I just read about six articles titled this, or something like this, and not one of them was brave enough to say the number one thing you can do to save huge bux on your grocery bill:
Buy. Less. Meat!
Look, I know that the mere suggestion of tapering off meat consumption is enough to send some of us into an anti-vegetable tirade verging on apoplexy. Just take a breath and hear me out.
No one is saying you need to label this behaviour. Titles like ‘vegetarian’ or – heavens forefend! – ‘vegan’ carry a lot of weight. A lot of baggage. No one wants to think of themselves being lumped in with a bunch of self-righteous militants who decry innocent shoppers just trying to get their weekly groceries before they pick up little Johnny from the daycare. Besides, you’re not ready to make the full-on lifestyle commitment that comes part and parcel with The Big V.
Okay. So, don’t.
Just buying less meat doesn’t make you anything apart from a savvy shopper. There are places in this world, beyond the borders of North America, where meat is consumed within, or even beside, a dish rather than at its heart. And there’s little reason for that beyond the fact that meat has always been an expensive luxury. Heck, read a fairy tale. They often go on about how a character is so poor, they can’t afford meat and must live on brown bread and cabbage soup.
A small amount of meat can be added to a soup or stew that is otherwise vegetable based. You get all the benefits of enhanced umami flavours at half the price (or less) – what’s not to love?
Stay with me here. I know we’ve talked about this before, but it goes with what I’m saying. For much less than the cost of an equivalent weight of meat, you can get more vegetable matter than you could comfortably consume in one sitting. Calories are distributed amongst more physical matter, which fills you up faster on fewer calories. Beans and potatoes are hearty enough to replace any meat you can name. They cost a pittance, are highly nutritious, and are available year round.
I think we’ve just gotten used to the idea that meat must be central to the plate for a meal to be ‘balanced’. Meat is for everybody, all the time. Except for daily breakfast, when it’s somehow logical and natural to eat an amount of sugar usually relegated to dessert-time.
We’ve also come to expect variety. Some people are genuinely appalled at the idea of eating the same thing two days in a row, let alone for weeks on end. But that kind of constantly revolving menu is also the stuff of myth. Not to mention that getting on that particular treadmill can lead to patterns of negative thought because you’re running out of ideas, and time, and will, but your family deserves the best, right? You’ve got to find that new recipe to try so they won’t be bored, or get sick, or feel deprived compared to the neighbours…
So, to all the budget-happy life-hacker sites out there who really want to help their readers save some dosh, please consider putting this in your listicle. You can meal plan, and buy in bulk, and clip all the coupons your little heart desires. At the end of the day, one of the biggest money savers you can add to your repertoire is choosing beans over beef.