Lent is a mere three weeks away… have you started thinking about meatless meals yet? Are you looking for some variety in your usual Lenten dinners? Considering eating meatless more often than just Fridays? We already eat meatless dinners about twice a week. My daughters and I eat meatless breakfasts and lunches about as often as we eat meat at these meals. Even so, I’m hoping to incorporate even more meatless meals into our schedule during Lent.
You can start planning for Lent now, by stocking your pantry. Once you have what you need, you can prepare a meatless meal any night of the week; no need to wait for Lent. And, a meatless meal gives you the opportunity to eat several vegetables in one sitting, including some raw ones. Read about the benefits of eating raw plant foods here.
There are plenty of reasons to go meatless besides the Lenten sacrifice. Conventional animal meat production uses grain, land, and water that could feed many more people than the resulting meat. Large animal raising operations also pollute the environment, as do the large grain production operations that provide their feed. Many food animals are confined in small spaces for their entire lives and forced to eat inappropriate diets for their species. Also, protein from animal foods takes more time, energy, and resources to digest than plant proteins. So, a vegetarian dinner can give your conscience and your digestive system a slight rest.
With food prices constantly rising, even fresh foods are less expensive than meat, especially if you eat what is in season. Focusing on meatless meals and taking advantage of sales on staples to stock up the pantry will also save you money. My suggestions focus on using staples to make quick meals that also incorporate whole grains and fresh ingredients. Read about why I cook this way, from scratch, here.
Obviously, you can’t stock too many raw vegetables in your pantry, especially this far ahead, but there are a few that will keep: potatoes and onions. We use these two every week, so keeping them in the pantry gives us more space in the refrigerator for the fresh stuff.
Look for some of the basic meal builders for Lent (or any time) to go on sale in the next few weeks, and stock up:
- canned tuna and salmon
- whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce
- whole wheat crackers
- dried or canned beans
- brown rice.
You probably already have favorite meals using these ingredients, but if you are looking for new twists, check back for posts about Not So Ordinary Bean Dinners, No-Mayo Tuna Pasta Salad, Salmon Burgers, and Rice Pilaf.
Here are other ideas for simple meatless meals using the pantry items listed above.
- You can make a quick three course pasta meal if you have access to fresh herbs.
- Pasta + marinara + cheese + bread + salad.
- Rice + beans + salsa + cheese + tortillas.
- Tuna + crackers + cheese + fruit.
- Baked potato + butter + vegetable + salsa.
If you want to try something new, consider buying:
- vegetable broth in boxes
- jarred olives
- tahini (ground sesame seed paste in the International foods aisle)
- old fashioned rolled oats
- raw nuts and seeds.
You can make a quick soup with vegetable broth, steamed vegetables, and cooked beans, rice, or pasta. Or, cook the vegetables or rice in the broth slowly to add more flavor. Stir in your favorite seasonings and you have an easy soup to serve with cheese or cream on top and bread or crackers on the side.
What can you do with jarred olives? Add them to a big salad, along with the nuts and seeds for a light, but filling meal. Or, eat them with bread and cheese for another light meal or snack. Use the tahini to make hummus or Sesame Noodles. Oatmeal is not just for breakfast; try it for lunch or dinner, topped with fruit, raw nuts, and seeds.
Fresh fruit can be pricey this time of year, except for citrus, which is currently in season. Look for frozen or fruit canned in juice (not syrup) to round out your meals and salads without hiking up your grocery bill. Natural applesauce without added sugar is another good choice.
I’m planning to write more posts with Lenten recipes soon, so come back to the blog, or to this page to find the links (Not Your Ordinary Bean Dinners and Not Your Ordinary Seafood Dinners). Earlier this month, I wrote about preparing basic meals from dried beans. Happy eating! If you have recipes you want to share, send them my way. I’m always looking for new meals to try.