Eating a plant based diet on a budget needn’t be quite as daunting as you may think. 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.
In fact, plant based eating can actually be cheaper and easier than your regular diet. Sounds impossible? Read on to find out how this is possible and exactly how you can do this for yourself and your family and feel fantastic for it.
TOP 15 Plant Based Diet Benefits
There are so many benefits to the whole foods plant based diet that your mind will be blown. Below is a list of the benefits we have heard said time and again from information form our large Facebook Groups.
- 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.
Once you’ve learnt the basics of combining your macronutrients correctly (i.e. proteins, carbs and fats), plus a few tasty recipes, you will be well on your way the kind of abundant health that can literally be life changing.
How to Start a Plant Based Diet on a Budget
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. Voila, carb craving busting chips!
Beans, legumes, quinoa, millet, pulses, peanuts, pastas, rice and seasonal fruits and vegetables are all pretty inexpensive. You’ll find it’s often even cheaper to buy them in bulk, especially when it comes to pulses, rice and pasta. Dried products also have the added bonus of lasting years, so you rarely have any wastage – another money saver!
Pulses always taste better when you prepare them from their dry form and taste much nicer than their tinned counterparts if you can be bothered to dry them out and cook them.
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, to spend on the more expensive items such as protein powders (if you’re in training), 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. In using certain supplements you will also be extra sure that you’re covering all bases when it comes to your nutritional needs of this lifestyle.
It is totally possible to get all the nutrition you need eating plants (with the exception of B12, vitamin D and DHA, potentially).
Plant Based Meals On A Budget
The following foods are all pretty inexpensive and budget friendly and you can use most of them 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 * are your sources of protein and should be included in every meal to make it complete and satisfying).
- 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 (try our 5 minute jam)
- 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. Try our 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, the plant based eating trend is really taking off and is most definitely here to stay. This 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.
Us vegan and plant based eaters have never had it so easy. The choices will just keep getting better as more and more people adopt this healthy, planet friendly lifestyle.
The importance of correct food combining
Food combing your protein, carbs and fats is important because it will make your meal complete and keep you fuller for longer. It’s all about satiety, especially if you don’t want to gain weight.
Combing foods like this also ensures you are getting good nutrition and keeping your blood sugars as stable as possible. Proteins and fats at every meal or snack really help this.
Food combining and exercise
Complete meals are especially important if you are training or exercising a lot as the demands on your body will be a higher.
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. This along with a protein source such as tofu, tempeh, lentils, pulses, beans, soybeans nuts or seeds with every meal.
Also, it’s always eat lots of fruits and vegetables for antioxidants and those crucial, anti aging phytochemicals.
Properly Combined Meals And Snacks Examples:-
- 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
- Tofu fried brown rice with peas and sweetcorn
- Lentil soup, sourdough bread
- Bean chili with wholegrain rice and coriander
- Handful of nuts, fresh or dried fruit
- Quinoa breakfast bowls. Check out some awesome recipes here.
- Peanut butter protein balls
- Hearty soups like Vegan Minestrone
- Homemade burgers with sweet potato chips and green salad.
You can see how all of these have a good balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats. Plus, some fruits or vegetables for added fibre and antioxidants.
Aim to learn off by heart which foods your proteins, fats and carbohydrates are most abundant in and it will pay in dividends. Do this, and 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, so can be eaten alone.
Examples of these foods are lentils, 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, please check out our FREE one week meal plan. This will show you how to understand food combining a little better and how to put plants together to make a complete meal.
28 thoughts on “Plant Based Diet on a Budget – Easy to Source Grocery List”
You are making me hungry!!!! I really like your grocery list on a budget. People think being a vegetarian or vegan is hard but it’s actually really easy if you are mindful. Do you have any opinions on taking it a step further and going with a raw food diet only (nothing cooked)?
Thank you for your insight!
Hi Nora, yes there is a huge misconception that vegan diets are expensive, but I have honestly found them to be cheaper.It’s meat that is actually expensive, especially if you buy organic/free range etc. I’m just glad i don’t have to think about it anymore.
