With so many new vegan products hitting the shelves, it's easy to get the impression that eating plant-based will break the bank. Well, I'm going to prove that eating plant-based will SAVE you money.
How could adopting this lifestyle save you money?
With so many new plant-based products taking off, it's easy to worry that eating plant-based will break the bank. Well, let’s debunk that and explore how this change will SAVE you money.
How can adopting a plant-based lifestyle save you money?
The most affordable foods on the planet just so happen to be plant-based. Think beans, whole grains, tubers, bread, pasta, fruit and veggies - all the foods that make up the foundation of a whole food, plant-based diet.
An article published in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition found that eating 7 days on a plant-based meal plan costs $38.75, while 7 days on the USDA’s meal plan, which includes animal products, costs $53.11; indicating a potential savings of $14.36 a week or $746.45 a year eating plant-based.
Cut Out Vegan Processed Foods to
Processed vegan food, like meat patties and cheese, tend to cost more than the animal-based version; however, these processed foods don’t need to be a part of your diet, nor do they offer the nutritional benefits that whole foods do. Sticking to the basics - legumes, tubers, and whole grains - will keep your health on track and your grocery bill down.
Breaking down your weekly budget
Build your diet around foods that are both affordable and nutrient-rich, such as:
Whole grains (rice, pasta, oats, tortillas)
Legumes (beans, lentils)
Tubers (potatoes, yams)
Although the staples fulfill more than half of your caloric intake, you won't spend more than 20% of your budget on them because they're incredibly cheap.
Consider this: one serving of rice costs you as little as $0.03, one serving of pinto beans costs $0.06, and one serving of potatoes cost $0.07. Add a serving of leafy greens, like collards for $0.25, and you’ve got a nutrient-rich, yet super affordable and satisfying meal for under $1!
Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are generally pricier than the staples mentioned above, but they’re also the most important part of your diet. Aim to spend 50% of your budget on fruits and vegetables. Learn how to find affordable fruits and vegetables below.
While all plants contain protein, some plants have a higher protein content per serving than others. Soy products, such as tofu and tempeh, rival the amino acid profile of meat, and they're cheap; they cost around $1.00 per serving. While tofu and tempeh are not a necessary part of a plant-based diet, they increase nutrient diversity and they're fun to cook!
Consider keeping a shelf-staple or refrigerated plant-based milk handy for smoothies, oatmeal or nice cream. The most affordable and versatile plant-based milks are almond, oat, and soy milk. Also, you can make your own; making homemade almond milk starts with soaking almonds in room temperature water overnight. In the morning, the water is drained and almonds are added to a blender with a pinch of salt and fresh water along with any additional ingredients for sweetness or flavor, like dates, cacao powder or vanilla extract. After blending for 1-2 minutes, until fine, the milk is poured and then squeezed through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth into a large mixing bowl. Homemade milks typically last 3-4 days in the fridge.
If you have a few dollars left over in your weekly budget, consider purchasing nuts, seeds, spices, condiments and sauces.
Tips for Stretching Your Dollar
Rely on The Staples
Whole grains, tubers, and legumes are affordable anywhere!. If you base your meals around these staples, you'll be eating a nutrient-rich diet and saving a ton of money. Here are some favorites:
Oats and cream of wheat
Whole wheat pasta
Barley, quinoa and buckwheat
Dry beans, lentils and peas
Potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams
Canned and shelf-stable products, like diced tomatoes
Know Where to Shop
It's convenient to have a one-stop shop for all of your grocery needs but, if you want to save cash, you may need to source your groceries from a few different places. Here are my favorites:
The local farmers markets for seasonal produce (usually accept EBT/SNAP)
Large chain grocery stores for the bulk section (usually accept EBT/SNAP)
Ethnic markets for dried spices and herbs
Asian markets for leafy greens and fruit
Stick to Seasonal Produce
Consuming seasonal produce is optimal both healthwise and financially. Seasonal produce retains its full nutrient content because it has naturally ripened in the earth. When harvested, season produce will be more flavorful and rich.
When a fruit or vegetable is in season, it's more abundant and sold at a lower price. Meanwhile, you’d pay double for a piece of produce that’s grown out of season. Plus, foods that are produced in season are better for the environment.
Shop in Bulk
More often than not, you’ll save money when you buy in bulk. It is cheaper than buying in smaller quantities because it costs both producers and suppliers less to sell them that way. It may amount to small savings for the customer - perhaps only a few nickels - but if it’s an item that you frequently consume, those nickels add up!
What should you buy in bulk? Whole grains, legumes, and flour tend to cost loss when purchased in bulk or from the bulk section, while nuts and seeds cost similarly to packaged options.
Peruse the Frozen Section
Fruits and vegetables are generally cheaper to buy frozen. This is great news for the savvy shopper who has a large freezer at home. Some people avoid shopping in the frozen section due to the belief that frozen fruits and vegetables are worse quality. It turns out that frozen fruits and veggies are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, and some even retain more nutrients. Researchers at the University of California Davis found that the vitamin content was higher in some frozen broccoli, corn, green beans and blueberries. The freezing process keeps nutrients intact, while fresh produce may sit in transit and at the grocery store for days, losing nutrients along the way.
You’ll get the most bang for your buck with frozen berries; per pound, they’re usually cheaper than fresh produce. You'll find that a 10-ounce bag of frozen, organic berries is the same price as six ounces of the fresh fruit.
Cook Your Meals at Home
The easiest way to save money is to prepare your meals at home, in your own kitchen. A healthy, take-out, plant-based meal will cost you upwards of $12 - depending on where you live - while a homemade meal could cost you less than $1 per serving, if you stick to the staples.
Choose Recipes That Freeze Well
Soups, stews, curries, veggie burgers, broths, sauces, casseroles, breads - and other similar foods - freeze nicely. These meals can be prepared in large quantities, and then frozen in portions for meals throughout the week or beyond.
A day of affordable eating:
Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal
Curried Rice and Tofu
Peanut butter on Toast
Stuffed Baked Potatoes and Lentil Stew
Banana Nice Cream with Frozen Berries and Pumpkin Seeds
Down The Road, You'll Save on
Managing a chronic disease is expensive. Consider the cost of doctor’s visits, pharmaceutical pills, insulin, ER trips, direct care support, surgeries and procedures, days off from work, child care, etc. Plant-based diets can prevent and minimize the need for medical intervention, saving you thousands of dollars in the long run.
If you invest in your health today, not only will you save money down the road, but your quality of life will improve.
Iraina Rosenthal-Tawil, RD
Founder, Your Life on the Veg
Iraina is a registered dietitian based in New York City. She specializes in plant-based diets for the prevention and management of chronic disease. She offers virtual nutrition counseling via a HIPPA-secured online platform.