Plant-Based Made Easy


Plant-Based Made Easy

Plant-Based Made Easy


Toni Okamoto is the founder of Plant-Based on a Budget, the popular website and meal plan that shows you how to save dough by eating veggies.

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Toni Okamoto (04:37):

I am very excited to chat with you today as well.

Ella Magers, MSW (04:41):

Okay. I’m going to start us off with kind of an icebreaker question that I have for you because yeah, I know that you love ramen.

Toni Okamoto (04:49):

Oh, yes,

Ella Magers, MSW (04:50):

Yes. But I have a question about eating ramen because every time I go to eat ramen, I mean drips and pieces are spilling and flying in there all over my face, and I feel like it’s the worst date night food ever, as delicious as it is. Is there any tricks to eating ramen without causing a complete havoc and a mess everywhere?

Toni Okamoto (05:13):

Okay. There are two parts to this question. As you and your listeners may know. I am part Japanese and I also have something that is called misophonia where I really dislike hearing people eat. I know it’s so out of my control. My poor husband, my poor family, I’m like, can you please stop chewing so loudly? Can you please close your mouth? My dad and I love to eat ramen together, and my dad, who is Japanese, believes that the louder and the slur beer and the messier that you’re eating your ramen is a sign of respect to the chef. And so he’s like all of the slurp noises and it’s like splashing me in the face, and meanwhile I’m like,


Ah, ok. So that’s how my dad eats ramen, and that’s how a lot of people think is that you are supposed to make those slurp noises and it is a sign of respect, but my approach is to take the big spoon that they give you, the soup spoon, and then to take my chopsticks and rule the noodles in there. So it’s a nice little ball, kind of like some people eat their pasta and then take that, put it in my mouth, and also drink a little bit of the ramen broth at the same time, and it’s not messy and it’s not slurping anybody in the face.

Ella Magers, MSW (06:34):

Got it. Well, okay, so it seems like you have to either change your mindset around it or get really good at this technique that you were just talking about, so this is good to know. Yeah, this is good to know. Okay, so a less fun one, but I would love to just know before we dive in, what holistic health or holistic wellness means to you.

Toni Okamoto (06:56):

It means thinking about my whole life and not just one aspect of health. So I try to get good sleep. I try not to stress so much. I try to eat well. I try to avoid anything that is going to put me in danger. And so I think about my whole life and how I want it to improve in fitness and wellness and being as stress-free as possible.

Ella Magers, MSW (07:23):

Got it. Stress is huge, and we’re going to dive into that a little more today. So there’s so many things I want to discuss with you, Tony. I know you’ve got your new book out. We’re definitely going to get to that. I’d love for you to share, Connie, your story. I know you’ve probably shared it a million times at this point, but for our listeners, and I’d like to kind of think about this in terms of the theme of evolution and specifically evolution of your relationships. And I’m talking about your relationships with money, with food, with purpose, your career, so kind of keeping that in mind as we go through your story, the evolution of your relationships, if that makes sense.

Toni Okamoto (08:02):

Oh, I really appreciate that, and I love that because all of those things that you mentioned have evolved over time and the commonality of all of them is that the transition was very slow and very gradual, and I showed myself a lot of patience and grace and was very far from perfect with all of those things that you mentioned. And so we’ll start from my food journey. I grew up in a blended household and there were two parts of my upbringing, the part where I lived with my grandparents as a little kid because my dad was in the Navy, so I would stay with my grandparents and they were retired. My grandpa was part of the Japanese farming community, and my grandma who is Mexican would cook all of the delicious food that my grandpa grew, and that’s really the foundation of my eating, especially at that time.


Then my dad came home from the Navy and we were living the bachelor life together. It’s interesting to reflect upon it because my dad has made every choice in his whole life for me and later for my brother, who’s nine years younger than I am, but I got to live with my dad and he was very, very extremely busy with work. So we relied on things that were quick and that did not cost a lot of money. That includes box, mac and cheese, tab ramen, hamburger helper and things like that. And so that became my way of eating, and it wasn’t until I was about 16 years old where I was running track and also eating a lot of processed food and fast food because there was a Taco Bell right across the street from my campus, and my coach suggested that I stop eating so much, and it took me by surprise because I had never thought about how the food I ate impacted my health. I always thought about it as something that tasted yummy and that provided me with sustenance, but not how it fueled me. And so that was really the genesis of it all, and it’s been, like I said, very slow and gradual since then.

