There are many myths about veganism, both about the cost and about whether or not is healthy. Some claim that it is so expensive that one has to be very wealthy to be able to afford the groceries required to stay full. Is it possible to buy expensive vegan food? Yes, of course it is. There are expensive alternatives to virtually any diet. But does it have to be expensive? No, not at all. Some also claim that veganism is bad for your health, that vegans have a ton of deficiencies and have completely ruined immune systems so they get sick all the time. This is nothing but hogwash.
With any diet, it is possible to get deficiencies if you care not one inkling about the nutritional value of what you eat. The so called vegans that these people refer to are also the ones who are vegan but not interested in nutrition or cooking and get by on nothing but junk food such as french fries and vegan sweets. Of course they'd get deficiencies eating like that for longer periods of time. It has, however, nothing to do with veganism.
I have been a vegan for several years and I have never had any deficiencies. I have, however, become healthier, happier and stronger. I sleep better, I have more energy and I can focus much more easily than before.
Being a vegan is only as difficult as you make it. It doesn't have to be difficult at all, nor does it have to be expensive. It is in fact very possible to maintain a healthy vegan diet on a bare minimum budget and it is also very possible to get a lot of vegan food for free. Yes, I said for free. I'll explain in a bit.
If you want to be a healthy vegan and eat food with good nutritional value, and don't want to or can spend that much money, I recommend that you first create a pantry. You don't have to fill it all in one go; you can do it gradually, but keeping a pantry will significantly lower your food costs.
The first staple for your pantry would be protein. Stock up on organic beans such as soybeans, adzuki beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans (if you aren't allergic) as well as lentils, nuts and seeds. Get them in bulk and store them well. They will last you a long time and there are no limits to what you can do with them. If you like baking, I'd also recommend stocking up on black beans, as they are excellent for baking brownies, Soybeans can be used for soymilk, tofu, tempeh and a variety of other soybased products that can be very expensive to purchase pre-made.
The second staple would be carbs. If you can grow your own potatoes and sweet potatoes (all you need is a bag, soil, sunlight, water and potatoes), I'd definitely recommend doing so, but if you don't, keep a good amount of organic sweet potatoes and regular potatoes in your pantry. Store them cold so that they do not sprout and if they do, either cut the sprouts of and cook the potatoes, or keep the sprouted ones for planting. Brown rice is also fairly cheap to stock up on and is stored similarly to the beans.
Oats are excellent for oat milk, flour and oatmeal and they can also be used as thickening in smoothies.
Make sure you have basic spices, olive oil, coconut oil and miso in your pantry. Garlic, black and white pepper, Himalayan salt, cayenne, chilli are good basics for cooking and cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric are good for smoothies and raw dishes.
If you are very much into baking, look for organic cocoa powder, cocoa beans or cocoa nibs.
Baking soda is a real staple as it can be used for baking as well as cleaning and hygiene products. Epsom salt is also good to have at home.
Now then, on to the "free" part of this article.
Mushrooms - Find out what mushrooms are safe to pick and which ones to watch out for and learn how to clean and dehydrate them. If you know where to look, you could easily pick enough for the whole year. You can also grow mushrooms at home quite easily. All you need is spores and either coffee grounds or sawdust. Some require a log as well.
Apples - Apples grow wild a bit all over the place in nature: in the woods, in parks - wherever they please. You could easily pick yourself bags full of them and use them to make apple rings, apple sauce (to be used as sweetener in baking or egg replacement), or to make pies or juices.
Berries - There are so many berries growing in nature that you can forage, but you must be absolutely sure which one it is you are foraging. Guessing won't do. Two may be look the same while one is the one you want and the other will poison you. So first, learn from someone who knows. With the berries you can make jam, flavoured alcohol, natural medicine, tea, ointments and more.
Acorns - Acorns, which are so readily available here, are very useful in the kitchen. To Native Indians it was a real food staple, similar to corn and beans, and in Japan, during World War II, they were used to supplement rice. They are often compared to chestnuts and hazelnuts. Don't pick the ones without caps or the ones with big caps. There's a process to preparing them safely, which you can read about here, and then they can be used to make flour, oil, granola and more.
Vegetables - Many farms cannot pick or use all that they grow and to reduce food waste, they will then allow people of the public to come there and pick as much as they can carry. This may involve anything from tomatoes to pumpkins and it is a great way to store up greens for winter, for pickling and for making kimchi and sauerkraut.
Fruit - Many households have fruit trees and a lot of those people either have no interest in picking the fruit, no time to or aren't able to physically. If you ask nicely, you will almost always get a yes and be allowed to pick as much as you can carry, for free. However, I do recommend that you ask if you should pick some for them too, or perhaps if they want some of whatever it is you'll use the fruit to make - be it pie or fruit leather. Sharing is caring. It is a kind gesture and a symbol of gratitude. By getting your fruit this way, you are helping someone out, you lower (eliminate) your costs, you lower food waste and you could get peaches, pears, apples, dates, plums, cherries and more for free for your family and for your pantry.
Plants - While it is impossible to mention all the plants out there, there are a lot of great plants that you can pick in nature and use for anything from food to hygiene products to medicine. Many roots also have medicinal purposes and can be used for tea. Dandelion leaves and nettles, to mention a few.
Seeds - When you clear the seeds from your pumpkin or squash, keep them and roast them with herbs and spices. It makes a great protein snack. Watermelon seeds also have a long list of health benefits, as do some fruit seeds. Other seeds can be kept for your garden.
If you know someone who grows their own vegetables, fruits or beans perhaps, see if they are up for a trade. Perhaps you have something you make by hand, a service your job provides, or perhaps there is something in your home that you've been meaning to sell or give away? Trade it for food instead. It's a win win.
While I myself have not tried this, there are people who use dumpster diving as a way to limit the amount of food that gets tossed out by society, and to get food for free. There are an incredible (not in a good way) amount f food that is perfectly good, being tossed out every single day. I am not sure if dumpster diving is altogether legal but I for one am for it. In today's society we are also taught again and again that right and legal does not always go hand in hand. Food should not be wasted and if there are people willing to take the time to go through the food that is, why not let them?
If you want to make your purchases for your pantry cheaper still, do your research before making the purchases and use discounts and coupons. You can save a ton of money that way.
There you have it. As you can see, there are a lot of ways to get vegan food for free, and for very little money. If you take the time to learn about the medicinal value of certain herbs and plants, you can also create a homeopathic medicine pantry for free, that will limit your hospital and medicine costs and improve your health further.
Health is wealth!