How we save on our grocery bill, but still eat fresh produce

We’ve already talked about our personal and environmental reason not to have biological children.

In this post, I want to elaborate on our gradual transformation to a mainly plant based household and how that affects our wallets, our health and our environment.

Just like having or not having children, going or not going vegan is a personal decision that I will not attempt to shove down anyone’s throat. However, just like you can choose to have only one or two children instead of five, you can choose to reduce your animal product consumption without cutting it out entirely. 

The meat of the matter

The CO2 emissions per pound from some common food items.

There are a lot of people on this planet. And unless something drastic changes, that number is only set to rise. I don’t know about you, but I learned in primary school about how you need roughly 10 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of meat. Similarly, if you wanted to grown 1 kg as a child, you would need about 10 kg of food. If all of that was meat, you would have consumed, by proxy, 100 kg of feed! As soon as you add plants to that equation, the number goes down fast.

Not just that, but scientists have calculated that if beef was its own nation, they would be the world’s 3rd largest producer of greenhouse gas emission. As a concerned environmentalist, this was one of the major turning points for me. But even if you’re concerned with nothing but your own wallet and health, there are plenty of reasons to add more plants to your diet.

It is cheaper

A surprising amount of people hold on to the belief that eating plant based is expensive.

If you do nothing but replace meat with expensive meat substitutes I can see how that might be the impression, or if you shop all your vegetables organic at Whole Foods or equivalent.

Let me relay to you a secret; we eat almost no meat substitutes at all. Especially not heavily processed ones. When we decide to try one out, we often conclude that we could have made it better ourselves.

When I first started buying more lentils and beans instead of meat and cheese as a student, I was astonished by how much money I saved. Of course, being not quite as frugal as I am now, my reaction was not to save the difference, but to substitute a lot of the frozen veg I had been buying up until then with fresh vegetables. To say nothing about how much lighter I felt from eating more plants, my food was just so much more vibrant and appetising!

It just makes sense to eat more food further down the food chain. It uses that much less resources and is that much less processed.

When we had our frugal baptism by fire, one of our staple meals was rice fried with frozen vegetables and soy sauce. It is ridiculously cheap and surprisingly nutritious. Lentil loaf is another staple that graciously lends itself to using up whatever leftover vegetables you might have hiding away in a drawer.

As with all cooking, plant based cooking is significantly cheaper when done from scratch at home. Any processed or partially processed items in your grocery basket is bound to drive your monthly budget up, up, up.

It gives you more freedom

One of the things I noticed when I gradually weaned myself off meat, was how much easier it became to accept impromptu invitations or changes of schedule.

Fresh meat spoils fast. Ideally, you’d buy it with a plan in mind or freeze it. However, if you had a plan and then, say, got invited to hang out with friends or stayed late at work/university to finish something, you might run the risk of not making the dish you had planned for several days. Potentially leading to wasting money by letting the meat spoil.

Of course, a conscientious head of the household would not let good food go to waste. But I must admit, it is just so much easier to keep on top of our perishables when they are mostly plants!

Lentils, on the other hand, can stay their own dry self in your cupboard for months. They are fantastic frugal food, providing lots of energy and nutrition at little cost and effort. They are great pantry fillers for a rainy day, or when you just don’t want to shop, and being so mild in flavour, they are easy to spice up with any flavour profile you wish.

Again, I want to stress that you don’t have to substitute 100%. Even just substituting a couple of meals or perhaps your weekday meals will make a difference. Our choice does not have to be your choice, although I am thrilled every time someone tells me that they made an effort to eat slightly less animal products. For me it is for environmental reasons, for you it might be for health or political reasons. Whatever the reason, the effect is still there!

The health side

Alright, this one comes with a caveat. If you substitute animal products with biscuits and pasta, you might not see or feel much better. This is, in part, why I consciously use the words “plant based” instead of vegan. A whole lot of unhealthy snacks are absolutely vegan. The point, for me, is to add more whole fruit and vegetables. In doing so, you naturally squeeze out some less beneficial choices.

In the financial independence sphere, I have noticed that a lot of people are very keen on staying on top of their health. After all, what use is decades of freedom if you don’t have the health to enjoy it?

Allow me then to relay, that the more fruit and vegetables I manage to add into my diet, the better I feel. I feel lighter, mentally more aware and less exhausted after a long day. As a student, I would splurge on a small bottle of smoothie whenever I felt depressed. Placebo effect, maybe, but it always made me feel better!

