Casual Kitchen’s Core Principles: #2: Embrace Low-Meat Cooking

This is part two of a six-part series on Casual Kitchen’s core principles. Find the beginning of this series here.

CK Core Principle #2: Embrace Low-Meat Cooking

We’re not vegetarians here Casual Kitchen--and we most likely never will be. We've got nothing against eating meat, and nothing against not eating meat.

But even the hardest of hardcore meat-eaters have to agree with the following two truisms: 1) the vast majority of us consume far more meat than necessary to meet our daily nutritional needs, and 2) meat is almost always the most expensive element of any meal.

Which brings us to a solution that improves your health, helps the environment, and saves a lot of money too. Here at CK, we call it part time vegetarianism, and we practice it by building at least half of our weekly meal plan around low- or no-meat recipes.

If you typically eat meat-centered meals and you’re looking to eat healthier for less money, the easiest way to do so is to replace 2-3 meat-based meals each week with vegetarian meals. Several years ago, we made this transition here at Casual Kitchen, and we saw an instant 25-30% reduction in our weekly food bill. Better still, our diet became healthier and we felt healthier.

Is there a rule somewhere that you have to be a militant vegetarian to take advantage of the all the benefits of vegetarian food? Duh, of course not. Instead of thinking of vegetarianism as a lifestyle, or as some kind of irreversible dietary choice, why not think of vegetarian food as just another menu item--a menu item that’s delicious, healthy and surprisingly inexpensive?

Finally, the biggest surprise of our part-time vegetarian experience was this: we never missed the extra meat. We had our misgivings at first about cutting back on our meat intake. Ultimately, however, it was a surprisingly easy transition to make, and the results (not to mention the savings) were so compelling and obvious that we never went back. We've been committed part time vegetarians ever since.

So, if you want to eat better and spend less at the same time, try out part time vegetarianism. You’ll miss zero nutrients from your diet--in fact, your diet will likely improve--and you'll save a ton of money. This is as good a win-win as there is in food.

1) For great sources of delicious low- and no-meat recipes, start with Mollie Katzen's iconic Moosewood Cookbook and Joy Manning and Tara Desmond's excellent cookbook Almost Meatless.
2) Other excellent cookbooks for part time vegetarians include Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant (focuses on ethnic foods) and Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home (features easy to prepare meals).
3) Mollie Katzen’s latest cookbook The Heart of the Plate is excellent and contains hundreds of easy, elegant vegetarian recipes. Note: I wrote a rabidly positive review of The Heart of the Plate here.
4) A link to all the vegetarian recipes here at Casual Kitchen
5) On the Benefits of Being a Part-Time Vegetarian
6) Anticipated Reproach, And Why Vegetarians Are Such Jerks
7) Eight Myths About Vegetarians and Vegetarian Food (humor)

Next up! Core Principle #3: Identify and Exploit Simple, Scalable and Minimalist Recipes

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1 comment:

wosnes said...

"Instead of thinking of vegetarianism as a lifestyle, or some kind of irreversible dietary choice, why not think of vegetarian food as just another menu item - a
menu item that's delicious, healthy and surprisingly inexpensive."
Exactly! I hate the labels applied to the way we eat, even, maybe especially, healthy.

I usually eat one or two meals without meat daily. Sometimes all three meals are without meat. I don't call myself flexitarian or part-time vegetarian. I don't say I'm following Mark Bittman's VB6 (I'm not. I started doing this before he thought of VB6). If anything, I call myself one who loves food.

The best vegetarian recipes I've found haven't come from vegetarian cookbooks, but from ethnic cookbooks.

I'm extremely fond of foods from the Mediterranean. Italian, Greek, Lebanese and other cuisines are loaded with dishes that are meatless. Most have been consumed for hundreds of years for economic or religious reasons. With the exception of some seasonings. all use common ingredients and familiar cooking methods.