Written by Scott McCredie. Article via VegMichigan

Going vegan is a great way to keep your food budget under control, especially if you take advantage of inexpensive beans and buy whole grains and produce in bulk. Remarkably, these foods are also the most health promoting so they not only benefit your grocery bill, but can lower your healthcare expenses as well. 

In a world of $1 double cheeseburgers, it's no wonder that many people suspect that a vegetarian diet is more expensive than one that includes meat. But that's generally not true. And though it's difficult to tally the savings of illnesses or diseases avoided with a plant-based diet, the financial worth of good health is unquestionable.

  • Veganism could extend your life by several years, as well as lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and dementia. It's better for the planet, reducing water usage, and global warming gasses. And it certainly alleviates the suffering of the cow or pig you would have devoured.

Basics are easy on the wallet

Most of the staples of a vegan diet are cheap. In fact, most of the world's people eat a mostly vegetarian diet made up of inexpensive commodities such as beans, rice, and corn.

If you drop red meat, poultry, and fish from your diet, you'll find plant proteins cheaper than the equivalent amount of animal protein. The cheapest cuts of beef (such as ground round) average $3 per pound in US cities (lean and extra lean); boneless chicken breasts cost $3.40 a pound and canned tuna is about $2 per pound.

Contrast that with dried beans and lentils at less than $1 a pound and rice well below $1 per pound (Although, Whole Foods offer expensive wild rice at $6.99 a pound, it also has basic brown rice for 69 cents per pound. And though pine nuts are exorbitant, you can get sunflower seeds, with nearly the same amount of protein, at a fraction of the price). 

Even tofu, the chicken of the vegetarian world, is usually well under $2 a pound. But when you try to dress up plants as meat, costs skyrocket. Soy hot dogs, for example, cost $5 a pound. Meat substitutes can be an occasional treat or prepared for special occasions.

Fresh, canned, frozen, or organic

Produce is a little trickier to compare, largely because vegetarians consume a much greater volume. Most Americans now eat only three servings a day, on average, compared with the seven to nine servings recommended for optimum health. 

The prices of fruits and vegetables vary widely with the season and source. Locally grown fruits and vegetables are sometimes cheaper than those imported from far away and can be much cheaper in the Summer when there's an abundance. Of course, canned and frozen varieties are available year-round. 

If you take the plunge into organics, the price may double or triple compared with nonorganic produce. Why does organic produce cost so much more? The answer is that organic fruits and veggies are usually not grown on an industrial scale, so efficiencies aren't as great. There are also significant costs involved in switching farmland from non-organic to organic status. And there's a lot more manual labor involved, such as weeding by hand.

A vegan lifestyle is less expensive in other areas, too!

Vegans also avoid wearing animal products. Eliminating the use of costly items such as leather, wool, fur, pearls, cashmere, etc. will make your budget (and the animals) very happy. You can find fabulous faux alternatives to all of these products at a far lower price tag. 

A payoff in better health

A vegan diet reduces the risk of chronic disease and reduced healthcare costs compared with someone who eats a typical American diet.

"Years of poor nutritional habits can lead to chronic disease," said Ryan Andrews, a dietician and exercise physiologist with the John Hopkins Management Center in Baltimore. "These chronic diseases can have tremendous costs leading into old age. A bypass surgery of angioplasty procedure can cost nearly $60,000.

For assistance in getting started on this low cost, healthy lifestyle, pick up a copy of one of these books: Eat Vegan on $4 a day by Ellen Jaffe Jones and Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson. These books share tips and tricks, as well as menu planning and delicious recipes.

In the long run, no matter how much you spend on a vegan diet, you'll likely see a payoff in better health, lower medical expenses, and clothing expenses.