Ella Magers, MSW (10:23):

Now, how was that for you emotionally? I know we’re talking about food here, but in terms of changing over to from your grandparents and having a certain lifestyle too, then having these changes with your father, including the food piece, did you think about it much? Was that difficult for you? Where were you in that

Toni Okamoto (10:43):

Regard? I was so young that all that really mattered to me at the time were my connections with my family. I felt so loved by both my grandparents who nourished me the way they knew how, and then with my dad who nourished me the way he knew how. And so I think as a kid, you don’t really see the bigger picture, you just know how you feel, and I felt so taken care of by both families.

Ella Magers, MSW (11:08):

Great. Got it. Okay, so then your coach has you kind of this spark and you’re like, Hmm, let me start to think about food differently. That’s awesome that you were open to doing that at the time. What came next?

Toni Okamoto (11:24):

I started to feel better and that was simply eliminating red meat, but it was hard and as much processed food and as much fast food, but it was hard because my dad, who was at that time already remarried my family. They had a really hard time with accepting change, especially when they were providing me with the food and putting so much effort and thought into what was being served at dinnertime. And so for me to reject it or question, it was not taken so kindly, and it was like a growth experience for both of us. And it’s been 20 years since then and they have become fully supportive and there’s always something for me to eat there now. But at that time, it was a rough transition and not only because it’s inconvenient and hard for your family to learn something for someone else, for me, it wasn’t something that they took on.


But also the cultural aspect is really important to mention because in my culture, I’ll say Mexican culture, there is a lot of affection and celebration and the food sharing of it all is very special. And that’s a lot of other cultures as well, not just Mexican culture. And to reject someone’s food can be a sign of disrespect, and I never wanted that. So I did my best and I still do my best. And that’s what I promote with plant-based on a budget is continuing to choose plant-based every meal. And if you accidentally are on purpose, make a mistake the next meal, choose plant-based again. And it’s not an all or nothing picture, especially when you’re faced with so many obstacles. I was at that time.

Ella Magers, MSW (13:15):

I love your attitude there, and I’ve heard you talk about this before as one of your kind of superpowers that you haven’t said it like that, but just being really compassionate also towards people and patience and helping people be compassionate towards themselves. I think that’s so powerful and so helpful.

Toni Okamoto (13:32):

Thank you. And it also sets you up for long-term success. I know that if I had beaten myself up too harshly for some of the decisions I made, especially in my earlier years, it may not look the same. My trajectory may have taken me elsewhere, and I am glad, and also I’m glad to be here. And also it doesn’t do any good to beat yourself up. It only harms you. So if you can be graceful and also graceful with your family, it takes you far.

Ella Magers, MSW (14:06):

Do you attribute your ability to have that patience with yourself to your family? Because so many people grow up really having a hard time having that compassion for themselves.

Toni Okamoto (14:17):

I have had so many people touch my life throughout it. I have a big giant family, and I had my grandparents, I had my dad and his wife and my mom and my siblings, and so many people have touched me. And I think little bits and pieces live within me and my grandpa who was very patient and stoic and thoughtful. I think I take the most after him. I tend to be really even tempered and to not let things really, really take hold of me, and I’m human, it does happen. But my dad on the other hand is more passionate and we were literally just talking this moments ago about how he’s a little bit on the dramatic side. And so I think I take after my grandpa in that because everyone else around me is really passionate.

Ella Magers, MSW (15:16):

Got it. You’ve got some passion in there too.

Toni Okamoto (15:19):

Oh, thank you.

Ella Magers, MSW (15:20):

Okay. So far the dietary changes you made in your story, it was more for performance for, because your coach talked about, it wasn’t so much about where that food came from. At what point did that come into the picture when you were thinking about the food and the animals that it was?

Toni Okamoto (15:37):

I left my parents’ house right after high school, and I tried my best to be vegetarian, but I didn’t know what vegetarian really meant at the time. I knew it wasn’t eating meat, but I didn’t consider chicken broth or picking pepperonis off of my pizza. I knew I didn’t want to consume meat. But the idea, the concept of vegetarianism didn’t really fully register. And it wasn’t until I took an intro to ethics class at my community college where one third of the course was animal ethics that I learned about the treatment of animals. And furthermore, my professor gave us extra credit to go to the veg club on campus. And so I went to the veg club, I made friends, and we did things together as a community, like visit farmed animal sanctuaries. And having that experience with peers who have similar obstacles in life as you lack of money, lack of time, lack of resources, like cooking equipment and still want to be vegan, was very cool and inspiring and made me feel like, well, if all these other people are doing it, I could do it too. Not that I should do it, I could do it. And it was that that moved me forward and led me down a path of really super caring about animals and the environment.

