If you are on a plant-based adventure and find yourself grimacing each time you leave the shop you might be left thinking eating plants is too expensive! Stop. Breathe. Relax. We are going to show you exactly which financial mistakes you are making that are inflating your budget needlessly. You can be confident and calm in the knowledge that eating plant-based on a budget can be tasty, satisfying and cost-effective.
Plant-based on a Budget for Beginners
Eating a plant-based diet has been increasing in popularity for the last few decades, with an exponential increase in just the last few years. A combination of celebrity endorsements and hard-hitting medical studies is influencing our choices dramatically. There is no longer any doubt; a whole food plant-based diet is healthier.
For many newcomers to the exciting world of plant-based nutrition the endless choices, options and ideas are overwhelming. The comfort of knowing which tried and tested favourites to turn to and which home cooked treats to prepare has been lost and in the face of your confusion you may not be making the best choices. Some calm reflection, new ideas, planning and a plant-based budget will help you steer clear of the food profiteers and find the real nutrition your body craves.
1. Don’t Believe the Hype
Food is one of the most profitable industries in the world, so it should come as no surprise that the food industry have been quick to capitalize on our desire to eat more plants. Unfortunately, social conditioning, mainly through TV and media, has sold us the idea that convenience is the epitome of success.
From microwave dinners to fast-foods we have been fed the idea that if we save time on basic household chores, like cooking, we can dedicate more time to leisure. Well, sadly, this is not the case. Despite a huge increase in “convenience” with processed and pre-packaged foods we have less perceived leisure time than our 1960’s counterparts and we have more diseases, more depression and less satisfaction with life generally.
So, convenience is essentially a disguise for profit. Preparing your own food, peeling, chopping and cooking does take more time than getting something out of a packet and heating it up. However, the knowledge that you made something yourself, combined with the reduced cost and increased nutrition massively outweigh the so called “convenience,” and food that takes longer to prepare is tastier anyway!
Cost cutting tip: Avoid anything processed, do the processing yourself at home!
2. Fad Foods and Trends
Once again the allure of profit has driven food producers to selectively advertise foods which bring them, not us, the greatest benefits. Take blueberries for instance: nobody is denying they are healthy, packed full of antioxidants, resveratrol, low in sugars etc. – an excellent addition to your diet. However, the ‘claims’ of their antioxidant power (“beating all other berries”) were based on limited studies of only a few hundred foods. Once the USDA studied the rest of the plant kingdom they found that lots of other foods had similar antioxidant power – but this news never reached the public as it was not part of the food profit machine!
Since blueberries are expensive, we continue to see them ‘pushed’ as an essential element of a health conscious diet (think about how often you see them in adverts!). If you like them, and can afford them, go for it, but don’t feel like you have to follow the crowd, especially as non-organic blueberries are contaminated with pesticides. Goji berries, dark chocolate and pecan nuts have higher antioxidant levels than blueberries.6 All fruits and vegetables are good for you and contain essential nutrients, antioxidants and health promoting compounds.
Cost cutting tip: Eat a variety of cheaper seasonal and common fruits and vegetables
3. Fake Foods and Mock Meats
Many plant-based explorers fear giving up their favourite tastes and foods and are unsure about how to prepare satisfying plant-based meals. So, the food manufacturers have created a vast array of fake foods to meet this need. From bacon to salami, chicken drumsticks to beef-like burgers, you can find a fake plant-based version of anything meat eaters consume.
These fake foods and mock meats are made from highly processed plant-fragments (not whole plants) combined with artificial flavours, synthetic colors and additives which make them addictive and a load of other crap. Basically, this is not whole food plant-based goodness; these are expensive GMO riddled, toxic, edible substances. They may fill a hunger gap but they provide minimal nutrition and are loaded with toxins your body would rather not consume. Even the cleverly marketed ‘organic’ with lovely leafy packaging versions are after your money and not focussed on your health.
Cost cutting tip: Choose real, whole, foods and learn how to make them delicious yourself!
