How to Eat Plant-Based & Healthy While Saving Time & Money

Eat healthy save time and money

Eating plant-based and healthy is possible with a busy life—even on a budget.

It may take a bit of planning and a commitment to simpler eating, most of the time. But it’s very doable.

Below you’ll find a bunch of tips and suggestions for how to choose healthy foods without breaking the bank. But this is not an extensive list by any means.

These are just a few budget-friendly guidelines that will provide you with a place to start.

Tips for making healthy plant-based meals

1. The power of simplicity

Simplifying your life can often be a liberating experience, freeing you from unnecessary constraints. This is also the case when it comes to food.

Not only is eating simple, whole plant foods healthier, it can save you money—and even time.

By seeking out recipes that use fewer ingredients and take less time to prepare, you can cut down on the number of different foods you need to buy and instead just focus on the essentials.

Eating less complicated foods also allows your taste buds to adjust and learn to appreciate the individuals flavours of foods more. It may take a while to get used to, but over time you’ll find you’re less likely to crave salty, oily, dishes.

Building your meals around fewer, simpler ingredients can also be a good way to lose weight.

2. Plan your meals

Once you’ve found a few basic recipes you enjoy, you can begin to include them in many of your weekday meals.

Planning your meals in advance can save you time during the week, especially on those busier nights.

It can also help you to plan your meals in order to minimise food waste by using certain ingredients over multiple nights. And, particularly when you’re trying to save on costs, the less food waste you have, the better.

Eliminating the amount of decisions you have to make during your everyday life can also help you to conserve energy. The less time you spend thinking about food, the more time and energy you free up to enjoy and focus on other things.

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3. Calorie density versus satiation 

The amount of calories you’ll be getting as well as how satisfied you are after your meals are both important considerations when planning your weekly meals.

While more calorie dense foods such as pasta can sometimes be less expensive (when you consider how many calories per dollar spent you’ll be getting), that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t leave you looking for more after the meal.

On the other hand, whole grains (as close to whole form as possible) such as brown rice, oats, or barley can fill you up more ensuring that you’re less likely to seek out late night snacks. Their higher volume and fibre content leave you with a more satiated feeling after a meal.

But if you do opt for pasta, try to find a whole grain option if possible. Whole grain pastas and noodles made with buckwheat, quinoa, corn, or the like are often much more flavourful, as well as being more nutritious. So it’s a win-win.

Again, getting enough calories and feel satisfied after your meals are both essential for sticking with your healthy eating plan.

So make sure to take both into account when planning your weekly meals. Pay attention to the foods and dishes that fill you up the most, and be sure to include those as often as possible.

4. Cook your own food & cook in batches (including dry goods)

Preparing and cooking your own food is almost always less expensive. It may take a bit longer, but if you limit the amount of rinsing and chopping you need to do for each meal, it’s not that bad.

Having a bunch of pre-washed and chopped vegetables in the fridge, that you’ve already prepared, can really help.

Batch cooking is another way to help save time and money. By planning and preparing your meals in advance, you’ll spend less time during the week having to fret about food.

Plus, when you plan your meals so that you eat the same meals multiple times throughout the week, or use similar ingredients in various recipes, you’ll be cutting down on the amount of waste you produce. And ultimately the amount of money you spend.

Batch cooking often allows you to prepare two to three days worth of food that you can keep in the fridge, and the rest you can store in the freezer. So you can easily make large batches of soups or stews so you have some on hand for those busy nights.

You can also cook up greater amounts of beans or grains in one go. This works well if you plan to have “whole bowls” or burritos doing the week. Just grab a big scoop of your pre-cooked rice and beans out of the fridge, then add in whatever veggies you have, and you’re all set!

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Tips for buying healthy, affordable plant foods 

1. Make a grocery list and stick to it

After you have planned your meals for the week, make a grocery list. And when you go shopping—be sure to stick to the list!

It’s all too easy to find yourself wandering through the aisles browsing at all the shiny packages and snack goods made with “natural flavours”, but no actual identifiable foods to speak of.

So be vigilant and avoid any unnecessary temptations that will lead you astray to more expensive, less healthy items.

Stay on the outside aisles as much as possible—the produce section, freezer aisle, and bulk food area where you can get whole plant foods. This will benefit your health and your wallet as those shiny packages often come at a price, on both accounts.

2. Look for sales and discounts

Coupon cutting may not be all the rage any more, but there are often still weekly sales at many grocery stores. So check the local flyers and see what’s on sale.

Maybe even plan your meals accordingly.

Also, if your local store has a discount rack you may want to check it out before you leave. Just because the store feels they won’t be able to sell it anymore, doesn’t necessarily means it’s gone “bad”. So you never know what you may find.

3. CSA or local farmers markets

In season produce is often more affordable and shopping at local farmers markets can be a good option to ensure you get local, fresh produce.

Or, if you have one in your area, signing up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) box is another way to purchase produce from local farmers. You will usually get a fair selection in each box, so it’s a good way to add some variety to your diet as well.

If you can, buying organic foods is always great, but don’t worry too much if it’s not in your budget right now. Eating more whole plant foods is the most important thing to focus on. So go with whatever you can afford and have access to.

