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Be a Part-time Vegetarian


As a dietitian, people often assume I’m a vegetarian. Nope. I will never be a vegetarian. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult for me to give meat up but I don’t want to and frankly, I don’t need to. Assuming you purchase lean cuts, meat serves as a great source of quality protein, iron, zinc, and especially Vitamin B12. If you want to lose weight and your past attempts at dieting have failed, you may want to look into a high protein diet. In this case, meat offers a great source since 3 ounces (the size of a deck of cards) has 21 grams or protein. However, in case you haven’t noticed, the price of meat has been climbing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ground beef has risen 8% and chicken has gone up 6% between June 2011 and 2012. So what’s the trick to consuming meat but not going over budget?

The Flexitarian approach

I didn’t make the word up. It’s simply a combination of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian.” It means that you eat more of a plant based diet and use meat to flavor your dish. It’s both economically and environmentally smart. Since meat and poultry make up the biggest chunk of the grocery bill, it makes sense to cut down on your purchase of these items while reducing greenhouse gases. This approach has saved my husband and I a lot of money and has encouraged us to consume more produce. You may argue that buying more produce will only make up for reducing the amount of meat purchased, but I’d counter your argument with the fact that you just need to do some price checking and switch up from canned, frozen, and fresh. Canned and frozen produce are often just as healthy if not better than fresh if you know what to look for.

Stir Fry

This week I made a stir fry. I bought a pound of flank steak for $5.37 with a coupon and stretched it into a full dinner for the bottomless pit I call my husband and a full portion for me. I also got to pack a second meal for us to take for lunch the next day. I thinly sliced the steak and added veggies like broccoli, portabella mushrooms, and snap peas. Fresh snap peas were over $1 for a pound, so I went with the frozen pound on sale for less than $1. I usually buy dried brown rice in bulk, cook a big batch, and freeze it. This made my life easy when I prepared dinner this week because all I had to do was pull out my “minute rice” and warm it back up.

Breakfast of Champions

Eggs make a weekly appearance on our menu. They are a cheap and versatile source of protein. Don’t be afraid to use the yolk— that’s where most of the vitamins and minerals are anyway! Instead of using the turkey to make the same ol’ sandwich for lunch, we chop up a few slices and add it to our scrambled eggs for a protein-packed breakfast.

Salmon every week?

My husband’s favorite meal is salmon broiled with a delicious & simple topping- apricot preserves mixed with a black bean garlic sauce you’d find in the international aisle of the store. We usually catch a deal on salmon and then stretch 1.5 pounds into multiple meals by serving it with plenty of vegetables like half of a baked sweet potato and roasted Brussels sprouts or asparagus.

The options are endless!

Grill up a few chicken breasts and shred it to use in quesadillas, BBQ sandwiches, soup, or a casserole. Half the amount of ground meat you usually use in lasagna or chili and add some beans to boost the fiber & protein content while cutting down on fat. Slice up a couple links of chicken sausage and add to a casserole dish with some edamame. You can even have bacon! Toss quinoa with roasted parsnips and butternut squash and top it with your flavorful crumbled bacon. The flexitarian approach shies away from the tradition of featuring meat as the centerpiece for the sake of your health and budget.

What dishes do you make that allow you to stretch your grocery budget?

This has been a guest post from Jessica. She is a Registered Dietitian and shares practical, useful tips on food, fitness, and finance. Be sure to subscribe to her blog, Budget For Health.

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AUTHOR Derek Sall

Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially--one email, one article, one person at a time.


  1. Living with a vegetarian for many years, I’ve come to realise the benefits, both for health and the bank balance. I also love a bit of salmon!

    • You’re right- adapting some aspects of a vegetarian diet can be great for heatlh. I’ve also seen some VERY unhealthy vegetarians who basically carb load and don’t even like eating vegetables!

  2. Flexitarian. I like that.

    I make taco wraps when I want to stretch my grocery budget. I used to make them with mostly meat, but now lentils and rice are 2/3 of the taco base and I hardly notice a difference at all except in the price!

    • Tacos are an easy meal to cut down the meat portion. I’ve usually use beans but I’ll have to try out lentils as well. Thanks, Alex!

  3. I like the Flexitarian approach as I am a big meat eater. Growing up in the south every meal came with meat. Funny thing is I find when I try to eat less meat more people offer it. My wife included has been pushing meat on my plate. I say when I try to eat less meat people think something is wrong. But nothing beats a good steak or pulled pork.

    • My sister was a vegetarian for 3 years until she moved to Nashville- everyone around her pushed meat! I do agree about the steak & pulled pork.

  4. We have at least one vegetarian meal a week. I could give up beef because I reduced beef consumption to just a couple times a month. We eat mostly chicken,fish and vegetables. During the summer, I will have a salad every day and mostly without meat.

    • We do the very same! It’s usually breakfast (eggs, homemade hash browns using the cheese grater…) As long as you get some kind of protein source in your salad that’s a great idea!

  5. I like your ideas on how to stretch out her meat, poultry, and fish.

    I’m not a big beef eater..mostly chicken and fish. I do like the idea of mixing beans with taco meat via @searchingforhappy

    • Thanks Ornella. Adding beans does significantly cut down the price of the meal. My iron usually runs a little low and I don’t eat much cereal so adding a little meat to my dinner is a good way to get a bigger dose of iron.

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