Eating Plant-Based on a Budget

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When considering a transition to plant-based eating, affordability can be a major concern. Plant-based meats and cheeses are often more expensive than the real things, while tempeh, kimchi, egg substitutes, tahini, nuts and prepared meals also come at higher prices. 

It’s just like anything else though. You have to budget yourself consciously. A little planning makes a plant-based diet one of the most affordable. The fundamental staples are some of the cheapest ingredients you can find. Follow our lead, grab some of the recommended ingredients below, make them the focal points of your meals, and step into the world of ultra budget-friendly plant-based living. 

Tips and Tricks:

person-budgeting
Photo by Karolina Grabowska
  1. Plan ahead. If you want to limit your budget to $10 per day, you have to prepare ahead of time. Write out your meals for the week before you shop. You’ll know what ingredients you’ll need, and you can pair your meals together, making sure to use the same ingredients multiple ways so nothing goes to waste and your money stretches as far as it can. 
  2. Buy in bulk. It’s crucial for a tight budget. They leave more room for pricier items like fresh vegetables, especially if you use a couple of bulk ingredients in multiple meals. 
  3. Focus on cheap staples first, then fill the gaps with higher priced items. When on a super tight budget, all your meals should be based around one of the extra-low-cost plant-based staple ingredients outlined below. Once you determine how much these will cost you for a week, see how much is left in your budget and fill in the remaining money with some of the higher cost items like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and nut butters, and plant-based dairy alternatives. You’ll need to have some of these items every day to have a well-rounded diet, so start with the cheapest ingredients and work your way up.
  4. Make other base items from scratch. If you have the time, this can save a lot of money. Make homemade tortillas (nothing but flour, water, and oil) or pita. You could also make your bread from scratch. Try your hand at homemade falafels, and so on. All of these are made of incredibly cheap ingredients, so they’re very budget-friendly options.

Related Article: How Being Plant-Based Once a Week Can Change Your Life

Staple Budget Ingredients

Dry Beans: More affordable than canned beans because you can buy in bulk (plus the taste and quality is better). There are a huge variety of dried beans, and these are probably the number one staple in most plant-based diets. They’re protein-dense, filling and form a great base for bowls, burritos, tacos and skillet dishes. Get a few different types of beans to keep your budget meals interesting. 

dry-beans

Rice and noodles: Also great bulk section options, rice and noodles are time-tested classics. You can do just about anything with them. Top ‘em with canned, frozen or fresh veggies and a homemade sauce. Bean and rice burritos are a plant-based budget hero meal. Classic pasta and tomato sauce is about as easy and cheap as it gets. Honestly, the combinations are endless.

rice-and-noodles
Photo by FOODISM360

Related Article: 5 Ways to Get Creative with Fresh Herbs

Potatoes and onions: These are typically as cheap as they come, and they also work well as a base for other flavors. Potatoes can be steamed, stewed, mashed, baked – and they’re always delicious.

potatoes-and-onions
Photo by Syd Wachs

Related Article: The Top Five Plant-Based Cupboard Staples

Oats: Back to the bulk section, and a great breakfast option. There are a few styles of oats, all affordable and versatile. Besides just being boiled up for breakfast with some cinnamon, you can keep things interesting with overnight oats or baked oats with fruit.

oats
Photo by Jo.

Tofu: Slightly less budget-friendly than the other staples but still worth mentioning. Tofu is generally cheaper than meat, and one block of tofu can stretch for a few meals. It’s about the most versatile protein you can find; a great egg substitute, taco base, stir fry protein, sandwich meat alternative and particularly amazing crisped up in a pan with any number of homemade sauces. This one is worth keeping in your meal plan.

tofu
Photo by allybally4b

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