Over the years, we’ve heard a lot about trying to eat healthier, and eating veggies and fruit is often touted as one surefire way to do that. But let’s be honest here. Living in the good old U.S.A, eating meat is the primary way that we dine and that starts when you are just a child. Perhaps you remember the old commercials…“Beef, it’s what’s for dinner”. Hamburgers and hot dogs are our go-to foods and red meat is our primary preferred way to dine. At least that has been my observation over the last 70 years.
But these days, during high inflation, vegetarianism is growing particularly among non-whites, and there may be some good reasons for everyone to at least consider it. One of those reasons is this: becoming a vegetarian can actually save you money!
How Many Vegetarians Are There in the U.S.?
The numbers of Americans who are vegetarians is not a big number, particularly among older whites. That’s fairly obvious when you take a good look at it.
According to a Gallup Poll from back in 2018, non-white Americans (9%) are three times as likely as white Americans (3%) to describe themselves as vegetarian. Younger Americans are more likely than older ones to follow a plant-based diet.
People Make the Vegetarian Switch for Different Reasons
There are lots of reasons to try eating a vegetarian diet. Some people just don’t want to harm animals, while others simply want to live a healthier lifestyle that we’d all like to have.
It can be cultural tradition, that people are raised that way or just a taste preference. Some feel that eating this way puts less strain on the environment. There are simply lots of good reasons.
But when we consider how hard the past couple of years have been financially and the ridiculous rise in the cost of food (particularly meat prices) there now appears to be another good reason to switch: saving money.
Is It More Expensive to Eat Vegetarian?
Becoming a vegetarian is often thought to be an expensive lifestyle choice, but that is a common misconception. Not only are vegetarians often healthier, but their wallets are healthier and happier too. That sounds pretty good about now, doesn’t it?
The quick answer to the above question is that vegetarians save money because they simply don’t eat meat, the most expensive component of the American diet.
What Is a Vegetarian Anyway?
There are two kinds of vegetarians I am most familiar with, the first of which is the vegan diet. Those are the ones who do not eat any animal products whatsoever. No eggs, no dairy, no fish oils. Vegans will also refrain from eating things like honey, gelatin, collagen, and even white sugar, as well as using animal products in other parts of their lives, such as wearing leather.
Then there are the true vegetarians, defined officially as people who do not eat meat, but may be flexible in terms of eating eggs, milk, cheese, and other products that may be derived from animals. There are actually eight different kinds of vegetarians that vary in their eating habits.
The bottom line is that there is room to customize your choices here.
The Cost of Eating Meat in 2022
The average American consumes a lot of meat, around 144 pounds each year. You already know that for months and months, during the pandemic, the cost of all kinds of groceries—especially meats—has been going up. The price of beef, pork, and chicken are at all-time highs.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increased 11.9%, with the index for beef rising 20.1% and the index for pork rising 14.1%, its largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1990.
Can you just imagine saving more that 10% each time you shop for groceries just by cutting back on or eliminating meat? It is easy to see that cutting back on or eliminating meats from your diet will greatly impact your food budget. But will you be able to do it?
Fear of Change
The thing that most people fear about becoming a vegetarian (in any form) is that they won’t get enough sustenance on such a diet. But that isn’t true.
A common grocery list for a vegetarian consists of things like beans, rice, almond mill oats, and an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. But you don’t always have to spend tons of money on the most expensive produce items.
Most importantly, fresh fruits and veggies vary in price from week to week, so smart shopping can apply here easily. And the best part is that they are full of essential nutrients that you need.
And if you’re still reluctant to make the switch, just try to incorporate more plant-based dishes into your diet, while still eating meat for some meals. You may be surprised at how easy it is.
The Best Ways to Save
The best way to save money on a vegetarian diet is to buy produce and veggies that are in season. In season means abundance, and abundance lowers prices.
Another way to save money is to use all of the food you buy at the grocery store. Don’t let that produce go to waste!
Americans in particular waste tons and tons of fresh food, so buy only what you need and use all of it. An easy way to do this is to meal prep in advance for the week. Vegetarian meals will keep fresh longer!
Another option is to get a CSA farm share (community supported agriculture). You purchase a share from a farmer and receive a box of seasonal produce each week during the farming season.
Planning and executing a vegetarian diet will cut your food bill now and allow you to manage inflation too as well as your health.
Just consider how you can control your food costs better with an adjustment like trying out vegetarianism.
Assuming a couple consumes a pound of meat combined per meal and eats meat just five days a week and then made the switch to the same amount of beans or some other low cost vegetable, grain, or legume as a substitute, they could potentially save several thousand dollars a year. But here’s an even more tempting way to think.
Just making that switch away from meat to a vegetarian meal plan just three or four times a week would save you money, perhaps $1,500 or more a year. And even better, you can be a “cheap” vegetarian. Buy on sale and try new things that cost less!
Making this change when you live with others is a big decision, so it’s something you need to talk about before any changes are made. This is a joint decision. It’s very difficult, even impossible, when one person wants to eat vegetarian or vegan and the other prefers a meat diet.
Since food is such a big part of a healthy relationship, try to win them over by working in a just one or two meals a week to start.
For someone in a financial pinch, perhaps it is a strong enough reason in itself to switch. When you add in all of the other benefits, it seems like a great choice for someone trying to save money.
Have you considered becoming a vegetarian? What are you afraid of and can you at least attempt to try it and save money too? Can this change work for you?