For a lot of people, the idea of going plant based seems appealing but they are concerned about the cost. However, I believe cooking a healthy and balanced plant based diet is cheaper than cooking a healthy(ish) and balanced omni diet. There are many socio-economic factors that mean, for some people, eating a balanced and healthy diet of any kind seems unrealistic, but to be honest I don’t have enough knowledge about these factors to comment. This post is more aimed at people who have the means to make choices about their diet, but don’t want to break the bank doing so.
So, why is there this idea that plant based is so expensive? I think a lot of it is to do with the number of mock meat and cheese products now available. As veganism has become more popular and mainstream (yay!), businesses have cottoned on to the fact they can capitalise on this. If you’re looking to eat a diet centred around mock meats and cheeses etc then this will inevitably be expensive. I’d argue no more expensive than eating meat, cheese, fish etc if you’re buying these “products” fresh from the shops, but it will cost you more than a diet centred around whole, plant foods. Being plant based really doesn’t have to break the bank – you just need to know what to look for! We’ve been watching the pennies since I left my job (in anticipation of something new and exciting - more on this in the coming weeks) so I’ve set out below some tips on how to buy plant based on a budget!
1. Avoid processed foods
In general, processed and packaged foods cost more. You’re not only paying for the food and packaging, there’s also the time that goes into creating those foods. This means such foods are always going to cost more than the equivalent foods that go into making them. Why not cut out the expensive middle man and get your food directly from the source? Foods such as beans, lentils, some grains, and seasonal fruits and veg are usually inexpensive (and, added bonus, are much healthier than processed foods).
2. Buy in bulk where you can
It’s usually a lot cheaper to buy your dried foods in bulk. This also means fewer trips to the shops, which will save on travel costs, and less packaging which is better for everyone! Of course, this means you need space to store it in, and there’s a higher up-front cost, but if you are able to do that you’ll save some money.
3. Buy dried foods where you can
Dried foods are not only able to be bought in bulk, but if that isn’t an option for you, it’s still generally cheaper to buy dried foods. Buying larger packets of dried beans rather than canned or pre prepared is a great way to save some money off of your grocery budget!
4. Buy “wonky” veg
Some supermarkets are now cottoning on to the fact that people are becoming less tolerant of waste – including wasting perfectly good vegetables because they don’t look “right”. In some you can now buy “wonky” veg for cheaper than their more aesthetically pleasing brothers and sisters – Morrisons for example does a wonky veg box for £3.50. Another alternative is to go to a farmers’ market if you are able to, as you can often pick up some great deals there – and often with less packaging.
5. Try to buy seasonally and locally
Again, if you have a farmers’ market near you this will be easier. Fresh, locally grown seasonable veg is not only a great option for your carbon footprint, it’s often cheaper as it hasn’t been flown half way across the world to get to you!
6. Plan your meals and cook in bulk
It’s really helpful to reduce waste (both costs and food) to plan your meals and snacks in advance and to cook in bulk if you can. This means you can plan a wide variety of meals and the foods you’ll need to make those meals, which should help you find a nice, balanced diet without breaking the bank. It’s a good idea to plan your food when you aren’t hungry, as you are more likely to be sensible about your choices than if you plan while hungry.
7. Freeze, label and date leftovers
If you’re careful with your planning of meals then hopefully you won’t have too many leftovers, but if you do then just freeze them to use at a later date. It’s helpful to label date anything you put in the freezer so you aren’t caught out a few months down the line not knowing what you have in the freezer and how long it’s been in there.
8. Use more expensive items sparingly
I’m not gonna lie, there are some expensive items that, while not essential, do make eating a healthy plant based diet easier (I’m looking at you, nutritional yeast!). These aren’t essential, so don’t worry if you can’t afford them, but if you can, you could try getting them every now and then and then just using them sparingly. Nuts and seeds are another item that are pretty expensive, but they’re very good for you and contain essential fatty acids, so if you’re able to buy these (in bulk is cheaper overall) that will help in planning a balanced and healthy diet.
9. Look for reduced items
Learn what time of day your local shops usually reduce their products which are going out of date and make a point of shopping at that time. You can find some great deals that way, and it would be a good time to look for some of the more expensive products which you might want to buy.
10. Try to grow your own!
This will obviously depend on the space you have available, but as long as you have a window sill you should be able to grow something! Why not try growing some herbs, as fresh herbs tend to be fairly pricey and go off quickly. If you have a bit more space, onions, broccoli, salad leaves, potatoes, carrots and berries are all great options to grow yourself!