No Meat Challenge – Conclusions
Well it’s been just over a month since I started my “no meat challenge” and I can happily say I completed it successfully, within the rules I set out in my original No Meat Challenge Throwdown post. As you may or may not remember, it ended up being more of an “Eat less meat” challenge, but let’s have a quick reminder of the rules:
- Only one meal containing meat allowed per day (This allows us to enjoy the wedding meals fully, just need to make sure we don’t have a fry up for breakfast the same morning!)
- We will also cook 3 veggie evening meals per week, so will have 3 full veggie days
- We are still allowed to eat cheese, milk, eggs.
Here are some of my random thoughts and experiences on the challenge, in no particular order
The best thing – about doing this was trying out some new food, things that I may have never tried before. I was surprised, for example, to like meals such as vegetarian chilli, seeing as I previously had a huge and irrational fear of eating beans, which stems from a dislike of baked beans. I can safely say I still hate baked beans but other beans have been firmly accepted into my edible foods list.
The lowest point – of the challenge was when we were driving down to Devon for a family members 60th Birthday celebrations and I was in charge of packing sandwiches to stop for some brunch. I made them but left them in the fridge, and we ended up seeing the dreaded golden arches at the next service station and getting a Macdonalds. I could have had some porridge but I figured “When in Rome” and went with one of the breakfast muffins (it was actually far more disgusting than I remember from the last time I had one. I think you have to be hungover or still inebriated from the night before to enjoy one of those things!). Anyway I was disappointed with myself as I’d wasted my meat based meal on something of such low quality and questionable origins, but every cloud has a silver lining and I tried the Veggie Chilli as mentioned above later on because of it, so it worked out pretty good in the end!
Bending the rules – I’ll admit to having a fish based meal some nights, but I pretty much ate a vegetarian lunch every day anyway (Cheese and bread/toast got a bit tedious after a while I have to admit! Any Veggie lunch suggestions would be very welcome in the comments!!!). So I definitely did not eat meat twice on any given day (or even meat + fish), but maybe a couple of our “3 meals a week” were fish instead of exclusively veggie ones. I guess you could argue this wasn’t breaking the rules, but maybe just bending them slightly. So I will!
My Top Five Vegetarian Meals
In Sunday evening radio chart countdown style:
5. Paella style rice – We half cheated and included some shellfish in this, but I think it would be just as nice without it as a tomatoey rice dish and veg dish.
4. Vegetarian Omelette – You can keep it plain as in my original recipe or add in all kinds of veg (tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos, courgettes, broccoli… you get the picture) just chuck it in, and add plenty of cheese and seasoning. Can’t get enough of them!
3. Vegetarian curry with Bombay Potatoes – I made my normal curry, which has loads of veggies in it anyway, but added more and missed out the meat. It does seem a bit like something is missing on this one, but it’s still nice in it’s own right. The Bombay Potatoes kinda made up for no meat. I will have to post the recipe for this soon!
2. Vegetarian stir fry – One dish I can truly say I never even noticed there wasn’t any meat in it. Amazing discovery. Basically just follow the recipe for my Pork stir fry here but leave out the Pork. Simples!
1. Five Bean Chilli – I actually had this in a pub originally and it was fantastic. I then tried making a 3 bean chilli myself which was a bit of a mash up of the recipes I found here and here. I made some wedges at home which complemented the chilli amazingly, but it also went just as well with rice and/or nachos. Just make sure you have plenty of jalapenos and grated cheese to go with it. I ate this four days running it was so nice!
- I, we, most people, eat far more meat than I think we think we do.
- There are some great tasting vegetarian meals out there that I would never have tried if not doing this challenge!
- I seemed to fill the gap (especially at lunch) with the dairy and carbs route, which I’m not sure is sustainable long term (for me)
- I’m also not sure whether increasing milk, cheese and eggs as a substitute for meat protein is really that much better for you, compared to a normal balanced diet of small amounts of milk combined with dairy.
- Beans, lentils, legumes and the like are no doubt better for you than dairy, but then most of these are imported from afar…
- … so are we not just better of buying small amounts of local meats to get our protein, in terms of being good environmentally conscious citizens?
- I guess if you are a vegetarian, vegan, or just trying to cut out some meat from your diet then you may agree with some, all or none of my thoughts above, depending on the exact reasons you decided to do this. And if you are a red blooded carnivore then perhaps you think we are all stark raving bonkers.
The bottom line is… I still love meat, and I am pretty certain I will never stop eating it, but this has really made appreciate eating it more. When I eat it now I savour every bite, and think much more about where it came from and what may have been sacrificed* to get that piece of animal from farm to plate.
I would heartily recommend anyone who is remotely conscious about these issues, or just wants to save a bit of money, or thinks they want to try some new tasty cooking, to give your own similar challenge a go!
*Not in the rip a cows heart out and eat it in front of a crowd of thousands Aztec style sacrifice, but just in terms of resources spent on this Earth that could have been better used or distributed more fairly and sustainably. But you knew that already (I hope!)