In fact, now I understand this way of eating I actually find it a whole lit EASIER than before. Things are much simpler, and I literally only need to think about shopping in like 2 aisles of the supermarket which is the fresh fruit and veg and the dried stuff. It’s great!
I have myself dabbled in the plant based lifestyle and I love it. I do probably eat at least 60% raw at the moment but I am trying to go further with it. I guess I’m at the point where I have encountered the same kind of problems that many first time vegan/vegetarians have, as in not knowing exactly what to eat. Though I am learning all the time.
I find dinners the hardest thing as I can easily eat raw all day, but when it comes to dinner time I tend to want the comfort of a warm meal. I know this is just conditioning that I can change though, and now summer is here I will find it a lot easier.
I know people who are eating 100% raw and they all say the same thing, that they feel better than they have ever felt in their lives and that it’s helped them to manage and beat all kinds of illness. So I know for sure there is something great about it, I have done a post on just the basics of eating raw which you may find interesting
Thank you for sharing your insight, Stefanie! I hear you. I try to eat all raw but then get sucked into eating crap at my corporate job (ok my will power is weak and for some reason at work it is even weaker). The challenge I find is time. Eating a raw diet can take time if you want variety. If you are ok keeping it simple and have the willpower it can be done. I know I definitely feel the best when I am eating raw and making my own food at home. Thanks for the other post. I will check it out. You have inspired me to return to my raw ways. Thank you!!
That’s great that I have inspired you to start eating raw again. Like I said, I have done it myself before and just felt fantastic. In fact, I didn’t realise it was possible to feel so good and alive. God knows why I don’t go back to it. I guess I just wasn’t fully ready, funny how the mind works!
And you’re right, it is such a huge lifestyle change that it’s not surprising we find it hard to do long term. I am finding however, that because I do eat more and more raw food these days my body just doesn’t seem to want cooked anymore. It’s like it knows, so I reckon that I’m heading that way naturally as I start listening to my body.
Funny enough, I am on a raw vegan Facebook group and it’s the general consensus on there that it takes most people about 15 years to go fully raw. That’s from the time they first try it to the time when their body and mind is fully happy and ready for it. So bear that in mind and don’t be too hard on yourself, I’m starting to see more and more that is a spiritual journey as well as a physical one.
I love the list of foods! I have been wanting to go on a plant based diet, and really just haven’t gotten in gear to do it. But, after reading this I know I need to start. Just the part that a big benefit is being anti-inflammatory…I’m all for it. This would be so much better than constantly taking something for inflammation. I loved the video. I am ready!
Wow, I am so happy you have been inspired to make these positive changes, that really is fantastic! Yes, the biggest thing you will notice is the anti inflammatory effects. I don’t have any flammatory diseases but I can judge it by the fact that I never really ache anymore after exercise, no matter how hard I work, and I never get the PMS that I used to get so it has definitely balanced my hormones out (due to the fact that I’m not eating any animal hormones.
I would definitely urge you to give it a go. In fact, you would probably benefit from eating lost of turmeric and green super food powders such as wheatgrass, barleygrass etc as these are both great for inflammation. And you may find this post really helpful as you are a beginner. Good luck!
I can actually say that I felt the same thinking a vegan diet would be too expensive, and I would be left hungry! I don’t eat much meat to begin with it’s mainly for protein. I definitely have a strict budget.
I have to buy gluten free foods which are expensive so gluten free pasta is good but no rice, potatoes or whole wheat I will just get sick. I always thought protein powders were for those who worked out.
Thanks for leaving the list of foods, there is so much! there is no way I would go hungry and you are right, with all the recipes online there are plenty of varieties to make for our meals.
I love the video, I’m a ‘visual’ type of person and this was great. Everything looks so good, I’m not a ‘hamburger’ eater but now with the vegan patty, this for sure I need to make it looks amazing.
Thanks for your informative article!
