Recently a friend and I were discussing the rising cost of food. Particularly healthy foods. We both agreed you could spend a king’s ransom to eat healthy for yourself and your family each week compared to buying cheap fast food or pre-packaged junk food.
My friend’s option: People don’t eat well because they just can’t afford it.
Of course, my friend is neither plant-based nor vegan and her shopping list included items like coffee, chicken, eggs, juice, and deli meat. All items that are set to continue going up in price due to a variety of reasons. So for her, a fellow savvy saver, eating well is always a question of economy.
So, why you may ask, are meat and dairy products skyrocketing in cost? For a myriad of reasons including global supply problems, global warming issues including droughts in Brazil and California, diseases on U.S. pig farms, and concerns internationally about workers rights and fair trade efficacy.
While many of us have been hit harder than ever lately with increased grocery store sticker shock, those of you who are still meat eaters will be the hardest hit.
So what’s a savvy-saver to do? Go plant-based.
Naturally, I used our conversation (with permission) to post a series of prompts and posts on my various social media channels. Including Vegan ideas for saving money at the grocery store.
And of course, I was met with replies like- “I don’t want to give up the flavor,” “My husband would never do it,” “I already buy ethical meats,” or “I need protein daily.” Comments I have grown very used to as a plant-based savings blogger.
To that end, I felt my overall point was being lost in translation. I was posting information not as a social criticism but as a means of commiserating with rising food costs and an alternative view to grocery budget savings at home.
Because according to the USDA, the average American will eat 222.2 pounds (100.8 kilos) of red meat and poultry this year. Couple this with the average price per pound for beef being upwards of $4.00 per pound in the states, this will set back the average American nearly $900.00 in meat costs per person, per year.
With higher costs and lesser quality meats and dairies typically offered in food desserts alone.
A large sum of money considering the number one reason most people say they cannot buy healthy foods is that they cannot afford to do so. When cutting back on high ticket food items, such as the before mentioned, could more than make up the funds needed to eat healthier than the Standard American Diet each day.
In fact, when my family and I first started our debt-free journey eight years ago. Meatless Mondays were a set staple in our weekly meal plans. They helped us save over $700.00 our first savings year alone. So I speak from my own personal experience.
Keep in mind, I’m also a total foodie. Particularly food history. Specifically, American culinary traditions. I love nothing more than a gastronomic-rich view of meals of yesteryear. But I’m also a student of finance.
I know that foods, like electronics, will always burst your budget if you opt to only buy the latest and trendiest items. Including newer versions of foods like bacon, steak, milk, cheese, and eggs. Foods that have always had a history of being expensive. Always have and always will.
Afterall, it wasn’t until after World War II that most of the western world ate meat and dairy on a regular basis.
With sayings like Sunday Chicken Dinners, Easter Ham, and Christmas Roast, set as public reminders as to the precarious relationship between food costs and budgetary needs. Because those foods were pricey, they were purchased sporadically. Meats, in particular, were holiday investments in our familial cultural food heritage and not everyday food staples.
It wasn’t until the television advertising era of the 1950’s that meat and dairy products became seen as common. Food everyone must have on weeknight dinner tables if they were to keep up with the Joneses.
In 1953 the invention of oven-heated tv dinner trays by C.A. Swanson & Sons, lead consumers to change their food consumption beliefs. With weeknight turkey dinners replacing Sunday meals.
During this era that weeknight dinners stopped being held around tables. Americans were trained to believe in the necessitation of daily consumption of meats and dairy consumption at home.
Farm-fresh meats, dairy, and produce staples were replaced with quick, processed, knock-offs of American culinary classics. Food that became served to us via trays consumed in front of the tube or shoved into our cars via bags and boxes at our favorite fast-food establishments.
Meals stopped being comprised of everyday moments and memories. No longer did we thank farmers for our nourishment and veterans for peaceable meals spent at home.
And whenever I hear people ask what happened to the nuclear family in America, I always say: Check your dinner plate.
It was also during this time, that meat production costs skyrocketed and continue to this day. Expenses that total upwards of 1/3 of the average consumer’s food budget in North America. Coupled with the price point of organic meat and dairy products costing upwards of $8.00 per pound. Costs that many families simply cannot afford.
