Not quite Flexitarian, but a lot less meat
October 9, 2017 1:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in cutting down my meat intake for a number of reasons. I used to eat a portion of meat at nearly every meal. I've been cutting down to once per day, and I'd like to go down to 2 or 3 times per week instead. I don't think that I want to go down to vegetarian or flexitarian levels, but I am interested in simple, cheap, filling and healthy meals that involve little to no meat (beyond obvious stuff like salad). I have most average kitchen amenities, but no pressure cooker. I'd really like stuff I can get 2 or 3 servings out of. Cookbook or website recommendations are also very welcome.
posted by codacorolla to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh: no allergies or special dietary needs to speak of.
posted by codacorolla at 1:48 PM on October 9, 2017

Best answer: I make these Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups from Budget Bytes pretty regularly (it's actually easier to make it as a regular lasagna, so I've been doing that lately). This probably makes 6-10 servings, depending on hunger levels, freezes/reheats well, is delicious, etc. Someone around here turned me on to Budget Bytes and it's a great site.
posted by jabes at 1:58 PM on October 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I was able to do this by substituting from meat to hearty grains and legumes. Like seasoned quinoa or brown rice with lentils or beans or something is a really easy meal to prep a large number of servings of without a huge commitment of active cooking time (I know you said no pressure cooker, but if you have or can obtain a crock-pot or other slow cooker you can make beans in that over the course of a day and have them for several).
posted by dismas at 2:06 PM on October 9, 2017

If you use something like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron even occasionally (i.e. you have an active account even if you don't order from it regularly) you can still see all of your old recipes (they have a vegetarian section). Since they eventually start to repeat we've taken to making the old recipes we've enjoyed, which are usually pretty straightforward and very tasty.
posted by jourman2 at 2:14 PM on October 9, 2017

Stir fry with toasted cashew nuts

Paneer curries

Giant tray of roast veg with halloumi

Baked polenta topped with spicy chickpea and tomato stew


Risotto with your favourite veg
posted by kadia_a at 2:27 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

This recipe for Kale Pesto and Roasted Butternut Squash is sooooo good. It's my new favorite comfort food. It's worth subscribing to the NY Times's Cooking site; you'd have access to tons of recipes that meet your requirements.
posted by brookeb at 2:27 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you checked out this other question on vegetarian recipes from this morning? Maybe also take a look at these previous posts linked by Bruce H.
posted by Secretariat at 2:37 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

See also:
Vegetarian + Cooking
Vegetarian + Recipes
Vegetarian + Recipe

I guess to answer the question, MetaFilter is actually the recipe website or cookbook I would recommend! People here have good taste and link tasty stuff, so it's usually my first stop.
posted by Secretariat at 2:48 PM on October 9, 2017

I like to still browse or adapt meaty recipes by getting the hang of which foods are good substitutes. For instance, I think tofu can stand in for a lot of chicken recipes, if you learn how to cook tofu well. If you are OK with "meat substitutes", Gardein and Morningstar etc make some good beef substitutes. TVP works well in chili. Mexican food can often sub in beans and/or sweet potatoes. I've made tacos with taco-seasoned lentils that are quite good.
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:27 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been trying to do something similar, here are some relatively cheap and easy meals that I've been making a few times a week that don't require meat:

Homemade pizza + salad. Just get some pizza dough, you can quickly make your own sauce, or buy pre-made pizza sauce, some mozza, and top with your favorite veggies - I like corn, peppers and spinach. Serve with a salad. Quick to make and lasts a good while, easy to reheat, better than ordering a big greasy pizza for delivery.

Quinoa w/veggies & curry. You can make your own curry sauce or you can purchase it premade, heat it up, serve over veggies, I prefer cauliflower and peppers.

Quinoa or rice stew w/lentils. Red or green lentils. Good source of protein, easy to cook, throw in your favorite spices, carrots, onion & celery and you're full up. Really nice for fall/winter, too. Toss in some cauliflower or broccoli for more veg/variety.

A personal fave that I have made a few times is Mujadara. You should google different mujadara recipes and see if one strikes your fancy. The real important ingredients are the caramelized onions and lentils mixed with the rice. The one I like to make also includes mint, almonds and dried apricots. Very filling, very customizable.

