12 tips for an affordable plant-based diet in India

Before making the decision to adopt a plant-based diet, there were many concerns about whether I could afford it or not. The common myth is that plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy are expensive but I soon learned that there are many affordable plant-based options around us, once a little effort is put into identifying them.


Cut open coconut used to make plant-based alternatives to cooking oil and milk

 

1. Many affordable alternatives are healthier for you

An important step is replacing the everyday ingredients like milk, butter or ghee with easily available plant-based alternatives. In fact, cooking oils such as groundnut oil, olive oil etc. are healthier and more nutritious than ghee when used for cooking, while the use of coconut milk often enhances the flavour of many traditional recipes.

Aerial view of raw cashew nuts bought wholesale to make plant-based foods and ingredients 

2. Shop smarter by buying ingredients in bulk

As with regular grocery shopping, it is alway more economical to buy raw ingredients and prepare certain foods at home, rather than buy the finished product in store. With a little effort, you can save a lot of money by buying 1 kg of almonds, coconut or cashew that can be used to make almond milk, cashew butter etc. at home instead of buying them.

 

3.There’s more to vegetables than just salads

While salads are healthy and easy to make, there are many more ways in which vegetables can be savoured. If a delicious vegetable sabhji isn’t what you’re looking for, then enjoy some mouth watering street food recipes like Dahi Vada or Pav Bhaji for a plant-based treat.

 Vegan and dark chocolate cake made with coconut milk and other plant-based alternatives to dairy

4.Embrace your inner plant-based pastry chef

A combination of vegetable oil, water, and plant-based shortening can easily replace the need for butter, milk, and eggs in any recipe! These ingredients are affordable, easy to find, and yield excellent results no matter what you’re trying to bake. 

Bonus tip: let your freshly baked plant-based goodies sit for 12-24 hours before eating (as hard as that may be!) so that internal moisture is distributed more evenly through it.

 

5.Chickpea over Chicken for affordable choice of protein 

Tofu, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts etc. can be incorporated into meals in so many different ways, offering more protein than meat for a fraction of the cost. These alternatives also help reduce the fat and cholesterol levels of meals.

 East Asian or Chinese stir fry dish made only from vegetables and plant-based foods

6.East Asian cuisine to the rescue

If you’re keen to order in or enjoy a meal at a restaurant, then East Asian cuisine is the way to go for some excellent plant-based preparations. Opt for a flavour-packed vegetable stir fry or an irresistible fried rice or noodle dish made with tofu, if you want to satisfy both your appetite and your wallet.

 

7.Nothing beats eating at home before you step out

Whether maintaining a plant-based diet or not, it will always be more affordable to enjoy a home-cooked meal instead of eating out. Rather than spending that exorbitant vegetarian main course dish, you can fill yourself up with a snack at home, prepared just the way you like it. You’ll be grateful when you can buy a week’s worth of groceries for the same price as that one dish at the restaurant.

 

8.Exercise your right to exercise right

Instead of opting for supplements, whey protein, chicken, eggs, etc. try preparing your own customised, clean protein powder by tossing your favourite plant-based protein sources into the mixer at home. There is no need to invest in expensive store-bought products when you can build muscle with the help of plant-based, natural sources of protein.

Vegetarian Burger and French Fries meal with cheese and dairy removed

9.Smile and say “No Cheese”

Go to your favorite restaurant, skim through the vegetarian section and customise to create a dish you can enjoy! While most restaurants are still familiarising themselves with plant-based options, it is easy to create them yourself by replacing dairy products in dishes with alternatives that you enjoy.

 

10.Explore what is available in the market 

If you don’t have the time to buy in bulk and prepare plant-based alternatives at home, then explore the many options available in the market today. You can find a good peanut curd or plant-based paneer to use in your cooking, or the perfect cashew cheese to grate on top of all your favourite savoury snacks.

 Fruit dessert made entirely with plant-based ingredients like chia seeds, exotic fruits and coconut milk

11.Indulgent alternatives can be an occasional treat

There are indulgent alternatives to dairy or meat in the market but these can serve as an occasional treat, just like you would splurge on a fancy meal at a restaurant. These alternatives generally include premium ingredients or are, so they can be saved for a special day.

 

12.Enjoy a low-cholesterol lifestyle 

Plant-based diets are known to be low cholesterol in nature. Our bodies produce enough cholesterol to meet our needs so a low cholesterol plant-based diet could be as good for your heart as it is for your wallet.

 

It may seem like an uphill journey but you have an exciting adventure ahead as you switch to a plant-based diet. Start slow, take your time, and soon your diet and conscience will lead the way!