When people hear that I’m a vegetarian, they immediately assume that they couldn’t do it or offer some reason why vegetarianism isn’t for them. The truth is, even if you only adopt a vegetarian diet a few days a week, the health and financial benefits can be huge. It’s possible to save a ton of money by eating a vegetarian diet!
Use Lentils in Place of Meat
This is one of my favorite tips. Everyone assumes that our diets are low in protein because we don’t eat meat. There are lots of ways to get loads of protein in a vegetarian diet! Lentils are one of my favorites. I make lentil chili, lentil tacos, lentil sloppy joes… the list goes on and on. Just about anywhere you can use meat, you can substitute lentils for a healthy and frugal option.
Consider this. A pound of ground beef or turkey can run $3 or $4 per pound. If you opt for grass-fed or organic options, the cost is even higher. Now consider the price of lentils. I pay $1 per pound of lentils at my local Aldi, and because they plump up when cooked, I actually only use half a pound for most recipes.
That’s a huge savings!
Even if you only replace lentils for ground meat in one meal per week, you can absolutely save a ton of money (and cholesterol) by making such a simple change on a regular basis.
Use Beans and Pasta for Filling Meals
I know many, many people who feel a meal isn’t complete without meat. I promise there are many nights after dinner when we are stuffed to the brim and can’t fit one more bite.
To get the filling meal that we used to enjoy as meat-eaters, we incorporate beans and pastas into our dishes. Rice, couscous, and quinoa are more great options. Whatever you’re serving, serve it over rice for a cheap, filling, well-rounded meal. If you’re making a soup or stew, add a can or two of your favorite beans. Toss a handful of pasta in too.
Beans, rice, and pastas are all so cheap, (we’re talking cents per serving!), and all readily available at your local grocery store. Pick them up on sale and you can save even more!
We actually bought a huge bulk bag of rice that I’m convinced we’ll never use up. Compare prices. Where can you get the best deal on these food staples that can help make your meal more filling and complete?
Buy In-Season Fruits and Veggies
…and add them to everything! Soups, stews, stir-fries, in place of pastas… Fresh vegetables are so versatile and oh-so-good for you!
When buying vegetables, always check to see what’s in season near you and stock up. Zucchini is always so plentiful when it’s in season and you can do so much with it. You can even make pasta out of zucchini for a low-carb/healthy carb meal.
If you have extra veggies, freeze them! If you’d rather use them up while they’re still fresh, add them to a pot with some water and vegetable bouillon, a handful of pasta, and you’re sure to have an award winning soup.
Look For Great Vegetable Deals and Stock Up!
Throughout the year, you can find great deals on vegetables (and fruits!) and that’s the time to stock up. Don’t underestimate the variety of dishes you can make with vegetables if you get creative.
If you find a great deal on tomatoes, buy a lot at the lower price and make all of the pasta and pizza sauces you’ll need throughout the year. You can also make salsas or simply can the tomatoes diced or whole to use in recipes.
Zucchini can often be had for really cheap prices, but in my experience – they don’t freeze very well. A good solution is to bust out your cheese grater and make shredded zucchini to use in zucchini bread recipes.
I’ve even seen zucchini brownie recipes! Get creative to use these low-cost options in your home.
Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables When Not in Season
When vegetables and fruits (especially fruits) aren’t in season, you either can’t get them at your grocery store at all, or they’re prohibitively expensive.
In these instances, opt of the frozen option!
These items are picked at their peak of freshness and flash frozen. You aren’t missing any nutrients, the only thing missing is the high price tag!
Great uses for frozen fruits are for use in smoothies and desserts or even toppings for waffles, pancakes, or crepes.
Frozen veggies are great in soups, casseroles, chilis, really any recipe that calls for meat or vegetables. We make vegetarian pot pie really often in our home, and frozen vegetables are a great option!
Grow Your Own!
The absolute cheapest way to get a ton of vegetables for a rock bottom price is to grow your own! You can read the cheapest way to start your own seeds here.
Even if you don’t have a green thumb (I DEFINITELY do not!), you can pick up “starts” – vegetable plants that have already been started for you and are less vulnerable to dying at the hand of an experienced gardener – like me! Most veggie plants are pretty forgiving though, so it’s definitely worth a try to grow some at home.
We picked up 3 varieties of peppers for only $1.50 for 3 plants at our local farmers market the other day. These plants will give us tons of fresh peppers that we can use in recipes and put up for use when winter comes again.
Don’t underestimate how many vegetables you can get from just a few plants! A couple tomato plants and zucchini plants will keep your family fed for the whole summer!
Use Ibotta and Coupons!
Use Ibotta, Checkout 51, the Walmart app, the list goes on and on – in order to save money on your grocery bill when you’re trying to go meat free.
My favorite app is Ibotta because you can complete a simple task and get a few cents, even over a dollar, off of purchases that you were already making anyway. You just download the app on your phone, do a simple task to unlock a rebate (like watch a short video), then validate your purchase by scanning the barcode and taking a picture of your receipt when you’re done shopping. You can then use your savings for gift cards or even have the cash deposited right into your Paypal account. All for making purchases you were going to make anyway!
There aren’t often coupons for fruits and veggies, but occasionally, you can get a free banana or other small perk.
You CAN use coupons to get great deals on canned goods and jarred sauces, so take advantage!
The goal here is to save money, do great things for the planet (not to mention make a lot of animals VERY grateful!), and serve healthier foods to your family. Take advantage of every possible resource in order to make that happen!
Whether you decide to use lentils or beans in place of meats, or just omit meat completely from a few of your meals, I challenge each of you to make more vegetarian choices and watch the amazing things it will do for your wallet. In so many recipes, you don’t even miss the meat! – Take it from a former carnivore/beef addict. If I can do it, so can you!
Does your family follow a vegetarian diet or perhaps participate in Meat-Free Mondays? What tips do you have for using a vegetarian lifestyle to save money? Let me know in the comments!