starting out at university

From my own know-how, coming to uni is a brilliant and fulfilling experience. There are tons of opportunities to find yourself, a chance to live exactly how you want to, live around the very last snooze option on your alarm, and also a whole new crowd of people to drop the ‘V-bomb’ on. I’ve cultivated this nickname because when you live at home, after you initially decide to go vegan and stick to it long enough, people aren’t shocked anymore. Then suddenly, you’re plunged into this environment full of people from all kinds of political, religious and ethical divisions. Veganism has never seemed that much of a deal to you before, but now you’re faced with people who look at you as if you’re in a radical cult. 

“ ‘I could never afford to go vegan’ ”
– - everyone

The repetitive questions of ‘you’re vegan?’, ‘why are you vegan?’, ‘how do you survive?’ and ‘where do you get your protein from?’ will drain you until you’re too tired to explain the same elements of your beliefs again. People will become alleged student doctors, nutritionists, psychologists and philosophers trying to ‘reason’ with you and, trust me, you will not be able to even explain gently that you don’t believe in harming animals without someone taking offence. I’m here to tackle another question that you may be struggling with. At some point in the first month of University, you’ll have somebody turn around with a fridge teeming full of expensive steak, roast chicken and Delicatessen cheese and say, ‘I could never afford to go vegan’. There seems to be a stigma that people who don’t live on meat, dairy and ready meals must be made of money, but I’m here to prove that wrong. With the help of a local supermarket, a knowledge of health and a love of cooking ,you really can’t get much cheaper if you try


You will have to combat so many comments about lacking nutrients. Being vegan is probably the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life because, through experimenting, you find a rare adoration for cooking, buying food and actually being passionate about what you eat. To start, you don’t need meat and dairy as part of a balanced diet, nor do you need the replacements. Don’t let people convince you that you’re bound to have a depletion in vitamins or end up tired and drowsy without non-vegan products in your life. Where people say you need dairy, you can find calcium in soya, almond, hemp, cashew, oat or coconut milk, or even yogurt if you’re not a massive fan of milkshakes, smoothies or tea/coffee. Meat is entirely useless on a nutritional basis with the exception of protein, which can be found thriving in many other vegan friendly products. Lentils go amazing in virtually anything; they make for a load of sustenance in pasta and also a hot soup if you’re bed bound on a frosty January evening. Tofu, when marinated properly (there’s always one meat eater who literally tried raw tofu so now won’t believe it’s nice in any food), is gorgeous! Tofu goes with anything but stir fries compliment it perfectly.  

shopping list

By providing you with a basic shopping list of how I’d stock up on food for the semester, you can really understand the ease of walking into Tesco with a trolley and coming out with enough food to fatten you up for exam study hibernation. You can pick and choose or replace suggestions with alternatives if you fancy, and rough prices are also given for an average Tesco Extra! This shop lasts me approximately 2.5 weeks. 