Which is why I vehemently believe that for most people, going without meat and dairy products for 1-2 meals for a month can save you considerable dollars each month on your total grocery bill.
Not because of animal efficacy or because of your health, but because of your budget. You will be surprised at how much money you will save.
In an effort to help you along, here are my favorite tips for saving money by going plant-based at home:
Buy in bulk:
Getting familiar with the bulk food section at your grocery store can save you tons of money each season. There you will find staples and pantry items like rice, beans, oatmeal, lentils, and nutritional yeast at significant savings. What makes this so much better? You’re not paying for the packaging, you’re getting better quality food, you can see exactly what your buying, and doing a solid for the Earth too!
Bulk items, like beans and rice, can help you transform everyday meals like red beans and rice to new levels by substituting meats and oil for better quality beans, rice, and exotic spices. Consider making these meals ahead of time to save time too. Because what pot meal doesn’t taste better the second time around!
Then with the money, you’ll save on meats and dairy, reinvest some of those funds back into a good set of countertop canister or a vintage set of mason jars. Then, in-store, fill these bad boys up. And if your favorite store doesn’t have a bulk section? Try Wal-Mart. While Walley-World may not have a bulk section but they do have insanely cheap 5 lbs bags of everyday staples like rice, quinoa, lentils, and beans.
Remember, when it comes to plant-based eating, not every meal has to be an organic or gourmet. Not every item needs to be purchased from Whole Foods. You can find many ingredients to making easy, healthy meals at local grocery chains and larger chains such as Wal-Mart. All for a fraction of the price of fancy organic markets.
Including items such as frozen veggies, canned tomatoes, beans, bags of rice, and spices. Not to mention the produce section where you can find organic potatoes, onions, garlic, and a variety of fresh fruit at much lower price points.
Speaking of produce, remember this phrase: Poorganics. That’s right. Buy produce based on your current budget. If you can only afford healthily, bagged apples and not organic singles. Buy those. Maintain your budget. You’re aiming to buy real food that’s you know, not processed! As plant-based shopping helps you buy better, cheaper produce and create cheaper, healthier meals!
Simplify your meals:
Maybe it’s me, but many of my meals now are all cooked in a single pot. Boil some pasta, add a bag of frozen veggies, and throw in some sauce. Dinner is served. And if I’m using my Instapot, it’s even quicker. For me, plant-based dinner helps me eat better in a fraction of the time.
The best part? Nearly any family favorite can easily be adapted to be served over rice or noodles and the meat substituted for mushrooms, zucchini, butternut squash, lentils, or tofu. The possibilities are endless.
Seriously, you need Instapot dinners. They will change your life!
Grow your green thumb:
I don’t know about your neck of the woods – but here in the deep south plants grow pretty easily. And growing your own food is one of the best ways to save money on food cost in the warmer parts of the year.
Considering that a packet of seeds is inexpensive, topsoil and compost are both affordable, and raised beds can be created from heat-treated palettes. The costs of produce production will always be cheaper compared to how much commonly consumed produce is priced in-stores. Including lettuce, peas, and tomatoes.
Root veggies such as potatoes and sweet potatoes can even be grown from the sprouts of produce you may already have on hand. A little wire mesh turned into a cage with shredded fall leaves and dirt, and voila, you have a tower of taters!
Growing your own produce will also help you commune with the Earth. Its a great way to save money and grow your green thumb too! Cultivate your inner farmer!
Learn to love cooking again:
Cooking, the 4 letter word no one wants to hear. But if you really want to save money you are going to have to learn to cook. And love doing so.
Maybe you slept through home economics or no one taught you. It doesn’t matter. Just start.
Pinterest is your friend. As are your neighbors, co-workers, and online friends. Everyone loves to share family recipes and cooking tips. Just ask!
Those are my 5 tips for why and how plant-based eating can help you save money at home. While I recognize that this dietary choice may not be for everyone, I do hope you would give it a try for a few weeks and see if it could help you save at home too.
Now, do you have your own tips or saving at the store on healthy foods? I would love to hear them. Be sure and comment below and let’s show those non-believers that we can eat healthily inexpensively too in 2018!