There’s a common misconception that a plant-based diet is an expensive diet. Take a walk around your local Whole Foods store, and you might start to agree once you get to the checkout line and see your grocery bill.
But chances are that it’s not the fruits and veggies racking up your bill. Fake meat and cheese products and pre-packaged foods tend to be the big-ticket items for vegans and vegetarians. And ironically, meats are typically the most expensive items on the average omnivore’s shopping list.
Regardless, sticking to a plant-based diet can but a strain on your wallet if you don’t know how to shop and what to buy. Here are our top ten tips for eating plant-based on a budget and getting the most value from your healthy meals.
1. Plan Meals and Stock Up
Just like planning a vacation or taking a test, it helps to prepare in advance for the best results. Impulse shopping leads to overspending, so take some time once per week to decide on your weekly meals and write a grocery list. Some great vegan cookbooks can help you get started with meal prep, so pick one up for inspiration and guidance.
The bulk section of the grocery store is a vegan’s and vegetarian’s best friend. This is the place where you can stock up on legumes, rice, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and other dry goods for a much lower price than you’d find in small packaging.
2. Try Alternative Groceries Stores
Think outside the box, or rather the “big box stores,” as you approach grocery shopping in a more mindful way. Sure, you may find deals at Walmart and your regional grocery store chain.
But there are many other places to shop for plant-based foods as well. Try dollar stores and discount retailers for dry goods and ethnic grocery stores for produce.
Local Asian and Middle Eastern shops are great places to find unique fruits and vegetables, rice, legumes, tofu, and spices. Not only are these shops affordable, but they may even introduce you to new plant-based foods that add variety to your diet.
3. Stick to the Staples
Food trends come and go, but trendy foods are notorious for breaking the budget. Instead of following the latest superfood trend, stick to the staples that you know will give you the nutrition your body needs.
A healthy plant-based shopping list starts with oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, lentils, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
4. Learn to Love Leftovers
Leftovers have gotten a bad reputation over the years as being soggy, stale, and downright unappetizing. But food waste is far too common, and wasting food is a sure way to break your budget.
As you plan meals, make dishes that allow for leftovers, that save well, and learn to love them. Taking your leftovers for lunch the next day will help you save money and also discourage you from eating out and splurging on less healthy foods.
5. Buy Generic Options
You may swear by certain brand names for your favorite running shoes or tech devices, but consider buying generic when possible in the grocery store.
Supermarket house brands tend to be a fraction of the cost of the more well-known brands, and the quality is often the same. Flip the containers around to compare ingredients of generic versions to name-brand versions before you buy, though, just to make sure.
6. Grow Your Food
Whether you’re looking for a new hobby or just a guaranteed way to cut chemicals and GMOs out of your diet, growing your own food is a great habit to get into.
You can start small by growing some herbs on your windowsill. If you’ve lucky enough to have a backyard, pick up a gardening book or talk to an expert at your local gardening store to learn about which vegetables and fruits grow well in your region.
If you don’t have backyard access, look for community gardens nearby that rent out small plots of land for seasonal use.
7. Shop at Farmers Markets
Of course, you can also leave the growing up to the experts and reap the benefits of their bountiful harvests. Farmers markets are a wonderful way to eat healthily, support local businesses, and gain an understanding of where your food comes from.
8. Carry Snacks
When midday hunger strikes, are you prepared, or do you stop by the convenience store for the quickest and easiest snack? Stick to your meat-free diet and your budget by carrying snacks with you throughout the day.
Some of the best vegan snacks that are portable include hummus with veggies, spicy roasted garbanzo beans, and snap peas with lime and mint.
9. Be Beverage Conscious
Just because most beverages are technically vegan by definition doesn’t mean that they deserve a place in your healthy and budget-conscious diet. Skip sugary juices and sodas that do nothing but rot your teeth and add to your waistline.
Instead, squeeze some fresh lemon or lime in pure water for a tasty twist on hydration. Non-dairy milk can often be found in generic form, and non-dairy creamer can be added to coffee at home to replace your expensive Starbucks habit.
With these ten tips in mind, you CAN and WILL save money while eating the healthy foods you love and living the best life possible. Keep a journal of your expenses and eating habits for a month to compare and see the difference for yourself!
10. Vegan Protein Powder
I saved the best for last. Supplements are a multi-billion-dollar industry that primarily offers highly effective advertising and placebo effect. Protein powder is one of the exceptions to that rule.
A good multi-sourced vegan protein powder packs a nutritional punch. It provides a spectrum of amino acids needed for muscle growth, and they are super-convenient to prepare and take with you on the go.
Need a recommendation?
One of our most popular articles does a thorough review and suggest the best vegan protein powders on the market currently.
Eating on a budget may be a challenge, but it certainly doesn’t have to stop you from reaching your health and fitness goals. Now go get after it!