Another thing about fall -- is the beauty of the baked squash. Butternut squash, delicata squash, they all make great meals, you can stuff 'em with cheese and panko and other tasty stuff, bake away and feel very full.

Also, don't forget about tofu! I didn't used to like it, but I got a great veggie recipe from Blue Apron - Baked Tofu w/jerk seasoning and mashed plantains. Honestly some good spices on some tofu slabs, baked for the right amount of time, and served over some tasty mashed root veggie is pretty enjoyable. You can play around with this combo.
posted by pazazygeek at 3:28 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Serious Eats has a whole section for that!

More broadly, you can search for recipes that rely on cured meat, smoked fish and other things along those lines. They typically (not always, but usually!) use less actual meat than their uncured, unsmoked counterparts, as their flavor is usually much more intense.

Personal favorite (more of a late summer dish for us here in the PNW) is a Furnace Family Bastardization of Succotash. Two slices of the smokiest bacon you can find get chopped up and go into a cast iron skillet. Render, until almost crispy. Pull them out. Diced onion and snapped-in-halved-green beans get thrown into the skillet, set to medium high. 2 ears of corn are de-cobbed and thrown in once everything seems a little cooked and the onions have a little color to them. Add in a handful of halved cherry tomatoes, just long enough for them to warm through and get to know everyone. In total, the thing should cook for maybe 20 minutes. Top with the bacon you pulled out earlier, a 6 minute egg (which kind of turns into a sauce for the whole thing, and some cilantro (or parsley, if you don't like cilantro), and a squeeze of lime.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:54 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mark Bittman has two cookbooks that might be up your alley. One is 'Food Matters' which is not about eating NO meat, but just less meat. many of the recipes are meat dishes, but they just use a seriously tiny portion of meat, without ever feeling that way.

The other is VB6 or Vegan Before 6 which is more flexitarian.

I haven't tried VB6 myself yet, but I have Food Matters and the app versions of 'How to Cook Everything' and 'How to Cook Everything Vegetarian' and they're all full of delicious foods. (if you have an iPad I seriously recommend the apps, they're wonderful) The only caveat I have on the Food Matters book is that I hit one recipe that substituted brown rice in a dish without adjusting the cooking time.
posted by Caravantea at 4:10 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Quinoa-based recipes are great, but keep track of the amount of time that has passed after you prepare them. Spoiled quinoa is not your friend.

Black beans and sweet potato are great together.

The Minimalist Baker has some fun recipes, some more complicated than others.
posted by crunchy potato at 4:35 PM on October 9, 2017

Soups and stews are perfect for this! Especially anything with beans (they're more filling and you get your protein fix in lieu of meat). Assuming you're in the northern hemisphere we're headed into PRIME soup season.

My go-to's in this category are Tuscan White Bean with kale and a ratatouille-type one with onion, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, canned tomatoes, and white beans (both with a chicken broth base--if you consider that a meat-cheat, both would be just as good with veggie broth). I won't bother linking to specific recipes because there are a billion out there, but will say that my favorite sources are Serious Eats, Bon Appetit, Cook's Illustrated (America's Test Kitchen), New York Times, and Smitten Kitchen.

I make a big pot on the stove (usually on a Sunday) and portion it out into tupperware containers. Then it either goes in the fridge for immediate consumption or the freezer for long-term storage.
posted by lovableiago at 4:50 PM on October 9, 2017

the following are my go-to blogs for inspiration for low or no meat recipes - Smitten Kitchen, Love andLemons, Cookie and Kate.
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 4:53 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

The best trick my vegan college roommate taught me was that you can get a super satisfying ground meat-esque texture using a combination of toasted bulgur and chopped mushrooms.

