Some might find inspiration in celebrities of all kinds: professional athletes, musicians, and actors. However, I often cringe when I find a celebrity has publicly announced their decision to go vegan. Not because going vegan is a bad thing (it should be obvious I don’t think that veganism is a bad thing) but because I fear it furthers the perception that it’s difficult and expensive to be vegan. It’s great that these celebrities are people with a big audience and that they bring awareness to populations they perhaps wouldn’t know anything about veganism. Unfortunately, it can also give people the impression that a vegan diet is extreme and that only people like Oprah or JayZ can be plant-based because they have the money to hire personal chefs and shop at Whole Foods to buy all organic and “do it right.”
I’ve even heard it suggested that one needs to buy and eat the plant-based faux-meats, protein powders and expensive supplements in order to have a healthy and nutritionally sound diet. People falsely think that being vegan is difficult and expensive when in reality, the opposite is true.
I would advise the opposite: stay away from the fake cheeses and the fake meat. While they are vegan (and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying those foods every once in a while – like once a month), they are still processed, not whole foods.
What do I mean by whole foods? Whole Foods are whole grains like brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, and my personal favorite millet. Nuts, seeds, beans, peas, lentils, fruits, and of course, vegetables – these should be the majority, if not the entirety of your meals. When I went vegan, I didn’t have to learn how to cook exactly, but I did have to learn how to work with some unfamiliar ingredients. I also had to learn how to plan ahead and cook on a more regular basis. When you go vegan, you quickly realize that convenience foods and eating out are no longer a regular option. I quickly found that this too helped to save money.
I’ve also had to re-learn how to buy groceries. I frequent a grocery store that has a large bulk section so I can buy nuts, seeds, dried legumes, grains, and dried fruits for much cheaper, and without all the wasteful packaging. Going to the green grocer or the farmer’s markets means I can buy a larger variety of fruits and vegetables for less money. This is not a complicated or expensive way to eat.
You know what is expensive though? Have you seen the prices for prescription drugs? Do you have any idea what inhalers, test strips, insulin, blood thinners, cholesterol drugs, and blood pressure medications cost? The regular lab visits required for many of these medications? How about the time off work for these more frequent trips to the doctor or the laboratories for blood work? It is insanely expensive – like new car payment expensive. If you have a low-wage job, or a job that lacks a flexible schedule, it is really in your best interest to avoid getting sick, or having these diseases associated with rich, privileged countries.
You can buy a pressure cooker for $40 and have the ability to cook a $3 bag of pinto beans in less than a half an hour. Add some greens, a salad, or a soup, and you have a delicious, nutritious, disease-preventing meal. Don’t even worry about organic – if you have access to organic and can afford it, by all means get the organic food. There are issues of access to fresh, whole foods in poorer neighborhoods, but for the average shopper – getting any fresh or frozen vegetables provides the best way to stay healthy and not have to line the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies with your hard earned cash.