Think that eating plant based is too expensive? It definitely can be if you want all of the trendy ingredients and you think all of your produce has to be 100% organic. But I have to let you in on a little secret… eating plant based on a budget doesn’t have to break the bank! You can absolutely be a healthy, happy, satisfied eater while also adhering to your budget.
Plan your meals for the week.
Sit down and consider how many people you are feeding. Are you cooking for yourself? Your friends? Your family? Once you have that number in mind, think about how many meals you’ll need to plan for the week. This could simply be breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for every day of the week. There’s no need to make a different meal for every day!
Sticking to a few healthy meals that you can rotate throughout the week is a good way to add variety while also not blowing your budget on a ton of different ingredients.
Make a shopping list.
Once you have decided on a menu for the week, make a quick list of all the ingredients you’ll need. Be sure to take a look around your current inventory so you use what you have before buying new ingredients! It may even be helpful to familiarize yourself with your inventory BEFORE planning your menu for the week so that you can prioritize using what you already have.
While you’re planning out your menu and writing down your ingredients, check out their price per pound online at the store you’re going to. This can be a good way to help you estimate costs.
Collect and use coupons.
It’s one thing to collect coupons. It’s another thing to collect and use them effectively! When you’re sitting down with your menu and ingredients list, take out your pile of coupons and pull out the ones that you can use. Put them right in your wallet so you don’t forget to bring them to the store! If there’s a certain brand that you use regularly, be sure to check out their website for coupons that you can print out.
Prioritize your health.
When you’re in the grocery store, try to spend around 50% of your budget on fruits and vegetables, 20% on grains and beans, 10% on tofu, tempeh, and plant milks, and 20% on spices, kitchen items, etc. You don’t need to be exact and each week will be different. This is just something to keep in mind while you’re shopping.
Focus on variety.
Focus on variety to ensure that you’re getting all of your nutrients! Don’t stick to the same foods each week because it can be easy to fall into a rut. You can still prioritize variety while prioritizing your budget! See if there is a fruit, vegetable, or grain on sale that you’ve never tried before and try to incorporate it into your menu.
What should you buy organic?
Believe it or not, you don’t need to buy all of your food organic! The Environmental Working Group puts out an annual list of the “dirty dozen” and the “clean fifteen.” In other words, you don’t need to prioritize buying foods from the “clean fifteen” organic, but you should prioritize buying the “dirty dozen” organic when possible!
Clean Fifteen: sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions, sweet peas frozen, papayas, asparagus, mangos, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit.
Dirty Dozen: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, hot peppers
Shop in the frozen foods section.
Did you know that foods are often frozen at their peak nutritional value? This means that even when frozen fruits and vegetables aren’t in season, you can still find them in the frozen section without sacrificing nutrient quality. Look for things like unsweetened berries, corn, peas, spinach, kale, chard, broccoli, carrots, etc.
Buy in the bulk.
Try buying as much as you can during a sale and keep a supply at home! You can do this with dry ingredients like dried beans, rice, pasta, nuts, and seeds. While it may cost a little more up front to buy a lot of one thing, you’ll end up saving more in the long run. This is a great method to save money if your budget has the flexibility!
Save your receipts.
Saving your receipts can be an effective way to review how much you spend on food. If you really want to get down and dirty with the details, you can keep a simple EXCEL spreadsheet where you track your weekly, monthly, and yearly expenses on food. This can be a super motivating way to keep that number low!
Ewg. “EWG’s 2017 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.” EWG, www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php#.WntuQejwaUk.
Thacker, Darshana. “Plant-Based on a Budget: How I Ate Well on $5 a Day.” Forks Over Knives, 17 Nov. 2017, www.forksoverknives.com/healthy-food-on-tight-budget/.
“Want to save money on milk? Purchase non-Dairy!” Plant Based on a Budget, 13 Oct. 2016, plantbasedonabudget.com/want-to-save-money-on-milk-purchase-non-dairy/.