BY :GuestPUBLISHED : October 14th, 2016UPDATED: August 17th, 2021
By Sarah Simmons
My name is Sarah and I have been mostly plant-based for a year. Before, I was vegetarian for four years. It may not be the easiest transition to make where you live, but for sure anyone can do it. You just need to find your reason and stick with it. No matter what you love and think you can’t live without, you will find at the very least some kind of substitute. You can make pretty much anything vegan.
I am a junior in high school. I have a job after school as a waitress at a Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant. Currently, I work 4 to 5 days a week. My town is small with only a couple thousand in upstate New York. It is roughly two hours north of NYC.
It is not too common to find someone vegetarian at my age, it’s even more rare to find someone who is vegan. As far as I know, there are only a couple sisters in my grade who also eat vegetarian, and it’s mostly their father’s choice. When I tell people I am vegetarian, I get asked, “You still eat eggs and dairy though, right? It is extreme if you don’t.” I normally just laugh it off and say “Yes, but very little.”
I was not raised vegetarian or vegan, nor is anyone else in my family vegetarian or vegan. My parents, however, are actually very supportive about my choice to eat mostly plant-based. My decision means sometimes I do end up eating something a little different than them at dinner, though.
Majority of my money goes to my car payment and food. Although my mom insists on helping me pay for things, it is 110% my choice to pay most of my own bills. I feel that because I am working, it is not my mom’s responsibility to fully support me like that.
Here’s what I learned about being plant-based on a budget: If you spend money on gourmet products, such as faux cheese and meats … the money will add up very quickly. If you stick to the basics, you’ll be eating plenty and cheap. I get paid weekly at my job, plus I make tips. I eat a lot of pasta and beans. Those are the cheapest and easiest things to do. You can always add veggies. I love adding broccoli to my pasta. It doesn’t have to be fresh, it can always be frozen. I get the frozen steam-able broccoli. The ones you can just steam it in the bag. Yes, I am lazy like that. It can be hard finding things you like, but I recommend exploring new tastes and trying different recipes. There are all sorts of recipes online for whatever you like, and hundreds here on Plant Based on a Budget. One of my favorites is penne with garlic and oil. I get it at my job all the time for dinner. Another thing I love is black beans and chicken peas with onions. It is amazing. You can add any spices you like. I normally add taco seasoning to mine.
I will admit, this is not the easiest transition at first. It does require self-discipline and thick skin at times. I know at times I get some rude comments regarding my choice of food. Sometimes it is friends, strangers, and even family. There is nothing you can do but try to kindly educate them about your choice and hope they at least will keep the rude comments to themselves.
For me, I struggle with finding food I like and finding time to cook. I mean, I am a high school student! Sometimes I just want to lay around before/after work or on the weekends. To help with this, I make big batches of vegan food for lunch or dinner the next day. I actually made pasta fagioli other day. It was amazing! For those who don’t know, it is an Italian soup that is basically just pasta, beans, and veggies. Expect, the pasta soaked up most of the broth. That soup lasted me two lunches. It was mostly pasta but still very good. I have done three bean salads for school, too. I can eat the same thing and not get bored. If you are not like that, then find a few recipes easy recipes and mix it up. With beans, you can always change the spices to mix it up. Another thing is cook each bean with a different spice. I have never done it myself but still sounds great!
If you are thinking about going vegan or even just vegetarian, than I say go for it. I don’t regret my decision at all. I feel healthier and have more energy. Find your reason and keep that in mind. There are so many reasons you could want to make this change. For me, it is a mix of the three main reasons: ethics, environmental, and health. Yes, I am young now, but I will not be forever. I have to build a good foundation first and good habits now. With that in mind, I urge you to make the change for your health too. I hope at the very least you think about at least limiting your meat, dairy, and egg consumption. Reducing animal products at any amount is a step in the right direction.