Plant Based on a Budget Challenge – 1 Person – Week 2

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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. 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. I also recommend the Ibotta app for extra savings with instant rebates. I use it at Target, Sprouts, Walmart, Groupon, etc. If you sign up using my referral code, you’ll get $10 back: dlamydh

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 List:

Garlic – .48
Dried Cranberries – .59*
2 Carrots – .24
Cheapest Non-Dairy Milk – 1.28
5 Dried Apricots – .15
1/2 lb Cheapest Pasta – .44
1/2 lb Black Beans – .46
Cheapest Frozen Berries (I got Blueberries) – 1.98*
12 ct Corn Tortillas – 1.27*
Celery .78
Lemon – .38
Small can Tomato Paste – .18
Pack of 6ct Bullion Cubes – 1.00
1/4 lb Pinto Bean – .23
15 oz can Apple Sauce – .97*
3/4 lb Garbanzo Beans – .84
Kale – .98
1/4 lb Kidney Beans – .30
1/2 lb Green Lentils –  .46
1/2 lb Old Fashioned Oats – .31
8 oz can Tomato Sauce – .18
15 oz can diced tomatoes – .53
1 Cup Long Grain Rice – .21
Red Onion – .34
2 Yellow Onions – .67
1/2 lb Cheapest Bulk Cereal (I got cornflakes) – .77
4 Bananas – .89
Green Bell Pepper – .88
Orange –  .42*

Total: $17.70

*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: $12.47

Day One:


Breakfast: I made my friend Aaron’s Banana Bread to last the entire week. Last week I struggled with not having any sweet foods, so I added this bread for a yummy sweet treat. There are seven slices and you can either have it for breakfast or dessert. Get crazy with it!

And if you don’t want to get crazy, that’s fine too. You can easily skip this — there’s plenty of cereal, smoothie, and oatmeal.


Lunch: For lunch, I made a variation of the Chickpea Salad based on the ingredients I purchased for this meal plan. I mostly followed the recipe and made these modifications: I used three cups of my cooked chickpeas, omitted the dill pickle, used one medium spoonful of my can of tomatoes, 1/3 of my green bell pepper, used one clove fresh garlic and doubled the mustard. This will make 2-3 large servings.

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


Dinner:  I made my easiest, cheapest, laziest Crockpot Four Bean Chili. When I cooked the beans, I threw the kidney, black and pinto beans together and cooked them all in the same pot to save time (but mostly so I didn’t have to wash three separate dishes). Then I threw all the ingredients into my crockpot and cooked it for five hours while I cleaned my house. Here were my modifications based on my meal plan budget: only used 1/3 of a yellow onion, 1/2 of the red onion, 1/3 of the green bell pepper, omitted the zucchini and corn and used 1/2 of the can of leftover diced tomatoes. As the recipe says, if you don’t have a crockpot (go buy one at the thrift store for $5), you can still make this — it’ll just require a little more observation. This will make 4-5 large servings.

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

When I make this I usually pair it with our Skillet Cornbread. I didn’t this time because it was just ONE more thing, but if you have the ingredients and the time, I highly recommend it.

Day Two: 

Breakfast:  2 cups cornflakes w/ 1 cup soy milk and banana.

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

Lunch: Leftover chili.


Dinner: These Lentil Tacos are seriously amazing. I LOVE them. My modifications for the challenge: 1/3 of a yellow onion, 1/3 of green bell pepper, 2 1/4 Cups water and one bullion cube (instead of the broth). I paired it with Mexican Rice.  If you have lettuce, tomatoes, or avocado on hand, feel free to use them — I just didn’t put them in my budget. If you’re omitting the corn tortilla, make this into a lentil bowl. This makes about 2-3 servings.

Day Three: 


Breakfast: 1 1/2 cups oatmeal w/ 1 cup soy milk and 1/2 of your dried cranberries. I also sprinkled with a little brown sugar.

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

Lunch: Leftover Lentil Tacos and Mexican Rice.


Dinner: “Lentil Soup is mental fruit”!! I made the Lentil Soup from Grace’s meal plan from week one. My modifications based on my budget: 1/3 of a yellow onion, the rest of the can of diced tomatoes, one carrot, 1 tbs cumin, 1/2 lemon’s juice, red chili flakes to taste, no added salt. Makes about 3 servings. I had 1 1/2 bowls in one sitting.

