Meatless Monday is a global movement that aims to reduce the consumption of meat in order to improve people’s health and also benefit the planet by reducing carbon emissions from animals, particularly cows. Restaurants and school cafeterias have joined in on the trend that is happening in 40 countries around the world and continuing to grow.
Regardless of whether you want to be healthier or reduce carbon emissions, everyone can recognize that meat is the most expensive part of the grocery bill. You can cut your grocery budget up to $50 a month by switching to one or more meatless meals each week.
What Can You Eat Besides Meat?
There are many less expensive ways to get your protein than eating meat. Some of the more common meat substitutes are:
- –Beans (legumes), which along with rice make a complete protein
- –Soy, such as soybeans or tofu that is grown naturally (non-GMO)
- –Nuts of all kinds
- –Certain protein-rich vegetables including mushrooms, artichokes, and avocados
- –TVP (texturized vegetable protein), a soy-based meat substitute that you rehydrate and has the texture of ground beef (this is usually available at health food stores and costs about $1 for the amount that replaces a pound of ground beef)
- –Protein powder and products with added protein
- –Whole grain products like bread and quinoa often contain a significant amount of protein
Cooking with these items from scratch is likely to save you money over cooking with meat while buying prepackaged, processed meatless meals will probably have about the same cost as using meat. Unless you are diabetic or following a special diet, don’t worry about getting the same amount of protein from your substitutes that you get from meat.
The U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends getting 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight, which is only 60 grams of protein daily for a 150-pound adult. Your body likely gets more protein than this from the typical American diet, and it’s even possible that your digestive system could use a break from the hard work it takes to digest protein in large amounts.
Meatless Monday Meal Suggestions
When you are used to cooking with meat every day, it can be difficult to figure out what to make when you can’t use meat. Breakfast is pretty easy; you can make eggs for protein or just eat cereal that has some whole grains and nuts in it and drink milk. Add some fruit and you have a well-balanced morning meal. Another great way to get protein at breakfast is to eat yogurt with some cereal and fruit mixed in or to make oatmeal with nuts or peanut butter mixed in. You can also have a protein shake or smoothie with kefir or yogurt for protein.
For lunch, cheese quesadillas or grilled cheese and tomato soup can be good alternatives to meat. Other ideas can include avocado toast or a salad with nuts and cheese with a whole grain roll. For a simple meal, you can’t go wrong with peanut butter and jelly, or you can go with one of my favorite lazy but healthy lunches and eat peanut butter on celery sticks.
Some good dinner ideas can be a quinoa bowl with beans, meatless chili with rice, or whole grain pasta or ravioli baked with cheese on top. If you like Chinese food, try a vegetable stir fry with rice or vegetable fried rice, which includes eggs scrambled and mixed in. Some of my family’s favorite meatless meals are TVP sloppy joes, risotto with beans, and “brinner” (breakfast for dinner).
Many of your existing meals can be made without meat, including pizza, pasta, burgers and even tacos. Chances are, you have a lot of the ingredients for these recipes on hand, which makes omitting meat even more cost-effective.
The Meatless Monday site has many recipes to give you ideas and help you plan your meatless meals without having to work too hard at it or getting bored eating the same few meals over and over again.
How Meatless Monday Saves You Money
Meat costs on average about $4.00 per pound, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If your family of four goes meatless on Mondays, you could purchase two pounds less of meat per week, saving you nearly $35 on meat in a month (4.33 weeks). But think about it. Chances are you don’t just cook meat plain, you use sauces and flavorings that add to the cost of your meat. So if you figure a $2.00 sauce or flavor packet into each meaty meal, you will save another $17 or more, for a total of just under $52 a month.
Costs vary depending on many factors, such as the cost of living where you are located, your access to grocery stores, and the competition in your area. My family purchases beef in bulk from a local farmer, which gives us higher quality meat at less than $4.00 a pound, and poultry in our area is usually available at $2.00 a pound or less. Others live in urban areas where grocery stores are scarce and most people don’t have cars to drive to a store where they could get a good price on meat.
Additionally, you can easily end up spending more on special ingredients for your meatless meals and negate your savings, but many experts advocate eating less meat for health reasons, so you may become healthier even if you don’t save money. You could also save money on health care costs down the road if you eat healthier now.
What You Can Do With $50 a Month
$50 a month may not seem like a large sum of money, but here are some things you can do with that amount of extra money every month.
- —Bi-weekly music lessons for one of your children would give them an appreciation for good music, hard work, and commitment, as well as allowing them to develop a useful skill.
- –Many gym memberships cost less than $50 a month and could help you maintain good health and look good, too.
- –You could rescue a cat or dog from a local animal shelter and use the $50 to pay for food and/or vet care. In addition to being a whole lot of fun, having a pet reduces stress and improves your overall well-being.
- –You could save $600 toward next year’s vacation, which could pay for several nights in a nice hotel, meals out, a really great rental car, or in some cases, combine with credit card rewards to cover the bulk of your vacation costs.
- –You could use the money to start a bootstrap business, which takes very small amounts of working capital to build a business as you go, and that money can make more money.
- —Save money for college tuition. If you have a young child, you could save $19,000 by the time the child is 18 and ready to go to college, if you invest the money and make an average of six percent per year. This amount could easily cover several years of community college tuition or even a state university, or augment scholarships your child gets for sports or other accomplishments.
- –If you save the money toward retirement at the same six percent return over 40 years, you will have $98,000. This will not likely be enough to retire but could help you get there a little bit faster.
Food is one area where it is possible to save a significant amount of money. If you find that going meatless does save you money on your food budget, you may want to add another meatless day to maximize both the health benefits and the financial savings, too.