Swap Meat, Save Money

August 9th, 2010

healthier and wealtherAmericans are always looking to get more for less. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our nation’s food supply, where quantity and price usually trump quality. Though we may think we’re getting a deal, this attitude has taken us down a road ridden with hidden costs, both fiscal and physical.

These days, two dollars can buy you anything from a burger and fries to a full Denny’s breakfast, but these meals tend to be more expensive than we assume. Not only does the environment pay the price for cheap food production, so do our waistlines. There are now 72 million obese adults in the U.S.; twice as many as there were thirty years ago. Obesity can lead to a variety of health woes, from heart disease to stroke, diabetes and even some cancers. The CDC estimates that the annual medical costs associated with obesity sit at a staggering $147 billion. Here we see the difference between what we pay at the drive-thru and the true cost of a “value meal”.

So how can we hope to alleviate America’s obesity epidemic and still survive on a dime? The answer is inexpensive, filling foods prepared at home. There are plenty of options out there that are simple to make, healthy, affordable and yes, even delicious. Plant-based meals are usually cheaper than meat dishes and are full of the protein and fiber you need to stay satisfied. Take it from Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD LDN, best-selling author of The Flexitarian Diet and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association:

When you swap to more meatless meals, you’ll easily meet your protein needs. Plus, you’ll enjoy added health benefits such as decreased risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Plant proteins are so protective of our health. They’re a rich source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. What’s more, meatless is not only delicious – it’s incredibly easy to prepare and less expensive than a meat-centric meal!

According to the most recent government figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, that one pound of beans was $1.34 versus spending 2.5 times more money for boneless chicken breast ($3.32/pound) and lean ground beef ($3.51/pound) and 4.5 times more money for sirloin steak ($6.00/pound). That’s real savings you can bank on! Every week. Every month. Every year.

Here are some simple swaps you can make at home to improve your diet, save money and stay healthy:

Save money! Swap meat! chart (Download a free PDF version of this chart)

Need some additional inspiration? Here are three delicious, meatless dishes that you can make without breaking the bank:

Portobello Mushroom Burger

Lemon Mint Quinoa Salad

Chilled Beet Soup with Dill Croutons