Cost of eating meat

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Post by squashroll » Fri Feb 01, 2013 5:52 am

For my first month of keeping track of expenses, I have notice A LOT of the grocery bill going to meat. I and especially my SO enjoy eating meat...

I am wondering if anyone out there has gone vegetarian to trim costs. If so what was your experience? Negatives, positives?


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Post by KevinW » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:40 am

I haven't gone vegetarian but I have gone meat-lite. Many (most?) meals are lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and the remaining dishes are a little meat surrounded by a lot of other stuff instead of the other way around. For example pasta or stir fry instead of steaks or hamburgers.
Also consider sources of inexpensive meat. If you wait you can get whole chickens for less than $1/lb, cut them up yourself, use the trimmings for stock and do something with the giblets. Explore slow-cooking cheap cuts of beef or pork, homemade sausage, canned fish, and offal like liver.

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Post by white belt » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:42 am

I haven't gone vegetarian, but I have explored several options for saving money on meat.
I've been most successful with pastured organ meats. In the United States, organ/offal is significantly cheaper than muscle cuts and more nutritious.
There are some health detriments associated with eating industrialized organ meat (many toxins/chemicals can build up in these organs. Pastured meat solves this issue, however it is more difficult to source.
To obtain cheap pastured meat, you need access to a farmer, either directly through a farmer's market, or indirectly through a butcher or other intermediary. Pastured meat prices are significantly marked up at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, so these are usually not ideal.
Other options I've heard of include hunting and homesteading. Hunting requires time, skill, and money for permits and weapons. Homesteading requires land and is illegal in many densely populated areas. Both have been addressed on the forums in other threads.

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Post by TravelingTrader » Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:24 am

I´ve tried vegetarian food over 2 month.
It saved money and tasted well (Soy) . It was an instructive experiment which I would recommend for everyone.
Now I eat much less meat than before that challenge.

When I enjoy meat, I buy less - but better quality.

But I never can get vegan. I like egg´s to much.

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Post by RelicO » Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:47 am

So I turned vegan about 1.5 months ago. It was for yoga and health reasons. So far it's pretty cool but you need to watch that you get enough nutrition throughout the day. There are fade points so you have to keep snacking.
I would honestly have to say that my food budget is eerily similar- about 30 a week- when I ate meat/chicken/turkey/fish.
But I think that as I get used to the deal, it might be a couple bucks cheaper. I bought a 25 lb bag of rice and a 25 lb bag of black beans at Smart N Final and that was a wonderfully cheap and effective purchase.

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Post by jacob » Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:19 am

I went vegetarian (lacto-ovo) for two years when I moved away from home in my early twenties. Wanted to try it and that was my chance. This was also when I really learned to cook.
I also stopped drinking milk out of sheer laziness. In Europe milk don't have a 14 day expiration. It's 6 days and I didn't want to go to the supermarket that often. Still ate cheese though.
Experiences: After a couple of months, meat would taste like greasy rubber balls (my rule was to eat it at parties) and I soon stopped. After two years, I read about long term B12 issues and decided to put meat back on the diet. The first meat meal made me feel really funky. People asked me if I had more energy after eating meat, but actually I had less.
Our current diet is very light on meat. Meat serves the role of a side-dish or minor ingredient. I have no appreciation for most meat dishes: steak, chicken legs, lobster, roast, ... yuck! I like sausages and hamburgers though.
Does it save money? Probably, but that's not the primary purposes. It's simply that I like non-meat better and non-meat dishes are easier to prepare (few worries about bacteria, etc.) and preserve/eat cold.
PS: I have northern European genetics, so I belong to the small percentage of the human race who can actually eat dairy without issues (most are lactose intolerant even if they don't know it). Dairy is expensive and troublesome for most people and would those be smarter to give up than meat.

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Post by Ego » Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:21 am

Vegetarian to trim costs?
Day-to-day costs can be lower with a vegetarian diet. They can also be much higher if you replace meat with highly processed meat substitutes like Quorn or Yves.
In the long-term a meat-free diet can be incredibly money-saving because even if you have great health insurance, serious illnesses like heart disease and cancer are expensive. There is considerable evidence that less meat means less cancer and heart disease later in life.
That said, if I were forced to choose between removing meat or dairy from my diet, I'd cut the dairy. The immune systems of most human beings responds to milk protein (casein) as an invader. This immune response is linked to autoimmune diseases including diabetes. As Jacob says above, those who are not 100% Northern European descent should probably not be drinking cows milk.

