Solo vegetarian? Create a meat-free meal kit
Are you the only vegetarian in your family? Make a simple meal kit
I know only too well what it's like when you don't eat meat and yet your family and friends do.
Let's face it, life can be awkward at mealtimes if you don't eat meat or fish. I was just a teenager when I decided to adopt a different way of eating and it can be difficult - as a youngster or at any age.
We often face the same problem today; for example, if we are going to stay in self-catering vacation accommodation with happy carnivore family and friends.
Then there's the whole house guest situation. The last thing we want to do is cause our hosts extra work. So what's the answer?
My solution, which is easy to adopt, is to keep a 'veggie meal kit' available at all times using canned and packaged foods. This is inexpensive and ready to go at a moment's notice. Using the ingredients you see here,
I can make several meals and given the opportunity to add fresh vegetables, maybe some cheese and eggs, a loaf of bread and other easily-found goodies, these simple ingredients can turn into delicious and tasty meals.
Let's take a closer look
More about your food box
Before we get onto specific foods, recipes and meal ideas, let's take a look at how you can use your food selection.
- If we are going away - to a place where we'll be able to cook - then I simply grab my basket of foods and I'm ready. This is great for RVing, boating, staying in vacation apartments or staying with meat-eating hosts.
- I used to do this as a newly-vegetarian teenager too. The items cost very little and can make at least ten meals for one person. It meant that I didn't have to put my mum to the extra trouble of cooking special meals; I could quickly make them myself - especially if I added fresh ingredients from the fridge.
- It's good to know that if ever I can't get to the grocery store for whatever reason, I have several pre-planned meals ready to make. This is excellent at very busy times or when I'm trying to save a little money!
- This is very useful if you're living with room mates who don't follow your dietary ways. In fact, I used this method when I was an impoverished student living in a shared house.
- Since I moved to Florida, I found another advantage. Because we're often under the threat of approaching hurricanes during the summer, it's good to know that we have emergency rations.
- A food kit like this makes a great care package for anyone living in a dorm or similar especially if you print out some of my recipes and include them as meal ideas.
- Of course, our food collection reflects the sort of thing we like to eat. It's easy to adjust the idea to include foods that you love - or your recipient if you're sending this as a care package.
- Because these foods are canned and packaged, you can keep them anywhere - under the bed, in the clothes closet, on top of kitchen wall cabinets - even in plain view on a bookcase if you choose an attractive basket or container.
As you can see, the items easily fit into a small basket and there's still plenty of room for adding other items that you might need.
Ah, you're eagle-eyed and noticed my personal pepper mill. These can be bought individually which is what I did because we rarely use salt. But it also comes in a set, as you can see. I love this because it's great for traveling but it's also very useful in the kitchen because you can use it with just one hand. This means that I can stir a delicious sauce and add pepper at the same time. I keep mine right above the stove where it's easy to grab.
The food items I prefer
Fill your own kits with the foods you like. Here's my choice - I hope this will give you inspiration.
- 12 oz. pack of pasta. Note that the one I prefer is a vegetable pasta as the nutrients help to make up for the lack of fresh vegetables
- 1 jar ready made sauce. We like Indian food so invariably use that but there's a huge range of prepared sauces on the market - choose your favorite
- 1 small tub Parmesan cheese. This needs no refrigeration
- 1 pack 'instant' couscous
- 1 pack wild rice
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 can potatoes
- 1 ready to use pastry case
- Small bag of nuts (hidden in the picture.) We like sliced almonds best.
- 1 can soup. We like tomato best - a huge favourite
- Seasonings - these make your food more interesting. We like hot sauce, black pepper, Italian herb mix, vegetarian stock cubes and Marmite (or at least, he likes Marmite!)
Quick meal ideas
Of course, all these meals are improved by the use of fresh ingredients but let's see what we can make using the above only. See the comments in italics for ideas of what you can add if you have a few fresh ingredients too.
The box of pasta will make three or four meals. One idea is to prepare a portion of the pasta according to the pack and then add half the can of diced tomatoes. Heat through and add a liberal sprinkling of Italian herbs, black pepper and serve topped with Parmesan from the tub.If fresh ingredients are also available, any quick-cooking vegetables such as sliced mushrooms can be added to the tomatoes. And garlic! Serve with a side salad if available.
- READY SAUCE
The ready made sauce of your choice can simply be heated and served over the boiled wild rice. I use a large jar and this too can make at least three single portions. I prefer jars to cans because the lid can simply be screwed back on and the sauce safely stored in the fridge. Any fresh vegetables can be added to the sauce. Because I use a mild curry sauce, fresh fruit is a delicious addition too. If you have fresh fruit, that's a splendid dessert also.
