The Minted family has just completed what we called ‘Vegan Week’: a whole seven days of eating only plant-based meals. That meant no butter, no milk, no eggs or cheese as well as the obvious avoidance of meat and fish. Even certain types of chocolate were off the menu.
Two of us completed the week 100% plant-based. The others slipped the odd slice of chicken into the daily vegan family dinner. I discovered that, if you’re prepared to put the time in, vegan food can be absolutely delicious. I also found out that it can be incredibly expensive.
This doesn’t seem to add up because surely meat is more expensive than vegetables? Obviously if you live solely on pulses and tofu, your shopping bill will be cheaper. But if you want to keep some semblance of your former diet by replacing your animal-based products with plant substitutes, you’ll be spending a lot more.
I looked at shopping comparison website mySupermarket and Tesco last week and used their figures to compile the table below. I ignored any temporary special offers and picked more economic own brands. Even so, the results are surprising. Vegan sausages were 77% per more expensive than meat ones, vegan cheese was double the price of milk cheese and soy milk was a relative bargain being only 56% more than normal milk.
Why is this? One obvious reason is that veganism is very fashionable right now. Even the Minted family has copies of top-selling vegan cook books Bosh and Deliciously Ella. Perhaps food producers (not just Tesco) are jumping on the bandwagon and charging accordingly? Cheeky, especially when vegan cheese is not that nice. It’s fairly tasteless and melts into a strange, transparent goop. Top tip – use nutritional yeast flakes instead.
I firmly believe we should all be eating less meat, for health and environmental reasons. I also think the meat we do eat should be higher welfare, even if it means it has to cost more (see my blog here). These principles are sorely tested though when plant sausages are dearer than pork bangers.
Veganism is at least a choice. Pity those with allergies who must eat specialist food by necessity. If you’re looking for gluten-free toast, the Tesco Free From Fresh Brown Bread loaf (550g) is £2.10 or £3.82 a kilo. Compare that to the standard Tesco Wholemeal Bread (440g) at just 50p or £1.14 a kilo. Ouch.
Meat free versus plant-based Unit cost Per kilo or litre
Tesco Butcher's Choice Pork Sausages (8 per pack, 454g) £1.70 £3.74 per kg
Tesco Meat Free Lincolnshire Style Sausages (6 per pack, 264g) £1.75 £6.63 per kg
Difference is 77%.
Tesco British Medium Cheddar (460g) £2.60 £5.65 per kg
Tesco Free From Mature Cheddar Alternative (200g) £2.25 £11.30 per kg
Difference is 100%.
Tesco Whole Milk 2 Pints (1.14L) 80p 70.4p per litre
Tesco Unsweetened Fresh Soya Milk Alternative (1L) £1.10 £1.10 per litre
Difference is 56%.
Data accessed 25 September 2018. See our guide to saving on shopping here.