When I was about 7 years old, I spent an afternoon at my local county fair’s petting zoo, cuddling baby goats and lambs. Then, I spent the car ride home putting together that the pepperoni on my pizza came from pigs not unlike the fuzzy pink piglet that sat on my lap at the fair. When my mother called me to the table that evening, I refused to eat the meat she’d cooked for dinner. So began my nearly 20-year stint as a vegetarian.
In my late 20s, I started to get curious about meat again. I realized that my original reasons for eating meat didn’t resonate with me anymore. So, I began incorporating meat back into my diet.
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However, with so much time spent as a vegetarian, I found myself continuing to gravitate toward dishes composed mostly of vegetables, legumes, dairy, soy, eggs and grains — and thinking of meat as an occasional treat. There were two reasons for this: habit (my tastes skewed veggie most of the time), but also, when I added meat and fish back into my diet, my grocery and restaurant bills were noticeably higher. Animal protein is just more expensive than its plant-based counterpart.
More on Cutting Out Meat: How I Eat Vegan on a Budget
Now in my mid-30s, when cooking for my family, I stick to a general rule: Monday through Friday, we cook vegetarian meals at home. On the weekends, all bets are off. There are, of course, exceptions (birthdays, anniversaries, a particularly good deal on chicken thighs at my local grocer), but for the most part, we abide by this simple rule.
We’ve found that this approach leads to our eating more vegetables (sometimes new ones we haven’t had before), and helps us to view meat as a treat (so when we do splurge on it, we do it right). Plus, since locally sourced meat and fish tend to run $5-$10 per serving, we’re saving around $75/week on our grocery bill, just by implementing this simple approach.
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Want to give weekday vegetarianism a try? Here are a few tools to get started:
– Check out great mostly-vegetarian blogs for ideas, like Kale and Caramel, 101 Cookbooks, Cookie and Kate, and Oh She Glows.
– Hit your bulk section and stock up on cheap vegetarian pantry items, like beans, rice and quinoa.
– Sign up for a budget-friendly produce box. I currently love the one from Imperfect Produce.
Hopefully, these tips will lead you to semi-vegetarian, budget-preserving bliss. Remember, even if you don’t make all of your weekday meals vegetarian (or even cook them all at home, for that matter), switching your steaks and ribs for tofu and lentils just a couple times a week can have a major impact on your overall grocery bill.
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