Toni Okamoto – Author of Plant-Based on a Budget: Quick and Easy

“Must-buy ingredients for a week’s worth of affordable and delicious meals”

  1. Bouillon cubes: I exclusively use richly flavored bouillon cubes when I cook, and I mostly do a 2:1 ratio of cups of water to bouillon cubes. It’s a staple you can use to make all kinds of soups, and you can even replace oil with broth (or water!) when sauteing vegetables.  
  2. Beans: Beans are a great, cheap way to add protein to any meal. I love black beans in particular, and use them in everything from my Simple Black Bean Chili and Stuffed Sweet Potatoes to Southwestern Lettuce Wraps and Sheet Pan Nachos. Dried beans are extremely cheap though they take a little more time to prepare, and canned beans are still cheap (generally 99 cents per can) but more convenient if you’re strapped for time.
  3. Onions: They’re cheap and they pack a flavor punch! They’re particularly helpful for a base in soups or stews, but they’re also a useful ingredient to mix up the flavor of pantry staples like black beans. Even when you’re on a budget you want to enjoy your food, and onions will go a long way toward that. 
  4. Canned Chopped Tomatoes or Sauce: You can always sub in fresh tomatoes, but canned tomatoes are such a time-saver that I always have them in my pantry. They also won’t go to waste on your counter, which is always a waste of money that breaks my heart!

3 recipes under $3 per serving

-Chili corn bread casserole – uses the chili (p. 118)

-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes – uses the chili (p.112)

-Simple Black Bean Chili


Serves 6 | Ready in 30 minutes

This Black Bean Chili is a versatile, comforting, and nutrient-packed meal that you can get on the table in under 30 minutes. I love how filling and customizable it is. Plus, it’s easy to prepare and delicious to eat. Win-win-win!


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 small yellow or red onion, diced
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with their juices
  • 1 (15.25-ounce) can corn kernels, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2–1 teaspoon salt

Optional additions and swaps:

  • Swap the oil for 1/4 cup water or vegetable broth
  • Swap the black beans for any beans you like
  • Swap the canned corn for 11/2 cups frozen corn
  • If you like it spicy, add 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, red chili flakes, or minced jalapeño in step 2
  • For more flavor, add 1 teaspoon each garlic powder and onion powder in step 2
  • Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro
  • Top with sliced avocado
  • Top with minced onion
  • Add a squeeze of lime juice when serving


  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and sauté until the veggies are tender and the onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add the beans, tomatoes and their juices, corn, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Stir to combine and let the mixture come to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Toni’s tips:

>>Beans and pressure cookers are a match made in culinary heaven. Simply toss everything into the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes, then use a quick release. 

When completely cooled, this chili can be stored in one or more airtight containers and frozen for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then heat it on the stovetop or in a microwave.