Vegetarians sometimes get a bad reputation. People think we’ll fall apart at any moment while others think we have our own special smell. None of these misconceptions bother me, though, as much as one commonly-believed myth: The veg*n diet is only possible for the privileged class, and only those who are rich can afford to be a vegan or vegetarian.
Whenever I hear that vegetarianism is a rich-people’s diet I get confused, then angry. You mean to tell me that the 99 cent bag of lentils I just purchased should be made of pure gold? I demand a refund!
The mainstays of a veg*n diet are fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, grains, and perhaps dairy.
Let’s look at the costs for an easy, home-made vegetarian dinner: taco salad.
1 serving of black beans: ½ cup cooked, 45 cents from canned beans (cheaper by almost 50% if you make yours from scratch)
1 serving of brown rice: ½ cup cooked, 18 cents
1 serving of lettuce: 4 leaves (chopped), 40 cents
1 serving of tomato: ½ tomato (chopped), 30 cents
1 serving of avocado: ½ avocado (sliced or mashed), 60 cents
A few squirts of hot sauce: 5 cents
Optional for vegetarians, sprinkle of cheese: price varies depending on quantity used
I estimated these costs using expensive D.C. prices, so even at a total of $1.98 in the highest cost of living areas, you can enjoy a healthy, filling, tasty meal for under $2. Is it possible to make a healthy meal under your budget with the use of meat? Sure, but I guarantee you’ll be able to make more meals from a pound of lentils, than a pound of chicken—and for pennies on the dollar.
Vegetarianism traces its roots to ancient India. Even today, India is home to the largest population of vegetarians. It may not surprise you to also know that India is a developing country and home to the largest number of poor people in the world. This means that the largest share of poor people in the world sustain themselves on a vegetarian diet.
The fake meat products can break a veg*n’s budget. Those foods are generally over-processed and full of preservatives. I stay away from many fake meat items because I don’t really see the value in them aside from serving as an emergency meal if you’re out of anything else at home. If you can’t afford fresh produce, buy only what’s in season. Or, buy frozen! Frozen produce is picked during peak harvest and can be tastier than its fresh counterpart.
The next time you go grocery shopping, I encourage you to do a price comparison of the items you buy. You might agree that calling a vegetarian or vegan diet “privileged” is ultimately an easy excuse for not giving it a try.