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Meatless Monday for health and savings

Movement spawns new vegetarian recipes

By Teresa Mears Sep 14, 2009 6:03PM

Everybody knows that one way to save money on groceries is to eat less meat. In these lean times, lots of people have been rediscovering beans and rice, staple foods of many traditional cuisines.


Now there's an international movement for a Meatless Monday. While the motivations are environment and health, eating less meat is still a good way to save money.


And, of course, being healthier saves money, too.


Our mother loved telling the story about the time she sent for some free recipes from a woman's magazine, which offered to match the recipes to the food budget. The magazine wrote back that they didn't have any recipes for a budget that low and asked if she had considered food stamps. Mom was a good shopper, but she also benefitted from the fact that four of her six children wouldn't eat meat. And everybody went meatless on Friday as part of the traditional Catholic observance. Those Friday night pancake dinners were really cheap.


Tamara at Cheapskate Mom estimates she's saving $20 a week on groceries by going meatless twice a week. Myscha Theriault of Wise Bread came up with money-saving menu strategies for every night of the week.


The idea for Meatless Monday came from the drives during World War I and World War II when Americans were asked to go meatless once a week to preserve resources and contribute to the war effort. And, of course, Catholics for centuries abstained from eating meat on Fridays, a religious practice some Catholics still observe.


Meatless Monday organizers, which include the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, say that going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of cancer, heart  disease, diabetes and obesity as well as save resources such as water and fossil fuel. The movement has drawn participation from groups as diverse as fine restaurants in Israel and bloggers such as Jayne Jang at Wise Eats, who outlines the benefits.


Frugal Dad reminds us that, if our goal is healthy eating on a budget, that meatless needs to go beyond boxed macaroni and cheese, our college staple. He points out that it's important not to grow the waistline when shrinking the food budget. While a vegetarian diet can be expensive, it doesn't have to be, and the health benefits can provide a significant savings, too.


The growing interest in the Meatless Monday movement has brought forth a proliferation of vegetarian recipes. Cate of Budget Confessions is doing a series of posts on economical meatless meals. The Meatless Monday site also has a whole section on recipes and menu planning.


Here's our Meatless Monday suggestion: If you haven't already, make spaghetti sauce without ground beef. We did this once when we were out of hamburger and decided it tasted so much better we never made meat sauce for spaghetti again.


What are your strategies for healthy eating on a budget?


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