Dissecting the 4 Common Misconceptions About Plant-Based Diets
The Terms: Plant-Based & Vegan
Although Veganism refers to a whole belief system where animals are not involved in any way in the production of any products you use (including food, clothes, beauty, cleaning products), the term “plant-based” refers to a diet.
So go ahead and get yourself a snack, and let’s dig into whether plan-based diets, are in fact, expensive…
Eating Plant-Based When You’re On a Low Budget
Plant-based and vegan diets get a lot of stick. There’s rumours that they’re plain, flavourless, that there’s no taste to them because it’s just like eating grass. Most of you would have heard that plant-based diets lack in protein, but most of all, that they’re expensive…
That you can’t eat plant-based when you’re on a low or limited budget. Well, lemme tell you something – meat ain’t cheap.
There is also reason for the misconception that eating plant-based is expensive. It depends on what you eat and put in your trolley.
*Although we use both the vegan and plant-based terms, we essentially mean food that does not contain any animal-related products or byproducts.*
Seriously though, there are a few common misconceptions about eating plant-based, so let’s have a look why, shall we…
No. 1 – The Expensive Plant-Based Myth
Let’s delve into the misconception of plant-based diets being expensive. Are they actually?
If you’re used to buying meat and dairy, think about how much you spend (or used to) on those products. Or imagine doing your food shopping without those items.
Cheese and meat can be pricey, so by taking those out of your shopping trolley, that’s already money saved that could be spent elsewhere. That could be around £10-15, depending on the quantities you buy.
So with that £10-15 extra in your pocket, you now have more money to spend on fruit + veg. You will also have leftover money to get your proteins sorted. Chickpeas, lentils and legumes cost between 35p – £1.10 for a tin (depending on the shop and brand, we use supermarket’s own brands).
Or an even cheaper alternative is buying dried legumes, to soak overnight and cook the next day. That’ll work out even cheaper than buying a tin:
- 400g tin is 250g of drained chickpeas
- Dried chickpeas double in weight once cooked
- To make 250g of home cooked chickpeas from a dried bag (£1.15 per a 500g bag), that’s about 29p
Thus, cheaper than an average 70p per tin. It’s not a huge saving, but if you’re counting all the pennies, then every little helps and this is particularly great if you remember to soak them chickpeas and want to be as cost efficient as possible.
Vegetables and fruits can seem expensive, when you compare it to for example, a pack of 4 supermarket’s own brand of burgers that cost between £1-2 pounds. That could be 2-4 dinners for someone. It’s important to not compare healthy food to processed food.
There’s a reason they’re so cheap, and make the healthy stuff seem expensive. Since going plant-based, we’ve actually saved money – believe it or not.
We don’t buy as much crap stuff that makes us feel rubbish afterwards. We tend to buy vegetables, fruits, nuts, hummus (of course) and always ensure we have some sort of veggies in our fridge or freezer. Sure, we still buy a vegan pizza every now and then and indulge in a nice tray of chips – we don’t eat healthy all the time.
The main point that we’re trying to make is that fruit and veg might seem expensive, but we often easily brush past the fact that you no longer need to buy meat and dairy.
Another reason why a plant-based diet might seem more expensive, is if your idea of a plant-based diet is mainly eating processed foods and plant-based ready meals. Some of the things they make now, ahh.. It’s just so yummy and it all looks so tempting *drools*.
BUT – if we only bought the processed plant-based stuff, we would spend A LOT more. It can be expensive.
The burgers, the chicken (or vicken) bites, the plant-based Mac ’n’ cheese… The list is as endless and as innovative as the manufacturers praying on poor vegans. That stuff looks great, but if it’s processed, it’s not that healthy. It’s also very expensive, because of the lower demand than mainstream products.
We only buy plant-based burgers from budget supermarkets and when they are on offer. The point is, if you’re only going to buy processed foods and ready-made burgers, meals, fancy vegan steaks, then you are going to embark on the expensive plant-based diet fad and eventually give up because of how much it costs.
