5 Plant-Based Staples You Can Buy on Any Budget

Certified Nutritionist Sachi Georgieva Shares Her Favorite Plant-Based Staples and Recipes

Last Updated on July 16, 2022
5 plant-based staples you can buy on any budget

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What is the first image that flashes across your mind when you hear the phrase “vegan food”? If it happens to be a plate of unseasoned salad and a plate of French fries, then you aren’t alone. For generations, the modern food industry has invested a great deal of time and money to market the notion that vegetables are tasteless and only a supplement to animal proteins during every meal. Now that we’re collectively waking up and refusing this nonsense, many are still unsure how to start following a plant-based diet, let alone know if it’ll be expensive or not. Don’t worry! Our friend and Certified Nutritionist Sachi Georgieva and we have compiled a list of plant-based staples that will leave you and your bank account nourished.

Legumes: Beans, Lentils, Hummus, Chili, etc.

Legumes should be a staple of any person’s diet, no matter if they’re a vegan or omnivore. Legumes have long been panned in the U.S. as being “supplemental,”  a staple for those who are scrimping by in life. This mockery, though, is undeserved, for legumes are remarkable for their nutritional content⁠—protein, vitamins, and fiber⁠—and the myriad of ways they can be prepared. They can be made into soups, stews, gumbo, and spreads, and go well with many flavor profiles, and most are inexpensive. If you get them canned, just be sure to check the nutrition label to make sure that they don’t contain any disease-causing preservatives, such as disodium-EDTA, BPA, or calcium chloride. 

Sachi’s Tips and Recommendations

Dried beans give you the absolute most bang for your buck and are a breeze to make if you have an Instant Pot or pressure cooker of any kind. If not, canned or jarred beans work just as well and certainly win on convenience. Legumes are not only a great source of plant-based protein, but also high in B vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and potassium, as well as prebiotics that help boost your good gut bacteria. Use them in buddha bowls, chili, curries, soups, burritos, salads, or to make dips.

sachi georgieva the colorful coach chili
Sachi’s chili

Grains: Rice, Quinoa, Amaranth, Farro, Barley, Pasta, Bread, Oats, etc.

Grains are one of the most affordable items either online or in a grocery store. Prices start at under $1 per pound and are even more affordable when bought in bulk. While you may not be able to buy items using your own bulk jars or bags during a time of crisis, many stores still have pre-packaged versions of their bulk section ready to go at the same prices. Be sure to go with grains that have the most nutritional content, like quinoa and lentils. To save money, we prefer to buy bread from the bakery and wait to get all of our favorite grains on sale. If bakeries are not open or available in your neighborhood, you might still be able to find local baked goods in your neighborhood grocery store in a special fresh bakery section. It’s always a good idea to buy a few extra loaves to freeze.

Sachi’s Tips and Recommendations

Diets rich in whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer (including colorectal, gastrointestinal, and breast cancers). Given the choice between whole and refined grains, I generally advocate for whole grains for their richer nutrient profile as well as the fact that they help lower cholesterol and reduce blood sugar spikes. My personal favorites are brown rice, brown rice pasta, quinoa, farro, and oats. Use them to make oatmeal, granola, stir-fries, burrito bowls, buddha bowls, or pasta dishes.

plant based nutritionist and fitness coach sachi georgieva talks about plant-based staples
Sachi’s oatmeal

Vegan Protein: Tofu, Plant-based Milks, Tempeh, Seitan

The common misconception is that plant-based proteins are flavorless and don’t have as much nutritional value of animal-based ones. This couldn’t be further from the truth, for tofu, tempeh, and seitan all can take on the flavor profiles of whichever spice you choose. They don’t have antibiotics, hormones, and inflammatory agents of animal-based proteins, and have more protein, fiber, and vitamins.