Day Four: 

Breakfast: Blueberry Kale Smoothie – I drank half of it right away, put the rest in the refrigerator and had it later as a snack. If you’re going over budget, this is a recipe you can omit. There should be leftover oats, if you wanted to replace this recipe.

Ingredients: 2 cups of kale (without stems), 2 cups frozen blueberries, juice of one orange, the rest of your can of apple sauce (about one cup), 1/2 cup water (or whatever juice you have on hand), 1 tbs sweetener of your choice – I used agave (optional).

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

Directions: Blend it, “pour up, drank!”

Lunch: Leftover Chili

Dinner: Leftover Lentils and Mexican Rice. You don’t have to make them into tacos again. You could also do a Lentil and Rice bowl and add anything you might have on hand.

Day Five: 

Breakfast: Oatmeal w/ soy milk and the five dried apricots diced.

Lunch: Leftover Chickpea Salad


Dinner: I made our Summer Bowties. Bowties are about $.40 more per lb and I couldn’t afford that nonsense, so I went with Penne because it was the cheapest. My modifications based on my budget: omit the artichoke hearts and tomatoes, 1/2 of a red onion, the rest of your chickpeas, juice of 1/2 lemon. Makes about 2-3 servings. You can add any other veggies you have on-hand.

Day Six: 

Breakfast: Cereal w/ soy milk and a chopped banana.

Lunch: Leftover pasta. I also used my leftover kale in a small salad, with my leftover blueberries I made this dressing. I just replaced the blackberries with blueberries.

Dinner: Leftover Lentil Soup

Day Seven:

Breakfast: Oatmeal w/ soy milk, the rest of my dried cranberries, cinnamon and brown sugar.

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 Chili

Dinner: Leftover Pasta
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

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Comments (30)

  1. posted by Anitra on November 15, 2013

    Thank you for taking the time to do this. I am grateful for your dedication to helping others eat better so we can live better. YOU ROCK!!

  2. posted by Jennie on November 15, 2013

    Thanks for so much for all your work in preparing this for others. Happy eating for all!

  3. posted by Jenn on November 15, 2013

    Some people can totally appreciate what you do! I just found your site and made the lentil soup this week, it was amazing!

  4. posted by Kristine on November 15, 2013

    This is wonderful! Thank you so much for making this great information available. I really appreciate your effort to compile all of this valuable nutrition and ideas for healthy vegetarian alternatives.

  5. posted by Kim on November 15, 2013

    The smoothie looks yummy! I would use frozen banana chunks for the sweetener.

  6. posted by Megaera Gryphon on November 16, 2013

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but I really am to find people were complaining. I’m very appreciative. I’ve been vegan for almost five years and try not to fall in to my old “omni” habits of eating the same things over and over. I appreciate recipes & meal suggestions because sometimes it’s honest to God too much effort to think & plan so thank you for doing it for me!!!

  7. posted by Lidia Le Francois on November 16, 2013

    Fantastic! Such great dedication and I really appreciate the dollar amount with everything. It shows perspective and I find it crazy how expensive produce is in some parts of the world. Right now in Toronto a red pepper is $1.50 EACH. Yeah, nuts huh? Love the post!

  8. posted by Steve Y on November 16, 2013

    Thank you for making this resourse available. I went to a plant based diet several months back and often look at your site for ideas. Having worked in the hotel & restaurant businesses, I’ve become a very accomplished cook and plant based cooking offers numerous opportunities for creativity. In a recent discussion with like minded folks, we all agreed that this lower density diet gives the body what it needs without over consumming food-which is a danger associated with heavily processed/animal based products of course.

    Keep up the good work!

  9. posted by Nance on November 16, 2013

    Thanks for all the hard work! The recipes look yummy and the price is good for my budget.

  10. posted by Lynne on November 16, 2013

    Thank you for a great website and these menu plans, much appreciated.

  11. posted by val rollheiser on November 16, 2013

    Thank you so much I love your site! I have gotten a lot of great tips from here.

  12. posted by Tashina on November 16, 2013

    Great tips for getting prepping for the week and being more budget friendly. It’s so true that things like bringing in your own bags and buying discounted old produce can really make a difference. Also, I bring in bottles with a return value as often as I can. 5-10 cents here and there may not seem like a lot but, just like the bag credits, it adds up!

