Plant Based on a Budget

By Lisa Patterson

There is a common misconception that plant-based diets are costly. This idea likely stems from the marketing-driven “vegan tax” placed upon processed plant-based products, which often sees these food items costing significantly more than their animal-product counterparts.

While some of these processed plant-based items can certainly give your wallet a workout, with a little planning and preparation - following a plant-focused diet can be easily suited to any budget.
The key is knowing where to save, and which items are worth the extra pennies.
One of the easiest ways to keep plant-based diets budget-friendly is to include some tinned or frozen produce. While we’ve all heard ‘fresh is best’, this isn’t necessarily true in all cases. In fact, in some instances freezing or canning can actually preserve a greater level of certain nutrients (Rickman, Barrett & Bruhn 2007).

For example, when compared to fresh spinach stored in the fridge for a week, frozen spinach retains considerably more vitamin C (Favell 1998). 

Tinned tomatoes are another great option as they provide an increased bioavailability of the antioxidant lycopene (Gärtner, Stahl & Sies 1996). 

If you find that you don’t always use your produce before it begins to wither and wilt, opting for frozen or tinned produce is both a wonderful way to cut down the food bill, as well as reduce food waste. Win-win!.

In an ideal world all of our fresh produce would be organically grown, however this isn’t always feasible.

 Instead of purchasing all organic produce, we can save money and still reduce pesticide exposure by following the ‘Clean 15 & Dirty Dozen’ list. 

The Clean 15 refers to produce with the least pesticide contamination, while the Dirty Dozen details the crops exposed to higher pesticide use. 

When sticking to a budget, try opting for conventionally-grown items on the Clean 15 list, and prioritising organic produce from the Dirty Dozen instead. 

Visiting your local farmers market may also provide affordable access to organic or spray-free produce. 

Of course, growing a few herbs and veggies at home is always an idea too! And for those of us without a green thumb, the good news is your garden doesn’t need to be extensive - even just growing a few herbs on a balcony or windowsill can prove to be economical. If you’re feeling extra thrifty, you can even regrow many leafy greens, fruits or vegetables from your kitchen scraps.

So what about meat replacement products? Are faux meats necessary? While meat replacement products can be an easy go-to when first transitioning to a plant-based eating pattern, they don’t need to be a staple part of your diet. Satisfying, nourishing and budget-friendly protein sources can include lentils, beans, tofu or tempeh - all of which are generally more affordable than processed meat replacements. 

In summary, a plant-based diet can certainly be both affordable and nutritious! By prioritising organic produce from the Dirty Dozen list, opting for some frozen and tinned items and choosing whole food protein sources, we can shrink our grocery bill, reduce food waste and enjoy a variety of nutritious fruit, greens and vegetables daily. 


Favell, D 1998, ‘A comparison of the vitamin C of fresh and frozen vegetables, Food Chemistry, vol. 62, no. 1, pp. 59-64,


Gärtner, C, Stahl, W, & Sies, H, 1997, ‘Lycopene is more bioavailable from tomato paste than from fresh tomatoes’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 66, no. 1, pp. 116–122,


Rickman, J, Barrett, D & Bruhn, C, 2007, ‘Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds’, Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, vol. 87, no. 6, pp. 930-944,



Lisa Patterson


she / her


Clinical Nutritionist (student BHSc) + B.CompMed 


Noosa, Australia



Fav Health Hack:

Enjoy ten minutes of sunlight first thing each morning to balance your circadian rhythm & set yourself up for the day ahead.





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