Ella Magers, MSW (17:07):

First of all, how freaking cool is it that a third of your ethics class was on animals? That does not happen very often.

Toni Okamoto (17:15):

Yes, she herself wasn’t an ethical vegan. And in retrospect, it makes so much sense that you would talk about ethics or animals within an ethics course. It’s just so fitting and I learned so much, and it was so inspiring. I’m here so many years later thinking about how impactful she was.

Ella Magers, MSW (17:35):

That’s amazing. Do you remember her who

Toni Okamoto (17:37):

She Oh, yeah. I still am in touch with her. Oh my gosh. Her name is Elizabeth Forrester.

Ella Magers, MSW (17:42):

Amazing. Oh, I just love hearing about that because yeah, it’s not in many curriculums, so that’s fabulous. Okay, thank you. So then, if I know correctly, you actually were working at a sanctuary after that. Yeah. And I’ve heard you talk about a story with a cow that Oh yeah. Can you share that? Because I just think it’s just pretty amazing.

Toni Okamoto (18:03):

I’m going to have a barking dog soon because I mentioned to Ella earlier that as soon as we hit record on any podcast, it could be night, day, morning, the u p s person will come, but I will start my story. Yay. So I worked at an animal sanctuary in my early twenties, and I was going through a really rough time in life financially. I was in a rough relationship that didn’t leave me feeling kindly about myself and about other people. And it just made me feel distrust, and it made me feel an immense amount of sadness. And when you’re in that space and it just feels like the weight of the world is on you, it can feel really lonely. And one of the things that I really vividly remember about my time at Animal Sanctuary was we rescued a little calf. He was rescued from a big storm.


There was a storm and he had escaped from a farm. And at the beef farm, he lost his mother. He lost his whole family. He was found by a highway patrol who brought him to the sanctuary. And there he was totally distrustful. He was super scared. He was a little baby. He had to be bottle-fed though. But we all gave him his space. And one very cool thing about working at a sanctuary is that you can spend all of your time with the animals when you’re on break. And I would go to his pen and sit on one side of the fence and he would sit on the other side of the fence, on the same side, but just at opposite ends. And we would just chill together. And I would go there every single day and we began to have a bond, and we’d get closer and closer and closer until one day he laid his head on my lap and I ate lunch, and he slept on me like a cat would or a dog would. And learning to trust again and seeing that experience from another species perspective was so beautiful and inspiring, and it really helped me move forward in the things that I was dealing with in my own life. So I’m really grateful for that experience. I have a picture of it. I had a cell phone with me, so I took a little selfie and I can look back at that and remember what it felt like in that moment and how much I’ve grown because of it.

Ella Magers, MSW (20:32):

I literally have chills all over my body because that’s just so powerful. And I think about how much we learn from animals. I think most people have that experience with a pet, or especially if you rescue your animals. And I know for me with 16 year old rescue Chihuahua, her body’s breaking down, but her spirit is so high. So when I have aches and pains and that sort of thing, I think about just learning from her and having her be a teacher. So I just love that idea. That’s

Toni Okamoto (21:01):


Ella Magers, MSW (21:02):

Sweet, right, of animals.

Toni Okamoto (21:04):

I totally understand that having someone in your home, especially who is a different species, to teach you different things that you don’t see, or having unconditional love and not having a hidden agenda or anything, it just shows you this different kind of very pure love.

Ella Magers, MSW (21:22):

Yeah, exactly. Now, kind of switching gears to purpose for a moment, at this point, having gone to the community college and worked at the sanctuary, did you feel like you knew what you were on earth for or what you wanted to do? Where were you in that?

