Eating less meat can save you.
- The most recent CPI report showed that the cost of “food at home” increased by 12.4% between October 2021 and October 2022.
- A 2021 Oxford University study found that eating less meat could save money on food costs.
- Meatless meals abound, but avoid meat substitutes to maximize your savings.
When it comes to grocery spending, 2022 was indeed a year for the record books. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index Summary showed that the headline inflation rate in October 2022 was 7.7% compared to October 2021. In the same period, inflation was 12.4%. Oh
Fortunately, there are ways to save on your grocery costs. You can try several food waste apps that allow consumers to buy food that would otherwise be thrown away at a lower cost. You can refer to the helpful people on Reddit who have provided lots of money saving ideas. The best grocery credit cards will reward you with cash back or points on your grocery purchases. And if you’re a college student, you can even save by taking advantage of free campus meals when possible. But here’s a way to cut your grocery bill that you might not have seriously considered: eating less meat.
I’m not saying you should go vegan or vegetarian right away, but consider the fact that cutting out meat is better for your health, better for the planet, and better for your bank account.
Winning a wallet
A study from Oxford University last year (published The Lancet Planetary Health) examined dietary habits and their financial implications in the US, UK, Australia and Western Europe. Research has shown that a vegan diet (meaning no animal products at all) cuts food costs by up to a third. All-vegetarian diets resulted in cost savings of slightly less than that. But the study also found that those who ate a “flexible” diet (meaning less meat and dairy) would still save 14% on food costs. That 14% will exceed the 12.4% inflation of grocery products.
Maybe you’ve never thought to think about your traditional Western diet. How do you start cutting back on meat for your finances? I recommend being strategic.
Eating less meat isn’t as difficult as you might think. If you currently eat 21 meals a week (three a day) and 16 of them include meat, try cutting it down to 12 or 14. Chances are, you already eat a lot of plant-based foods without considering the cost savings. Foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, bean salad, grilled cheese and vegetable soup are all meatless and filling, and inexpensive. These are all great starting places for meatless meals, and if you love to cook, there’s a whole world waiting for you.
A quick search on Amazon.com turned up over 10,000 results for “vegetarian cookbooks” and a wide variety of genres and cuisines. The Internet is also waiting for you with open arms. my favorite recipe NYT Cooking, gave me 5,800 results in my search for vegetarian recipes. Don’t forget that you can also make many classic favorite recipes without meat. With chili beans. Spaghetti without meatballs or vegetable lasagna.
The best meatless proteins to grab and find recipes for include:
- Beans (and there are many delicious varieties, both canned and dried)
- Nuts and nut butters
- Soybeans (edamame) and tofu
Be careful. There is one potential pitfall you may encounter when trying to eat less meat and save money: meat substitutes.
Avoid meat substitutes
If you peruse the refrigerated or frozen ready-to-eat sections of your grocery store, you’ll likely come across products with names like “chick’n” or “soysage.” Check the fresh meat section and you may find the Impossible Meat Substitute (many fast food restaurants also offer burgers and other meat substitutes). These are good buys, right? Not so fast. Fake meat is often more expensive than the real meat it replaces.
Let’s say you want to make chili. For your protein source, you’re trying to decide between ground beef, a meat substitute, or beans. How do these prices stack up? I checked my local grocery store for some fairly simple protein options for the classic chili recipe.
Price per ounce
85% lean ground beef
Impossible ground meat
Goya Canned Red Beans
Data source: Price Chopper.
The obvious price winner is beans, but if you just can’t fathom chili without the meat, use a ratio of two parts beans to one part and you’ll still save. However, you’ll spend a lot more if you choose the meat substitute, as it costs almost double that of ground beef and more than six times that of beans. Shop smart and choose the meatless proteins listed in the previous section to save the most money.
Ready to cut your grocery bills? It’s a lot of people. Consider adding more meatless meals to your diet to save money and enjoy a wider variety of foods.
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