Vegetarian and plant based diets are getting more good press than ever these days, but is it affordable? We look at if cutting back on meat can save you money on your shopping bill.
Sticking to the basics
There’s a common perception that a veggie diet is more expensive than a meat diet. Indeed, there are some costly items on the shelves that are marketed towards non-meat-eaters. For example, meat and dairy substitutes can often be just as expensive, if not more expensive, than their classic counterparts.
While these certain products can be pricey, a veggie diet needn’t be. One way to avoid an expensive shop, is by sticking to the basics with things such as beans, chickpeas, lentils and veg.
For example, a 500g packet of red lentils costs a little over £1, on average, in UK stores. Lentils also serve as an excellent substitute for meat due to their ability to absorb flavour and fill you up. You can use them to make bolognese, cottage pie or even a curry.
Watch out for costly ingredients in recipes
A vegetarian diet can seem dear when you’re just getting started. Some vegetarian recipes list ingredients that you can’t always find in your local supermarket, such as nutritional yeast or vegetarian Worcestershire sauce. Avoid overspending on items like these as they aren’t always a necessity. Simply stick to the simpler recipes that have all your cupboard staples.
Cooking at home
For this cottage pie recipe recipe, it’s recommended you use 500g beef mince, costing £2.46 per serving. Whereas this lentil cottage pie (using veg and lentils) costs £1.67 per serving. Note that if you’re trying to go vegan or vegetarian, you’ll want to leave out the Worcestershire sauce (it contains anchovies), which will save you even more.
If cottage pie isn’t your thing, you could try this vegan vegetable curry. According to Tesco, this will cost you up to £3.83 per serving if you need to buy all the ingredients in. It seems expensive, but you can save by swapping branded ingredients for own-brand options, or buying an extra onion, aubergine and tin of tomatoes to make 8 servings for just over £1 more in total. This would bring the cost per serving down to around £1.77, and you can freeze your leftovers to have easy meals, ready to go whenever you need them!
One thing to be wary of when doing your shop is the branded veggie products that mimic the meat ones. Items such as veggie/vegan bacon, chicken or steak can cost just as much, if not more than the real thing, and sometimes for smaller portions.
However, if you want to add products like these to your shop, you should search for non-branded versions, which are usually considerably cheaper. A packet of Asda’s own brand vegetarian mince currently costs £1.75 for 454g. In comparison, 500g of veggie mince from a well-known label such as Quorn costs around £2.95. Whereas a 500g pack of beef mince will set you back £2.90. In this scenario, the branded veggie mince comes out as the most expensive.
Another thing to bear in mind when shopping for mock-meat products, is that it’s better to stick to the freezer aisle than fresh. Frozen veggie products often come in bigger pack sizes, will last longer and can be considerably cheaper than fresh equivalents.
DIY your own products:
If you’re looking to make a few other changes that could save you some cash, try getting creative in the kitchen instead. For example, you could make your own:
The bottom line...
While foregoing the meat can save you some cash each week, it’s still important to shop smart. Prioritise veg, dried food and tinned goods to get the cheapest shop. If you’re going to look for some mock-meat products, stick to unbranded as they’ll be the cheapest.
Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.