Four weeks in to giving up meat for Lent and we are faring surprisingly well. The one I thought would have the most trouble with this challenge oddly enough has been the most chaste. Hubby has only eaten meat out twice in the past month, which under our original guidelines is totally acceptable. We are allowed to eat meat while out and use what we already had on hand at home, but no new meat was to be brought into the house. Miss M. has had meat with school lunches and while at her mother's house and I have indulged sparingly during business meetings. The two of us together experienced total meat overload during a menu tasting for an upcoming event I am planning. Although she was honestly more interested in the dessert course than any meat that passed her way. We brought home several selections of chocolate decadent cake, chocolate ribbon cheesecake, and sinful seven chocolate torte, but the meat stayed on the table. And so, we have stayed true to our goal. No new meat has entered our home or stomaches while within it.
I would like to say that this void in the grocery list has saved us money, but instead of cutting one ingredient I have replaced it with no less than three. Our weekly grocery bills seemed to jump from $80.00 per week to $120.00! Huh? We have replaced the meat in our meals with vegetable protein strips, along with bulking up on vegetables. Prior meals consisted of one meat, vegetable and a starch. Now we are eating 3 to 5 vegetables per meal, plus a salad. A lot more of it being fresh than frozen. During the summer months when we could eat out of our own garden this would not be an issue. I can see many economic benefits as well as environmental relief to this lifestyle.
The most noticeable change, other than the lack of meat, has been the explosion of color on our plates. The vivid variety of vegetables sure makes cooking a treat for the eyes! I have enjoyed this most of our meatless meals. It has allowed me step beyond our usual menu and experience cuisine outside our comfort zone. Happily most expansions have been successful and will be welcome back after Lent. We have been going through carrots like crazy, peppers have popped up a few times, and teriyaki made its first appearance to be followed by several more. I have even made use of the wok that has been haunting the back of our cupboard since getting married three years ago!
The "chicken" smart strips have been by far our favorite and are most likely here to stay. The veggie "meatballs" were okay, but disintegrated in the sauce. Textured vegetable protein "meat crumbles" fooled even our pickiest eater under the guise of tater tot casserole. So far, Tofurky is the only thing that has not fared well. With the surge of warm weather two weeks ago the smell of charcoal, lighter fluid, and flame broiled burgers lured us into breaking out the grill. Brats and hot dogs, er, Tofurky beer brats and Tofu pups - not quite the same thing. Admittedly, we did not read the directions before throwing them on the flame, but they were dry and a texture I cannot explain. I missed the "snap" that can only come from meat encased in animal intestine. Gross, but oh so good. We summed that with the addition of sauce, perhaps they would be better. Not so. Tried italian "sausage" Tofurky in sauce with penne last night and it was just as dry. The tofu pups were better, but had an overly smoky flavor about them. I do not think either one will make its way into my shopping cart again.
Rather than leave you with a bad taste in my mouth, I must say that overall March's meatless meals have been a success and generally tasty. Giving up meat for Lent has been a gateway to culinary curiosity. The family seems more willing to try new things, whatever the outcome may be. The next few weeks will bring forth sprouts, veggie burgers, and some odd looking vegetables I have been eyeing in the ethnic produce, but have no idea what to do with!