Eating Vegan on a Kasi Budget:
11 Simple Ways to Save Money on a Plant-Based Diet

By: Shaiyah Luthuli

If you saw this episode of Daily Thetha about the Vegan Lifestyle, you can’t help but notice that one of the biggest concerns pertaining to eating vegan in the townships and rural areas is the price associated with vegan food. Many people are convinced that it is expensive and that “it is only for the rich and privileged,” said one of the studio audience members. This is far from the truth.

This perception comes from the fact that many people today think food grows on supermarket shelves. Therefore, when you say “food” many think “supermarkets.” We are so overly dependent on what is called “convenience” food so much so that we have lost basic knowledge of what real food is.

Corporations (supermarkets) are taking advantage of that, selling, selling, selling for profit, profit, profit! That fam, is not what we are referring to by “vegan food.” All of the nicely packaged “vegan foods” stocked up on supermarket shelves are what propel the notion that eating vegan is expensive.

What is vegan food? Real vegan food is fruits, vegetables, legumes, herbs and wholegrains. Those are NOT expensive at all in comparison to meat. Okay, to be fair and real, in some supermarkets these can come expensive. But, if you have these tried and proven keys, you will not suffer. That’s why I’ve written this article – to share with you how my family keeps it affordable all the time, on a kasi budget.


1. Buy in Bulk
Everybody knows, buying in bulk saves money! You don’t have to buy certain foods weekly. You can buy in bulk to stretch for one to three months maximum. Various types of legumes (such as beans, peas and lentils) and grains (such as rice, barley, oats, and mealie meal) can be bought in bulk. They are cheaper and naturally have a long shelf life.

In my early days, I used to buy a 500g packet of lentils at the supermarket for R17-R20. Now I buy 2kg for R24 at the Indian wholesaler and/or spice shops (of course, we have plenty in Durban lol). They have more variety (green, black, brown, orange) and the quality is great, at the cheapest prices.


vegan cheese

Me (Shaiyah) after I had successfully made vegan cheese for the first time.

2. DIY (Do It Yourself)
When I changed my diet, I was very lucky to discover early that you can make many foods from scratch! Foods like cheese, plant milks, ice cream, salad dressings, drinks, chips, muesli, granola and so many other foods. Honestly, as a meat eater I never knew that I could make this stuff myself. I was satisfied with packaged, ready-for-me foods. So, the thought of crafting and creating them never came to mind.

This cheese was made using soya milk as the main ingredient. It was grateable and meltable so we used it to make pizza. It was yummy!

I think it’s great that some of these things are now available in stores in veganised versions. However, some of them are still expensive. If you’re on a Kasi budget, that can be discouraging.

I can hear the voice right now “vegan food is expensive!” Snap out of it and join me in thanking God for all the bloggers, vloggers and foodies who’ve shared and motivated the idea of making our own foods from scratch. It’s economic and healthier too.


3. Grow Your Own
Guys, food doesn’t grow in supermarkets! We don’t have to buy everything. My family and I recently started our own urban garden because we were feeling this “buying everything” strain financially. I literally wanted to hang myself whenever I had to buy a small bunch of parsley for R10. R10! really? We use herbs a lot in our food preparation. So, that’s many R10 notes going. Whereas we could just start a small garden. So, we did it! It’s really not difficult to start and maintain at all.

Also, with the foods that we’re already eating and buying, it’s easy to regrow them using parts of the plant that we would normally throw away. Here’s an article that my sister sent me on how we can regrow our foods from our unused kitchen “scraps.”

Urban Gardening can be done anywhere (photo: Bongani Msomi)


4. Take Advantage of Specials/Bargains

Because we still buy most things at the supermarkets, another way to save money is to take advantage of the discount specials. Check pamphlets and flyers for any specials that are running. Many vegan foods are for sale these days. Supermarkets are trying to meet the increasing demand for plant-based diet products. Their “healthy living” specials can have nice bargains. Also, many supermarkets have “Market Days” for fruits and vegetables on low prices. So, it’s good to keep a look out for those.

Make use of fruit and vegetable combos. These usually combine large packet sizes of potatoes, onions, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, butternuts and carrots or sacks and packets of in-season fruits. Sizes vary from store to store. They normally do a combination of 4/5 items for a certain price. Those can usually stretch from two weeks to a month, depending on how often you use them and their shelf life (tomatoes won’t last that long). Fruit and vegetable combos are money-savers, as these items cost more when bought individually.

Buying more for less at bargain prices


5. Sign up for Benefits Cards

Almost all shops have membership cards that help you get discount deals and points that you can use to buy at a later stage. I know, I know, men generally don’t like having too many cards in their wallets. But ladies don’t mind (okay some do but they have them anyway). If you’re looking to save, gents, you shouldn’t too, because these can be helpful.

Even though you won’t be buying much of your food from these shops, at least accumulate some points and get discounts for what you DO buy there.


