Many families want to cut costs and save more money in the New Year. One great way to do that is to serve meatless meals more often. But wait! Before you protest that vegetarian meals are strange, complicated or distasteful, hear me out. Plenty of meat-eating families eat vegetarian meals now and then to save money and can tell you that meatless recipes can be simple and delicious as well as economical. Here are some easy, money-saving, meatless meal ideas:
• Use beans in place of meat in tacos and burritos. Beans are a hearty, nutrient-packed, traditional item in Mexican cooking, so they’re natural substitutes for beef, chicken or pork in your favorite taco and burrito recipes and cost far less than meat. Try canned black, pinto, kidney or (lard-free) refried beans, stuffed into tortillas or taco shells and topped with salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese and any chopped veggies you like.
• Include eggs. Egg dishes are perfect easy supper entrees. Offering complete protein, eggs are inexpensive and simple to cook; as a bonus, kids often love the idea of “breakfast for dinner.” Go for simple fried, scrambled or poached eggs, or expand your options by trying frittatas, omelettes, quiches and baked egg “casseroles.”
• Speaking of breakfast for dinner, pancakes, waffles and French toast are meat-free, economical and delicious. Don’t relegate them to weekend brunch alone; these dishes are crowd-pleasers at lunch and dinner, too. Serve topped with yogurt or accompanied by eggs or vegetarian sausage for protein; add some fruit and you’ve got a complete, balanced meal for far less than you’d pay to prepare a meat-based entree.
• Try chickpeas (garbanzo beans). These round, mild, slightly nutty-tasting beans are super-versatile and can fill in for meat in many dishes. Drain and rinse a can, then toss them into pastas, soups, chili and salads for high-fiber protein. When pureed with sesame butter, lemon juice and olive oil, they make a delicious spread called hummus, which can be used on sandwiches or as a dip for raw veggies or crackers. Chickpeas are also often used in North African, Mediterranean and Indian cooking.
If you’ve never eaten meatless meals before, they may take a little getting used to, but I predict that the yummy flavors, ease of preparation and grocery-bill savings will win you over quickly. After all, what’s not to love about eating French toast and saving money at the same time? Bon appétit!
— Shannon Hyland-Tassava is a writer, blogger, psychologist, and wellness expert who often writes about frugal living on her parenting blog, Mama in Wonderland (www.mamainwonderland.blogspot.com). Her new book, The Essential Stay-at-Home Mom Manual: How to Have a Wondrous Life Amidst Kids and Chaos, has just been released by Booktrope Editions.