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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.
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*
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*
*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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 plantbasedmealplan.com.