Tips from Janani

Vegan vs Non Vegan – An Affordability Standpoint

Hey, vegetarian carnivores! I’ve got a little story for you guys today, and it is a little different from what I usually do (post delicious and easy recipes!). But stay tuned, because I’ve got at least three new posts coming up, for my Autumn 2018 series 😉 Today I want to talk about one of the biggest factors that dissuade people from going vegetarian or vegan: affordability. We have already established that going vegetarian or vegan is a huge plus for animals’ rights, the environment, and our health. However, the affordability of switching to such a lifestyle still remains a hot topic of debate, so I decided to do a vegan vs non vegan analysis to assess the cost differences. I am interested to hear what you guys have to say after reading the rest of this article.

Paying attention

As you all know, I am vegetarian. However, I really enjoy eggs, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, and everything that falls under the dairy category. Lately, I have been making a conscious effort to reduce my dairy intake, not because I want to be vegan, but because I understand that the dairy industry is pretty terrible, and so I am trying to minimize my consumption. It has been going pretty well, but I have started paying a lot more attention to price labels than I was before.

I went to Whole Foods today (I know, the prices there are enough to give anyone a heart attack), but I was specifically seeking out vegan butter and other vegan “dairy” products. I want to give them a go and see just how good they taste and I may cut out regular butter and milk in the future. Whole Foods tends to carry specialty items that are not yet widely available at Target, Safeway, and other more affordable grocery stores, so I took my chances.

Eye opening

Sure enough, I found my vegan butter. I decided to do a little cost comparison to see just how wide the cost gap is. Regular butter sells for an average of $3 per pound. Earth Balance vegan butter sticks sells for $5 per pound at Whole Foods. Ok, so I did not expect to find lower prices for vegan versions, especially at Whole Foods, but I just wanted to see if prices could somewhat match. But no dice. Vegan butter lost the battle here.

Next up, plant based milk. Whole Foods has a whole section dedicated to dairy free milk and it is confusing and mind boggling. I ended up going with a pea milk that sold for $5 for 48 fl oz, or 10.41 cents per oz. Regular dairy milk retails for around $3.16 a gallon, or 2.4 cents per fl oz. Again, the vegan version is a lot more expensive.

Lastly, I want to talk about yogurt. As an Indian, yogurt is a huge part of my life – we put it on everything and eat it with almost every meal. I checked out the vegan yogurt selection, made from cashews or coconut or soy, at Whole Foods. It is a pretty impressive selection they have. I looked at Silk brand non-dairy yogurt and it was around $5 for 24 oz, or 17.85 cents per oz. I don’t really get picky when I buy my regular yogurt, but it comes out to about $3.50 for 32 oz, or 10.9 cents per oz.

To buy or not to buy?

I bought the vegan butter and the milk this time. Sure, they are more expensive, but let’s take a look at some other factors that surround the decision to buy or not to buy. For example, shelf life is a pretty big factor to take into consideration. That plant milk I bought is good until mid January 2019. That is a 2-month shelf life – way longer than any dairy version. If you don’t drink milk on the regular, like me, and still want to lean into plant milks, this would be a pretty solid investment. Of course, provided you like it! 😉

Same idea with the vegan butter – I don’t use butter regularly in my cooking and baking, so this would be a “once a month” or “every six weeks” type of investment, tops, for me personally. Not too shabby.

Going vegan is not hard

Going vegan is not difficult, especially today, during the start of the worldwide vegan/vegetarian revolution. More people in more countries than ever before are choosing vegetarian and plant based diets. And it is causing a major surge in companies funding research into the best and tastiest meatless replicas of traditional dishes.

However, the accessibility is still pretty limited. Target, I have found, is really hit or miss in terms of product availability and consistency. I know they carry the Silk brand non-dairy yogurt, but it is likely not available at every single location. Even the Safeway near my parents’ house does not have consistent inventory of the Beyond Burger, which I found once and then not again.

But I think we are getting there. Currently, the only place that I have found with a consistent and wide selection of these products is Whole Foods, which is probably able to keep prices ridiculously high because it is one of the few players in this market.

What’s the verdict?

Over the course of the next month, I am going to use the plant milk and vegan butter in a variety of my recipes and track how long it takes for me to go through them, as well as how comparable they are to the original kinds, in terms of taste, melt-ability, and versatility.

This is going to be my first time working with vegan butter and my first time using plant milk in recipes, as opposed to simply drinking it.

And now, like always, I want to hear from you guys! Vegan or not, who has cooked with dairy substitutes? What recipes are they good for and what would you like to see done here on the Vegetarian Carnivore? Leave me a comment below!

See you soon,

Janani <3 <3

 

 

 

 

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8 Comments

  1. Bhanu says:

    Would really love to go vegan. As you rightly said, the Indian diet is so heavily into yogurt and yogurt based recipes. Work in progress…

    1. I think it is all about awareness and getting creative with your food choices! And it is definitely not an overnight kind of thing… work in progress for sure!

  2. I am interested in your results comparing plant-based milk and Vegan butter.  I’ll be watching for your post.  I am not vegetarian, though I think I could give up most meats.  Red meat, certainly; chicken would be a bit harder; but being a long-time resident of coastal Alaska I just can’t give up my fish.  Your price comparison was interesting.  I suppose those items are higher priced because they aren’t yet sold in the volume as other goods.  That could change.  If you like the Vegan butter, I might try it, for sure.

    1. Janani says:

      Thanks, Fran! I definitely agree that surroundings and how we were raised plays a huge role in what we can and can’t easily give up. For me, it is definitely yogurt! Keep an eye out for my future articles where I will use these ingredients in recipes and report on the results!

  3. Marie says:

    I like your honesty in this post. I’m not strictly vegetarian, and I’m definitely not vegan, but I don’t eat very much meat. I agree with you, the dairy industry is pretty messed up. I like dairy products though, so instead of avoiding them I’ve started buying more local. There’s a coop near my house that sells a lot of local products, and I live in a more rural area so there are a lot of people who sell fresh eggs (which are always more delicious than store-bought!). And I try to stick with local dairies too, where you can see how the cattle are treated. It’s typically a bit more expensive than what you would get at a chain grocery store, but I’m willing to pay a little extra for that. I’m curious to see how you’re vegan butter baking goes though! I have a hard enough time baking with normal butter XD

    1. Janani says:

      Thank you for your comment Marie! I completely agree – if you can buy from local farms where you know that the animals are treated with respect, that is definitely a great option! I would be ok paying more too, for peace of mind 🙂 I hope to see you back here soon!

  4. Revathi BACSA says:

    For the non dairy milk I think the shelf life is long only as long as they are not opened isn’t it?

    1. It says 10 days after opening, but I have found that it stays tasty and good for up to 3 weeks! I am not sure why they market the shelf life as so short?

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