Plant Based on a Budget Challenge – 1 Person – Week 1

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Welcome to the Plant Based on a Budget Challenge! First off, thank you very much for considering this challenge. We’re hoping to show that a plant-based diet can be done without breaking the bank, and we really hope it works out for you! There’s no specific day to start just seven days of eating plant-based foods at $25 per person, per week.

I realize that I live in California where the produce is bountiful and relatively inexpensive, but I tried to be considerate of that by creating fairly flexible meals. If spinach is cheaper than kale, go for it. If you don’t have plant-based bouillon, change it up with broth while still using my recipe measurements. This is a guide to help you become familiar with eating plant-based on a budget. Play with it.

Second, food is very important and personal to me, and I have poured hours upon hours into this project, so please be nice. So often, I see people on the internet being criticized for attempting to create FREE resources and it always blows my mind. I have been glad to have this project consume me, but to be honest, opening up my kitchen to you does make me feel vulnerable. If anyone feels as though my meal plans are terrible, or you’re unhappy with my use of oil or sugar, please feel empowered to submit your own plant-based meals plans with a $25, per person budget and I’d be happy to promote it for you. The more examples of budget plant-based eating, the better.

A little about myself: My name is Toni Okamoto, and I’m the founder of Plant Based on a Budget. Having grown up in a low-income household, I’m fully aware of how food money can become a low priority on the list of expenses. Fresh food access and lack of nutrition education in low-income communities are huge issues, and although I can’t tackle them on my own, I’m hoping to at least show that you don’t have to compromise your health to save money.

I originally became vegetarian for health reasons. In high school, I was a runner and in an attempt to make me a healthier person (I was getting sick after running all the time), my coach suggested not eating red meat, which shortly after resulted in me becoming a vegetarian. As a poor teenager who moved out immediately after high school, I was eating nothing but fast food, Top Ramen, and PB&J sandwiches. I was completely an unhealthy vegetarian. It wasn’t until I joined a veg club in college and started a weekly meetup up called “Womanly Wednesdays,” that I became vegan for ethical reasons and began experimenting with healthy, budget-friendly food.

Some good resources for eating a plant-based diet: I created a support group on Facebook to share tips and low-cost plant-based recipes. If you’re looking for a plant-based practitioner near you, check out this website. The New York Times bestseller called How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger is a fantastic resource to learn about plant-based nutrition. He also has a great website, Nutrition Facts, that has a ton of free resources. If you’re interested in stopping your consumption of dairy, The Dairy Detox can help you out with an entire online detox guide for only $10! I recommend checking out World of Vegan for fun articles and videos, and I also created a list of some of my cookbooks, as well as my favorites from other authors.

A couple tips: I work a lot. Between my day job and this blog, I easily put in over 70 hours a week of work. So, to save time, I cut all my veggies at the same time on my day off and stored them in the refrigerator for easy access. I work over an hour away from my house and the last thing I want to do when I get home is prep veggies. I cooked my beans on that day, too.

Find the cheapest grocery store near you. I went to a Winco and they have incredibly low prices and an impressive bulk bin selection. If you are shopping at Whole Foods, you probably won’t be able to follow this meal plan within the budget.

Also, while meal planning, I tried to follow the article that Sticman of Dead Prez wrote for our site, “7 Ways to Eat Good on a Hood Budget“. I made a plan, I didn’t buy packaged foods, I always had leftovers, I made two soups, and I only drank water.

