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Vegetarian meals are a great help to the budget, and can offer a low fat, high protein meal. Including them in your menu once in awhile can be a healthy and frugal move...


 What visitor to Whole Foods (aka "Whole Paycheck") hasn't stared in slack-jawed wonder at bluefoot mushrooms imported from Europe ($39.99 per pound), off-season organic grapefruit from Texas ($2.49 per softball-size fruit), organic almond butter ($14.99 a pound) or pine nuts ($13.99 a pound)?

In a world of $1 double cheeseburgers, it's no wonder that many people suspect that a vegetarian diet is more expensive than one that includes meat.

But that's generally not true. And though it's difficult to tally the savings of illnesses or diseases avoided with a plant-based diet, the financial worth of good health is unquestionable.

Vegetarianism could extend your life by several years, as well as lower your risk of heart disease, cancer and dementia. It's better for the planet, reducing water usage and global-warming gases.
And it certainly improves the health of the cow or pig you would have devoured.

The cost depends largely on what course of vegetarianism you choose to follow:

* Many people keep a diet that's known as mostly vegetarian -- a typical American diet minus the red meat. Vegetarians drop poultry and seafood.
* A lacto-vegetarian eats dairy products.
* An ovo-vegetarian eats eggs.
* A pescetarian eats fish.
* A vegan eats no animal products at all.
* A fruitarian eats only fruit.

Basics are easy on the wallet
Most of the staples of a vegetarian diet are cheap. In fact, most of the world's people eat a mostly vegetarian diet made up of inexpensive commodities such as beans, rice and corn.

If you drop red meat, poultry and fish from your diet, you'll find plant proteins cheaper than the equivalent amount of animal protein. The cheapest cuts of beef, such as ground round, average $3 per pound in U.S. cities (lean and extra lean); boneless chicken breasts cost $3.40 a pound; and canned tuna is about $2 per pound.
 

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