All Ages: Young, vegan, and broke?

Maja Skilling shares her tips for surviving and thriving as a young vegan uni student on a budget.

Growing up as a vegan, one thing I have always been asked is: “isn’t it expensive to be a vegan?” It’s a question that has always confused me. Now that I’m older and doing my own shopping, I realise that veganism, like any way of eating, can be done expensively or on a budget, depending on the types of food you choose to buy. I’ve been vegan for six years now and over that time I have replaced the meat, dairy, and eggs that were previously in my diet with food that is nourishing, tasty, and incredibly inexpensive. It’s all the more important for me to save money now I’m at university and living on a tighter budget, but I have picked up tips and tricks that have served me well and my diet causes no issues financially! I’m going to take a look at what I eat as a university student and vegan and share some of my top tips. 

Bulk up

One thing I was taught by my very economical mother was to always buy in bulk. Stores such as Bin Inn and The Source bulk food stores are my go-tos. As a vegan, eating nuts, grains, and dried fruit is of key importance, and buying in bulk is a great way to keep the price of all this down. It’s also good for the environment, which is very important to me and most vegans. I take plastic containers with me which I fill with everything I need, and reuse them once I have finished what’s inside. You can typically buy flour, spices and herbs, wholegrains, dried fruit and snacks items, cereals, and of course nuts and seeds at bulk bin stores. 


A few Christmases ago, I saw a recipe online for making nut butter. I had a go, and ever since have been hooked! It’s incredibly easy and, in my opinion, tasted far better than what you can buy in the shops. To make it: 

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. 
  • Spread three cups of nuts (I use almonds, but you can use any of your choice) across a rimmed baking tray, and toast the nuts, stirring midway through. 
  • Put the roasted nuts in a food processor and blend until creamy. 

It may take some patience, but it’s all worth it for the lusciously creamy and decadent nut butter that is produced at the end. I like to add in a good pinch of salt, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla to give it some extra flavour. After these have been added in, I blend for a couple more minutes, leave the mixture to cool to room temperature, then transfer the mixture to a jar where it will keep for around two weeks. I find this a cheaper alternative to store-bought nut butter, especially if using nuts bought in bulk. 


Out and About

With university, a part time job, and extracurricular activities on top of that, I’m out a lot and often find myself getting my meals on the go. One thing I have noticed more and more is that fast food chains providing vegan options has become the status quo. Burger King offers the Rebel Whopper burger, Pizza Hut and Dominos now offer fully vegan pizza with vegan cheese, and Lord of the Fries boasts a fully plant-based fast food menu. My personal favourite choice when I’m out is St Pierres. I’ve recently become a fan of their Sunfed chicken range, which they offer in a sushi roll (Sunfed chicken and vegetable sushi) and my personal favourite: Sunfed teriyaki chicken on rice. They even offer this with vegan mayonnaise! It has become my go-to whenever I’m out. The Sunfed chicken on rice is only $7.60, making it a cheap yet substantial and very tasty food option. 


One thing I tend to do, especially in a busy week when I need to save time, is cook up a big dinner mixture on Sunday night that can be modified and served with different ingredients throughout the week so that my week’s dinners are easily sorted. What I usually do is fry up onions and garlic with some vegetables such as capsicum and mushrooms, and add in a few cans of tomatoes, as well as legumes and grains, such as lentils or quinoa. This can be the basis for a nacho mixture if you simply add kidney or chilli beans and serve with corn chips and salsa, or tortillas, or the filling for tacos. You could also serve it with spaghetti as a Bolognese sauce or the filling of a lasagne. The lentils and quinoa in the mixture are great sources of protein. I like to make it and then freeze it so that it keeps.



Grow Your Own

Having a small garden is definitely a good idea. I, like most students, would find myself far too time poor for any major operation, but a small windowsill herb garden certainly goes a long way. I use herbs such as coriander, parsley, thyme, and basil in many of the meals I cook, and it adds up financially when you need to buy them on a weekly basis. It is obviously better for the environment to have your own garden, as store-bought herbs tend to come in plastic containers which then have to be disposed of. 


Personally, I’ve never found being vegan an expensive way to live. I put that down to the fact that I have picked up many tips and tricks during my time being vegan. I hope some of these help you, especially those of you who are teenagers and students, and living in a time where everything has become rather expensive! I feel very lucky to be living in an age where there is so much choice, and so much awareness about veganism which is something that’s only going to grow. 


Aotearoa Vegan and Plant Based Living Magazine
This article was sourced from the Summer 2023 edition of The Vegan Society magazine.
Order your own current copy in print or pdf or browse past editions.

The articles we present in our magazine and blog have been written by many authors and are are not necessarily the views and policies of the Vegan Society.

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