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Insider Tips for Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Eating

Sharon Palmer

Wanting to eat a more plant-based diet, but worried about how it will impact your grocery budget? Don’t worry, it can be done! Sure, feeding your family can be expensive, especially when trying to make healthy, plant-based meals. The average American family income is less than $60,000 a year, making a budget-friendly eating plan essential for the majority of households. While it may seem like the inexpensive food is rarely the healthiest, there are ways to provide quality, plant-based food for you and your family.

We sat down with food and nutrition expert Lisa C Andrews, RD, LD, “Nutrigirl” and CEO of Sound Bites Nutrition to discuss her best tips on how you can eat a delicious, healthy plant-based diet on a budget.

How to Eat Plant-Based Meals on a Budget

Sharon: Do people fear that plant-based eating will be costly?

Lisa: People often tell me that eating healthy costs more. I often hear that “everything needs to be organic”, which typically is more expensive. I remind them that meat is more expensive than plant-based protein sources and seasonal fruits and vegetables are more cost-effective. Also, food does not have to be organic to be nutritious.

Sharon: What are some common mistakes people make when purchasing plant-based foods that breaks their budgets?

Lisa: People purchase already prepped or processed meals or snacks that can be expensive. Frozen meals, granola bars, organic bananas all add up!

Sharon: What are some easy steps for people to build their knowledge of budget-friendly, plant-based cooking?

Lisa: For one, work with an RD to learn more about plant-based eating and the variety of foods you can try. Use online resources for recipes and information such as Science Daily-Vegetarian, Today’s Dietitian, Food and Nutrition magazine and the Vegetarian Resource Group.

Spicy Lentil Tacos

Sharon: How can meal planning help families stay on budget?

Lisa: Meal planning helps reduce impulse buys at the store. It also enforces the idea or re-purposing food for multiple meals.

Sharon: What are some key, specific strategies for planning economical, plant-based meals?

Lisa: Stick to your budget, don’t shop when you’re hungry, keep staples on hand, use seasonal produce.

Sharon: What are some plant-based staples that are budget-friendly and easily found in most grocery stores that people should always keep in their pantries?

Lisa: Canned or bagged beans and lentils, canned tomatoes and other vegetables, brown rice, farro, whole grain couscous, barley, steel cut oats, quinoa, almond or peanut butter, dried and canned fruit.

Try this Penne with White Beans and Greens recipe for great, economical family meal!

Sharon: When you do your weekly grocery shopping, how can you find plant-based bargains?

Lisa: Use the “old fashioned” grocer’s circular to look for sales or use available store apps. Look for “ugly produce” that may be at a reduced price. Use a shopper’s loyalty card to receive coupons or other specials. Buy seasonal produce. Strawberries in Ohio in January are not so great and cost an arm and a leg.

Check out my Top 5 Ways to Use Black Beans for more budget-friendly ideas.

Sharon: What could you do with a $20 budget for one family of 4 for a plant-based meal?

Lisa: Challenge accepted! Black or pinto beans with whole wheat or corn tortillas and a side salad is very inexpensive, healthy and tasty. I like to add sautéed peppers and onions and my husband makes fresh corn tortillas, which are delicious.

Lisa’s Heart Healthy Pizza Soup

Sharon: What is your favorite budget-friendly, plant-based meal that you like to prepare at home?

Lisa: One of my favorite plant-based meals is “pizza soup”. It combines white beans, frozen spinach, canned tomatoes, onions, garlic and a few spices. It takes no time to make and is always well-received. I use this recipe often for cooking demos to show people how simple and quick it is to make a plant-based dinner. Try Lisa’s Pizza Soup today!

You can find Lisa at, @nutrigirl (twitter), @nutrigirl66 (IG),

Written by Kelly Blackburn, Dietetic Intern with Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

Image: BEST Vegetarian Baked Beans, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

For other plant-based budget-friendly cooking ideas, check out the following:

Chef Tips for Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Meals
Plant-Based Eating on a Budget
Power Up with Plants, Thanks to Pulses

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