Plant Based on a Budget: Tips on Eating Plants While Being Kind to Your Wallet
One of the biggest concerns I hear from folks longing to transition to a plant-based diet is the potential drain it can have on their wallet. Maybe you’ve heard it or thought it yourself… “I’d totally go vegan but it’s SO expensive to only eat plants!”
Our current food culture of increased prices on some of nature’s healthiest foods versus the accessibility and affordability of trans fat, cholesterol and antibiotic packed animal products is a result of subsidies achieved and lobbied for by the very industries that benefit from them. If the cost of a burger truly reflected the cost of its production, from animal feed crop production, resources to raise an animal for slaughter and the detrimental impact on the environment it creates, we would be responsible to pay a lot more for that burger from McDonald’s dollar menu.
While this unjust food landscape maybe discouraging, the good news is with the growing numbers of vegans and vegetarians and more and more omnivores choosing plant-based alternative products, the growing demand for healthy, inexpensive veg products are growing their availability and affordability rapidly.
Perhaps you’ve heard me say before that each consumer choice is an opportunity to vote with your dollar. No where have I seen this attitude more true in the quickly growing plant-based product market and increased affordability of plant foods.
Maybe you’ve noticed this shift yourself? Brands like Boca burger, Silk Dairy-free products, Gardein veg-less meats, Earth Balance buttery spread, vegan ice creams and a plethora of organic produce are now common finds at supermarket chains and big name stores such as Walmart and Target.
Vegans of the past decade have been some of the pioneering forces to this now veg-friendly market. Let this growth be an encouraging and tangibly visible shift of how our dollar can transform what’s stoked on our shelves, not only making a vegan lifestyle more easeful for those who have already chosen it, but even inspiring for those who have not considered it before.
While budget-friendly vegan products are remarkably more attainable in today’s market, the scales still do not reflect an equal or true cost of how much we expend to make plant foods versus animal products.
Since this reality is unlikely to change over night, in the meantime, consider these expense-saving practices and approaches to get the most for your buck on a plant-based diet.
1. Skip the Specialty Items
Often, when making the switch from an omnivorous diet to a plant based-diet, we’re not always so sure how to begin. It’s quite easy to fall into the trap of eating the same staple meals we’ve had all of our life by simply switching out the omnivorous options with their non-animal product alternative ingredients. For instance, perhaps your staple lunch was turkey sandwiches on rye bread for as long as you can remember. It could be tempting to switch the turkey meat out for Tofurky veggie deli-slices, but this approach will add up your check out balance quick! Not only is switching all your meat, dairy and eggs for vegan substitutes heavy on your wallet, it’s not the healthiest approach to consuming a plant-based diet either. Erring on the side of moderation for mock meats and other vegan specialty items will be kind to your body and your budget too.
2. Cruise the Bulk Aisle
Purchasing the majority of your grocery needs from the bulk aisle is not only a great way to reduce your food costs, but also a wonderful way to reduce your use of packaging. By reusing bulk bin bags or buying or making your own, you can buy grains, beans, nuts, seeds, dried fruits and cereals at a reduced cost of their boxed and bagged counterparts without the excessive exterior. You can control your portions too by buying just what you need instead of stocking your pantry with ingredients you may not touch for weeks or months, avoiding food waste and immense totals at the cashier. The bulk aisle presents countless opportunities to try new recipes and foods too. Challenge yourself to switch to and try a new bean and grain with each grocery store trip to further diversify and expand your palette.
3. Ditch the Convenience Foods
Much of our food costs come as a result of our grab and go, quick, convenience food culture. Not only does this trend create needless waste, filling our landfills and oceans with single use wrappers and packaging, but it runs up our food expenses fast. Making time each week to meal prep for the coming week is single-handedly one of the best habits we can form for our finances and our health. Taking an hour or two each week to cook grains and beans in bulk, cutting and prepping veggies to be quickly heated or putting daily smoothie ingredients in the freezer is a sure way to be more efficient with our time and energy throughout the week as well as sustainably managing our cash flow. Investing in reusable containers to store, while an initial investment, will save money on plastic snack and sandwich bags while also being kind to our environment.
4. Stick to the Basics
It may feel enticing to line your cabinets with costly supplements and superfoods. While there’s no denying the benefits of incorporating these commodities into your diet, rest assured you can still consume a nutrient dense diet in their absence. Fueling your body with the best things on earth is as simple as sticking to the basics. Building a diet on the foundations of fruits and vegetables, beans, grains, and nuts and seeds won’t only leave you feeling satiated and energized, but it will save you money too. Choosing regular veggies over packaged, pre-cut servings will not only save you money, but encourage you to get savvy in the kitchen too. Staples such as brown rice, lentils, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, squash, potatoes, and leafy greens will give you a bang for your buck while filling and energizing your body!
5. Support Your Local Farmer
My vision of an ideal world worth fighting for is one where we all have access to fresh, organic, inexpensive foods. While this currently is not the case, as many people are living and located in food deserts, or places where fresh food is out of reach or at a far distance to acquire, more and more efforts are growing to change this current situation. Supporting local farmers, if you have access, isn’t only cheaper than purchasing produce from chain markets, but it’s also decentralizing our money from industrial crop farming and redirecting those funds to small farmers that often use more sustainable practices. If local farmers markets or CSA (community supported agriculture) programs are available near you, I urge you to support their efforts. Your meals will be as creative as the seasons as you consume seasonal and local produce while backing the efforts of small-scale, local agriculture.
Be A Scientist in the Kitchen
There are so many financial corners to cut if you empower yourself to make your own vegan specialty items instead of purchasing them at stores. And with the plethora of resources, blogs and recipes online dedicated to making you more skillful in the kitchen, it couldn’t be an easier time to experiment in the culinary arts. The possibilities are endless! Some considerations to start with are dishes like homemade mac-n-cheez versus the more expensive boxed version… and the at home version will likely taste richer and better too! Have a hankering for cheese? Show the bagged store bought variety the door and try making cashew cheese for the fraction of the cost at home! And although non-dairy milks are usually just a few cents more per ounce than the dairy assortment (though they generally don’t spoil or lead to food waste as they have a much longer shelf life) you can recover even more bills by making your own almond milk at home!
These are just a few of many ways to make eating vegan not only kind to your wallet, but your body too.
Who knew you could find such joy and creativity in the kitchen and touch the excitement of discovering new foods you may not have tried before, making going vegan a cheerful journey of discovery, as opposed to its often misconceived bank account squeezer.
Most importantly, I implore you to consider what is important and valuable in your life. Ultimately, while healthy food should and can be affordable and accessible for all, I encourage you to reflect on how much you’re willing to pay for what you put into your body. Often we can create such minimal and scarce budgets for what we fuel our vessels with, while simultaneously funneling significant funds into other areas of our life, such as excessive technology purchases, funding dining out or leading an extravagant social life while our health suffers, pinching what finances remain in attempts of piecing together a healthy diet.
When we invest in our health today, we invest in our health of tomorrow.
After reading this article, I hope you feel assured that eating a healthy diet is in fact within your reach, even if you’re not able to purchase high-end superfoods, powders or supplements.
Eating a balanced, whole foods diet built on the staples of grains, beans, fruits, vegetables and nuts and seeds is not only easy on the budget, but it will also avoid extensive medical costs of the future by better protecting your body from some of the most common, diet-related illnesses plaguing us today.
Prioritize your health. Place value in your food. Help shape the health revolution by fueling your and your family’s bodies with vibrant, nutrient dense food.
Together, we can increase healthy food accessibility for all.
For more tips, recipes and free meal plans to eat vegan on a budget visit http://plantbasedonabudget.com/