Less Meat, More Flavour
It has been well-documented that one way to shrink your grocery spending is to switch to meatless meals at least once a week. While you may be lured by the budget-friendly benefits of this, it can be a challenge to come up with tasty meals that are welcomed at the table by the family. You may also be leery about the nutritional impact of swapping meat out. Meatless meals, in rotation, have both great health and budgetary benefits.
Re-think Your Plate
On a traditional plate, there is meat accompanied by vegetables and usually a starch of some kind. The challenge is to shift your thinking from filling that spot with meat, to filling it with protein, which opens up a host of possibilities. A little creativity and research into some food that are high in protein, like legumes, cheeses, nuts and tofu give you a number of options.
Flavour is Your Guide
Summer is an excellent time to experiment with new foods, because when it comes to all things produce, it is plentiful, cheap, brightly coloured and packed with flavour.
Fresh herbs are more readily available as well and lend taste dimension to your dishes that is not as easily accomplished in other times of year. It is even worth planting some of your own herbs in the backyard or in a window garden for easy access and extra flavour.
One easy, delicious, healthy dish: slice ripe but firm tomatoes and arrange on a plate. Layer the tomatoes with slices of provolone or mozzarella cheese. Add fresh basil leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Fresh, easy and inexpensive.
Salad as the Main Course?
The word “salad” conjures up leafy images of rabbit food that does very little to stem an appetite. However, when it comes to going meatless, salads offer an option that is both tasty and hearty. It is also nice to have a cool meal on a steamy summer day.
One of my favourites is super easy and super delicious. Rinse a couple of cans of black beans. Chop a red onion. Thaw about three cups of frozen corn or cut the corn off of three or four cooked cobs of corn. Coarsely chop a tablespoon or two of cilantro and mix in a large bowl. Add a teaspoon of sugar and about a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar. Toss and refrigerate and serve when you are ready.
Couscous with chickpeas is delicious as well, and can be served hot or cold. You can toss these with your favourite salad dressing and chopped vegetables.
Kids love baked beans (I know lots of big kids who love them too). They are hearty, healthy, packed with protein, iron and fibre. Although the canned variety is tasty, they can be high in sodium. Homemade baked beans are relatively easy to make (especially if you have access to a slow cooker). There are numerous recipes out there, depending on your taste, but there are a few tricks worth remembering. Always soak and rinse the dried beans before cooking them. It reduces cooking time by quite a bit. Experiment with things like molasses, maple syrup and BBQ sauce. While a number of recipes call for specific sauces, there is room for interpretation, and you can come up with some really interesting flavours.