One of the questions I’m constantly asked about my diet is how expensive it is. Today, I’ll address this question by breaking down what I eat, how and where I buy it and more.
Let me begin by saying that there are 3 main things that raise the $$ of food:
- Eating out frequently and eating processed foods
- Splurging on superfoods
- Eating all organic
I don’t think anything is wrong with either of those habits but we all have different reasons on why we would prefer to spend less. For some people, it is not an option, they just really cannot afford it. But most people claim that it’s not affordable to them while it really is.
Here’s how I eat wholesome vegan food without breaking the bank.
Pick your produce one vegetable at a time
I personally prefer to go to the farmers market and pick my vegetables. I pick food that is rich in color, for example, if I’m buying tomatoes, I’ll pick the reddest, most plump ones. Shopping that way means that most of the food I get is package-free and that I don’t end up with any bad produce. Less bad produce means less waste. Less waste means spending less money on food. If you can spend less money on food by adopting this technique then you can spend the same amount of money on organic produce (no waste) and non-organic (with lots of waste).
Since I eat 60% fresh vegetables, this accounts for the bigger chunk of my food budget.
Top tip: at my favorite market, the one at Nun Center, I start at Sara’s Organic Food and My Kitchen Garden, because most items are not packaged. I then make my way to Makar, Thai Farms and Tabi3y to buy whatever I couldn’t find at the first two vendors.
Grow your own
I don’t think I know of an easier crop to grow than arugula and its one of the healthiest. Most vegetables and herbs are extremely easy to grow and many can grow in pots. I would recommend you start with mint and arugula. Then add zucchini, eggplant and romaine lettuce. Tomatoes need a bit more work. Root vegetables need a bit more experience. Basil, oregano, rosemary and most herbs can grow in small pots. If you have a garden, I highly recommend investing in a mulberry tree. They grow very fast and produce insane amounts of fruit. Lemon trees, and citrus in general, are invaluable, especially since we use lemons every day.
There are endless resources online on how to grow your own food. I think this is a skill we should be taught in school but even if we’re not, it’s very easy to learn online and from experience. On the short run, it saves a lot of money. On the long run, it saves your life.
Buy local grains, buy nuts, seeds and legumes in bulk
We buy ridiculous amounts of brown rice and quinoa, which we can’t find unpackaged or in bulk, unfortunately. But we do buy the ones produced locally. I honestly cannot find a difference in quality that justifies the price difference or the extra CO2 emissions.
As for nuts, seeds and legumes, we buy those in bulk. It is definitely much cheaper to buy from the attar 2 kilos of whole flax seeds then to buy them packaged at a supermarket. Same goes for dried legumes and pulses. Why buy a can of chickpeas with added salt and sugar and packaged in a can while you can buy them dried, in bulk, for much cheaper?
Grains, nuts, seeds and legumes account for about 25% of my diet.
We make our own nut milks, we cook our own legumes and pulses, as previously mentioned and I even tried making tofu. Here’s the thing about making your own food from scratch, it’s a relationship. It’s a give and take. It’s an exchange. You give your food love and in return, it gives you a lot more than energy, it becomes supercharged with good stuff and nourishes you from within. Now, that’s not exactly science so you don’t have to believe me but you can try it for yourself.
I understand that it is time-consuming, I can’t pretend like it’s not. But being organized is key here. For example, I soak my chickpeas overnight and then boil them in the morning while I’m practicing yoga or even if I’m working from home. If you can’t do that, try switching this out by soaking the chickpeas before you leave to work and then boiling them as soon as you’re home, as you shower or make dinner or watch a movie. The point here is that it works, it’s cheaper, it’s healthier and it’s over all kinder to you, your wallet and the environment.
Avoid processed foods
The number one reason I try to avoid packaged food is because they’re mostly processed with palm oil, an ingredient I avoid at all costs. This isn’t one of the items I allow myself every once in a while, or anything of that sort. It is not a joke. Palm oil is an environmental disaster to produce and I will never, knowingly, pay for that.
Back in the day, I used to walk into a supermarket and buy snacks for hundreds of pounds. This wasn’t a daily habit but it really adds up. This habit is now replaced with splurging on artisanal vegan foods or sweeteners; items like maple syrup or matcha tea.
Now, believe me when I say I splurge big time. But I’m also extremely smart about it so here are some examples.
I love berries, but why buy fresh if the frozen is riper and is much cheaper? Both are packaged anyway so the best deal is to buy frozen.
I prefer hass avocadoes but they’re only in season for about one month of the entire year. During that month, I eat a ridiculous number of avocadoes. For the rest of the year, I think I eat an avocado once every two weeks. I know that when I buy other varieties, I waste a lot so why bother?
I know that the cleanest brand of coconut milk is available for much cheaper at a small shop in an area I almost never go to. So instead of buying it whenever I need it, I go once and buy a few.
When traveling somewhere I can get a good deal, I allow myself to go all out. For example, I discovered that I can buy a kilo of coconut sugar in Germany for 9 euros. How’s that for a deal?
I also buy maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar and other expensive items but if I also know that consuming lots of those means that I’m not getting enough fresh produce. I now eat pancakes or waffles with maple syrup once or twice a month, which means I go through 150 EGP worth of maple syrup in about 4 months. Now, is that really expensive?
In a way, we’re lucky the vegan industry isn’t thriving yet in Cairo
When I’m in Germany, I buy all sorts of vegan chocolate bars, donuts and pizzas. Because plant-based milk in available everywhere, I have too many cappuccinos. In Cairo, the options are much limited, which means I mostly eat my fresh produce at home. Needless to say, I eat more at home when I’m in Egypt than Germany. And even though vegan food in restaurants in picking up in Cairo, I still make sure I eat out less to benefit from all the points I mentioned before.
I hope this essay answer the question of whether or not a vegan diet is expensive. I would love to hear from you if you have any other opinion on the topic. I’m also very interested in discussing the topic of the real value of food, so stay tuned for that!