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Can a whole food wholegrain plant based diet be an affordable one?

Healthy eating tends to have the reputation of being accessible only to the most privileged in society. The media and social media influencers promote ways of eating that can seem inaccessible to those living on a budget, but we are here to help you see how affordable a healthy plant-based diet can be.


Firstly, why plant-based? This method of eating is one that the team at Wholelife have researched extensively and it has been proven time and time again to be a diet that brings many health benefits, both to people and planet.

Eating a mostly or 100% plant-based diet reduces your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It will also provide you with all the nutrients you need to feel full of energy and enjoy life.

A plant-based diet can be followed by all the family and if children are taught to eat a variety of foods and learn from their parents then you will all be able to share meals together.


A plant based diet should consist of:

Fruits and vegetables:

A variety of fruits and vegetables - 5 or more portions per day (a portion being 80g).


Beans and legumes:

Including tinned beans e.g. chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, haricot beans, butter beans.

Lentils such as tinned green lentils, dried red lentils and puy lentils. Also edamame beans (soya beans) and tofu.


Nuts and seeds:

A variety of nuts and seeds eaten in moderation I.e. small handful each day e.g. walnuts, almonds, pecans, linseed/flaxseed, chia seeds, peanuts, hazelnuts. As well as nut butters.


Wholegrains:

100% wholegrain varieties include wholemeal bread, brown pasta, brown rice, oats, quinoa, bulgar wheat, rye and barley


You may also choose to use unsweetened plant milks such as oat milk and soya milk (choose ones fortified with calcium and vitamin B12).

With such an extensive list of foods, many of which you may not currently eat on a regular basis how can this diet be an affordable one?

Price comparison of a days intake for a family of 4

In a price comparison of a typical days intake for a family of 4 who eat meat the cost was £11.27, whilst the whole-food, plant-based diet for the same family cost £9.23! You can check out the full comparison below.


For all produce in scenario 1 (the typical diet) I used supermarket own brands/the cheapest available. For the plant based foods in scenario 2 I chose whole food choices i.e. those with the least added ingredients.


Price comparison
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Note: the Lunchables in scenario 1 are an expense on the non-plant based diet which not everyone may buy, but if these were replaced by another two snack costing only 96p in total then the two diets would cost the same!


As you can see, the typical days diet doesn’t provide adequate nutrition and costs more than the plant-based diet, which provides the recommended 5-a-day as well as adequate fibre and beneficial foods such as nuts.

How can you achieve this on a daily basis and continue to save money?


These tips will help you to cut costs and be able to follow a healthy plant-based diet

  1. Make the most of frozen produce e.g. frozen vegetables, frozen fruit and frozen herbs. Buying frozen foods will minimise waste and makes for convenient cooking.

  2. Freeze your leftovers. Make sure you eat leftovers up at lunchtime or freeze them for another meal.

  3. Plan your meals. Meal planning will help you only buy the food you need and use everything up before it goes off. The average UK household wastes £250 - £400 worth of food every year!

  4. Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables. When in season and British grown these foods tend to cost less.

  5. Try your local shops and markets who may have a glut of local produce that they are selling cheaply.

  6. Fill up on cheaper fruit and vegetables. You don’t have to spend money on exotic varieties. You can still get all the benefits from the old British staples such as carrots, peas, parsnips, potatoes and cauliflower.

  7. Stock up on tinned beans and lentils. These foods are so cheap, but also really nutritious (full of iron, fibre and protein). They are already cooked so can be added to meals and heated through for a quick dinner.

  8. Try new foods such as tofu and tempeh. These have a used by date of a couple of weeks giving you plenty of opportunity to cook it before it goes off.

  9. Buy supermarket own plant milks and plain yoghurts. These are usually fortified in the same way as the branded ones and are much cheaper to buy.

  10. Buy nuts and seeds in bulk. Even though this is an outlay you will save money over time as they will cost less per kilo. Shop online to find the best price OR if you have a refill facility near you try buying smaller quantities from them.

  11. Team up with others. Buying in bulk is often cheaper, so how about teaming up with family and friends to make the most of BOGOF offers and larger packs of things like brown pasta and brown rice.

  12. Get cooking. The more you can cook from scratch the healthier your food will be and the cheaper. Look how cheap it is to make the tomato sauce is in scenario 2 compared with buying it!

  13. If you have a slow cooker try making bean chillis, vegetables casseroles and curries in this. You’ll save on energy costs in the cooking process and they are very convenient.

  14. Likewise utilise the microwave. Microwaves use less energy than hobs, so cooking frozen veg in the microwave for example is quick and cheap.

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