When I was 11, I stopped eating meat. I was the lone vegetarian among my friends. I also avoid dairy because of an allergy, so I was misunderstood (“What do you eat?”), but tolerated.

I have distinct memories of high school where a friend would always implore me to eat meat. “I’ll give you $5 to eat this beef jerky,” he would say. “What about $100?” Each time, I adamantly refused.

At the time, I just thought he was being an annoying kid. I happily took out my peanut butter sandwich and ate that instead.

The Cost Of Sidebar: Being An Omnivore, Vegetarian, Vegan: The Winner Is... Only a few years later, the alternative meat and organic industry exploded. When I could start buying soy slices to put in sandwiches, I was ecstatic!

I ate a lot of mock chicken nuggets, hickory BBQ riblets, soy patties, and more. Little did I know that my spending was increasing!

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When I began to live on my own in graduate school, I wanted to cut down on my budget. The first thing I cut was the soy products. How could I justify spending nearly $5 on a packet of soy buffalo wings?

Instead of soy protein crumbles ($3.49 a pack), I purchased black beans ($0.99 a can). Instead of fake deli meat ($3.50 a pack), I began making mock chicken salad from scratch with chickpeas ($0.99 a can plus mayonnaise and green pepper).

My spending began to fall, and I knew that those items would be designated only as special purchases in the future.

One way to make sure that your spending drops is to use couponing tools like SavingStar. It's even easier to use once you download the app version!

I know I’m in the minority as a vegetarian, but perhaps other people living on a budget don’t know that eating vegetarian can both be good on your wallet, as well as your body.

There are a few different definitions for vegetarians, but we’ll work on this one. A vegetarian is someone who eats eggs and dairy, but not meat.

A vegan is someone who doesn't eat meat or any food that is produced by an animal, including dairy, eggs, and even honey.

With that in mind, I created a daily menu for a meat-eater, a vegetarian, and a vegan to see the cost difference.

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That friend in high school was just being annoying, but what he didn’t know was that being a meat eater is more expensive. You can see that it is, indeed, cheaper to eat vegan.

These prices came from the Walmart near me. Of course, the cost will go up or down depending on whether you buy organic or not, and if you're cooking for a family of four or just for one.

Chart: The Cost Of Being An Omnivore, Vegetarian, Vegan: The Winner Is...

Of course, you can be a vegetarian or an omnivore and eat expensively or eat poorly. It’s about making good choices. Planning meals, buying in season, and buying in bulk can save a lot. Even so, your wallet – and your body – might thank you for going vegetarian one day a week.

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