Eating healthy can be hard. Eating healthy on a budget? That’s a challenge. In fact, it’s one that a lot of people think is insurmountable. Indeed, if we’re talking about obstacles keeping people from considering a plant-based diet, price is definitely up there with the infamous protein concern. It doesn’t have to be this way. We’re here to rectify the unfounded assumptions because it’s totally possible to eat a healthy and balanced vegan diet without spending our whole paycheck. How? Well, aside from doing a bit of planning and weekly meal prep, there are cheap key ingredients that you should stock your fridge and pantry with. Beans, grains, legumes, basic starches such as potatoes and roots vegetables are all examples of vegan essentials that don’t cost much but pack a ton of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Ready to know more about nutritious staple foods that can benefit your health and your wallet? Here are 8 foods to put in your cart on your next shopping trip:
Oats are a staple for a reason, they’re cheap, filling, and extra delicious. Don’t believe us? Try these Fermented Carrot Cake Oats, pictured above. You’re welcome.
Did you know, however, that aside from being notoriously inexpensive, oats are also incredibly healthy? A bowl of oatmeal each morning will give you a good dose of B-vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium, and fiber. Along with the carbohydrates that oats contain, these vitamins and minerals will boost your energy and mood, and fuel your brain and body for the day ahead. Oats are also rich in avenanthramides, a type of antioxidants that fight free-radicals and can prevent heart disease. How great is that?
Ready to reap the benefits of oats? Try making these Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats, these Hazelnut Oatmeal Baked Pears, and this Bananas Foster Oatmeal. If you’re looking for creative ways to enjoy oats, this Mushroom Steel Cut Oatmeal Risotto and this Savory Lentil Oatmeal Taco Bowl are amazing.
This fall staple is comforting, filling, and also super cheap. As if we needed another reason to love them, it turns out that sweet potatoes are amazing for our health too. They’re packed with beta-carotene (the antioxidant that gives them their vibrant orange color), B-vitamins, vitamin A and C, potassium, magnesium, and fiber. Sweet potatoes’ impressive nutrient content helps reduce blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cortisol, and thereby prevents diabetes and heart disease. Consuming sweet potatoes regularly can also benefit your mood and energy levels as they contain tryptophan, a precursor in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for mood and sleep regulation.
If you’re looking for easy recipes featuring the almighty sweet potato, we suggest giving this Chai-spiced Sweet Potato Soup, pictured above, this Anti-Inflammatory Sweet Potato Soup, and this Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese With Spinach a try. Also, check out these 15 Must-Make Vegan Sweet Potato Dinners That Are Perfect For Fall.
We all know carrots are good for our eyesight but did you know that this inexpensive root veggie can also fight inflammation and prevent diseases? Yes, they may seem like a humble snack but carrots contain a high amount of vitamin A and beta-carotene as well as flavonoids and polyphenols which have antioxidant properties. These compounds help maintain our immune system strong and fight the negative effects of free-radicals. Carrots are also packed with minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, and zinc.
Get your fill of vitamins and minerals with these delicious Baked Shoestring Carrot Fries, pictured above, these Roasted Spiced Carrots, this Curried Carrot Ginger and Orange Soup, or this Roasted Balsamic Carrot Hummus.
There are many different types of lentils out there — green, red, brown, du Puy, and more! — and good news: they’re all cheap! They’re also packed with protein and fiber as well as many vitamins and minerals that contribute to keeping us healthy. Lentils are a good source of B-vitamins, iron, selenium, and fiber and they contain antioxidants that benefit our body, ward off diseases and keep our brain healthy.
If you’re new to cooking lentils, try out this simple recipe of Bell Pepper and Lentil Sloppy Joes, pictured above. You can also try this Red Lentil Tikka Masala and this Lentil Shepherd’s Pie or check out these 21 Protein-Packed Vegan Recipes for Lentil Lovers.
