How much does it cost to eat for one day?
That’s not a fair question, is it? After all, depending on location, nutritional needs, and dietary specifications, there’s a pretty wide range that number could inhabit. And while the USDA has crunched the data and come up with some impressive (and potentially anxiety-inducing) suggestions, there’s really no perfect answer… except to say that most of us are spending more on food than we’d like to.
Food is an interesting investment. On the one hand, it’s an absolute necessity for life, and when your return on investment is that you don’t starve to death, how can you complain? On the other hand, when you buy food, you’re almost literally dumping your money down the toilet.
To sum it all up: You need food, but maybe you wish you didn’t have to spend so much on it.
Well, here’s some good news: You can enjoy a delicious and healthy dietary lifestyle, without eating up your bank account. It’s all possible with the whole-food plant-based diet, on a budget.
There are many advantages to embracing a vegan or whole-food plant-based diet. For one thing, cutting out red meat helps reduce the number of C-reactive proteins in your body, which means less inflammation. Which in turn means a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (to name only a few). Vegan and other plant-based dieters also generally have a healthier body weight. If you’re not too crazy about having to constantly medicate, it’s also worth noting that plant-based dieters tend to need fewer medications than those who follow a more omnivorous lifestyle. And, if you’re eating a range of whole plant foods, you’ll also be getting essentially all of the nutrients your body needs to remain healthy.
Big news, right? But you came here for plant-based on a budget. That means you’re probably already aware that a plant-based diet is the best choice for a healthy lifestyle. You want to know about cost.
So, here you go:
Overall, plant foods cost less than animal products. In fact, they tend to cost significantly less. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even the most expensive plant foods generally cost less per pound than the least expensive meats. And it’s not a matter of quality, either. For example, bologna isn’t usually seen as being a really elegant meat, but in November of 2018, it was going for fifty cents more per pound than field-grown tomatoes!
So, right off the bat, you can see how a vegan or otherwise plant-based diet can save you money. Now let’s take it further.
Cutting back on costs in a vegan or otherwise plant-based lifestyle? It’s about more than just knowing where you can buy high-quality meals for less; it’s about developing the right habits. So, if you’d like to expand your dollar while you improve your diet, here are five ideas to help you get started:
Whole-food markets are great places to find nutritionally dense, plant-based foods. But they’re not the only place. Prices at whole-food markets are often 10 to 20% higher than prices at traditional grocery stores. So, do some research. Find out which local grocery stores have high quality produce and other whole-food options. 20% savings on groceries can add up fast.
Are you just paying for food, or are you also paying for service? Anytime you decide to eat out at a restaurant, you’re paying (on average) three times as much for your meal as you would if you were to just buy the ingredients yourself. So, why not buy the ingredients yourself? Cooking is a talent, but it’s a talent that anyone can learn. Get familiar with your kitchen, explore some whole-food plant-based recipes, and don’t be afraid to experiment. You might be surprised how many plant-based recipes on a budget you can find online. And, because you’ll be making them yourself, you can tailor these meals to fit your own discerning palate. Bonus points if you grow your own produce in a home garden.
Humans are creatures of necessity. That means that when we’re hungry, we’re much more likely to rationalize expensive food purchases. Don’t wait until your stomach is growling to get a meal. Instead, plan for you meals in advance. Where possible, buy your ingredients in bulk and prepare meal options ahead of time, so you’ll have something healthy and cost friendly when the hunger hits. Planning ahead and getting enough ingredients for several recipes at once can save you extra trips to the store (and the travel costs that go along with them). Need some help planning? Here’s our go-to Whole Food Plant-Based Grocery List on a Budget.
Does your grocery store have a good organic generic brand? Take advantage! Check ingredients to make sure they stack up to the name brand (they probably will) and stock up on in-store brand pantry staples.
Beans really are amazing. Aside from providing plant-based dieters with massive amounts of vital protein and other essential nutrients, beans are also extremely satisfying. And they won’t break the bank, either. As such, consider relying on recipes that put beans in the spotlight. Dry beans usually cost less than canned beans, and can keep for much longer. Canned beans are also generally higher in sodium, so take that into account when planning your meals. Similarly, starches and legumes are great foundations to build meals around.
Cooking takes time and energy, so the more meals you can get out of your kitchen time, the better. Some people are happy to take this idea to the extreme, cooking and preparing a week’s worth of meals all at once. But if that seems like too much, maybe just multiply your recipes by two. By doubling how much you make, you can save the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch (or dinner, or snack, or whatever). You’ll be getting more out of your time spent cooking, and thus saving on the overall opportunity cost.
Familiarizing yourself with herbs, spics, and seasonings is a great way to dress up budget-friendly plant-based dishes, like classic beans and rice. Here are some of our best tips for seasoning without salt.
Do you feel like you’re spending more on food than you want to? You’re not alone. Food costs money. That’s just the way the world works. But just because there are expenses associated with eating, it doesn’t mean that they should be eating up all your funds.
Whole-food plant-based options are already generally less expensive than many non-plant foods, but that’s only the start. By following these tips, you can really cut back on your food costs, for a lifestyle that’s as thrifty as it is healthy.