Chickpeas: Tesco Value chickpeas, 400g (enough for two curries), £0.50
Lentils (red split): Tesco wholefoods, 1kg (10 dishes for a lentil lover), £1.80
Pasta: 3kg of any shaped pasta (lasted me 3 months easily), £2.89
Wholewheat noodles: Blue Dragon wholewheat noodles, 300g (3/4 stir fries), £1.00
Crisps: Value ready salted crisps, 6 packets, £0.85
Beans: Kidney or pinto beans for a nice salad or chilli, 400g (2 dishes), £0.30 a tin
Chopped tomatoes: A healthier pasta sauce alternative! 400g (1 dish), £0.31 a tin
Vegetables: Depending on your tastes, I’d go for onions (£0.75/kg), peppers (£0.93 for 3), broccoli (£1.13/kg) and courgettes (£0.80/kg) - the easiest to handle and chuck in most foods.
Soya milk: For coffee, smoothies, milkshakes or cereal. I adore Alpro (£1.40 a carton) or if you’re properly into your budget, Longlife Sweetened goes for £0.85.
Curry sauce: A jar makes 2 curries, Value Curry Sauce is £0.25 a jar. Ordinary Madras, Jalfrezi and Bhunas go for £1 a jar, but if you’re a Korma or Tikka fan, the ‘Free From’ options are a tad more expensive at £1.30 a jar.
Microwave rice: I’m rigidly against boiling rice, I never have and never will. While this would be cheaper for anybody seeking minimal expenditure, most rice is vegan but watch out for egg fried rice or hidden honey. At £0.50 a packet, basmati, Mexican and long grain rice go beautifully with any meal, or you can have it on your own if you’re feeling lazy!
Vegan Quorn: For those on the upper end of the budget spectrum, you can now afford luxuries! The ‘pieces’ go into anything and are lovely at £2 a bag (about 2 dishes worth in a bag) or the burgers and breaded fillets are a bit heftier at £2.50 a bag.
Potato waffles: A must have for anyone unless you’re an oven chip lover, £1 for 12 that make a starchy snack for any student meal. Everyone I know has binged on these at least once since Freshers.
Orange squash: £0.42 for a bottle of Value orange squash is always good when you’re craving more than water but you can’t binge all day on Diet Coke.
Linda McCartney: Again, a luxury but a must have! No vegan is complete without the Sausages (they vary from £1-1.95 for six) so stock up whenever they’re going cheap!
Soya mince: Tesco’s soya mince are the most incredible invention ever. £1.90 for 375g will take you through a fair 3 dishes and can be amazing in Bolognese, chillis or shepherd’s pie if you’re feeling experimental.
Stir fry sauce: Any stir fry sauce will fly, Value sauces are about £0.40 for sweet and sour, or you can upgrade for half a pound for black bean or cantonese sauce. 
Soya cheese: I’m not massive on buying cheese except for on pizzas, Violife goes in a nice grateable block for £2.30, but Value soya cream cheese is about the same and can be a prime lunch idea with crackers, as seen below.
Crackers: Cream crackers, with the misleading name, are perfectly safe for vegans mostly. £0.35 for a pack can last you a week and a half if you have them every lunch, which nutritionists probably don’t recommend but I most certainly do. 
Soup: Soup is a lifesaver, Asda have my favourite Chipotle Chilli for £0.72, but you can also target Heinz vegetable soup, any brand lentil soup (minus the chorizo or bacon options) and the Value carrot and coriander. Tuscan bean is a Tesco winner. Watch out for milk in tomato soups, most use cream or skimmed milk!
Vegetable burgers: Vegetable quarter pounds are sold from £3 a box to £1 for four depending on what you’re after. I never use them for burgers, just use them as a side with a meal sometimes as they’re so lovely. I thoroughly recommend the Value quarter pounders made of just vegetables.
Bread: While I never buy bread as it goes off faster than I can eat it, if you’re after genuine burgers or soup dippers, or just a lover of toast, this is a staple.
Tinned spaghetti: A childhood favourite (never forget spaghetti hoops), you can have tinned spaghetti as a quick snack or with toast, or even on the side of any oven foods for dinner.
Garlic bread: Value garlic baguettes are often vegan as vegetable oil is a cheaper staple than butter, £0.32 a baguette is dangerous as I buy about ten. No regrets though.
Cereal: This is the rarity where you have to watch out for Vitamin D from Lanolin as opposed to milk, eggs or honey. You can often contact the companies online or merely Google for an answer. There are too many variations to name but the more expensive GoFree cereal is a beauty. (£2.50)
Jacket potatoes: You can buy huge bags of potatoes for a few pounds, and then you always have the world’s most simple meal. Shove into microwave – abandon until soft – hey presto! (Sidenote: microwave must be on).
Butter: Vitalite is the cheapest vegan butter for £1, but Flora Freedom’s is close at £1.30, or if you’re like me, Pure’s sunflower spread at the same price is just amazing melted on toast. You can also buy soya or avocado spread if you’re feeling adventurous.
Chocolate: vegan dark chocolates take the form of street market prices if you’re after generic Bourneville bars, but supermarket Free From bars are a godsend. £0.45 a bar and chocolate, chocolate crispy, chocolate orange and many others are the most addictive, fattening products alive. Purchase with caution.
Fruit: Grab as many bananas as you can and consider yourself accomplished.

Average expenditure for a 2 week haul: approximately £38

In all honesty, sticking at your budget will only affirm your love for vegan food. My flatmates all too often spend pounds and pounds on cut chicken and grated carrots, and still eye up the amount of colours in my frying pan when they realise you can buy so much more for less. All you need is motivation, persistence, and passion. Eventually, you’ll put all others to shame and conjure up the most beautiful meals that will stick with you forever. Good luck!

“ Veganism is not a limitation in any way; it’s an expansion of your love, your commitment to nonviolence, and your belief in justice for all. ”
– Gary L Francion

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Written by Hannah Newberry, 9 months ago
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