As a postgraduate student living in London, I often find myself trying to compromise healthy eating and minimal spending.
I eat a plant-based vegan diet, which is considerably more costly than instant noodles, beans on toast and other supposedly typical student staples, but you really can’t put a price on health — as cliché as it sounds!
Studying and working in a bustling, busy city can be energetically and emotionally demanding, and I found that eating a wholesome, balanced diet really can make all the difference, in terms of productivity and general well-being.
Here are my 10 tips for doing plant-based on a budget.
1. Juice economically.
I was given my blender as a birthday present just before I moved to London and was absolutely besotted.
After a honeymoon period of intense experimentation with the recipe book, I found that making two or even one smoothie per day can be quite costly, especially when adding berries or more exotic fruits to the mix.
Now when I’m juicing, I stick to a straightforward green smoothie recipe consisting of:
- 1 handful of spinach/kale
- Several slices of cucumber
- Half an avocado (for something more substantial)
2. Go the market.
I love going to urban markets — I think they’re completely charming!
Moreover, they often offer a cost-effective alternative to shop-bought organic produce. If you’re on a busy schedule and don’t have time for a detour, fruit and veg stalls can still be found dotted around central areas so it’s easy to stop and pick up a few things on your way.
3. Buy whole grains and legumes in bulk.
While buying in bulk can seem relatively pricey, it's definitely worth it in the long run.
I buy a 2kg (4.4lb.) bag of brown rice from my local supermarket for around £2 ($3.10) and it lasts me weeks. Considering one microwavable pouch can be sold for around the same price and is used up in one meal, you really are saving money.
4. Freeze your greens.
Leafy greens such as spinach and kale tend to spoil quickly. To avoid wasting and replacing, I freeze them and just add them to smoothies, curries and stir-fries.
5. Stock up on spices.
It's so much easier to make a meal out of what looks like nothing when you can add flavors from spices.
Some left over lentils can be made into a tasty dahl with stock, garlic, cumin and turmeric. Spices are inexpensive and they last!
6. BYO meal.
The price of a sandwich in many London chains is borderline immoral. Bringing your own food contributes to a huge weekly save and you always know exactly what's in it.
7. Invest in a thermos.
A hot drink and a bottle of water a day really do add up. I take a thermos of hot lemon water/green tea with me when I leave in the morning and it stays warm all day.
Water bottles with a filter can be bought for £10 ($15.50) or less. Filters need replacing from time to time but this is a slight expenditure when compared to buying by the bottle.
8. Love your leftovers.
If you’re on a busy schedule, cooking enough food to last a few days saves both time and money. You can take leftovers as lunch or put your meals in containers to freeze and re-heat.
9. Use resources to add variety.
Blogging is big and there are so many online resources for people going plant-based on a budget — use them.
The same meals can become boring and repetitive and food is for enjoyment, even on a tight budget! Having said that...
10. Be realistic.
As a regular reader of food and nutrition blogs, I'm always coming across ideas which I want to try out but I need to be realistic.
Right now, I don't have the time or funds (or possibly the patience) to make my own almond milk every day. So I won’t feel bad about drinking from the carton (for now). Save the recipe and try out something new occasionally!
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