Eating a plant based diet on a budget needn’t be as daunting as you may think, and this easy to source grocery list will show exactly which foods are the cheapest, most nutritious, and easiest attainable to cover all your dietary needs without the need for eating animal products.
Would you believe me if I said that plant based eating can actually be cheaper and easier than your regular diet? Read on to find out how this is possible and exactly how I do this every day for myself and feel fantastic for it.
TOP 15 Plant Based Diet Benefits
- More energy
- Better sleep
- Clearer skin
- Anti aging
- Less risk of disease
- Stronger immune system
- Faster recovery from illness
- Faster recovery from sports
- More endurance
- Environmentally/animal friendly
- Weight Loss
- Mental clarity
- Anti inflammatory
- Helps fight depression/anxiety
- Helps beat stress
With SO many awesome reasons to go plant based it’s hard to find any reason not to. And once you’ve learnt the basics of combining your macronutrients correctly (i.e. proteins, carbs and fats), plus a few tasty recipes to boot, then you will be well on your way the kind of abundant health that can literally be life changing.
Anti Inflammatory Foods
The fact that most plant based foods are more alkaline and most animal foods acidic means that the plant based diet may lead to less inflammation in your body in general, which can be a good thing in terms of your health.
Inflammation is good in small doses and is there to alert you to a problem within the body such as an injury, but the problem is many people have long term chronic inflammation, often due to a whole host of factors, including bad diet, pollution, sugar, trans fats, chemicals in food, smoking, alcohol, and generally just not obtaining enough antioxidants from food in the form of fruits and vegetables.
As a healthy whole food plant based diet will revolve around lots of veggies, fruits, pulses and healthy fats it means you will automatically be eating LOTS of these fantastic antioxidants and therefore keeping chronic inflammation to a minimum.
What’s the difference between plant based diet and vegan?!
It’s very important to understand the difference between a healthy plant based diet and a junk food vegan diet (though not all vegans eat junk foods; some are extremely healthy). The healthy version consists of all the foods on the list below, but there are of course MANY unhealthy ‘technically’ plant based foods of which I have deliberately not added to this list as they won’t give you any nutritional benefits.
For example, many fast foods or junk foods are actually plants yes, but you wouldn’t necessarily make the correlation. Examples are: Fries, sugar, confectionery, sweets, candy, trans fats, chips, refined flours… the list goes on; and as you can see they are all very unhealthy but still classed as vegan or plant based foods, and now that the vegan and plant based eating trend is so big it means there are many more varieties of these junk food bad boys available.
However, you should be aware that if you indulge in too many vegan junk foods then you obviously WON’T feel the amazing benefits of the foods on the below list. In fact, you will probably become less healthy than before due to missing out on vital nutrients – so word of warning.
How to Start a Plant Based Diet on a Budget
When you begin a plant based diet you will more than likely be asked the inevitable “where do you get your protein from” question by friends and family. And this is actually a good question because getting enough protein is indeed something you will need to be mindful of, but you needn’t worry as there are many plant sources of amino acids, and with a little knowledge this won’t be a problem.
Pretty much all of the foods on this list are budget friendly. For example, potatoes are really cheap (even sweet potatoes) and make fantastic homemade chunky chips – just chop, par boil, then cook in the oven with a little olive or coconut oil along with some herbs and spices of your choice, and voila – carb craving busting chips!
Beans, legumes, quinoa, millet, pulses, peanuts, pastas, rice, and seasonal fruits and vegetables are all pretty inexpensive, and you’ll find it’s often even cheaper to buy in bulk – especially when it comes to pulses, rice, and pasta. They also have the added bonus of literally lasting years, so you rarely have any wastage.
Pulses can be bought much more cheaply when in their dried form, and taste much nicer than their tinned counterparts if you can be bothered to dry them out and cook them (I do a batch every week); however it is often more convenient to buy the tinned varieties if you don’t have time on your hands.