As far as veggies (or fruit, if that’s what you classify them as!) go, tomatoes are one of the cheapest you can find all-year round, no matter where you live. If you’re short on cash, buying a couple of tomatoes will give you a lot of nutrients (and flavor) for your buck! A conventional tomato contains a good amount of vitamin C, E, and lycopene. These vitamins and antioxidants help support collagen production which means that tomatoes are great for your complexion and attenuating the effects of aging. Lycopene also has extensive health benefits, namely for the prevention of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and potentially psychiatric disorders. How amazing is that?
Tomatoes aren’t only healthy, they’re a delicious addition to most recipes. Need ideas? Check out this Creamy Cherry Tomato Basil Soup, pictured above, this Heirloom Tomato Galette With Dill Cashew Cream, and this Heirloom Tomato Tart With Buckwheat Crust. You also have to try out this Creamy Grilled Zucchini Tomato Risotto and this Roasted Tomato and Herb Quiche!
Although fresh greens are notoriously a bit on the expensive side, they can still be a part of your diet even if you’re on a budget. The key is choosing the cheapest option, like romaine. Don’t get mistaken though, romaine’s low price doesn’t mean it’s not rich in health benefits. Romaine lettuce is packed with vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and fiber. This means that eating romaine on a regular basis helps support your immune system, prevents bone mineral loss, and preserves your neuronal functions.
Looking for creative ways to enjoy romaine? Try out this Grilled Caesar Salad, pictured above, that puts a delicious spin on a traditional recipe. We also recommend you try these Ahi Avocado Tempeh Lettuce Wraps With Creamy Almond Dipping Sauce and these Mushroom Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps. Last but not least, you have to make this amazing Caesar Salad Pizza.
If dried beans or canned beans are not part of your staples yet, you might want to reconsider it. These legumes are one of the cheapest sources of protein out there and they are packed with nutrition that greatly influences our health. Beans are rich in macronutrients and micronutrients which means they provide our bodies with energy and they contribute to keeping our immune system strong as well. Namely, beans are a good source of lysine, an essential amino acid that is hard to come by in the plant kingdom. Also, they contain a good amount of magnesium, zinc, potassium, iron, folate, and soluble fiber. Research suggests that their nutrient content can reduce cholesterol levels and prevent diseases such as heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.
Not sure how to prepare beans? Check out this Ultimate Guide for Cooking Perfect Beans. Then give these Mushroom and Bell Pepper Baked Beans, pictured above, these Charred Corn and Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, and this Colombian Black Bean Stew a try. We also suggest making any of these 25 Protein-Packed Bean Recipes That Will Have You Loving These Healthy and Affordable Legumes.
Having fresh garlic on hand is not only a cheap way to add pizzazz to simple meals but it’s an easy way to elevate your health. How? Well, aside from being a nutrition powerhouse, garlic also has medicinal properties. It’s packed with vitamin C, B-vitamins, manganese, selenium, calcium, copper, iron, and many antioxidant compounds such as diallyl disulfide and S-allylcysteine. These vitamins and minerals combined with the effects of antioxidants give garlic potent anti-cancer properties. Consuming garlic on a regular basis has also been shown to have protective benefits against cardiovascular disease while strengthening the immune system. It’s worth the temporary bad breath, don’t you think?
When it comes to flavor and aroma, a little garlic goes a long way. Give these Chickpea Flatbreads With Garlicky Tahini Sauce, pictured above, this Fiery Garlic Tofu, or this Garlic and Thyme Pan Seared Mushrooms a try. Also, you can Celebrate Garlic’s Power-Packed Benefits With These 15 Recipes.
Want to find more tips and tricks to eat a healthy plant-based diet on a budget as well as cheap but delicious recipes? Here are a few articles that might interest you:
- How to Eat a Healthy Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet on $50 Per Week
- 15 Budget-Friendly Vegan Meals That Are Delicious and Nutritious
- 10 of the Most Affordable Superfoods
- 10 Vegan Meals You Can Make for Under $10
- 10 Frugal Vegan Meals You Can Make Out of Pantry Goods
- 20 Recipes That Show Vegan Food Can Be Affordable, Wholesome, and Sustainable
- The Best Food Hacks to Use While Cooking on a Budget
If you’re looking for more money-saving healthy and delicious vegan recipes, as well as cooking tips, then we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
Lead image source: Alena Haurylik