People choose vegetarianism for many reasons: animal rights, health concerns, religious beliefs. But what about choosing to skip meat to save money? Will you wind up saving on your grocery bill by giving up steak florentine and chicken devan? Let's do some simple comparisons to see how much money you might save by eliminating meat from your diet.
Meat's greatest strength is that it's a big source of protein. If you go without it, you'll need to obtain that protein from some other vegetarian source. Today's chicken breasts sell for around $5 a pound, and one chicken breast fillet gives you about 24 grams of protein per serving. Compare that with black beans, another source of protein; you can buy a can (approximately 1 pound) of black beans for about a buck, which will provide you with about 24 grams of protein per serving, as well. The average American eats about 50 pounds of chicken per year, according to PBS. That adds up to about $250 a year just for chicken. Or, if you're a vegetarian, that'd be about $50 a year for black beans. In this case, you'd save $200 per year by going vegetarian.
Let's play the same comparison game with steak versus tofu. A sirloin steak costs about $5.99 per pound, and contains 23 grams of protein per 4 ounces. Tofu is about $2.50 a pound, and gives you about 28 grams of protein in 4 ounces, according to one online grocery store. The average American eats about 65 pounds of steak per year. That means your yearly spending on steak could amount to about $400 or more, depending on the cuts of beef you like to buy. Compare that with about $163 a year for tofu. By going vegetarian, you'd save $237 or more per year.
Keep in mind, though, that you have to be smart about your vegetarian purchases to make going vegetarian a cost benefit. For example, meat substitutes can be just as expensive as, or more expensive than, meat. By "meat substitute," we mean products made to resemble meat both in appearance and texture. For example, veggie burgers, vegetable nuggets and veggie crumbles fall into this category. Soy-based meat substitute products can run you up to $7.00 a pound (e.g. Morningstar Farms Chik Patties). If you plan your vegetarian meals around meat substitutes like these, it's likely you won't save much money by becoming a vegetarian.
Nevertheless, no matter how much money you do or don't save at the grocery store, you may save money in the long run by keeping in good health. It's widely believed that adopting a vegetarian diet is great for your body. Doctors say eating veggie- rather than meat-based meals over the long term can reduce your chances of heart disease, cancer and even dementia, according to MSN.com. Years of eating poorly can lead to chronic disease, which means costly health bills. Food for thought: A heart bypass surgery can cost up to $60,000. If you think of it that way, the savings related to adopting a vegetarian diet are nearly limitless.
- "Home." Peapod.com. 2011. (Oct. 16, 2011) http://www.peapod.com/
- "How Much Meat We Eat." Frontline. 2011. (Oct. 16, 2011) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/meat/safe/howmuch.html
- McCredie, Scott. "Go vegetarian to save money." MSN Money. 2011. (Oct. 16, 2011) http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/SaveMoney/GoVegetarianToSaveMoney.aspx
- Miller, G.E. "Frugality Through Vegetarianism: How to Save $2K - $3K Per Year & The Planet by Moving Away from a Meat-Based Diet." 20 Something Finance. Feb. 23, 2011. (Oct. 16, 2011) http://20somethingfinance.com/cost-of-vegetarian-diet/