Learning how to eat a plant-based diet on a budget is all about knowing which foods are filling and inexpensive. It might seem like you’ll run up a huge grocery bill after looking at the prices of organic vegetables, but most plant-based proteins are actually significantly less expensive than fish, poultry, and meat! It also seems like the price of dairy and eggs is getting higher and higher every year, so you’ll actually save a ton of money by shopping for more plant-based items.
Sometimes, you can save money by buying in bulk at a warehouse store. Most of the time, you can save money just by knowing your staple foods. If you avoid the expensive processed foods and only eat items like store-bought vegan cheese and tofurkey on occasion, you will keep more money in your wallet than you expected. We put together a list of the most inexpensive plant-based foods to help you learn how to eat a plant-based diet on a budget. It’s definitely possible, and we’ll help you get there!
If you’re switching to a vegan lifestyle, you should also check out the essential herbs, spices, and flavorings for your plant-based kitchen, as well as our list of pantry essentials.
1. Beans and Legumes ($1-2/pound)
Chickpeas, black beans, lentils, and split peas are super inexpensive, especially if you buy them dried. These items also happen to be great sources of plant-based protein and fiber, so they’ll fill you up and keep you feeling full for hours afterward.
Beans and legumes are our go-to ingredients for the majority of our favorite plant-based recipes. Here are some of our go-to ways to use these staple ingredients:
- Plant-Based Slow Cooker Chili
- Gluten-Free Mango and Black Bean Taco
- Easy Lentil Vegetable Loaf
- Quick and Easy Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup for Two
- Buffalo Ranch Chickpea Burger using Plant-Based Ranch
- Vegetarian Mushroom White Bean “Meatballs” with Chimichurri Sauce
- “Flush the Fat Away” Lentil and Vegetable Soup
- Mushroom Fajitas With Lentils Recipe
2. Grains ($0.50-$4/pound)
I wouldn’t recommend going gluten-free while you’re on a vegan diet because grains are such an easy way to bulk up your meal without breaking the bank. Barley and whole-grain products (like egg-free pasta, tortillas, bread) are great ways to add balanced, heart-healthy nutrition to your every day life without spending too much money.
There are plenty of gluten-free grains if that’s the route you’d like to follow. Look for quinoa, brown rice, rolled oats, or millet and use them in some of these vegan grain recipes.
- Chickpea Mediterranean Rice
- Peanut Chickpea Buddha Bowl
- Quinoa Apple Breakfast Bowl
- Easy Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Over Quinoa
- Avocado Vegan Fudge Brownie Recipe
- Whole Grain Peanut Butter and Fruit Toast
- Tabouleh Salad with Whole Wheat Pita Crisps
3. Frozen Vegetables ($0.50-$2/pound)
Frozen veggies get a bad rap, but sometimes they’re actually healthier for you than fresh vegetables! That’s become some vegetables lose their flavor and nutrients as they sit on the shelf. Some vitamins and minerals (like thiamine and beta-carotene) actually increase when they’re frozen.
You’ll also find that frozen vegetables are much less expensive than their fresh counterparts, especially when fresh vegetables aren’t in season. So don’t be afraid to pick up some frozen veggies as a way to answer the question of how to eat a plant-based diet on a budget. Here are some great ways you can use frozen vegetables.
- Cauliflower Holiday Stuffing
- Broccoli and Mushroom Stir-Fry
- Super Easy Cauliflower “Fried Rice”
- Quick & Easy Cauliflower Stir-Fry
- Skinny Zucchini Pasta & Baby Spinach
- Easy Vegetable and Barley Soup
- Vegan Spinach and Artichoke Dip
4. Tofu and Tempeh ($1.50-$2.50/pound)
Both tofu and tempeh are made from soybeans. Tofu is created from curdled soy milk that’s pressed into a block, and it’s famous for having a neutral flavor. That means it takes on other flavors exceptionally well as it cooks. Tempeh, on the other hand, is made from cooked, fermented soybeans and has an earthy, nutty flavor.
Both of these plant-based proteins cost significantly less than meats, and they’re a great way to feel full and satiated while eating a plant-based diet. If you’ve never cooked with tofu before, get started with these recipes.
- Baked Tofu Chunks with Cajun Spice Dry Rub
- Gardener’s Pie
- Maple Glazed Tempeh with Quinoa and Kale
- Spicy Breakfast Tacos
- Spicy Grilled Tofu with Szechuan Vegetables
5. Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes ($0.40-$0.80/pound)
As compared to other fresh vegetables, potatoes and sweet potatoes have a high starch content. Whether you’re bulking up a soup or making a stuffed sweet potato, these tubers will give you a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to calories per dollar.
Since you can serve them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, potatoes and sweet potatoes are a great way to eat a plant-based diet on a budget. Try using them in some of these recipes.
- Sweet Potato Breakfast Recipe
- Rosemary Roasted Potatoes and Vegetables
- Oven Sweet Potato Fries
- Plant-Based, Old-Fashioned Potato Salad Recipe
- Spicy Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burger with Avocado Sauce
- Curried Sweet Potato and Spinach Salad
Now that you know all about how to eat a plant-based diet on a budget, you’re ready to take the vegan challenge! Give it a try for 30 days with our plant-based meal plan for beginners. You might just find yourself hooked!