In this carbohydrate conscious era, there seems to be precious little information out there for people who choose to eschew animal protein. It may seem obvious to load up on fresh fruits and vegetables, but how do you replace the protein missing from your diet? There are several companies that provide protein substitute foods, frozen for your convenience, but everyday reliance on specialty foods can truly but a dent in your grocery budget.

If you are especially cost-conscious, the task of keeping to a healthy vegetarian diet without breaking the bank may seem just about impossible. However, there are a few simple measures that you can take in meal planning and shopping that will allow you to have the plentiful vegetarian diet you crave on a budget you can afford.

First and foremost, consider where you shop. Boutique all-natural food stores are awesome for those hard to find items, but they can also be outrageously expensive for regular foodstuffs. If quality fruits and vegetables are important to you, head for your local farmers’ market. Because it comes straight from the farm, often picked the very same day, produce purchased at a farmers’ market is more likely to taste better and stay fresh longer than that you might buy at a grocery store. Additionally, because there is no middle-man, market prices tend to below.

Last, but certainly not least, the superior quality of the fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets will translate into better tasting meals. The need for heavy sauces or other additives to make a dish more palatable will be greatly diminished. Thus, you’ll find yourself in a position to save a little more money by eliminating the extras. If, however, you cannot shop at a farmers market, do make certain to buy produce in season. Buying strawberries in November may sound wonderful, but they will cost nearly three times more than what you would have paid in June.

If there is some fruit or veggie that you absolutely must have an off-season, head to the frozen food aisle. It is far less expensive to buy frozen berries in winter than fresh ones and, frankly, since they were likely grown in season, they will probably taste better too. Armed with the knowledge of how to tackle the issue of produce, you are ready to delve into the wealth of options regarding non-animal protein substitutes.

As mentioned above, several companies do produce soy-based substitutes, but they can definitely stress out a tight grocery budget. However, this is the best time to point out that many people have a very skewed view of how much protein is really necessary for any given meal. You can buy frozen veggie-burger crumbles for convenience, but you will save a lot of money if you use the contents of the bag over several meals. Suppose, for instance, you are having spaghetti with pasta sauce for dinner.

Do not make the pre-packaged â hamburger substitute the only thing you add to the sauce. Try adding just one cup per every four servings. It may initially look scant, but hardly anyone will notice your frugality if you also add cooked red kidney beans and spinach to the mix. Not only will you have saved money, but you will have also added to the protein and iron content of what otherwise would have been a rather deficient sauce. Additionally, you can add beans and extra vegetables to casseroles and soups.

They stretch out what could, unassisted, appear to be meager portions and they add inexpensive color and style to familiar standbys. Burger crumbles are not the only prepackaged protein substitute you can stretch. Ever notice that a veggie burger patty overlaps a conventional hamburger bun? Try slicing your patty in half and adding extra vegetables (or even soy cheese!) to make up the difference.

If you truly make it your way, you’ll be able to comfortably stretch that box of veggie burgers from a four-patty box to an eight-patty one without much sacrifice at all. Frozen food aside, beans, while requiring more effort than convenience foods, are probably your best bet to inexpensively replace animal protein.

Canned or dry, beans are both cheap and nutritious. Most of the key brands produce special vegetarian versions of their most popular lines. In general, this means that they have not used any animal products in the making of a particular item. If canned beans are not your style, you can, with prior planning, use dried beans to make your own vegetarian dishes. Dried legumes, such as lentils or pinto beans, are available at a fraction of the cost of their canned cousins but often require more time and effort than is available in a busy workday.

With few exceptions, you cannot just toss uncooked beans in a pot of water and expect to eat in thirty minutes. They will need to be sorted and may need to be soaked overnight before they can be cooked for consumption. Still, if quality control is, after saving money, job one in your kitchen, starting from scratch may well be worth the extra time and effort. Whichever way you go, canned, or dried, just about every traditional cookbook has some recipe you can adapt with beans to make it better suit your vegetarian lifestyle. All it takes is a little experimentation and creative use of your favorite beans and vegetables.

Even though they are cheap, a lifetime of bean-based meals could be depressing for even the most ardent legume enthusiast. It is important to keep in mind that variety is not the only key to a balanced vegetarian diet, but essential to helping you adhere to a reasonable grocery budget. If you are bored or dissatisfied with your meal choices, you are more likely to impulsively purchase expensive pre-packaged items.

It is a universal truth, whether you are a vegetarian or steak-lover. The only means to avert budget sabotage is to carefully plan your meals, avoid reliance upon high priced retailers, and to get creative with the food that you both love and can afford.

With a well thought out strategy, you may find that you are not only happier with what you eat, but with how little it costs you to maintain a healthy vegetarian way of life.

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