While just a decade ago it was tricky and costly to go vegan or vegetarian, it’s much easier today to embrace a healthy plant-based diet. Some people still hesitate to take the plunge for one reason – the myth that eating a plant-based diet is just too expensive. Don’t you need a lot of costly exotic ingredients?
The answer is no! While investing in a healthy diet is a great idea for everyone, you don’t need to buy a lot of fancy foods to sustain this lifestyle. If you strip it down to the basics, you will find that anyone can afford a plant-based diet on a minimal budget. With a little bit of know-how, a healthy diet packed with nutrients and bursting with taste will fit your budget without breaking the bank.
Here are a few affordable plant-based diet tips to get you started:
- Prepare your own food
The surest way to rack up an expensive food budget is to eat out at restaurants all the time. Most restaurants, even fast-food joints, offer plant-based options at a premium. Dining out should be an occasional treat or avoided altogether if you're on a strict budget.
Save by packing your own work lunch and keeping a stash of veggie-friendly snacks in the car so you won’t be tempted to give in to expensive cravings. Try making a vegan smoothie with our delicious vanilla or chocolate plant-based protein powder and some frozen fruit for an inexpensive and healthy snack.
- Embrace whole foods
Whole foods are plant foods that are unprocessed and unrefined. They are not only healthy and packed with the essential nutrients your body needs, but sometimes they can be the affordable choice too. For example, a banana is cheaper than a bag of chips and a baked potato is cheaper than fries.
These are some super-healthy and nutrient-dense foods to focus on:
- Fruits – In-season fresh fruits are budget-friendly, so check out your farmer’s market for deals. Dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, apricots, and dates are a great, inexpensive snack that can satisfy any sweet tooth.
- Vegetables – Leafy greens and fresh, in-season veggies are kind to your wallet. Expect to pay a bit more for organic food – they'll be less expensive when they’re in season, so buy them and freeze for later. You can even mix a drink with our Greens Blend for a blend of raw, organic grasses and mushrooms.
- Beans and Legumes – Dried beans such as pinto, navy, black, and garbanzo are very inexpensive when bought in bulk, rather than the canned varieties. Lentils of all colors are also affordable and packed with nutrients.
- Starches – Yams, potatoes, pumpkin, brown rice, oats, bulgur wheat, barley, millet, oats, and whole-grain pasta are inexpensive and filling. Starchy foods are an important source of energy and provide nutrients including B vitamins, iron, calcium and folate.
- Proteins – Tofu, tempeh and edamame all originate from soybeans and are considered whole sources of protein. Nuts are packed with protein and are uber-portable. For extra cost-savings, you can even grind your own tasty nut butter at home!
- Buy in Bulk
Whether you’re buying a larger family-sized package or browsing the bins at your local health food store, it can really pay off to up-size your purchases. You’ll get a much better value than smaller packages, mainly because you’re not paying for the packaging.
Check the store’s unit pricing labels to find out the exact cost per ounce, pound, or liter so that you can easily compare and find the cheapest option. Buying from the bulk bins can easily save close to half the price of a packaged product, and as a plus, you can determine exactly how much -- or little – you want to buy.
- Prepare Simple Recipes
Quick and easy vegetarian or vegan recipes are surprisingly inexpensive. Look for recipes that keep the ingredients list to a minimum – aim for 5 ingredients or less. Simple doesn't have to mean boring, though.
Start with a starch as your base and build your meal around that with flavorful ingredients, herbs, and spices. For example, rustic mushroom risotto with rice, mushrooms, veggie stock, and plant milk, or spinach, tofu, and cashew cream vegetarian lasagna. How about a spicy onion, bell pepper, tofu, and pineapple stir fry over rice?
If you were considering making a change, these tips will get you started towards eating a plant-based diet affordably. Once you make the commitment and begin, we'd love to hear other creative ways you discover that help you stick with your healthy new routine!