Yes, indeed, a balanced plant-based diet is possible on a small budget of a few dollars a day! You are already on the path to saving money by choosing to replace meat with plant-based proteins. A little bit of planning goes a long way — you can eat delicious, healthful and affordable meals without expensive ingredients or long preparation times.
It is cheapest to buy dry beans and cook them yourself at home in large quantities. But, stretching it over several days does not mean you have to eat the same thing every day. Use them in a soup one evening, wrap them into a burrito or toss them into a salad the next — you will never lack for protein, fiber, folate, iron, zinc and potassium.
Don’t throw away leftovers even if you are too bored to eat the same thing again — almost anything can be repurposed into a new dish the next day! Shred cooked vegetable leftovers, mash them with cooked beans into a patty, and pan-fry it for a delicious sandwich the next day. Or, add vegetable broth to turn leftover marinara sauce into yummy tomato soup!
Chinese and Indian grocery stores carry most staples at remarkably lower prices than other grocery stores. These stores are especially a bargain for herbs and spices, but also great for whole grains and dry beans. Visit different stores and come to appreciate vegetables, fruits and flavors you might have never tried before.
Bulk bins in grocery stores often have the cheapest per-pound price for grains, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and snacks. You can stock up on your favorites or buy small amounts of new items to try out. Even if you are cooking for one, you can share a retail warehouse club membership with family or friends to buy in bulk at cheap prices.
Seasonal vegetables, such as corn and zucchini, and fruits, such as peaches and blueberries, are much cheaper in season and can be frozen for later use. Buying frozen from the store directly is also frequently cheaper than buying fresh. Remember that frozen produce is just as nutritious as fresh produce, while also being more convenient for use in small quantities.
Shopping, cooking and cleaning up take time but, with adequate planning, they save money by a wide margin over eating out. The more the people you are cooking for, the wider the gap between eating in and eating out — but even if you are cooking for just yourself, follow the tips on this page and you can save money on most types of meals.
Healthier foods are a bargain compared to less healthy foods when you measure their value not in cost per calorie but cost per satiating serving size. Make a habit of valuing nutrient density over calories per dollar and, as a matter of course, junk foods, meat, and many processed foods will drop out of your diet, saving you money while improving your health.