Eating less meat can save you.
Most important points
- The most recent CPI report showed that the cost of “eating at home” increased by 12.4% between October 2021 and October 2022.
- A 2021 University of Oxford study found that by eating less meat, you can save money on food costs.
- Meatless meals are plentiful, but to maximize your savings, avoid meat substitutes.
When it comes to grocery costs, 2022 has truly been a year for the record books. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ consumer price index summary showed that the overall inflation rate in October 2022 was 7.7% compared to October 2021. But for grocery costs (or “food at home,” as the CPI denotes it) inflation over the same period was 12.4%. Ouch.
Fortunately, there are ways to save money on your grocery costs. You could try out a few food waste apps that give consumers the chance to buy food that would otherwise be thrown away at a lower cost. You can check out the helpful folks over at Reddit, who have contributed a lot of money saving ideas. The best grocery credit cards reward you with cash or points for your shopping. And if you’re a student, you can even save by taking advantage of free on-campus food whenever possible. But here’s a way to lower your grocery bills that you may not have seriously considered: eat less meat.
I’m not saying you should go vegan or vegetarian right away, but keep in mind that cutting back on meat is better for your health, better for the planet and better for your bank account.
Won a purse
A study from the University of Oxford last year (published in The Lancet Planetary Health) delved into dietary habits in the US, UK, Australia and Western Europe and their financial implications. The study found that following a vegan diet (meaning no animal products at all) cut the food bill by as much as a third. All-vegetarian diets resulted in cost savings of slightly less than that. But the study also found that those who ate a “flexitarian” diet (meaning less meat and dairy) still ended up saving 14% on food costs. That 14% will beat the 12.4% inflation rate for supermarkets.
Maybe you’ve never thought about thinking outside the box when it comes to your traditional Western diet. How do you start reducing meat consumption for the benefit of your finances? I recommend being strategic.
It’s not that hard if you may fear eating less meat. If you currently eat 21 meals a week (three per day), and 16 of them contain meat, try cutting that down to 12 or 14. It’s likely that you’re already eating a lot of vegetarian meals without considering cost savings. Foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, bean salad, grilled cheese, and vegetable soup are all meatless and satisfying—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 yielded more than 10,000 results for “vegetarian cookbooks” and across a wide variety of genres and cuisines. The internet is also waiting for you with open arms. My Favorite Recipe Outlet, NYT cooking, gave me 5,800 results when searching for vegetarian recipes. Don’t forget that you can also make many classic favorite recipes without meat. Chili pepper with beans. Spaghetti without meatballs or vegetable lasagna.
The best meatless proteins to pick up and find recipes for are:
- Beans (and there are so many delicious varieties, both canned and dried)
- Nuts and nut butters
- Soybeans (edamame) and tofu
Look after! There’s one potential pitfall you may encounter in your quest to eat less meat and save money: meat substitutes.
Steer clear of meat substitutes
If you check the refrigerated or frozen food sections in your grocery store, you’ll likely see products with names like “chick’n” or “soy sauce.” Check out the fresh meat section and you might find “impossible” meat substitutes (many fast food restaurants also offer burgers and other dishes made from meat alternatives). These are a good buy, right? Not so fast. Fake meat is often more expensive than the actual meat it replaces.
Let’s say you want to make chili. For your protein source, try to choose between ground beef, meat substitute, or beans. How do those prices stack up? I checked my local supermarket for some fairly easy protein options for a classic chili recipe:
Price per ounce
85% lean ground beef
Impossible ground “meat”
Goya canned red beans
Data source: Price Chopper.
The clear prize winner is the kidney beans – but if you just can’t fathom chili without meat, consider using a ratio of two parts beans to one part meat, and you’ll still save. However, you will spend a lot more if you opt for the meat substitute, as the price is almost double that of the ground beef and more than six times that of the beans. Shop wisely and opt for the meatless proteins listed in the previous section to save the most money.
Ready to lower your grocery bills? Many people are. Consider adding more meatless meals to your diet to save money and enjoy a wider variety of foods.
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