  13. posted by Sharon Veronica on November 16, 2013

    Wow, WOW, and WOW!!!!!! CAN”T WAIT to try these GREAT recipes!!!! I am so sick and tired of eating just carbs, so I am really looking forward to these meals! The Guacamole skins look GREAT! What a GREAT IDEA! I think I’ve been eating the basics for so long (like a baked potatoe) that these other ways of eating them has never crossed my mind. Your page is great! Thank YOU 🙂

  14. posted by cudi on November 16, 2013

    Hi Toni, thanks for this meal plan I think it will be great for me this week. Keep up the good work and have fun yourself xx

  15. posted by Lynne on November 18, 2013

    The lentil soup is delicious!
    Thanks again

  16. posted by redpepperflakes on November 18, 2013

    Well done! Love the smoothie instructions 🙂

  17. posted by Amy Barrett on November 21, 2013

    We are very new to plant based and feeling very lost. Your work is huge help ! Thank you so much for helping to get my family healthy!
    Big Big Hugs!

  18. posted by Heather on November 21, 2013

    Thank you so much for making these meal plans, Toni! They are such a good idea. Although I was a bit over budget on my last one and this one too, I am working with your meal plans to try and figure out how to modify them to my preference as well as trying to get cheaper. The work you have done here is amazing. It sets a good standard, or starting point to personalize a meal plan. I recently became a student again and was struggling to eat healthy and cheaply. Your meals are so great. I know I will be adding several of these recipes to my long term recipe bank. Thank you so much!

  19. posted by sommer on November 21, 2013

    I’m on day 5 and so far everything has been delicious!! thank you so much for all your hard work!!Do you have any snacks throughout the day?

  20. posted by Jessica Edlinger on January 10, 2014

    This is amazing. I have a silly question. When you list oatmeal, are you eating 1 1/2 cups oats measured before they’re cooked, or after? I usually eat 1/2 cup dry, which I imagine ends up around 1 1/4 + after it’s cooked. But I am trying to imagine 1 1/2 cups raw, which would be over 3 cups cooked. Like I said, it’s kind of silly, but….

  21. posted by Lauren A. Benjamin on February 25, 2014


  22. posted by Sophie Tramel on September 28, 2014

    I am in the second week of the challenge, and I absolutely love it! It is exactly what I needed, simple grocery list, simple recipes, and everything is delicious! Thank you so much!:)

  23. posted by Shannon Bradley on May 4, 2015

    I turned the chickpea salad into tacos and they were amazing. All that could have made them better was some avocado.

  24. posted by Kimberly on December 26, 2016

    Just finish up week 1 for 1 person: I struggle with disordered eating, it ove made huge strides in taking care of myself over the last two decades–I’m very round of that. But, damn, it was such a relief to have your plan and ingredients list! I was due for a change up. And a need to save moola. I followed it like a boss! I felt satisfied and content all week. I did make a few personal touches, such as adding a small, healthy snack each day, and teas and coffees, but otherwise, brilliant! Very helpful, Toni; thanks! I’m looking forward to week 2; just making my grocery list right now! <3

  25. posted by Kimberly on December 26, 2016

    *…but I’ve made huge strides in taking care of myself… I’m very proud of that
    (Whoops, got so eager to share my appreciation, I hit “send” before catching those autocorrect mistakes)

  26. posted by Meg Leigh on February 6, 2017

    Where’s the produce? This is the least plant based, plant based diet I’ve ever seen!

  27. posted by Dina on May 1, 2017

    You don’t relise how much grateful I am for you. This website is saving my life, it’s not a joke. It’s incredible how “strangers” can have such a big impact on your life, we truly are interconnected. We are nothing without each others.
    I sincerely hope I could support you on patron, but I will do it as soon as I can use my credit card again!
    Thank you so much
    Much love too you
    – D

  28. posted by Anna on July 25, 2017

    I am new to your site, question and maybe you covered it somewhere on your site, but how do you “measure” the amount you purchase in your grocery list? What market do you go to that you can break down the amount you buy like that, example 5 dried apricots? This breakdown puzzles me. I see where you can go to bins at say Whole Foods and measure some things like barley but the other stuff has me stumped, especially after I saw your post with the receipt. Thank you for such a cool site.

  29. posted by Kimberly on October 12, 2017

    I am newly vegan and I have been spending a lot on groceries (I did before, too, but I know I am spending more than I need to). Thank you for this I am going to try it out next week. Thanks for putting the time into this!