Plant based supplements
Any cash you save from this more frugal lifestyle can be used, if you so wish (I do), to spend on the more expensive items such as protein powders, green superfood powders, and other certain supplements that can help supercharge your health to even higher levels. You don’t absolutely need these on your plant based eating plan, but they do give you an extra edge in terms of energy, glowing skin, and anti aging due to their high levels of antioxidants. Plus, in using these you will also be extra sure that you’re covering all bases when it comes to your nutritional needs of this lifestyle.
Getting enough protein
Protein supplements will also help to ensure that newbies to the plant based lifestyle will be getting enough (OR a full spectrum) of amino acids. Obtaining enough protein can sometimes be a problem (that’s a fact, no matter what some may say), especially in the early stages when you are still finding your feet and understanding nutritional values of plant foods, etc.
A protein supplement is also highly recommended if you wish to lose weight (especially belly fat), OR if you are in training and exercising hard you may find it hard to meet all your protein needs on whole plant foods alone.
The Best Protein Supplements
Fortunately, there are many newfangled and simply wonderful products on the market these days to get excited about, and many come with green superfoods already added to them, along with digestive enzymes, probiotics and other added nutrients. In fact, everything you could possibly need to keep your body in tip top condition and muscle mass high (VERY important on a weight loss plan – especially so when body building).
I have searched out and reviewed some of the best plant based protein powders of 2019 for you to check out. Some will suit different people with different needs, which is why it is really important you go and look in more detail.
Plant Based Meals on a Budget
The following foods are all pretty inexpensive and budget friendly, and you can use most of these foods to make any combination of meals. As long as you add a protein source, a carb source, and a small amount of fats then you will have a nutritionally complete plant based meal. Of course, the more fruits and veggies you can add in for nutrients the better.
(The items marked with an asterix are your sources of protein, and should be included in every meal to make it ‘complete’).
- EVERY KIND OF FRUIT AND VEGETABLES (CHOOSE A RAINBOW OF COLOURS) LOTS OF LEAFY GREENS (Check out this amazing, quick recipe for greens)
- ALL HERBS AND SPICES
- BROWN RICE
- WHOLEWHEAT/ SPELT/ BROWN RICE/ CORN OR BUCKWHEAT PASTA*
- OATCAKES*/ WHOLEGRAIN RICE CAKES/ RYE CRACKERS
- NO ADDED REFINED SUGAR BREAKFAST CEREALS INCLUDE OATS/ WHEATABIX*/ HOMEMADE GRANOLAS AND MUSELLI*/ SHREDDED WHEAT*
- FLOURS – WHOLEMEAL*/ SPELT*/ BUCKWHEAT*, BROWN RICE*/ QUINOA*
- LOW SUGAR BAKED BEANS*
- GREEN AND RED LENTILS EITHER CANNED OR DRIED*
- KIDNEY BEANS*
- CANNELINI BEANS*
- BLACK BEANS*
- BORLOTTI BEANS*
- PINTO BEANS*
- BUTTER BEANS*
- ADUKI BEANS*
- WHOLEGRAIN BREAD*
- SOURDOUGH BREAD*
- RYE BREAD*
- MARMITE OR VEGEMITE
- LOW SUGAR JAMS
- ANY KIND OF NO ADDED SUGAR NUT BUTTER – PEANUT*/ ALMOND*/ CASHEW*/ HAZELNUT*
- NUTS – BRAZIL*, PEANUTS*, CASHEWS*, HAZELNUTS*, PECANS*, WALNUTS*, ALMONDS*, MACADAMIA
- SEEDS – PUMPKIN*, SUNFLOWER* SESAME* FLAX* HEMP*
- TOFU OR TEMPEH*
- DARK CHOCOLATE AT LEAST 70% (IS USUALLY DAIRY FREE)
- ANY DRIED FRUITS – NO ADDED SUGAR (GOJI BERRIES CONTAIN PROTEIN)
- MILKS – SOY*/ RICE/ ALMOND/ COCONUT
- FATS FOR COOKING – COCONUT OIL/ OLIVE OIL/ AVOCADO OIL/ CANOLA OIL/ SAFFLOWER OIL PEANUT OIL/ SESAME OIL
- COLD PRESSED OILS FOR DRESSINGS AND SALADS – EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL/ AVOCADO OIL ALSO FOR COOKING/ FLAX OIL
- SUPERFOOD POWDER SHOTS SUCH AS SPIRULINA*, CHLORELLA*, WHEATGRASS*, BARLEYGRASS*, MORINGA*
As you can see there is an absolute abundance of foods to choose from, and not just rabbit foods as many still believe. There are also many variations and recipes you could make with all of these foods, and the internet is now inundated with plant based recipes and meal ideas for breakfasts, dinners, snacks and deserts so you need never struggle for something new to try.
