One evening while visiting my husband’s grandmother, I overheard a conversation between two older women discussing their memories of life. They were at least in their 80s, probably older, and provided a glimpse of a bygone life. One woman shared with the other how glad she was that she had grown up on a farm, as this allowed them to have meat all the time, “at least once a week.” The other affirmed how wonderful that was that she had grown up with such bounty.
Those comments really gave me pause to think.
Because of the abundance of food that we have enjoyed over the past few decades, having a meat main dish at almost every meal (and at least lunch and dinner) has become accepted as just how things are done. Vegetarians are looked at with skepticism by much of the mainstream culture, and restaurants all seem to be vying for who can serve the biggest burger. But this is not the way things have always been, and we are seeing some of the results of it in increased obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and more. Now I am not saying that meat in and of itself is bad. However, moderation in all things is wise. As an additional benefit, cutting some meat out of your diet can also add some dollars to your budget. Think of how many cans of beans or boxes of dry milk you could add to your food storage if you simply cut out meat for one or two meals a week. How much meat would you be able to eat if you were suddenly forced to raise or hunt every animal you consumed?
Growing up vegetarian until my teens, cutting out meat is not hard for me to do. When things get hard and the budget gets tight, reducing meat consumption is one of the easiest ways to trim the food budget while still eating healthfully. People who have never tried this often ask “what do you eat?” or think that vegetarian cooking is simply about eating salad and potatoes. The truth is much more delicious and varied.
Start by thinking of some family favorites, and find ways to cut out the meat without cutting out flavor or nutrition. Try your hand at vegetarian chili with only beans, or lasagna with mushrooms instead of ground beef. Exploring other cultural traditions can provide inspiration too. Diets that are not based on meat are available all over the world and are widespread in places like India, China, and Africa. This is in part due to the difference in financial abundance and the need to cook without meat to save money. Their use of spices and a variety of foods will make your mouth water and you won’t even miss the meat. Be creative and try many different things to see what your family likes.
Learning how to cook healthy and tasty vegetarian meals that your whole family will enjoy is a great step to going off grid, in addition to being a step closer to a healthier lifestyle. Start small with just one meal a week, and then add more until you find what works for you. When TEOTWAWKI arrives, your family will thank you for it.
And your body might just thank you now.