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Turns Out, Being A Budget Vegan Is Way Easier Than Being A Fancy One

Turns out, it's way more fun to be a vegan on a budget.

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Hi! I’m Chelsea and I love animals. As a result, I've passively thought about becoming a vegan for the past year or so.

Warner Bros / Chelsea Marshall

I've been a pescatarian — I eat dairy and fish, but no other meat — for eight years and never considered being a vegan, despite having a lactose intolerance. That is, until I went to Farm Sanctuary —a farm animal rescue sanctuary. After leaving, I swore off dairy and then…literally an hour after I left, I passed a Dairy Queen and got a Blizzard. I am but a human, OK?

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Since so many people cite expense as a top reason NOT to become vegan, I wanted to see for myself which was easier: to be a fancy AF vegan or a vegan on a budget.

My two week vegan challenge would look like this:

• I would do five days of Sakara Life, a clean-eating plan famous people seem to like, and keep it vegan the weekend before my budget week started. The total cost: $420 (LOL LOL)

• The following week, I would do five days of food under $40, incorporating some of what I learned from the meal plan into it.

*Full disclosure: I actually did keep vegan on both weekends but I live in a city with tons of vegan meal options so I opted to compare just two different five-day plans.*


Warning: Some Martha Stewart–quality food photos ahead.

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Every day included in this plan included a morning water, breakfast, lunch, dinner and a night water.

The second fancy day's meals were kind of the same deal but I started craving chicken nuggets out of the blue.

My meals consisted of: a muffin with some jam, a veggie patty over greens and sweet potato "fries" and a salad with black rice and a tahini dressing. Everything was great but a weird thing happened: I wanted chicken nuggets. I haven't craved or eaten those in nearly a decade so I feel like this was more of a psychological "I WANT WHAT I CAN'T HAVE" situation than actually wanting it. For some reason, because there was a meal plan telling me no, I wanted it SO BAD. Brains are absurd.

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On the third day, I hit a huge bump: There was actual pasta served at work and my lunch was kelp noodles.

Chelsea Marshall

I don't think I would've been so upset if the lunch hadn't promised me some semblance of noodles. The food itself was fine but it tastes like sadness and lil baby farts next to an ACTUAL plate of cheesy pasta. I found it deeply insulting.

The fourth day of my fancy lifestyle had its own set of problems.

I was running around all day and didn't have time to sit and eat the meal at my desk. Normally, a packaged meal would be a great thing to have in this scenario, but because I had to sit down and eat I couldn't grab a granola bar or something quick. I got HANGRY. And then, when I got home, the worst happened: Somehow, my dinner had the only three foods I HATE: beets, cashew cheese. and dill. I'm not a picky eater except for THOSE THREE FOODS. It felt like the clean-eating gods were laughing at me, willing me to fail.

I really tried to finish it. I even tried to pawn it off on my fiancé but I learned the hard way love sometimes doesn't conquer all. At least not a beet borscht soup with cashew cream.

Chelsea Marshall

As you can see, I gave up and ordered some vegan dogs (with vegan buns!) and salad from my go-to delivery place. I saved some of the salad for the weekend and it was great. Finally having a choice again was a beautiful, beautiful thing.

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Finally, the last day was here: I felt pretty good, but I desperately wanted something besides some protein on top of some greens. I swear, I dreamed of an egg sandwich that night.

I loved the waffle but the last two meals were meh. It might have been because I was sick of the lettuce with protein on top situation for every meal but the wraps for lunch were kind of mushy. Plus, I was not super pleased with beet "ravioli" with cashew cream filling. SERIOUSLY, GUYS, just stop calling something pasta when it's just a vegetable. I ate it anyway because I already felt too guilty about giving up on one of the meals earlier.

I went grocery shopping Sunday night like the plebe I am and spent $70 for two people.

(I live with my fiancé and it was my week to get groceries). So that's $35 for my half, leaving me another $5 should I want a latte or something. This included ingredients for five nights of dinner, PB&Js for lunch, some fruit, and vegan mango popsicles.

After the week of having no choice over my food, I was thrilled to actually have options.

I ate a banana with peanut butter for breakfast, vegan tacos (Mondays are free food at work!), sloppy joes with some seitan added for dinner, and a mango pop for dessert. It all looks like a bunch of mush and honestly disgusting in these pics, but you know what doesn't have eyes? My mouth. And my mouth said it was great.

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Day 2 of being a budget vegan was going great! And then I hit the first of what would be a recurring challenge: I ate a free cookie at work without thinking. Was it vegan? Of course not.

My meals, aside from that fateful cookie, were a banana and peanut butter, a PB&J with some carrots on the side, and leftover sloppy joe for dinner.

GODDAMN IT. ANOTHER DAY, another temptation. We had an ice cream social at work (I know, I know, we're very lucky). But I couldn't eat the ice cream. Instead, I ate a popsicle, which was great until my co-worker Jesse ate ice cream in my face. I felt like crying.

1. I always assumed it was SO EASY to be vegan and healthy if you were rich and had stuff provided for you. But even with a packaged meal plan, it doesn't make self-control easy. Like I get it now when Oprah was like, "Fuck you, it's hard to keep it tight when I'm surrounded by the best, most delicious food ON THE PLANET."

2. The fancy vegan plan came in way too much plastic?? Like, everything had its own plastic container. I just assumed a brand that was plant-forward would also be environmentally forward but I guess not.

3. I really love the ritual of and having in the choice in what I eat so the fancy vegan plan actually made me SO EXCITED for the budget one.

4. I discovered most of my go-to recipes were, if not vegan, ALMOST vegan, so they were so easy to tweak.

5. THE BIGGEST REVELATION: Being a budget vegan was WAY easier than being a fancy one. Like, holy shit. There are so many options and easy swaps when you're cooking for yourself.

Have I stuck with the vegan diet completely?

No. I love lobster rolls and ice cream and cookies. But this challenge HAS made me rethink my day-to-day choices: Do I HAVE to have that egg sandwich or would I be just as happy with the vegan option on the menu? Can I easily swap out butter for an alternative? If the alternative is there, I take it. Hey, it's baby steps!

This post is not meant to be a nutritional guide, I'm just saying sharing my ~experience~ okay? If you're interested in becoming a vegan, definitely consult a nutritionist or check out BuzzFeed's nifty guide here.

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