Saving Money on Vegetarian Meals

Just about 4 years ago, I decided to become a vegetarian. I did it after reading a few books and having the vivid imagery stick with me.  My imagination started to get the best of me and before I knew it, meat was literally off the table. It’s been good not only for my health but for my family’s budget as well.

There’s a reason that when people are trying to cut back on their grocery budget they opt to have meatless meals each week. Meat is expensive. But vegetarian meals, if not planned properly, don’t actually save money. In fact, they can cost even more! Here are a few tips to keep your meatless meals inexpensive and budget friendly:

  • Refrain from convenience foods. Boca burgers, Amy’s frozen and prepared meals, and numerous other brands provide a nice meat-free alternative that still tastes…well, like meat. They’re a nice way to transition to a meat free diet (kind of like nonalcoholic beer) but they are expensive. If you base your meals around these types of foods, you’re not benefiting your budget at all. Incorporating one or two every few weeks isn’t a huge budget buster but  do not make these a staple.
  • Stock up on beans. They’re a great source of protein and are quite versatile. At my supermarket, organic beans go on sale every few months or so and I go to town stocking up. When they’re on sale, they’re the same price as the regular store brand beans and since I stock up, I save money over the next few months.  I prefer to use organic beans because they are not packaged with sugar. While I could save even more money by using dried beans, I cannot cook them properly at all. It’s actually a waste of money for me to buy them.
  • Pay attention to recipes and ingredients. One of my biggest problems with many vegetarian meals is the expensive spices and herbs that are required. On numerous occasions, I’ve been drawn to recipes only to toss them aside due to some ingredient like saffron that’s going to cost more than the rest of the ingredients combined (last price check on saffron? $18 for 2 threads. Outrageous).  By carefully reading the recipes, you’ll be able to figure out which ones are practical and money saving and which ones are just too costly.
  • Eat in season produce. This obviously applies to non-vegetarian meals as well. But when you’re trying to incorporate vegetarian meals into your weekly meal plan, it’s even more important that you follow this rule. Vegetarian meals are typically heavier on fruits and vegetables and to use out of season produce is sure to be a budget killer. And if you live in a food desert or have trouble affording fresh produce, frozen vegetables are a suitable substitute.
  • Be open minded. Many people can’t imagine a meal without meat. I know because I’m married to one of those people. But when I decided that I couldn’t eat meat anymore, my husband and I had a long talk about it. We established one rule “If it tastes good, we’ll eat it”. As a result, we’ve had many, many meals that neither of us ever thought we’d enjoy (and not one of them involved tofu. Because tofu? Is disgusting). Being open to trying new recipes and foods has allowed us the ability to expand our recipe index and our palettes. It’s also saved our budget on more than one occasion.

I concede that a vegetarian diet isn’t for everyone. And that’s fine. But it certainly is a good way to shave a few dollars off of your grocery budget.

How do you save money on your grocery budget?

About Jana

7 Responses to “Saving Money on Vegetarian Meals”

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  1. In our family, two key practices in saving grocery expense I think are 1) the same person does the shopping, mainly, and 2) the cook (me) does the shopping, mainly. A regular shopper will quickly learn when an item is truly at a good price. As we all know, sometimes items even ‘on sale’ are routinely cheaper in another store. With the cook doing the shopping, I think we end up with less waste. I know what I need and when I need it.

    • Jana says:

      That’s definitely an interesting tactic. I primarily do the shopping but that’s mainly because my husband loves supermarkets (and food) way too much. Our budget takes a backseat when he goes. However, when he does go, I give him a very, very specific list. That does seem to help.

  2. Brad Chaffee says:

    Great article Jana! I agree, meat is EXPENSIVE and TOFU IS DISGUSTING! LOL I currently eat lean meats but I’m not against vegetarian dishes. I have found a few that are really quite good. The medicinal benefits of vegetables cannot be ignored. Although I doubt I’ll be giving up yummy chicken, salmon, cod, pork, or steak (all lean of course) any time soon, my wife and I have been sure to preparing vegetarian meals (more often) a regular thing. Oh and I freaking LOVE beans! I love making 16 bean soup with Cajun spices filled with loads of veggies. So good!

    • Jana says:

      OMG, tofu is vile. I can’t stomach it unless it’s prepared by one specific restaurant (and they fry it. Which makes it not healthy and totally defeats the purpose). Until I became a vegetarian, I didn’t realize how versatile beans really are. Now I can’t imagine going a day without eating them!

  3. Tofu is so definitely not disgusting. I use it in my smoothies every single day and you wouldn’t know it. I put it in my stir fries though and it fails miserably. I blamed the cook.

    As a gluten free vegan who tries to eat as much organic as possible, my grocery budget has sky rocketed recently BUT I’m learning some tricks. One thing I don’t really do is consider in season vegetables (although I am trying to find a way to incorporate Vidalia Onions into every single meal I make right now) but I do with fruit.

    My main problem and this goes for every type of diet…MEAL PLAN! It’s essential.

  4. Gina says:

    I only buy meat when it is on sale, chicken .69 lb for quarters, ground turkey 1.00 a pound. and fill up the freezer. I have no problem with meatless meals, some of ours..

    Beans and cornbread
    Grilled cheese
    Beans and cheese burritos, tacos
    Mushroom quesadillas
    Potatos and topping
    veggie pizzas

    Just made meatloaf for $3.50 from my frozen pork and turkey, delicious at 8 servings at $.43 a plate, through in a baked potato, and green salad and ya got a meal for under $6.00.

  5. KATE says:

    Tofu doesn’t need to be disgusting. If it is, blame the cook!! Like anything else, learning the proper techniques for using it goes a long way towards its palatability (if that’s a word).

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