What would you do with an extra $15 a week? Get a manicure? Save up for some concert tickets? Pick up a new book, hint hint?
If you’re already eating meat free, you might want to go ahead and splurge. You’re saving money, it seems, by preferring plants.
Vegetarians spend at least $750 less per year on food, according to new research published in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. In the study, scientists looked at government-recommended weekly meal plans that contained meat and calculated how much they would cost to prepare. Then they did the math on comparable vegetarian meal plans that used more expensive ingredients like olive oil. Still, the omnivorous plan cost $14.36 per week more each week than the plant-powered one.
Added bonus: The researchers also found that the vegetarian diet included 25 more servings of vegetables, 14 more servings of whole grains, and eight more servings of fruit per week compared with the omnivorous diet. So chances are (as long as you go for a varied, balanced veg diet and not a Twinkie-based one) you’ll also be eating healthier—which in the long run will save you money in the form of fewer sick days at work and lower healthcare costs.
Now, you may be thinking, “this is crazy talk. Vegetarian food is expensive.” And when some people make the shift to a vegetarian diet, it is—because of the foods they're choosing. But it needn't be. Here's the one important rule to remember to help keep your grocery bills down.
PROCESSED = PRICEY
You see, the more manmade and processed your plant-based foods, the more expensive they’re going to get. But that goes for any type of food. Vegetarian foods are not inherently costly. Let’s do some comparison shopping.
Less-processed vegetarian foods:
Eden Organic chickpeas, 1 15 ounce can = $2.39
Smucker’s natural peanut butter, 15 ounces = $3.29
Birdseye frozen edamame, 10 ounces = $2.59
Avocado, 1 = $1.25
Organic bananas = .69/pound
Goya dried black beans, 16 ounces = $1.39
Earthly Choice organic quinoa, 16 ounces = $4.99
More-processed vegetarian foods:
Sabra organic hummus, 8 ounces = $3.49
Tofurky sausage, 14 ounces = $5.49
Dr. Praeger’s veggie burgers, 4 = $4.99
Tofutti better than cream cheese, 8 ounces = $3.39
Morningstar Farms Veggie Chick’n Nuggets, 10.4 ounces = $4.99
Gardein meatless meatballs, 12.7 ounces = $4.49
Amy’s organic vegetable lasagna frozen dinner = $4.29
As you can see, if you stick with foods like beans, nuts, whole fruits and veggies, you’re going to be saving. Focus on foods like vegetarian deli meats and burgers, and things get a lot more expensive.
Added bonus: In general, less processed foods are healthier because you know what you’re getting—no sneak attacks from stealth ingredients like salt (hello, crazy sodium levels!) and added sugar (found in everything from tomato sauce to cereal to whole wheat bread). And you can have a ton of fun learning how to turn an inexpensive haul of less processed ingredients into delicious, good-for-you, and low cost veggie burgers, meatless meatballs, and more.
Has going veg increased or decreased your grocery bills? And if it’s upped your costs, what can you try to bring them back down?