Toni Okamoto (21:38):

I knew I wanted to help animals. I knew that I was on a path. I’ve had the privilege of working full-time in the vegan space my whole adult life, and that’s as far as I knew. I thought I would stay in the nonprofit sector. And around the time that I started working at the Animal Sanctuary, I also started plant-based on a budget. And I’ve now been running plant-based on a budget for 11 years. So I thought I would be working in the nonprofit sector my whole career. But I got off in 2016, I was working at a vegan advocacy organization and I got laid off and I started interviewing with several other organizations. But the interviewing process is so long, it can sometimes take months. And meanwhile, I was focusing full-time on plant based on a budget, figuring out how I could make any money in general, because I was very, very, very much negative money at that time. But I had a friend who had recently started doing her blog and said that it was really meaningful and impactful, and she was helping a lot of people and was no longer limited because working for an animal organization or any organization company, you all the time have to do what is their vision. And so she was explaining it to me and she said, I really think you can do it. So I decided to go for it and have been doing it since 2016.

Ella Magers, MSW (23:07):

So when you first decided to start plant-based on a budget, I’m wondering what your kind of vision was if you had really clear ideas about it, if it was just started because it was something that you were interested in and how it evolved from there.

Toni Okamoto (23:21):

Well, I had been doing animal advocacy for quite some time, and something that I had heard so often was that it is too expensive to be vegan. And I was also facing some serious issues within my own family. My family had all kinds of diet related health issues including type two diabetes with amputations and heart disease with heart attacks. And my grandpa who helped raise me died of complications within a triple bypass surgery. And it was just really awful. And something that I kept saying was, I’m eating on a budget, and I think you can too, but it’s so easy to say it. And not having anything that will help with the practical application of the concept is going to prevent people from even trying it. So that’s how everything got started. And I started focusing first with my family’s recipes, but then I had a bunch of friends helping me put recipes from their families, and that was 11 years ago now.

Ella Magers, MSW (24:24):

So Cool. And did you kind of just educate yourself on the nutrition piece of it and work that into it? And I know it seems to me like what you do is not only great for the budget, but it’s great for time and efficiency. I love your efficiency methods because I want to spend as little time in the kitchen as I possibly can. So I love what you do.

Toni Okamoto (24:46):

Thank you. I have tried a lot of different things with learning how to cook. I had no experience to begin with, but my initial entry into cooking was with my friends. My friends and I would get together and make recipes from cookbooks that I had checked out at the library, and we would do an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. And the way I broke it up was that you would buy some ingredients, I would buy some ingredients and the other person would buy some ingredients. And we were only spending about $5 per person for this big giant meal. And it allowed me the creativity and the freedom to start playing with my food because we were on a tight budget. I couldn’t always buy this ingredient that costs $5 alone, and it forced me to start using what I had on hand or buying the cheaper version and seeing how it tastes.


And that’s actually how I develop my recipes now. I always do a very basic recipe, and you’ll see this within the plant based on a budget quick and easy cookbook. You’ll see the basic recipe and then you’ll see optional additions. So if you have these things on hand or maybe you want to swap something out, these are some swaps that I recommend. Or if I know that something is a little bit on the more expensive side, like an avocado, I’ll throw that in the optional additions in case you have some extra money. Then I have these blank lines and it says my tips. And I want the reader to write in whatever they appreciate in a, we’ll say whatever toppings that their family likes on tacos or whatever they did to the recipe to make their kids want to eat it. So I want people to have that fun and freedom to play with their food and to make it something they want to add into their rotations.

Ella Magers, MSW (26:46):

It’s such an empowering way to approach this whole thing the way you do it, and with your meal planning and all of that, it really not just telling people what to do, but showing them the tools of how to do it themselves and creating it kind of a system and a lifestyle out of it. So I hats off to you for really putting that out there in that way. Thank you. I think Thank you. That’s you just phenomenal. At what point did this turn from kind of a hustle? I mean, try to get this going to, holy shit, I’ve got a legit business. Was it what the health that really changed things or

Toni Okamoto (27:22):

That was the beginning, that was the, I can do this, but I would say I’ve done, this did not happen until the last couple years where I was able to bring on a team and think beyond myself and think beyond what I’m doing right now and into the future. But what the health feature in 2017? So I had been doing it for about a year. My meal plans were featured and it was such a very short segment. It was less than two minutes where I’m featured, but I showed people it was possible, and you can see everybody while we’re at the grocery store buying one week’s worth of food for, I think Kip spent 20 bucks, everybody’s face, even the cashier, everyone was like, how did you do this? And there’s so much food. So it showed people that it could be done. And from there I got a lot of interest from people who had watched the documentary and started focusing more on those meal plans. And that was the, okay, I think I’m good. I think we can move forward with this. And I also think it’s not something that can only get me by right now, but it’s something that I can grow into in the future.

