Everyone knows that one of the best ways to keep yourself healthy is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. In essence, a plant-based diet ensures that you’re getting lots of vitamins and nutrients and little in the way of fat or sugar, and that will indeed keep you much healthier than if you were more of a meat-and-potatoes kind of person.
However, there’s another side of the vegetarian coin: a plant-based diet can sometimes be prohibitively expensive. One of the best places to shop for great, organic and naturally grown fruits and vegetables, Whole Foods, is known as “Whole Paycheck” for a reason – quality food comes at a high premium. This isn’t always the case, though. In fact, here are some cheap and easy ways to eat like you just went to Whole Foods without having to refinance your home in order to afford it.
Yes, the place with the best selection for anyone looking to go whole hog into a plant-based diet is going to be Whole Foods. However, that doesn’t mean you have to shop there exclusively – in fact, doing that is the best way to max out your monthly food budget early and often. However, there are other places you can shop that are going to be better choices for some things, and have them available at better prices to boot.
For foodstuffs you can get anywhere, like beans or rice, almost any supermarket will be able to suit your needs. In fact, thanks to the push for being more health-conscious about what we put in our bodies, many of these supermarkets now have organic food sections that are only slightly more expensive than their regular stock and still usually at a better price point than Whole Foods. It’s not uncommon for these stores to stock healthy choices like quinoa, something that just a few years ago you could only find in a specialty market, and as more people ask for healthier food options from these stores the prices will continue to trend downwards slowly but surely.
Of course, for the ultimate in savings, you should always consider buying in bulk. Places like Costco or Sam’s Club might require an annual membership in exchange for the privilege to shop there, but the savings you can reap in buying large quantities of food staples can easily help that membership pay for itself in just a few visits. This lets you save money so you can afford those things that are exclusive to Whole Foods – and lets you and your wallet breathe a little easier.
Do It Yourself
It’s tempting to buy pre-packaged food items in order to save time and energy in preparing food at home, but the trade-off here is that it will almost always cost more to purchase prepared food than it will to buy the ingredients and do it yourself at home. It will take a little more work on your part, but these savings can add up quickly when you consistently choose to do the work yourself instead of paying other people to do the work for you.
Consider how much money you’ll save if you simply buy some greens and chop them yourself instead of choosing a pre-packaged salad from the produce section of any supermarket. Not only that, but you won’t be limited by the ingredients that were wrapped up in that plastic – you can make your own salads with exactly the right amount of greens and cut vegetables you want in any combination you can think of. Even if you have to invest in a salad spinner to help you out, the money you save on not buying pre-packaged is going to result in a net gain.
An additional way to save money by doing it yourself is when it comes to buying beans. As one of the primary sources of protein for anyone eating a plant-based diet, beans are going to be on your shopping list on a constant basis. Instead of buying pre-cooked or canned beans, you can save a bundle by buying dry beans instead – especially in bulk. Yes, this will require you to prepare them separately before they’re ready to be added into any meal, but cooking these beans is a fantastic way to save money you could be spending elsewhere. Besides, it’s a wonderful opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen with your family and enjoy the lovely aromas of cooking food.
Plan for the Long Haul
If there’s one thing that can destroy your food budget, it’s improper planning. This isn’t exclusive to vegetarians, of course – anyone can plan their meals incorrectly – and thinking ahead only one or two days can cause you to purchase and then cook meals that might not keep well or that don’t result in the kinds of leftovers you can refrigerate or freeze to eat later in the week or month. That means you’ll be going back to the store again for more raw ingredients before you even realize it, only to repeat the whole process all over again.
Instead, take some time to sit down and plan your meals out for the long term. Just as you shouldn’t go shopping hungry, you shouldn’t go shopping without a game plan either. This means you should go over recipes at the kitchen counter and see what you’ll need to make them. Keeping in mind how many servings you’re going to get out of a meal will help you determine if you’re going to have leftovers for another day, which means you won’t need to prepare as many additional recipes – and that means you won’t be spending as much at the supermarket as a result.
When you do engage in meal planning, also keep in mind if you have anyone in your household that’s going to be eating meals outside of the home on a regular basis. If you or your spouse work in the outside world, include plans to make easy lunches that travel well. It’s a healthier choice than grabbing something on the go, and it’s also inherently less expensive than eating out at any number of fast food places. Even if there are healthy eating choices at these restaurants – such as they are – it’s going to be better to spend that money on making food at home and sending it off to work. Doing so will improve your health and keep more money in your pocket for the important things.
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