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our meat-free month.

Back in November, Matt – the meatiest, potatoiest guy I know – came up to me one day and mentioned doing a ‘no animal product’ month. “You know, going vegan means no eggs or milk,” I told him (or, depending on certain crowds, ♥honey♥) but that I would be all about a no meat challenge. We eventually settled on December (so we could shamelessly squeeze in Thanksgiving!) and I honestly don’t know who was more excited.
MY HISTORY WITH VEGETARIANISM
I think diving into this cold turkey (totally intended) was easier for me than it was for Matt. Growing up my mom was vegetarian and only in the past year or so began eating meat again. While she would always cook meat for us, my siblings, dad, and I were no strangers to tofu or veggie burgers.

I was never very big on meat to begin with: I don’t eat pork, I never liked the taste of steak or beef, and I’m not huge on fish. If I do eat meat it’s either chicken or turkey (though buffalo wasn’t that bad!) and even that is in moderation. When given the option, I’ll typically go for the portobello burger over a hamburger, for example, and we usually have some sort of meat substitute in our house (I especially love MorningStar’s Crumbles in my pasta sauces.)

OUR MEAT-FREE MONTH
I was so pumped for this challenge that I actually started a few days early and that was when I noticed something I never thought about before: a lot of soups use chicken stock. Some coworkers and I went out for lunch at Panera and that was when I realized how few soups are actually considered vegetarian. My all-time favorite broccoli cheese soup? Meat-based. Until I needed to pay attention, I never noticed or even thought about it.

Matt’s company has a cafeteria in their building and two days in was buffalo chicken wing day. So, yeah, early on we both realized this challenge wasn’t going to be as easy as we thought.

Thankfully my mom is Queen of the Cookbooks and happily handed over a bunch, plus there are fab vegetarian bloggers. One of my go-tos was Hummusapien’s Lentil, Kale, and Potato soup (which I started making earlier in the year and we both love!) It’s crazy filling, plus the recipe makes a ton, so there are easily a few days worth of leftovers. I also really loved SkinnyTaste’s Broccoli, Cheese, and Potato soup, though anything she touches is excellent. And, naturally, we had a lot of our regular favorites but without meat.

By the end of the month I had picked up on what I can/can’t go for, though Christmas was coming up. My mom’s side of the family is Jewish and we tend to blend Hanukkah and Christmas. Our Christmas Eve meal has one of my all-time favorites: Matzo Ball soup. ♥ Delicious. Unfortunately, my grandmother uses chicken stock when making it. Seriously, this almost undid the challenge for me, I love it that much. (Fun fact: my family was Matt’s introduction to anything Jewish and now every year the soup is his holiday highlight!)

So many friends tried to convince me to take some and freeze it, save it for January, and I considered it! In the end, however, I didn’t have any. My dad’s side is full of Italians. Christmas day features the Feast of Seven Fishes…which for me, basically meant a plate full of broccoli and mashed potatoes ha!

THE AFTERMATH AND NEW YEAR
December is now over and we both ‘won’ the challenge. Coming up on New Year’s Eve, Matt began planning on huge racks of ribs, throwing an entire ham in the crockpot, etc. I, on the other hand, really enjoyed a month of no meat and was surprised at how much I really needed to keep my eyes open around certain foods. I was talking with my mom about the Christmas dinners and she said holidays were always hard when she was the only vegetarian. I totally understand why now. A good friend is vegan and she said she always puts herself in charge of the side dishes so she can simply load up on those and leave the ‘main’ (aka most likely meat) dish to everyone else.

To be honest, I wanted to keep going and am still considering it. Like I said before, I so rarely eat meat anyway that December wasn’t a huge change apart from minor details. I don’t think 31 days was really enough to notice a huge change in our overall health, though earlier in the week we had sausage and my body was not happy. It wasn’t until I had meat again that I felt a difference.

So while I don’t think Matt will ever go full-on vegetarian, I’m thrilled he was able to last 31 days. I’m still on the fence, though I have a feeling I’ll be even more aware of my meals from now on.

Are YOU vegetarian?? How long? What are some of your favorite recipes?
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6 thoughts on “our meat-free month.

  1. In the end I didn’t make either though! (but a crock pot ham would be yummy) I think our rice cooker saved the day from me going straight into a meat fest! :) We did a great job.

  2. I’ve been vegetarian for about 15 years and am about 90% vegan now. I like Happy Herbivore and Minimalist Baker websites. I notice now that I only eat dairy and eggs in junk food so I should cut it all out.

  3. I tried to eat strictly a vegetarian diet last year for about three months. I was doing so for health reasons and not out of any ideology. I think that was my problem. I am not a huge meat-eater, but I enjoy it occasionally. Those rare times when I did want a piece of chicken or a ham sandwich, I found myself getting angry. Don’t mess with a girl and her bacon!

    I tried to involve my family as much as possible, but I felt guilty imposing this lifestyle on them when they didn’t ask for it and had no need to follow it. So, I did a lot of rice, bean, or pasta dishes that I could eat but to which they could easily add some grilled chicken or another animal protein. That dual menu ultimately became my downfall. I think this exercise, for me, was a great way to see that while I could do it, I could not do it by myself. It is a great exercise though and one I think more people should attempt. It really does open your eyes to just how little support there is out in the eating world for vegetarians, let alone vegans!

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