Ella Magers, MSW (28:39):

If I said, Tony, what is your purpose on earth? How would you describe

Toni Okamoto (28:44):

It right now or then?

Ella Magers, MSW (28:45):


Toni Okamoto (28:46):

Right now? Oh, it is to help people eat more plant-based meals.

Ella Magers, MSW (28:51):

And so as your own budget has shifted, how has your own habits shifted in your own cooking? Or have they

Toni Okamoto (28:59):

Definitely. I rely on so many quick fixes now that I didn’t before. I was all about cooking from scratch because I had at that time, more time than money. And so with my first cookbook plant based on a budget, you’ll see that I’m showing you how to make your own pizza crust. I’m showing you how to make your own cooked beans from dried beans and everything was done from scratch. And now if I were doing those things, I’d go buy the $2 29 cent pre-made dough from Trader Joe’s instead of making it from scratch. And then I’d go probably buy some cans of beans that are $1 and 25 cents for 15 ounces instead of a dollar 54 a pound of dried beans that will triple in size. So I have the flexibility and the privilege to make those decisions because I have more money and I can, although I’m still very extremely budget conscious, I can make those decisions on what I want to compromise in that moment, in that meal. And it’s done on a weekly basis dependent on my flexibility and schedule.

Ella Magers, MSW (30:06):

So that’s the main difference between the first book and this last book is that the first one is for people that have more time than money, would you say that

Toni Okamoto (30:16):

It’s a great tool to have if you are on a tight budget or if you are newer to cooking and you want to get the basics down? In plant-based eating, I show a lot of my favorite very basic recipes. And with this new cookbook, you’ll find a lot of things like sheep pan or casserole or one pan or things like mix in match polls. It’s putting in effort right now that’s going to stretch beyond the time that you’re cooking in that moment, in that meal and take you to the end of the week or even lunch tomorrow for you and your family.

Ella Magers, MSW (30:56):

Got it. Okay. Now back to the holistic health piece, but there other things that you do now to take care of yourself that you prioritize at this point, besides the nutrition piece, to get yourself in to be the best version of yourself.

Toni Okamoto (31:12):

I try to eliminate stress. I hang out with fewer people. I spend time outside. I have become a very avid gardener. I love being outside in the garden. It helps me soak up the sun. It helps me have a stronger relationship with my food and it inspires me to try new things. I always throw in something that I’ve never had when I’m growing so that I can give it a try. And so that’s one thing that I do for self-care, but also with the fewer friends that I do have, I try to really strengthen my friendships and support systems beyond within my household. So yes, I try to hang out with my husband more, but also with my parents more and with my friends more because I have experienced when life gets in the way and you neglect your friends, it’s harder to call upon them when you’re in real suffering if something dramatic happens.


But if your friends have an understanding of what’s going on, at most times it’s so easy for them to just come in quickly and support you and give you the love and care that you need. That’s not always the case because there are people who you just have that shared history with and they can come from not seeing you for two years and just be there and sit with you. But I have found that maintaining my friendships has made me a much, much happier and allows me an outlet so I can share my work troubles or my stresses and have really smart, loving, caring, compassionate people help me navigate through life.

Ella Magers, MSW (32:54):

What about your podcast? Can you talk a little bit about when that started and your friendship there with Michelle?

Toni Okamoto (33:00):

Sure. I have a podcast called the Plant Powered People Podcast, and it started initially because I wanted to have people who faced obstacles that Michelle and I didn’t face share how they overcame those obstacles. Both of us are married to people who are vegan and we can’t really relate to someone who has someone who’s a big naysayer within their home to veganism. And so to have someone come on and share how they’re able to navigate that trying experience is so helpful because it’s something that is very extremely common. Or maybe your kids aren’t on board and they give you a really hard time, or maybe you work at a restaurant that serves meat or there’s just so many challenges that were faced with on an ongoing basis and it’s nice to have support. And what’s so cool about it is that when I was first becoming vegan, way back when I had to go in person and meet at Ave Club, but now there are so many online forums and resources like yours and Instagram accounts, TikTok accounts, YouTube accounts where you can find your people who are the most relatable. Maybe they have the same culture or the same family set up or live in a similar area, maybe they go to a similar type of church or work in the same place. You can find your people and they can help you continue being motivated to eat more plant-based meals. And I think it’s so awesome.

