More and more folks are committing to trim the waistline as well as the budget. Meat Free Mondays can play a part in that, as meats are expensive and can add unhealthy fats to the diet. Simple dishes are easier and quicker to prepare and provide relief to the budget in that they do not require expensive special seasonings and ingredients. Less processed foods are usually lower in fat, salt, sugar, calories, and other undesirable ingredients.
When planning menus for Meat Free Mondays, you don’t have to buy expensive meat substitutes such as tofurky, soy burgers, and fake chicken or buy a truckload of expensive seasonings. Consider the following simpler foods when downsizing your calories and budget.
Oatmeal is a healthful whole grain breakfast food. It is high in protein and fiber and quite affordable. The plain, dry oats in large canisters are most economical and you can add your own flavorings such as sliced banana, peanut butter, vanilla soy milk, or sugar.
Peanut butter is a great source of protein and is often a staple in the vegetarian diet. Just open the jar and enjoy it with celery, added as flavoring to oatmeal or smoothies, smeared on whole grain crackers, or simply in a peanut butter/jelly sandwich.
Eggs are easy on the budget and are a source of easily digestible protein and can be served in many ways such as deviled, fried, boiled, or scrambled for sandwiches or rolled up with fried potatoes and onions or with cheese in a taquito tortilla.
Yogurt and cottage cheese make good, simple breakfast foods as well. They are both good sources of calcium and protein, and yogurt provides friendly bacteria to aid in digestion.
Potatoes are high in flavor, packed with nutrition, cheap on the budget, and help to round out a filling meal. They can be quickly baked, fried, or mashed. An old-fashioned potato soup is delicious and comforting on a cold night. Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene and can also be quickly baked and sprinkled with your favorite topping, cooked as french fries, or made into a casserole or pie.
Dry beans, such as pinto, lima, black eyed peas, and lentils are high in protein and fiber and are also a favorite of vegetarians. They can be simply boiled with onion, diced tomatoes and chilis, and your favorite seasonings. Served over a bed of brown rice, with cole slaw, and corn pudding or hush puppies, beans can be a satisfying and healthful meal. Lentils and black eyed peas are popular because of their shorter cooking time.
Mixed vegetables freshly frozen in large bags are an economical way to get a variety of veggies. Take out only the amount you need and the rest will stay fresh for weeks. Stir-fry blends are just as delicious boiled, especially when tomato juice, and rice are added. Cabbage is an economical cruciferous vegetable filled with phytonutrients and fiber. A simple and tasty coleslaw can be prepared using shredded cabbage and carrots, dressed with mayonnaise, salt, pepper, sugar, and a touch of vinegar. Lettuce and tomato dressed with salt and pepper, and a small dab or mayonnaise also makes a tasty simple salad.
A healthy diet also includes fruits. Cheaper fruits include apples, oranges and bananas. Grapes are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients. They make a satisfying snack and can be an economical purchase when found on sale. Canned, sliced peaches make another healthful and simple dessert. A fruit salad can be easily and quickly prepared using chopped apples and oranges drizzled with canned milk, chopped pecans and a touch of sugar if desired.
Fruits and vegetables may come from your own garden or from local farmers markets and can be frozen or canned at home. Urban Harvest in Houston not only offers a farmers market in several locations around town, but also a community garden and gardening classes. Call 713 880 5540 or email, info at urbanharvest.org for information.
During the Depression era, foods were not nearly so processed or available in such great variety as they are today. Those old-fashioned cooks turned out some hearty and tasty dishes by creatively using simple homegrown foods and whatever they had on hand. Fortunately today, the simple foods remain the least processed and are usually the most delicious, healthful, and economical.
If, however, you would like to eliminate meal preparation altogether on your meatless days, there are plenty of vegetarian restaurants in Houston, with quite an array of delicious dishes from which to choose. Two examples are the Loving Hut at 2825 S. Kirkwood Road and Quan Yin at 10804 E. Bellaire Boulevard.
Dropping meat consumption just one or two days a week can make a big difference in your health and budget.
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