Credit: Interesting Engineering

Eating sustainably on a budget

By Ciara Robertson

Ciara Robertson discusses how cutting out meat won’t hurt your bank account.

Before I became vegetarian, two years ago, one of the main reservations I had was whether it would be possible on a student budget. The arguments that you often hear are “vegetarian and vegan alternatives are so expensive” or “but what would I eat”? In fact, I have found cutting out meat has made my weekly shop a lot less costly and that I now take the time to cook healthy meals more frequently.  

Some steps to a more sustainable diet include reducing your intake of meat and dairy products; buying fruit and vegetables which are in season; and making the most of the options available to you. While supermarkets tend not to advertise the seasonality of their produce, a quick search online can keep you informed about when fruit and vegetables are in season in the UK. This helps keep your food costs down, as eating seasonally cuts transport and produce costs. For more tips on eating seasonally see here.

Plant-based alternatives are becoming increasingly commonplace in local supermarkets. While meat substitutes can sometimes be more expensive, these can often be incorporated into bigger portions and frozen to eat later. Alternatively, plant-based recipes including foods such as beans, pulses, lentils and nuts are a great, healthy way to go. You also can’t go wrong with some tomato or pesto pasta! Buying in bulk and cooking meals in batches can help ensure little waste and consequently less loss of money. Furthermore, many restaurants and cafes have also adapted their menus to be inclusive of all dietary requirements, with more vegetarian and vegan meals widely available. For a mouthwatering selection of plant-based restaurants and recommendations in Glasgow, see here. 

If eating out is not for you, there are also plenty of options for home cooking. As someone who has never had a passion for cooking, businesses on my social media platforms have had a big influence on me when preparing meals. Despite there being a wide array of plant-based cookbooks out there, I grow bored of flicking through the pages trying to find a recipe I’ve not tried before or that I have the ingredients to make. On Instagram, new recipes regularly pop up on my feed, which I save for later. Some of my favourite accounts include Deliciously Ella (@deliciouslyella), The Happy Pear (@thehappypear) and Dr Hazel Wallace (@thefoodmedic). While some of their recipes contain slightly dearer ingredients, the majority are quick and easy to make from basics or can be substituted for cheaper produce.  

There is a definite feeling of transition towards more plant-based diets throughout Scotland and the UK. In recent years, I have watched as friends of mine who once swore never to cook a meal without meat, begin eating plant-based meals two to three times a week. I myself would never have dreamed of cutting out meat a few years ago – just ask my old vegan flatmate. However, with the increasing urgency of the climate emergency, a more sustainable lifestyle is something we should all work towards. 

With all of these options available to us, it is becoming much easier to switch our diets and incorporate more sustainable practices – and the best part is it doesn’t have to be expensive. A multitude of ways to be sustainable on a budget exist. It is impossible for anyone to be the epitome of sustainability but by implementing small changes, the anxiety surrounding the costs of a more sustainable diet can be avoided. 


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