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Post by m741 » Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:53 am

I haven't eaten meat since I was 6-8 years old. I think it's somewhat cheaper to eat vegetarian, but only if you avoid 'meat substitutes.' Based on evidence I've seen, I suspect it's slightly healthier but hardly enough to make a difference. Tofu doesn't count, but veggie burgers/soy milk/tofurkey tend to be more expensive than their traditional counterparts (and rather icky as well).
That said, if you care about animal welfare, ecology, or sustainability, you will be either vegetarian/vegan or very particular about the meat you eat (ie, only self-hunted or sustainably farmed meat).

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Post by jennypenny » Sat Feb 02, 2013 12:53 pm

A vegetarian diet would make it easier to provide your own food in most areas. (For most people) Gardening is easier than hunting or keeping livestock. I would think an ovo-vegetarian or pesco-ovo-vegetarian diet is probably the most ERE-friendly.
I second what Kevin said about buying whole chickens and such. The dark meat has more nutrients anyway and the bones are good for flavoring. If you like to eat meat, find a good butcher. I've often gone to my butcher with a recipe that includes expensive meat and asked him for a good substitute.
I've never heard of the northern european thing with dairy??

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Post by Ego » Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:15 pm

My post above was worded poorly.
Lactose and casein are two different issues. Lactose is the milk sugar. Casein is the milk protein. While lactose causes gastrointestinal distress for many people - except for those with the gene mutation that allows them to produce the digestive enzyme lactase beyond weaning age - casein seems to be the real troublemaker.
Symptoms of casein intolerance can include eczema, asthma, hives, hay fever, sinus, hyperactivity, excess mucus, phlegm, obesity, diabetes or hypertension and gastrointestinal symptoms similar to those of lactose intolerance.

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Post by Christopherjart » Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:16 pm

I am a mostly veggie eating omnivore. I like meat, but it is expensive. When I have no money, I don't buy any meat. I like the extra flavor a little meat will add to a vegetable dish or soup. At least here expensive vegetables are still cheaper than cheap meats (like sausages, ham) of course one consumes more veggies and most veggies can't be frozen so one needs to go shopping more frequently.

Yes, some vegetables will be editable after a week or two, but the taste, texture and vitamin content will be very poor even if they aren't yet "bad".
anyway to really save money eating vegetarian or mostly-veggie, you need to be sure to eat all the vegetables you buy before they go start to go bad. Eating mostly meat could be simpler since you could keep it in the freezer and thaw out pieces as you need them. I've never tried meat substitutes. The idea is a little funny to me although I might one day. They seem a little expensive and I have trouble imagining that they'd taste any better than a good salad, soup, or stir-fry.
I rarely buy milk perhaps 2 liters of milk a year. I do have cream on my tostadas and cheese on my pizza or sandwiches (when I'm too lazy to cook). I buy ice cream only when I have a craving.
We don't need to eat meat or dairy (at least not as adults). Too much meat and dairy (aka typical American or Argentinian consumption) has been associated with diabetes, hypertension, cancer, increased asthma and allergy symptoms, etc. Plus eating calorie dense food makes people sleepy after the initial high.

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Post by jacob » Sat Feb 02, 2013 7:34 pm

The mention of "meat substitutes" in this thread reminded me of something I've recently realized, namely, that outsiders have very different impressions of what's actually being eaten based on the description.
For example, I've seen plenty of internet clowns mention my self-described "rice and beans"-diet with a disdain suggesting that I'm pouring the contents of a can of cold beans onto a bag of boiled rice and hosing it with ketchup.
I've also seen people describe their own cooking using fancy culinary terms even as I know for a fact that they can't fry an egg without the assistance of a youtube video. Nothing wrong with that, though.
For example, vegetarian means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. We all met the "vegetarian" who eats fish and chicken ("it's not red meat, right, so it must be vegetarian"). Similarly. Some vegetarians subside on peanut butter, taco chips, and soy-based hotdogs.
My point is that the impression is all in the presentation and the prejudices.
For example, yesterday's dinner was homemade (obviously), sushi, specifically maki (California rolls)---as good as any $20/meal restaurant. I can name it because I actually know what the name for it was---I have an interest in things Japanese. In most other cases I'll describe it by its ingredients because I cook bottom-up describing dishes by their ingredients (rice, bean, vegetable, cheese...) and not top down identifying dishes by their name ("cheddar cheese quesadillas with freshly cut lettuce, organic sour creme, and tomato/poblano peppers"<- Here I'd have to ask DW what the actual name was/is).

