Food, Frugality

5 Ways Vegetarianism Can Save You Money

For about 5 months earlier this year, I made a decision to switch to an all-vegetarian diet. There were about five or six reasons for my decision, with health and well-being at the top of the list.

In order to connect with today’s post, you need to have some degree of agreement that avoiding meat is good for your health. In addition to the anecdotal evidence I hear from others and my own experience with a vegetarian diet, there are some well-researched studies that support this view.

In any case, I wanted to explore an idea that has popped up more and more in recent years, perhaps because of the economic climate we’re in – that a vegetarian diet can actually save you money!

Here is a list of five ways that vegetarianism (and a good diet, in general) really can save you money, starting with the most obvious:

1. Lower “protein” costs - Traditionally speaking, this is the tried-and-true argument for cost savings that every vegetarian uses. The argument is that meat is one of the most expensive ingredients you can use, pound for pound. By eliminating it from your diet and replacing it with lower-cost ingredients, the theory goes that we save money. Think about it…rice, vegetables, fruits, beans…none of this stuff is terribly expensive. Meat? $4.99/lb. for a crappy cut, $10 and up if you want the good stuff.

There are also some less thought about monetary benefits to vegetarianism, such as:

2. Lower health care costs – Having better health translates into lower costs of health care (makes sense, right?). If you agree that a vegetarian diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid all sorts of fun diseases, it makes sense that you’re not going to spend as much on going to the doctor (or the hospital). Same goes for preventative care, but that’s a whole other discussion.

3. Lower health maintenance costs – While doctor’s visits are a direct cost that’s easily conceptualized and measured, consider some of the costs and efforts we go through to simply maintain health. Vegetarians are known to eat, on average, about 500 calories less than our meat-eating companions. That translates roughly to about 45 minutes of vigorous exercise. Wouldn’t you rather cancel your gym membership, take your family for a walk, and not worry about how you’re going to burn off lunch?

4. Higher energy level – An increased sense of energy experienced by many vegetarians can lead to increased productivity and accomplishments. Higher performance at work leads to better pay, more energy at home leads to better relationships and less stress. You get the better end of the stick in all respects, and it affects every other area of your life.

5. Life insurance, anyone? I don’t know about you, but when I last looked into life insurance options, I was bombarded with a series of questions about weight, health, habits, and told I’d need to see a doctor for a check-up. I’m pretty sure that a more stable weight and better “numbers” – cholesterol and all that good stuff, will help me get a better premium. And that’s hard money saved.

I’m not here to convince you. Vegetarianism is an intensely personal choice that’s not easy to make (or to maintain!). But at least get your (expletive deleted) together and start eating right. You might reap the benefits of many of these five items anyway.

Bon apetit!

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25 thoughts on “5 Ways Vegetarianism Can Save You Money

  1. Pingback: Personal Finance Buzz

  2. I respect your choice there, and although I’ve been unsuccessful in my own attempts I wish you the best. I just love a good piece of meat every now and again. Also to quote a bumper sticker I recently saw: “If God didn’t want us to eat animals then why’d He make them out of meat.”

    • Wojciech Kulicki says:

      Gotta admit, that’s really funny.

      I did it for 3 months once, and eventually gave into a burger at Ruby Tuesdays. Trying it out for a year this time around. We’ll see how it goes.

      • Wojciech Kulicki says:

        Wow…Kuru sounds incredibly un-apetizing, particularly the “shaking of the limbs.”

      • Shannon says:

        I wasn’t trying to make a sound argument, but using the same logic to refute the previous unsound quote. Remember the phrase from Meet the Parents, “I have nipples, Greg. Can you milk me?” No, you can’t. Just another way of illustration the same point. And no, I am not about to eat anyone. I’ve been a strict vegetarian for over 10 years and I hope Wojciech is enjoying my cooking during his lovely experiment :) And my postings to his blog!

      • Wojciech Kulicki says:

        Uh-oh, how did I get involved in this argument? :) And yes, I have been enjoying your cooking. Shannon is a particularly skilled chef of all things veggie.

        For fear of continuing this argument over a bumper sticker endlessly, I vote we stop here. And talk about money…and how to save more of it. Heh.

        Okay then…moving on.

      • I was trying to point out that you weren’t using the same logic, you were simply creating a Straw Man argument. But I will respect Wojciech’s wishes and say no more – I’m always up for friendly debate though, especially on the issue of debate itself, so if you’d like to continue the discussion, there’s a contact form on my website and we can take this to email. :)

      • Stephanie PTY says:

        Stephanie,

        Canibals wouldn’t get Kuru if they just cooked human flesh properly. Imagine all of the diseases humans would contract if they ate cow muscles, tendons, veins, nerves and fatty tissue (aka “meat”) the way natural carnivores did.

        Just a thought…

  3. Great post! I too am a vegetarian and have definitely seen the cost saving benefits of this lifestyle! However, I have wasted my share of money trying out different soy imitation meat products to find out which ones actually carry a similar taste… I’ve definitely thrown out a lot. It’s all trial and error though once you get it down.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says:

      I admit going through the same experiences. I’ll also admit that there are some added costs of vegetarianism – for example, in order to make sure I get the proper nutrients, I purchase whey protein products and multi-vitamins. But many of these “added costs” are products we really should be using anyway – going vegetarian just forces me to be more conscious about what I eat and take care of my body.