6. Make Use of Coupons

Some club magazines and newspapers have sections for coupons that you can cut off and use to get discounts on certain food items at some shops. Oh, you didn’t know? Well, now you know. They do this when you are signed up for their membership cards. Be sure to look out for expiry dates and use them before they expire. We’re never too cool to use coupons. You’re not too fancy to do that either now… are you?


7. Where You Buy is Important

Like I said earlier, food doesn’t grow on supermarket shelves. I would like to add on that by saying supermarkets or major retail stores are not the best place to buy affordable food. For example, spices, seasoning and legumes with fancy packages are two to three times more expensive than those that you would buy in Indian and Asian shops.

Products like tofu, rice paper, dry bean curd, soy sauce and the likes are much cheaper at Asian shops as compared to health shops and other supermarkets that stock them. So, this is just a game of knowing what to buy and where to buy to help stretch your money and make it work for you.

Local vendors sell vegetables and fruits at affordable prices

Also, there are local fresh produce markets that you can buy fruits and vegetables from. For example, in Durban Central there are many street vendors that sell fresh fruits and vegetables for good prices. I usually get 5 fresh and organic lemons for R10. Whereas, if I am away from Durban Central town and I really need to use a lemon I buy one lemon at a supermarket which usually costs R12 or more. At this point I usually just want to faint, but I must keep it together because I need them lemons… sigh…

I also usually get fresh robot peppers (green, yellow and red) for R15. R20 is the largest amount that I’ve ever had to spend buying from a street vendor for robot peppers. Whereas, at major supermarkets they start from R35 up. Oh dear, I can’t. I know you catch my drift right here.

Lesson learned: support local vendors and local farmers so they can make money to feed themselves and save you some money too.


8. Prepare More Meals at Home (Minimise Eating Out)

Let’s face it, we all love going out and eating a meal that we didn’t have to prepare ourselves occasionally. And that’s okay. It’s perfectly normal, OCCASSIONALLY. Let’s not make it our daily bread. Eating out at restaurants is very costly, especially for vegans, where you must add an extra R20 for vegan cheese on pizza.

You don’t want to spend R150 on a single meal too often. R150 could equate to a R100 vegetable combo and R50 fruit combo that may last you 2 weeks. So, you really want to minimise buying out especially if it’s unplanned or unbudgeted. You plan for that kind of stuff.


9. Eat In-Season
Stop eating avocados in Summer if you live in South Africa! It’s R20 for a golf ball size avocado. Why do you think that is? It’s out of season and hard to find. Supermarkets have imported it from other parts of the world for your convenience and they are charging you for all their costs. Eating foods in season is cheaper, more nutritious and they are much tastier.


10. Plan Your Menu

This may well be one of the most important things you can do to help you save money and time. Planning your meals helps you to know what to buy and make a proper budget. Normally, people plan on a weekly basis and that saves you the stress of having to think everyday about what you are going to prepare, which can take some time.

When you have planned your meals, you will have a list of all the things you need to prepare that meal. This way when you get home, you start preparing knowing you have everything you need. Instead of being unprepared then you order in pizza or grab a burger across the road.

It also helps you to stay on a healthy path and not find yourself buying junk at work or at school, because you didn’t have food prepeared. Keep this saying in mind… “failing to plan is planning to fail.


11. Don’t Try to Imitate Youtubers/Instagram Vloggers

Vloggers on Instagram and YouTube are awesome, no doubt! I love them. However, most of them are not as authentic as you would think. Because they’re making daily videos, they need to keep their videos interesting. So, they keep trying out all kinds of products and recommending this and that- sometimes due to sponsorships.

It’s possible that that’s how some live (if they can afford buying all that stuff daily), and they haven’t really figured some things out on how they can make eating vegan simple and affordable at home. They usually use unnecessarily expensive packaged brands to make their recipes, whereas there are some vegans who know the hacks.

If you must look for inspiration online, browse our recipes for simple, tasty and inexpensive recipes. Also try to look for meals that you can do on a budget or blogs that are dedicated to simplifying this lifestyle. Trust me, it’s best to stick to your budget and be as basic as you can be. It’s healthy for your mind, health and wallet

In conclusion, vegan hip hop artist, health and fitness enthusiast Stickman of Dead Prez advises that: “The bottom line always remember, we can pay now or pay later (in suffering and doctor bills etc) when it comes to our dietary discipline and choices.” Some things are just expensive – vegan or not. Next time someone tells you that vegan food is expensive, just use tips from this post to advise them how they can make it affordable.


Was this post helpful? Drop a comment and let me know. Also, what advice can you give for eating vegan and healthy meals on a tight budget? Let’s engage on the comment section below or on our social media pages!

About Shaiyah

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Vegan eKasi is a movement that aims to increase awareness about the benefits of a plant-based diet and healthy living in Black townships and disadvantaged communities in South Africa. This website is dedicated to inspiring, encouraging and assisting people eKasi to adopt and maintain a healthy vegan lifestyle in the simplest, cost effective and delicious way possible.. .
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