Since I’ve begun telling people I’m vegan, aside from the obvious ‘What do you eat?’ question the thing I’m most frequently asked is ‘How do you afford that on a student budget?’. It’s not a surprise after all, when a small block of red Leicester style ‘Gary’ (a joke name for vegan cheese) will set you back £5.99 in a run of the mill health food shop. So it’s true, if you rely on ‘fake’ or substitute versions of meat and dairy a vegan diet could take a serious chunk of your student loan.
However, many students opt for a vegan lifestyle for various ethical and environmental reasons. In fact, the University of Leicester recently got a Vegan and Vegetarian Society. This, coupled with the fact that many candidates in the recent sabbatical officer elections promised an increased range of vegan and vegetarian food on campus demonstrates the popularity of veganism at the University of Leicester. With that in mind, I thought I’d write a post about how I manage to live a vegan lifestyle on a student budget.
The easiest way to make your weekly food budget last is to buy staples such as spices, rice, lentils, canned beans, and other pulses and grains in bulk. They’re cheap, keep forever, and having a cupboard full of them will mean you never go hungry even when you’re nearing the dregs of your student loan. I can easily do a grocery shop for two weeks for £26 (including delivery) and have varied meals such as three bean chilli, chickpea curry, and tofu scramble. I’ve found the main expense when you first go vegan is adding specialised ingredients such as black salt, nutritional yeast, and chickpea flour to your cupboard. Once you have these though, you can eat a nutritious and cheap diet included a wide variety of grains, pulses, fruits, and vegetables. You can even stock up on cheap supermarket own brand UHT soymilk to avoid the inflated prices for the branded products in corner shops. Tesco Everyday Value Garlic Bread is vegan and only 32p!
In days gone by, vegan options in restaurants were few and far between and probably cost the Earth. However, I’ve found that I can keep eating out with my friends. Trusty student favourites Weatherspoon’s and McDonalds’ are still on the menu (so long as you ask for the veggie burger in McDonalds’ without the sauce) and many chains now have vegan options that are included in student discount deals such as Zizzis’, Wagamama, and Handmade Burger Company. Leicester’s very own Peter Pizza does a fantastic vegan pizza for only £5.50 (which you can also get gluten free for no extra cost) and in joyous news for hungover vegans everywhere Jones Café Bistro on Queens Road has added vegan brunch to their menu. Although even cheeseless Pizza Hut and Dominos are a no go (there’s whey powder in the bases of both) you can even get pizza with your housemates from Papa Johns’.
Cosmetics and Toiletries
Veganism is more than just a diet, and another challenge we face is finding cosmetics and toiletries that are both free of animal products and cruelty free. Finding vegan products can be a minefield, and some products with the leaping bunny symbol (meaning it was not tested on animals) contain animal based ingredients. Couple this with the fact that many products that are actually vegan are not labelled as such, and it seems that keeping on top of hygiene might be difficult.
Luckily for those on a budget, it is very easy to find vegan products in supermarkets and high street retailers. Most, if not all, Superdrug own brand products are vegan and Original Source also make fantastic shower gels that are clearly labelled vegan. I’m still using the last of my non-vegan products and am replacing things like lipsticks, foundation, and moisturiser as I run out but it’s not been difficult to find wallet friendly vegan health and beauty products.