Plant-based eating doesn't always have to be expensive. Beans ARE considered cheap, healthy protein. And meat is absolutely not necessary.
Last week, I took the "SNAP Challenge." SNAP, for those who aren't familiar with it, is a supplemental nutrition assistance program (commonly referred to as food stamps) for those living at or below the poverty line in America. The SNAP Challenge is an attempt to live off of $4 of food per day for a week (or longer if desired). If you haven't seen "A Place at the Table", check out a little clip. It helps to explain what it is like for some families living on SNAP.
I decided to take on the challenge so that I could better understand what it is like to live off $28 worth of food for a week. I care about people living on a dime, but also I wanted to see if it was possible to be vegan on a SNAP budget. Well, folks. It Is. I made it through the week with more than enough food to eat. I spent, on average, $3.50 per day... and I still had leftover food at the end of the week (maybe enough for 3-6 days.... or more). Since I was only allowed to consume the foods I had purchased for the week (lentils, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, squash, kale, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, carrots..lots of carrots, cucumber, bananas, apples, plant-milk, peanut butter, popcorn seeds.... ) I had a pretty limited variety in food choices, but you better believe that I got creative! I made meals like: "meatballs" on zucchini noodles, banana pancakes with peanut butter, pumpkin pie "fro yo", pumpkin soup, lentil-oat veggie burgers, sweet potatoes with apples and cinnamon. Honestly, I would make these recipes again!
Now, I realize that this was only a one week experiment, but it made me realize that it is possible to eat plant-based on a budget. It also made me realize that I am privileged to live in a community where I have access to grocery stores/ farmers markets that offer fresh produce at a reasonable price, and that I am privileged to have a kitchen, utensils, and cooking utilities to make all these homemade meals. Additionally, I realized that I am not afraid to experiment with food. I hope to change that for people who are.
There were many lessons I learned throughout the week, and I am really considering doing this again, and possibly for a longer period of time. Someday, I would like to work with more low-income families and individuals. Walk with them on their daily journey and help them achieve optimal nutritional intake without breaking the bank.
Before my SNAP challenge started, I came across this resource on the internet: Plant Based on a Budget. The mission of the website is to help those wanting to eat healthier on a tighter budget find recipes, ideas for getting deals, and collaborating to make plant-based eating affordable and accessible for all. Their facebook page often features creative meal ideas, ways to save, etc. I think it's such a create concept to help change the mentality that eating healthy is expensive and that meat/ animal products are what constitute a "good meal."