Vegan No Vegan Couples Challenge: Let's Talk Money

Two couples go head-to-head comparing two weeks of food shopping to find out which diet is more or less expensive: Vegan or No Vegan?

*In case you were wondering, I had Morgan Freeman’s voice in mind for that subtitle.*



I remember one day at work, just over a year ago, I was frying up some bacon and eggs for lunch in the crew room when I found out that one of my coworkers, Adam, had recently adopted an animal-product-free diet. 

His girlfriend had been a vegan for a while and he said he was giving it a try. 

At that point in my life, I was knee-deep in medium-rare steaks, hefty pork kebabs, and the meltiest of mac & cheese dinners.

I specifically remember Adam was sitting at the table in the crew room eating something that looked super colorful and way too complicated for my personal menu while I stood by the hot, sizzling griddle as we talked about his recent adoption of veganism.

He said to me, “Haven’t you been vegetarian before?” 

“Yeah,” I replied, “but I can’t imagine giving up cheese.  I LOVE CHEESE.  I just can’t live without it.  Oh, and buffalo wings, they’re my absolute favorite, too.”

Side note…Yes, I’ve had an addiction to buffalo wings in the past; I can confess that.  A cold Blue Moon (my favorite beer) and a big plate of hot wings used to be the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon watching football.

Anyways, my coworker and I kept chatting and I 100% remember using the excuse, aside from the cheese-thing, as to why I couldn’t do what he was doing, “Isn’t it more expensive to be vegan?” I said, “I don’t think I could afford it.”  He humbly replied, “It’s actually not as expensive as you think, especially if you’re buying whatever vegetables are on sale.”

He paused, “Plus, you can make meals just as filling without the addition of meat.”

 He's got that crazy "I wanna be vegan" look in his eyes ;)

He's got that crazy "I wanna be vegan" look in his eyes ;)

I copped out and revisited my passion for wine and cheese platters, commended him for his new endeavor, plopped my bacon and eggs on a plate, and our conversation organically went elsewhere.  He didn't seem to hold it against me.

Twelve months later, I find myself having the exact same conversation in the crew room, but this time, I’m Adam.

Whether you’re reading this as a meat-eater curious about what this whole vegan thing is about (shall we call you veg-curious? hehe), if you’re transitioning from vegetarian to vegan, or you’ve just seen some jaw-dropping documentaries that convinced you you’re ready to cut out animal products altogether, you may be wondering how much this is all going to cost you.

Fear not, we’re going to get to the bottom of it.

Welcome to our first Vegan No Vegan challenge!

 Non-vegan team on the left.  Vegan team on the right. Let's do this.

Non-vegan team on the left.  Vegan team on the right. Let's do this.

I finally decided to investigate the whole eating-vegan-is-more-expensive idea to find out if it’s accurate or not.  People ALWAYS bring it up, so it’s time to either debunk or prove them right.  I want to know the truth, too!



Here’s how we did the little experiment slash challenge.  I asked two of our friends and coworkers, Steph & Tyler, if they were keen to participate in this mini-human-experiment I had thought up and they were kind enough to volunteer.  Nick, obviously, had no choice and had to partake.  (Thanks, babe!)

For two weeks, we all grocery shopped normally and each couple saved every single one of their receipts.  We compared only the food/beverage items that were purchased (i.e. no need to include body wash, stain remover, deodorant, etc.) to keep it within the category of focus.

 Blue every time.

Blue every time.


Steph is from the U.S., like me, so we both represent the classic American chick demographic here.  Tyler is from New Zealand, so we’ve got our token Kiwi.  Nick is from the U.K., coming in hot representing the Queen.

Our ages range from 24 years of age up to the old-timer clocking in at 38 (Love you!).

Two girls.  Two guys.  Three countries.

 How did Tyler get a hold of that eggplant?!?! #favoriteemoji

How did Tyler get a hold of that eggplant?!?! #favoriteemoji


Nick and I represent the vegan division.  Although Nick is not 100% vegan, he eats mainly a plant-based diet at home.

Steph & Tyler represent the no-vegan division.

 Nothing like a bag of frozen chicken tenders to wet your whistle.

Nothing like a bag of frozen chicken tenders to wet your whistle.


The setting of this experiment was set in Queenstown, New Zealand, where things are pretty expensive.  This is obviously not an official, fully controlled experiment, but it was still an interesting process.   I would be curious to see how the same “experiment” would go down elsewhere in the world.  For now, we size up the scene in beautiful Central Otago.

