This article originally appeared on Free US.
When people ask why I chose to become vegan, I wish I could give them this story about this life-changing epiphany I had but I really just wanted to lose weight. It wasn’t until I began doing my research on the benefits of a plant-based diet that I realized going vegan is much more than just dropping a few pounds. After the first month, I had more energy and I no longer had images of dying chickens in my head while eating my lunch.
Figuring out what to eat was a lot of trial and error. I went to a college in the middle of nowhere and the nearest supermarket was 20 minutes away so when I was able to go food shopping, I had to make sure I bought everything I needed without breaking the bank.
Being vegan doesn't have to cost a lot
A vegan diet has infamously been considered expensive. As someone who grew up in a low-income neighborhood in the Bronx, I am no stranger to saving money. If I wanted to go shopping, I’d first look up all the sales and I even had two separate bank accounts for my bills and spending money.
When it came to grocery shopping, I did have some stumbles at first, like spending way too much on Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream and spending $25 on a small jar of almond butter. Although, I still can’t resist almond butter and a good ole carton of ice cream, I have to find places where they’re a lot cheaper (and maybe buy one carton of ice cream instead of five) and stay on the lookout for sales by picking up grocery circulars and occasionally checking my email for promotional deals.
Here's what I eat
I try to cook my own food as much as possible instead of ordering take-out. In a effort to save time, I prep my meals on Sundays, store it in plastic containers and then put them in the fridge until it’s time to eat. I keep my meals simple so I don’t have to shop for an abundance of ingredients.
One of my favorite websites I use to search up plant-based recipes is Minimalist Baker, where I found recipes like gluten-free eggplant parmesan and vegan peanut butter no-bake cookies (yum). Many recipes require 10 ingredients or less. Some of my vegan staples are peanut butter and banana smoothies, vegan tacos, salads and by far my favorite are these vegan chocolate chip pancakes.
A typical day's menu
I like to start my day with something quick like a smoothie, a bowl with rice and vegetables for lunch and I always try to eat a bountiful salad in the evening. Here’s what I might eat on any given day:
Breakfast: Strawberry banana oatmeal smoothie
Lunch: Roasted plantain and black bean bowl
Dinner: Salad with lettuce, kidney beans, half an orange, red cabbage, red onion, green onion, carrot, pumpkin seeds, and ginger salad dressing
Snack: banana with peanut butter
Drinks: Water, green tea, and coffee
Vegan budgeting tips
When you look at all the vegetables you have to buy in order to sustain a vegan diet, it can be intimidating. Produce has gotten a bad rep for being expensive but they’re ways you can spend just $25 on a week’s worth of food.
First, don’t ever underestimate the power of the fruit stand! Fruits and vegetables at a fruit stand are almost always cheaper than at a supermarket. Freeze any excess fruits and vegetables and you can use them in smoothies for the next week.
Before making purchases at a supermarket, compare grocers in your area. Supermarkets price their items differently and you don’t want to spend more money than you have to. Lastly, plan your meals and grocery list ahead. If you know what meals you’re going to be eating for the week then you’ll create a grocery list reflecting those meals. When you have your grocery list, you know what your going to buy when you go inside the supermarket and your less likely to browse the isles and inevitably, overspend.
My weekly shopping list
In the past week, I went to two different fruit stands and a supermarket to purchase my groceries, and I only spent $23.30. Here’s what I bought:
Almond milk (half gallon) $3.99
Pumpkin seeds (7 ounces) $3.99
Strawberries (1 pint) $2.50
Plantains (3) $2
Lettuce (1 head) $1.89
Bananas (5) $1.49
Kidney beans (15.5 ounces ) $1.19
Black beans (15.5 ounces ) $1.19
Rolled Oats (18 ounces) $1.19
Oranges (3) $1
Purple cabbage (1 head) 83 cents
Red onion (1) 76 cents
Carrots (16-ounce bunch) 69 cents
Green onion (1 bunch) 59 cents
Remember, a vegan diet doesn’t have to be expensive as long as you plan ahead and shop smarter. You can enjoy delicious meals and still have money to spare.
This article originally appeared on Free US.