As you might imagine, one of the byproducts of our vegetarianism was a lower grocery bill. And though our meatless days are mostly over (I say mostly because I almost never cook with beef or pork - most of my non-veg meals have either turkey or chicken in them), I still incorporate vegetarian meals into my menu planning at least twice a week. Not only does this help us eat meat sparingly (seriously, our country eats waaay too much meat - if we all cut back, we wouldn't need to mass-produce the animals the way we do here. Dang it - I got on the soapbox. I made a goal not to do that in this post), but it's a frugal way to cook for yourself and your family. Here are a few ideas to get you to go meatless, even if it's just one dinner a week.
These are all things I made back in our veg-head days. I might add that none of the recipes include tofu - nothing against it, I just could never get it to work for me. Maybe I just expected too much of it. Anyway, here's some ideas...
- Pizza is a staple at our house. I'm going to devote an entire post to my pizza recipe in near-future. It is ridiculously fast and easy - and I make it for less money than even a $5 Little Caesar's pizza. But if you're dying of suspense and have to have the recipe right away, you can check out this link to my personal blog when I wrote about it a little over a year ago. We have pizza once a week and it's so easy to make it meatless.
- While I'm mentioning pizza, I might as well add that Italian food offers many meatless options. I think it's partly due to the fact that meat isn't always the center of the meal and the pasta fills you up. Of course, there's always spaghetti - it's really easy to omit the meat in spaghetti sauce. There's also lots of vegetarian lasagna recipes out there (seriously, tons. Do a Google search. Here's one I found that I think I'm going to try - even though I LOVE my go-to lasagna recipe). There's also eggplant parmesan - delicious and surprisingly easy.
- And while I'm mentioning noodles, how could I not mention macaroni? (This post is quite stream-of-consciousness...) Homemade macaroni and cheese is super-easy and cheap to make, not to mention so much better than the boxed kind (here's the link to the recipe I use - though I just use regular cheddar instead of white). You can also add some vegetables to the mac and cheese - I always add broccoli. My sister-in-law's mom made us chipotle macaroni and cheese, which was also awesome. Macaroni is oh-so-versatile and easy to go vegetarian with.
- Now, one option totally unrelated to Italian food or noodles (well, I guess you could serve it on noodles...): stir-fry. The nice thing about making stir-fry is that you can basically make up your own recipe for the sauce, add whatever vegetables you want, and serve it on rice. Here's the link to a helpful guide (basically just a formula to follow - you decide the ingredients) and how-to to get you feeling more stir-fry savvy.
- Beans are your meat-free friend. They're bursting with protein and are very filling. My favorite beans are black beans and I use them in all sorts of recipes, particularly in Mexican dishes. An example: I'll fill tortillas with cheese, black beans, corn, and a little enchilada sauce, roll them up, line them in a pan, top with more enchilada sauce and cheese, and bake them for 15-ish minutes. This is such an economical dinner to make because most of the ingredients come from your pantry or freezer. Again, Google bean recipes and you'll find a ton of ideas.
- Eggs are an awesome meat-free dinner option. Sometimes, if I'm feeling lazy, I'll just make omelets for dinner (I'm going to try to make them a la Julia Child - I've been reading the section of Mastering the Art of French Cooking all about omelets and I want to make a truly French-style one). Another awesome way to use eggs for dinner: Smitten Kitchen's huevos rancheros. Click on the link - I dare you. I can't look at this recipe on her blog without getting a mad craving for them.
- Make breakfast for dinner - sans the sausage, ham, and bacon. When I was a kid, my mom would make breakfast dinner and we loved it! If you're going to do this, use this pancake recipe.
- Soup it up! There are so many options when it comes to soup, especially if you want to make a meat-free soup. You can make a simple chowder with a roux, a little water, and some vegetables (I'm keeping this all fairly vague for a reason - I'll be posting a bunch of soup stuff in the weeks to come). Or you could make this minestrone soup - not only is it meat-free and delicious, but it is so cheap to make since it's mostly just vegetables that you probably already have in your crisper and then a few pantry items. Really, it costs almost nothing to make, but it's just as good as what you'd get in a restaurant.
So, step away from the meat counter (don't tell my dad I wrote that - he just so happens to work as a butcher at a supermarket in Park City) and try a meat-free dinner, even if it's just once a week. You'll be surprised how little you'll miss the meat - and your wallet may just thank you.