This article is part of a series on Discovering the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see Featured Author Jane Birch.

I’ve been featuring clips and stories from the new Word of Wisdom video. I’m excited the video has done so well. It has been viewed almost 20,000 times! I hope you’ll share the video and related stories with family and friends. When you do, be sure to tell them what you love about the wonderful diet the Lord has provided to His saints! Here are the links:

Another person I’d like to highlight is the awesome director and creator of the video, Greg Williams. I’m very fortunate to have collaborated with Greg—he was the perfect person for this project! Not only is he an extremely talented filmmaker, he is also passionate about whole food, plant-based eating. You can read Greg’s story here: “When God, science, and logic all line up.”

Eating Healthy on a Budget

One comment I’ve heard in reaction to the “Discovering the Word of Wisdom” video is, “This is great, but I have to live on a budget, and unfortunately, I can’t afford those healthy foods.” I’m always surprised when I hear people say they want to eat a healthy diet but can’t afford it. Does it make sense that the Lord’s diet plan for His children would be expensive and therefore out of reach to most of His children? No it does not! God’s dietary counsel in the Word of Wisdom is not just optimal for our health; it is optimal for our finances! In this article, I will explain how a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) Word of Wisdom diet is the cheapest diet on the planet.

The reason many of us think health foods are expensive is that the people trying to persuade us what is healthy are trying to make money off their effort by getting us to buy their expensive products. But NONE of these products are essential to a Word of Wisdom diet. In fact, some of them contradict it! Here is a partial list of “health foods” that may or may not be wholesome but that are all non-essential to optimal health:

  • Plant-based “super foods” of all kinds: açai berries, goji berries, blueberries, cranberries, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, mangosteens, black garlic, shiitake mushrooms, watercress, kale, sprouted mung beans, wheatgrass, green coffee beans, moringa, spirulina, green smoothies, exotic spices
  • Meat from hormone-free, free-range and/or grass fed animals
  • Wild and/or exotic fish
  • Specialty milks, delicacy cheeses, organic yogurts and kefir
  • Eggs from free-range and cage-free chickens (or even ostriches!)
  • Exotic animal products: rhino horn, elk antler velvet, bird’s nests
  • Supplements: vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, probiotics, creams, gels

No doubt many of the above plant foods are “wholesome” and healthy, but NONE of them are necessary to an optimal diet, and we are much better off without any of the animal foods. One of the things I love most about a whole food, plant-based Word of Wisdom diet is that it requires no special foods, no super foods of any kind, no special health products or supplements (except B12 which is very inexpensive). The four WFPB food groups are simple:

  1. Vegetables
  2. Fruits
  3. Legumes
  4. Whole Grains

Within each category, we can choose what we wish to consume based on our taste and pocketbooks, but as far as our health is concerned, it rarely matters whether we choose the most expensive or least expensive varieties. The thing that does matter is to focus on “whole plant foods.” You can tell if something is a whole food because it looks basically the same as when it was pulled out of the ground or off the tree.

We need to get over the idea that we “know” what a super food is, much less know enough to create a processed version of it! God has blessed even the humblest, most common, and inexpensive whole plant foods with so many nutrients that modern scientists have barely begun to identify these nutrients, much less to understand their nature and functions. In truth, we understand so little about the Lord’s amazing plant foods that no one has the knowledge to tell us which are the “super foods”; all wholesome plant foods are super!

The Cheapest Source of Calories on Planet Earth

There is one food source that is the cheapest form of calories on the planet. Perhaps not surprisingly, it is also the very food that plays a dominant role in the Word of Wisdom: grain. Surely it is not by coincidence that the Lord has ordained grain to be the “staff of life,” which means a staple food, the food that should serve as the foundation of our diets.

Just think about how much money you could save if the bulk of your calories came from the cheapest source of calories on the planet! The fact is, anyone can dramatically reduce their food budget by simply switching from animal foods (one of the most expensive sources of calories) to grains (the cheapest source of calories). Not only will this save you money, it will dramatically impact your health for the better.

In this context, perhaps it should also not be surprising that grains are among the most vilified foods in today’s world. Many people are actually afraid to eat grains! Where does this fear come from? Let’s recall that it is an all-knowing God who even as early as 1833 knew exactly how grains would “change” in our day, and yet He declared to “all saints in the last days” that “all grain is good” and should be the “staff of life” (D&C 89:2, 14, 16). The claims to the contrary on the Internet and in best-selling books must be the philosophies of man because they are not backed by sound science. (Of course those with specific allergies should avoid foods that make them ill, but there are so many wholesome, inexpensive alternatives to choose from!)

Anyone can enjoy a Word of Wisdom diet on less money than other diets. It makes sense that a loving Heavenly Father would give us a diet that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. He wants ALL of His children to be able to eat well, not just the wealthy ones. I’m grateful the Lord ordained the CHEAPEST source of calories as the “staff of life.” For more on this topic, see: “Gluten, Wheat, Grain” and “The Staff of Life.”)

Tips for Keeping the Costs Down

Of course, many of the same principles for keeping to a tight food budget apply to any diet lifestyle. Here are some of my favorite tips for eating whole food, plant-based on a budget:

Buy produce in season.

