While only 14% of UK households include vegetarians, a whopping 74% are consciously reducing their consumption of red meat with 35% of households introducing at least one dedicated vegetarian day per week (figures from Leatherhead Food Research). More and more of us are becoming aware of the impact that meat consumption is having on the environment and are looking for ways to reduce our intake. To celebrate National Vegetarian Week which runs from 11-17 May, we’re sharing some tips on how to go veggie (or flexitarian!) without breaking the bank.
1. Start slowly
You don’t have to go full-on veggie at the beginning, especially if you tend to eat meat every day. Like many households up and down the country are doing, you can start by introducing one or two veggie days (or even just dinners) into your week.
2. Buy seasonally
They key to spending less on fruit and vegetables is to buy seasonally. Have a quick online search to see what’s in season currently and base your meals around those. Not only is in-season produce cheaper, it’ll taste better and be fresher – and the constantly changing ingredients in your fridge will inspire you to keep things interesting.
3. Dried pulses
Pulses provide a fantastic source of plant-based protein, so you’ll probably be adding plenty of them to your diet. Tinned chickpeas and beans are cheap to buy, but buy them dried and they’ll be even cheaper. They do require soaking overnight, so a little forward-planning is required but the improved flavour, texture and cost-savings are worth it.
4. Try to avoid meat substitutes
Reducing your meat intake can drastically reduce your weekly grocery bill – as long as you avoid processed vegetarian or vegan meat substitutes which can be fairly pricey (albeit convenient). Instead, stick to natural alternatives like lentils, beans and mushrooms for a meat-like fix.
5. Take stock
If you’re conscious of your budget, it’s a good idea to do a stock take of all the ingredients you currently have in and base the week’s meals around them. Have lots of spices? Buy some cheap veg and make a tagine or curry. Tinned or frozen peas and beans make great veggie burgers and are a great way to use up eggs, fresh herbs and bits of cheese – just bung it all into your food processor and form into patties!
6. Waste not, want not
Don’t be quick to throw away those sorry-looking vegetables in the salad drawer. Less-than-perfect veg can be given a new lease of life in the form of soups and stocks, so you can get an extra meal at no extra cost.
7. Learn the basics
We’re all guilty of nipping to the shop just for a loaf of bread and ending up with a whole bag of stuff that caught our eye. If you’re trying to spend less, learn how to make the basics yourself so those quick trips become less frequent. Knowing how to make your own bread or wraps can be really valuable – not only do they cost pennies to make and taste miles better, you avoid the aisle of temptation by staying at home!
8. A grain, a green and a bean
When you’re stuck for ideas, remember this simple formula for a nutritious, easy and cheap meal. Cook up a grain (e.g. rice or quinoa), wilt some greens such as kale or spinach and get some beans or lentils going. Once assembled, all you need to do is add some herbs, spices, houmous or any other condiments you happen to have in to liven things up.
9. Buy in bulk
If your budget and space allow, consider buying pulses, rice, pasta and spices in bulk. Not only will the cost per kilogram work out considerably cheaper, larger packages use up less packaging than the same amount in smaller packs, so it’s win-win.
10. Shop the world foods section
Most large supermarkets have a world foods aisle with Indian, Polish, Jamaican, Chinese and numerous other sections. It’s worth checking here for things like soy sauce, spices, coconut milk and tinned tomatoes as they are often much cheaper than the big names or even supermarket own-brands. Or pay a visit to your local Asian supermarket if you have one – spices especially will be a fraction of the price.