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#901 Know What Fruits And Vegetables To Buy Organic

30 Apr

organic strawberries and grapesOrganic fruits and vegetables can cost twice as much or more than conventional fruits and vegetables. Buying organic can throw your grocery budget off every month if you don’t organize your shopping to focus on the most important produce to buy organic. There are lots of fruits and vegetables that you can skip buying organic, and some that are no-brainers to buy organic. The best way to organize your organic shopping is to use the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists. The lists take the data from pesticide tests run by the US Department of Agriculture and the federal Food and Drug Administration to rank fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues from high to low. High pesticide residue equals “dirty,” and low pesticide residue equals “clean.” Focus your organic shopping on the “dirty” fruits and vegetables to reduce your chemical exposure and live a healthier life. I do most of my shopping at a regular grocery store, where organic selections are often limited but getting better. At health food stores or places like Whole Foods, organic is easier to find, but more expensive. Look into buying bulk to save money through a local coop or health food store for the dirtiest fruits and vegetables.

Here are the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen, which change every year based on yearly pesticide data, and some tips and alternatives. The EWG’s ratings are based on how people would normally eat the fruits or vegetables, so washing doesn’t make a difference. Not washing before eating actually means there are more chemicals than the ratings suggest.

These are the 2013 “dirty” fruits and vegetables you should make an effort to buy organic when available and the budget allows:

organic apples

Organic apples aren’t as big or pretty but they’re much safer to eat to reduce pesticide exposure.

#1 Apples. Number one on the list – EEK! I don’t find many organic apples available for purchase in the grocery store. You’re better off buying organic apples locally when apples are in season. My mom used to buy organic apples in bulk from the health food store to save money and get organic. Apples, if stored properly, can be kept fresh for a long time. The best thing for non-organic apples is to wash, peel and core as the pesticides reside in the peel and in the stem/core area in the highest concentrations. I usually only use apples for purposes that require peeling and coring. If you can’t find organic apples, go with another, lower pesticide fruit for snacking or use apples for pies where peeling and coring is a given. Apples are on the “dirty” list year after year.

#2 Celery. Organic celery really doesn’t cost much more than conventional celery so it’s worth the extra $1 for the organic version as it’s number 2 on the “dirty” list. It’s easy to find an organic celery option in the grocery store.

organic tomatoes #3 Cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are separate from tomatoes, which are an in-between fruit (neither dirty or clean). You can make your own judgement call on the in-between fruits. Organic tomatoes are easy to find and don’t cost much more than conventional tomatoes. Tomatoes are also incredibly easy to grow yourself. I like to get plants that are already started by the green house for you. Tomatoes don’t need much space, just a lot of sun, so any apartment with a sunny, outdoor spot has potential for tomato growing. If you take good care of them, they’ll produce like crazy August through September. Tomatoes are best in season anyways, so avoid out-of-season tomatoes. Tomatoes from hot houses are likely to have fewer pesticides because the environment is better controlled.

#4 Cucumbers. Another super easy crop to grow yourself, although they need more space than tomatoes. If you’ve ever known anyone who’s grown cucumbers, you know they’re always trying to foist their bountiful harvest on anyone who will accept a bag of cucumbers. You don’t need more than a few plants for lots of yield. Alternatively, organic cucumbers are a grocery store staple and not hugely more expensive than conventional cucumbers.

#5 Grapes. Grapes are always too hard and sour or one their way out when I test them in the store. Buying in season is best, as it’s the imported varieties for year-round consumption that are the worst pesticide offenders. Local grapes are safer. It’s hard to find organic grapes in stores.

#6 Hot peppers. If you’re growing some tomatoes, why not have a hot pepper plant too? They take up little space and are just as easy to grow yourself as tomatoes. They can be dried for out-of-season use. I don’t see too many organic hot pepper varieties in the grocery store.

#7 Nectarines (imported). Imported varieties of nectarines, like imported varieties of grapes, have higher pesticide concentrations. Buy local or organic. Sweet fruits are not only loved by humans, but also ants and other insects, so pesticides ensure the fruit is blemish-free, bug-free and perfect, but the thin-skinned fruit absorbs the chemicals easily into the flesh. I’ve never seen organic nectarines available where I live for purchase in the grocery store.

