Dietary habits can lead to less spending on meals

March 11, 2020 — by Andy Chen

For many who choose to undergo dietary restrictions like veganism, these habits can result in a less costly lifestyle in addition to religious, moral or health benefits.

Those who willingly undergo strict dietary habits like veganism often choose to do so for religious, moral or health reasons, but many don’t realize that these habits can also serve as a great way to spend less on meals.

For sophomore Izzie Lee, who announced her decision to become a vegan on Jan. 16, veganism was a way to maintain a healthier and more satisfying lifestyle.

“At the time, I felt like I wanted to eat healthier,” Lee said. “All the foods I wanted to cut down on included meat and animal products, so I thought, might as well be vegan.”

As a result of her decision, Lee’s diet now consists of mainly fruits and vegetables, as well as tofu and vegan-friendly substitutes for protein. A typical day’s worth of meals for her includes a smoothie for breakfast, a vegan-friendly PB&J for lunch and roasted vegetables for dinner.

Lee now shops for her own food instead of relying on her parents, since none of her family members share her self-imposed dietary restrictions. For Lee, this is actually a blessing; she’s able to spend less and save more, as vegetables cost less than meats on average.

“I don’t have to pay as much for groceries as before,” she said. “Before, I usually spent somewhere close to $50 — right now, I never go over $35 a week.”

For Lee, “cheat foods,” such as vegan chocolate and vegan ice cream, have been essential to adjust to her new life. Since her now vegetable-heavy diet contains fewer calories and therefore less potential energy than her previously meat-heavy diet, these cheat foods provide a needed energy boost for her to get through her day.

In addition, these snacks are convenient because of how affordable they are. Lee’s favorite cheat food, Oatly vanilla ice cream, costs only $4.99 — a similar price to normal other ice cream brands. More snacks include protein bars, which Lee usually makes at home using dried dates, chia seeds, almonds and yogurt chips — when grinded into a paste and frozen, a single batch often lasts upwards of two weeks despite costing under $10.

So far she has tended to avoid plant-based meats like Beyond Burgers. This is mostly because fake meat products cost significantly more than other vegan substitute products — a package of only two Beyond Burger patties sells for $5.99 in most stores, which is actually more expensive than most meat products of similar size.

In seventh grade, freshman Lily Zhang also switched her eating habits, although she subscribed to pescatarianism rather than veganism. Unlike Lee, her primary purpose wasn’t necessarily to be more healthy; rather, she felt the need to protect the environment in any way she could.

“I care about the environment, and fish is more environmentally friendly than most other meats, so it was pretty natural,” she said.

As a pescatarian, Zhang eats a diet similar to a vegetarian’s: her meals mostly consist of grains and vegetables, but they also include fish for protein.

Zhang’s cost of living is also relatively cheap, although she cited it as more expensive than a vegetarian’s, because fish products can be expensive. Since her mom follows a similar diet, Zhang is able to shop with her family to maximize her bang for her buck. After switching to a pescatarian diet, she spends 30 percent less on meal prep compared to before.

For both Lee and Zhang, switching their dietary habits was an opportunity to further their own goals and visions as well as decrease their cost of living. While becoming a vegan or pescatarian can initially be a difficult experience, they encourage everyone to at least be open to the idea.

“It’s definitely not for everyone,” Lee said. “But as long as you’re motivated, disciplined and want to make a healthy change in your life, I’d say to definitely go for it.”