4. Buy in bulk

Although shopping in the typical bulk section in a grocery store is not always more affordable than buying pre-packaged goods, many times it is slightly less expensive. Either way, it’s worth a look just to see.

When it comes to reducing grocery costs, if you have access to larger packages of bulk goods, such as a 5 or 10 kg bag of rice, those are usually the way to go.

So take a look around, and maybe even ask at your local store if you can purchase bulk options from them. Because it can certainly help reduce your weekly grocery bill.

5. Buy what you like and what you’ll eat

Buy foods you like. Because you’ll be more likely to eat them.

This may seem obvious, but all too often people buy a large amount of produce and don’t manage to get to it before it goes bad. And planning your meals can help with that to a certain degrees.

But it’s always so much easier to centre meals around foods you already know and love. Enjoying the foods you eat can really make creating a healthier lifestyle easier.

Finding a few quick salad recipes and oil-free dressings you enjoy will help keep that fresh produce being eaten in a timely fashion. And choosing fresh fruits and vegetables you like to snack on means they’re probably won’t be sitting around for too long.

Eating everything you buy means you’ll produce less food waste each week. And less waste means you’ll be maximizing the money you spend.

Rather than buying a bunch of fresh produce that felt really good buying, only to watch it wilt in the fridge throughout the week. It was a nice thought, but… it’s not quite the same as actually eating all those leafy greens.

6. Use it up

Use up the food that you already have first, before buying more groceries.

Produce is one thing, but even when it comes to foods with a longer shelf-life, why not use up what you have first?

If you still have a bunch of brown rice, plan your next week’s meals around it. Opt for burritos, vegetable curry with rice, veggie stir-fries, or rice pudding to make up a good portion of your main meals.

You can still include a fair amount of variety in the vegetables you buy to keep things interesting. But your staple foods can be pretty basic.

Maybe have two or three on hand that you alternate between throughout the week, like brown rice and oats. You can make quite a number of recipes with either of those as it is.

7. Affordable, staple plant foods to look out for

Keep your go-to staples simple. Whole plant foods are usually less expensive, and they’re certainly healthier.

And although cost may be a primary influence in what you shop for, don’t forget to include a few vegetables in there too.

Vegetables that have a longer “shelf-life” are always a good option, like winter squash and root vegetables. They’re less likely to go bad before you use them, and you’re more likely to be able to buy them in bulk.

Leafy greens are also always an important part of a healthy diet. So, if you can, buy a large bunch and hopefully it can last you for two or three meals.

Keep in mind that when they’re in season they’re more likely to be less expensive. So eating with the seasons isn’t a bad thing.

That may mean more lettuce and fruit in the summer and root vegetables, kale, apples, and frozen fruit in the winter.

As long as you’re getting a bunch of variety throughout the year, you should be fine.

Many of the more affordable whole plant food options include:

Whole grains & starches: rice (brown, white, etc); cornmeal; oats; potatoes; barley

Fruits & Vegetables: local and in season (as much as possible); bananas; apples; pears; frozen berries; root vegetables (carrots, beets); winter squash; leafy greens

Pulses: split peas, chickpea, black beans, lentils

Nuts & seeds: ground flax seeds (flax meal); walnuts (bought in small quantities aren’t too expensive)

Also, stock up on dressings, sauces, spices, and other condiments that you feel are essential and feature in many of your favourite recipes. That way you’re sure to use them on a regular basis.

Conclusion

Following a healthy, plant-based lifestyle doesn’t have to be expensive, or time-consuming.

Of course having a larger budget and living somewhere with access to a wider variety of whole plant foods is always nice, but it’s not essential.

So, when it comes to eating healthier and sticking to a budget, focus on your staples. These will be more affordable foods that will also provide you with the majority of your calories. Oats, brown rice, barley, corn, potatoes, black beans, split peas, are just some examples.

When finances and availability allow it, add in as many whole fruits, leafy greens, and other vegetables as you can.

Again, it’s variety over the course of the year you should be mindful about. You don’t have to have a colourful plate at every meal.

Find a handful of reliable and healthy oil-free, plant-based recipes that you enjoy, so you don’t get stuck wondering what to have for dinner.

But don’t forget that there’s nothing wrong with simplicity. A hearty bowl of whole grains, some vegetables, and a sprinkling of herbs can often be perfectly satisfying.

And, when you choose whole plant foods, the simpler your meals are, they healthier they often are too!


The Resources You Need to Thrive Plant-Based

There are more plant-based resources becoming available all the time. But when you have an interest in health, it’s not easy sifting through them to get to the ones that can actually help you.

The Plant-Based Directory is a resource dedicated to helping you succeed on a healthy, plant-based lifestyle.

The Directory includes:

✓ Where to find oil-free, vegan recipes

✓ The best places to get answers to your health & nutrition questions

✓ Tips & advice for you and your family to transition to healthy, plant-based eating

✓ A sample 14-day oil-free meal plan

plant based directory

Learn where to go for the best health advice. And find what you need to succeed on a plant-based lifestyle. Click here to learn more

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