You don’t have to spend a fortune to eat a healthy plant-based diet! Check out my top plant-based tips for eating healthy on a budget.
Those little $5 tubs of berries, $15 bags of seeds, and $40 supplements in the healthy aisle of the supermarket. It can really make you question whether you can afford to eat a healthy plant-based diet. Indeed, there is a common misconception that eating a plant-based diet has to be expensive. However, this does not have to be the case! As many plant-based eaters know, switching to a more plant-based diet can actually save you money. Often, animal protein is the most expensive food on the plate. In comparison, plant-based proteins like beans, peanuts, and tofu are fairly inexpensive options. Actually, a study found that food costs were about 16% lower for vegans compared to average diets. The real key to building a delicious, healthy plant-based pantry without maxing out your food budget is pretty simple: eat more minimally processed foods. Sure, fake meats, plant-based foods, and packaged foods can be easy and convenient, but they’re often more costly than creating your own meals from whole plants. Get in the kitchen and cook your own meals, and you’ll save money on decorations! Here are some more tips on how to eat plant-based on a budget.
9 Plant-Based Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget
1. Basic cooking equipment in stock
The right kitchen tools can help you save time and money in the kitchen. Try to get these basics:
- Rice cooker: You can use it to steam any whole grain, including farro, brown rice, and sorghum. Get one that includes a steamer basket.
- Slow cook/Pressure cooker/Instant Pot: A must for busy families. You may want to choose an Instant Pot as it serves all three of these functions. You can just throw in your ingredients for a healthy chili or stew, press the button, and your meal is ready when you get back. Learn how to use an Instant Pot to cook whole grains and legumes.
- Food processor the mixer: It really comes in handy to have an efficient food processor to chop and grind vegetables, nuts and beans. I use it all the time when making veggie ‘meatballs’, cashew cheese and hummus. You can also use a blender to make things like smoothies, bean dips, and nut cheeses. If you’re just starting out, try one immersion blender as a low-cost option that also saves storage space.
2. Collect Essential Spices & Herbs
A meal can go from blah to oooo-la-la with a few simple spices and herbs. Invest in the basics (garlic powdersea salt, black pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamonthyme, sage, Cayenne pepper, curry powder, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, rosemary, dill, basil, oregano) to keep variety in your meals. And then start adding more to your collection. It will be fun! You can also look for spice mixes to save time and money as they have several ingredients in one bottle (ie. Italian seasoningsmexican seasoning, garam masala). It can be expensive at first to collect spices, but there are always gas stations that offer bulk spices for cheap! Research your area for options. And keep in mind that a $4 bottle of spices can yield dozens of delicious meals.
3. Buy in bulk
In the bulk section, you can save on spices, nuts, seeds, flour, nutritional yeast, dried fruitbeans, whole grains and lentils. Also, look for a larger volume of foods you often buy at a warehouse store, such as Brown rice, soy milkfrozen fruit and oats.
4. Make your own
Bread, pastries, nut/cheese milks… You can make it yourself! Make your own homemade oatmeal instead of flavored packages. or even your own granola mix instead of expensive bags of trendy granola. Also try making homemade veggie burgers.
5. Buy product in season
Remember to make the most of fresh produce when it’s in season – oranges in winter, squash in autumn, strawberries in summer. You will also find them at more reasonable prices.
6. Use frozen or canned vegetables
When fresh are out of season, turn them into frozen and canned. You can save money as they are more sustainable options.
7. Remember the rice and beans
This is the backbone of the traditional diet in America, offering a healthy, protein-rich, affordable meal combination. Season it by putting green pepper, garlic and onion in a food processor and adding it to the beans as they cook. Serve the rice and beans in a bowl. Top with salad and some tortilla chips. There is so much you can do with this powerful combination. Check out my recipe for Easy Brown Spanish Rice and Instant Pot Mexican Black Beans with Epazote to get started.
8. Celebrate the Humble Potato
This root vegetable is so filling and so versatile. Make your diet basic by baking potatoes and adding nut cheese, broccoli and herbs. Puree them as a comfort food side dish for your next meal (use the leftovers for shepherd’s pie). Sauté them in a breakfast hash.
9. Know where to shop
Look for great prices on a variety of plant-based staples. Asian markets are a great find for plant-based ingredients like tofu and vegetables at good prices. Indian markets are great for a variety of inexpensive spices. Go to farmers markets whenever possible for your produce to enjoy seasonal varieties. Choose cheaper stores from fancy natural food stores. Find a store with a good bulk section. Store-name products (pasta, frozen items, canned goods, chocolate chips) are usually the cheapest.
For more tips on budget eating, check out:
Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Food with Lisa Andrews
Chef’s Tips for Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Meals
9 Tips for Plant-Based Eating on a Budget
30 Inexpensive Vegetarian Meals
4 ways to eat organic on a budget
Using frozen vegetables to create a budget-friendly and healthy dinner
Image: Vegan Refried Beans, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
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