Hi Patsy, I’m sorry to hear that you can’t eat gluten, that must make life jolly difficult for you at times. My brother has just been told he has a gluten intolerance and could be at risk of getting Crohn’s disease if he doesn’t cut out gluten and dairy. This has been a major upheaval for him as they are such large food groups, but he is learning gradually and he feels so much better already. Luckily for him he has a big sis who is a nutritional therapist.
I’m thinking it would be harder (but not impossible) for you to go vegan because you cannot have the basic forms of carbs that most can have…and not even potatoes! I couldn’t imagine life without spuds, they are my favorite food ha ha.
I,m glad you enjoyed the article, and be sure to let me know what those vegan burgers taste like as I haven’t tried them yet!
What a useful and informative post this is, really amazing. Most people think healthy diet costs lot of cost and money but the list and benefits you have provided proves this isn’t the case. I am going to note down this list and going to include in our daily regimen as well. You are a really well learned person Stefanie, and I am really a big fan of your writing. Thank you so much for that.
Hi Sarah, yes you really don’t need loads of cash to be healthy. In fact, most if nature’s super foods are actually some of the cheapest foods out there, and less expensive than many junk foods so lack of funds really isn’t a good excuse for bad eating habits.
Here is a useful post of which foods are cheap but also fantastically healthful
Hi, I like the idea of raw and vegetarian. I am asking though is a bit of fish sometimes not good as well?
I can easily stop eating red meat and chicken but fish I think is hard to give up.
About the price I’m actually not sure, I think at some places BIO produced fruit and vegetables are more expensive than meat or especially processed food.
But I think we are willing to spend money on alcohol and many other things which are not exactly helping health so why not spend money on healthy food.
Hi Stefan, yes of course, fish is great, especially oily fish as it’s good for heart health and brain health. My website is actually about plant based living, which basically means that the bulk of my diet comes from plant foods, there is room for give and take on other ‘healthier’ animal of fish options. Personally, I think plant based with some oily fish thrown in is a good balance.
I know what you mean about BIO foods being expensive, but I can honestly say that I spend less money on shopping now I’m eating plant based. Don’t forget, plant based sources of protein, such as beans, pulses, lentils and wholegrains are in fact really cheap, especially when bought dried.
But, I do not necessarily buy ALL organic produce. Just some; for example there is a list of foods called ‘The clean fifteen, and the dirty dozen’, you could probably google it. It basically tells you which foods are fine to eat unorganic, as they don’t get treated heavily with pesticides, and which foods to buy organic as they are heavily pesticided. This list will give you some reference as to what to buy.
I guess I am also fortunate that I have an organic local veg boxed delivered to me every week that is much cheaper than supermarket organic…and always in season. Plus, I have a great market where you can literally buy huge bowls of fruit and veg for a pound, but not everybody may have this in their country. I have heard fruit and veg is really expensive in the US for example.
I’m presuming as you live in Thailand that you have access to lots of fresh produce? I would be interested to know?
Hi Stefanie, thanks for the great post. I love finding articles like these to give me more inspiration. We’re not fully vegetarian yet but I continue to try to weave in more plant based foods to our diet. The thing that has helped me has been a thermomix. I don’t know if you know thermomix but it helps me to cook and prepare meals from scratch. And make things like nut butter and almond meal. I can make desserts and sweets with whole foods and I’m learning more every day. I’m learning more about replacing certain foods with whole food alternatives. Anyway I wanted to thank you Stefanie for your site. I’ve visited a few times now and I always feel inspired here.
Thanks so much for your lovely comment Melissa. It really inspires me to want to carry on writing more interesting and helpful posts for people such as yourself who are starting to learn and enjoy a plant based lifestyle. It really is worth the effort in the long run to try and incorporate healthy, whole foods into the diet.
I just googled this thermomix that you were speaking of and God it looks awesome! I would love to get one when I have some extra cash as it looks like it can do so many things. I already have a masticating juicer that can make peanut butter, but it’s a messy, tiresome and long winded process. This machine looks much less messy and easier to use. Thanks for bringing my attention to it, I really appreciate it.