Sachi’s Tips and Recommendations

I was the stereotypical meathead who was worried about how I’d get enough protein from eating plants so believe me when I tell you, getting enough protein as a vegan is not difficult. Adding a higher-protein plant-based milk (such as soy or pea) is an easy way to sneak in a protein boost to your smoothie, cereal, or bowl of oats. Vegan proteins also make easy swaps for animal-based protein when it comes to the familiar “starch-protein-vegetable” meal format many of us grew up with. So you can do rice-tofu-broccoli, potato-seitan-asparagus, quinoa-tempeh-kale, and so on. One of my favorite ways to eat tofu and tempeh is in a teriyaki stir-fry with onions, cabbage, bell peppers, carrots, bok choy, and chili-garlic sauce.

sachi georgieva the colorful coach teriyaki stir fry, talks about plant-based staples
Sachi’s stir-fry

Dried Fruit, Nuts, and Seeds: Nuts and Nut Butters, Unsulfured Dried Fruit Without Added Sugar, Jams, Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Sesame Seeds, etc.

Fruit and nuts carry a great deal of fiber, vitamins, and protein, not to mention sweet fructose and savoriness without added sugar and salt. They can be anything from part of a simple trial mix and elaborate garnishes to rich creams and spreads. Try adding dried fruit to a salad or cold oats, or making your own nut milk.

Sachi’s Tips and Recommendations

Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of healthy fats and incredibly versatile. Some of my favorite ways to eat them are to sprinkle walnuts on top of oatmeal, blend cashews with garlic and lemon to make a vegan ricotta cheese for pizza, roast peanuts to add to a stir-fry, or eat them whole as a snack with some fruit. Eat dried fruit with a handful of nuts or add them atop your oats or salads (my go-to’s are raisins or dried cranberries) for a sweet vitamin and energy boost.

Seasonal Produce

High-quality produce has a stigma of being overpriced. As long as you’re buying what’s in season, buying produce can be very affordable. For example, avocados may not always be on sale but items like carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, salad greens, yams, peppers, potatoes, and bananas are typically affordable year-round. Secondly, always research to see which fruits and vegetables are local to your area. More often than not, those are more affordable and of better quality (i.e., no preservatives) than any that are imported. Buying local means more of your dollar’s value goes to supporting the farmers and grocers of your area. What’s even better and more affordable is growing some of these in your own home or yard! Just be sure that you know and have what they need to thrive. Remember, if you’re good to your plants, they’ll be good to (and nourish) you!

Sachi’s Tips and Recommendations

Make produce the star of your plate! Fruits and vegetables are typically what bring the most flavor, texture, and color to plant-based meals. Their naturally bright colors are an indicator of their antioxidant power (more color, more health!) so the more, the merrier. From a nutrition standpoint, buying seasonally is smart because foods harvested in their peak seasons have actually been shown to be more nutritionally dense. And from a culinary standpoint, seasonal produce always tastes better.

plant based nutritionist and fitness coach sachi georgieva talks about plant-based staples
Sachi’s colorful explanation

A Vegan Diet is Affordable

The stereotype that vegan food is not affordable needs to be debunked. Some of the most basic items in the world’s pantry are plant-based staples and are accessible to most budgets. Case in point, which items go first when Americans have a time of crisis? Rice, beans, pasta, salad greens, and nut milks. While we all enjoy the occasional Beyond Burger, Gardein chicken strips, or Kite Hill yogurt, these items are supplemental to a typical vegan diet and are not essential to eating vegan at home. So go ahead! Whether it be a time of crisis or you just want to prepare your weekly grocery list on a budget, try sticking to a plant-based staples and see how much you save.

Want to learn more about vegan nutrition and fitness?  Download Sachi’s Beginner’s Guide to Plant-Based Eating here and follow Sachi Georgieva on Instagram at @thecolorfulcoach.

plant based nutritionist and fitness coach sachi georgieva

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Our names are Benjamin Hagerty and Brianne Nemiroff. We’re a married couple originally from California. Since we became a couple in 2009, we have always been passionate about travel, both locally and abroad. We were inspired to take a long-term trip in 2017 to explore more of Canada and the U.S. and we soon realized that this wasn’t just a lengthy trip, but a new lifestyle choice, and that we were destined to explore.


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