When B got laid off last year, I was seeking ways to cut expenses from our budget. I poured over every category, nixing and trimming until finally I reached our food budget. I was racking my brain to think of ways to shave down that number...but it seemed impossible to cut that number down any further since we already used coupons, didn't drink pop or alcohol, and didn't buy much processed food.
After thinking for a bit, the only logical solution seemed to be to cut back on some of the items that seemed to cost the most...meat being one of them.
I confess I wasn't thrilled with this idea. I love chicken, roast, steak and a good juicy hamburger with the trimmings. Did I mention bacon? Oh man...I. Love. Bacon. I really didn't like the idea of swapping my chicken for lentils. I wasn't sure I was ready to go meatless several times a week and use an alternate source of protein.
But, after some research and tapping into some blogs and websites that promote meatless meals, I armed myself with recipes and headed to the grocery store to buy the staples for a meatless pantry:
(a tad expensive, but goes a LONG way)
*Lentils and Dried Beans
(black, red, chickpeas *or garbanzo beans depending on where you're from*)
*Whole Wheat Pasta
*Lots of fruits and vegetables
*Nuts and natural nut butters
*Dried fruit (used sparingly)
*Quick Cooking Barley
That's not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. You can imagine my family's surprise when our first meatless meal was served and there was no animal protein. No chicken. No beef. Zero. Zilch. Nada. As a matter of fact, our protein for the evening (14g) was coming from a grain. Quinoa to be exact. And it was delicious! The kids ate all that was on their plates, and B declared it to be wonderful!
We ate meatless several times a week for nine months. Once B got a new job, we found ourselves continuing to eat this way and enjoying it.
After incorporating meatless meals for a while, B and I started noticing some beneficial physical changes...very little bloating, more energy, and better digestion. I have been managing depression since my college days, and I noticed a change in my hormones and mood. It was a refreshing feeling.
We are by no means vegetarians, but we are certainly beginning to understand the health benefits of at least cutting back some, if not all animal protein. Maybe one day we'll say good-bye to animal protein, but for now, we still enjoy eating meat and fish on occasion.
I thought I would share with you the recipe for a yummy quinoa dish that just happened to be our very first meatless meal and see if you enjoy it as much as we did. You can see my version below, tweaked to suit our family's taste, but you can find the original recipe here: 101Cookbooks
2 Cups Cooked Quinoa
(follow the cooking instructions for the original recipe)
1/4 Cup chopped red onion
1 Cup fresh or frozen corn
(if frozen, I cook in the microwave a bit before adding)
1 Cup steamed broccoli florets
1 Cup fresh spinach (I do more like 2 cups)
1/3 Cup pesto
1/4 Cup sundried tomatoes**
*I skip the tofu called for in the original recipe. You could certainly add chicken if you like,
although it's equally good without it.*
In large skillet, saute the red onion in a bit of olive oil until soft. Add corn, quinoa and broccoli, stir until hot and sizzling. Stir in spinach, sundried tomatoes and pesto (add more pesto if needed).
Serve topped with feta cheese alongside a salad, crusty bread and fruit.
**I sometimes use finely diced tomatoes instead of sundried and have liked it just as well. I've also tossed in a handful of slivered almonds for a little crunch.