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Eating healthy on a budget is not easy, nor fun, no matter what kind of diet you eat. Typically, buying foods in convenience form is one of the quickest ways to ruin your budget in a skinny minute! These options, such as processed bars, cereals, pre-made dinners, sauces, and even pre-chopped fruits and veggies, are all twice as costly as they would be than when bought in their whole food form. The benefits of eating a whole foods, plant-based diet are nearly limitless, and don’t let anyone tell you that it’s more expensive or hard to transition into. No matter if you choose to buy organic or not, there are some simple things you can do to stick to your budget and to a plant-based lifestyle at the same time.
1. Start with Veggies First
Veggies are the most important thing to eat on a plant-based diet, including leafy greens. Most people have this mindset that veggies are expensive, but per serving, they’re actually incredibly cheap when you go for regular veggies instead of pre-chopped options. Some that will last awhile include: celery, romaine lettuce, zucchini, carrots, yellow squash, winter squash, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic,broccoli, cauliflower, and even bagged kale and collards. Buying these will help bulk up your diet and help keep you full. They’re also usually cheaper than fruit, which isn’t as filling and spoils more quickly. Fruits are of course, great too, but if you’re on a budget, prioritize veggies and leafy greens first. Buy organic if you can, since it comes with many benefits, and check out some tips to avoid organic foods easier if you’re on a budget.
2. Don’t Follow Trends
Trendy diets come and go, and even superfoods can get a bit out of hand, despite how amazing they really are. If you’re on a budget, stick to the basics. Nothings’s fancy about veggies, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruit, but these foods help keep you full, nourished, and help you stick to your budget. We’re not trying to win a popularity contest here or fit in with a crowd; we’re just focused on eating plant-based and making it work into your budget while still satisfying your appetite.
3. Go for Everyday Superfoods Instead
Instead of pricey superfoods, go for the everyday superfoods instead. These include affordable, plant-based foods that are higher in nutrition than typical choices you might be used to hearing about. Teff, chickpeas, and even butternut squash all come with high amounts of nutrition and are a bit more exciting than lettuce and broccoli. Include a few of these into your diet so you won’t get bored and you’ll be able to stick to your budget at the same time. For more everyday superfoods, check out Beyond the Superfood Hype: Eat These Real Foods Instead.
4. Learn to Love Bulk
The bulk section is an easily known way to save money but if you haven’t already taken advantage of this tip, it’s time you jumped on it pronto! The bulk section will have beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and even grains at a much lower cost than buying them in a box or bag. You can also buy only what you need, which will save you even more money and keep you from letting items sit in the pantry and going to waste. Buying in bulk will also inspire you! There’s something kind of cool about choosing a different grain, bean, legume, nut, and seed to try each week, all while paying under a dollar for many of them per serving.
5. Go for Generic Condiments
If you can’t live without condiments like peanut butter, tahini, mustard, and spices like cinnamon, ginger, parsley, pepper, etc., then I suggest you go for generic. Who cares if they’re all organic or not? Sure, those options are better but if you can’t afford a $5.00 bottle of organic ketchup, mustard, or a $10.00 jar of organic peanut butter, then you simply can’t afford them. Most of the time, when you buy from Whole Foods or other health food stores that carry non-GMO, properly produced food, you can feel safe going with a jar of $3.00 peanut butter or $2.00 jar of cinnamon without worrying about how it made it to the shelf. If you can’t afford Whole Foods, then don’t shun places like Walmart, which now even offer organic condiments, canned foods, and even produce for those on a budget.
6. Be Beverage Smart
You don’t have to give up you coffee on a budget- no worries- but do try to be beverage smart. This means avoiding bottled drinks, juices, and fancy drinks that don’t keep you full. Opt for more water, plain coffee, and non-dairy milk instead of pricey, non-nutritional drinks. You can also use fruits like lemons and limes to flavor water if you get bored with plain H2O.
7. Learn to Love Beans, Legumes, Seeds and Grains
These foods will all help keep you full, along with plenty of veggies. They can also all be bought from the bulk section and are not hard to prepare. Whether you choose a bowl of snazzy oatmeal, cozy bowl of rice or soup, a frugal and tasty veggie burger, a rockin bowl of vegan chili, or an inexpensive homemade nut and seed bar, these foods will fill up your belly, but not your budget (or waistline.)
8. Buy Only What You Need, But Buy Enough
It’s crucial to figure out how much food you need each week, without going over or under. Figure out your breakfasts, meals, snacks, and only buy enough for seven days. Visit the store on the 6th day of the week instead of the 7th if you start to run low, but don’t go back several times a week. This will break your budget in no time! Be sure to buy enough food to get you through the week, which will prevent you from going back to the store or resorting to take-out as a quick option (yikes!)
9. Visit Farmers Markets And Farms Whenever Possible
If you live near a farm or farmer’s market, you probably already know these are easy ways to save money on produce. Definitely take advantage of them however you can, and stock up items that will store well for months, such as winter squash, potatoes, apples, and onions. You can also buy other items, chop, and freeze them for later use.
Fruits (both fresh and dried) and plain frozen fruits and veggies are also easy to work into any budget, depending on if you prepare your meals ahead of time or make them fresh each day. Keep these tips in mind above on your next shopping trip and you’ll save money easily, no sacrifice included!
Image Source: Mack Male/Flickr