We’re “starting fresh” this January, completing 22 mini-challenges in 22 days for a cleaner, fresher and healthier kitchen and grocery budget. We’re down to the last week, but now is a great time as any to join us! Read about the what’s and why’s on the mini-challenges, as well as the previous days tasks, and jump right on in!
Have you ever looked at your grocery cart, then your grocery bill, and wondered where the discrepancy was? How in the world could the bill be so high, when the grocery cart wasn’t even full?
That’s because the two heavy hitters every month – quality meat and fat – ring up at an average of $6 per pound. That may not seem like much, but let’s step back for a moment and look at a bigger picture.
Warning: This post contains mathematics and numbers. I apologize in advance for my bean-counting-nerdiness.
When most families prepare a meal where meat is the main feature (i.e. steak, pork chops, etc.), they allow approximately 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound of meat, per person. For a family of four, that’s 2-3 pounds per meal. Since some meals use less (stir-fry) and some use more (roasts and fatty steaks), let’s use the conservative estimate of 2 pounds per meal. Also, for the sake of mathematics and keeping this example simple, let’s also pretend that families don’t eat meat during other meals, like bacon or breakfast sausage.
If my family of four ate 2 pounds of meat for dinner every night of the week, we would be consuming 14 pounds for the entire week.
Multiply that times the number of weeks in my grocery budget cycle – four – for a total of 56 pounds of meat in one month.
$6 is used as the average price per pound because while organic chicken costs less ($2.69/lb most recently), quality beef can cost quite a bit more ($9.99/lb or more for rib-eye steaks at Costco). Even ground beef, supposedly the “cheapest” cut of beef is $5.99/lb for organic. $6 seemed like an appropriate number that we could all relate to.
Back to the example, comparing the average cost per pound with the estimated meat consumption for one month, my family is looking at paying $336 every month in meat alone.
Wowzers! That’s more than our budget for EVERYTHING for the whole month!
This is why my family has cut back on eating meat, and why I challenge you to do the same.
Day 21 – Go Meatless
I think a good portion of society idolizes meat, giving it more status that it deserves. I know my family has on plenty occasions.
We’ll be walking around Costco, nibbling on the cheese samples and whatnot when a big, fatty marbled prime rib roast catches our eye. We start to think of the Christmas when Mr. Crumbs coated the roast with coarse salt, coarse black pepper and lots of fresh rosemary… how he loaded it onto his Weber rotisserie and slow-cooked it for hours… how it sliced up beautifully and utterly melted in our mouths at dinner.
Aw yeah… Do I have you drooling yet?
Meat isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it is expensive and there’s no getting around that. Even bought at a discount, quality meat comes still with a quality price tag.
There’s nothing nutritionally “special” about meat. It is an excellent source of B vitamins, iron, zinc and magnesium, but you can get the same vitamins and minerals by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables.
What about the protein? Meat will give you the most grams per serving, but dairy products like milk and cheese are excellent sources of protein as well.
Let’s not forget the beans! As an incredibly frugal food (often less than $1 per pound), beans pack a big punch. One cup offers as much protein as a single serving of meat and one of the best sources of fiber!
Your challenge today is to go meatless for one meal.
- If you eat meat 7 nights a week, make one meal meatless.
- If you eat meat 5 nights a week, make one meal meatless.
- If you eat meat only 2 times a week, make one meal meatless.
No one is exempt (unless you don’t eat meat). The level of difficulty will be different depending on where your family falls in the meat consumption scale, but everyone gets the same challenge. Those who already scale back cannot count that towards today’s challenge.
How Does Going Meatless Help?
1. It Lowers the Grocery Bill
Need I remind you of the hefty bill from the earlier example? If we skip meat for one meal each week, we could save $48 in one month!
Something else to marinade on is truly how much meat is needed at each meal. Think about your meals and whether or not they can be made with less meat. Changing the way it’s served (shredded meat goes further than whole pieces), adding beans or make it a side-show instead of the main attraction are simple ways to accomplish this. If we could reduce one meal’s meat by half just once each week, while completely eliminating it on another night, we would save another $24 each month – on top of the original $48! (That’s $72 for those who are reaching for a calculator. )
2. It Broadens our Horizons
Eating a variety of food exposes us to things we probably wouldn’t try under normal circumstances. Sure there’s a few bags of beans in my pantry, but unless I intentionally plan to cook them and eat them, they will always be runner-up to the chicken in the freezer.
I want my kids to grow up eating beans. I don’t want them to freak out when they’re 28, having no clue what those “little round black things” are in their rice dish when meeting their future in-law’s for the first time.
Can you imagine what the mom would say? Something along the lines of…
“What is that young man doing? Why is he looking at his food like it has eyes? Didn’t his mother ever feed him beans?!”
… comes to mind. Notice where the blame lies…
3. It Offers Our Bodies Rest
Breaking down and digesting plant-based foods is much easier on our systems than animal-based products. Granted we’re not NOT eating, so it won’t get a complete rest, but skipping meat at one meal will give our gut a small reprieve, even if it is just for one night.
4. You May Even Like It
We’ve being eating at least one meatless meal every week for over one year now and those meals are now some of our favorites. Lemongrass vegetables with rice is so flavorful that adding meat nearly ruins the dish.
Hearty minestrone soup is a winner every time it’s served and since it’s based on bone broth, it has healing properties too!
Can you imagine roasted sweet peppers, caramelized onions and a thick slice of portabella mushroom in between two pieces of homemade beer bread, smothered with herbed cheese on the inside, grass-fed butter on the outside and grilled to a golden brown? Served next to baked sweet potato french fries? Who wouldn’t like a piece of that!
Day 20 Update
After the stare down with the medicine cabinet at Christmas, I ended up throwing away most of the medicines we had. I chose to keep the “basic” ones like Advil (both adults and kids versions) and saline spray for stuffy noses. I have an insane food allergy to red food dye (which made its first appearance THE DAY AFTER I got married!) so I kept one box of antihistamines for emergencies. I also kept the regular allergy medicine for seasonal allergies. Our bodies don’t seem to have as much trouble as they used to (perhaps it’s the fact that we’re eating healthier?), but every now and then the sneezing and watery eyes becomes unbearable. Even when that happens, we reduce the dosage and frequency.
These medicines are the ones that I had purchased AT A MINIMUM one year ago, back when my coupon addiction was in full force. These have been sitting in a closet, for no particular purpose, so now is as good a time as any to get rid of them.
Especially since I haven’t even opened the box in a year, right?
And take a look at this “inactive” ingredient:
That stuff is everywhere!