How to be a vegan on a student budget

How to be a vegan on a student budget

This article was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 24 November 2021

Trying to balance the challenges of being a student and being vegan isn’t as hard as it may seem at first. Yes, you need to ensure you have a healthy and balanced diet, but university canteens, supermarkets and fast-food chains all now have vegan-friendly options, especially since students today are “six times more likely” to avoid eating animals than their parents.  

Here’s a guide to help you easily seek out delicious plant-based meals that are well within your student budget.  

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Shopping for vegan food

Most supermarkets in the UK offer vegan products, including Tesco, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Iceland and Morrisons – to name a few. There are lots of plant-based options like meat, dairy and even egg alternatives, as well as many ready-made vegan meals. The best way to check out the ranges and deals each supermarket offers is via their websites.

And it’s worth checking out your local Asian supermarket. Plant-based proteins such as tofu have been part of an East Asian diet for thousands of years – so these products tend to be cheaper than their counterparts in Western supermarkets. 

If you also want to make your food shop environmentally friendly, then it’s worth scoping out some zero-waste stores. These are shops that specialise in selling vegan food and toiletries without any plastic packaging.  A quick online search will bring up what you’ve got locally and you’ll be on your way to saving the planet with your wallet in no time.   

Vegan food on campus

More often than not, your university campus will offer veggie and vegan options. If you’re unsure, check with your university’s student centre, university website and students’ union.

If you’re thinking about living in catered student halls, we recommend checking your university’s catering menu first. For example, the University of York offers a vegetarian menu for their catered halls but does not guarantee vegan meals. But universities like the University of Manchester have introduced at least one vegan option each day on their student halls menu and the University of Aberdeen has a vegan café, as does Imperial College London. 

Vegan society or activist groups

Sticking to a plant-based diet can be hard but connecting with other vegans will help invigorate your passion for veganism. One of the best ways to meet like-minded people is to join a campus society or local vegan activist group. They can introduce you to their favourite local restaurants or they might organise protests, so you can let your inner activist shine. 

There are also online communities if you can’t find a group in your local area – check out HappyCow.   


As a student, you might be on a tight budget and there are perceptions that veganism is expensive, so here are some tips on keeping your costs down.

  1. Buy staples such as rice, lentils, pasta, spices and grains in bulk as it often works out cheaper and will ensure you always have things you can easily cook.
  2. Buy supermarket-branded products as they are often cheaper than big brands.
  3. Hit the freezer section in the supermarket. A lot of supermarkets offer frozen meat alternatives like Iceland’s No Chick Strips and No Bull Mince or Tesco’s Quorn mince, which can be used to create your favourite meals. This works out a lot cheaper than buying ready prepared meals. But don’t forget about the reduced aisle in your local supermarket either. Supermarkets often discount products just before closing time.  
  4. Buy canned and frozen fruit and veg. You’ll save money, waste less and you won’t need to go to the supermarket as often.
  5. Shop at your local food markets where you can get some great deals and buy in bulk. Buying seasonal food and veg from a market is much cheaper than buying it from a supermarket. If you buy in bulk you can also freeze it. Food markets often have less plastic packaging too.   
  6. Meal prep is your new best friend – it’ll help you stay healthy and save money. Try making a big batch of vegan spaghetti bolognese and freezing enough for a few meals.
  7. Try food sharing apps like Olio. Set up to fight food waste, apps like these connect you with neighbours who are giving away unwanted food and household items.   

You may also want to read

Five tips to eating cheaply

10 tips to staying fit and healthy as a student

11 must-try regional food delicacies in the UK