Ella Magers, MSW (34:43):

It is, and that’s exactly why I created the 99 Thrive Community, and I know there’s so many others out there, but I just love how aligned your message is with being compassionate and kind and non-judgmental to other people on their journeys and helping meet people where they are and taking those next steps that’s so important, so what it’s all about. So yeah, thank you for doing what you do.

Toni Okamoto (35:09):

Thank you.

Ella Magers, MSW (35:10):

Yeah, it’s revolutionary. It really is. I would love to ask you just four kind of lightning round questions if you’re okay with that.

Toni Okamoto (35:20):

I am ready. Let’s go.

Ella Magers, MSW (35:22):

We were talking about before we started recording being introverts, and I think one of the things about introverts, I don’t know about you. For me, when somebody says lightning round, I’m like, Ooh, it’s not my strong point because I want to internalize. I want to think about it before I say it. Extrovert. So yeah, give it to me. That’s how I talk anyway. I just blurred it out anyway, so best you can. What do you think is the most versatile plant food on the planet? Ooh,

Toni Okamoto (35:50):

Beans. I am a big fan of beans. That’s my answer for everything. I’m sure for the next three questions, it’s going to be beans though, but you can do so much with them. You can throw them in your pasta, you can do a soup, you can do a chili, you can make a wrap, a burrito. There’s so many different things you can do with beans. They’re so affordable, they’re healthy for you. They have helped people live very long lives. If you look at the communities that who are living the longest beans. So I’m going to go, oh

Ella Magers, MSW (36:19):

Yeah. And actually Dan Butner, speaking of longevity in the blue zones, he just moved to Miami, so he’s like right down the street from me now. So we’re supposed to go have lunch and wonderful. Yeah, we’re in Japan. By the way. Is your family from?

Toni Okamoto (36:32):

My family is from California, but my grandpa. Okay. So my grandpa who was Japanese, he was disowned for marrying someone who was not Japanese. She’s Mexican, and so I don’t really have a strong cultural tie to my Japanese side except my grandpa and living with him and appreciating the foods that he cooked. But outside of that, I don’t have a strong connection.

Ella Magers, MSW (37:03):

Got it. And aside from getting broths spewed all over you from his eating. Yes, yes.

Toni Okamoto (37:08):

We love being Japanese and my grandpa was very proud of his Japanese heritage, but I also have some negative feelings there too, just because of how my grandpa lost his family because of who he chose to love.

Ella Magers, MSW (37:21):

I can understand that. Well, I’m a be aholic, so I’m with you with the beans. Oh my gosh. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What’s your happy place?

Toni Okamoto (37:29):

I love our sunny time here in Northern California. It’s very long. It’s like April to November where you can be outside in the sun. So I love to be outside in our backyard with my husband. He loves the Sunbath, my dog Eddie, he loves the Sunbath and I love to be in the garden and spending that quality time where we’re just listening to a podcast or listening to the birds chirp is really special.

Ella Magers, MSW (37:56):

I love that. Okay. This one’s a little tough, something that was painful at the time, but looking back, you’re grateful that it happened.

Toni Okamoto (38:05):

When I got laid off, it seemed like I had no idea how I was going to move past it. I was flailing and open water not knowing how to swim. It seemed really dramatic in my life, and I didn’t have savings that wasn’t prepared for it. I was already in so much debt, so much so that I couldn’t even open a credit card or get a loan or anything. So it was a huge deal. And now looking back, I can’t imagine doing anything other than what I do now, and I would never have made that leap if I wasn’t put in a position where I needed to figure out what I was doing because I couldn’t get a job, and it was like a survivalist mindset that kicked in where I just went for it.

Ella Magers, MSW (38:53):

Isn’t that the case so much of the time, right?

Toni Okamoto (38:56):

Yes, it is. So many stories. If you listen to entrepreneur, podcasts have been out of a place of fear, a place of scarcity, and you can do so much with that propelling you forward with that as a motivation to get out of it and to do better and to find a more stress-free option. Yeah.

Ella Magers, MSW (39:18):

Awesome. Okay. This one, you’re gifted a button. Okay. Like a button you can push. Okay. And you get to pick its function so that every time you push it, this action happens. And it can be literally anything. What does your button do? This

Toni Okamoto (39:36):

One’s the hardest one so far.

Ella Magers, MSW (39:38):

What’s the last one? So it has to be the hardest.