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Post by theanimal » Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:18 pm

I became vegan a little over three months ago after reading the book The China Study ( I highly recommend it to all). I also avoid soy and oil and I have found that I am able to keep my food costs pretty low as a result. Its much easier to save money if you're basing your meals off seasonal produce that is on sale.
@jacob- WRT B12, have you ever heard of nutritional yeast? It is a flaky powder that tastes like cheese(yet isn't) and contains some B12. It goes well as on a topping or mixture in a variety of dishes. Also, I believe almond milk is also enriched with B12.

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Post by JohnnyH » Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:56 pm

We pretty much beat the meat (ha) is bad for you China Study thing to death in other threads... I am convinced processed carbohydrates and inflammatory oils are to blame for most of what meat and fat get the brunt of the blame for.
That said, commercial meat is fed nothing but processed carbohydrates... I do not think the cow/pig/chicken is a magical filtration system that can eat expired fruit loops and make healthy flesh. ;)
I've gone for long periods without meat and I always felt low energy and ravenous for it... One I got it I felt energized for a few days.
Anyway in Montana I can buy grass fed beef for no more than $3/lb for stew meat and burger. Steaks $4-10/lb... Deer and elk is everywhere, people give it as gifts. Last time I bought grass fed beef I paid $2/lb.
lol, I'd be happy to bring some to a meAtup and sell for cost, but I'm not sure what stupid TSA would do.

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Post by squashroll » Sat Feb 02, 2013 10:43 pm

Can't get grass fed anything in my area for less than $8/lb or so. Occasionally found it on sale for $6ish, but we have to drive WAY to far. Even good chicken eggs, where the hens are allowed to run all over, scratch for bugs and eat grass/plants, go for $6 a dozen. This turns into a very expensive omelette or burger...

As I'm typing this I'm eating a turkey bean chili made w/ costco ground turkey; afraid to consider what's these turkeys were gobble-gobbling. :/

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Post by anomie » Sun Feb 03, 2013 12:06 am


agree; disagree; agree

I think it's somewhat cheaper to eat vegetarian, but only if you avoid 'meat substitutes.'

I agree with this assertion.
But I disagree with this:

Based on evidence I've seen, I suspect it's slightly healthier but hardly enough to make a difference.

I think the evidence is mounting that the more vegetarian, the healthier the person (in general..) Physiology, activity, etc. all play into health as well of course.

That said, if you care about animal welfare, ecology, or sustainability, you will be either vegetarian/vegan or very particular about the meat you eat (ie, only self-hunted or sustainably farmed meat).

RoadKill, anyone? :)

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Post by anomie » Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:58 am

Just today's Google News for 'vegetarians':
research on "Vegetarians cut heart disease risk by a third" ... egetarians

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Post by KevinW » Sat Feb 09, 2013 12:20 am

I've tried to briefly explain my/Dacyczyn's shopping and cooking strategy a few times, so I finally wrote up a longer explanation in the wiki: ... _and_sales

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Post by thebbqguy » Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:06 am

Do you like rabbit? Here is some information about raising rabbits in an urban setting: Part 1 -- Part 2 --
He has a video about how to butcher them as well. I won't link to it here since some might not appreciate watching it. I grew up on a farm, so it doesn't bother me personally.
Growing up we didn't have a lot of money for a few years. I lived in a rural area and every relative, friend, and neighbor had a fishing pond. We used to fish every chance we got. There were weeks when we ate blue gill, perch, and catfish almost every meal.
If you are squeamish about butchering a rabbit, then fishing might be a nice alternative for you.

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Post by Noob » Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:34 am

Well, that would be hard to calculate. Since most fresh veggies are weighed by the pound. You'd have to probably replace those courses of meat with something, so you'd be calculating how much per pound each extra veggie cost you and compare that to what meat cost per pound. WOW! That's a lot of math. Good luck to whoever takes on this challenge. BUt, if you're just buying regular run of the mill meat, not special 8/lb grass fed black angus like you say above.. Then I'd be willing to say that it probably isn't cheaper. And usually I've noticed the more organic I try to go the more expensive my meals get. I think last time I bought hamburger i got the good lean stuff. It was around 1.62/lb. Compared to a salad that let's say you want cesar salad to replace a hamburger meal. Let's assume that each item is only a dollar just to give a round number.