  4. Yolander Prinzel says:

    It is true that better weight and health will help keep life insurance costs down, but it would be incorrect to assume that vegetarianism guarantees these things. For one, you can eat ice cream and french fries all day and be a vegetarian. Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean that you will make the right choices in diet and doesn’t mean you can’t be overweight and unhealthy. Also, there is more to heart health than just cholesterol. As a vegetarian who consumes many carbs for protein (think beans and soy) you may find you have high triglycerides, which can also cause heart attacks. Also, overweight vegetarians who eat carbs and sugars and find themselves overweight can easily get diabetes mellitus. So, unfortunately, there is just no easy answer.

    I think the vegan lifestyle would offer a little bit better shot at good health…although sugar is vegan, so maybe not.

    By the way, this is not knocking vegetarianism at all–just pointing out that good health is a choice and a discipline no matter what.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says:

      I think you have all valid points, and of course in the end your personal diet is your own choice. I also have known vegetarians that gained a lot of weight because of the calorie-rich foods they replaced meat with.

      I think it’s important to note that the research that I have come across is of course based on averages and won’t apply to everyone. But averages do work in your favor. Vegetarians are said to be less likely to be overweight and have certain diseases. Doctors use “more likely” all the time to scare us about potential health problems, so I think it’s fair to go the other way, too. :)

      As for the vegan lifestyle – curiously enough, things I’ve read suggest that veganism may be going too far – the lack of important nutrients will counteract the potential benefits of cutting things out of your diet.

      In the end, it’s also about who you want to believe and how you apply it in your own life. Like you say, nothing is guaranteed.

    • You’re right…. because veggies consume less calories with the elimination of meat, there’s an easy tendency to make up for those calories elsewhere…. which makes sense and is fine – just make sure you’re making up those calories with healthy foods – not excess pasta and donuts or chips all the time!

  5. Wojciech Kulicki says:

    An individual on Reddit posted a comment in response to my arguments presented here saying, in essence, that abstaining from meat is not a good enough reason to give up high-intensity exercise, and that it’s ridiculous that the result would be more energy.

    I’d like to clarify my points of view for the benefit of everyone.

    My point regarding lower health maintenance costs is not meant to discourage you from exercising. I believe that gyms are a huge waste of financial resources in the first place, and you can find better and more enjoyable alternatives elsewhere. I was also making the point that a good percentage of gym-goers attend to burning off calories, not high-intensity exercise (although that may be the means). Without the extra calories to worry about, you can actually focus on EXERCISE instead of weight loss.

    As for the argument against more energy – in my own personal experience, I have found an ENORMOUS boost in energy after dropping meat. Granted, a lot of it is due to my better diet and vitamin intake, which is unrelated to dropping meat, but this healthy mindset is caused by my vegetarianism. But I also find that I eat less filling foods on a vegetarian diet, and this prevents the usual afternoon crashes that would kill my productivity in the past. As for exercise, my point didn’t really take that into consideration – my own level of exercise is about the same as it was before. The food is what made the difference.

  6. Yes! I’m a vegetarian too, and I’ve saved tons of money because of it. Mostly that’s because I save on the cost of meat; I don’t think I necessarily am any healthier than before. However, I do eat more vegetables now than I used to.

    Someone above mentioned soy-based meat alternatives; I steer away from them altogether. For one thing, eating those is not going to help you get over the taste of meat, which is important. For another, they’re usually heavily-processed foods that are overpriced and filled with mysterious ingredients–so why bother? I’d rather have a grilled portobello mushroom or a black bean patty than a “vegetarian burger” out of a box.

    • Wojciech Kulicki says:

      Not a bad point. I guess processed food is processed food, no matter what it “stands for,” a vegetarian diet in this case.

      I pretty much steer away from these products as well, although I will buy a box of burgers when everyone else is grilling out, because frankly – I like to ‘fit in’ with the theme of the party. But that’s about the only time…

      Curiously, I am more creative in my cooking now than I ever was before I became a vegetarian. That’s contrary to the popular view that a veggie diet will “constrain you” in some way. I have found the opposite is true – you learn to make the simplest of things a lot more interesting, and try a ton of new ingredients you never knew existed.

  7. Add me to the vegetarian list (though I’m not a vegan – what some people are calling “strict vegetarian” these days it seems – though I want to be). One thing that’s too bad, though, as I’ve found…. a vegetarian diet in itself doesn’t automatically lead to nice weight loss:( – you also need to eliminate all the other junk food, too:). I’ve been vegetarian about 10+ or so years now, too…. congrats on making a successful switch!

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  9. Almost a vegetarian;) says:

    I cut back to two, sometimes three meat meals a week tops. The rest is all veg and some eggs. Usually I have one beef or lamb meal and one fish. Stopped eating pork all together, it’s just gross anyways. Cut way back on gluten and refined sugar. Have much more energy and I look and feel better than I ever did. Fit as a fiddle. Plus I save a ton at the grocery store. What’s not to like.

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