There is an easy way to shrink your grocery budget without cutting any coupons, driving to several stores or waiting for a sale.
You can shave $100 off your bill by simply eliminating meat from one meal each week. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meat makes up about 21% of the average American’s grocery budget. Some people develop “Meatless Mondays” on their meal planning calendars. You have a meal planning calendar, right? Because if you don’t, you need to start.
Here’s why you should plan dinners for your family:
- When you write it all out, you know what you are eating when during the week. If you plan it out, there are no surprises. You have what you need on hand at home because you’ve already gone grocery shopping for the week.
- You avoid the last minute, “we don’t have anything to eat, let’s order a pizza.” It also reduces temptation to run out to a restaurant or fast food joint. We all know that avoiding those meals can save us money but also saves us tons of extra calories.
- Your kids can get involved in mealtime. When they see what is for dinner, they’re more likely to be interested and may be more inclined to want to help. Getting kids involved in the kitchen has shown to instill so many good qualities in their lives later on. You’re teach them to eat better and how to cook. When they become adults, they just might thank you!
How to incorporate meatless meals into your weekly routine
Now that you know what you’re eating and when, here’s why you may want to consider one meatless meal each week. I know, meat is the center of most meals and fills you up. Most meats are easily replaced with healthier options that your family will love!
Grains and legumes like chickpeas and rice are an easy alternative source of protein to some cuts of meat. They’re also versatile, cheap and can be bought in bulk to make their end price even lower.
I also replace beans in some meat dishes. When my husband fires up the grill, I make black bean burgers! Yes, he’s a meat loving, steak and potatoes kind of guy, but even I can convince him to enjoy a bean burger once in a while! Not only are you cutting out half the calories, at $0.58 cents a can for black beans at ALDI, I am saving a ton! I can make four burgers out of one can. The rest of the ingredients are items you likely already have around the house!
Here’s my Black Bean Burger recipe:
- 1 can black beans
- 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 red onion, diced
Drain black beans, then mash them 80% into the bowl. I like to see some of the bigger chunks of beans in my burgers, rather than all mush! Mix in the 1 egg, bread crumbs, chili powder, and onion.
Once combined, I pat it all down with a spoon, then draw a line with a spoon in the bowl, splitting my mixture into four parts. Shape each part into a patty.
These burgers may be placed on the stove top or on the grill. You want to simply heat them up and cook it through. It takes roughly 5-7 minutes, typically.
I enjoy these burgers with guacamole and hot sauce. To save calories and money, I also skip a bun and just grab a fork! You can certainly eat it with a bun or melt some swiss or pepper jack on top of the burger for melty cheesiness.
You can make this entire burger for less than the cost of one pound of lean ground beef!
Swapping out to save money
According to the U.S. food pyramid, which calls a serving 2–3 ounces, that pound of meat should feed between five and eight people. Most people are simply eating too much meat at each meal and not only is that expensive, but it is not healthy. Love your heart, your waistline, and your wallet by taking out the meat. Don’t just turn to tofu in place of any kind of meat… though it is an option!
Unlike a steak, which tastes great with little seasoning at all, a kidney bean needs a little more attention. That isn’t to say that vegetarian food is bland, but cooking vegetarian does require a bit of a shift in thinking.
If you don’t eat any meatless meals, start by reducing the amount of meat in your meals using vegetarian ingredients. For example, instead of cutting meat out of chili, just cut the usual amount of meat you use in half, and fill the rest of the pot with more beans and vegetables.
You will also want to avoid processed foods. Yes, we know they’re not good for us to begin with because they’re loaded with sodium and calories. Whole foods can also be cheaper. In fact, processed vegetarian items are much more expensive than their animal-based counterparts in the meat aisle. That price discrepancy isn’t discrimination against those who abstain from meat; it’s just economics. Less demand equals higher prices. If you’re eating vegetarian to save money, stick to whole foods and learn to cook them, otherwise you may end up paying more for your veggie burger than you would for the real thing!
Eating more vegetarian meals can help you cut down your grocery bill, but it doesn’t have to be an exercise in culinary asceticism. With a few pantry staples and a little practice, you can cook vegetarian meals that’ll have you saying “hold the meat” more often.
If you just can’t wrap your head around the idea of cutting out meat, consider changing the way you buy that meat. Being an shopper of manager’s specials can slash that budget in half. Here’s where you can learn more about buying meat for cheap.