#8 Peaches. Another sweet fruit beloved by bugs, peaches are not much better than nectarines. If you can’t find organic, only buy in-season and limit your intake. Like nectarines, organic peaches for sale in the grocery store are scarce.

potatoes#9 Potatoes. What passes for a potatoes these days is sad. There are so many varieties, colors, tastes and textures to potatoes that reducing the plant to a bland, white version should be a crime. Potatoes have such variety that Peruvians can have a complete diet covering all needed nutrients from potatoes alone. It’s something like close to 4,000 varieties of potatoes grow in Peru. Potatoes also get a lot of pesticides and fungicides doused on them. If you have outdoor space, growing your own potatoes is satisfying and can open a whole world of varieties. I like to buy local for organic potatoes. The taste difference is mind blowing. I live in a state that is a proud producer of potatoes, so organic options are easy to come by and worth the little extra money. The mealy, white non-organic potatoes aren’t worth buying anyways. It’s a pity to peel a potato to try to reduce pesticide exposure as most of the nutrients are in the peel.

#10 Spinach. Spinach is quick-growing and packed with nutrients. Get organic greens when you can, or grow your own in a window box or garden if you have space.

organic strawberries

Organic strawberries taste a lot better.

#11 Strawberries. I’ve got to admit, organic strawberries are one of the most expensive organic produce items to buy relative to the conventional price. Organic strawberries are often twice as expensive. But don’t let the price stop you. I find non-organic strawberries to taste chemically, not like strawberries at all or worse, tasteless. Unlike conventional strawberries, organic strawberries are tasty. The huge difference in taste is enough to make me buy organic. The fact that strawberries are a “dirty” fruit is more convincing evidence to buy organic. Make strawberries a luxury, in-season purchase for minimal impact on the budget.

#12 Sweet bell peppers. I’ve got to say there is a taste difference in organic sweet bell peppers as well. Organic versions of sweet bell peppers taste better to me than conventional versions. I’ve made it a habit to buy organic sweet bell peppers, which are easily available in the grocery store.

#13 Kale/collard greens. So there are so many contaminated fruits and vegetables the EWG decided to add two bonus “dirty” vegetables. Greens in general should be bought organic or grown yourself.

#14 Summer squash. The second “bonus” vegetable on the dirty list is another bumper crop plant that has gardeners’ everywhere looking for willing takers for end-of-summer bounty. Eat them in-season from your neighbor’s garden if he didn’t use pesticides or chemical fertilizers. If you have enough space, the plants are huge, but generally yield a lot of produce.

Now for the “clean” fruits and vegetables as advised by the EWG. You can skip buying these organic if you want to save money on your grocery bill.

asparagus

Photo via flickr by chidorian.

#1 Asparagus. Asparagus is in season right now, so it’s great to be able to buy conventional asparagus with little worry. Asparagus tends to be more expensive than other vegetables so any savings in cost is welcome.

#2 Avocados. Pretty much anything that grows high in a tree with a thick peel is pretty safe and has low pesticide use. I go organic if the conventional ones are rock hard, and the organic ones are nicely ripe at purchase. But there’s no need to spend the extra money on organic avocados.

#3 Cabbage. Cabbage seems to have a generational and cultural divide. It’s most often thought of as poor people’s food. It’s cheap and packed with nutrients, so if you’re not eating cabbage, you should. And best of all, it’s clean, so non-organic will be even friendlier on the budget. I feel weird being a young person who buys cabbage, but it’s delicious with pork and can be a great leftover item to have at breakfast or lunch.

#4 Cantaloupe. As a fruit with a thick rind, cantaloupe passes the test for low pesticide residue. Cantaloupe is best during the summer months.

#5 Sweet corn. Corn makes the “clean” list, so add it into summer barbecues at bargain prices.

eggplants

Photo via flickr by graibeard.

#6 Eggplant. I used to hate eggplant. If you know how to cook it, it’s amazing. Even if it’s not on your regular grocery list, conventional eggplants are relatively free of pesticides.

#7 Grapefruit. Thick rind, grows high in a tree. Clean. Check.

#8 Kiwi. This fuzzy fruit native to New Zealand is also a clean fruit. Nice.

#9 Mango. Holy crap, mangoes are good when they’re ripe. They apply to the thick peel, high tree rule of clean fruits.

#10 Mushrooms. This one is good to keep in mind because I’m always tempted to get the more expensive, organic mushrooms. Mushrooms are in fact quite free of pesticides.

#11 Onions. The biggest challenge with onions are finding ones that aren’t too old when you buy them. The stinkier the onion smell when you chop, the older the onion. Softness and the middle growing a green shoot are also indications of a well-aged onion, which is not ideal for cooking. All those problems aside, you don’t have to worry about buying organic.

