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3 things you can do to eat well for cheap

Eating well doesn't have to be expensive — something plant-based cookbook author Toni Okamoto lives by. 

The recipes she shared with CBS News last month from her latest "Plant-Based on a Budget" book showed it's possible to cook healthy meals without spending big on inflation-impacted shopping staples like eggs and butter. And the blogger and social media star also shared tips on how to make eating well for cheap part of your lifestyle.

If you're looking to save some money without sacrificing healthy food options, Okamoto suggests keeping these things in mind: 

Aim for progress, not perfection

For starters, Okamoto suggests leaning in to your position and process.  

"There's a lot of shame around being on a tight budget, giving something back at the register because you couldn't afford it," she says, recalling her own childhood memory of being in a grocery checkout line with someone impatiently tapping their foot behind her family. "My dad used to say... 'They don't pay my bills.'"

"Remove that shame and understand that this is a long game and you have your family (and goals) in mind," she says, offering encouragement to be OK with progress over perfection as you start your journey.

"Sometimes when people are trying a new diet or whether they're trying to eat healthy and they slip up, it can be an overwhelming feeling and it can be a disappointment, but the cool thing is you can continue choosing a healthier meal for the next meal and the next meal," she explains. "And even if you make that choice to have a quick fast food stop, that doesn't have to mean that everything else gets thrown out the window. It just means that the next opportunity you have you can choose a healthier, more balanced meal."

Meal plan to save money

You've heard of meal planning as a way to stay on track for your nutrition goals — well, it can also help with your budget goals, Okamoto says.

"What gets people to spend a lot of money are impulsive purchases, whether that's after your commute on your way home because you didn't think of what to serve for dinner or if you are at the grocery store and you're shopping hungry (and) want something to eat quickly," she notes. She says she has personally saved money through meal planning as someone who has lived below the poverty line and worked multiple jobs to make ends meet.

In her book, she shows how you can meal prep for just $35 a week per person — "that's three meals per day, seven days a week."

And though it "requires some thought," she finds it worth it.

Stick to what you know — with swaps

"When people start transitioning to a healthier diet, they tend to think that they're going to have to reinvent the wheel, but I've tried to make sure that there are a lot of familiar tastes and textures and meals that people could get on board with (in my book)," Okamoto explains. 

Pine nuts can be expensive. That's why Toni Okamoto made a pesto recipe that allows for substitutions. Courtesy of Toni Okamoto

For example, she points to one of her recipes that features a pesto made with pantry items you may already have instead of dishing out for pricey pine nuts. "It really reduces the cost and it's something that's familiar."

Other swaps, like picking up affordable beans and legumes instead of heading to the meat aisle, offer a great way to add plant-based protein and other nutrients to a dish without breaking the bank. 

If you want to get more culinarily creative, Okamoto says she likes to think of plant-based budget eating with an abundance mindset as opposed to a restrictive one, meaning you can use it as an opportunity to try new things.  

"When I became plant-based, I thought I was going to have to give up a lot of my favorites. But it turns out that it opened me up to a whole world of new foods, different types of international cuisines, new flavors."

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