So you’ve made the decision to eat healthier, and center your diet around rich and nutritious whole plant foods. Awesome.
You’re pumped and eager to dive in, but a little voice in your head says: Where do I even start? How am I not going to go broke eating this way?!
First off, by eating a plant-based diet, know that you’re already saving yourself beaucoup bucks by doing your part to prevent and reverse many chronic diseases, and reduce expenses for medical procedures and prescription drugs in the future. We’ve all heard it before, but we pay now or we pay later.
That being said, eating plant-based on a budget is actually a lot easier than you think. Today I’ve got you covered with my simple and effective strategies to eat well while not exploding your food budget.
With a little bit of motivation, organization, and some practice, you can become a well nourished, and savvy shopper.
Remember: When grocery shopping, you need to find a balance between the foods that are going to fill you up, while also maximizing your nutrients. Remember whole foods and produce aren’t that expensive — it’s the extras and packaged products that are high in price, calories, and unwanted ingredients.
Here are some of my tried and true tips to get you eating healthily without breaking the bank!
3 Rules of Savvy Shopping
Rule #1: Establish a weekly or monthly food budget, and stick to it.
Rule #2: Always shop with a list. You can make copies of this list, or make a list on your smartphone so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.
Rule #3: Choose a grocery shopping day. Try your best to refrain from just dropping by the store every two days, and be wary of impulse shopping (i.e. sweets, and expensive packaged foods that aren’t beneficial anyway.)
Once you’ve done these 3 steps then we can move on to budget allocation.
Plant-Based Shopping Budget Allocation
Here are some useful guidelines for budget allocation:
- Spend nothing less than 50% of your food budget on vegetables and fruit. When choosing fruit and veggies, shoot for a variety of colors – this ensures that you’re getting a variety of nutrients.
- Spend around 20% on whole grains, legumes and beans. Learn how to cook beans effectively.
- Spend around 10% for organic tofu, tempeh, and plant milks. Is soy bad for you?
- The remaining 20%, can be spent on nuts, seeds, nut butters, herbs and spices. Some of my favorite spices are cumin, turmeric, and cayenne pepper.
Your shopping list will include:
- Leafy greens
- Other vegetables
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains
- Nuts & Seeds
Important: Choose organic produce when possible. However, keep in mind that consuming conventional produce is far better than not consuming any produce at all. Don’t let this hold you back from eating your fruits and veggies. Check out the dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists to help you make better choices.
Additional Ways to Save
- Learn how to properly store your produce. Proper storage will prevent you from wasting. It is heartbreaking to have to throw away food, and it is not sustainable. According the latest estimates, 1/3 of the food produced today on a global scale is wasted. Even if by not wasting your own food, you will not put more food on the plate of those who need it, it’s a good practice to learn how to mindfully consume and reduce the amount of waste you produce.
- Remember frozen foods! Choosing frozen vegetables and fruits is a great way to create delicious and nutritious meals on a budget. Surprisingly enough, frozen produce’s nutritional profile is almost the same as fresh produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables save you a lot of time, since all trimming, washing, and chopping has already been done for you. Keep a steady supply of unsweetened berries (and any other fruit you like) for smoothies and breakfast toppings, and stock up on veggies such as broccoli, corn, peas, carrots for stir-fries and steaming, and greens like spinach and kale for making green smoothies and sauces.
- Cook in batches. Food prep should not be relegated to the realm of fitness! Meal prep and batch cooking can seriously simplify your life, and encourage positive eating choices as well. By setting aside some time just for cooking (on the weekend for example), you’ll ensure that you will be ready for the week ahead. Chop veggies, prepare a batch of quinoa, and rinse and chop your greens, and whenever you cook, make enough for at least two meals. Remember, you’re much more likely to eat some carrot sticks and hummus if you’ve already chopped the carrots!
- Take inventory. At the end of each week before restocking, do an end of the week review. Take inventory, and see what needs to be used up, what you have extra. This will allow you to adjust your shopping, and avoid wasting.
- Buy in bulk. More and more stores are offering the possibility to buy grains, nuts, seeds, and beans in bulk. This allows you to benefit from lower prices since you are saving on marketing and packaging costs. Explore the bulk goods section at your local health food store, and don’t forget to bring your reusable bags!
It is my firm belief that eating well should not be a luxury. Incorporating some of these strategies can help you save a lot both now and in the future. As I said before, a well planned whole food, plant-based diet is worth its weight in gold. It not only has been shown to prevent and reverse many of the chronic diseases that plague our modern societies, but it also makes you feel unparalleled vitality!
To your health,