#12 Papaya. I hardly ever eat papaya, maybe I should. The whole tree/rind rule is also applicable to papayas.

pineapple

Photo via flickr by ECohen.

#13 Pineapple. I love pineapples. They’re best to buy on sale when they’re the cheapest and ripest. No need to go organic with pineapples.

#14 Sweet peas (frozen). What about fresh? Fresh are an “in-between” vegetable. The season for fresh peas is so short, frozen is the way to go most of the year anyways.

#15 Sweet potatoes. There has been a huge rise in sweet potatoes consumption over the past few years. It’s nice to know that unlike potatoes, sweet potatoes are clean.

What about all the in-between fruits and vegetables? The EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen are only for the “dirtiest” and “cleanest” fruits and vegetables. The full list is 51 fruits and vegetables long with differentiations for imported and domestic.

You can make your own judgement call on other fruits and vegetables. If you go with a rule that thin-skinned fruits like pears, cherries and berries tend to have more pesticide residue and ones with thicker rinds are cleaner, than you can start to sort out what you’ll buy organic and what you’ll buy conventional. Vegetables are a bit more all over the place. If it’s not much more to buy organic, and it fits in the grocery budget, I’ll get the organic kind. Things like carrots and beans are some of the quickest easiest crops to grow yourself. You can view the full list of the dirty to clean fruits and vegetables here.

If you’re panicked about actually remembering all this, there is an app that you can download for a quick reminder or a wallet size card to print out to take with you. During your grocery list organization, you can check back with the list.

Don’t forget about organic versions of processed fruit like raisins, apple sauce or frozen fruits and vegetables. If the fruit or vegetable is “dirty” try to get any version of it organic, if the fruit or vegetable is “clean, you can get the conventional, processed version.

Besides growing your own, foraging is a great way to get organic fruits for free.

 

 

 

#952 Quit Smoking

31 Dec

The day you stub out your last cigarette, open a savings account. Photo via flickr by meddygarnet.

The day you stub out your last cigarette, open a savings account. Photo via flickr by meddygarnet.

Hawaii? Or emphysema? New house? Or cancer? Nice dinner? Or a cough? These are the choices between money saved from quitting smoking or continuing to smoke. With New Year’s Resolution’s just around the corner, quitting smoking is probably on a lot of smokers’ resolution lists. Not only will you be saving loads of cash on a daily or weekly expense if you quit smoking, you’ll save money in many other ways in the long term. First, your health will be saved from further expense (dental work, cancer, higher insurance premiums) and then tangential things like your dry cleaning bill.

Let’s start with the math on quitting smoking. A pack of cigarettes runs anywhere from $5 – $7. If you are a pack a day smoker, this is $1,825 – $2,555 a year. That’s a very nice vacation to almost anywhere in the world. Multiply that by the number of years you would have smoked, and by year 10, you would have saved $18,250 – $25,550 on cigarettes alone! That’s a down payment on a house, a college education at a state school or start up cash for a business.  A single year savings alone is more than switching insurance, clipping coupons or cutting out a daily coffee can save you! Let’s say you’re a less serious smoker – half a pack a day would be $912.50 – $1,277.50 a year. Still in the thousands of dollars…not hundreds…in terms of savings. If you smoked three cigarettes a day – one after every meal, as this seems to be a smoker favorite, you would save $260 – $364 a year by quitting – still a good amount of money if you’re looking for easy cash.

Find what works for you. Photo via flickr by Isabel Bloedwater.

Find what works for you. Photo via flickr by Isabel Bloedwater.

But quitting is not easy for a lot of people. There are lots of ways to quit. Switching to nicotine gum, the patch or other nicotine supplements, quitting cold turkey or slowly decreasing your smoking habit and switching to lighter cigarettes until you kick the addiction completely. If you’ve tried to quit before and been unsuccessful, don’t worry, it’s common for a lot of smokers to try to quit multiple times. The important part is to keep trying different approaches until you find one that works for you and it sticks.

It takes some planning to avoid triggers and people that might make you relapse, so track when, where and with whom you smoke and then eliminate as much of those scenarios as possible and replace them with other things. The first couple weeks will be the hardest and then you’re home free.

Not only will you be saving money on cigarettes, but a lot of insurance premiums are higher for smokers, the resale value of everything from your car to your clothes will be much higher and your dry cleaning bill will be a fraction of what it was as you won’t need to dry clean as often. Your healthcare saving will also be astronomical as you will be avoiding costs associated with increased risk of stroke, heart disease, respiratory problems and many more.

