Plant Based on a Budget

Faith Cavalli

It is a common belief that healthy eating, especially a plant-based diet, is more expensive than eating a diet high in junk food. This is definitely not the case, you just need to know what to buy and cook so it keeps costs low. If you buy the meat-free alternatives and prepared meals, this puts the cost up, but with a well-stocked cupboard you will never go hungry.

Follow these tips:

Look for tinned beans, peas, vegetables and chopped tomatoes. These are often cheap from international supermarkets, on offer in supermarkets or in the value range. As well as being cheap, they are a good base for many meals such as stews, curries and soups, and can be prepared quickly. There are also dried beans which require soaking and work out a similar price to tinned, unless bought in bulk.

If you have the money and space to buy in bulk it will save you a fair amount, look for grains, beans, pulses, oats, nuts and seeds.

Buy ‘own label’ products: branded items are often double the price of the shops own label, so if looking for plant-based milks, lentils and tins or even meat substitutes, go for these to save cash.

Forget expensive pots of hummus. You can mash up chickpeas with a fork or blend small amounts of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, (sea salt optional). Tahini paste, a traditional ingredient in hummus can cost a £2- £3 a jar but will last a long time. It is fine without it if you find it too expensive.

Get a slow cooker or large pot to batch cook. Make a large pot of stew or curry with vegetables, beans or lentils. This can last for days in the fridge or you can freeze it. You can add it to rice, sweet potatoes, or mix into pasta.

Preventing waste saves you money so try not to throw anything away.

Plan your meals ahead: this will prevent buying expensive items in a hurry and extra trips to the shops where you may spend more money then you planned.

Look for reduced items or visit your local market which can often be cheaper for fruit and vegetables.

Look for a local pay as you feel supermarket/shop which collects surplus food such as The Real Junk Food Project. This food is collected from retailers to prevent it ending up in landfill. You will always find fruit and vegetables there, and you can usually give your time or make a donation in exchange for food.

Look for fruit and vegetables in season or try tinned or frozen. Kale or spinach can be frozen, and handfuls taken out as required, this saves on waste and saves you money. If you have any fruit that needs using up, bake it in the oven and have on porridge or as a dessert, or chop up and freeze in containers so it can be used later for a smoothie. Berries, banana, nectarines, melon and plums are all good for this.

Plants based Menu and Shopping List.

If you stock up your cupboards you will never go hungry

  • A selection of tinned vegetables and fruit e.g. chopped tomatoes, sweet corn, and pineapple. Choose unsalted and in juice rather than syrup.
  • Seasonal fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables.
  • Dried fruit e.g. raisins, sultanas, apricots.
  • Tinned or dried chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, butter beans.
  • Dried lentils: red, green, yellow
  • Grains e.g. Rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat.
  • Dried pasta
  • Wholemeal bread (freeze to extend life), rice cakes and oat cakes.
  • Porridge oats.
  • Unsweetened plant milk e.g. Almond, soya, coconut
  • A good spice selection, and fresh onion and garlic for avour and nutrients. Look for ‘own brand’ spices which are cheaper or buy in bulk. E.g. Curry powder, turmeric, paprika, black pepper, sea salt, chilli powder, cumin, soy sauce, ginger, mixed herbs.
  • Nuts and seeds. (Can be expensive, check for oers and bulk buys).
  • Unsweetened plant-based yogurt.

Sample Menu Plan

Price per portion depends on ingredients used or amounts added e.g. more or less milk, nuts, seeds and the type of vegetables used. Examples shown below:

A 25g portion of nuts costs on average 25p

A typical 40g serving of porridge made with water and milk, and a few raisins costs 30p

Lentil and bean chilli costs on average £2 for 3-4 servings (2 x budget tinned tomatoes, 320g lentils, 1 x budget tin of kidney beans, an onion, chilli powder, garlic.)

Plant based protein costs on average a third less than animal protein, when calculating the same amounts of protein eaten.

Take out and add items depending on what you have available and your budget

Breakfast 30-70p per day

Day 1
Porridge made with water and milk, top with chopped fruit, nuts and seeds.
Day 2
Overnight oats (soak oats with milk the night before). Top with fruit, nuts, seeds
Day 3
Porridge made with water and milk, top with chopped fruit, nuts and seeds.
Day 4
Breakfast smoothie. Use some frozen fruit, scoop of oats, milk, yoghurt, top with seeds
Day 5
Banana. Glass of milk. Toast and beans


Lunch 80p-£1.30 per day

Day 1
Mashed chick peas (1 tin enough for 2 days. Mash with garlic, lemon juice, salt). Vegetable sandwich. Fruit and vegetable sticks, nuts
Day 2
Mashed chick pea and vegetable sandwich. Fruit and vegetable sticks, nuts
Day 3
Oat cakes. Black beans, mix in lemon juice, garlic and seasoning and quinoa (1 tin for 2-3 servings). Fruit and vegetable sticks
Day 4
Oat cakes. Black beans mixed in lemon juice, garlic and seasoning and quinoa. Fruit and vegetable sticks
Day 5
Left overs from dinner. Fruit and vegetable sticks


Dinner £1-£1.50 per day

Day 1
Chilli made with lentils and kidney beans (can be frozen for another day) served with rice and green vegetables. Banana and yoghut.
Day 2
Chickpea and vegetable curry (can be frozen). Green vegetables. Fruit or nuts
Day 3
Lentils in tomato sauce with pasta.  Green vegetables. Banana and yoghurt
Day 4
Roasted chickpeas (coat in a small amount of oil (or none) curry or chilli powder, cook in oven for 10-12 minutes) Sweet or white potato wedges and roasted veg. Fruit or nuts
Day 5
Stir fried vegetables, rice and beans. Banana and yoghurt
You can also download this article as a pdf:

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3