Friday, March 19, 2010

Frugal Friday: Flexitarianism

OK, so "flexitarianism" is kind of a silly name because it's not like we're going to be eating flex. (Flax, on the other hand is a good choice, and lacking it can be like, deadly, if you don't eat fish. But I digress). Perhaps you've heard about it, though-- the movement is trying to encourage people not necessarily to become total vegetarians but just to include more meatless meals in their weekly diets, or to be more "flexible" in their choices.

If you've read Omnivore's Dilemma or any Michael Pollan, or seen Food, Inc. or the Meatrix, then you are aware what the situation with factory farms in this country is. If you don't, even though it's difficult to face, you should know. The word disturbing comes to mind-- or perhaps horrifying. Unfortunately, we can hardly expect the meat-and-potatoes mentality to change overnight, nor for avowed carnivores to pull an about-face, or for the increasingly-poor-and-underemployed masses to be willing to pay twice or three times as much for non-feedlot meat. It is essential, however, that we reduce the demand for cheaply-produced meat so that conditions improve for both the animals and for the impact of bacterial illnesses, etc. (Did you know that beef raised eating pasture and not in a crowded feed lot does not HAVE e.coli? It's not even a possibility. Cow stomach pH cannot support e. coli unless they're fed unnatural things like corn and soybeans [which are also nearly exclusively genetically modified, but I suppose that's a topic for another day]).

Even if you don't care one iota about the animals or worry about getting sick, think about this: major, major disasters have been created by man over-farming, throughout history, such as desertification (yeah, those huge, uninhabitable deserts in Africa? Humans created those. By over-grazing our livestock. Seriously). Large-scale pig farming alone is responsible for a staggering number of alarming events, and chicken and beef lots are really no better.

But what's a wife to do with a small grocery budget and a hungry man who demands his steak? To be honest, while change is difficult for all of us, if you adopt some "flexitarian" ideals you will be surprised how inexpensive and also satisfying it can be to go meatless now and then, and how quickly your stubborn significant other will learn to love it (especially if by happy coincidence he happens to drop a bit of belly and you make a big deal out of how sexy it is, ahem!)

Even when you're not cooking fully meatless meals, you can control cost, calories and contribution to the problem by dividing up your plate into just a quarter protein, a quarter whole grain and a full HALF vegetables. I do not recommend that you try to choke down three cups of broccoli at every meal-- variety is incredibly important, for both satiety and phytochemical benefit (if you don't eat all of the colors of veggies and fruit, you're missing out on essential nutrients). Instead, find a great book like More Vegetables, Please or How to Pick a Peach and learn delicious and easy prep for two or three (or more!) vegetables per meal. A little extra work, perhaps, but worth not dying of butt cancer. (It's true, not eating veggies gives you the asscancer. Come on, do you want that? I don't think even your burger-chugging boyfriend wants that). Also, PUT BUTTER ON THEM. Or cook them in olive oil. Use spices. Don't try to eat them all plain and boring and virtuous (although some veggies are delectable with nothing at all, like fresh spring asparagus.) ...And for the love of all that's holy, don't try to eat tomatoes in December or strawberries in August because they are out of season at those times and will be a pale, pathetic shadow of the real thing (not to mention far more expensive.) Next week I'll talk a little bit more about meatless recipes and finding local, seasonal produce, but a good start for at least knowing what to look for during which months is this great Pro-fruits-and-veggies site.

Do you have a stubborn meat-eater at home? Have you been able to or do you think it will be possible to influence their ways at all, with these tips, if you're interested in trying it?

Happy Cooking!


  1. i think so much of it boils down to misinformation. so many people were raised to think that meat is a food group - and the most important one at that - and needs to be included in every meal. wrong. protein, our bodies need protein. this does not have to mean meat. there are lots of foods that contain protein.

    i have been a vegetarian (no meat or fish) for 17 years now, and i still have a hard time convincing my meat-and-potatoes parents that they can actually survive (and even thrive!) by not eating meat for one day a week. people generally have a hard time making changes in their life until they have something very scary (aka disease or death) staring them in the face.

    i think most people also don't realize the huge impact the farming industry has on the environment. just in the way of carbon emissions, if everyone in america went without meat for ONE day, it would be like taking 19.2 million cars off the road for an entire year. mind blowing.

  2. I have been a vegetarian for almost 7 years. My boyfriend is now a flexitarian without even trying. He eats at least 2 meatless meals I cook a week. I didn't realize what a positive effect our relationship was having on his diet. :) Great post.


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