Well, the results are in. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, reported by Traveller, data from the annual Worldwide Cost of Living index tells a compelling story about the most expensive cities in live in worldwide. My beloved home city, Melbourne, is one of them. This is not a surprise, really, especially because it ranks closely to Sydney. Melbourne’s friendly foe – Sydney – came in at Number 15 while Melbourne ranked 16.
If you’ve been vegan for a while, chances are you’ve heard commentary that veganism is expensive. Of course, as eating vegan becomes more common you’re going to find establishments that want to charge you a fortune. However, veganism doesn’t have to be like this. Not in Melbourne, anyway. Here are 16 ideas that can help you eat vegan in Melbourne cheaply, and how you can also help others who may be doing it tough.
Sign up to your supermarket’s rewards program
This is great way to receive regular emails about special offers and products on special. That way, you can plan your weekly menu and grocery shopping around the specials of the week. This also included cleaning products and personal care items. Chances are, your rewards card (when you get it scanned each time you shop) will keep track of your spending habits and email you targeted offers on vegan products. While you’re out shopping, check the clearance aisle for unexpected markdowns.
Support smaller local stores, too…
Sign up to your local grocery, fashion and shoe stores’ newsletters and keep up to date with special offers, clearance days and regular sales. That way, you can still shop for your favourite vegan products at a reduced cost. Also, visit your local clearance centres where you’re bound to find lots of naturally vegan products with decent use-by dates on them. Or, why not take out a membership for a bulk retailer?
Buy non-perishable vegan food in bulk
When there is a special on your favourite non-perishable vegan products, buy in bulk. Allocate a special part of your kitchen pantry for excess items that’s within easy reach. You can easily replenish what you use up. Just remember to rotate stock regularly as you replenish your bulk items.
Or, why not grow your own veggies at home?
There is a growing surge in people re-purposing their front and backyards by turning them into veggie patches. Why not start one yourself and grow your own veggies, smaller fruits like strawberries, herbs and mushroom. You can easily buy mushroom kits so you can grow different varieties at home, some that are quite expensive in the supermarkets like enoki and lion’s mane varieties. You can also have a look at my tips for growing and buying mushrooms in bulk. If you have a friend who’s a green thumb, ask them for their tips and tricks.
Tap into your local community garden
There are many community gardens around Melbourne, many of which where you can help yourself to the produce being grown. Check with the garden about the rules and etiquette involved, or participate in a regular working bee to help out and learn new gardening skills. Depending on availability, you may be able to hire a garden plot for a small monthly fee. Some community gardens also hold a regular farmers’ market where you can buy fresh produce. One of my favourites is Veg Out in St Kilda. You can find a full list across Australia, including Melbourne, at the Community Gardens Australia website.
Cook vegan food at home
Once you’ve secured all the vegan specials, rustle up some of your favourite vegan recipes and do a big vegan cook-off. Choose recipes that can be frozen and cook some meals that will keep you going for the working week. I like to cook off a big batch of dahl and rice at the end of the weekend. That way, lunch is sorted for the rest of the week. Cooking off vegan stewed and soups can then popping them in the freezer can give you some emergency vegan meals, too. Remember to rotate your freezer regularly, too! One final tip – focus more on wholefoods as opposed to packaged vegan goods. They end up being cheaper. If you need some recipes, have a look at my favourite cookbooks in a list here.
Make regular donations to your local “food is free” pantry
When you do your weekly grocery shop, buy a few extras of your favourite vegan staples like tinned lentils, fresh fruit and vegetables, slabs of vegan chocolate and other favourite sweet treats. Then, locate your nearest Food is Free pantry and donate your extras. Having access to food is a basic human right. You’ll definitely make a difference to someone else’s kitchen. You can learn more about this worldwide movement here.
Go out for a vegan dinner during the week
I know! We all love to go out on weekend. But, have you ever thought of going to a local restaurant mid-week? Like and follow their social media pages in case they advertise a cheap night out. More often than not, these nights are mid-week when business may be slow for them. It’s also a great way to support your local businesses that need extra cash-flow on their slower days. “Cheap Tuesdays” tend to be a thing around the city. Don’t forget your vegan friends who are struggling and offer to shout them a meal.
Go to free or cheap vegan events around town
Does your local vegan-friendly pub have a free trivia night? Does your local vegan-friendly cinema offer a cheap night on tickets? It’s worth investigating which businesses offer a cheap (or free) night out. Plus, there are regular vegan markets around town where you either pay to enter via a gold coin donation. If you’re lucky, you don’t have to pay at all. The best resource for vegan events, in my view, is the Vegan Australia website.
Or, why not host your own vegan event?
Is the weather fine? Set up a vegan mystery picnic potluck lunch at one of Melbourne’s spectacular – and free – parks or reserves. Ask each guest to bring a vegan dish to share. Just make sure you have an equal amount of sweet and savoury dishes by asking guests which they’ll bring.
If the weather is less than ideal (a regular occurrence in Melbourne), then host a vegan dinner party. Cook and supply the main dish then let your friends host another course. One is in charge of entrée, another is in charge of dessert and another is on drinks duty. Whichever event you create, ask your guests to bring a container so you can all take any leftovers home.
Is exercise more your thing? Invite your friends to a regular hike or walk and choose a different destination each week or month.
Ask for vouchers and gift cards to vegan places
Birthdays and Christmases can be tiresome for vegans, though these dates are the best chance to cash in. If a relative or friend asks you what you want as a present, ask for a voucher to your favourite vegan spot. Or, if you need something new like a handbag or pair of shoes ask for a voucher to those vegan shops. Tip – sometimes, our loved ones may not be as well-versed in where to get these vouchers so you may need to text them the name or a link to the online shop.
Curate your own ‘vegan cheap eats’ list
When you’ve been dining out vegan in Melbourne for a while, you’ll get an idea of where the cheapest places are. Curate your own vegan ‘cheap eats’ list so you know where you can get a fabulous vegan meal for a fraction of the price. This will come in handy if your friends are struggling to decide where to eat or if they’re hanging for payday to arrive.
Lobby your local café to charge the same
Do you get your regular coffee at a place that also serves dairy milk? If so, then more often than not they’ll be charging you a surcharge on your favourite plant milk. If that’s the case, ask them why? Then have a constructive conversation about why they shouldn’t charge a surcharge. Politely point out that a surcharge is discriminatory so surely the business can reap the expense elsewhere in their business. Vegans shouldn’t have to pay more just because they’re vegan. If they don’t budge then it may be time to find a new favourite café.
Start a vegan swap group
Vegans love supporting other vegans. So there may be times when you need a specific skill you don’t have or you might need a particular vegan item and you can’t afford it. Ask around the vegan community if local vegans are willing to contribute to a vegan skills swap and start an online community. Join local vegan groups on social media and put a call-out for what you need then offer an exchange. Also, do you have an excess of something that can be used or re-purposed by another vegan? Put the call-out for your excess item. Another vegan may just be able to take it off your hands. This is also a great idea for used vegan books, magazines and toys that are in great condition.