Tales of a Part-Time, Money-Saving Vegetarian

A 2015 study published by the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition suggested that incorporating vegetarian eating into your usual menu could save you almost $750.00. Flexitarian eating might not net you quite that much, but the combined budget and health benefits of including meatless meal planning add up to a change worth trying. You might not even notice the difference! Here are some easy adjustments with big potential pay-offs — see which ones slip into your regular routine.

Use meat as an accent, not an anchor

Animal protein tends to be expensive and, unless you're ready to fork over the cash for organic and pasture-raised, it is hard to know what else is in there — hormones, antibiotics, yikes. Paying more for a smaller amount of meat that is being used to flavor your food (rather than making up most of the plate) means that you're getting higher quality and, often, less fat.

Make up your protein with other sources

When combined, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, peas, and corn form complete proteins. Soy, hempseed, blue green algae, quinoa, nutritional yeast, and buckwheat are non-animal complete proteins and require no combining.

Lima beans, kale, broccoli rabe, spinach, and collard and mustard greens are also high in protein (and give a great opportunity to include some fresh stuff into your meal). If these are on sale at your grocery store, you can also take advantage of the low price and freeze any extras. Remember that little nutritional value is compromised by freezing!

Stretch your budget with eggs and cheese

Omelets are quick and easy comfort food dinners, hard-boiled eggs can liven up a salad (or you can just make deviled eggs and eat them all), and a souffle is an impressive entertaining option.

Be about that soup life

Stock made from the simmered bones of your meat source or your vegetable scraps and tomatoes usually make a great base for a broth-based soup and potatoes and squash will give you a thicker foundation. This can also be frozen and then reheated later for easy meals when you're really in need of something warm and nurturing, but don't feel like going to the effort of cooking. Some thawed soup and maybe a little bread is like comfort in a bowl.

A couple of last tips: fattier meat tends to be more flavorful, so you may need less of it to get the taste you want. Cooking it and draining some of the fat can keep your food from becoming greasy. Also, you may think you need to go load up your pantry with every possible vegetarian ingredient. No, you don't! Use the bulk food section of your grocery to try a small amount of a new food before you end up with a 3-lb. bag of something that you hate. You're not saving anything if you won't eat what you've bought—and end up ordering in pizza.