Grocery Shopping List:

kale – .88
1/2 lb cheapest pasta – .39
4 bananas – .97
cilantro – .68
garlic – .48
2 carrots – .18
lemon – .38 *
fuji apple – .49*
2 yellow onions – .80
orange – .49*
1/2 lb pinto beans – .45
tomato – .30*
5 lb bag russet potatoes – 1.48*
small cucumber – .58*
18ct corn tortillas – 1.38*
lettuce – 1.78
1/2 brown rice – .33
celery – .88
mexican pasta shapes – .33*
15 oz tomato sauce – . 33
soy milk – 1.28*
2 packs 6 ct bouillon cubes – 2.00
frozen broccoli cuts – .98
1 lb pearl barley – .53
1 lb oats – .62
1/2 garbanzo beans – .54
1 lb cheapest granola – 1.92 (you can choose cereal if that’s cheaper)
1/2 cup cheapest dried fruit (for me, dried cranberries) – .33*
1/4 cup cheapest seeds (for me, unsalted sunflower seeds)- .10*

Total cost: $21.88

*If you’re over your $25 budget, please feel free to omit these items. I’ll explain variations in my recipes

If you omit everything with an asterisk, my total would have been: $14.74

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Day One:

Breakfast: 1 1/2 cups of Pumpkin Flax Granola in 1 cup of soy milk*. The bulk bins I shopped contained a wide variety of granola, but I chose this one because I don’t eat honey and it was one of the only options without it. Also, I’ve been feeling pretty festive lately — so much pumpkin spice!  According to Winco’s nutritional facts, this serving of granola contains: 12G of protein, 32%  daily value of dietary fiber, 4% calcium and 16% iron. If you’re deciding to omit the non-dairy milk to cut your costs down, granola is tasty to eat on its own.

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Lunch: I’m not usually much of a ‘salad as a meal’ type of gal, but this was pretty tasty. It’s 2/3 of your head of lettuce. I used Romaine, but you can use whatever is cheapest or tastiest to you. I added a chopped cucumber, 1 cup chickpeas,1/8 cup seeds* and 1/4 cup dried cranberries*. I made an easy dressing from the first listing on a Google search for “lemon balsamic” (save half of your lemon* though), you can definitely skip it or make a plain balsamic with oil and balsamic vinegar.

Daily value nutritional info for the 1 cup of chickpeas: 21% Calcium, 55%, Vitamin B6, 13% Vitamin C, 78% Protein, 50% Potassium.

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Dinner: A very filling Barley and Celery Soup. (about 4-6 servings)

Ingredients: 2 tbs oil, 2 cloves garlic – minced, 1/3 one of your onions – diced, 1/2 of the celery stalks in your bunch – chopped, 1 carrot – chopped, 12 cups water, 4 bullion cubes, 1 lb barley, 1 1/2 cups frozen broccoli, handful cilantro – chopped, red chili flakes to taste (optional)

Directions: In a large pot, saute garlic and onions for a minute and then add celery and carrots. Add the rest of the ingredients and boil on medium-high until barley is fully cooked.

If you try to eat gluten-free, you can easily replace the barley with brown rice, just modify the recipe.

Daily value nutritional facts about 1 cup of Barley (there are lots of cups in this recipe): 30% B6, 6% Calcium,  36% Iron, 46% Protein.

Day Two:

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Breakfast: 1 1/2 cups oats, 1/4 dried cranberries*, 1 cup soy milk*, brown sugar to taste. If you’re not using non-dairy milk, I suggest buying the quick oats and using water. I brought a glass tupperware with all the ingredients to work and threw it in the microwave for two minutes. It was very, very filling.

Daily nutritional value of 1 cup Oats: 41% Iron,  28G Protein

Lunch: Leftover Barley and Celery Soup

Dinner: Cheapest Veggie Pasta Ever. (should be about 3 large servings)

Ingredients: 1/2 lb pasta – cooked, 1 tbs oil, 3 garlic cloves – minced, 1/3 yellow onion, 1 1/2 cups frozen broccoli, 2/3 of the can of 15 oz tomato sauce (save the rest), any Italian-tasting dried spices you have on hand. I chose:  1 tbs oregano, 1/2 tbs parsley,  1/2 tbs basil.

Also, I didn’t have basil on hand so I bought a little in the bulk section and it cost me .7 cents.

Directions: Saute onions and garlic in oil, add broccoli and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add sauce, spices and pasta and mix thoroughly.

