Eating plant-based food can be a challenge for those who are just starting. One of the major complaints about plant-based eating is how expensive it is. Depending on how you go about plant-based eating it can be extremely expensive. Or, it could be much more affordable than the alternative.
If you are finding plant-based eating to be too expensive, you may be focusing too much on processed foods and not enough on foods in a more natural state.
Today we will compare the cost of plant-based foods to their more traditional alternatives. And present a plant-based meal plan that is extremely budget conscious.
Cost of Vegan beef vs regular beef
The average cost of beef in the United States is around $3.80 a pound as of the time of this article. I checked on Amazon Prime now and found that the cheapest ground beef I could get in my area was $4.09 per pound.
I’m sure if I spent a little more time shopping I could find it cheaper. However, this price is within the normal range according to beed2live.com: https://beef2live.com/story-retail-ground-beef-prices-month-89-114059
Next let’s check the cost of a plant based beef alternative. On prime now l I can Gardein Veggie Crumbles for $3.68 per pound. This is cheaper than the cost of ground beef in my area. And is lower than the average cost of beef nationwide.
Without going any further, we’ve already cast some doubt in plant-based Foods being more expensive than animal products.
Cost of Vegan cheese vs Regular Cheese
So far we’ve established that at least in some cases vegan meat alternatives are no more expensive than actual meat. but, what about other yocan alternatives? Cheese is a very popular animal product in the United States.
Daiya Is a common brand of vegan cheese. I found it served in many restaurants as a dairy alternative. Again I am using prime now to check on prices… because it is convenient. In this case we can see that a half pound of vegan cheese costs $5.39. Whereas a full pound of regular cheese cost $5.99.
It appears that regular cheese is significantly cheaper than vegan cheese. If you are very budge concious, avoiding vegan cheese might be a good option.
If you can’t give up cheese, and the vegan cheese is too expensive, you can try making your own. Here is a recipe for making vegan cheddar cheese: https://lovingitvegan.com/vegan-cheddar-cheese/
The above recipe is based on ground cashews
Cost of plant based meals vs non-plant based meals
So far we have found that vegan beef is no more expensive than regular beef. But vegan cheese is significantly more expensive regular cheese. But, what if we exclude hyper-processed foods? What would a meal plan look like?
I found a video on YouTube by Leroy VGAN where he outlines 1 days worth of vegan food done on a budget. You can find the video here::
In the video, Leroy outlines breakfast, lunch and dinner For someone on a 2000 calorie per day diet. the amount of each ingredient, as well as the cost. You can see the meal plan below.
Brown rice and soybean congee.
Ingredients: Long grain brown rice – 100g. Soybeans, soaked – 50g. Carrots – 50g. Onions – 50g. Dried shiitake – 3g. Iodized salt – 1.2g. Water. Sunflower seeds, raw – 21g. Flax seeds, ground – 2.6g.
Red lentil curry, whole wheat roti.
Ingredients: Onions – 100g. Curry powder – 6g. Garam masala – 2g. Hot chilli powder – 0.5g. Tomatoes, crushed – 200g. Red lentils – 60g. Water. Iodized salt – 1.2g.
Roti: Whole wheat flour – 100g. Water.
Cabbage stir-fry, brown rice.
Ingredients: Onions – 55g. Cabbage – 160g. Carrots – 50g. Dried shiitake, ground – 3g. Iodized salt – 1g. White pepper – 2g. Water. Sesame seeds, toasted – 12g.
Rice: Long grain brown rice – 100g. Water – 110g.
Total cost: $1.51
These meals are extremely inexpensive. I think anybody would be hard-pressed to come up with a non plant-based meal that is less expensive. You can make the argument that it does not include all the nutrition that you might need.
The image below shows the nutrition facts from the meals above. You can see it does a pretty good job of covering what you might need any given day.
The main deficiencies in the above meal plan are vitamin D3 and vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is a challenge in a plant based diet, but not impossible.
Nutritional Yeast is a popular source of B12 in vegan foods. People use it in place of parmesan cheese as well as a variety of other seasonings. Spending time in the sun will cause your body to create Vitamin D3. Another easy solution is to take a supplement. Here is a 2 month supply of B12 and D3 that is not too expensive:
To illustrate what a non plant-based meal might look like, a box of macaroni and cheese is 98 cents. There are not very many meals that are cheaper than this.
For someone on a 2000 calorie per day diet, you will need to eat two boxes per day. And, split them up between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you don’t factor in the cost of milk and butter, the cost at the end of the day is: $1.96
A little less than $2 a day for food budget is very thrifty. But, after looking at the nutrition facts, I can’t endorse this as a healthy choice.
The macaroni and cheese may be tasty. But it does not include a huge amount of nutritional value.
A better option would be to consider the plant-based meals listed above.The above meals both costs less and offer better nutrition.
Cooking the purely vegan meals as described will take more time than cooking a box of macaroni and cheese. But, acroding to Leroy Vegan, each meal only takes about 20 minutes to cook.
For some, that 20 minute investment will be well worth the cost .
I would make the argument that the additional time is worth it based on the better nutrition you get out of the vegan meal.
As I’ve shown, if you focus on non-processed foods, a plant-based diet is significantly cheaper. If you do eat processed foods, a plant based diet might still be cheaper, it really depends on what you eat.
If cost has been the primary reason you have held off on adopting a plant-based diet, the solution might be to explore different recipes and focus on less processed foods.