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The Vegan Project’s newest contributor, Jenny Duffy, discusses the cost of being vegan…

I am Cheap

I am an accountant and I like to pinch pennies. I am the person at the table calculating the exact tip. I know precisely where every dollar of my paycheque goes. I have an excel spreadsheet which tracks my spending and calculates my excess cashflow and ending bank balance on a daily basis. In the words of Snoop Dog, I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind.

My current weekly budget for food (pet and human), toiletries, gas, and entertainment is $240. So when I began to eat vegan, I could hear my wallet shriek in terror in anticipation of the beating it was about to receive.

Fatties Eat Cheap

Our society rewards unhealthy eating with ridiculously low prices. Starving? Got some pocket shrapnel? Go to McDonald’s for their Dollar Menu. Or try Burger King’s Value Menu. Both restaurants feature bargain basement prices for the factory killing floor food.

If you are eating in a restaurant and ask for the chicken or meat to be removed from a salad or pasta, you still have to pay full price. If you go to a fast food chain, the healthier menu items are about 400% higher in price, as a salad will run you at least $4.50, while a hamburger will cost just over a dollar. Bend over healthy eaters; Ronald is gonna work you over every time you pull up to the drive thru.

Eat in, Save Your Money!

If you eat at home and make your own food, your bankroll gets somewhat of a reprieve as store-bought food made with love is always cheaper than restaurant food. Why? That Cactus Club/Earls/Moxies/Joeys is sitting on prime real estate, and those space-aged toilets and 20 foot mirrors in the nightclub-slash-bathroom don’t come cheap. More importantly, they need to pay the 15 scantily clad hostesses at the front a decent living wage.

I’ll say it again: making your own food saves money.

All Grocers Are Not The Same

Of course, it depends on where you shop. If you are a Fancy Pants McGee and you shop at Urban Fare/Choices/Generic Overpriced Yuppie Food Retailer you can bend over again, for you are getting screwed. Organic apples don’t cost $4.99 a pound. The store is located in an area with excessive rent/lease costs, so these costs are built into the prices. Yaletown apples cost more than East Vancouver apples. And chances are they were grown within the same region, possibly by the same producers.

If you opt for a small Chinese/Korean/Japanese grocery store that stocks local organic produce grown in the Fraser Valley, or you shop in Superstore’s Organic Section, then you can save a lot of money. Local organic produce is a godsend that we as Vancouverites are uniquely blessed with.

In between these two extremes lie a wide range of shops that cater to vegetarians, vegans, organics (people who eat only organic. There was no term for this so I coined one. Yep, I’m that guy.) and other counter culture food-hipsters.

In the Boardroom

Ethical consumers represent a relatively untapped niche to corporate douche bags everywhere.  The vegan food market is relatively new when compared to the mature processed non-vegan food industry. If vegan eating follows the same arc as organic eating, there is a lot of money to be made by producing vegan food.

Vegans are a captive market because we have to seek out places that stock specialty items like tempeh or Daiya cheddar replacement. Additionally, we are willing to pay a higher price for these products because there aren’t many alternatives. There is no No-Name vegan beer sausage. If we find a producer that makes a product we like, we generally stick with it because there isn’t much competition.

I have a dream

I have a dream.  I dream of a time when vegan and vegetarian foods are popular enough that they are at the same price point as crap food. $0.99 for a bag of gourmet organic vegan popcorn? I hope I live to see the day.

Until that day comes, I’ve got to do some leg work and find places close to home that stock vegan products…

*Courtesy of Jenny Duffy

~The Vegan Project

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