Plant Based on a Budget
I hear a lot of people say that being vegan or vegetarian costs a lot of money. The truth is, ditching meat doesn’t have to be expensive. These days, more and more people want to cut back on or eliminate meat and animal based products from their diet. Watch a few Netflix documentaries and you’ll start to give meat the side eye.
I’ve been eating plant based for about 4 years. I started by cutting out beef, chicken, and pork. I still eat seafood on occasion (I wont buy it at the grocery store, but I’ll sometimes eat it when I’m out to eat), but I’m very picky about the seafood I eat. Stick with wild caught seafood if you’re looking to eat a pescatarian based diet. One fish I will not eat is tilapia. Tilapia was cut out with beef, chicken, and pork. Tilapia is a basically a general name for various types of fish. They are found in the wild in Africa and the Middle East. The tilapia you’ll find at the grocery store is farm raised and more than likely imported. General rule to live by: If the meat is cheap, do not eat!
In the last year or so I’ve cut back on dairy. I haven’t had cow’s milk in a very long time. The thought of drinking even the allotted amount of pus makes me want to vomit. Yes, the FDA allows a certain amount of pus in milk….disgusting. Cheese on the other hand is hard to kick. I definitely don’t eat it as much. I like vegan cheese, it's just a bit on the pricy side.
So, back to eating veggies for the low low. Here’s the secret… are you ready? You have to cook. And I’m not just talking about warming up a veggie burger. The key to keeping cost down is to buy whole foods (not shop at Whole Foods… at least not until you’re ready to spend coin). There are so many vegetarian and vegan prepared meals being offered in stores these days. It’s very convenient, but also expensive. When you’re eating just veggies, you have to eat more to get all your calories for the day. Buying a cart full of frozen meals or soy lunch meat will cost you serious bucks. Instead, get creative and make the foods you normally eat, but with veggies.
I love burgers. When I decided to stop eating meat I had to figure out an alternative. I’ve found that pretty much any bean can be made into a burger. Instead of buying frozen veggie patties, make your own. Anything you use to season your meat you can use to season a bean burger. Bean burgers keep you full and you won’t miss the beef.
Barbeque is another favorite of mine. You can put barbeque sauce on almost anything and I’ll eat it. One of my favorite meals is a barbeque baked potato. Instead of chicken or beef, use lentils. They’re inexpensive, a good source of protein, and full of fiber. Cook the lentils according to the directions on the package. Add your favorite barbeque sauce and add it (and whatever else you like) on top of a baked potato (I prefer a sweet potato).
Use taco seasoning and sauté or roast (my favorite) peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Fill tortillas with the veggies, cilantro, pico de gallo, and avocado. Serve with a side of beans and rice… and a margarita or two. Boom! Taco Tuesday veggie style.
My go to quick meal is roasted veggies and quinoa. It’s quick, flavorful, and filling. You can roast almost any vegetable. Roasting them really brings out the flavor. My favorite is roasted broccoli with garlic. Buy your quinoa in bulk to keep cost down and add some flavor by cooking it in vegetable stock instead of water.
If you're looking to transition away from meat, don't feel like you have to do it cold turkey (no pun intended). Start by designating a few days a week as meat free.