4. Satisfaction is Complicated
The internet is full of amazing recipes for the most delicious plant-based meals and treats. Amazing images and delicious descriptions tempt us into a world of plant-based luxury. While a 50 ingredient, 3 hour, cooking extravaganza might be one person’s idea of heaven, for many it is a hell they would rather avoid.
Changing your diet and finding new ways to enjoy plants takes time, experimentation, mistakes, inspiration and effort. But it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Gradually introduce new ingredients into your diet, try out a new cooking method. Find a simple recipe. Don’t be afraid of slowly introducing ideas and ingredients one at a time.
If you find a delicious meal you like then play with it, you can adapt a meal and enjoy it much easier than having to work from scratch with new concepts and ingredients each time. A simple salad with a delicious nut sauce has literally infinite variations. Simple is satisfying.
Cost cutting tip: Work with staple foods and simple recipes you like, then slowly experiment.
5. Lack of Financial Accountability
In our credit based economy most of us have never even tried to budget. “Put it on the plastic” is a common method to cope with monthly monetary deficits. Since we don’t like to think about money, we ignore it, and the banks and credit cards support this habit with long interest free periods and easy access to credit.
Do you actually know how much you spend on anything? Learning to budget and spending within your means is not as exciting as blowing a grand on credit but in the long run it will help you move outside of our current debt-based slavery monetary system and into the freedom we all deserve.
The first step is planning a budget and recording your spending. You will be amazed at where your money goes. We like to hide from things that scare us and money scares most of us. So, in your efforts to eat better, why not consider where you are prioritising spending and where you are missing an opportunity? You will be shocked, surprised and perhaps even saddened, when you realize how much money you waste when it all adds up. Suddenly organic veggies seem cheap!.
Cost cutting tip: Create a budget, adapt, learn, try this free tool to reveal where you money goes
6. Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
The opposite of convenience is planning. When you plan your meals, or at least have some rough ideas before you go shopping, you will buy the ingredients you need and not just the ones which catch your eye. Take some time to plan out what you might like to eat, what your nutritional needs are and create a shopping list. Random shopping, especially when you are hungry, is MUCH more expensive and will typically not provide all the staples for your plant-based diet.
By thinking about your food in advance you can even prepare ingredients the night before, such as soaking dried beans, or make a few batches of food and freezing it. Think about what is important to you, is it time, flavour, variety etc. and factor this into your planning.
Cost cutting tip: Take time to think about the foods you want and meals you need each week.
7. One Size Doesn’t Fit All
We are all unique, some of us are tall, some short, some of us like lettuce, some of us hate it. There is no single solution to diet or health. You need to find out what works for you and you alone, yes this can be tricky when cooking for a family but it is still important.
If you eat foods which you don’t like or don’t fill you up you will end of sneaking in other foods to fill the emotional or physical gap. Avoid this as it is expensive, reduces your will power and may impact your health. Don’t be afraid to find what is right for you. Textures, tastes, sauces and sprinkles can be a minor addition to a meal with a massive impact. You might want some simple cooked vegetables with a sprinkle of chili oil and lime, while your partner might like the same with a portion of rice and peanut sauce. Investigate and experiment with your preferences.
Cost cutting tip: Put your needs first – find foods which are cost effective and make personally satisfying adaptations.
Long Term Solutions
If you are rethinking your eating and looking for ways to improve your health without costing the earth then you are in the right place. Whole food plant-based diets are the cheapest way to get the maximum nutrition for your money. You can enjoy eating plant-based on a budget knowing you are putting your health first too.
The more you nourish your body the longer it will last. Annual medication costs for type II diabetes are $3,440. 7 Compare that to a diet which will prevent diabetes and all other lifestyle diseases, keep you fit, healthy and happy, and high quality nutrition suddenly seems much cheaper.
Support Each Other
By sharing this article on social media you help others interested in plant-based nutrition know they are not alone. Every piece of vital information that reaches the public’s attention has the potential to shift our planet towards a more harmonious existence. Together we can create a plant-based future to be proud of, but we all need to act. You are the paradigm shift, share this information now.