Try three bean chili but start by toasting dry bulgur and then sautéing mushrooms until golden. Add your spices, peppers, onions, garlic, and begin to cook through. The veg will release a lot of liquid and plump up the bulgur and mushrooms. Then add tomato and liquid (this is a great place for beef stock or beer) and then beans. Simmer away and taste regularly to adjust seasonings. You'll get this chewy texture from the bulgur and mushrooms which have taken on loads of flavor from everything else.
posted by Mizu at 5:13 PM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Leanne Brown's Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day cookbook doesn't avoid meat, but for obvious reasons, it has reduced portions and a lot of veggie dishes. The PDF (linked) is free; a big part of her goal was helping people who were having trouble eating decent food on tight budgets.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:17 PM on October 9, 2017

I make a huge pot of black beans (seriously - two bags of dried beans), sort of combining these two recipes. Then I freeze the cooked beans in portions and defrost, reheat, and eat with rice. Topped with Greek yogurt and avocado, this is a VERY satisfying meal.

Spinach lasagna is great with no meat, or just a bit of ground turkey for tooth.

Also Budget Bytes (as cited above) is awesome - the black bean quesadillas are a go-to quick meal for us. Also enjoy her dal nirvana.

I don't cook much meat (I probably purchase on average <6 lbs of any kind of meat a month) but not because I'm vegetarian, just cheap... and the cheap replacement for that is beans and lentils.
posted by raspberrE at 7:10 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The More with Less Cookbook and its companion of world recipes, Extending the Table, are classic Mennonite cookbooks dedicated to simple, hearty, filling, healthy meals that are lighter on the budget and lighter on the earth. (The third in the series is Simply in Season but I find it less useful.) Pretty easy to locate at a library; if you buy your own copies, get the spiral bound.

All three have a pretty substantial number of vegetarian recipes (usually bean-and-rice based, these are too old for meat substitutes!), and they have a lot of recipes where meat is a flavoring/garnish rather than a main ingredient -- like a couple slices of bacon to add flavor to a mushroom pasta dish, cook the mushrooms in the bacon grease and then crumble the bacon to add as a topping.

They come in a wide variety of serving sizes, based I think basically on how many people the person who contributed the recipe usually cooks for. So you have recipes for 2, for 4, for 6, for 8, and for the church potluck making 48 servings! But they're easy enough to scale up or down, they're simple and hearty, not precise and fussy.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:42 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I made these butternut squash and black bean enchiladas yesterday, and they came out really well. I doubled it and it came out to about 10 servings at $2/each, but if you did your shopping at not-the-fancy-organic-grocery-store it would be substantially cheaper. It reheated well and would probably freeze well too.
posted by asphericalcow at 9:37 PM on October 9, 2017

You might like the Bosh website.
posted by superfish at 1:18 AM on October 10, 2017

I really like Cook without a Book: Meatless Meals for interesting ways to rethink the sort of things you would eat by "default" to be meatless and tasty. The book includes basic formulas and flavoring options for things like pizzas, frittatas, soups, breads, etc.
posted by mosst at 6:18 AM on October 10, 2017

Also, perennial mefi favorite budget bytes has a deep archive of easy, vegetarian-because-it's-tasty stuff.
posted by mosst at 6:19 AM on October 10, 2017

Came here to say Budget Bytes, as well. I also learned about it on this site, and I cook almost exclusively from it now.
posted by poppunkcat at 11:19 AM on October 10, 2017

My go-to for this is the base formula of grain or starchy base + at least two seasonal vegetables + beans or lentils. Pick a flavor profile that calls to you or goes with your veggies. The appeal of this method for me is keeping it simple and not falling into the recipe-browsing rabbit hole. Just pick the ingredients, settle on some spices and aromatics for them, then pick the easiest way to prepare them, and toss it all together.

My preferred grain/starchy bases are Israeli couscous, brown rice, farro, or barley. After that, I go with what's on sale, and whatever bean goes with it. As an example, a couple weeks ago I did farro + mushrooms and kale + cannelini. One of my favorites is couscous + sweet potatoes (simmered with spicy diced tomatoes and vegetable broth, or tossed in olive oil with cumin and fennel and roasted) and broccoli (roasted with garlic) + black beans.
posted by yasaman at 5:38 PM on October 10, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I will enjoy going back through individual recipes, but Budget Bytes has already produced three dishes that I've really loved, have been about 3 bucks per serving, and lasted for multiple meals.
posted by codacorolla at 7:07 AM on November 7, 2017

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