I have never really explored vegetarian or vegan foods, although I have eaten them in restaurants. I now find that one of the simplest ways to save some cash and potentially do your bit for the planet is to go meatless at least once a week. Forgive me if I am preaching to the converted – I understand there are vegetarians (people who don’t eat meat) and vegans (those who also don’t eat meat, nor any animal products or by-products either) out there who will probably wonder why people eat meat at all, and millions of people already opt for diets that cut out meat permanently.

What are Tofu Tuesdays?

You won’t have heard of this before, but maybe something similar – in fact, it was probably Meatless Mondays - an international campaign that encouraged people not to eat meat on Mondays to improve their health and the health of the planet. Well, I thought It's a simple enough idea to understand - skipping meat one day a week might have the effect of lowering your risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity, help your budget stretch and might also potentially help save our planet. With high energy prices, inflation and rising costs on everything, it's important to find ways to save money where you can.

Tofu Tuesdays aren't just a fad or a snappy phrase to get you to stop eating your favourite meals and eat Tofu instead. It could in fact be any of the meat substitutes around – Tempeh, Seitan, textured vegetable proteins, chickpeas and more, including all the beans, mushrooms - even jackfruit - that you could possibly eat. This could be a real way to address public health, ecological and global food security concerns. If you reduce your intake of meat or animal products - even just one day a week - you might be able to protect your personal health, contribute to global health and help the environment.

Going ‘meatless’ is defined as cutting out all red meat, poultry or even seafood for one day a week, every week. Those meat-centred meals can be swapped for dishes built around beans, lentils, vegetables, whole grains and other plant-based proteins, and there are a host of recipes on the internet to guide you if you haven’t tried this option before.

Why go meatless?

Apparently, around 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are due to meat and dairy production, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization. Switching to a largely plant-based diet can greatly reduce emissions, considering the climate impact of these types of foods is typically 10 to 50 times smaller than that of animal products.

On the nutrition side, meat is typically high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and many chronic health conditions are linked to higher intakes of animal products, especially red meat. This isn't to say everyone needs to cut out meat or fish altogether to have a healthier diet, but if you're looking for an occasional plant-based alternative by going meatless, you can't go wrong here.

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How much can you actually save by going meatless?

Though many people may believe buying fresh produce will break the bank, plant-based proteins and meatless diets tend to be less expensive and offer more health benefits than meat. Think about it, even a spaghetti bolognese, an easy mid-week meal, could be replaced by a meat alternative and the chances are the family won’t even notice! While you won't save copious amounts by cutting out meat just once a week, every bit helps. To learn more about non-meat diets, read up on a plant-based lifestyle, and how to safely remove meat from your diet if it really interests you.

A word of caution

While some vitamins and nutrients are found in abundant quantities in meat, poultry and fish, some are not in plant-based foods (unless they have been ‘fortified,’ ie nutrients have been added). For this reason, vegetarian or vegan diets may not meet all daily nutrient requirements, and supplements may be necessary if you are considering a ‘full conversion’ away from meat!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan