When Your Passion Helps Your Budget

On Saturday, October 10, 2009, a girlfriend and I spent the afternoon on my couches. Like most weekends back then, we had picked out a documentary we both wanted to see and curled up with some snacks. Before turning it on, I had no idea what to expect from the movie but the information that was presented in it changed my life. Drastically.

Food Inc. helped me see what I was really eating. It showed me the chicks who get their beaks cut off, before being stuffed in battery cages, where they are forced to spend their lives laying eggs for companies like McDonald’s. And the other chicks who get to live “range free” lives, but whose food is so full of antibiotics that they grow so quickly that their legs break because of the extra weight.

The movie also showed me the beef that is treated with ammonia, before being served at 96% of the fast food restaurants in the U.S. The cows and pigs who know and fear that they are about to be slaughtered. It showed me how the baby pigs who are deemed useless are literally thrown into a bin that is covered and then gased. And it reminded me that veal is a baby calf taken from its mother the day it is born.

I could go on and on but the point of this post is not to disgust you, or make you feel bad for eating animal by-products, but to show you how much it affected me. When it ended, my girlfriend and I researched online and talked for hours. We spent the rest of the weekend finding and watching more documentaries and emailing each other any article we thought the other would want to read. It was clear that this one movie had inspired us to change not only our eating habits but our lives.

Monday, October 12, 2009, was Thanksgiving here in Canada. In the Flanders’ household, it was an unusual holiday in more ways than one. Poor Baby Bro was confined to his room, after catching the H1N1 virus. Because of that, G-Ma was too scared to come over and catch it. And Dad was at sea. Mom, Baby Sis and I sat around the table, covered in all the usual fixings. I added a few slices of turkey to my plate, ate two bites and pushed it away. I don’t think I can eat meat anymore, Mom. And I haven’t since.

With no thought of how this change to my diet could affect my budget, it has (and significantly). I, like many others, grew up in a household where dinners were planned around whatever type of meat was being served. Rice and salad went with chicken, potatoes with steak, pasta with meatballs, and so on. It’s probably safe to say I was eating meat every day, before I watched Food Inc. And I don’t know what the price of meat is elsewhere, but it is not cheap in Victoria, BC.

A package of two boneless, skinless chicken breasts can cost as much as $10. A crappy steak is $6 and a good one is up to $13. Bacon is usually $5 per package. And pork is relatively cheap but I rarely ate it anyway. Before giving up meat, my weekly grocery bill was at least $60. Today, the only way I could spend that much is if I was re-stocking up on oils and spices.

On average, my weekly grocery bill is about $40. That includes $15-20 of fresh produce from a local market (Root Cellar) and another $20 or so on beans, grains, almond milk, etc. from the grocery store by my apartment. If we were to say I was spending $60/week before and only $40/week now, that $20 difference is actually $1,040 over the course of a year.

When I first gave up meat, a lot of people asked if I was just doing it for a while or if I was planning on only eating vegetables for the rest of my life. Because of the peer pressure I felt for all of a sudden being “different,” I used to say that I didn’t know. But I do know. Saving $1,040 each year is great but it’s not as good as the thought of saving a few animals from being bred for consumption. And while I don’t think my efforts alone do much now, I do know it has sparked family and friends to make vegetarian meals part of their weekly meal plans.

Do you have a passion that helps your budget?

If you want to see more of the reasons why I don’t eat meat, check out one of the first boards I made on Pinterest. (Yes, I’m aware this makes me a huge dork.)