I am happy to say that in May it will have been two years since I stopped eating meat. It’s truly been one of the best decisions I made for myself and I can honestly say that I don’t believe I will go back to eating meat. Before I became a vegetarian (I’m not vegan and I’m not sure whether or not I will eventually go that route) I would go through phases of cutting out meat before declaring it to be too difficult, giving up and stuffing my face with some sort of underwhelming meat-filled sandwich. After watching Earthlings it all clicked for me (if you want to weep for humanity, watch that documentary) and I decided that I was going to figure out how to do this right. In the last couple of years I have realized that eating a plant-based diet is actually super easy, delicious, healthy and, wait for it, CHEAPER. People always complain that being a veggie is so expensive, but if you skip some of the gimmicky vegetarian foods and do it right, it’s actually more affordable than eating meat! Don’t believe me? Read on.
1 // FROZEN IS YOUR FRIEND
Frozen is not a dirty word and buying several bags of frozen vegetables is not only way cheaper than buying all of the individual components of the bag’s contents fresh, they are also nutritionally just as healthy, if not more so, because they are picked and harvested at their optimal time (unlike other produce which is often picked when it is still unripe and left to ripen artificially). Frozen veggies are a staple on my grocery list and I use them to make stir-fries, curries, roasted vegetables, taco bowls – you name it. Scoop up a few bags on your next grocery trip and I promise you will be amazed at how versatile they are and how fresh the veggies taste.
2 // NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE ORGANIC
Sure, if your name is Gisele Bündchen or Miranda Kerr then you can afford to make sure that everything in your fridge was grown completely organically, watered with unicorn tears and harvested on a new moon at peak ripeness for optimum nutrition. If not, don’t worry, not everything you eat needs to be organic to be healthy. There are certain foods (the dirty dozen), like strawberries, tomatoes and apples, that you should try and buy organic. But you don’t need to exclusively buy your produce from the organic section of the store. There are lots of vegetables and fruit – like avocados, asparagus, onions and cauliflower – that are considered to be clean. The cost of buying organic does quickly add up and if you’re going to shell out, make sure it’s worth it. Sometimes a good wash is all your veggies and fruit need.
3 // BUY IN BULK
Before switching to a vegetarian diet, I always thought the bulk food section of the grocery store was overwhelming. Those big containers filled with beans, nuts and lentils just seemed to not correlate with food to me (they looked more like what you would use as filling for sandbags or pillows). The thing is, you can make a million dishes with beans, nuts and lentils and you can buy bags of them without breaking over $10-$15. Try it and be amazing at how long it will be before you have to grocery shop (although you might want to anyways because you’ll be inspired by all the creative vegetarian dishes you can make).
4 // THE FEWER INGREDIENTS, THE BETTER
Honestly, one of the best parts about eating vegetarian is that it forced me to expand my cooking skills. My family are all omnivores and my boyfriend loves nothing more than a plate of ribs so I knew I couldn’t rely on there being vegetarian food available in the house. My need to cook led me to love cooking and become passionate about vegetarian food! While at first daunting, I have since discovered that the world of vegetarian cuisine is diverse, delicious and so creative. I’ve learned that meat is so not necessary for a meal to be filling and tasty, lots of veggies can stand in for meat (mushrooms, artichokes, eggplant, jackfruit, etc.), and the simpler your meals, the better. You don’t need to go ham with your meals (pun obviously intended). For example, one of my favourite dishes is a marinated tofu bowl. Tofu, sticky rice, carrot, cucumber, seaweed and avocado. Boom. So good and so healthy. Keeping it simple also helps you ensure that your groceries last you longer which saves you money in the long run.
A few of my favourite vegetarian meals.
5 // GET CREATIVE WITH CANNED VEGGIES
Here’s another aisle I never visited before becoming a herbivore! Allow me to let you in on a little secret. You can find almost every vegetable in a can and they only cost a couple of bucks. Tomatoes? Check. Potatoes? Yup. Corn, artichokes, olives, beans, lentils, beets, carrots, peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and mushrooms? Oh, yeah. You can stock up on an armload of inexpensive vegetables that are full of nutrients and last longer than fresh produce. Wins all around.
6 // FREQUENT FARMER’S MARKETS
There’s nothing more reassuring than meeting the people who are growing your food. The people who have planted the seeds, watered the roots and nurtured the soil to ensure that the food you’re buying is top quality and optimally nutritious. Farmer’s markets are a great way to find new vegetables, fruits and spices you’ve never tried before, all the while conversing with those who are the most knowledgeable about produce. Prices are usually reasonable and you also get the satisfaction of knowing you are supporting local farmers. It’s really a fun experience shopping at the farmer’s market!
I hope you find these tips to be helpful! Are any of you transitioning to a more plant-based diet? How are you finding it? Let’s talk veggie stuff in the comments!