Eating less meat to save the pennies

pressure cooker soup

One thing I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while is my experience as a vegetarian and how you can save money if you don’t eat meat.

I didn’t eat meat for about four and a half years (I started eating fish again very occasionally about three years in) and I have to say that I loved being a vegetarian. People used to ask me if I ever missed eating meat and I really didn’t – which is quite surprising considering I used to be such a carnivore beforehand.

I stopped eating meat partly because I wanted some new culinary challenges (I’d never really cooked meat as an adult) and partly because Dave was changing from shift work to 9-5 and I wanted us to be able to share the same meals (he’s actually really good and likes veggie food, but needs meat 2-3 times a week or he starts to moan). Counterintuitively, it saved us money too because I do lots of money saving tricks like stretching meat in meals and making stock from bones. If Dave had to cook his own meat meals, he’d probably end up buying expensive and unhealthy processed rubbish fairly often.

sweetcorn fritters

However, for most people they’ll find they save money if they cut down or give up on their meat consumption – if they bear a few simple rules in mind.

Beans and lentils are the cheapest vegetarian protein sources, and you should make the most of them. Nuts are expensive, but you only use a small amount at a time, so they can be surprisingly cost-effective (peanuts are the very cheapest and good for stirfries) and the same goes for tofu. Cheeses, especially fancy ones like halloumi, are probably the most expensive (and least healthy) way to get your protein fix, so use them sparingly. It can actually be more expensive to use a fancy than the equivalent amount of meat would have been!

Of course, all the normal tips for saving money apply to a vegetarian diet – avoid wasting food, try meal planning and try shifting down a brand when shopping.

So if you’re a new veggie and want some cheap and tasty recipes, where’s the best place to look?

tarka dal 3

Even though I’m not a vegetarian anymore, I still love vegetarian food and only eat meat a couple of times a week, so there are plenty of vegetarian recipes here on the blog, and I’ve listed a few below:

Vegetable fajitas
Mushroom & lentil lasagne
Vegetarian chilli
Sweetcorn fritters
Roasted vegetable arrabiata
Mushroom stroganoff
Tarka dal

You could also check out the Vegetarian Society’s recipes as a starting point.

So what’s your favourite vegetarian meal? What are your thoughts on eating less meat to save money – or is there no chance of you doing that?

P.S. you’ll see I don’t talk about ‘fake meat’ like Quorn, Beanfeast etc- that’s just because I try to avoid processed food and so don’t eat it myself. But if you like it, it can be a good way of getting cheap protein into your meals.  I guess the best thing to do with Quorn and veggie sausages and the like is to try and get it on offer, just like meat, but I don’t have any tips apart from that.

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