Daily nutritional value for 1 cup frozen broccoli: 90% Calcium, 10% Vitamin A

Day Three:

Breakfast: 1 1/2 Pumpkin Flax Granola w/ 1 cup soy milk.

Daily value nutritional facts for 1 cup soy milk (the kind I used): 35% Vitamin D, 30% Calcium, 20% Vitamin A, 7G Protein.

Lunch: Leftover pasta.

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Dinner: Curry Chickpeas over brown rice. Follow the link for the recipe. I omitted the tomatoes and added a little red chili flakes.

Daily nutritional value for 1 cup kale: 134% Vitamin C, 133% Vitamin A, 5% Protein

Day Four: 

Breakfast: 1 1/2 cups oats, 1 cup non-dairy milk, cinnamon and brown sugar to taste, 1/8 cup seeds.

Daily value nutritional facts for 1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds: 58% protein, 95% B6, 41% Iron

Lunch: Leftover soup #1.

Dinner: Veggie Pasta Soup. As you can see, I didn’t leave much room for the pasta to expand, so the leftovers weren’t as soup-y as I wanted it to be. I’m changing the recipe so it doesn’t happen to you, too.

Ingredients: 1 tbs oil, 2 cloves garlic – minced, 1/3 of your yellow onion – diced, 1 1/2 cup frozen broccoli, 1 carrot – chopped, the celery you have left – chopped, the rest of your chickpeas, 1 cup pinto beans, 1/2 bag mexican pasta shapes* (Ibouillon put a link on the grocery list and it is just as tasty if you decide not to include it), 10 cups water, 4 boullion,  handful cilantro – chopped, 1/2 tbs cumin

Directions:  Saute onion and garlic, add carrot, frozen broccoli, celery and cook for 2-3 minutes on med-low temp. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook about 15 minutes.

Day Five:

Breakfast: Banana Kale Smoothie. Click the link and follow the recipe. If you’re not buying non-dairy milk, I have used water or any other juice that you have on hand and it tastes just fine.

Daily value nutritional facts for 1 banana: 12% Potassium, 17% Vitamin C, 20% B6

Lunch: Leftover soup #2.

Dinner: Leftover rice and curry chickpeas.

Day Six:

Breakfast: 1 1/2 cups oatmeal and soy milk, 1/2 of a diced apple, with a little brown sugar and cinnamon.

Lunch: Leftover soup #2.

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Dinner: Potato Tacos with Mexican Rice and Perfectly Spiced Bean Dip.

I had two friends over and I fed them from my meal plan. To cut down costs, you can easily skip this meal and eat leftover soup. Also, if you want to make the meal and are skipping the potatoes, just use the rice and beans as filling.

For the tacos (feeding three people), I boiled five peeled and chopped russet potatoes. Once they were boiled and soft, I drained and placed them back in the pot, and mashed them seasoned salt, to taste. For just yourself, I’d say do two potatoes. I used the corn tortillas (I fried mine, but you definitely don’t have to) and we each had three tacos. I garnished the tacos with a diced tomato, the rest of the lettuce and an avocado that I had from last week (it was the only time I used something not on the list).

With the Mexican rice, I followed the recipe but  I used 1/3 of my onion, my leftover tomato sauce, and added a handful of cilantro before I let it steam. And with the Bean Dip, I only used 1/3 of an onion.

Daily value nutritional facts for 1 cup pinto beans: 16g Protein, 20% iron

Day Seven:

Breakfast: 1 1/2 cups of Pumpkin Flax Granola (no non-dairy milk) and an  orange

Lunch: Leftover Mexican food.

Dinner: Leftover soup #1.

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As I mentioned, this is a guide. Please experiment with your food based on your personal food preferences and dietary needs. Also, I am not a doctor or dietitian or nutritionist, this is just what I eat. I suggest supplementing with plant-based multi-vitamin and doing further research on your personal nutrition.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via the “Contact Us” section.

For new and improved meal plans, check out plantbasedmealplan.com.

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