Veganuary: What did it cost you?

By Beth Timmins and Joe Whitwell
BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

As more and more people took up a vegan lifestyle last month, for the challenge dubbed "Veganuary", we ask: can you save money by going vegan?

Right now, interest in veganism is on the up, with the number of people in the UK following a plant-based diet having risen 340% in the last decade, according to market research firm Mintel.

In budget-conscious January, along with health, environmental and animal welfare concerns, a further reason some try to cut animal products from their diets is to save money.

However, does that always end up being the case?

Conor Carey, living in Barcelona, told the BBC that for the first 10 days of January this year he tried to go vegan but actually found he was spending more money.

"To be vegan, it helps to be rich. If you open any vegan cookbook you come across all these expensive ingredients.

"Pine nuts are crazy. They're the most expensive. There is nothing cheap about them."

According to new research shared with the BBC, Mr Carey may have found his costs went up because he was vegetarian before he tried veganism.

Financial advice company Cleo found that, after three months on the diet, meat eaters who go vegan end up spending £21 less per month on eating out and groceries.

However, vegetarians who opted to go vegan ended up spending £11 more per month.

Mr Carey suggests the findings are pretty spot on. "Protein [from meat] used to be most expensive element of my food, followed by cheese, and when you replace them with raw vegetables you save loads.

"But when I went vegan I was cutting out the dairy from my already quite vegetarian diet, and I could see vegan alternatives would have been more expensive."

Image source, Rachel Tranter
Image caption,
Rachel Tranter with a bowl of vegan pasta

According to Cleo, it is difficult to say for sure whether people save money in January because they have changed their diet as many people are tightening their belts anyway.

However, Rachel Tranter from Abingdon told the BBC: "I didn't do Veganuary to save money, but it's nice to look back and see that it has actually saved me money too."

A former meat eater, she found the higher cost of buying vegan food when she was out was outweighed by cooking more cheaply in the evenings.

"I've also been cooking from scratch more than I ever have before, planning meals ahead and knowing more about my nutritional intake than previously. I feel better in myself and have even learned how to cook yummy vegan cake!"

Rachel hopes that she will save more money when some of the purchases she made in January start to pay off throughout the year.

"I spent £3 on a big tub of nutritional yeast, which I haven't used yet - but I plan to! I've topped up on lots of herbs and spices, but I would have used these anyway and they last ages," she explains.

Media caption,
Lily Bell lives in the Philippines and described her experience of "Veganuary"

Lily Bell, who lives in the Philippines, also found there were initial costs when she changed diet.

"I have also probably spent about £50 on novel items - things like vegan cheeses from a market stall I found, frozen jackfruit from a very cool wholefoods shop that has just opened near me, vegan chocolate cake from Starbucks which is like £2.50 a slice."

She too intends to maintain her new diet beyond January.

The demand for vegan foods is on the rise across the world, with the global meat substitute market expected to reach £6.5bn ($7.5 billion) by 2025, according to a study by Allied Market Research.

Riham Samir, a 28-year-old engineer from Cairo, chose to go vegan for health reasons, despite it being an unfamiliar lifestyle in Egypt.

"I didn't know what the word vegan was until a year ago. People thought I was crazy.

Image source, Riham Samir
Image caption,
Riham Samir from Cairo first heard of veganism last year

"There's no tofu and almond milk here and meat alternatives are not found easily, so I've been finding the ingredients like shredded coconut to make milk at home which has been much cheaper."

She also found herself cooking more at home which took more time but saved her money.

Makanka Mulenga, who lives in Sheffield, has also seen cost savings by trying veganism.

"You spend less if you buy pulses, beans and legumes - about a £30-40 reduction over the month," she says.

"I will be continuing because I feel the health benefits, in that I have clearer skin and raised energy levels. I thought it might be difficult when going out for something to eat but there are so many vegan options."

According to a survey by the Veganuary campaign group last year, 62% of respondents said they intended to continue a vegan diet after January.

While some found the resolution costlier than expected Lily, like Riham, says it's changed her lifestyle for the better.

"I'm definitely going to carry on with my veganism into February. It's better for my health, better for the planet and the animals and I'm saving money, so what's not to love?"