by Kirk Schroder, Ellwood's Food Advocate

Switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet doesn’t seem too hard nowadays with all the name-brand meatless alternatives on the market. A quick glance at the price tags of these items might have your wallet begging to differ. It is commonly assumed that vegetarian and vegan options are more expensive, but a study conducted by Harris Poll claims that vegetarians and vegans are more likely to come from a below-average income bracket rather than a higher income bracket. How are these individuals able to do it?

The well-known animal rights group, PETA, has myth-busted the common misconception that vegetarian and vegan foods are more expensive than their less ethical counterparts. Going vegan or vegetarian could lead to huge savings, explains AJ Horch, a CNBC writer He went vegan for a month and found that his meat-eating habits were burning a hole in his pocket. During his time as a vegan, he found that he was less tempted to eat out, saving him $107 on just takeout alone.

As AJ shows through his month of veganism, it is possible to cut out meat and stick to a tight budget. Planning your meals to make sure none of the foods you buy go to waste and to limit last-minute takeout orders is key when transitioning to a vegan or vegetarian diet. These steps can help ensure that you are not only saving your coins but also adhering to your meat-free lifestyle.

Buying whole foods is another way to stick to your budget and get better quality ingredients. For example, whole grains, like brown rice, are cheaper than their more processed counterparts. Items like these are usually sold in bulk, are less expensive, and more nutrient-rich. These factors allow you to save money and consume more healthy and nutrient-rich food.

Going vegan or vegetarian requires you to cut out on the meat itself, which is usually one of the more expensive items on a grocery list. When you replace meat with other proteins, you can save a lot of money. Protein sources such as legumes, tofu, and hemp seeds are remarkably inexpensive in comparison with fresh meat. Additionally, these foods have plenty of natural nutrients, and none of the carcinogens that are regularly found in meat products.

Making sure you are seeking out produce that is in season and grown locally can greatly impact your spending. If seeking a crop that is out of season, buying frozen can be a great alternative to the typically more expensive imported options. Locally grown produce is usually less expensive, more nutritious, and more environmentally friendly. This is due to the fact that the crops do not need to travel miles to end up in your shopping cart, thus reducing costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and time for nutrients to deteriorate. Local grocery stores, like Ellwood Thompson’s, or farmers markets are your best bet for finding a wide variety of locally grown produce.

I think everyone can agree that saving money is a good thing, especially when it doesn’t come at the expense of sacrificing precious nutrients. If you are looking to save money on groceries and maintain a plant-based diet, these tips are for you. Now that you know finances aren’t a barrier to cutting meat out of your diet, what’s stopping you?

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