This article was never intended to be a blog. It was just a little research I did on price and nutrition for patients I serve that have low income, and out of interest. What you will find below is a nutrition plan that hits the mark for an amount that would be covered by food stamps ($220). Of course, you can eat for even cheaper than this, as I discuss later. I share this only as a simple resource for those needing to restrict their food budget to around $200, on a diet that has been shown to reverse Heart Disease, Diabetes, Metabolic Disease, Fatty Liver Disease, and general inflammation. Consult with your doctor before beginning or significantly changing your nutrition. I have run all the numbers on this diet, and as long as you stick to the simple rules, you will have all of your dietary needs met except B12 and D3. Yes, protein is covered. Yes, iron is complete. Most Americans (including meat eaters) need to supplement with B12 and D3 anyway. Drinking plant based milks that are fortified can shore up this deficiency, or taking a cheap multivitamin with these nutrients, which can be purchased a CVS for a very low price. D3 can be purchased at an average of $1 a month, and B12 is similarly cheap.
This plan is based on a 2,000 calorie diet and requires you to adjust up or down for your own caloric needs. If you need help with that, please speak with me on your next visit.
Cheap, Nutritious, Vegan, Whole Food
This plan allows you to meet your dietary needs for an average of $6.45 day or $200 a month (31 day month, 3 meals a day, 3 fruit snacks a day). This nutrition plan assumes you buy food at a major chain grocer, buy their house brand (or other cheap brands), buy beans pre-cooked, and eat more variety in the diet than just beans and rice. This is BY NO MEANS exhaustive. Meat eaters can use this diet as a base, and replace the beans with a meat of their choice, although I don't recommend it. A cheaper average can be achieved if you are willing to buy bulk, cook beans, pair them with the cheapest grains (rice or oats), and if you source bulk food at ethnic markets.
Note: This plan will give you complete protein for the day. At least 60g, and often much more, with complete amino acids.
Category 1 - Foods that meet your caloric/fiber/protein needs.
Cost: $.81 to $4 depending on your choices.
Your diet is based around these foods. Eat one, or mix and match for variety.
* For a 2,000 kcal diet, eat 1400 calories a day from this list
Trader Joe's Ezekiel Bread – 72g protein. $4 for 1400 kcal of this item... (18 slices - almost the whole loaf - if only eating this item from Category 1)
Barilla Whole Grain Penne or Simple Truth Organic Penne – 64g protein. $2.25 Barilla and $1.50 for Simple Truth for 1400 kcal... (Eat 8 servings if only eating this item from Category 1. 1 Box has 7 servings.)
Kroger Natural Peanut Butter – 64g protein. $1.10 for 1400... (Eat 8 servings - 16 TBSP - or a little more than half a jar...)
Kroger Whole Oats (42oz tube) – 57g protein. $.81 for 1400... (Eat 9.5 servings or a third of the container...)
Russet Potatoes – 39g protein. $1.50 for 1400 kcal... Eat 8.5 Medium Potatoes. Buy a 10lbs bag to get this value.
Brown Rice – 33g protein. $.85 -$1.10 (Ralphs Kroger Brand vs Target) for 1400 kcal... (Eat 6 cups...).
Category 2 - Legumes
Cost: $.45 a day on average (a little less if you cook beans yourself from bulk).
Legumes/Beans/Peas/Lentils/Tofu/Soy are a necessary part of the diet for longevity, protein, and other micro-nutrient needs. This will add around 240 calories a day. This will also add fiber, phytonutrients, necessary vitamins and minerals; and will lower blood sugar, regulate energy, and feed your microbiome. Net Cost: $.45 a day if canned. Less if you buy bulk and cook them.
Any single serving (1 cup cooked) of the cheapest canned beans you can get will also add 10 – 20g protein. $.45
Or, if you are interested in tofu, tempeh, or other types of legumes, simply price them, and try and eat around 200-300 calories worth to get a nice addition of protein. This will raise the price of the meal however, perhaps as much as $2 for a 200 calorie serving.
Category 3 - Fruits and Veggies
Cost: $4 a day, on average (but can be half this is you buy frozen, 5 lbs at a time, on sale.)
These are a necessary part of a healthy diet. These foods help you hit your micro nutrient needs (these foods are like multivitamin and mineral supplements for us). This will add about 350 calories a day. You can reduce the cost if you shop at ethnic markets, buy berries frozen, buy veggies frozen, and buy in season, on sale items. Frozen veggies and fruit EXCEED fresh for nutrient content, and there will be less food waste (less will go bad before you use it).
Get whatever veggies and fruit are on sale and eat one serving of each with each meal. (3 veggie servings, and 3 fruit servings a day). Frozen veggie medleys are best (2-4 veggies in a bag), as are frozen berries. Buying 5 lbs bags of frozen veggie medley on sale can often be $1.25 a lbs! Even Blueberries, bought in large, frozen bags can often be $.50 a serving.
This can include canned or jarred pasta sauce for your pasta
This can include "no sugar added" jams or fruit spreads for a PBJ (you can also put fruit on the sandwich instead of jam) (I should note that sugar added versions would be just fine in this diet, and would also be much cheaper, although NOT technically a whole food).
A few resources: It's hard to beat Ralphs and the Kroger brand for best prices on this stuff (if you shop at the big grocers). For bulk items and/or cheaper produce try Northgate Market on Inglewood in Culver City, Sprouts, Camaguey on Venice, and other ethnic markets. If you have extra money, bulk spices can be purchased at these and stores like India Sweets and Spices, and the original Samosa House on Washington. You can buy Mexican branded spices in plastic bags, and transfer them to a used and cleaned spice container if you have any. You can reduce prices further by shopping at Walmart.
I hope this is helpful to someone, and please post questions or comments so that I can clarify, update, or expand this information to be of use.
Warmest and Best,