If you were following us last year, you might remember that I started the 90-Day Weight and Health Challenge (you can start it at any time – check out the link for details) in February. Since starting that challenge I have lost over 80 pounds and become a totally different person, from someone totally obsessed with food (seriously, my life revolved around it) to now someone that has found my new passion in health and wellness while encouraging others to make the transition to a healthier lifestyle!
In its simplest form, there must be at least two strategies towards losing weight and becoming healthier. Obviously finding an activity you enjoy and making it work for you is important (I love running, lifting weights, calisthenics and OCR Racing – like Spartan). But the other strategy is a healthier diet. And as time went on through those following months, I became much more focused not only on the calories and macro-nutrient count, but about putting healthier and more simple foods into my body – moving me towards a primarily plant-based diet the latter part of last year in that quest to seek simplicity in my diet.
But at the first part of this year I took the final step and became a vegan after reading and researching throughout the latter half of last year.
But you might be wondering how we can stay on a budget with a vegan in the house. Well I’m here to share with you that its not only easier than you think, but quite honestly even cheaper than you can imagine. In fact, Cassie and the kids have naturally decreased their use of animal products over the last few years anyway as minimizing (or stretching) the most expensive part of the meal – the meat (e.g., like how she stretches a whole chicken over five meals or makes a pound of hamburger stretch for a large family) plays a significant role in maintaining a low budget for a large family.
It honestly only takes a little bit of effort and attention to make sustainable and health-conscious changes to your diet, and it’s possible to do so for very minimal cost. As just shared above, many vegan staples, such as beans, nuts, and healthy grains, are much cheaper than meat products. If you really want to improve your health, shopping for fresh ingredients and doing your own cooking is really the best method. Some think that the cheap vegan diet is ramen noodles and canned beans; the following list of delicious and affordable ideas proves them wrong.
1. Make Seasonal Food Choices
The ideal way to go about getting affordable fruits and veggies is to get a feel for what is locally produced in your area. Farmers markets often have better priced options than supermarkets, and their foods are always freshly harvested (which honestly helps your local farmers and generally results in more nutritious produce due to smaller farms as well). Prices will vary from one area to another, so look around until you find the choices that best suit your budget. When going to a grocery store, we have found a huge amount of savings from picking items that are on special or marked down due to close expiration dates, which not only means a decrease in the budget but can lead to a variety on your plate that you wouldn’t normally try otherwise. Finally, don’t miss all of our tips (including the ones you see here) as part of our 30 ways to save money on produce.
2. Plan Ahead and Be Creative
When you stock up on affordable items, you can cook in bulk to make enough that will last you a few days (e.g., I made enough quinoa and brown rice just today to last our family the first of this next week). Whole grains and beans are often some of the cheapest foods available and work great in many different recipes. You can definitely mix up your menu throughout the week with several different dishes that use them as centerpieces by only buying a few additional ingredients. That quinoa and brown rice are already planned to be used in a Mexican themed lunch, an Asian stir-fry and some Indian curry. Who says vegan food is bland, boring or not exciting? 🙂
3. Use Every Ingredient and Reuse Leftovers
As you become more creative in using those whole grains, beans and product in ways you wouldn’t have considered before, make sure that you don’t throw out leftovers from a meal but instead become creative in how you use them in the next. Just recently we steamed sweet potatoes and had a few cups worth left at the end of the meal. Instead of being tempted to discard them, we saved them for the next day and made a scrumptious stir-fry using an ingredient we might not usually consider. If you need help being creative, type those leftovers and new ingredients into your search engine and you might be surprised at what is on your dinner table that night.
4. Look for Cheaper Substitutes
There are a lot of vegan substitutes for traditionally delicious foods that have the same flavor – and some are actually less expensive. One example is the Hampton Creek product, Just Mayo, that can be used for every application that regular mayonnaise is used for. They also share that their product is healthier and more sustainable. Finding these alternatives can be a great encouragement as well to those starting their journey as it can prevent them from feeling like they have to give us everything.
5. Prepare Your Own Ingredients
You’ll find as time goes on that preparing many of your own foods from scratch will not only save you a significant amount of money, but you’ll actually have a much healthier end product as well. If you purchase whole grains, nuts, and granola, you can make your own nutritious snack bars for pennies of the cost you can buy more expensive, health bars. While canned beans are easy, it is a lot cheaper and healthier (due to lower sodium) to buy dry beans in bulk, soak them overnight, and cook them prior to usage (don’t miss our article where we shared this whole process and froze many portions of beans to be used for months).
Let the Creative Juices Flow…
I hope you can start seeing how easy it is to save money as a vegan. In a day and age in which new recipes and ideas are just a few clicks away, I have loved all the amazing options and recipes that I would have never tried if I just kept making the same few recipes over and over again. By incorporating each of these tips I have been able to enjoy and thrive on a plant-based diet – all the while saving a ton of money throughout the process.