You may think a plant based diet will make you AND your wallet lighter, but it may end up being cheaper than you think.
Eating plant based diet on a budget might sound like an oxymoron but it’s totally doable.
By the time we enter our thirties most of us have considered cutting meat out of our diet.
Maybe it’s because you watched a Netflix documentary—or three—or you got to the check-out and noticed you had a lot of popcorn chicken and no vegetables.
Whatever the reason is, eating a plant-based diet has been unjustly associated with being costly. In fact, the opposite is true.
A study on economical diets showed that a plant based diet can save you $746 compared to the diet recommended by MyPlate, and still meets your recommended daily intake of protein.
So set aside your sirloins and pick up your parsnips; you’re about to find out how vegans and vegetarians are eating healthy on a budget.
1. Stock up on Dried Beans & Legumes
If you’re wondering where all that plant-based protein is coming from, it’s from a wealth of different beans and legumes.
Black, kidney, pinto, chickpeas, lentils, and more offer even more variety than 50 Shades of Chicken.
But it’s also where we cut the most cost.
These little nuggets of energy are cheap canned or dried, but when you buy them dried you’ll get the most bang for your buck. You’ll pay about 60 cents per cup when you buy canned beans and 25 cents per cup when you make them yourself.
Either way, you’ll get about 15 grams of protein in every cup.
In comparison, store brand chicken breasts from the frozen section at Walmart will run you $1.09 per 8 oz.
Cooking dry beans may be scary at first but all it takes is a little planning. Either soak overnight or all day and cook on the stove top in the evening. Or if you have an Instant Pot you can skip the soak and put dry beans right into it!
2. Buy Produce in Season & Freeze it
Fresh produce is cheapest when it’s in season. Duh. But nothing is in season when it’s snowing.
So when produce is at its cheapest, plan to make freezer meals. Not only will freezer meals help you take advantage of those low prices, they’re great when you’re in a pinch for dinner.
Slow cooker meals freeze the best because, since there’s no meat in them, they can go straight in the slow cooker in the morning and be done by dinner. You can also do oven meals but make sure to defrost them for 48 hours.
3. Skip the Imitation Meat
If you’re trying to be vegan on a budget, imitation meat is not your friend. It’s not only pricey but contains a lot of questionable ingredients. You can easily get the feeling of meat in other plant-based foods for less.
Seitan is made from gluten, the main protein in wheat. It has a dense texture and contains about 25 grams of protein in 3.5 oz. Tofu and tempeh are made from soybeans and contain 10-15 grams of protein per 4 oz.
All three can be sliced, diced and seasoned to taste without any worry about what’s in them.
4. Join a CSA or Shop at Low-Cost Grocers
The farmer’s market makes for a fun outing but you’re almost sure to pay more for your produce.
By shopping at low-cost grocers you can cut your bill even lower or afford some of the better quality things you want.
If you’re really adventurous you can try out a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture. For about $30 a week you can support a local farm and get a variety of produce including salad greens, cooking greens, root vegetables, herbs, and more.
When’s the last time your weekly grocery bill was $30?
5. Meal Plan & Shop With a List
No matter what your diet is, going to the grocery store with a plan and a list is the key to stopping superfluous spending.
You don’t have to plan out 21 meals and snacks every week. Start with a few dinners and work up to a schedule that works with your lifestyle.
And when you go into the grocery store, don’t deviate from your list! Know your budget and shop until you meet it. It sounds like common sense but this one practice can save you thousands over your lifetime.
Jen is a frugal friend to overspenders. She is a personal finance writer and budget coach at Saving with Spunk, where she helps people spend money more intentionally and laugh a little in the process.
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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.