I have a confession to make.
I used to be a vegetarian.
I’m pretty sure I’ve alienated all the non-vegetarians (“she used to be a vegetarian?) and active vegetarians alike (“she used to be a vegetarian?) but I’ll tell you why it works for my family…
When I had only myself to cook for, I was a vegetarian. When Gord (my husband) needed to eat too, that changed.
Now, I’m not one of these women who thinks “its my place” to cook. Quite the opposite, in fact Gord’s been known to try his hand at a recipe or two (and lately he’s made some amazing dinners – so long as the recipe’s clearly outlined). No, back then, I would make myself something vegetarian, only to watch Gord stab, burn, squash or otherwise injure himself in inventive and seemingly-impossible ways as he tried to fend for himself.
It was painful to watch, and I enjoy cooking. So I started cooking for both of us. He gave up all-beef-all-the-time, and I started eating chicken.
Compromise. It keeps the world going ’round.
A couple of years ago, Gord started actively managing his weight (about the time I got pregnant, actually. Coincidence? I think not!).
He’s been doing pretty well with it ever since, but about 6 months ago he hit a plateau. He was managing portion sizes by calorie amounts and had reached the point where he’d hit his goal at the end of the day, but it still wouldn’t be enough.
Simply put, he was hungry!
It was about this time I was also actively managing our household meal plan (we had to keep our budget under control with a growing toddler to feed) plus the planning helped him know what portion size to allocate for his end-of-day meal.
Every now and then, I would throw in a vegetarian experiment – some better than others – but most of the time we had meal with chicken, tuna or beef. The plans worked for the budget side of things, but was getting harder for my husband to maintain due to that recurring hunger.
Between the jigs and the reels, Gord realized that on the nights I made vegetarian meals, he felt fuller. He could go to bed after eating within his calorie count and still wake up without wanting to gnaw his arm off.
Now, even though he was more satisfied on nights with the vegetarian meals, he still wasn’t so convinced when I suggested we go weekday vegetarian.
“Meat is delicious,” he argued.
A dilemma, for sure, so I had to up the game a little.
“What if veggies could be delicious too?” I countered. Inside, though, I wasn’t so sure if I could manage five unique vegetarian dishes every week, without repeating them week-in and week-out.
Enter Oh She Glows
So, my mom knows me… she got me this delightful vegetarian cook book and so far every recipe has been astoundingly successful. Like, I’d say these recipes are some of my favourite meals without qualification. That they’re vegetarian just happens to work for my new meal plans.
That book was the first Oh She Glows cookbook. I’d never heard of that blog before, but ever since, that site has been a mainstay of my weekday meal planning. Every recipe in the cookbook has been the best of the best, but even the web-only recipes “just work”.
So I pulled inspiration from there. I experimented. I toiled. I pulled recipes out of the ether (a.k.a. the web) and came up with one week, then two… then three weeks, each with very little repeat and all-vegetarian meals!
Looking at the bottom line, we were also saving on our grocery bill. Meat’s expensive. Beans, chickpeas, lentils? Not so much.
Looking back on it, I think we owe our success in taking small steps over a few months rather than just jumping in headlong.
How to switch to weekday veg
We started small. Planning for one or two vegetarian meals a week, using adaptations of dishes we already loved (spaghetti, chili, burgers, soup).
Once we had a few dishes under our belts, we looked around for interesting meals that we weren’t familiar with (most came from that Oh She Glows cookbook, but there are plenty more on the site). We swapped around our weekly meal plans from “mostly meat with a few veggie meals” to “mostly veggie with a few meaty meals”.
Finally, we took the plunge… All veggie meals during the work week!
And you know what?
My husband has lost (and kept off) 45 pounds in the last 2 years. By limiting portion sizes, and keeping track of his meals, he’s succeeded in his goal. He’s even set new goals for himself.
Our budget is at a manageable level, leaving enough in our pockets for the fun things (like a visit to Polkadot Place).
Best of all? All bellies are full of nutritious home-cooked meals. And really, that’s what matters.
Can’t ask for anything better than that!