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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. 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.

When you’re shopping, it may be more efficient to write the exact measurements of what you need. I did estimates, but if you wanted to be precise (to avoid unused ingredients), I recommend bringing a measuring cup. That way you can buy two cups of lentils instead of 1/2 lb. And bring a calculator and any coupons that you might have (check the store’s website before you go)!

Another thing you can do is ask for older, discounted produce. Often times, the grocer will give you a deal if the bananas are spotty. And at my store, every bag that you bring (to bag your groceries), you save $.6. I used three bags, saved .18 cents, which paid for my can of tomato paste.

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 – .54*
2 Carrots – .22
Cheapest Non-Dairy Milk – 1.28
5 Dried Apricots – .17*
12 ct Corn Tortillas – 1.27*
Lemon – .33
Pack of 6ct Bullion Cubes – .91
15 oz can Apple Sauce – .95*
Kale – .98
1/2 lb Green Lentils –  .46
1/4lb Cheapest Cereal – .34
1/4 lb Old Fashioned Oats – .16
8 oz can Tomato Sauce – .28
1 Cup Brown Rice – .27
2 Yellow Onions – .95
1/2 lb Cheapest Granola – .81*
Green Bell Pepper – .68
Orange –  .41*
51b Bag of Russet Potatoes – 1.18
Small jar of Peanut Butter – 2.05
Tofu – 1.48*
Mexican Fideo Pasta – .33
2 Zucchini – .89
1lb yam – .48
Bunch of Spinach – 1.68
Bunch of 7 Bananas – 1.64
1/2 Cup dried Panko Breadcrumbs – .25
1/4 cup cheapest seeds (I bought unsalted sunflower) – .15

Total: $21.52

*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: $15.74

Day One:

Green bowl of oatmeal, dried apricots, soymilk, and brown sugar.

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

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

Bowl of spinach salad topped with peaches, cranberries, and sunflower seeds.

Lunch: Spinach Salad with dried cranberries, seeds and chopped orange. I made a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

Small bowl of zucchini potato casserole topped with bread crumbs.

Dinner: I made this Zucchini and Potato Casserole with a few alterations: I only used 2 zucchini and added an additional 3 potatoes. Instead of shallots, I used 1/3 of a yellow onion and 1/2 of a green bell pepper. If you’re gluten-free, omit the bread crumbs and you’ll be good. This should be about 5 servings.

Baked vegan peanut butter cookies on a baking sheet.

Dessert: This is totally optional. Like I said last week, I LOVE dessert. Since I had some leftover peanut butter when planning my meals, I thought, “why not make peanut butter cookies?” These are not healthy … and if someone dares tell me that I’m not vegan again because I use Earth Balance, I will be sassy to you. That’s my disclaimer. With that said, if you don’t like it, don’t make it. Simple.

And if you think that Peanut Butter Cookies sound totally yummy, here’s what you need: 1 3/4 C flour, 3/4 tsp baking soda, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 C apple sauce, 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 3/4 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup vegan butter, 3 tsp non-dairy milk, 1 tbs vanilla

Directions: I got the inspiration for this recipe from my absolute favorite cookbook The Joy of Vegan Baking. If you haven’t read it, go to your local library and check it out RIGHT NOW! And if you can afford to buy it, do it. I’ve made about 60% of her recipes and they’re all amazing.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In my version of this recipe, I do what I call, “lazy baking.” Throw all ingredients in a bowl, mix, drop by tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Eat.

Day Two:

A blue bowl of cornflake cereal topped with sliced bananas.

Breakfast: Cornflakes with soy milk and a sliced banana.

Lunch: Leftover casserole.

Small white bowl of vegetable barley soup containing carrots and potatoes.

Dinner: Vegetable Soup. I’m providing a base for this soup, but I would like you to clear your fridge of produce that is on its way out. Also, depending on what you have in your pantry already, you can add: barley, or rice, or pasta, or lentils, or beans.

Ingredients: 3 bullion cubes, 8 cups of water, 1/3 of a yellow onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 sliced carrot, 3 celery stalks chopped, 3 peeled and chopped russet potatoes.

Directions: Saute onions and garlic on medium heat until onions are translucent. Add carrots and celery, cook for another 2 minutes. Add any other ingredients you decide to use, along with the bullion, water, and potatoes. Cook on medium-high heat for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft. This should be about 3 servings. Although, I ate 1 1/2 bowls each time, so it was about two servings for me.

Day Three:

Bowl of pumpkin flax granola in soymilk.

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.

Lunch: Leftover soup.

Dinner bowl of lentils with kale and yam.

Dinner: Kale, Lentils, and Yam. I used this recipe and made these modifications: I used one full carrot, 2 cups of water with bouillon cube, 1/3 of an onion, 2 cloves garlic, no bay leaf, pepper or rosemary, I used half of my bunch of kale and half of my sweet potato. Makes two servings.

Day Four:

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 casserole.

A bag of spaghetti pieces on a wood cutting board next to diced onion.
A small bowl of fideo pasta next to two sweet potato tacos.

Dinner: I made Sweet Potato Tacos and Mexican Fideo. For the Sweet Potato Tacos, I made these modifications: I used the rest of my yam, 1/3 of an onion and corn tortillas because they were cheaper. If you’re not buying to tortillas to keep your costs down, you can easily use it as a filling in a Southwestern-Style Salad — throw the filling in there with whatever veggies you have hanging around .. and BOOM!

With the Mexican Fideo, I omitted the tomato to cut down costs and used 1/3 of an onion. If you’re gluten-free, make the Mexican Rice instead. This meal makes 2-3 servings.

Day Five:  

A bowl of oatmeal with soymilk, seeds, and dried cranberries.

Breakfast: Oatmeal w/ soy milk, seeds and dried cranberries.

Lunch : Leftover casserole.

Dinner: Leftover Kale and Lentils.

Day Six: 

A hand holding a glass of kale and banana smoothie.

Breakfast: Kale and Banana Smoothie using the rest of the kale.

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

Lunch: Leftover sweet potato tacos and fideo.

Tofu, spinach, and rice tossed in a homemade peanut sauce.

Dinner: Tofu & Spinach with Peanut Sauce with one cup of steamed brown rice. As you can see, my photo has broccoli. I accidentally left my spinach at work so I had to improvise with what I had on hand. You can use any veggie you’d like, but you already have spinach. 😉 Makes two servings.

Daily nutritional value of 1/2 cup Peanut Butter: 64G Protein

Day Seven:

A glass of peanut butter banana smoothie on a table.

Breakfast:  Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie.

Ingredients: 2 frozen bananas, 1 cup non-dairy milk, 1/2 cup peanut butter.

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

A divided dish containing cubed tofu, peanut sauce, and brown rice.

Lunch: Leftover Tofu and Peanut Sauce

Dinner: Leftover Casserole.

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

Plant Based on a Budget Meal Plan

Toni Okamoto

“They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
‘Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways…
we got to start taking better care of ourselves ” – Dead Prez

More about Toni Okamoto

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