To give you a better picture of cost comparison, let’s take a traditional, family favourite dinner – Spag Bol:
* The numbers are based on prices in Summer 2020 and are based on a 125g portion of protein per person. We’ve used green lentils as an example as they’re a really good mince meat substitute *
It’s £2.16 cheaper to do a lentil Spaghetti, it’s high in protein and it has less fat in it. Just as an added bonus, it still takes the same amount of time to prepare.
You can also see how much more expensive processed plant-based food is. Although tempting to buy and often a good treat if you fancy trying something new, the fact remains that it’s £1.52 more expensive to cook Spaghetti for 4, with a plant-based meat alternative. If you don’t want to take our word for it, believe the maths, it worked the trick with us.
So Why Is Vegan Processed Food So Expensive?
It’s mainly because the agricultural industry producing meat and dairy products are heavily subsidised. With the financial aids from the government, this allows the farmers and manufacturers to sell those products for much cheaper.
They also have a much higher demand globally – which means they already have the facilities to make large quantities of these products quickly to meet the demand, and ultimately keeping their product prices low.
However, plant-based products manufacturers of processed foods and specialty foods, such as veggie burgers, don’t have those facilities or financial aids. They’re at a disadvantage, which means they are making less money. As they’re all in the money-making business, you can see why the higher-product prices make sense.
2. The ‘Plant-Based Food Is Tasteless’ Myth
I remember the first time I heard about someone being a vegan. It was in a cooking programme, and they were preparing a vegan 3 course meal.
I thought, “ugh, why is she even bothering? No way is she going to win with just veg and nuts and no flavour on the plate…”. I was prejudiced to believe and imagine vegan food as bland, because when you think vegan or plant-based, you think about grass, raw veg, a few beans and that’s it.
Surely that’s not going to be tasty…
What if we applied the same kind of thinking to meat and dairy diets? No flavours, just plain chicken, or plain pork joint for example. The reason why these taste so good, is because they are flavoured (or processed), with salt and maaaany many spices. Kentucky fried chicken, for example, it’s full of batter that is already full of spices.
Without those spices, it wouldn’t taste as good. It’s the same with plant-based recipes. In fact, any recipe, that is just veg, dairy or meat, will be plain unless it has some spices, additives or artificial flavourings added to them.
We love our spices, we have a draw full of them and they’re used daily. If you’re not sure on what spices you should buy to start with, check out some of your favourite recipes online or in books, pick the most common/frequently used spices and start with those.
If you’re not sure what to stock up, here’s a list of our essentials on our spice rack (and ones we’d recommend if you’re going to go plant-based):
- Yeast flakes
- Paprika ( + smoked paprika)
- Soy sauce
- Madras curry powder
- Bay leaves
3. That ‘Plant-Based Means Eating the Same Meals Over and Over Because Your Options Are Limited’ Myth
We’ve tried a bigger variety of foods and different veg than ever before. We like to experiment in the kitchen, and we’re finally getting the hang of tofu – which is an improvement to our first crumbled attempt…
Eating plant-based doesn’t mean you have no choice but to eat potatoes and carrots each night with some beans.
Any recipe you can think of consisting of meat, you can make a plant-based alternative. Lasagne? Burgers? Fish pie? Bangers and mash? Sunday roast? BBQ pulled pork? You can create all of those, with alternative products like legumes, jackfruit, banana blossom and soy mince.
There are many alternatives out there and because the whole plant-based and vegan diets trend is really taking off and getting more popular. Manufacturers and supermarketers have no choice but to meet the demand and offer us more products.
Some of the most common things we now use and we’d recommend experimenting with (if you feel adventurous to try new things!), are:
- Banana blossom
- Cauliflower (there are many ways to cook it, you can even make rice, nuggets and steaks with it…)
- Green lentils (they’re great for adding into spaghetti or when replacing mince meat)
- Vermicelli noodles
We don’t cook many adventurous and exciting meals in the week though. Naturally, we’re busy in the week and don’t have as much time to cook as we do on the weekends. That’s when our kitchen really sees some awesome ingredients.
