How much does it cost to be vegan in Israel?
Today is Meatless Monday, promoted around the world and in Israel by the Environmental Protection Ministry (Haganat Hasviva) as a way to be healthier and put less of a strain on the environment. But how does being vegan affect your budget? Coming from chul, we remember produce as being relatively expensive and kosher meat as being even more expensive, while non-kosher meat was very cheap. You might remember Aliyah tip #6- eat more meat, its cheaper! about changing your attitude when in Israel- that cheese and processed foods are much more expensive than meat. The prices of eggs and milk are regulated in Israel, so our main protein sources are relatively affordable.
What happens when one becomes vegan? The prices of alternative protein sources such as nuts are approximately 75-100 shekels/kg, soy milk is 10 shekels/kg and soy flakes are 37-40 shekels/kg- much more expensive than chicken, eggs, or milk. Regarding other products, Yisrael HaYom compared prices of other essentials with their vegan alternatives and found some surprising results:
Before we get too excited, I have to say that the article online left out several products that were cheaper than their meat alternatives: salami- 37% cheaper, ground beef- 40-66% cheaper, and goulash- 49% cheaper. There are also several more vegan products that are more expensive than their alternatives. In addition, these prices were taken from the Shufersal Sheli on 17 Brazil Street in Tel Aviv- not a store or a neighborhood known for reasonable prices.
Of course, time is money as well. There are relatively few vegan processed products on the market which necessitates cooking from scratch for every meal, which takes up an extremely large amount of time. It also takes time to go from shop to shop finding vegan products which tend to be more esoteric.
Another point brought up is that vegans frequently have to use dietary supplements to replenish essential nutrients such as iron, vitamin B and calcium, which are very expensive as well. I am not sure this is an appropriate argument- if a vegan diet is properly balanced they shouldn’t be deficient in those nutrients.
So while I appreciate the argument by Haganat Hasviva that we should reduce our damage to the environment, that alone will not convince me to become vegan based on the price differences I see here. Of course, most people become vegan because they feel that we do not have the right to kill animals for food, so the price issue may be irrelevant. If you are thinking of moving to Israel or are a new oleh, be aware when budgeting for groceries that you may have significantly higher expenses than the average person.