Friday, November 20, 2015

Frugal Fridays: Make it Meatless! (Part One)

As you may have discovered through previous posts, we don't eat a lot of meat in my house.  I am not a strict vegetarian but I am a mostly-vegetarian.  I eat eggs and dairy, fish and seafood and, occasionally poultry - it's easier to eat some meat since my husband and children do! When I first started cooking regularly for my then-boyfriend, a meat-eater lover, he had two concerns about vegetarian meals:  they had to be filling and they needed iron. I was quickly able to show him that vegetarian does not mean starving or lacking in iron. . . nor do the vegan recipes we've embraced either!  Incidentally, he says he much prefers bean or lentil-based meals than those which use more "meaty" meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh or seiten (say what? more on those next week!) so if you're nervous about trying something different, those might be good places to start.

But vegetarian / vegan cooking can mean delicious, easy meals that are good for you (have you read the stuff they're saying about red meat consumption?), and even better for your pocket book!

So without any further ado, here's my guide to the best meat alternatives and substitutions, complete with recipes (most of which, I have actually tried!).  If you have Pepperplate, you can easily add the recipes you like to your collection by clicking the link and then clicking the "add to Pepperplate" button on your browser (if you downloaded it).  If not, then it might take a little more effort ;) I have organized them from the easiest, gentlest starter subs - things you probably already eat, to things you may not eat but can probably find in the grocery store, to things you might not have heard of and might need to purchase at a specialty store.  The Gateway Subs are included in this post and I'll tackle the rest next week :)


For comparison's sake, here are the stats on two commonly- recommended "cheaper" meat choices.  The costs are from livingin-canada.com (where possible) and the nutritional content is through Google (I think they use Wikipedia) as well as nutritiondata.self.com when not available elsewhere.  I'm focusing on calories, protein and iron since that's usually what people ask vegetarians and vegans about, in my experience.  More protein will make you feel fuller so in terms of a healthy diet, higher protein in fewer calories is a plus.



Cost per kg
Cost per serving (100g)
Calories per serving
Protein per serving
Iron per serving
Ground Beef
$12.75
$1.28
332 cals
14g
8% DV
Chicken
$7.58
$0.75
239 cals
27g
7% DV

Gateway Subs:

Lol :) These are things you might already eat although you might eat them in addition to meat.  Here are some ways you can try them instead of meat next time.


Eggs

What:          You know. . . eggs.  You probably eat them for breakfast but they can make great lunches and dinners too.
Cost:            $3.29 a dozen (more or less) so $0.27 per egg
Nutrition:     6g protein, 3% DV of iron and 78 calories per large egg
Best Uses:    Well, you could do "breakfast for dinner" like a college student :) Or you could go really simple - egg salad sandwich for lunch or hard-boiled egg on your salad.  But what about a delicious frittata or quiche for lunch or dinner? Or a little fried egg in your stir-fry or fried rice dish?
Recipes:

Cheese

What:           Yup, you probably already make some meals out of cheese - lunches most likely?
Cost:            varies depending on type and sale prices - $7.99 for a 450g block of cheddar is not uncommon which works out to about $0.50 per 1oz serving (or you could spring for something much more expensive if you so choose)
Nutrition:     Cheddar offers about 7g protein, 1% DV iron and 114 calories per 1oz serving - other cheeses offer varying amounts of both
Best Uses:    Grilled cheese or quesadillas make a delicious and filling lunch or add cubed/shredded cheese to a salad.  Cheese is also an easy addition to most recipes - top a casserole or side dish, make a cheese sauce for vegetables, etc. And, of course, macaroni and cheese!
Recipes:


Nuts and Seeds

What:           nut butters, nuts (peanuts, cashews, walnuts, etc.) and seeds (hemp, flax, pumpkin, etc.)
Cost:            varies depending on type - 500g of peanut butter is abut $3.57 ($0.24 per 2 tbsp serving); 227g of hemp seeds can be purchased for $9.99 ($1.32 per 30g serving)
Nutrition:     a serving of PB offers 8g protein, 3% DV iron and 188 calories; hemp seeds provide 11g of protein, 16% DV iron and 174 calories
Best Uses:    Nut butters make delicious sandwiches - and not just for kids! Seeds and nuts are also awesome snacks and make great toppings for salads.  If you're vegan (or adventurous), raw nuts can also be used to make milks and cheeses.  And both can add a little oomph to your next pesto (and pesto on pasta is sooo easy and sooo good!).
Recipes:


Beans and Chickpeas

What:           chickpeas, black beans, red lima beans, white navy beans - you name it!
Cost:            varies depending on type - a can of cooked beans, containing about 2 cups of beans, costs about $1.20, give or take; a lb of dried beans, which can make about 8 cups of beans, costs about $1.99 (source). . . so canned cost about $0.60 per 100g serving while dried cost a mere $0.11 a serving! Scared of the labour involved in cooking beans? Cheat! Do them in the slow cooker (just not red lima beans, k?). . . also make way more than you need and freeze them for the convenience of canned only better tasting and without all that sodium :)
Nutrition:     a serving of chickpeas provides 19g protein, 34% DV iron and 364 calories; black beans offer 21g protein, 48% DV iron and 339 calories
Best Uses:    The easy: throw them on a salad or make them into a salad (bean salads are awesome!).  But beans are also great in soups, stews, chili, tacos, burritos, burgers. . . I love beans! And chickpeas? Try hummus in your sandwich or wrap, make falafel. . . or use them like beans.
Recipes:


