You might think that a vegetarian lifestyle would be hard on your wallet. But by keeping it simple and being a little creative, you may actually be able to save. Whether it's for moral, religious or health concerns, here are five reasons vegetarian living can be financially savvy.
1. You'll avoid rising meat prices
Meat prices are high, and could well rise even higher. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the prices for meat, poultry and fish are expected to increase by 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent in 2014, with beef and veal increasing by 3 percent to 4 percent. So it's a good time to skip out on meat, and the big bill that comes with it.
2. You can prevent additional medical bills
Red meat is a good source of protein, iron, B vitamins and zinc. However, a recent study suggests eating too much of it could lead to atherosclerosis, or the thickening of artery walls with plaque, which in turn could lead to heart attack or stroke. Cardiovascular disease, which includes both heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death in the United States. Whether or not you eat meat, you should consider getting free preventive screenings for cholesterol and blood pressure, both of which can contribute to your heart health.
In addition to the burden on your physical well-being, these ailments can lead to high costs for medications and other medical bills, lost wages and a potentially decreased standard of living, and perhaps even medical bankruptcy. Several meat substitutes that provide many of the same nutrients include peanuts, beans and tofu.
3. GIY -- You can grow it yourself
Starting your own garden may seem like a big investment, but it doesn't have to be. Managing a garden will not only help you save a few bucks in the long run, but can also be a fun hobby and a rewarding experience. With a little planning and the right tools, just about anyone can start his or her own garden. Here are a few tips to get started:
•First, think about what you want to grow. You can choose to have a wide selection of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, or you can stick to a few items.
•Maximizing your return also depends on where you're located and the type of soil you have. Find out what you're able to grow based on your climate and soil before choosing your crops.
•Think about the space you have for your garden. Whether it's your kitchen windowsill or your backyard, make sure the area has access to the appropriate amount of sunlight for what you're growing.
•Keep in mind that different crops have different requirements, including the amount of sunlight and water.
•Make an event of it. Once your garden is up and running, invite family and friends to help you maintain your garden -- and get rid of those pesky weeds.
4. You can shop strategically
When it comes to nonperishable items such as grains, beans and other canned or bottled items, you can save big if you buy in bulk. Compare prices per unit of measure and make use of coupons and on sale items -- but remember to check expiration dates and purchase only what you'll be able to eat before it expires.
Although fresh fruits and vegetables can spoil quickly, there are several other ways to save. For great savings, ditch the local stores and head to your local farmer's market. You'll save by buying directly from the source -- and you'll also support local farmers. If you must shop at the grocery store, keep an eye out for items that are in season. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are typically cheaper because there are more of them floating around and shops save by not having them shipped in.
5. You can preserve your fruits and vegetables
Get in the habit of freezing fruits and vegetables you know you won't eat before they spoil. You can freeze many fruits and vegetables at the peak of ripeness until you're ready to use them. You might also consider canning and bottling -- the possibilities for creating your own sauces, jams and jellies are almost endless. You can learn lots more on step-by-step guides from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
As a last resort, you can even start a compost pile. Think of it as a form of recycling. Throw your old fruit, fruit skins and vegetables in a secluded bin. After a little management and a few months, spread your compost into your garden and watch your plants flourish!