Lettuce = 1 dollar

tomato = 1 dollar

cheese = 1 dollar

crutons = 1 dollar

onion = 1 dollar

dressing = 1 dollar

Total = 6 dollars
Hamburger meal

1lb hamburger = 1.62

buns = 2 dollars

French fries = 2 dollars

Total = 5.62
That's my best guess. It'd really be neat to see a long term comparison from actual receipts though.

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Post by Scott 2 » Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:16 pm

I've been vegetarian for 12 years. From what I've seen:
1. Vegan = Poor Health. Unfortunately, every person I've known who went vegan, sees their health decline within 3-6 months. They usually end up swinging entirely the other direction and resume eating meat. It is absurdly hard (maybe impossible) to maintain your health on a diet with no animal products.
2. Vegetarian can be cheaper, but a person's approach to their shopping and cooking is far more critical. I wouldn't go vegetarian just to save money. Especially if someone still tries to eat a healthy diet, protein just costs money. There's no getting around it. IMO, people that insist veg is cheaper are really insisting a low protein diet is cheaper, which is true. You can eat flour and water for pennies a day.
3. If someone eats the nutrionally best diet they can, a diet with some lean meat and fish is healthier than a vegetarian diet. The reality is, the health improvements associated wtih going vegetarian come from people cutting crap from their diet. Also, people that decide to go vegetarian have already decided to think critically about their diet and will eat better than average anyway.
4. I do think eating vegetarian is more ecologically efficient. It makes shopping / storing / preparing food simpler. It results in killing fewer animals.
Ultimately for me, it comes down to the fact that I could milk a cow or take an egg. I couldn't bring myself to slaughter a pig or behead a chicken. I'm not comfortable with outsourcing the activities I'd find so distasteful to someone else. Factory farming makes that especially true.
When possible, I even pay the premium for organic diary / pastured eggs. Again, it comes down to how I'd want my food animals handled. If I were to eat meat, it would need to be "happy" meat.

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Post by Chad » Wed Feb 20, 2013 5:26 pm

I agree with Scott 2. The cost difference would be minimal at best unless you want to "eat flour and water."
I'm not convinced meat or fat is the cause for our health problems. Studies seem to suggest properly fed meat (grass, wild fish, etc.) is rather healthy, as are fats such as olive oil, avocados, etc. While, The China Study has some serious flaws and may point more to refined carbohydrates and modern wheat being the problem.
It appears that our main issues are:

1) We eat too much of everything, even healthy foods

2) Refined carbs are bad

3) Animals that don't eat their natural diet aren't healthy(corn fed cows, farmed fish, etc.)

4) Carbs, even good ones, shouldn't be the base of the food pyramid

5) Modern wheat may be an issue (not definitive yet)
Those first 4 seem to be the real culprits. Unfortunately, #2-4 make the diet a little more expensive.

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Post by GandK » Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:10 pm

I'm a vegetarian who occasionally eats fish, shrimp and eggs, although nuts and legumes are the main sources of protein in my diet. I don't eat much dairy or wheat.
I grew up on a cattle farm; we always had all the meat we could eat, and I don't have any sort of moral or psychological objections to meat consumption. But after years of tinkering, I find that I just feel better when I eat a plant-based diet.
Breakfast for me is usually oatmeal with berries, pecans and brown sugar. Lunch is usually a salad. My favorite salad dressing is olive oil with some spices. Dinner is often stir-fried beans and/or veggies over rice (with sauce), plus broiled meat for the rest of my family, and baked fruit - plain or in a crisp - as a dessert. When I do eat bread and cheese, it's because I'm out somewhere.
With regard to the @OP cost question: I find that I can almost always eat fruits and vegetables less expensively than store-bought meat if I eat them seasonally and allow myself to mixed in canned fruits/veggies and lots of legumes. Really it's when people try to buy things way off season that they run up costs. Some people pick 2 or 3 favorite fruits or veggies and insist on consuming those repeatedly all year long, and then they wonder why their produce bills are so high. If they'd branch out more that wouldn't happen. Farmers' markets are great resources, too.

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Post by anastrophe » Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:42 pm

Reverse perspective: I was lacto/ovo vegetarian, and occasionally vegan, my entire life until this year. When I started eating meat, my food prices shot up dramatically.
This is perhaps because I insist on high-quality food (no factory farmed anything if I can help it, I am lucky to live in an area with many small farms that grow most things except wheat). But even the cheapest poultry from Purdue costs more than my bulk beans (.70/lb).

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Post by gueco » Sun Feb 24, 2013 4:38 am

my diet is mostly meat, its great !

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