Lentils

What:           lentils are legumes (kind of like beans or green peas) and come in various colours - red, green and brown, usually; while recipes usually call for a particular colour, I use them interchangeably as the colour is often just for appearances (if the lentils are replacing ground meat, for example, brown tends to be more appealing than red!)
Cost:           27oz of lentils can cost anywhere from $6.30-8.80 depending on the type so let's go with $7 average (about $0.54 a serving); you can also buy lentils canned but they don't take long to cook and, to be honest, I think they're too mushy to be worthwhile
Nutrition:     a 100g serving of lentils provides 9g of protein, 18% DV of iron and 116 calories
Best Uses:    Lentils are awesome additions to soups and stews.  Lentils, much like beans, can be added to salads or you can make a lentil salad as well.  Lentils are an excellent substitute for ground beef because of the colour and texture (especially if you cook them yourself) so they can be used to make meatless Shepherd's pies, casseroles, tacos, etc.
Recipes:


Vegetables

What:           Don't roll your eyes! I know that every recipe on this list has vegetables.  But they usually  go with the meat alternative instead of acting as the alternative, itself.  But here are some vegetables that sometimes act as meat-replacements all their own! I don't usually rely on veggies solely to replace meat (since you will note that protein and iron are not in abundance here) but adding some cheese, hemp seeds or sesame seeds, for example can really amp up the nutrition of a plant-based meal.
Cost:           An eggplant will usually cost about $3-4 dollars depending on size and time of year (so about $1 a serving); Mushrooms can cost $1.20-2.00 per lb, portobellos are often twice that (but more popular in vegetarian cooking) - so anywhere from $0.40-1.10 per serving; beets are often around $1.30 per lb or $0.29 per 100g serving; cauliflower can cost $1.50-2.00 per lb or $0.33-0.44 per serving; avocados can cost anywhere from $0.50-1.00 each, depending on size and season
Nutrition:   As above, I will address protein, iron and calories in this section.  It is important to note, however, that many of these vegetables also offer high amounts of vitamins not found in the above alternatives! A 100g serving of eggplant offers 1g of protein, 1% DV iron and 25 calories; White mushrooms offer 3g protein, 2% DV iron and 22 calories in a 100g serving while the same amount of portobellos nets 2g protein, 1% DV iron and 22 calories; beets provide 1.6g protein, 4% DV iron and 43 calories per 100g serving; cauliflower offers 2g protein, 2% DV iron and 25 calories per 100g serving; each avocado (approx. 200g) provides 4g of protein, 6% DV iron and 322 calories
Best Uses:    Eggplant is great in Italian dishes like meatballs and Eggplant Parmesan, but it's also at home in curries and stews.  Mushrooms are excellent in tacos and creamy sauces like Stroganoff, or grilled and treated as a burger.  Beets also make a delicious burger and take the place of beef in some other recipes as well.  Cauliflower steaks are delicious - try it (even just as a side dish - I won't tell).  And avocado is a vegan's best friend for good reason - they're full of healthy fats and nutrients.
Recipes:


TL;DR?

There are lots of things to eat besides meat.  Many are cheaper and also better sources of protein and iron! Here it is in handy chart form:

I've highlighted those foods that are often under $1 per serving, over 10g of protein per serving and over 15% daily value of iron per serving.  Clearly my love for beans is well-founded!



Cost per serving (100g unless otherwise specified)
Calories per serving
Protein per serving
Iron per serving
Ground Beef
$1.28
332 cals
14g
8% DV
Chicken
$0.75
239 cals
27g
7% DV
Eggs
$0.27 per egg – let's go with $0.54 per serving (2 eggs)
156 cals
12g
6% DV
Cheddar Cheese
$0.50 per 1 oz serving (sorry, 100g of cheese is too much cheese!)
114 cals
7g
1% DV
Peanut Butter
$0.24 per 2 tbsp serving (yeah, 100g of peanut butter isn't happening either)
188 cals
8g
3% DV
Hemp Seeds
$1.32 per 30g serving (you add them to things instead of making a meal of them)
174 cals
11g
16% DV
Chickpeas
$0.60 canned, $0.11 dried
364 cals
19g
34% DV
Black Beans
$0.60 canned, $0.11 dried
339 cals
21g
48% DV
Lentils
About $0.54
116 cals
9g
18% DV
Eggplant
About $1
25 cals
1g
1% DV
Mushrooms
About $0.40-0.50
22 cals
3g
2% DV
Portobellos
About $1
22 cals
2g
1% DV
Beets
About $0.29
43 cals
1.6g
4% DV
Cauliflower
$0.33-0.44
25 cals
2g
2% DV
Avocado
$0.50-1.00 each
322 cals
4g
6% DV

So, find something that sounds good to you (either from the recipes I've linked to above or elsewhere) and get cooking.  Make it meatless, even one night a week to save a little cash and feel good about it.

Next week:  Part 2 - Next Step Subs (that you can find in a grocery store) and Super Subs (that you may never have heard of!).

Until then, happy shopping!

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