Unintentional control factor: We all coincidentally shopped at the same grocery store, Pak’n’Save, here in Queenstown, New Zealand.


Nick and I tried to stick with the usual shopping list line-up, but also bought a few things that we didn’t need (but that’s pretty standard for the varying recipes we’re always testing).  Plus, I think it helped to not skew the results. 

Tyler and Steph have a handy stash of fish & meat at home, which are not included on their Pak’n’Save receipts, but they accounted for it all in their total cost of consumption.  Y’all rock.

 Some patties from S & T's secret meat supply.

Some patties from S & T's secret meat supply.

Alright, let’s get this experimental challenge underway!

In one corner, we have Steph & Tyler raring to go.  In the other corner, we have Nick & Kelsey ready for action! {Please indulge me and my imaginary boxing ring, haha…}

EDITED Steph & Tyler 1.jpg

Steph and Tyler up first as we look at the breakdown of their non-vegan shops:

Shop #1 comes in at: $122.51

Shop # 2 comes in at: $118.35

Personal meat stash total: $41.67

For two weeks of shopping on a non-vegan diet, the non-vegan couple’s shopping total comes to……..{imaginary drum roll}


Okay…so now we know that the non-vegans have done pretty well here.  $282.53 worth of shopping in Queenstown for two people is very decent. 

Tyler and Steph eat pretty darn healthy and don't buy a lot of things that appear unnecessary.  They even drink non-dairy milk, which makes me very happy!

 When a photo shoot goes right...

When a photo shoot goes right...

The vegans are getting a bit worried in their corner knowing they’re up next.  But let’s get into it anyways.

The vegans step out of their corner and into the middle of the {imaginary} ring.  The tension is high! 

Let’s take a look at the breakdown of the vegan couple’s shops:

Shop #1 comes in at: $154.41

Shop #2 comes in at: $23.98

Shop #3 comes in at: $22.87

Shop #4 comes in at: $55.44

Rounding out the two-week vegan shopping total is………………………..


Winning by a hair!

 Cross my heart, we didn't even pay the judges!

Cross my heart, we didn't even pay the judges!

*Tears*  “I really cannot believe we won.  I just want to thank everyone in this room who was a part of this experience.”  Just kidding, no speeches happening here.

It was actually really close!  I did not expect that.

I truly thought we were going to lose the challenge because one of those smaller shops was just a bunch of fruit we used for a photo shoot.  We also buy lots of spices on the reg and vegan cheese ain’t cheap here.  It was a nail-biter for me!

So, there you have it.  Based on my non-scientific, non-regulated experiment (thanks for hanging in there) the vegans came out on top with a lower shopping bill.  We didn’t win by much and it could have been a fluke, but we can emphasize that our cost of shopping wasn’t that much different than those who eat meat, fish, dairy, and/or eggs.

 I reckon it was a fair fight!

I reckon it was a fair fight!

Whether we came out a few dollars below or even if we came out above Tyler & Steph’s shopping regimen, we now know shopping for vegan food in Queenstown is not significantly more expensive than a meat, egg, and fish-fuelled diet.

One more excuse out the window, gang!  No more using “being vegan is too expensive” for those of you holding onto that as a last resort.  Remember, I was a non-vegan before, too, so I totally get where you’re at. 

Sending out a huge thank you to Tyler & Steph for participating in this Vegan No Vegan challenge.  You’ve got a warm, vegan dinner coming your way soon as a symbol of my gratitude.  Nick, you too deserve a big thank you here for putting up with and supporting all of my ridiculous ideas.  Lastly, thank you to Martin Stokes for taking these ludicrous photos of us!  I'm very thankful.

 Pour guy has to put up with me.  Although I think he's having just as much fun.

Pour guy has to put up with me.  Although I think he's having just as much fun.

Anyways, we’ve got a few lessons learned here:

1.     Consider alternatives wherever you can, the cost will likely balance itself out; plus, your body will thank you.

2.     Buy in-season vegetables, they tend to be cheaper.

3.     Compare grocery stores.  This experiment only included one specific shop (unintentionally), which is not a true representation of all of Queenstown’s prices.  I do, however, think Pak’n’Save is the cheapest overall.

More vegan experiments, challenges, and trials to come.  If there’s anything you’d like to see on this platform, please share below.


Happy shopping!

Kelsey PowellComment