And you know what? If you make vegan cookie dough or cake batter, you can eat it raw all you want without fear of salmonella. Woop!

But, proteins?

If you are one of those people who worry about eating more plants because you think you’ll be deficient in proteins, worry no more! The average western diet supplies us with twice the protein we need. This extra protein has no benefit to the average person, and most of it is just filtered out by the kidneys.

Considering how all living things have protein, including plants, there are nothing but health benefits to cutting the animal product consumption by 75% or more and replacing it with a variety of plants.

So if you are looking for ways to reduce your grocery bill, but you’re not quite sure how? try some plant based options. How about a filling, hearty lentil stew? Or a homemade veggie burger? Breakfast oatmeal made with water instead of milk? During the second world war, there are recipes for “sausages” made with onion, oats and stock, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried. It might not sound like much, but it is surprisingly delicious!

As someone who has been interested in cooking for as long as I could remember, one of my prime arguments for not trying more plant based dishes back in the day was that I enjoyed cooking too much.

I hate to admit it, but for me, that was a whole lot of bollocks. I enjoy cooking just as much, if not more, now. There is so much colour on our plates that it makes me happy just looking at it.

This, without a doubt, is the one lifehack that saves us the most money on our grocery bill, bar none. But don’t take my word for it. Give it a whirl, and tell us how it went!

Some resources that could help you get started:

plantbased diet

15 Comments on “How we save on our grocery bill, but still eat fresh produce

  1. I am such a meat eater…shame me now. I really respect those that have a healthy plant based diet. Most of the time if I attempt this sort of thing I get burnt out with no meat. Also I have trouble making meals that I can eat multiple times a week. I don’t have the time or energy to meal prep something different every day either. Great job sticking with it.

    • But that is exactly what I am trying not to do! This is a no-shaming zone!

      There are so many places our there that bash meat-eaters, and I don’t see the point. All they do is alienate people who might have otherwise been curious. Getting 10% to cut their animal product consumption in half (or getting 50% to cut their meat consumption by 10 or 20%) is far more significant than getting 1% to go 100% plant based. We are math-loving people after all, and because my primary concern is the environment, I am much more interested in the overarching effect.

      We meal prep by making big batches and sticking it in portions in the freezer. That way we don’t have to eat the same four things a row, but we always have something to eat (and we don’t have to cook every day!).

      Even my father, the biggest meat-lover I know, cut his meat consumption in half after watching a documentary about the environmental effects of extensive animal husbandry. He still eats meat for every meal, he just has two sausages instead of four, or more vegetables to a smaller piece of meat in his hearty autumn soup.

      This is exactly why I wrote this piece. It doesn’t have to be either or. 🙂

  2. I love that you specifically touch on the “plant based” versus just vegan reality. I had a friend in college who was vegan but mostly consisted on sodas and candy – totally vegan, sure, but terrible for you.

    We are a meat eating family, but chose to have just one kid, so I still consider us winning 🙂 that and working on reducing said meat consumption.

    • Exactly. I know many people on either side of the healthy spectrum, just as with any other diet.

      Any reduction is a win in my book! I have a friend who is very interested in historical cooking, and it’s amazing sometimes how much flavour they are able to pull out of very small quantities of meat or other flavourings. 🙂

        • It is a lot of fun! It is a huge field though. In medieval cookery, for instance ( it is mainly the feasts and royal food that survive, so lots of meat.

          From WWII, on the other hand, there are things like mock sausages (onion, oats, stock, salt and pepper (if you had), rolled in breadcrumbs and fried, surprisingly delicious!).

          It can be really difficult to find good, authentic books to go by. You should have seen my friend when she was able to buy a 19th century housekeeping book! 🙂

  3. Yay to another plant based frugal blogger! We are fully plant based at home, but don’t stress as much when at family gatherings (I totally ate mashed potatoes at Christmas), since it’s all about reducing and we can’t be perfect. Thanks for the judgement free zone! Plant based has helped us reduce our grocery spending by $100/month this year. That’s $1,200 saved, which is pretty incredible.

    • Yay! Those are some pretty incredible savings in the long run.

      We are reaching the same conclusion about plan based as well. We stick to it at home, but it doesn’t make a difference in the large scheme of things if I say no to aunt Edna’s cake or not.

      Still prefer the nut roast though. Omnomnomnom.

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