Next up on my list of reasons why I promote a whole food, plant-based diet is the affordability factor.
This one doesn’t take much explanation. It’s quite simple if we look at some numbers. The fact is that per pound, meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products are more expensive than fruits, vegetables, potatoes, legumes, and whole grains. Plant-based staples like oats, rice, potatoes, and beans are some of the cheapest foods out there. Because these foods are rich in vitamins and minerals, you won’t be missing anything nutritionally by buying these over animal products.
Let’s do a VERY SIMPLE comparison. The average cost of a pound of ground beef is $5 while the average cost of a pound of chicken breasts is around $3. The cost of a pound of beans is generally between $1.20 and $2.00. For this example, we’ll say an average cost of animal protein is $4/lb and the cost of a pound of beans is $1.60.
Let’s say a family of four consumes 2 pounds of meat per day, 7 days a week. Using the numbers above they would be spending $2,912 a year on meat. If they switched out that meat for the same amount of beans ($1,164.8/year) they would be saving $1,747.20 per year. That’s some good looking savings!
Eating a plant-based diet can be spendy if you buy into all the superfoods, (unnecessary) supplements, and protein powders. But, you certainly can keep it simple and stick to the basics which is what I like to do. Buying organic produce will also increase the price but not by much. I have found I still save money compared to when I was buying meat on a regular basis. That little extra savings from not buying meat opens up a little of the budget to buy more produce, too. A win-win!
- Buy dry beans over canned.
I usually keep a few cans of beans on hand for when I’m in a pinch. But to save money I generally buy dry beans from the bulk section of the store and cook them myself. I have found I save 50 percent of what I would have spent had I bought the same amount of canned when I do it this way. Note: I like to cook a big batch of beans, portion them out to 2 cups per freezer bag, and store those bags in the freezer until I’m going to use them.
- Shop the bulk section
Staples like rice, oats, quinoa, lentils, beans, and nuts can be stored for a long time. You’ll save money when buying in bulk because you aren’t paying for packaging. Buy in bulk, buy on sale, and stock up when you can! The bulk section is a great option when you just want to sample something you haven’t tried before since you can buy as much or as little as you want. It’s great for buying spices-especially expensive ones that you may not need much of.
- Make a meal plan/grocery list for the week
Having an idea of what meals you will be making that week can help you stick to a budget by only buying the things you will be using. This saves you money and prevents food from going to waste.
- Buy frozen produce
You don’t only have to buy fresh produce. Buying frozen veggies and fruit can save you a bunch at check out. And, frozen food keeps for a long time which means you can stock up when things are on sale without worrying about it going bad.
- Grow your own food
If you are able, having your own garden is super budget-friendly when it comes to eating lots of veggies. Even just an indoor herb garden can be helpful in saving money. Fresh herbs can add up in price but they add so much to a meal through taste and nutrition benefits. They are worth using.
- Skip the faux meats and cheeses
These imitation meats and cheeses can be nice if you are still transitioning into a vegetarian or vegan diet but they are spendy. They are also very processed and don’t offer much in the way of nutrition. Instead, opt for making your own bean burgers and save the fake meats for a once in a while splurge.
- Stick to whole foods
Instead of relying on canned soups or packaged meals, buy the ingredients and make your own. Packaged food is more costly thanks to the manufacturing, packaging, and marketing costs.
- Keep it Simple
Some of the best meals are the simplest and cheapest! All you need is a bean, a green, and a grain (or potato) and you have the perfect budget-friendly and nutritious plant-based meal.