I wish you lots of success with your transformation into vegetarianism, you will learn so much as you go along and it’s a great journey!
Hi, with a plant based diet would I need to supplement my nutrition intake ?
I have always been heavily into protein and meat based diets, not greatly successfully so would love to consider a different approach, but am just concerned about getting all the nutrients that my body requires?
Hi Drew, yes I totally understand your concern about getting your nutrients. So many people go into a vegan or plant based diet and actually make themselves less healthy than before, which is why I set up this website. In fact, if you peruse around my website you would literally find all you need to know about getting all the nutrients you need for good health. When done properly, the plant based diet is one of the healthiest there is.
Personally, I do take protein supplements of hemp, pea, brown rice etc, and usually I like the blends as they offer a much better amino acid profile. I feel I need an extra protein supplement as I am a big exerciser, plus I am trying to cut fat and build muscle so I feel I need this. However, you don’t necessarily need to do this unless your needs are greater as mine are.
If you make sure you get a portion of good plant based protein in every meal or snack, such as lentils, tempeh, soy beans, pulses, quinoa, nuts, or seeds, plus plenty of the higher protein vegetables like broccoli and peas, and soy beans, then you should be covering your needs. In fact, quinoa is something you should eat in abundance as it has a perfect amino acid profile, so good I did a whole post about it .
The most important thing that you must be aware of is to make sure that you vary your diet and protein sources as much as possible. Not many plant proteins (apart from quinoa) are as ‘complete’ as animal, but this is easily combated by a bit of variation, such as different legumes, lentils, nuts, and seeds, as some are higher in some things and not in others.
This is a pretty exhaustive list of groceries you have there! I’ll confess I’m a meat lover but have been trying to incorporate more and more veggies into my diet for a while now.
My biggest problem has been trying to get some flavor into my meals with veggies. Any tips on this?
Hi there, it’s great you are trying to incorporate more veggies into your diet as even that will make a huge difference in terms of long term health. Once you start to experiment more with plant based foods and meals you will gain more confidence and knowledge of what tastes good and what works etc.
There are literally millions of vegan recipes online these days and for inspiration you should google things like ‘easy vegan dinners’ or similar phrases. Keeping it simple and easy is a must, otherwise you will get frustrated and bored with it if it’s too complex.
To add flavour to meals I use lots of fresh and dried herbs and spices like cinnamon, cumin, garlic, coriander, basil, chilli, sage, rosemary, oregano. And I also use lots of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar (for salads), tamari sauce for stir fry’s, mushroom sauce and vegetable bouillon for soups and stews. the trick to flavour is always dry frying your DRIED herbs and spices in at the beginning of cooking and FRESH stuff always goes in last minute just before serving. You will find this makes a huge difference to keeping flavour in.
Hope this helps, but please do check out all the awesome, easy recipes online. My favorite that I make every week that lasts me days is a mixed bean chilli with dark chocolate. It’s fantastic, and goes with so many different things such as rice, quinoa, amaranth, sweet potato wedges, chips, tortilla’s, baked potato. The list is endless, just find a couple of dishes that you really enjoy so you can swap a few of your weekly meals for meat free versions.
Good post, plant-based is a better way to go these days because of all the chemicals being put into to our meats from antibiotics and so on. But did you know that the proteins in the meats come from the diets they eat which is plant-based? So we are much better off eating plant-based which is much healthier than eating meat with all the chemicals and other things in it, all of which are not good for our bodies.
Hi Fred, that’s an interesting point about the animals eating plants to grow which ends up being the meat that we eat. Of course it stands to reason that it is far better for us to go straight to the source as they do to get our protein, plus like you say, it is so much cleaner. Who wants extra antibiotics and animal hormones in their body? We surely have enough of our own to contend with so it’s little wonder many people’s hormones are out of whack.
