March 23, 2016 · Written by Foodtolive Team
How to Create a Great Vegan Meal Plan on a Budget
Leading a vegan lifestyle can be great for your health and mind as well as help you make a contribution into the fight against various environmental problems. Even if you don’t embrace all that this lifestyle entails, meaning rejecting all animal-based products including clothing, cosmetics, etc., you can benefit greatly from switching to a vegan diet. Money is no object in this case as there are many ways to build an excellent vegan meal plan on a budget.
Please note that financial planning is very important if you decide to make this change as many people give up on the idea of veganism because their food expenses increase significantly. This doesn’t have to be the case, and today we will offer you some ideas on how to prevent this. If done right, a vegan diet can turn out to be more affordable and that’s before you take into account the savings on your medical bills.
Creating a Vegan Meal Plan on a Budget: Plan and Compare
The first and most important thing you will need to do in order to learn how to eat vegan without spending a fortune is to understand what exactly you can eat under the rules of this diet. So, start with searching for a vegan food list.
A most basic list should look like this:
It doesn’t look like much at first sight, but once you start looking into these various food groups, you will definitely be amazed at how many interesting and delicious foods fall into each. According to numerous surveys, an average vegan diet meal plan is much more versatile when compared to that of meat-eaters. This is prompted by the fact that people who choose to follow this diet are looking for ways to make it more inspiring, so they test many existing vegan recipes and develop their own. They are also more likely to use numerous spices and try unusual combinations of ingredients when preparing their meals. As the number of ‘vegetable only’ recipes in the ‘traditional’ Western cuisines is limited, vegans and vegetarians usually expand their culinary research to span different cultures from all parts of the world.
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So, while an average meat-eater is perfectly happy with a variety of steaks, burgers, and meat stews, a vegan meal plan usually includes a great number of exotic dishes. Therefore, you shouldn’t let the fact that the basic list of vegan foods is so short deceive you as there are a great number of delicious and easy vegan recipes that will ensure you never get bored with your new diet.
Even your kids are sure to enjoy it because you can cook a variety of delicious snacks and desserts that are much healthier than those from a shop. If you have any doubts about introducing your little one to the wonders of meat-free meals, you shouldn’t worry as the vegan diet for kids is 100% safe.
Now, that the question of ‘what do vegans eat?’ has been answered, we can focus on explaining the ways to stock up on these foods without exhausting your food budget in a week. To do this, you need to learn how to read and compare prices correctly.
In the vast majority of cases, grocery stores display the price per item, and only a few of them also list price by weight. This little distinction is vitally important as seeing a relatively cheap item, we subconsciously focus on the fact that it seems cheap. However, if you calculate the price per weight, you will see that it’s not affordable at all.
Therefore, rule #1 is to always look at the price per weight (calculate it yourself if the information isn’t provided). It’s these numbers that you’ll need to compare in order to pick the most affordable options.
The second rule is to choose the right kind of products for you. This can be a bit more difficult as you’ll need to do some preliminary research on vegan diet foods to understand how different processing methods affect the nutritional value of the products. The vast majority of produce is available in fresh (raw), dried, and frozen forms. They differ in price, nutritional value, and methods of preparation, so choose very carefully.
Fresh Vs. Frozen Vegan Foods
The biggest arguments regarding the ‘efficiency’ of different foods usually focus on frozen vs. fresh options. The latter is much more affordable, especially when fruits and vegetables are out of season. In this case, you also need to understand that any fresh produce is imported and may be treated with various chemicals that prolong its ‘lifespan’ to allow for transportation. Even organic products may not be 100% beneficial to you in this case.
The most important thing you need to know about the difference between fresh and frozen produce is that frozen foods have more nutrients. Yes, this is indeed true and the belief that freezing somehow ‘destroys’ nutrients is nothing but a myth aptly promoted by fresh produce manufacturers.
You should understand that once harvested, any type of fruit, vegetable, grain, etc., starts losing its nutrients. Therefore, if not frozen while at its peak (immediately after harvesting), it will become less valuable to you with every passing day. Freezing preserves vitamins and minerals, almost indefinitely, so unless you let the products lay around in your ice-box for years, you will be able to enjoy all they have to offer nutrition-wise for many months to come.
If that’s the case, why should you include fresh foods in your vegan meal plan?
The answer is simple, they are more delicious. Freezing tampers with the ‘structure’ of foods, which limits your cooking options and slightly changes the taste and texture of the dishes. Luckily, the best vegan cookbooks include a variety of recipes for both raw and frozen products, so you can create delicious meals from any type of product. Unfortunately, nothing can be done about the fact that munching on a frozen banana won’t be as enjoyable as on its fresh counterpart.
Buy in Bulk instead of Packaged
The aforementioned fact about freezing not reducing the nutritional value proves that buying in bulk is something you definitely should do if you choose to go vegan. As long as you have a freezer, you will be able to store everything, from beans to berries, to spices, for many months.
You can refine your freezing technique by purchasing a vacuum sealing machine. These devices are quite affordable and help greatly improve the quality of frozen foods as they minimize the amount of moisture. As a result, once you defrost the items properly, you get fruits that taste almost the same as they do when raw. Even some vegan salad recipes allow for this type of foods and they taste divine with the right seasoning. So, this small investment will help you make your vegan meal plan even more versatile as you won’t be tied by seasonal restrictions.
Things like grains, flours, and spices should always be bought in bulk as they can be stored for months without any special measures, like vacuum sealing. If you really don’t need that much produce, you can buy them together with other vegans in your area and share. This will not only help you cut the costs but also provide you with a chance to make friends. Who understands the challenges you face.
Switching to a vegan diet can be stressful at first, but you’ll feel much better if you have someone to talk to about your experiences. Sharing your favorite healthy vegan recipes will also be a great boon.
Look for Vegan Dinner Ideas instead of Vegan Restaurants
If your budget is limited, learning how to cook is a must, but you don’t need to despair if you don’t have much culinary talent. There are hundreds of easy and quick vegan recipes online. They are available for free so all you need to do is to find the ones you like and practice. You may not become a chef, but you will definitely learn how to cook a mean veggie stew and seasonings that will turn even the simplest of dishes into exquisite delicacies.
The Bottom Line
There is no arguing the fact that buying fresh fruits and vegetables every day is going to cost you a fortune, but you don’t have to do this to enjoy your new diet. Creating a vegan meal plan on a budget is not only possible, but it’s also very simple.
Buy in bulk, freeze the foods, and look up some interesting recipes to develop a versatile vegan menu. These three simple rules will help you enjoy your new lifestyle without worrying about money.