Welcome to the third post in our blog series, 'Going Plant-Based: Everything You Need To Know.' Read our previous post on the top six barriers to going vegan here.
You're not alone if you want to adopt a plant-based diet but are worried about the cost. There are many ways to plan healthy and affordable plant-based meals. This post will discuss tips and tricks for eating well on a budget. We will also discuss the benefits of buying seasonal produce and how to make the most of your shopping.
1. Know which products to buy based on price-points
Not all plant-based products are created equal. Knowing which products are the most affordable is good when you are on a budget. For example, beans and lentils are much cheaper than store-bought protein substitutes. You can use the price per kg. to compare prices between brands and different sizes of products. The "cheaper" option might be more expensive by weight, so always check before you buy!
Package-free vs packaged items
These days, it seems like everything comes in a package. It can be difficult to avoid excessive packaging from our food to our clothes. However, buying package-free can often be cheaper because you are only buying what you need rather than paying for extra food, which can go to waste. For example, when purchasing bulk grains or spices, you can bring your containers and only pay for the amount you need.
Buying package-free is often less wasteful, as there are no packaging materials to throw away. But, there are some instances where buying packaged items makes more sense. For example, if an item is fragile or has a short shelf life, packaging can help protect it and prolong its life. Ultimately, the best choice is to weigh each option's cost and environmental impact before deciding.
If you cannot access a package-free, whole-food shop, we recommend buying them packed from an Asian store near you. Most often than not, the most oversized packages will be the cheapest. Some items to add to your shopping list include:
- Seeds like chia, flax, or hemp
- Nuts such as almonds, cashews, or peanuts
- Dried fruit like raisins, apricots, or dates
- Grains such as quinoa, rice, or oats
Dry Food vs Cans
You can save money on groceries by buying items like lentils and beans in bulk instead of in tins and cans. Not only do you get more for your money, but you also have the opportunity to cook in larger batches and freeze leftover cooked beans for future meals.
Beans and lentils are both high in protein and fibre and low in fat. They are also a good source of iron, magnesium, and potassium. These versatile food items can be used in various dishes, from soups and stews to burritos and chilli. With some planning, you can make dry beans a diet staple and stretch your food budget further than ever before.
Some of the items to pick up from bulk stores include:
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Green lentils
- Red lentils
- Split peas
Frozen vs fresh fruits and veggies
Most of us have experienced the frustration of buying fresh fruits or vegetables, only to have them go bad before we can eat them. It's a waste of money, and it can be discouraging to put effort into healthy eating only to see our food spoil. One way to prevent this from happening is to buy frozen produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables can last for months in the freezer and often cost less than their fresh counterparts. Plus, frozen produce is just as nutritious as fresh produce.
Keep an eye out for veggies, fruits, and berries in the reduced section of your grocery store. These are often near the end of their best before date, but you can extend their shelf life by washing, chopping, and freezing them. This is a great way to get fruits and veggies without breaking the bank.
2. Learn about seasonal produce and how to make the most of it
If you want the most bang for your buck, try to buy seasonal produce in peak season. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are typically cheaper because they are more widely available. For example, tomatoes are in peak season during summer, so this is the best time to buy them.
To save money, try to buy them when they're on sale. Look for deals on produce that is about to go out of season. This product will be discounted to sell before it goes bad. Check out this handy seasonal calendar from BBC GoodFood to see what's in season.
Pickling and canning
Pickling and canning are also great ways to preserve food for later. Not only does this help reduce food waste, but it also allows you to enjoy out-of-season produce all year round. Plus, homemade pickles and preserves often taste better than store-bought versions. If you are new to pickling and canning, plenty of resources are available to help you get started.
3. Eat whole foods (but also treat yourself with substitutes!)
By incorporating more whole food items in your plant-based journey, you can save money and improve your health simultaneously. Whole foods are minimally processed and free of artificial ingredients. They include things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Not only are they more nutrient-dense than processed foods, but they're also typically lower in price. For example, a pound of carrots costs significantly less than a bag of chips, and a head of broccoli lasts longer than a box of frozen pizza. Plus, you can hardly ever overeat veggies and fruits!
By giving your body exactly what it needs to function optimally, you can potentially save yourself on other expenses such as supplements, medications, doctors and other health appointments too. We don't say this will be true for everyone, however, there is a lot of research into whole food plant-based diets being optimal for health.
Make or buy tasty substitutes.
Adapting your favourite meat-based dishes with plant-based and vegan ingredients are many ways. Legumes and pulses are an excellent substitute for minced beef or lamb; you can make shepherd pie entirely out of kidney beans and lentils. You could also try our bolognese to see how mushrooms and lentils can replace meat in the dish while tasting as (if not more) delectable!
While it's great to eat veggies and lentils, we don't expect you to eat them daily for each meal. We encourage you to include mock meats like this brisket or this steak into your monthly meal plans to satisfy any meat cravings. This way, you won't feel like you're missing out and are more likely to stick to your plant-based diet in the long run.
If you have the time, you can save money and cut down on waste by making your nut or oat milk at home. All you need is a blender, some water, and nuts or oats. If you don't have time, look for brands that sell them in bulk.
4. Track your spending to stay within budget
This may sound obvious, but the best way to build the habit of eating more plant-based food while on a budget is to be aware of your spending. You can avoid impulse purchases in the store by creating and sticking to your shopping list.
Track how much you spend on groceries each week or month, and look for ways to cut back. For example, if you're spending a lot of money on produce but not finding time to cook, you could look into purchasing our range of packaged vegan meals. Some of our customers have told us that the generous quantity in each pack can often last them for two meals. Apart from being fully vegan and plant-based, we are also committed to reducing food waste. Check this post to know more about how we do this.
If you're eating out frequently, try to cook at home more often. Also, check out our seven tips on packing healthy vegan lunches, which are helpful if you are on a budget.
Next week on the blog...
Next week we talk about how to plan and eat plant-based food for families. We'll offer tips on how to get your kids to love plant-predominant meals and sources of vitamins and protein that growing bodies need. We will also have some other suggestions for you, so stay tuned!
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