This tip has support from the Word of Wisdom! “Every herb [plant] in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof” (D&C 89:11). When you buy “in the season thereof” you are buying food at its nutritional peak and often when it is the least expensive. Plan your meals around what is in season and/or the least expensive produce at the grocery store. Also take advantage of CSAs (community-supported agriculture), local farmer’s markets, and roadside stands that sell fresh, local foods at good prices.

Fruits and vegetables are generally the most expensive calories in a WFPB budget, but by giving up processed foods and animal foods, you’ll have more than enough to pay for good produce.

Make grains, beans, and starchy vegetables the bulk of your calories.

Remember: grains are the cheapest source of calories on the planet. Foods like beans, potatoes, carrots, and lentils are also very inexpensive, especially if you buy them in bulk!

Buy in bulk.

Many WFPB items are shelf stable, including grains, beans, canned fruits and vegetables, and spices. Buy these in bulk and keep your pantry stocked. Check here for lots of Pantry Staples. (In Utah County where I live, Winco has the lowest bulk prices!)

Cook whole foods from scratch.

You pay for convenience, both in money and also in health. You can’t get healthy plant-based whole foods through a drive-through. Yes, it takes time to cook from scratch, but once you get used to it, it becomes very manageable. Plus cooking with your family creates tight family bonds and teaches important life skills.

Beans, as just one example, are especially cheap if you cook dry beans yourself. Using either a pressure cooker or a slow cooker makes this pretty easy. You can make your own non-dairy milk. It is very cheap (even if you buy a machine that makes it super easy). One half cup of soybeans, rice, or nuts makes more than a quart of non-dairy milk.

Plan your meals, but be flexible.

Planning ahead allows you to use coupons and not buy on a whim, but remember that many coupons are for expensive processed foods, which aren’t healthy even on sale. Plan your meals around whole foods in season or on sale at the grocery store. Be flexible when you find good deals. The ingredients in many recipes can be substituted.

Avoid Waste.

You can avoid waste by planning your meals and carefully packaging leftovers. Freezing some leftovers allows you to extend their lifecycle. For example, I like to make a huge batch of steel cut oats once a week. I put what I’ll eat during the next few days in the fridge and then freeze the rest. Many WFPB foods freeze very well. 

Don’t buy fancy kitchen equipment.

The only truly necessary tools are a good knife and pans. Other tools are convenient, but not necessary.

Don’t think you have to buy organic or non-GMO to eat healthy.

There are certainly some advantages to organic foods, and personally I wish all food was organic and non-GMO, but the health of most of us is not dependent on consuming only organic. When it comes to health, some factors matter more than others. Wholesome plant foods, even conventionally grown, are much better for our bodies than organic processed foods or animal foods. For that matter, canned whole fruits and vegetables are even better than organic processed foods or animal foods (go for no additives and low salt).

Grow a garden!

Where have we heard this advice before? Isn’t this almost part of our religion? Growing your own plant foods not only reduces the food bill, it involves the whole family in a wholesome activity. Plus it is a great way to eat organic, if that is important to you.

Eat from your food storage.

Eating from your food storage helps you (1) rotate your food storage; (2) take advantage of buying in bulk; and (3) learn to prepare meals from the food you have stored. One advantage of a WFPB diet is that it makes food storage SUPER SIMPLE. I used to be confused and afraid of building my food storage because it was so complex and involved storing things I didn’t know how to use. Now, I know exactly how to use my food storage because I store exactly the type of food I eat every day!

For more details, see: “WFPB Food Storage.”

Examples of Eating on a Tight Budget

Darshana Thacker shows how to eat well on $5 a day. She is a petite woman, so others may not get enough calories the way she did this, but her experience can show how it is done: “Plant-Based on a Budget: How I Ate Well on $5 a Day.”

1.2 billion people in the world have $1.50 or less to spend on food per day, so in this article, Darshana Thacker attempts to eat a whole food, plant-based diet on $1.50 a day and succeeds. See how she does it: “My $1.50 a Day Challenge: Eating a Plant-Based Diet on an Austere Budget.”

In this article Rosane Oliveira uses split pea soup to show how a plant-based version is cheaper than one with animal foods. She also provides some tips on saving money: “Cheap or Expensive? The REAL Truth About Plant-Based Diets.”

For a few more tips on eating healthy on a diet, you might check out the book, Eat Vegan on $4.00 a Day: A Game Plan for the Budget Conscious Cook by Ellen Jaffe Jones. You can get to know the author’s story and why she got into budget eating in this podcast: “Obliterating the Obstacles to Plant-based Eating.”

Your Food Budget is Just the Beginning of the Savings!

If you switch from Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) to whole food, plant-based diet, not only will you will save money on your grocery bill, you will save THOUSANDS of dollars in healthcare costs throughout your life. AND you’ll save yourself from sickness, chronic disease, surgeries, lack of energy, missing days at work, and plain feeling miserable.

This is really is a no brainer. The Word of Wisdom rocks!

For Help Starting on a Word of Wisdom Diet

For help on embracing a healthy Word of Wisdom diet, see: “Getting Started on a Whole Food, Plant-based Word of Wisdom Diet.”

Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (2013) and many articles on the Word of Wisdom. She can be contacted on her website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom.