Our meatless Mondays morphed into a meatless month. I didn’t plan to make meatless meals for a month. It happened somewhat unintentionally. In planning some new menus, I noticed that they were all meatless.
I eliminated dairy before college and gluten about 11 years ago after being diagnosed with celiacs disease. I’ve never eaten processed foods, mystery meats, or anything that has chemical ingredients, not so much because I knew better, but because my gut rejected it. I haven’t eaten any white foods in years either, usually because it’s full of chemicals, gluten, or dairy. We probably didn’t eat as much meat as the average American, but it was still a staple in our diet.
Our meal plan for the first week of the year just happened to be meatless. It wasn’t intentional, but it did give me pause to think about the food choices we make. I also wondered what it would be like to go meatless for the month. Could we do it? Would I miss meat? How would I feel? How would it impact our food budget? What are the bigger social and environmental issues surrounding meat?
Here are a few things I discovered during our meatless month:
I was already very particular about where and what meat I purchased. Since we are what we eat, I did ask the questions: How was that animal raised? How was it treated? Where did it come from? What about antibiotics and growth hormones? Was its growth accelerated to get it to market faster and reduce feed costs? I learned from my finicky gut (literally) that it wasn’t worth eating non-quality meats. And I do believe it’s important to be an informed consumer.
You do pay for quality so we already had cut back on how often we ate meat. Therefore, I really enjoyed when we did have a meat meal. I thought I’d miss eating meat and was very surprised that I didn’t miss it, or even want it, at all!
We also had a lot more variety in our diet as a result of eating whole grains (quinoa and brown rice), beans (black beans, pinto beans, and lentils), nutritional dense vegetables (kale, mustard greens, collards, and spinach), and roasted vegetables (beets and squashes). I perfected the smoothie (recipe below), so I actually got fruit into my diet. I’ve always been big on vegetables, but didn’t eat much fruit at all. The smoothie became my go-to option for lunch because it was easy and filling.
Meal prep time was cut significantly. I never had to worry about whether something was defrosted or if I had the necessary ingredients on hand. I added to the quantity of vegetables I was roasting or quinoa and beans I was cooking for one recipe to have on hand for future meals during the week. Inevitably there were leftovers for lunches or another dinner. Nothing was wasted and it was easy be creative combining was was left on hand for savory bowl meal.
Here’s the most significant fact: Our food budget decreased about 45 percent! Whole grains and beans are very inexpensive already. By eating seasonally (produce that grows in the current season) and locally grown foods, even purchasing organic produce, we still lowered our food bill significantly. I knew our food costs would be less, but I had no idea it would be so much less!
Maybe it’s a good thing we had this little meatless month experiment. In the process of reviewing our monthly expenses, I discovered we spent more than twice our food costs on our monthly health insurance premium this past! Now that I finally have health insurance, I don’t want to have to use it! The health benefits of a plant-based diet are looking a lot more appealing!
The Perfect Smoothie
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 banana (about the only way I can tolerate bananas)
big handful of berries (I like blackberries) or 1 piece of fruit (apples and pears are excellent)
big handful of baby spinach
2 large leaves or very big handful of kale
Put everything into blender. Using food processor setting, blend until smooth. Makes enough for 2 large glasses.