In this episode, I chat with Toni Okamoto, creator of Plant Based on a Budget, a beautifully-created website that offers recipes, meal plans, and instructional videos to help you thrive on an affordable plant-based diet. Inspired by her desire to help people in general and to help her family through some diet-related health issues, Toni converted some family recipes to plant-based recipes all from ingredients they could shop for at their local grocery stores. She put them on her website and recruited several friends to do the same. With that her purpose came to life. Toni took a leap of faith with no insurance, assurance, or safety net to focus full-time on her passion. I’m honored to share her story of belief in herself and her passion to help others.
Today, Toni shares:
- her role in the evolution of a plant-based eater,
- how she became comfortable with uncomfortable conversations,
- how she, a self-proclaimed introvert, inspires other introverts to put themselves out there,
- her friendly approach to plant-based eating, and
- the ways she addresses one of the biggest mental obstacles to healthy-eating, the cost.
On her purpose:
I’m from Sacramento, California and I run a website called Plant Based on a Budget [that] provides free resources like videos and recipes and meal plans for people who are interested in plant-based eating and want to make it more accessible to them. We have all different types of recipes done by different contributors so there’s something for everyone.
I think veganism should be accessible. I know so much about it and I can be that person.
I identify as an introvert. I like to work behind a computer in my one-bedroom apartment by myself. And sometimes I don’t want to leave the house. Getting out there and talking to people was difficult and exhausting but I learned a lot and I feel better at meeting people, networking, and other things I hadn’t felt comfortable doing.
I use very passive language sometimes and I’m trying to get away from that. So I know that I have a problem with being in the spotlight and being a face of an organization or getting recognition in any way or doing things like that. It’s all scary but worth it in the end because I can help so many people.
On doing the work:
I think that when people are transitioning to plant-based diets or even thinking about what it would like to introduce plant-based foods to their diet, my website is the first stop on that journey. So I want to be friendly and approachable and familiar and not make plant-based eating seem overwhelming.
It takes some work and I understand why people find that cooking healthy food is too inconvenient. I think that’s why so many people come back to Plant Based on a Budget for that meal plan because I have set it up in a way that uses 100% of the ingredients and offers a grocery shopping list. The free version on Plant Based on a Budget has one month of meal planning for free. I offer a grocery list, recipes, and I tell you how you can make it your own based on what you have.
On work ethic:
Set yourself up for success, go at a pace that you’re comfortable with, and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t go all or nothing.
Meal planning is maybe the hardest work that I do. We just did a meal plan and it took about 40 hours to do. I do all of my grocery shopping under $20. So I have to spend hours at the grocery store figuring out how to make $20 stretch for seven days…It’s really exhausting. It’s a labor of love. And so many people find it valuable that we continue to do it.
I’m passionate, I’m smart, and I can do this.
[Sacrifice] helped me become more of a whole person. Because [before] I would spend my time going to the movies with my friends or going out to lunch with my family. Instead, we would go for walks, we would have a game night. They were very supportive of me not spending money. Because I felt so passionately, they wanted to support that passion.
It has been a wonderful journey. I’ve learned that you just have to follow your passion and not in a way that is without direction but with education and connections.
What the Health, I feel, made plant-based eating really interesting and showed a lot of facts about how people can take back their health and made it seem like an attainable goal.
If someone [feels] passionate about sharing inexpensive food that can be found at all grocery stores, then I welcome them to come contribute.
I’m very fortunate to have a supportive family but it was an emotional and scary time. And I hope that anyone listening has faith in themselves and educates themselves.
I started educating myself in a way that I had not done in a long time. I think we get so wrapped up in our everyday routines that we stop learning. I was reading all the time, listening to podcasts, I was learning. I was making meaningful relationships with my friends and family and anyone else who would talk to me. And I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone and out of my routine to do things.
On being an entrepreneur:
I recommend people going into this, especially if they don’t have income, really prepare themselves for some sacrifices. Because that meant goodbye social life like I knew it – it meant not eating out with your friends, not getting coffee with your friends, not spending money on that dress…it meant a total lifestyle change. It was very, very difficult but ultimately rewarding.
My biggest critics of my website are people who are already vegan because I don’t promote organic foods. But, really, my target audience is people who are eating fast food everyday.
People say things like, you’re using oil so you’re the devil or you should be promoting organic. For those things, I just explain that I want to set people up for success and I want them to have a friendly environment…But it’s the harsher comments that hurt my feelings a little bit.
If you’re spending $25 to $35 a week on groceries but you’re used to spending $60 a week, that $5 investment is still saving you money.
Keep in touch with Toni Okamoto:
plantbasedonabudget.com – free meal plans, recipes, and videos
plantbasedmealplan.com - $5 for a week of meal plans with a grocery bill of $25
How to Win Friends and Influence People – self-help book on increasing your influence, prestige, and ability to get things done
Patreon – a platform for creators to make money, run their creative businesses, and connect with their fans
Startup – a podcast about what it’s really like to get a business off the ground
What the Health – a documentary about food, disease, health, and the healthcare industry