By Paula Pant | April 21, 2015
After housing and transportation, food is typically the third-largest expense for many American families. A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans spend an average of $151 a week on food ($7,852 a year).
One of one of the fastest and easiest ways to reduce your food bill is by removing one of the most expensive ingredients from your meals: meat.
Meat (particularly red meat) is a pricey addition to your meals. You don’t have to turn into a full-blown vegetarian. Adopting a more vegetarian diet, sometimes known as flexitarian or semi-vegetarian, can still yield substantial savings and potentially improve your health.
The numbers make sense. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nationwide average price for ground beef is $4.23 a pound. USDA sirloin steak costs $8.19 a pound. Boneless ham costs $4.42 a pound, and chicken breast is $3.51 a pound. In contrast, dried beans cost only $1.48 a pound, and large eggs are $2.08 a dozen.
Here are six ideas and tips for creating vegetarian-based meals and snacks that cost $1 to $2 a meal. Plus, these recipes are easy-to-make, even on a busy schedule, which means that creating healthy and cheap meals could become your next great habit.
1. Incorporate More Beans
One pound of dried black beans costs around $1.50 at the grocery store, and that’s enough to make one week’s worth of meals for one person. Cook beans in bulk over a weekend and eat it throughout the rest of the week. You won’t have to spend much time cooking, and your total meal costs will come to as little as $1 to $2 a meal.
You can use black beans to make tacos, burritos, quesadillas or veggie and black bean bowls. You can also garnish with cheese and salsa as you’d like. If you’re not a fan of black beans, substitute pinto beans or combine the two for added flavor combinations.
2. Make Your Own Hummus
One pound of dried chickpeas also costs about $1.50. Soak these overnight, cook them, and then combine with salt, lemon juice, garlic and tahini. You can use a blender or a food processor to make your own hummus. It’s surprisingly simple to make.
Rather than pay $5 at the grocery store for a tiny container of hummus, you can produce nearly half a gallon of hummus for only $2 to $3. As with the beans, you can add additional flavoring. I like to add hot peppers into mine.
You can even use this as a dip to eat raw vegetables or crackers. If you’re busy at work, hummus and veggies or pita chips also make for a great snack to munch on while you’re sitting at your desk. Once again, your total cost per meal can be as little as $1 to $2.
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