It’s nice to see that people are starting to understand the benefits of a plant based diet over animal based. It cam only make the world a better place in the long run.
What a great post for me. Over the last 5 years I have had to drastically change my lifestyle due to pre-diabetes. I have gone from eating horribly to cutting sugar and meat out of my diet. I have had a hard time going totally vegan. I can’t seem to give up bread and cheese especially. Your post has given quite a few ideas as how to work through that. Thank you.
Hi Mary, that’s just great that my post has inspired you. I can see you have already worked really hard at drastically changing your diet and it’s something that can take years to get right and comfortable with. We all have such deep-seated conditioned patterns going on, especially around food. Comforting eating is definitely one of them, and something I am prone to.
You sound like have done really well with what you have done so far and I’m sure the odd treats won’t harm you if you are good 90% of the time. I personally live by the 90/10 motto to give myself some leeway, and yes cheese was my hardest thing to give up also but luckily I have found a vegan version of cheddar that tastes just the same as the normal stuff when melted on toast. It’s heaven!
Oh boy, so much great info in one place. Nice job. I did notice the bit about people thinking that it’s a giant pain in the butt to go vegan. It was simple for me, I watched “What The Health” and the next day zap vegan. Sometimes the human mind tends to over-think things, which in turns tends to over complicate life. #Vegan4Life
Hi Paul, wow that is fantastic that you found it so easy, and you’re right, it really can be. I have never seen this program that you say did it for you, but it sounds like something that more people need to see. It took me 3 attempts to go vegan I must admit, but I was determined and on the 3rd attempt something just clicked into place and I knew I had changed an old habit/belief system for life.
I guess everybody is different but i just hope more of the planet will get there in the end, not just for the sake of animal cruelty, but for the sake of the environment and our long term health. In fact there are just so many reasons to make this change, and fortunately it is now becoming mainstream.
Thanks for your comment, it’s very helpful for others to know how easy it can be.
Thanks for this very informative article with practical advice that’s not too fanatical. I’ve been under some pressure within the family to move to a more plant based diet as I deal with (and hopefully cure) type 2 diabetes. I have been very put off by the rabid fanatics – not my family I hasten to add in case they read this! As you discuss I’ve wondered about the balance as I’ve typically been on a high protein diet and my wife and I have already noticed the extra cost in the grocery bill of eating healthier. Thanks again and I guess incorporating some of your sage (pardon the pun) advice we’ll see how it goes.
I think you will find that a healthy, low carb plant based diet will do wonders for your health issues, so it’s definitely worth a try at least. I understand about the fanatical vegans out there, and they give the rest of us a bad name, AND put people off actually doing it for themselves so they shoot themselves in the foot. Really annoys me, which is why I do what I can to help people see why it is good for their own health first, and the compassion for animals and the planet follows naturally. I never push or judge anyone; after all, 2 years ago I was exactly the same!
Yes, you will find that you can do the plant based diet cheaply IF you don’t buy all the expensive ready meals and make your own dishes from scratch. It’s not hard when you get a handle on it. Please check out my post Plant Based Diet for Beginners – How to Guide
Loved your article, but I do have one request, could you perhaps do an article on how to choose healthy things to have when a person has to eat out all the time? The studio I have at the moment doesn’t have a kitchen so preparing things is pretty much impossible for me. I have yet to find a cost friendly way to be vegan when I eat out constantly.
Hi Cristal, oh I see your dilemma there. Yes, that could definitely be an issue. I’m not sure how to help you out there as where I live pretty much every restaurant and cafe are now fully on board with the plant based diet and vegan eating trend, so I guess I am lucky. I think things are changing though and given more time you may find improvements in your area too.
You will probably find that most eateries will amend dishes to suit your needs, but I myself have ended up just having a plate of salad or chips for my dinner due to lack of choice. Or, I’ve had to eat some dairy foods, which I don’t mind doing on occasion if I really have no choice and I am hungry. I draw the line at meat though.
Anyway, I wish you the best on your plant based journey in the future.