15 Budget-Friendly Tips For a Plant-Based Lifestyle

Plant-Based Foods

Verywell / Amelia Manley

Plant-based diets are popular for many reasons, from health benefits to environmental impacts. The eating style focuses primarily on plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes, and grains while avoiding animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy. Plant-based diets place plant foods at the forefront of their consumption, with little to no animal-based foods included. This can lead to individuals reducing their risk of cancer, heart disease, and chronic pain, as well as possibly lowering the number of medications they have to take.

Amidst the clearly positive consequences of the lifestyle, assumptions and misconceptions are still associated with it. One of the more significant questions regarding plant-based living is the cost. Food is one of the top expenses in many people's budgets and any change in food habits can lead individuals to believe the monetary value of their groceries is bound to increase. While this is possible no matter what dietary changes you make, there are a few tips and tricks to maintaining your budget while adjusting to a plant-based diet.

Is a Plant-Based Diet More Expensive? 

All households, food choices, and grocery budgets are different, and depending on where you live, some types of plant foods are more expensive than others. However, research shows plant-based diets can actually be less expensive than animal food-inclusive diets.

Research published by Oxford University in The Lancet revealed that eating vegan meals at home could result in 30 percent less spending than meat-based meals. Vegetarian and flexitarian meals can save you 14 percent (or more!) on your grocery budget, and diets that include fish—but no meat—can save you 2 percent.

Budget Tips for a Plant-Based Lifestyle

While research shows you can save money on a plant-based diet, this may not be the case unless you plan carefully. Below are some tips to help you make the most of your budget when following a plant-based lifestyle.

Skip the Mock Meats

The research from Oxford showed that the budget savings from plant-based diets were only possible if shoppers did not purchase mock—or alternative—meats. Processed, mock meats are popular, but they are also very expensive. What's more, you can find more nutrient-dense and less processed ways to get in protein than relying on these alternative meat products.

Plan Your Meals

Meal planning is the best way to ensure you make use of your groceries and only purchase what you know you need and will use. Before you shop, take some time to plan what you will eat throughout the week.

This will help you avoid relying on take-out and restaurant meals or frequent quick stops to the grocery store to buy something pre-made, which will be more expensive. You'll also be less likely to have food waste if you plan ahead and use up what you buy. What's more, meal planning is associated with healthier meals and better weight balance.

Buy Frozen Plant Foods

Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh options. Since most frozen produce is picked at its peak and frozen immediately, the nutrients are preserved. What's more, frozen produce is often more affordable than fresh, and since it keeps for much longer, you'll be less likely to have food waste, saving you money in the long run.

Use the Whole Plant

Whenever you use a plant to create a meal, consider which parts of the plant you typically throw away. There are several ways to use up food scraps to make other delicious meals, sauces, or products that you can add to enhance the quality and flavor of your meals while saving money. Here are some ideas:

  • Save onion, carrot, and other veggie scraps in the freezer to make vegetable stock
  • Candy or preserve the peels of citrus fruit for a highly flavorful food additive or topping
  • Grate stems and hard sections of foods like cabbage, broccoli, and kale to make slaws or naturally fermented condiments
  • Roast squash seeds for a healthy, high fiber and protein snack

Learn Preservation Techniques

Preserving foods is a tried and true old-fashioned method for saving money on your groceries. Learn to can, ferment, dehydrate, freeze, and properly store your foods, so they last. You can then buy things when they are on sale or cheapest (such as seasonal foods) and preserve them to eat later. As well, processes like fermentation can add valuable health benefits to your diet.

Focus on Cheap Staples

Prepackaged foods, such as crackers and baked goods can be costly for small serving sizes. To save money, you can purchase inexpensive whole foods in bulk, such as beans and whole grains, like rice, quinoa, and oats.

Organize Your Fridge and Pantry

A disorganized collection of foods in your fridge, pantry, and freezer can lead to spoilage, rebuying foods you already have, or freezer burn and stale items. Take the time to inventory your food items and keep a running list to ensure you know what you have. If you decant and transfer your foods to clear containers and organize everything in a way that allows you to see what you have, you'll save money by avoiding food waste.

Prepare Food at Home

Most people know that eating out is much more expensive than making your own food. Save money on your plant based diet by choosing to prep your food at home for work lunch, breakfast, and dinners. Also make your own coffee, tea, and other beverages to avoid the large mark up on these items.

Cook Your Own Beans, Pulses, and Legumes

Canned beans, pulses, and legumes are much more expensive than their dried counterparts and it is very easy to cook them at home. If you eat a lot of these items then purchasing cheaper bags of dried beans and boiling them at home will make a significant impact on your budget. You can freeze them in batches to thaw before creating meals. Consider adding spices and seasonings too, or make things like bean soup, refried beans, and bean paste to add to preserve and add to meals.

Try a CSA

Community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes, and subscriptions are often much cheaper than purchasing all the same foods from a store. Look for a CSA in your area that offers fresh, locally produced vegetables and fruits that are in season. Some CSAs also include items like pre-made foods, breads, and other products that are provided at a discount.

Avoid Processed Foods

Processed foods are typically much more expensive than whole foods and also are less likely to keep you full, which will mean you'll consume more food to satisfy your hunger. Choose processed foods less often. Instead, focus on whole, filling foods regularly.

Make Your Own Plant-Based Milk

If you drink a lot of nut milk or other plant-based milk, it's worth learning to make your own. Milk made from almonds, cashews, oats, or coconut is easy to make at home by soaking and running through a high powered blender or juicer. You can also strain the liquid for milk, then save the pulp to use in other recipes, further saving you money.

Look For Reduced Sale Produce

Many grocery stores offer reduced sale produce that is nearly ripe, ripe, or overripe for a big discount. Picking up these foods and using them right away or using them in preserves, ferments, baked goods, sauces, or broths is a fantastic way to save money and reduce food waste.

Buy in Bulk

Buying staples like flour, beans, rice, oats, pasta, and other non-perishable goods in bulk is cheaper than purchasing smaller versions. Since these items store well and last for a very long time, you can save a lot of money this way. Just be sure you store everything properly in air-tight containers in cool, dry places to avoid pests and spoilage.

Shop at Specialty Stores

Specialty stores like Asian or Indian grocery stores often have a lot of very well-priced, plant-based food items available. These stores are usually cheaper than typical grocery stores for the cuisines they cater to. Check for plant oils like sesame oil, sauces, rice noodles, rice, lentils, and other products in bulk at these stores and compare prices.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tuso PJ, Ismail MH, Ha BP, Bartolotto C. Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based dietsTPJ. 2013;17(2):61-66. doi:10.7812/TPP/12-085

  2. Springmann M, Clark MA, Rayner M, Scarborough P, Webb P. The global and regional costs of healthy and sustainable dietary patterns: a modeling study. The Lancet Planetary Health. 2021;5(11):e797-e807. doi:10.1016/S2542-5196(21)00251-5

  3. Ducrot P, Méjean C, Aroumougame V, et al. Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017;14(1):12. doi:10.1186/s12966-017-0461-7

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.

Edited by
Lily Moe
Lily Moe for Verywell Fit

Lily Moe is a former fitness coach and current Editor for Verywell Fit. A wellness enthusiast, she can often be found in a hot yoga studio, trying a new recipe, or going for a long run in Central Park.

Learn about our editorial process