Making the transition to a plant-based diet is not only a healthier choice for you and the planet, but it can also be budget-friendly when done right. Contrary to the misconception that eating vegan is expensive, there are plenty of cost-effective ways to enjoy delicious and nutritious plant-based meals. In this article, we'll explore how to go plant-based on a budget while making the most of kitchen tools like immersion blenders, air fryers, knives and cutting boards. By doing so, you'll discover how to create affordable, tasty, and satisfying vegan or veganized dishes without breaking the bank.

The first step to saving money on a plant-based diet is planning your meals. Plan your weekly meals in advance, and you'll avoid impulse purchases and reduce food waste. Consider creating a menu based on inexpensive, versatile ingredients like beans, lentils, rice, pasta, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Seasonal produce will beabundant and in turn lower in cost. Pair with some fibre rich legumes or grains that can be bought dry and non-perishable to reduce waste. Lentils are a great pulse option because of the sheer variety available – if you’re a penchant for various textures you can experiment widely with lentil texture from red split, to green to brown; you can pair your proteins with firm al dente options and also create smooth creamy dals.

Going plant-based on a budget is not only achievable but also enjoyable when you leverage your kitchen tools and use them wisely. Immersion blenders and air fryers can help you create a variety of delicious and cost-effective vegan meals, while quality knives and cutting boards streamline your food preparation. By planning your meals, buying in bulk, and investing in DIY staples, you'll find that plant-based cooking can be more enriching, exciting and cost effective that traditional cooking methods.

Utilise your immersion blender

An immersion blender is a versatile tool that can help you create creamy and delicious plant-based soups, sauces, and even smoothies. It's an essential addition to your kitchen, as it can be used for a wide range of recipes. Here's how to make the most of it:

Creamy Soups: Puree vegetables like potatoes, carrots, or broccoli to make soups without the need for heavy cream. Whip up a satisfying bisque using canned tomatoes, vegetable broth, and seasoning.

Homemade Sauces: Create flavorful vegan pasta sauces by blending tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs. Customize them to your liking, adding spices, nutritional yeast, or even a splash of non-dairy milk.

Coconut milk: Coconut milk is a great vegan alternative for introducing fats to your diet if you’re concerned about your calorie intake. Replace your dairy and cream bases in dishes like butter chicken with a coconut base for an equally creamy and rich dining experience.

What about Starch? The power of the tears of the pasta gods cannot be stated enough. Whenever you cook it’s smart to reserve a cup of some starchy pasta water to utilise later. Try adding spaghetti mid-way through and finish by incrementally adding pasta water to your sauteed veg to be left with a smooth full-coverage emulsion.

Get Creative with an Air Fryer

An air fryer is an incredible addition to your kitchen arsenal when going plant-based on a budget. It allows you to enjoy crispy, oil-free versions of your favorite foods. Here's how to use it effectively:

Crispy Veggies: Toss sliced vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, or zucchini in your air fryer for a healthier alternative to fried snacks. Season them with your favorite herbs and spices for added flavor. Air frying vegetable and potato skins can also be a delicious alternative to shop bought potato chips/crisps that often come seasoned with milk powder, and is an excellent way to reduce your food waste.

Baked Goods: Make oil-free, air-fried tofu, tempeh, or even falafel for a protein-rich addition to your meals. Marinate your proteins for a flavour boost before air frying.

Revitalize Leftovers: Use your air fryer to reheat and crisp up leftover meals, giving them a fresh, enjoyable texture. There are few foods that can’t be revived with a few minutes in the air fryer – but always ensure you do so with due diligence to food safety.

Invest in Quality Knives & Boards

A good set of knives and cutting boards may be more of an upfront investment, but they will save you money in the long run. Dull knives can lead to wastage, as they make it harder to cut through vegetables and fruits effectively. High-quality knives and cutting boards will help you minimize food waste and make food preparation faster and easier.

Knife Skills: Learn basic knife skills to make the most of your ingredients. Efficient chopping, dicing, and slicing will help you use all parts of vegetables and fruits, reducing waste. One of our favourite tips here at MasterChef is keeping your carrot and beetroot cuttings (tops and greens), gently boiling them and adding them to homemade pesto’s for a sweet, earthy kick.

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DIY Vegan Staples

Making your own vegan staples at home is a fantastic way to save money and enjoy a healthier, budget-friendly plant-based diet:

Nut Butter: Create your own nut butters using an immersion blender or food processor. It's more cost-effective than buying commercial versions and allows you to control the ingredients and remove things such as honey or palm oil that may not fit with your sustainability outlook.

Nut Milk: Homemade nut milk is easy to prepare and tastes better than store-bought alternatives. Simply blend nuts with water, sweetener (if desired), and a pinch of salt.

Vegetable Broth: Save money by preparing your vegetable broth using leftover veggie scraps, herbs, and spices. Store your scraps in a zip lock bag or Tupperware and by Friday you’ll have enough to boil up a nutritious low-sodium stock. Freeze it in ice cube trays for easy portioning.

Bread: Baking your own bread is not only satisfying but also cost-effective. Many simple bread recipes require just a few ingredients. In fact, you’ll even be able to skip raising agents if you get ahead of time and prepare a sourdough starter with just flour, water, a mason jar and some time for proper fermentation!