There are many ways to eat plant-based on a budget, and it’s totally possible. In fact, preferred, since there’s really no point in eating glorious fruits, veggies and other plants if that means putting you under pressure financially.
The truth is that eating plant-based is as simple or as difficult as you want it to be in the same way it’s as cheap or as expensive as you make it.
If you’re strategic, the best ways to eat plant-based on a budget become perfectly second nature and will even become fun once you get in the groove.
Let’s explore a few ways of how to do that.
Center your meals around inexpensive starches
Potatoes, rice and beans are one of the cheapest items you can buy at the supermarket, regardless of what diet you follow. They’re filling and also supply your body with energy in the form of complex carbohydrates and nutrients.
Starches are often underestimated in terms of nutritional value (especially potatoes) but entire generations have thrived on these staple foods in challenging times throughout history.
Potatoes specifically may not appear as sexy as grains or fresh produce, but they’re naturally low in fat, high in potassium and a good source of folate, vitamin C and B6. You can literally buy pounds of potatoes for almost nothing and create magic with them in the kitchen. You can boil, steam or bake them, add them to soups, stews or casseroles, make potato pancakes or add them to burgers. Magic!
Buy in bulk
Buying grains and beans in bulk is another method for how to eat plant-based on a budget.
Explore local ethnic markets and see if you can get 3 – 5 pound bags. They tend to be cheaper than smaller sizes per unit.
While you are at it, search these exotic places also for spices and even greens, as these tend also to be cheaper than conventional stores. As a bonus you can even find some inexpensive gems like unique varieties of sweet potatoes you may not be familiar with or other starches. Grab a selection and experiment to keep your menu more interesting.
Make your own food
The cheapest way to eat is from your own kitchen. Sure it takes more time than getting a to-go bag dinner, but it’s so worth the effort.
You can cook more portions at one time, control your ingredients and create less waste. If you also center your meals around staples like rice, beans and potatoes you literally whip up a pot of bean-veggie stew for a whole family for just a few bucks.
Eating on a budget goes beyond dinners though. The same applies to making your own lunches for work and snacks on the go.
We may not realize it but we spend a lot more when running around than when working from home. It’s the designer coffees, the meal “deals” or lunch treats. They add up! Instead, if you pack a lunch, a couple bananas, oatcakes with a nut butter and dried fruit, sliced carrots with hummus, or even your favorite tea bag to make at work, you save a ton over time.
Get organized, stick to a plan
Create a weekly menu or at least a sketch of it. When you pin down a few meals to make in a week, it’s easy to create a shopping plan and buy only what you really need. This way you avoid unnecessary food waste.
PlantStand has meal plans galore if you need help with planning.
It’s worth it especially for higher priced items like fresh greens or specialty veggies. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than treating yourself to a large beautiful bunch of kale only to see at the week’s end it’s turned into compost in your fridge crisper.
If you do find some fruits or veggies starting to turn, before dumping them, see if you could blend them into a smoothie or a soup. That way you’ll mask their “tired” appearance, yet still put them to a good use.
Organic is good, but be strategic
Organic produce is the best. No argument there. But it’s also much more expensive and if you get caught in a trap of eating “the best plant-based diet possible”, it can turn out to be above your budget.
Strategic approach goes a long way here too. When it comes to greens like spinach, lettuce and various types of salads, these are worth getting organic as their tender leaves tend to absorb more pesticides. The same would be true for strawberries and berries in general.
Fruits and vegetables with a hard skin or peel are generally much safer to buy conventional.
If you do insist on organic but are on a budget, organic in supermarkets tend to be cheaper than in farmers markets. It’s also worth checking a list of clean fifteen and dirty dozen which is published annually by EWG (Environmental Working Agency in US).
Eating a healthy well-balanced diet on a budget is 100% doable. If you feel overwhelmed at any point, just keep a track of your receipts and see where you could be more strategic.
Sometimes you may find that one week you spend slightly more than the other. But you know what, that’s just how it goes. It’s all good.
But with practice comes confidence and over time you’ll be knocking it out of the park like a pro.