Although our household is only small, we both come from working and busy families. We understand what it’s like in a busy week and how little time you have to cook a yummy, exciting meal in the week.
This brings us to our next point – time. More specifically, the lack of time…
4. The Time Factor
Ben and I both work full-time. It’s hard to squeeze in any time for ourselves, never mind spending an hour or 2 preparing a complex, exotic plant-based dish that we can enjoy. As I work from home, I can start our dinner at 5pm and have it ready by 6pm/6:30pm so that makes things a little bit easier for us.
Making a curry is our go-to dinner, as I just throw the veg in the pot with some spices and chickpeas or lentils, and let it stew for 40mins – 1 hour on a low heat. You don’t need to pay much attention to it, apart from stirring it every now and again so this is a great option if you need to do a bit of house work while cooking.
However, I realise there are families who work, have to look after their offspring, clean the house and somehow find the time to cook a nutritious meal. It’s hard.
Finding the time is hard, and finding the time to think of what to cook probably even harder. The easiest option tends to be throwing something in the oven, which is completely and totally understandable. We do it too sometimes, when our day gets busier than usual so in no way are we criticising oven-cooked dinners.
The point here, is that you can cook plant-based when you live a busy family life. As we’ve already covered how you can eat plant-based cheaply, here’s a few tips how you can cook pant-based meals quickly:
- Buy red lentils – they don’t need soaking overnight and are quick to cook in sauces, soups and curries
- Always have a tin of chickpeas in the cupboard – they can be minced to make burgers or added into curries, sauces and salads for some extra protein
- Buy frozen veg – fresh veg is great, but when it goes off you can’t use it and you’re forced to throw it away. Frozen veg is quicker to cook and still full of nutrients, great for a quick stir fry!
- Cook in larger quantities – you then have leftovers for next day’s lunch or dinner, and you end up using up all your veg reducing your waste
- Start with simple ingredients – leave off jackfruits, tofus until you have time to experiment with them. Try the simple ingredients first using Linda McCartney (or any plant-based brand) sausages for a quick sausage and mash dinner – you cook them the same as normal sausages, grilled, ovened or fried
- Use a slow cooker – you can cook things overnight or in the morning to let it cook in the day. They’re so easy to use, and you just throw things in and let them stew
- Stir fry – it’s so quick, you can use up all the veg in the fridge to fry it with some soy sauce and throw in some chickpeas or black beans, serve up with some rice. Boom. Done. This is our go-to whenever we’re stuck of ideas
- Spend Sunday (if possible) cooking large batches of food and then freeze it – a great time-saving option if Sunday isn’t a lazy day for you! (we love a good lazy, movie Sunday…)
- Buy lots of veg and even veg you wouldn’t normally buy – that way you will always have a fridge full of veg, and if you have these ingredients, you always end up cooking them. All you need to do is google the veg you have and voila, lots of recipes come up. You can then cook the veg that needs to be used, so you’re forced to for example use a broccoli for dinner that night. Broccoli is full of protein and you can cook it as a side to any dinner, like stir fry
- Try a veggie subscription box – they deliver veg to your door, means you don’t have to leave the house to do your veggie shopping and have a little more time to cook a meal! Find out more about them in our article here
If you are stuck for ideas, our collection of tried and tested recipes, are pretty quick to do and very easy to prepare in the working week. We’re both saving wherever we can, so we try to cook on a budget, treating ourselves to more extravagant ingredients only from time to time.
In Our Humble Conclusion…
It’s absolutely possible to eat plant based with flavour. It’s possible to eat plant based on a budget. It’s possible to fit it in your busy lifestyle. It just takes time, adjustments as it’s a big change at first. Once you get into a routine (give it 2-3 weeks), you won’t even notice that you’re doing anything different anymore.
It’s all possible, if you are dedicated to it…
Let us know below in comments if you have any tips of your own for eating plant-based ?