All About Toni Okamoto Of PlantBasedOnABudget
Toni Okamoto has been creating content since high school and started blogging with LiveJournal. Her blog, Plant Based on a Budget, was launched in April 2012 and featured healthy, simple, and budget-friendly recipes.
Toni shares, “I started it [the website] because I didn’t see the need that I had filled, and that was to help people who were budget conscious and wanted to eat healthier actually make it happen. I looked to my own family for guidance. They had suffered from all kinds of diet-related health issues, like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, premature death, and amputations, and it was really awful and sad to watch.”
As a result of these painful experiences, Toni began compiling healthier, plant-based recipes and sharing them on her blog. Eventually, she diversified and launched into social media.
Today, Toni Okamoto is a successful full-time blogger and author. She lives in Sacramento with her spouse and their beautiful pitbull and enjoys swing dancing.
Starting Her Blog
Toni Okamoto never expected her blog and social media accounts to become a full-time career, but they did in 2016.
She notes, “It [my blog] was actually a form of activism. I felt like so many people felt sentenced to poor health because of their finances, and I did not like it. It broke my heart to think that people of a certain income level or lower felt like: All right, I guess I have to eat Top Ramen every day. I guess I have to eat boxed mac n’ cheese every day and then suffer the very severe consequences of those choices.”
In 2016, Toni was laid off and decided to monetize her platforms for the first time after interviewing for three months with little success. One of her friends had become a full-time food blogger in 2015, giving Toni some insight into monetization possibilities.
One of her first monetization opportunities was a first sponsored post about babies.
Toni Okamoto shares, “I don’t have a baby. I don’t want babies, and the first sponsored content I ever did was talking about baby bags. I was just trying to do anything I could to make it work for me. Now, I’m far more selective, but I have the privilege of being selective. At that time, I had no money, and I was in extreme debt.”
She adds that looking back, this was a risky move because her audience could have complained about baby bags being an irrelevant topic, which could have harmed her long-term credibility. Fortunately, it worked out, and many were sympathetic because they knew her financial situation.
Toni’s Marketing Strategy
Toni’s success was not instantaneous, and she’s sometimes struggled to rank well on Google. However, focusing on social media and building a solid following has been a significant part of her long-term growth.
“I try to push people back to my website so that they can sign up for my newsletter, become part of my community on a deeper level, and once they’re on the website, they have access to all of the other things. It’s so easy to scroll and scroll past [things], but if you can get them to your website, sign up for your newsletter, buy your cookbook or book, then they can get to know you more intimately.”
Toni Okamoto also has a podcast, which provides her audience with long-form content and more opportunities to get to know her and her message.
As with her blog, Toni’s Instagram also experienced slow but steady growth. She notes that her audience loves concise information, and she keeps things simple by putting her blog articles in her Instagram stories so her audience can go directly to the recipe.
One of her most viral posts features “cowboy caviar,” a bean salad featuring fresh, colorful, and cheap ingredients. To this day, Toni creates variations of this salad and notes that these posts bring her new followers every time. She estimates that, in total, she has gained 60,000 followers from her bean salad posts.
Toni’s biggest career highlight has been “building a platform and having people trust me with their family dinners, with their Christmas meals, with important information in their life when they needed advice… I feel so honored to be trusted, and I don’t take it lightly.”
Plant-Based on a Budget: Quick & Easy
Toni’s book Plant-Based on a Budget: Quick & Easy is coming out on March 7th, 2023.
“I wanted to create something for people who were not only on a budget but who were really busy. A lot of people have children. Some people work multiple jobs, and people are just out and about all the time. It’s hard to eat healthy when you’re busy.”
Her book is a comprehensive resource answering common questions about eating healthy on a budget. Toni also shares time-saving tips like how to cook using one pot, freeze meals, and batch cook.
Toni Okamoto shares, “It’s what I’m proud of the most. I’ve worked so hard on it for the past two years, and I can’t wait for people to get their hands on it.”
To help her book succeed, Toni has been working on the marketing campaign for her book over the last six to seven months. She has conducted as many interviews as possible about her book and traded favors with authors and creator friends to have them share her book’s launch.
Toni Okamoto adds, “I am working with a PR company. I’m also using my platform. I have emails in place. Email, for me, is really big as a creator, and then also [for] Instagram, I’ve created 14 reels. I batch created them so that throughout the campaign, as things get ramped up, I have everything ready to go out.”
Thoughts on the Creator Space & Collaboration
Toni Okamoto would love the creator space to be more open and collaborative.
“You feel like you are flailing out there all by yourself, trying to figure it out, and there’s not a lot of people sharing, being transparent about how much money they’re getting paid.”
She often feels that the creator space is more of a competition than a collaboration and would love to see more creators lift each other up.
Regarding brand collaborations, Toni is highly selective about who she chooses to work with.
Toni Okamoto’s favorite collaboration was with the grocery store, Sprouts. For this collab, she was invited to a retreat at their headquarters and learned about the store’s marketing strategy. She also spoke to their VPs and loved sharing Sprouts with her audience because of their many budget-friendly sales.
Another collaboration she loved was with Instacart, where she similarly spoke with business executives about the way they do business.
In closing, Toni shares, “I hope that anybody watching sticks with it. It can be hard. It can feel like you’re not moving the needle at all. At times, you can feel discouraged… Just know that at the end of the day, you can be proud of your work and what you produce.”