF I can find that cheap lol
    Any cereal other than oatmeal would be unaffordable with an lbs. of oatmeal at €0.29 / $0.39 (if on sale), which I can also use for burgers, – but honestly as much as I support this vegan on a budget idea, with around 1 Euro/ a day for a person and the cost for everything even at discount stores, dollar stores and that faraway Asian market… I am doubtful to be able to make a working contribution.
    Living right behind one of the biggest steel plants I can’t even plant my own stuff without exchanging the soil each year, – how pathetic is that? Not much of a financial bargain to be made even by that… plus, our apples on our apple tree are said to be a health hazard, too lol

    Well, as you can see, I am already feeling the emotional toll of having to live on some €6.25 for 4 on a day, – which converted to dollars may sound like a comfortable sum ($8.21) but I have a faint notion that due to differences in the actual cost of food here might not be actually that much dollars… but I am on a quest and calculating and looking and thinking…

  42. Tofu Blogger

    in adding up my budget, (told you I’m terrible with math) I remembered that I’d actually added $15 a week in the middle of July – so it’s more like $70 a week, though I’m attempting to use more for bulk-buying – like 10 – 12$ a week so I can stock up on more non-perishables for winter when I don’t have so many fresh options.

    Anyway, thanks for the feedback. If I lived where tofu and coconut milk weren’t affordable, I wouldn’t buy them.
    I would use more beans, rice and grains. This is what works for ME. Look around and find what IS available cheaply in your area. Potatoes? Rice?

    Also, (and no one attack me for this) you need to make sure the basic nutritional needs of your family are being met. There ARE places in the world where it isn’t possible. Few and far between, but we can’t judge another’s circumstances.
    If the bare-bones basics of a HEALTHY vegan diet are REALLY not feasible on your budget, please take the health of your children into account and don’t be ashamed to supplement with eggs or milk until your budget allows. They aren’t vegan but they are cheap forms of nourishment and a better option than junk food.
    Don’t let anyone vegan-shame you into harming your children and their basic nutritional needs.

  43. Carolyn

    Tofu Blogger, it appears that geographic region has a whole lot to do with food prices. I have just noticed this year that soy milk prices are sometimes competitive with cow milk prices in national chains here (I’m in the Mid-Atlantic), and occasionally cheaper! Cheaper, I tell you! Plus I’m finding quarts of soy milk at the Dollar Store recently. That is such a rush, but I know it’s not true everywhere yet. Keep the faith, all- it will happen where you live, because the external costs of making plant milks are not anywhere near the external costs of making cow milk. Ditto for other non-animal foods.

  44. veggie

    You can get a lot of inexpensive spices and so forth at local Asian/Mexican grocery stores. (Ex. I bought a 2-cup container of cumin for $3 that has lasted me about 6 months +).

  45. sonia

    Hello! I just found your blog via someone else who was posting about this challenge! I would love to be included 🙂 I will set up a post about it tomorrow!

  46. sally

    Great idea. It’s ideas like this that will really change the world! Small steps add up to make big changes. I wish our government would realize some of this stuff, and do SOMETHING about it. Prevention is key.

  47. Jess

    I’m doing this challenge, but I’m going to do it for an entire month. Although this is probably about what I spend anyway, it’ll be kind of cool to keep track of it and see how it adds up.

    I think this is an excellent idea and it proves a very valuable point: you can eat healthy and live a cruelty-free diet on a very limited budget.

  48. Katy

    Some of us are vegan, although most of us are not, so the food (grilled eggplant, pasta salad, tossed salad) was mostly vegan.

    I kept having to remind myself when I thought, “How much did it cost? Oh wait, it was free.” And although this was in NYC, every populated area in the country has waste and things that can be salvaged.

  49. vegan girl

    I’m going to try this challenge for the rest of this month — basically because I need to. This is going to involve math, isn’t it? Sigh.

    I am probably going to cheat, I’ll admit that up front. I make my own almond milk in my very expensive blender and I intend to continue that (if I use almond milk, I’ve got almonds in the freezer already). If I do use it I will subtract the cost of the cheapest commercial almond milk I can find from the weekly total. (I’ll have to research this, I haven’t bought it in a long time.)

I went on a plant based diet after diabetes almost took my life. Now, almost 2 years later not only have I reduced my type 2 diabetes symptoms, I have lost close to 200 pounds (and still losing). This is a place where I write about my journey as I continue the quest for health, and living a good life for today, and long into the future. Get hold of me on

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