Where to Buy Plant Based Foods
Thankfully, now that the plant based eating trend is really taking off and is most definitely here to stay, it means most supermarkets, shops, and restaurants (even fast food chains) are now stocking everything you could ever want or need for your plant based life. We’ve never had it so easy, and the choices will just keep getting better as more and more people adopt this healthy, planet friendly lifestyle.
The Importance of Correct Food Combining
As I hammered home earlier, it’s very important to ensure you obtain enough protein and amino acids on the plant diet. Make sure you have a source of protein from the list above (the protein items have an asterix beside them) with every meal or snack where possible.
This is especially important if you are training or exercising a lot, as the demands on your body will be a lot higher. When I first started eating plant based, in my naivety, I made the mistake of not combining foods correctly and actually started to lose my muscle mass. As you can imagine, being a bit of an exercise nut this wasn’t good, and I had to make quite a few tweaks before I got it right. A good quality protein powder is one of those tweaks that made all the difference.
A good way to plan a meal or snack, is to make sure you have some kind of low GI carbohydrate such as wholegrain bread, rice, pasta, millet, buckwheat, amaranth or quinoa, along with a protein source such as tofu, tempeh, lentils, pulses, beans, soybeans, nuts or seeds with every meal. Also, always eat lots of fruits and vegetables for antioxidants and those crucial, anti aging phytochemicals.
Examples of Properly Combined Meals and Snacks
- Oats/oatmeal with nut milk, chopped nuts, sliced banana
- Granary toast, tahini, mashed avocado
- Oat cakes, sugar free peanut butter
- Coconut yogurt, chopped fresh fruit, mixed seeds
- Chickpea curry with brown rice and green vegetables
- Buckwheat pasta, roasted vegetables, tomato sauce
- Lentil soup, sourdough bread
- Handful of nuts, fresh or dried fruit
- Quinoa breakfast bowls
You can see how all of these have a good balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats; plus some fruits or vegetables for added fiber and antioxidants. Aim to learn off by heart which foods your proteins, fats and carbohydrates are most abundant in and it will pay dividends, because in the future you will never have to think twice about what to eat or how to combine your foods.
Important Points to Remember
Some foods contain both protein and carbohydrates, and so can be eaten alone. Examples of these foods are lentils and pulses, wholegrains, and some nuts (cashews and chestnuts are highest in both carbs and protein).
For a complete week’s meal plan that contains all the nutrients for a great plant based diet, then please check out my one week meal plan which will show you how to understand food combining a little better; and also how to put plants together to make a complete meal.
Quinoa is an all round superfood that you should aim to eat at least 3 times per week as it contains superior amounts of protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and a whole array of nutrients. It is known as mother nature’s ‘perfect food’, as you could literally live on it it’s that nutritious, and is the reason why I have included it a lot in the food plan. It’s versatile, and you can use it to replace both carbs and protein in any meal, eat it as a breakfast porridge, or even as a sweet dish.
Please feel free to let me know your thoughts, feelings or any concerns in regards to the plant based diet in the comments section. Or maybe you’re already eating this super healthy diet and have some further information o advice to offer on this subject. I am always happy to update my posts accordingly. Thank you!
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