It is estimated that within 20 minutes of quitting smoking your heart rate drops, within 12 hours the level of carbon monoxide in your blood returns to normal, within 2 weeks to 3 months your lungs work better and your heart attack risk drops, within 1 to 9 months coughing and lung function improves dramatically, within 1 year your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker’s, within 5 to 15 years your risk of stroke is the same as anyone else’s, within 10 years your risk of lung cancer is almost the same as someone who never smoked and other cancer risks decrease dramatically and within 15 years your risk of heart disease is the same as someone who never smoked. The health savings alone could double, triple or quadruple your savings.

Put your new-found wad of cash to good use. Photo via flickr by 401(k) 2012.

Put your new-found wad of cash to good use. Photo via flickr by 401(k) 2012.

Now, if you quit smoking…don’t stop putting $5 – $7 a day aside for yourself. Just put it in a better place. Open a savings account, invest in retirement accounts, pay off debt or put aside emergency funds. Read up on what other smokers who quit did with their new-found cash to inspire yourself. How does a week in Hawaii sound? A lot better than emphysema that’s for sure.

#955 Get Your Teeth Cleaned Every Six Months

26 Dec

clean mouth

Get that awesome, just-been-to-the-dentist clean every six months. Photo via flickr by Orofacial.

Dentists and hygienists everywhere are cheering. Or not…if you regularly get your teeth cleaned, you are going to spend the least amount on your teeth in the long run.  As my dentist always tells me, “I’m not going to pay for my yacht with this mouth.” Dental insurance or no, regular teeth cleanings are the easiest way to avoid huge dental bills later on. Why? Because if you’re neglecting your teeth, by the time you make it to the dentist, you will most likely have a lot (and costly) problems with teeth and gums like cavities and periodontitis.

I know a lot of people without dental insurance tend not to have their regular checkups. But, without insurance, the cost of a regular checkup and cleaning is between $75-$90, and you may have a first time visit fee of anywhere from $75-$125. After your first visit, you will only pay for the cleaning. So say at $180 a year (for two cleanings of $90), you are avoiding bills like $300-$500 for cavity fillings, $1,000 for a root canal and $3,000 for a dental implant. If you have dental insurance, there is no excuse for not going. Most dental insurances will fully cover regular visits and up to $1,500-$2,500 of work per year. Dental insurance and plans are cheaper than you think, so get insured on your own or through your work by doing some quick research online.

It's a whole lot more scary not to go to the dentist. Photo via flickr by Orofacial.

It’s a whole lot more scary not to go to the dentist. Photo via flickr by Orofacial.

If the cost of getting your teeth cleaned is a concern, go to a low-cost dental clinic near you. They have sliding scale fees based on income and will be less costly than a commercial dentist’s office even if you pay full price. Another option is to check out dental hygiene schools or universities with a school of dentistry. Both are training grounds for hygienists and dentists so they offer very low cost cleanings and other services in exchange for your mouth as a guinea pig. They won’t let anyone loose on you without extensive learning beforehand, so don’t be worried. If you really want to be a guinea pig, you can sign up for a clinical trial, which may have very specific requirements for the patient’s age, health and gender.

Universities also need subjects for research, so dental schools will offer no or low cost procedures if you agree to be a part of their study. In college, a friend needed her wisdom teeth out, and instead of paying thousands without insurance, she signed up for a dental study on pain and wisdom teeth extraction and got them out for a total of $300. She just had to record her level of pain post-op while following their instructions on taking over-the-counter pain relief. Luckily for her, she didn’t really have any pain at all.

Photo via flickr by Orofacial.

Photo via flickr by Orofacial.

My husband neglected going to the dentist for about four years. By the time we signed him up for dental insurance through my employer, he had cavities aplenty and a serious wisdom tooth situation. Our insurance had a $2,500 cap per year, so we sorted out the first $2,500 worth of fillings and x-rays one year and scheduled the wisdom tooth extractions for just after the first of the year when the cap would be renewed. We paid about $300 for the overage on the work, and about $90 per year for the insurance. I’m sure the insurance company was not thrilled with our maxed out dental bills as soon as we got him insured, but we were ecstatic. The best way to have avoided most of the work would have been regular cleanings. For several years afterward he had a clean bill of health every six months from the dentist. Just recently a few cavities popped up that were no problem to take care of right away before they became an issue.

Who can complain about free toothbrushes after your visit? Photo via flickr by Orofacial.

Who can complain about free toothbrushes after your visit? Photo via flickr by Orofacial.

