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Plant-Based Staples for College Students

By: Alex Knute

Before going plant-based last October, I always had the misconception that a plant-based diet was more expensive than an animal-based one. As a college student, this was one of the factors that kept me away from trying out a plant-based lifestyle. However, as I near the one year mark of being plant-based, I have actually found that my groceries are cheaper. Here is a list of seven plant-based items that I live on (in addition to lots of fruits and vegetables) that are wallet friendly: 

  1. Tofu 

The switch to a plant-based diet wouldn't have been possible for me without tofu. I use it in everything from stir fry to tofu breakfast scrambles to plant-based ricotta cheese. Tofu is definitely my number one staple in my diet because it can be made in so many different ways, and a container is usually under $3. One container typically supplies 3.5-4.5 servings, too! I usually buy the Simple Truth Organic Tofu at Kroger. 

  1. Chickpeas 

Another food I can't live without is chickpeas, which cost under a dollar per can! My favorite recipes including chickpeas are buffalo chickpea wraps, chickpea blondies, and curry! 

  1. Peanut butter 

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Peanut butter is another food I use in so many different ways. Peanut butter banana sandwiches, chocolate protein peanut butter shakes, and fruit with peanut butter are a few fast, easy and delicious snacks to make when I amin a rush. I also use peanut butter in a lot of baking recipes. A jar of peanut butter usually costs between $2-5. My favorite brand of peanut butter is the Smucker's Natural Creamy Peanut Butter

  1. Sweet potatoes 

Another diverse food is sweet potatoes. My favorite ways to make them are baked in the oven and cut up and air fried into sweet potato fries. I also use them in a ton of different recipes including: sweet potato and black bean enchiladas, Buddha bowls (grain bowls with vegetables), and Mexican stuffed sweet potatoes. A three pound bag of sweet potatoes costs around $2.50. 

  1. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of my favorite foods for breakfast and leaves me feeling energized and satisfied. Top oatmeal with your favorite berries, cinnamon, peanut butter, chia seeds, or any topping of your choice for a filling and healthy plant-based breakfast. You can get a 42 ounce canister of oatmeal for under $4. 

  1. Hemp Hearts 

One of my concerns with going plant-based was not getting enough protein. Hemp hearts are a great source of protein (10g per serving!) and can be added to smoothies, salads, and fruit bowls. Although they are a bit pricer than other items on this list ($7-8 per package) they are an essential in my diet for more protein and omega 3’s. You can buy hemp hearts at both Kroger and Oxford's Moon Co-Op

  1. Ice Cream

As college students, it is impossible to live without ice cream. I was distraught at the thought of giving up one of my favorite foods for a plant-based diet. However, there are so many options of dairy-free ice cream made with almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, you name it! My personal favorite is Halo Top’s dairy-free Birthday Cake. A pint of dairy-free ice cream ranges from $2-4, but it's an absolute essential for long nights of studying. Other popular brands of dairy-free ice cream include So Delicious, Jeni’s, and Ben & Jerry’s

Going plant-based is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint as well as try new foods! Personally, making the switch to a plant-based diet has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my health, wallet and planet. My number one piece of advice is to take baby steps! Start with one plant-based meal a day, and then move up to one day of eating fully plant-based: small steps are better than nothing! 

All photos courtesy of Pixabay