Although it's lovely to make your own tasty and nourishing soup it's still a good idea to have a good quality can of soup in your 'emergency rations'. It makes a delicious lunch or even dinner. If you don't use it all up in one go (we always do) it can make an easy pasta dish. Just prepare the pasta and add about a spoonful of soup, freshly ground black pepper and some Parmesan. Tasty.This makes an even more hearty meal if you have cheese and can add shredded cheese on top of the soup. If you can rustle up some fresh bread (with butter as a special indulgence) so much the better.
One single packet of couscous makes a huge amount and it's tasty and filling. You can also get different varieties which have even more flavour. We like this simply with a few nuts added, along with some black pepper ground over the top. Add a little Parmesan too, if you like. If you have a tomato and a lemon, add chopped tomato and a little lemon juice. This is also delicious cold as a salad. Any vegetables can be added to this, hot or cold. The packet has four servings so there's plenty. You can also add leftover couscous to soup to make it heartier and use it as a filling for stuffed dishes such as stuffed tomatoes or peppers - add a little grated cheese too.
Ideally of course, you need eggs to make quiche but you can pile sliced potatoes from the can into the pastry case, plus well-drained tomatoes. Add herbs, plenty of black pepper and Parmesan and heat in the oven until the Parmesan is golden and the vegetables are heated through. This will make more than one meal. So you can have it warm one day and have the remainder as a cold lunch. If you have access to eggs then your quiche can be much more 'real'. Vegetables and fresh cheese too - I like to add cottage cheese to the bottom of the quiche for extra flavor without too many calories. Top with sliced tomatoes and, if possible, serve with salad.
- PASTA (2)
Cook the pasta and add a little of the ready made sauce. Stir well so that each piece of pasta is coated. You can also add a potato from the can, chopped, and a spoonful from the can of diced tomatoes to add even more body.Like the previous pasta idea, if you have fresh vegetables available these can be added.
- COUSCOUS (2)
This time, cook the couscous in water that you've flavored. You can use the vegetarian stock cube or some hot sauce. When it's almost cooked, add a spoonful of drained diced tomato. This will have a completely different flavor to the previous dish. Nuts go so well with this, added at the last minute.This is lovely if served with salad. If you don't have salad greens but have tomatoes, slice the tomatoes, add black pepper and a little garlic and serve as a side.
- READY SAUCE (2)
Heat some of the prepared sauce in a pan and add the contents (or remaining contents) of the can of potatoes and tomatoes. Depending on the quantities, you can serve this as it is or over wild rice.Green vegetables make such a difference to any meal so if you have access to them, add whatever vegetables you wish and cook until they are heated through. If you have bread, that's a great way to mop up the sauce too.
Although there are eight numbered points above, you'll see that there are more than eight meals - the quiche for example; we would eat half warm from the oven and the other half the next day cold as part of a salad.
Given other basic ingredients that are in most kitchens or available from the most basic grocery store you can also have:
SANDWICHES: cheese and tomato, salad, tomato and onion and, if you're himself, that awful Marmite.
THINGS ON TOAST: Grilled cheese, mushrooms on toast, tomatoes with black pepper, poached or scrambled eggs...
EGGY THINGS: Omelets, egg mayonnaise, hard boiled egg and potato salad (in mayo), deviled, scrambled...
SOUP: with fresh bread, and maybe a chunk of lovely cheese, this is a perfect lunch if you choose high-quality versions at he grocery store.Vegetarians do not need special foodstuffs.
If someone called me right now and said "hey, would the two of you like to join us in Key West in our vacation apartment?" (yes please!) then I'd grab my food basket and add a few items from the fridge. Even in a meat-eating household, I'd know that we'd be well fed and not putting our hosts to any trouble!
First, choose your container
I like baskets with handles at the side (or a top handle) to make life even easier. A decorative basket does more than store your food pack and makes it easy to carry around, it also means that you can keep your supplies out in the open on display and you don't have to hide them in the depths of the closet.
If you're like me, you've always got emergency supplies in the back of your mind. Today people who live in formerly safe areas are being affected by terrible weather conditions. There are other reasons why our food supply might be cut off too - ones we don't want to dwell on. I don't know about you but if I was in extreme conditions I don't think I'd be vegetarian for long if I was absolutely starving. Nevertheless it's as well to be prepared.
More about meat-free eating
- Ten Tips For Meat Free Eating
If you're considering adopting a meat-free diet, or simply cutting out meat occasionally, these top ten tips will help you. You don't have to be vegetarian to want to eat more healthily and cheaply.
- Meat-free Recipes for One Month
Here's a wonderful collection of thirty meat free recipes - yes, one for every day of the month. All are easy to make and quick- they'll be on the dining table in no time.
- Why Paul McCartney is vegetarian
Paul McCartney is probably as well-known today for his vegetarian beliefs than he is for his music - arguably. How and why did he stop eating meat? The fallacy is that he was forced into it. Untrue.
© 2013 Jackie Jackson