Recent statistics show there are more than three million vegetarians in the UK today, with up to 2,000 Brits giving up meat in exchange for a vegetarian diet every week. The Guardian reported in late 2018 that one in eight Brits are now vegetarian or vegan, with a further 21% claiming to be ‘flexitarian’ as they cut down on meat in their day-to-day diet.
So why are so many people changing their eating habits and opting for a more plant-based diet? And how much does money factor in? We explore the financial benefits of going veggie and see how much you could actually save on your weekly food shop.
How much could you save?
Well, the good news is that it looks like you’ll save a bundle by making the switch. In fact, a recent survey found that in 2018 Brits saved more than £2.8 billion by cutting down on meat, and those who reduced saved an average of £209 each over the last year – not too shabby.
Since meat-eaters usually eat meat for at least one meal a day, five days a week, even just cutting down and having a few veggie days in your diet can make a real difference. Considering that in a typical year meat-eaters spend an average of £752 on meat alone, surely even the biggest steak fan around will be tempted to cut down.
Vegetarian saving tips and tricks
However, just as it’s not automatic that going veggie will make you healthier, nor will it automatically be great for your bank balance, as personal trainer James Seabert from Gear Hungry reminds us. You can save money by making the change, but you still need to keep an eye on how much you’re spending. Buying plenty of fresh fruit and veg won’t set you back much, but meat alternatives such as Quorn could end up costing just as much as meat, so keep an eye out for special offers so you don’t get fooled into overspending.
James Hungry recommends heading to your local greengrocer rather than the supermarket for your veg so you can purchase exact quantities of what you want, reducing your food waste and your shopping bill. He also recommends you opt for fruit and veg which is in season as these will have the best offers. You should also keep in mind the longevity of what you’re buying and how many meals you can use them for. For example, cupboard essentials like lentils and baked beans can be used for meals again and again without going off or getting boring.
It’s also worth checking out your local market for discounted fruit and veg along with the reduced section. Another top tip is to browse the world food aisle for great prices on essentials like lentils and rice. Check if your supermarket offers any “wonky veg” at discounted prices too – just because they’re not pretty doesn’t mean they won’t taste delicious!
Meat-eaters vs. vegetarian weekly shopping list
So what does that mean for you in terms of your weekly shop? We compared a typical vegetarian shopping list with a meat-eaters one, using low-priced options from Tesco. Both lists have similar basics, such as milk, eggs and bread – the only difference is the amount of vegetables and meat alternatives bought versus buying meat.
As you can see, you can save almost £10 a week by choosing more vegetarian options and still feed the whole family – or spend that extra £10 on yummy veggie extras like nuts, houmous and some cheeky biscuits.
What other benefits are there to going vegetarian?
Besides money, there are plenty of reasons why people choose to follow a vegetarian diet. Here are just a few:
Another major factor in making the change to a plant-based diet include concerns about the environment and climate change. Several reports have recently claimed that cutting down on meat and dairy products is one of the best ways for individuals to help tackle climate change as meat farming is such a massive contributor to CO2 emissions.
A veggie diet can also help you keep a clear (or clearer) conscience when it comes to animal welfare. In fact, using this vegetarian calculator you can work out how many animals haven’t been eaten thanks to your change in diet, along with how much you’ve helped to reduce CO2 emissions. It shows that by being vegetarian for just one year, 202 animals haven’t been eaten thanks to you.
And let’s not forget your health. While meat is a great source of protein if you’re eating the right thing (chicken, fish and minimal red meat), too much low-quality, processed meats can have a negative impact on your health. Let’s be honest, there’s a big difference between a grilled chicken breast with a side of veggies versus that late night takeaway burger. Staying clear of red and processed meat lowers your risk of heart disease, plus it means you’ll be getting your five a day with ease so your diet will be packed full of healthy vitamins.
However, it’s important you watch your diet as turning veggie won’t automatically make you healthier. You’ll have to ensure you’re still getting enough iron and protein from vegetarian alternatives like beans and pulses. But overall a vegetarian diet can do great things for your health.
Why not get some healthy recipe recommendations from our list of cheap, healthy meals – or go to the experts at BBC Good Food. From vegetarian chilli to curries, stir fries, veggie bolognese and soups, there’s plenty of delicious meals to try.
Got any vegetarian saving tips for us? Let us know in the comments!