Toni Okamoto (39:40):

There are so many things. I feel like I’m a utilitarian, and so I always want there to be less suffering in the world, and that’s how I’ve made my choices. But because I personally have a strong hair and desire for helping animals, I think every time someone pushed the button, there would be a farmer saying, you know what? I’m going to stop farming today. I’m going to stop being part of animal agriculture and instead grow lettuce or radishes.

Ella Magers, MSW (40:14):

I love it. And would just be pushing that button all day long,

Toni Okamoto (40:18):

Push pictures, push. You’ll take a nap, and then I’ll Yes. Take my

Ella Magers, MSW (40:20):

Turn until the whole world. Yes. Great button. Awesome. I just want to read just one or two of the reviews from your book before we wrap up, because I mean, you’ve got mobi leaving reviews, you’ve got so many amazing reviews. Moby said, when I became a vegan in 1987, I was making $2,500 a year and spending $10 a week on food. And amazingly, I ate well. This book shows how easy it is to eat well and be a vegan without spending a ton of money. That was Moby. We’ve got, oh, I love what Kip Anderson says. He says, Tony Okamoto gives you the truth. What too many large charities are afraid to eating a plant-based diet can help save your life. She also shows you how it can save your finances too. That’s Kip Anderson, who is the co-creator of What the Health among many other amazing documentaries. You’ve got Michael Gregor. Yeah. It comes out March 14th, is that

Toni Okamoto (41:18):

Correct? March 7th.

Ella Magers, MSW (41:19):

March 7th. March 7th. Amazing. You’re

Toni Okamoto (41:22):

Not wrong though. We changed the date.

Ella Magers, MSW (41:23):

Okay. I did my research. Good. Awesome. Awesome. So I guess we’re going to wrap it up. Is there anything else you wanted to mention? Where can people find you and get the book?

Toni Okamoto (41:33):

You can find me at Plant based on a budget.com. My book can be Found at Plant based on a budget cookbook.com, and I am across social media at Plant based on a budget. Ella, thank you so much for having me. Thank you for all the good work that you do in the world. It has been a real pleasure for me to chat with you today. It’s been

Speaker 3 (41:52):

My pleasure. We will put all those lengths of course, in the show notes, and thank

Toni Okamoto (41:56):

You again to it. Thank you.


“It doesn’t do any good to beat yourself up. It only harms you. So you can be graceful and also graceful with your family. It takes you far. – Toni Okamoto” 

I can hardly wait for you to get to know today’s incredibly humble guest Toni Okamoto… To hear her inspiring story of resilience, determination, and compassion, and to discover how she built a brand that has made waves across the globe. It feels like such a privilege for me to share with you Toni’s beautiful spirit and the wisdom that has helped countless people become empowered to create a healthy lifestyle by eating plants, no matter how limited you are when it comes to time or money… OR if you’re like me and just don’t have the desire to spend time in the kitchen cooking! 

In this fascinating interview, Toni Okamoto, founder of Plant-Based on a Budget, shares her journey filled with evolving relationships, in particular her relationships with food, money, and purpose. 

Toni was  raised in a blended household, and her upbringing with her grandparents and later with her dad, left her exposed to a variety of different cultures and different ways of eating. After her high school coach suggested she stopped eating so much processed food and fast food, she began to understand how food affected her health and athletic performance. Despite facing obstacles with her family and culture, she was determined to make dietary changes to improve her life. 

She was greatly influenced by her ethics professor in college, and through her experiences at an animal sanctuary and was inspired to start her own blog, Plant Based on a Budget. Her blog and meal plans were featured in 2017 in the movie ‘What The Health’, showing people it was possible to make dietary changes and to be successful, and her business took off from there. Toni teaches valuable, actionable methods for eating healthfully, even with limited resources (time and/or money).

Official Bio:
Toni Okamoto is the founder of Plant-Based on a Budget, the popular website and meal plan that shows you how to save dough by eating veggies. She’s also the author of the Plant-Based on a Budget Cookbook, and the co-host of The Plant-Powered People Podcast. Okamoto’s work has been profiled by NPR, NBC News, Parade Magazine, and she’s a regular presence on local and national morning shows across the country, where she teaches viewers how to break their meat habit without breaking their budget. She was also featured in the popular documentary What the Health. When she’s not cooking up a plant-based storm, she’s spending time with her husband and their rescued dog in Sacramento, CA.



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