Back in the 1970s when I was growing up, the vegetarian movement in America was just getting off the ground in places like Berkeley, CA and Ithaca, NY.
Everywhere else, however, vegetarians were seen as sandal-wearing kooks and mocked for their food choices.
Fortunately, attitudes have changed quite a bit since then. Now, most people fully understand the negative health impact of a meat-heavy diet, and more and more people are becoming aware of the negative environmental impact of a meat-heavy diet.
Finally, people are asking themselves how much meat they really need.
And let's face it: the Western diet contains meat and saturated fats in amounts far beyond a human being's daily requirements. By comparison, vegetarian meals are typically far healthier, much lower in fat, and loaded with healthy vitamins, fiber and antioxidants.
But best of all, most vegetarian dishes can be made for a mere fraction of the cost of the typical meat-centric meal.
Look: I'm not a vegetarian, and I'll probably never be a vegetarian. I fully respect why others might make that choice, but I simply don't choose to eat a 100% plant-based diet.
But what if there was a solution that let us capture the best of both worlds?
That's where the concept of Part-Time Vegetarianism comes in.
Forget about being a sandal-wearing kook. Instead, try replacing two or three of your weekly meat-centered meals with vegetarian meals. You don't have to be a militant vegetarian to take advantage of the dietary, environmental and cost benefits of vegetarian food.
A number of years ago our household made this transition, and we saw an immediate 25-30% reduction in our weekly food bill. Our diets became much healthier and, not surprisingly, we felt healthier.
But the most amazing surprise of our part-time vegetarian experiment was this: we never missed the extra meat. It was a surprisingly easy transition to make, and the results (not to mention the financial savings) were so clear and compelling that we never went back. We've been embracing part-time vegetarianism ever since.
If you'd like some cookbook ideas to help you get started with vegetarian and low-meat cuisine, here's a brief list of some of the best cookbooks on our shelves:
1) Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant -- A wonderful cookbook, jam-packed with all kinds of ethnic recipes.
2) The New Moosewood Cookbook-- One of the original veggie cookbooks and a highly regarded classic.
3) The New Vegetarian Epicure -- An early and influential vegetarian cookbook, in a newly updated edition.
4) Almost Meatless -- An exceptional cookbook centered around low-meat eating.
Finally, take a moment to scan the wide range of veggie recipes here at Casual Kitchen. You can search under the vegetarianism tag or visit my Index of Recipes page and look under "Vegetarian." You'll find more than 40 free recipes there!
Don't forget: you can help your pocketbook, your health and the environment by eating less meat. Try part-time vegetarianism in your home and get the best of both worlds!
A different version of this post appeared about a year ago in the blog Home Ec 101.
Eight Myths About Vegetarians and Vegetarian Food
A Few Thoughts on Habits and Food
How to Resist Irresistible Food
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