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Plant-based diet on a budget

Want to go meat-free for good? Find out how you can adopt a plant-based diet without going broke.

Plant-based diets have taken the world by storm, quickly becoming one of the biggest food and health trends in recent years. Numerous celebrities like Ariana Grande and Bill Clinton claim that changing their diets has drastically changed their lives. Beyoncé Knowles famously took to a plant-based diet in preparation for her now-famous Coachella performance, encouraging her fans (The Bey Hive) to follow suit.

plant-based diet_Sushi Salad
Photographer: Jennifer Burk | Source: Unsplash

It is easy to understand why so many swear by this diet. Research shows that many chronic diseases can be controlled, reduced, or even reversed by moving to a plant-based diet. A plant-based diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and other major illnesses. Many people also report bigger fitness payoffs, more energy, reduced inflammation, and better health outcomes after making the switch.

Did you know? The cost of eating healthily is 69% more expensive than the typical South African diet.

However, this comes at great expense. In an article entitled ‘The cost of a healthy diet: a South African perspective’, Authors N.J.Temple, N.P.Steyn compared the cost of a typical South African diet with a healthier one. On average, the healthier diet costs 69% more. We don’t all have ‘Single Ladies’ money laying around the house like Beyoncé to spend on food. With the economy being what it is, we have come up with tips for how you can reduce your meat intake and go plant-based without going broke.

Overview of the major food categories that make up a plant-based diet

  • Fruits: any type of fruit including berries, citrus fruit, banana’s, apples, grapes, avocados, etc.
  • Vegetables: plenty of veggies including broccoli, kale, beetroot, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, etc.
  • Tubers: root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets, etc.
  • Whole grains: grains, cereals, and other starches in their whole form, such as quinoa, brown rice, millet, whole wheat, oats, barley, etc. Even popcorn is a whole grain.
  • Legumes: beans of any kind, plus lentils, pulses, and similar ingredients
Plant-based diet_getmemo
Photographer: Hermes Rivera | Source: Unsplash

Plant-Based - Tips For Stretching Your Bucks

1. Buy in bulk.

Buying items, such as whole grains, dried beans, lentils, flours, dried fruit and nuts/seeds, in bulk is a great way to reduce your monthly grocery bill. These items have a long shelf life, meaning that they can be bought and stored for long periods of time. This is much cheaper in the long run, as you cut on down on the regular visits to your local grocery store. Wholesale retailers such as Makro and Game have amazing bulk sections that you should definitely pay a visit when thinking about your next plant-based diet meals.

2. Find the stores with the best prices.

Shopping a tight budget requires careful preparation and tactical diligence. Retailer's prices differ, and one store may be cheap when it comes to vegetables but could be more expensive than a competitor when it comes to whole grains. To get the most value for your grocery rands, it is important that you thoroughly research all your options and treat your grocery shopping like a fact-finding mission. Visit stores, research online and ask around.

Plant-based diet_getmemo
Photographer: Jason Leung | Source: Unsplash

3. Buy frozen fruit and vegetables.

This is a great way to build meals on a budget. Freezing can slightly alter the nutritional composition of fruits and vegetables, sometimes in favour of the frozen product and sometimes in favour of the fresh, but overall, there’s no clear winner. In addition to saving you money, frozen vegetables and fruits eliminate all trimming, washing, and chopping, as this has been done for you. Plus, there’s virtually no waste.

4. Prepare ingredients for your meals in advance.

Meal preparation is one way to maintain control over your food intake for a stress-free, cost-effective approach in achieving your plant-based diet goals. Meal preparation can take many ways, shapes, and forms. You can either prepare meals for five days or just one, prepare each meal in its entirety or prepare separate ingredients (i.e. cut vegetables) to speed up the cooking process later. No matter how far you take it, meal preparation is recommended to ensure you have time to properly consider your food intake and create meals you will enjoy. Remember to pack lunches for work with leftovers from the night before.

5. You don’t have to buy organic.

Eating more fruits and vegetables-organic or not-is better than eating none at all. Most of us would love to be able to buy organic produce all the time, but it can be expensive. Buying organic is not a financial reality for everyone, but you can shop smarter. Buy conventional produce that's the least likely to contain pesticide residues like avocado and sweet corn, and save your organic rands for produce that tends to have the highest amounts of pesticide residue.

Plant-based diet_getmemo
Photographer: Bethany Szentesi | Source: Unsplash

6. Buy your fruit and vegetables from farmers and street markets.

Farmer's markets have the unfortunate reputation of being seen as a place where the wealthy go to buy overpriced organic produce that most cannot afford. While it is true that some items are priced higher than they are in retail stores; some are significantly cheaper to a savvy shopper. Explore your local farmers market and get to know the hard-working people whose job in life is to put food on your table. (Plant-based diet tip)

By submerging yourself in the ecosystem that surrounds food production you’ll learn to appreciate that hands that toil the earth to feed us all. Also, explore the various informal markets that are all over the country. Most Central Business Districts in South Africa are littered with street vendors who sell locally sourced produce at very reasonable prices. Depending on where you are in the country and the seasonal produce available, these vendors offer most of your plant-based needs.

Word of Warning: A plant-based diet isn’t always a healthy choice

Plant-based eating is a safe and healthy choice for the majority of people, but you should always talk with your doctor or registered dietitian before making big changes to your diet.

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