If you really can’t afford twice a year – go at least once a year. You can also refuse x-rays to keep cost down, although the dentist really will push to have them done. You can wait until you have more money to have x-rays done. They’re a good idea to do every three or four years just to make sure there are no hidden cavities or problems.

No one I know who’s neglected to go to the dentist has ended the story happily or cheaply. A professor friend of mine bemoaned his dental bills after he also skipped the dentist for four years while a poor grad student. For all his smarts, it would have been easier and cheaper to go to the dentist even without insurance.

Now the hard part…flossing every day in between visits.

#965 Forget the Gym Membership

10 Dec

Gyms are usually empty…unless it’s around New Year’s. Photo via flickr by hotelcasavelas2.

The gym is always packed for the first week after New Year’s. By the end of the month, the crowds are gone, and it’s just you and the guy training for the Appalachian Trail with a backpack on the stair stepper. Yep, everyone starts out with a resolution to exercise more and hit the gym, but it’s estimated that people overestimate how much they’ll use the gym by 70%. So that means if you resolve to go to the gym three times a week, or 12 times a month, you’ll actually end up going 3.6 times. If you’re paying $35 a month for your membership that would make the cost go from $2.92 per time to $9.72 per time, a $6.80 difference. If someone said to you, “let’s go to the gym, it’ll cost $3,” you’d probably agree. If the same person said, “let’s go to the gym, it’ll cost $10,” you’d probably say no. So why are you most likely paying close to $10 per time you go to the gym…

Gym memberships on average can be anywhere from $10 to $50 a month plus a one time start up fee, which adds to your cost. Take a close look at how much you pay and how much you actually go and get a cost per visit. If you’re O.K. with the number, then you might be one of the few dedicated gym goers. If you’re surprised by what you find and not comfortable with the high price you’re paying, then you’ve just found one of the easiest ways to save money and trim your budget.

Here are some solutions to not being a gym member that will make you exercise more than any membership:

  • Photo via flickr by mindfrieze.

    Walk or bike to work, school or shopping. Live too far away from work…walk to the store…or to a friend’s house…or to drop off your kids at a friend’s house. Suburbs are not designed for walking. There are usually no sidewalks and stores are not close by. But it’s still possible. In high school, we lived in a southern city that would be paralyzed by snow. So on snow days, we’d walk to the closest strip mall to go to the grocery store. Sure you had to cross through the back lot behind the dumpsters, but it wasn’t that bad. Bring a backpack or sturdy reusable shopping bag to easily haul back your purchases. It’s easy in a city to walk to everything you need. Rural areas are ideal for biking. When you choose where to live, choose a place where it’s possible to walk or bike to work, and don’t be tempted to get in the car because it’s convenient. It might take some adjustment at first, but if you make a habit of walking or biking places, it’ll become second nature. You’ll also have the added savings of lowered gas and car maintenance costs.

  • Our half-pig, half-dog pup – he loves to eat and run around.

    Get a dog or walk the one you have (or your neighbor’s). Getting a dog is a huge commitment, so you don’t enter into this one lightly. But studies show that people with dogs are active. It comes down to this…a dog is not going to say he or she doesn’t want to go for a walk or a run, he or she ALWAYS wants to go (unlike your workout partner). Dogs have to go out at least three times a day…that adds up to half an hour of walking easily. One of the walks alone should be a least half an hour for proper doggie exercise. Dogs get crazy when they don’t exercise enough, so if you’re dog is behaving badly, stop yelling at him and really tire him out with exercise. You’ll find that you’re active and the dog is passed out from exhaustion so he can’t chew the couch.

  • Pick up an active hobby. This might cost you at first for equipment (remember second-hand!) but if it starts a life-long passion, it’s worth it. The problem with gyms and working out is that they are not where you want to be and it’s not really what you want to be doing. It smells weird, and you’re being splattered with sweat from the guy next to you. An active hobby (one one my girlfriends has become a mountain biking fiend) gets you excited, and you WANT to be doing it.
  • Work out at work or at a local high school or university. A lot of workplaces have gyms. Don’t pay for a membership if you can work out for free. You can work out the awkward details of sweating and showering with coworkers however you want. I worked at a place where you could use the skating rink in the winter during lunch hours. It was awesome for my butt and thighs. I was the only one in there most days. I was ready to tear up the ice for the Christmas family tradition of pond hockey. Your local high school might let you use their gym. A university will charge you a small fee. Both would have outdoor tracks that you can walk or run around for free.
  • Pay as you go. If you really want to do the gym thing, it might be cheaper to choose to pay as you go. After analyzing your behavior and what you’re paying, decide if this option is more economical.

