Meatless Mondays a budget boost

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 05:00 06/04/2014
Vegetables
Reuters

ALTERNATIVE EATS: Just because you decide to cut back on the meat doesn’t mean you won't eat well.

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Summer barbecue season is coming to an end. Mouth-watering wafts of gently-seared animal flesh have been snatched away by the autumn winds.

Maybe it's for the best.

As a diehard carnivore, this week's money-saving message is delivered through closely-gritted canines.

A recent analysis of the cost of healthy eating by yours truly found meat tends to be the costliest part of any meal.

It also turns out we're eating way more than we need to; clogging up our arteries at the same time as we're emptying our wallets.

One nutritionist told me an evening meal should contain about 100 grams to 170g of meat or other protein source, depending on your body size.

Instead, most of us are filling our gullets with roughly twice the recommended intake.

The very cheapest cuts of meat -mince, stewing steak, chicken pieces of questionable provenance - tend to cost about $10 a kilo.

For a family of four, that means the meat component of a single dinner will usually cost roughly $6 to $10.

If the classic meat and two vege gets dished out only once a day, that still adds up to at least $2000 a year, and maybe more like $4000.

It's painful to admit it, but it might be time to resurrect an old tradition. For centuries, Catholics and various other groups have abstained from eating meat on Fridays.

Then during World War I, the concept of "Meatless Mondays" was introduced in an attempt to help the war effort.

Even though the troops have long since returned home, it's continued to gain traction over the years - even making an appearance on Oprah.

Religious, health or environmental reasons are the usual drivers for abstaining from meaty goodness, but there's a strong cost-saving element too.

That's because plant-based protein sources such as lentils, beans, and whole grains are ridiculously cheap.

While it's usually disparaged as bird feed, 100g of lentils costs 70c, and is loaded with 26g of protein and at least 12 important micronutrients.

With a vegetarian in the household, I've grown accustomed to having a couple of meat-free meals each week.

Amazingly, no-one's broken down the door and revoked my man card.

My rough calculation is that foregoing meat for even one day out of seven could save your family roughly $10 a week, or $500 a year.

That's worth considering all by itself. But as is the case with so many of these sorts of lifestyle tweaks, you also get to help save the planet and improve your own health, which in turn leads to indirect financial benefits down the line.

All the while, you can continue munching out on your favourite species of animal from Tuesday through Sunday, if you want to.

After all, it'd be a cruel old world if we had to give up bacon altogether.

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