Around three times a week, I go to the coffee shop across the road from where I work to get a hot chocolate before I start my day. I’ve been going for a good couple of months and every time I am charged £2.55 for the pleasure. Now the price doesn’t bother me, what does bother me is the one girl who charges me £2.85 because I ask for dairy free. “Vegan is more expensive, it should be £2.85 every time you come in.” And that phrase right there is one of the things I hate.
Let me explain, I’m not a Vegan (I applaud those who are but I just love bacon way too much) but I am dairy free. I have an intolerance to wheat and dairy so other than a treat every month of a couple of pieces of real chocolate, I stay away from it all. It’s easier in some places to ask for my order to be vegan, such as in a coffee shop, but I never understand why I have to pay more. If I went to the supermarket and bought a two pint bottle of milk it would probably cost me about 80p and if I buy a carton of coconut milk it costs me about £1 and size wise they are about 100ml apart. So coconut milk (which is my milk of choice for a hot chocolate) is a little more expensive, but not by a huge amount. And when I buy a hot chocolate, it isn’t made with a litre of coconut milk (probably around 300ml) so why am I paying 30p more for it?
I watched a documentary a few months ago about how vegan food is made and found out why it is so expensive. Fruit and vegetables aren’t expensive to buy so why once they have been made into a bean burger have they got a couple of extra zeros on the price tag? It’s all to do with the manufacturing process to get it into the burger shape and I also learnt that if there was a higher demand for vegan or gluten free food, the cost would be driven down. Makes sense, right? Veganism and eating gluten free is on the rise but seemingly so are the prices. ‘Veganuary’ has been happening for years and it’s great when there’s an influx of tasty dairy free treats in shops and restaurants but it never seems to keep going past January with the same momentum.
Now from talking to other people who have embraced being a vegan or dairy free or who don’t eat gluten, it’s an awful lot easier in 2020 than it ever has been. All the alternatives that are available in shops, gluten free breads and dairy free milks, haven’t been main stream for a lot of years. So I am grateful that I have found my intolerances in this day and age (now that makes me sound old). But why on earth is it so damn expensive?!
A couple of years ago when I lived alone and before I had my intolerance test, my favourite thing to do after a really rubbish day at work was to get off the bus, walk into the takeaway across the road from my flat and get my dinner. I’d also stop at the Co op next door for snacks. I’d have a pizza, chips, garlic sauce, coke, chocolate, crisps and ice cream all for less than a tenner. Very excessive but it really made a rubbish day a distant memory. What also made it feel a distant memory was the fact I would then be up all night in and out of the bathroom and holding my stomach in pain, never quite sure why. Now I know it’s because my body can’t process wheat or dairy properly, I can’t quite believe I used to eat all of that! How times have changed, I now struggle to find a takeaway I can order from and have become so used to having a sad microwave meal for one when I’m with friends and family who are eating a takeaway. It honestly used to make me what to cry (and sometimes a really good looking burger can still make me well up) but I’m just used to it now.
After years of living by myself and being skint and a savvy shopper my weekly shopping used to cost around £10 to £15 and when I moved in with my fiancé, it rose to around £20 to £30. Since my test, the least amount I’ve spent on shopping is £50! I don’t eat any more, I actually eat less because there’s less options. Fancy a basic frozen pizza? That’ll be £1 or if you want gluten free and vegan cheese it’ll be £3.50, oh and it’s half the size. That sounds fair to me. I’ll always remember the lady on the check out who asked about my shopping and said is it a dietary choice? I just looked at her sadly and said, no. Buying dairy free is easy, buying gluten free is easy, but if you want dairy and gluten free then you’re in for a fun ride!
So the point of this whole rant is this, had I had my test done when I was living by myself and skint, I would probably have either remained ill to eat, or starved. There are recipes out there that make vegan and gluten free meals budget friendly, but sometimes you just want a nice pizza or a cheeky piece of cake and that’s where the cost adds up. Convenience costs. The zeros really come into play at Christmas (trust me, that’s another story). On the whole, I feel so much better for cutting gluten and dairy out of my diet but I’m lucky that I can afford to buy the shopping I want. There needs to be a change in the way these products are priced to make them accessible to everyone no matter what your income or class.
And I will still avoid the coffee shop when I see that one girl working, not only to save my 30p but to prove a point.