One of the best reasons in the world to go meatless at least one day a week is because it saves you so much money! Meat prices seem to have sky-rocketed lately… and if you want to eat organic, local, grass-fed, or the like – you’re paying a pretty penny for the privilege of noshing on animal protein.
I am a firm believer that everyone has to figure out how their body wants to eat. We aren’t all made the same, and I do not advocate for a one-size-fits all diet. So I suggest going meatless now and then more as a money-saving, Earth-stewardship, eco-friendly, mindful-consumption sort of option. It just makes common sense – on multiple fronts – and with the right tools can be entirely painless… one might even say surprisingly enjoyable.
How does cooking meatless meals one or more times a week make an impact? Here’s a short list of my favorite reasons:
- It saves you oodles of money. I’ve cut my grocery bills in half eliminating meat. You may not want to go “whole hog” on the vegetarian eating… but every meal without meat tends to yield some significant cost-savings.
- It’s better for the planet. Everyone from scientists, to cookbook authors, to environmentalists are now asserting that an unchecked consumption of meat is unsustainable and bad for the planet. Making a small shift can have a big impact.
- It’s better for your health. There are all sorts of studies, sites, movies, books, etc. out there telling you how to eat and insisting it will be better for you. Maybe eliminating meat all the way works for you; maybe you want to be sure to still eat it. But no matter what, variety in your diet is key to ensuring you’re getting everything you need. Taking meat out at least once a week helps shift the focus to other foods – which hopefully will help you strengthen your eating habits and expand your list of healthy options.
- It helps you consider your role as a consumer. Maybe that leads to questions about the ethics/morality of meat production. Maybe it leads to exploration of modern farming practices. Maybe it encourages you to read more labels, consider more research (on all sides of the issue), or meet more local farmers. Whatever the outcome, that kind of exploration is a good thing. You’ll find the answers that are right for you – and feel good about it in the process.
That said, locating good vegetarian/vegan recipes is essential to ensuring you don’t feel deprived or miserable as you expand your culinary horizons. Good recipes mean good eating – which means full tummies, happy people, and a greater likelihood of finding a new routine that can stick.
Here are 9 of my favorite books as of late that help inspire delicious meatless meals. I would be truly lost without them!
- Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz &Terry Hope Romero
My go-to fave of late. The recipes are creative, the tone playful, and the outcome phenomenal. It’s expanded my understanding of what I enjoy eating (ricotta made with cashews, for example, is delicious), and has given me protein options that used to be scary/daunting to me (tempeh and seitan, most notably).
- Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook: Over 300 Recipes for Plant-Based Eating All Through the Year
by Del Sroufe
So many ideas packed into one thin volume! These recipes are easy to master, typically really quick to prepare, and ensure you are getting tons of good veg. I particularly love the Indonesian “Fried” Noodles and Spicy Thai Sweet Potato Stew.
- Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Foods into Your Cooking
by Heidi Swanson
Author of the popular blog, 101 Cookbooks, Heidi is nothing short of a culinary genius. This book shifted my perception of food, the items in my pantry, and my concept of cooking. There are too many favorite dishes in this book to include them all, so I’ll just throw out the Black Tea Spring Rolls and Spiced Caramel Corn for today.
- The Homemade Pantry: 100 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making
by Alana Chernila
Another paradigm-shifting book. This book inspires you to rethink your consumption habits and leads to all manner of self-confidence-boosting kitchen experimentation. I can make cheese because of this book! It’s both phenomenal and empowering.
- The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes
by Anupy Singla
So many slow cooker recipes feature meat… and then along comes this little gem which gives you a slew of vegetarian options all within a flavor profile that is exciting and sometimes incredibly difficult to master. Favorites so far include Green Spinach Lentils and Split Green Lentil and Rice Porridge (I tend to use split red in that one – and it still works great!).
- Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian: More than 650 Meatless Recipes from Around the World
by Madhur Jaffrey
Just when you feel like you’re running out of ideas or feeling sick of all the tried-and-true meatless faves… you can whip out this monster and shake things up with pizzazz. This is one of the most comprehensive collection of veggie recipes I’ve ever seen – and it inspires a sort of intrepid dietary exploration that is good for the body and soul.
- Vegetarian Planet: 350 Big-Flavor Recipes for Out-of-This-World Food Every Day
by Didi Emmons
Nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence, this is one of the rare cookbooks I could sit down and read for hours. Packed with complex flavor combinations that are built upon easy-to-follow directions and easy-to-find ingredients, it’s one of those books that makes you eager to dive in and start experimenting.
- The Vegetarian Feast: Revised and Updated
by Martha Rose Shulman
The vegetarian cookbook that is perfect for entertaining. Somehow the recipes manage to be sophisticated yet simple… and the menu suggestions, preparation instructions, and technique tips will painlessly up your game in the kitchen so you can wow everyone you know.
- Joy of Cooking
by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker & Ethan Becker
I think it’s easy to forget what a gem this cookbook remains. Now in its 75th year, this book is the soup-to-nuts of cooking. And what’s lovely about it is that if you’re looking for non-meat options, inspiration abounds. My suggestion: try breakfast-for-dinner sometime this week and treat yourself to Hashbrowns and Lemon Pancakes. It’ll feel like your birthday.