How To Be Plant Based on a Budget

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a picture of tasty vegan salads plant based on a budget

One of the number one comments posted on any “go vegan” post on social media is “It’s too expensive”. There are many other comments as you can imagine, but lets not get into those. It is possible to be plant based on a budget!

The truth is, it can be expensive. But this is most often the case when you are predominantly buying faux meat products- especially the name brands. At the time of writing, Beyond Meat Burgers are £4.40 for two, the mince is £4.00 for 300g and the Meatballs are £4.00. Other brands such as “This isn’t”, “Oumph” and “Strong Roots” also feature products at the higher price point. There are many reasons for this of course- they don’t have the economies of scale of big brands, and the market they are going for is small- so pricing higher is a necessity to cover more expensive production, shipping and other costs.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against any of these brands- far from it! I support what they are trying to do as a business.

However, buying these products regularly is not only bad for your wallet, but it’s not great from a health perspective either. Just because it’s Vegan doesn’t make it healthy- these products can also be full of fat, salt and sugar. It’s fine to have them as part of your diet- but they shouldn’t be the mainstay. If you’re wanting to be plant based on a budget, they aren’t likely to feature very much on your menu. And if you want to be whole foods plant based, they definitely won’t be on the menu- but I appreciate not everyone is aiming for that level of plant based eating.

Read on to see how you can be plant based on a budget, and still eat great food!

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Stick to the staples

Rice and other Wholegrains- including Bread, Beans and Legumes, Fruit and Vegetables- basic unprocessed foods that are the foundation of a plant based diet. They are also the least expensive foods you can buy- in contrast to faux meat, and actual meat.

Rice– opt for brown over white, and consider buying a large quantity from an Asian store where they tend to be cheaper than the supermarket. If there’s just two of you, or you need convenience, most supermarkets sell their own budget brand microwave brown rice perfect for 2. But if you’re eating a lot of rice, or cooking for a family- buying the big bags and cooking a batch for the week is the cheapest and most efficient way to cook it.

Wholegrains– you can pick up supermarket own budget brand oats for 90p for 1kg. Use to make porridge, overnight oats or to make your own granola bars.Other wholegrains (excluding rice) such as millet, quinoa and buckwheat tend to be more expensive- but it’s worth checking to see if any are on offer.

Bread– Opt for wholemeal/wholegrain and aim for 3g of Fibre per slice if you can- from a health perspective this is better for you and your gut. Hovis Tasty Wholemeal Thick has 3.2g per slice but is not the cheapest at £1.39. If that’s out of your budget, opt for supermarket own brand wholemeal instead.

Beans and Pulses– As with rice, opt for big dried bags if you are cooking for a family. Even if you’re not, it’s still the cheaper option long term. For two, it’s easier to buy tinned/canned beans as the serving size is just right. Bonus- they don’t need soaking and cooking for a long time. It’s always worth having a couple on hand for busy days- even if you typically use dried beans.

Tofu and Tempeh also fall under this category but again, they are not always the cheapest option. Asian stores tend to sell Tofu for a cheaper price and in larger quantities. If not, supermarket own brand Tofu will be cheaper than say, Tofoo brand which is more expensive as it’s pre-pressed. Great for convenience, but convenience costs!

Fruit– Fresh fruit is king, but frozen works too- especially for smoothies, which are an easy way to eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Opt for more basic fruits like bananas, oranges and apples as opposed to more exotic fruit, which is typically more expensive. You could also consider tinned/canned- but check its in water (not syrup) for a healthy choice.

Vegetables- Frozen vegetables are the winner for me from a budget and food waste perspective. Fresh vegetables are typically sold in larger packs which can be tricky to use up between two people. There are so few single item options now- it’s mostly just carrots, onions and parsnips, aside from a head of brocolli or cauliflower of course. Frozen vegetables can also be more nutrient dense as they are frozen shortly after picking. You can buy frozen mixed vegetables from supermarket budget brands for less than a £1 a bag. For fresh greens opt for things like Kale which again, are under £1 a bag at the supermarket.

Dairy Alternatives– Opt for supermarket own brand non dairy milks- they are significantly cheaper than the name brands, and I can’t really tell the difference. You could technically make your own- say Oat milk, but I would caution against this as it won’t be fortified with vitamins and minerals like the ready made stuff. As for dairy free cheese- It’s expensive no matter what brand you do or don’t buy. I would personally not bother (as I’m not big on cheese)- but if it’s a must have and you’re on a tight budget- use it sparingly! There are plenty of other ways to flavour your food which are much cheaper.

Save yourself time, stress and avoid food waste by making a menu plan before you shop. I tend to only really plan dinner- as we have things on hand for breakfast and lunch that I buy every week by default. Pick dishes that have crossover ingredients to cut down on costs- a few dishes with rice, same type of bean (unless you’re buying tinned/canned and can get a few varieties) and remember to plan your first couple of dinners to use up fresh produce which only keeps for a day or two so it doesn’t go off.

Yellow Sticker Discounts

If you’re able to go shopping in the evening you can take advantage of yellow sticker discounts on fresh food and produce. Alternatively, download the Olio app and see what food has been rescued in your local area and is available for collection. Fair warning- this food tends to be rescued quite late in the evening and most people who collect it want it gone on the same day, so it might be quite late before you can get it. But it is FREE!

Cook from Scratch

Scratch cooking is the way to go to save money. Have you seen the price of vegan ready meals? In an ideal world you’d buy a big bag of rice and cook a large portion on the weekend ready for the week, and chop any fresh vegetables you plan to cook. It’s easy to make things like pasta sauce from scratch- and you can easily double or triple a recipe and freeze what’s left for another day. There’s no need to make things overly complicated- just because you’re cooking from scratch doesn’t mean you have to make the most complicated recipe you can find! Pasta sauces, stir frys, lentil bolognese, vegetable soup, beans and rice- all super easy meals packed with nutrition that are easy to make yourself.

Need some inspiration? Check out this post on the best Vegan cookbooks. Get them from your library for bonus points!

Bake Your Own Sweet Treats

Vegan sweet treats and baked goods are also shockingly expensive, and often tiny for the price. Everyone needs a sweet treat from time to time, and they don’t need to be expensive. Banana bread is a great example of a budget friendly sweet treat- it also uses basic ingredients that you are likely to have in your cupboards. Same goes for muffins and brownies. Vegan butter can be expensive- you can usually subsitute it 1:1 for oil, or unsweetened applesauce.

Top Tips

  • If you’re baking anything with chocolate chips- Tesco own brand dark chocolate chips are vegan and inexpensive.
  • Put granulated sugar in a blender to grind it into fine/caster sugar.
  • Make oat flour by doing the same!
  • Forget expensive egg replacers- check out these subsitutes.

I hope you found this useful- if you have any other great tips feel free to share them in the comments!

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