Health & Fit: Skip Meat Once a Week and Watch Your Grocery Bills Drop

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You've likely heard the phrase "Meatless Monday" before. It's a simple enough statement to understand: You skip eating meat one day a week to improve your nutrition. But going meatless once a week has many benefits besides lowering your risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity -- it can benefit your wallet too.

One of the simplest ways to save some cash and stretch your food budget is to go meatless at least once a week. Oscar Wong/Getty Images © Provided by CNET One of the simplest ways to save some cash and stretch your food budget is to go meatless at least once a week. Oscar Wong/Getty Images

I went vegetarian in college for the environmental benefits of reducing meat intake, but now as a graduate with a full-time job, going meatless has helped me save a ton of money on groceries too. With high gas prices, inflation and rising utility bills, it's important to find ways to save around the house. Here's how much you can expect to save by going meatless at least one day a week.

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(For more money-saving tips, check out how much you can save by shopping at Costco, if it's cheaper to buy meal kits than groceries, if shopping for groceries online is less expensive than in the store and how much you can save with streaming services vs. cable.)

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What is Meatless Monday?

  Skip Meat Once a Week and Watch Your Grocery Bills Drop © Provided by CNET

Meatless Monday isn't just a fad or a snappy phrase created by vegans or vegetarians to get you to stop eating your favorite meals. Meatless Monday is actually an initiative created by the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2003 to address public health, ecological and global food security concerns. CLF deduced that reducing your intake of meat or animal products, even one day a week, can protect your personal health and nutrition, global health and the environment.

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CLF defines going "meatless" as cutting out all red meat, poultry or seafood for one day a week, every week. These meat-centered meals can be swapped for meals built around beans, lentils, vegetables, whole grains and other plant-based proteins.

While not necessary to make an impact, millions of people globally have opted for diets that cut out meat permanently, either identifying as vegetarian (someone who does not eat meat) or vegan, someone who does not eat any meat, animal products or animal byproducts (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy and eggs).

Nearly 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are due to meat and dairy production. Heather Paul/Getty Images © Provided by CNET Nearly 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are due to meat and dairy production. Heather Paul/Getty Images

Why go meatless?

According to CLF, the rationale is that "meat consumption in the US and globally must be significantly reduced to mitigate the public health and environmental effects of climate change, particularly in high-income countries." Nearly 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are due to meat and dairy production, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization.

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Switching to a vegetarian, vegan or largely plant-based diet can greatly reduce emissions considering the climate impact of plant-based foods is typically 10 to 50 times smaller than that of animal products.

Meat is also typically high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and many chronic health conditions are linked to higher intakes of animal products, especially red meat. This isn't to say everyone needs to cut out meat to have a healthier diet, but on average, Americans eat more meat than is recommended by health experts. In fact, Americans eat more than 1.5 times the average daily protein requirement and more than three times the global average of meat consumption, according to CLF.

Simply replacing meats with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and plant-based proteins, such as nuts and legumes, will ease dietary concerns. For tips on how to grocery shop, these are the cheapest fruits and veggies you can buy right now. Plus, here are tips on how to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer.

People on meatless diets spend an average of $23 less on food every week. summerphotos/Getty Images © Provided by CNET People on meatless diets spend an average of $23 less on food every week. summerphotos/Getty Images

How much can you actually save by going meatless?

Though many people may believe buying fresh produce will break the bank, plant-based proteins and meatless diets tend to be less expensive and offer more health benefits than meat. Think about it, rather than buying $18 New York Strip steaks for dinner you could spend $1.48 on a head of lettuce with cucumbers and grape tomatoes to make a salad for significantly less.

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Meat per pound is significantly more expensive than fruits and vegetables per-pound. Based on current food prices in the US, 1 pound of beef costs $6.19 and 1 pound of chicken costs $5.25, while fruits and vegetables average around $1 to $2 per pound.

As you can see from the information in above chart, -- pulled from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics -- meats, poultry, fish and eggs are more expensive than fresh produce items.

A survey of over 1,000 Americans conducted by Sous Vide Guy found that roughly 1 in 4 people who consume meat didn't believe a plant-based diet was a cheaper alternative. However, people on meatless diets spent an average of $23 less on food every week. Plus, that number can rise dramatically for those purchasing nitrate free, non-GMO or organic meats.

Using this figure, if you cut out meat, you could save $1,196 over the course of a year.

While you won't save as much by only cutting out meat once a week, every bit helps. To learn more about plant-based diets, read our guide on the pros and cons of a plant-based lifestyle, and how to safely remove meat from your diet. You can also check out the best vegetarian and vegan meal delivery services.

More money-saving kitchen tips and tricks

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