Thursday, January 29, 2009

The economy, veganism and vegetarianism (including part-time), and weight

If you've been reading about the economy and the papers lately, one of the things you might have noticed is that pundits are actually thinking a bad economy might make us as Americans MORE obese, not less. That sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it? You'd think with less money, we'd have less money to buy food, and therefore, we would all lose weight. But that's not necessarily true.

Why? Because "cheap" foods like white flour, white bread, and macaroni and cheese stretch food dollars further, that's true. However, they are also nutritionally bereft of just about everything but calories.

There's another point to this, too. With empty calories, your blood sugar zooms up and down, which leaves you hungrier sooner, and therefore likely to eat more. What can you do instead?

Stretch things with beans

No, no, I'm not saying you have to become completely vegetarian or vegan if you're not one. But here's the thing; beans are a whole lot cheaper than meat as a protein source, and they fill you up, too. And because they have both soluble and insoluble fiber in them, they're going to help you get and stay "regular," and they'll actually help you lower your cholesterol, too.

So instead of trying to stretch your food dollars by buying "empty calorie" foods, stretch them by using beans along with some meat to bulk up your protein sources, and then spend a few bucks on some fresh or frozen vegetables, too.

Your budget

Try this: Give yourself a food budget of, say, $100 a week for a family of four. (If it has to be less, that's okay; you can just buy a little less meat and a few more beans, vegetables, fruit, complex carbohydrates, etc., than you would with a little more money.) You'd be surprised at what you can get with that if you're careful. Concentrate on buying the fruits, veggies, and beans first (along with some dairy as applicable), and then buy the meat as the last thing you get.

You'd be surprised at how much food you get for $100. The meat can flavor the meals you make with other protein sources like beans so that you still feel satisfied, but they're a lot healthier with a few beans tossed in and a lot cheaper, too.

Using a crockpot

Crockpots are one of the best ways to make hearty soups and stews with a little bit of meat thrown in for flavor, but stretched with beans and veggies for the best value and good health, too. And, they make cooking easier. Give them a try.


  1. Thanks for this post (and this blog). I have to agree. When we switched to vegan shopping, our grocery budget was literally halved. We had this misconception that eating healthy would cost more (and it certainly can if you're buying loads of organic, specialty items), but rice, beans and produce cost a lot less than meat, pasta and cheese.

  2. I am trying to be vegitarian but have been eating some meat lately. I have a blog at blogspot
    I would like to link to this blog. Anna

  3. You're welcome, Harley. I'm with you. I've been vegan for 25 years and can't believe how cheap I can eat. :-)

    Anna, thanks so much for asking to link to my blog. Of course, and I also invite you to visit my website at:

    It's old and it's been a long time since I updated (switched to the blog instead), but there are lots of "cheap" cooking ideas on it and some "lazy" recipes, too, all from scratch.

  4. this is the second blog i’ve read so far praising the economical sense of even partial vegetarianism or veganism. (the other was robyn webb’s site.) i’m going to keep looking for more for even more ideas. thanks. :)