You would expect more people to adopt a plant-based diet with all the benefits it offers. But, many are often turned off by the supposed cost of that decision. And so, one question emerges: how can you have a plant-based diet on a budget? Let's find out!
Plant-based Diet on a Budget: Starting the Right Way
The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
The first thing that you should do when considering starting a plant-based diet on a budget is to become familiar with the benefits. This will help motivate you to do the planning that is required to make this change work for you in the long term.
Many books and videos are available to help increase your knowledge of this subject, but in brief, here are three main benefits you will be happy to know about:
Healthy Heart and Lower Blood Pressure
One of the biggest triggers of heart diseases is the saturated fats found in meat. By cutting down your meat consumption, you can decrease your risk by as much as 16%.
Additionally, going with a plant-based diet will reduce your blood pressure. By reducing meat consumption, especially fatty and prepared/processed meats, you lessen the burden on your heart and improve your overall blood flow. You also acquire these results by consuming plants rich in healthy oils such as nuts and olives, and a variety of legumes, whole grains, and healthy vegetables.
Boost Your Immune System
Plants contain a wide variety of helpful chemical compounds like phytochemicals and antioxidants. Numerous studies have shown that these compounds are effective in fighting a variety of diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Many of these plants also have anti-inflammatory properties that protect your cells and tissues from damages, and improve your symptoms of arthritis, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders.
All of these come together to help increase your life expectancy. Sticking to a plant-based diet can decrease your mortality rate by 25%. You can further boost that percentage by structuring your diet right.
Improve Your Mental Health
The benefits of a plant-based diet are not just limited to physiological effects. You can also improve your mental health through it.
Raw and fermented plant foods are known to enrich our gut flora, and researchers are finding that a healthy gut microbiome (all the microorganisms in your digestive system) is key to maintaining a healthy brain and neurological system.
Many fruits and vegetables are rich in compounds called polyphenols, which are effective in slowing down the spread of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Plant-based Diet on a Budget: Selecting the Right Ingredients
When trying to start a plant-based diet on a budget, you have to strike a balance between the cost and the benefit that you gain. Consider what kinds of foods you want to eat and list them down on a daily and weekly basis.
You also need to make sure that you cover the four essential plant-based food groups. These include:
- Legumes: You can stock up on both canned and dried beans and lentils.
- Fruits and vegetables: Take note of any special conditions that you might have and factor that in when selecting the fruits and vegetables on your list.
- Whole grains: Choose options that are higher in fiber like quinoa, brown rice, and oatmeal.
- Nuts and seeds: Take into account possible allergy histories before listing your choices.
Make sure that you have as much variety for each group. This will give you plenty of options for your ingredients.
Plant-based Diet Grocery List: Shopping the Right Way
Even with a prepared list of ingredients, you might find it hard deciding what to buy in the grocery. Here, it would be good to portion your budget into something like this:
- 50% for fruits and vegetables
- 20% on staples like grains, beans, and canned vegetables
- 10% for organic tofu or non-dairy milk
- 20% for other items based on what you need
By structuring your budget this way, you ensure that you have ample stock of each food group. Note that you will have to adjust this from time to time based on your current inventory. So, make it a habit to check your pantry regularly.
Additional Reminders for your Plant-Based Diet Plan
When shopping for your plant-based meal plan, it’s always a good idea to buy the plants that are in season. These generally cost less since they are easier to grow and don’t need to be transported far. Additionally, in-season produce will be more satisfying to eat since they have been cultivated in their optimal growing conditions.
But while you would want to get fresh produce as much as possible, don’t ignore the frozen foods section. Since these have already been prepared, you can save a lot of time when using them. Additionally, you lessen the waste since only the useful parts are there. On the other hand, the nutritional profile of frozen produce is nearly identical to fresh ones. You don’t have to worry about whether you are getting the right amount of nutrients. FREEZING AND DEHYDRATING are the ONLY ways to extend shelf life of foods without significantly reducing their nutritional benefits.
It would also be a good idea to buy your produce in bulk. The idea here is that they will cost a lot less overall when bought in large bags than in serving-size packets. Make sure that you have enough storage to keep your bulk products in good condition. For example, grains might seem like a smart thing to buy in large quantities to save money, but stored grains are susceptible to infestation by creatures like moths, so you must be very careful about your storage methods in order not to lose money due to spoiled ingredients.
Creating Satisfying Meals from Your Plant-based Diet Ingredients
Getting your ingredients is just the first part of switching to a plant-based diet. The next step to take is turning these ingredients into satisfying meals. Here, your goal should be to have as much variety as you can.
Grab plant-based cookbooks and use the plethora of plant-based recipe web sites. These will give you plenty of ideas for building your meal plan. Additionally, many of these cookbooks and web sites come with nutrition info on ingredients for further planning. You can also join various online groups and exchange recipes with other members.
Another useful reminder when following a plant-based diet on a budget is to cook everything in batches. For instance, you can cook root crops like beets and potatoes well ahead of time. Come meal times, all you need to do is assemble them. The strategy works well for the weeks when you don’t have the time to cook meals. You will also find it handy when you want a steady supply of meals on the go.
Avoid expensive processed foods and cheap foods that only achieve appealing taste by adding unhealthy sugars, salts, and unnatural flavourings. Strive to consume whole foods and prepared foods made only with whole food ingredients. You might be surprised to hear this, but many vegans today deceive themselves that they are eating healthy when they are actually hooked on consuming processed and sugary junk foods!