Plant-Based on a Budget (revised)

Going plant based and starting this project is about defying common assumptions and breaking typical stereotypes. Such as but not limited to, vegans only eat salad, they smell funny, wear tons of hemp and, one of the most important, living a plant-based lifestyle is only available to the well-off. 

Following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to fill your cupboard with goji berries and organic pine nuts at 45 bucks a pound. On the contrary, the cheapest things on the grocery list of the typical consumer (minus the 99-cent-family-sized-bag-of-knock-off-Doritos and other processed bullshit) are usually fruits and vegetables. Pound for pound meat is MORE expensive and while boxed processed stuff is cheap, switching to buying bulk whole grains and legumes could have a huge positive shift in overall health, while not murdering the wallet. 

Veg game strong.

Veg game strong.

My typical grocery haul is 30-50 dollars a week. That’s it, that’s all. The weeks it is higher, I’m usually getting experimental or on a seitan or tofu binge. Produce is cheaper here in Europe so the weeks when I’m eating straight whole foods, my supermarket spending is crazy low.

I’ve been asked for a guide or what specific things are always in the bag when I’m walking home. So, I’ve compiled a list and just so you know, living in European cities with no car, means I’m hauling all of this by hand and usually do my shopping between two days, carrying everything in one trip is possible, but unnecessarily difficult.

Also, I try to follow the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen protocol, which is a list of the 12 foods that absorb the most pesticides and should be bought organically, and a list of the 15 that are safer to buy from a conventional supermarket. So, I’ll get the clean produce at the supermarket one day and go to the organic shop another day for certain herbs, berries, fruits and vegetables.

Here’s more or less what I’m buying and eating on a weekly basis:

  • a bag of lentils

  • a bag of another type of bean (usually garbanzo or pinto)

  • a bag of brown rice

  • whole wheat pasta

  • a large can of whole tomatoes

  • one coconut milk

  • one oat milk

  • a bag of oats

For fruit, I get about ten apples, two-three bananas per day and maybe a few oranges, peaches or something different, depending on what is on sale or in season. 

For vegetables, the staples for me are:

A typical Carrefour haul

A typical Carrefour haul

  • cauliflower

  • broccoli

  • spinach

  • zucchini

  • tomatoes

  • onion

  • red cabbage

And like with fruit, I’ll get an extra sale item like avocados or if I have a specific dinner in mind I’ll buy the necessary ingredients

That’s about it. Once or twice a month I’ll have to pick up random other necessities like coffee, flax seeds, garlic, soy sauce, olive oil or other spices. I’ll sometimes get a bag of potatoes when I’m in an especially "carb-y" mood or a loaf of multi / sprouted grain bread when I’m feeling a toasty or a sandwich. Sometimes I’ll buy spelt flour, whole wheat flour and baking powder to experiment with various desserts but those are obviously extras. 

The cooking options are really unlimited when you’re working with pasta, brown rice, a variety of vegetables and a type of legume. Basically any dish you can imagine can fall within those four groups. Plus, they’re all cheaper than meat. The next step is learning a few recipes from different regions of the world so you have more of a variety to choose from. 

To that end, it's most certainly possible to live a plant-based lifestyle on a budget. As with everything, there’s a learning curve but I’ve come to see it as a challenge, especially now, a few years in. It is a challenge to change the perspective of the meat-eaters around me and show people that have been thinking about maybe trying a plant-based diet that it doesn’t have to be so difficult, it doesn’t have to suck and it doesn’t have to add additional financial stress to your life. 

So go to the store and pick up the basics, look up an awesome recipe and be sure that you don’t burn the lentils.