It all started at the dinner table back in April. I realized that our baby C almost never ate the meat that we would have for dinner. She would much rather make her meal on whatever vegetable was offered. She could take or leave the starch depending on what it was, but honestly I often skipped making a starch. Just one more thing to think of and prepare. At the same time I realized that darling husband J rarely ate the vegetables we had for dinner and preferred to have the "meat and potatoes." Coincidentally, during all of this observation I was doing I had also been trying to think of ways to trim down our grocery budget. These three factors led me to the idea of... vegetarian dinners!
I've never even remotely considered becoming a vegetarian. I was really just trying to come up with a creative way to feed my baby more of what she wants, my husband more of what he needs (and less of what he doesn't) and save some cash at the grocery store. When you build your dinners around a meat entree, you spend a lot of money on meat. So anyway, I hopped online to investigate some recipes in order to determine if this was in any way possible. My husband is really really not a vegetable person so salad 4 nights a week would never fly. I also had to make sure that we were still getting proper nutrition (enough protein tends to be a worry when giving up meat). I started out at www.vegetariantimes.com and was pleasantly surprised with what I found. Not only were there tons of recipes that I thought even my husband would eat, but each one included nutrition information so I could see how much protein, fiber, carbs, sugars, etc were in each dish.
Also on this website was a 28-day Eat Green Challenge. Since we weren't attempting to become strict vegetarians, I mostly used that for recipe ideas and as a time frame for seeing how we'd get by with vegetarian dinners. Somehow, when I presented the idea of vegetarian dinners for 28 days to J he was totally on board. Miracles never cease.
We began the 28-day challenge on April 30th and I'm happy to report I have not bought meat since. That's not totally true. I do keep some chicken nuggets on hand for C since I know she'll eat them when she sometimes won't eat other things. Toddlers, right? Anyway, the challenge went swimmingly. We found a bunch of recipes that we really loved and some that we thought were terrible. I really tried to focus on recipes that use fairly normal ingredients since I didn't want to spend hours wandering through specialty grocery stores hunting for weird items I've never heard of that will cost me $20 for a pound when the recipe calls for a "dash." For the most part that was pretty easy to do. We did start using more of some things we hadn't often used before, but that is to be expected when you're eliminating another item that used to be the basis of your meals.
Some of our favorite recipes are:
Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas
Black Bean & Quinoa Burgers
Pineapple Fried Rice (we added tempeh for protein)
Southwestern Salad (we used black beans and added chopped red pepper)
Tempeh Tacos - just use tempeh instead of ground beef/chicken/turkey
These are just a handful of dinners that we particularly enjoyed. I have to say with some of them J told me he didn't even care what was in them because they were so good. How's that coming from a meat & potatoes guy? In addition to vegetarian dinners, we also tried some new shake and smoothie recipes. We love smoothies for summer time so we were excited for some new mixes to try. C's favorite is by far banana-peanut butter-chocolate (cocoa powder). I should also mention that when we're at a friend's house or out at a restaurant we don't necessarily adhere to vegetarian foods. Like I said, the idea was not to become vegetarians but rather to incorporate more plants into our diet and save some money.
I have since also purchased a vegan cookbook recommended by one of my mom's friends. My parents have basically become vegans out of necessity. My mom is allergic to dairy and my step-dad can't tolerate meat since his surgery. The magic of vegan and vegetarian recipes is that you can always add a little bit of meat to it if you want, but you still have a healthy, vegetable-based meal. The vegan cookbook is called Supermarket Vegan ($12.89 on Amazon) if you're interested in checking it out. The focus is on common ingredients and simple recipes which I'm all about!
I'd be happy to answer any questions about our experience if you have them. Just leave me a comment :)