#994 Be Vegetarian (at least a few nights a week)

30 Oct

Photo via flickr by tarale with my own corny modifications. Yes, meat – red meat especially – is costly.

The most expensive things on my shopping list? Meat. Meat cost money. There’s a reason a lot of poor people around the world eat vegetarian – it’s much more economical to be vegetarian. Meat on the menu has been a sign of wealth since the beginning of time. When my mom had a tiny weekly grocery budget to feed a family of four, she found that lentils and rice went a long way. She’s been cooking vegetarian ever since. Technically, I guess she cooks pescatarian, as she does prepare fish, but more importantly, there is no meat on the grocery list, which made it much easier to feed the multitudes on a budget as our family continued to grow.

Having grown up with a vegetarian-cooking mom would make you think that I’d be vegetarian as well. Nope, I love my roast chicken and a good, juicy burger too much. But I do recognize the cost savings of eating vegetarian. I try to make a vegetarian meal at least two to three times a week for dinner, which saves a lot on the grocery bill. Breakfast and lunch should be vegetarian most days of the week. A lot of cuisines began in lean times when cooks had to be creative with flavors and spices so I usually go with ethnic food for vegetarian options – Indian, Italian, Lebanese…it’s never boring and, in my house, never involves tofu.

So what is packed with protein, iron, antioxidants, fiber, is known to help control blood sugar, is good for your heart, fills you up quickly, makes you feel full longer AND is vegetarian? Beans, of course. Meat by comparison has zero fiber, few antioxidants and may contribute to cancer, diabetes and heart disease. If you’re eating a well rounded diet that includes whole grains and other vegetables, getting the full compliment of proteins and iron typically associated with meat is no problem, especially if you’re only going vegetarian a few times a week.

White beans are my favorite to cook with and a mainstay of Italian cooking. But there’s something about black beans that are totally addictive as well – not sure what it is but I love the flavor. Of course soybeans are the powerhouse bean, packing the most protein and the only “complete protein” bean, meaning you don’t have to worry about eating other foods to get the full protein packet that meat offers. Which is why tofu is a good choice if you enjoy it. Edamame beans are green soybeans and probably the most popular form of soybean consumption right now. You can also use dry soybeans just like any other bean.

Oh, and what about chickpeas (or garbanzo beans)? Those delicious beans that are used in hummus and falafel…In fact, there is such a huge range of types, colors, sizes and flavors of beans that eating vegetarian is always interesting. I often end up with an unintentionally vegan meal when cooking with beans.

Of course dairy and eggs have the same full protein profile as meat while still qualifying as vegetarian, so if beans don’t do it for you, try quiche.

The current American obsession with meat that is catching on in other countries as people become wealthier is unjustified. Fruits and vegetables should make up half your plate at dinner and meat only a quarter of the plate, while grains should make up the other quarter for a full plate. Look down at your plate, if you are staring at a huge chunk of meat that takes up most of the plate, then you are eating way more meat than necessary in a single sitting. Not only is eating vegetarian a more budget-friendly option, scientists are just now seeing similar threads among populations that have greater-than-average longevity and a plant-based diet. Seventh Day Adventists in California, Okinawan women in Japan and Greek men on the island of Ikaria all live significantly longer and better lives than the average American. There are many factors that they all have in common – they are active, social and…eat a mostly plant-based diet. The Seventh Day Adventists are vegetarian, the Okinawans eat mostly fish if they eat animal protein and the Ikarians eat mostly home-grown greens, legumes and vegetables and limited amounts of pork. So…eat less meat…save money…live longer.

Easy ways I like to go vegetarian without missing meat (other than cooking with beans) include:

  • Pizza – meat toppings are unnecessary and cheese gives plenty of protein.
  • Soup – you really don’t miss the meat in a good soup like potato-leek soup, black bean soup or French onion soup.
  • Lasagna or other baked pasta dishes – eliminate the meat in the sauce and add any vegetable you want, you really won’t miss the meat.
  • Painting by Van gogh

    Cheese or egg as a main ingredient – you’re getting animal protein without the price of meat, although dairy and eggs come a close second to meat as the priciest items on the grocery list.

  • Potatoes – I have a serious weakness for potatoes. You know van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters painting where a bunch of hungry peasants are eating a plate of potatoes? Yeah, that’s definitely me.

Check out my recipe for baked beans and risotto.