The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly brought about a unique set of challenges to families around the globe. The kids are home using more toilet paper we cannot get, and gas is cheap but we can’t go anywhere! Even trips to the grocery store have changed. You might be shopping differently to reduce trips while also struggling with limits on common items your family needs. Long lines of shoppers wait outside in rain or heat for their turn to gather essentials while vital store associates work long hours behind plastic barriers and masks.
Recently, the pandemic has had a significant impact on meat processing plants causing many to reduce operations or shut down completely. Given that meat sales in grocery stores were already up due to more people are cooking at home, a reduction in supply to grocers could change the meat we see in stores for many months. You can expect reduced selection in specific cuts and meat in general, especially those that require more processing like boneless pieces, prime steaks, and tenderloins. While whole chickens and other bone-in cuts are likely to be easier to find. Of course, you will see higher prices, quantity limits, and stores pushing sales of plant-based options. These changes will pose challenges to Americans, especially those with larger families or those that rely on prime cuts and processed meats. I am sure by now you are no stranger to adjusting what seems like your entire life over the last few months. We can navigate around this one too. Here are some ideas to get your started!
Most of us are not ready to go to completely meatless meals. For one, we just like to eat meat, and it may seem overwhelming to find all new vegetarian recipes. Fortunately, simply eating less meat or being a ‘flexitarian’ can make an impact on your health, budget, and stretch your meat supply. You can start by simply taking recipes your family already enjoys and replace part of the meat with beans or lentils. Add rinsed canned black beans to taco meat, smash black beans with a fork (a good activity for kids) and add them to meatloaf, meatballs, and hamburgers. Add cooked green lentils to shepherd’s pie, soups, lasagna, or spaghetti. Rinsed and drained kidney beans and cannellini beans make great finger foods for babies and toddlers. Give them a little smash with a fork to reduce choking risk. Maybe the family is not ready for meatless meals? Consider vegetarian or flexitarian meals for yourself that you might have more control over. For example, I enjoy making meatless lunches but join the family for a more carnivorous dinner.
Eggs, Greek yogurt, nuts, and seeds all provide quality protein. Including more of them in your diet for meals or snacks reduces the need to rely on meat for your protein. Consider breakfast for dinner with an egg casserole, French toast, or allow kids to customize an omelet for a protein packed meal. Be wary of processed vegetarian foods, like veggie burgers and meatless ‘chicken’ nuggets, as they are often high in sodium and other additives. Shelled frozen edamame (soybeans) or tofu offer more protein and less carbs than most beans and are your best options when it comes to soy products. They are easily added to stir fries, wraps, or salads.
Most Americans consume more meat than we actually require nutritionally. Go back to the basics and use a simple plate method to build your meal. Meat or protein foods should only take up a quarter of your plate while half of it should be vegetables, leaving the last quarter for starches. So next time you are dishing up, consider reducing the portion size of meat and increase your veggies to fill you up.
Desirable cuts of meat like boneless skinless chicken, pork chops, and tender steaks could be hard to come by for a while. Whole chickens, beef round roasts, and pork shoulders may be more available but pose a daunting task for many people to cook. Not ready to break down a whole raw chicken? Don’t worry! You have options! While recipes and methods abound online, a valuable tool in utilizing these cuts of meat is a crock pot. Slow cooking can turn large sometimes tough cuts of meat into a tender melt in your mouth meal. Don’t let their large size scare you. Slow cooked meat can easily be frozen for later use.
Still need more ideas? Check out our previous post “Vital Veggies” and check out a few of my favorite meatless meals and “less meat” recipes below.
Easy Slow Cooker Indian Chicken
This recipe is flexible! You can use most any cut of chicken, sauce flavor, vegetables and seasonings that you like.
1 large skinless chicken breast (boneless or bone in) or about 1 chicken quarter or about 1lb of desired cuts of chicken
1, 15oz jar of desired Indian sauce such as Tikka marsala or Korma
1, 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 cup of desired dry lentils (I like to mix red and green)
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 cup of carrots, diced
Desired seasoning to boost flavor such as: ginger, curry powder, turmeric, coriander, cumin or red pepper
Cooked rice and naan for serving
Place chicken pieces into crock pot. In a medium bowl combine sauce, tomatoes, lentils, diced vegetables and seasonings. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Serve over rice with warmed naan.
Roasted Chickpeas with Tahini Dressing
Make this as spicy or mild as you like. It also makes a good tossed salad.
Spiced Chicken peas
15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ sliced red or yellow onion
1 tbl olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp yellow curry powder
1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup of water
¼ cup of lemon juice
2 gloves of garlic, minced
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp salt
4-6 leaves of romaine lettuce or tortillas
In a bowl combine chickpea ingredients and mix well. Spread onto prepared baking sheet and bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes until they begin to get crispy. You can also do this step in a skillet on the stove top. In a separate bowl mix together dressing ingredients. Lemon juice thickens tahini, thin with more water if needed. Serve in romaine lettuce cups or on tortilla for a wrap.
Black Bean Meatloaf
Already have a meatloaf recipe your family loves? Just add the smashed beans and flax to it or customize this one to your liking.
1 lb of ground beef, turkey or chicken
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tbl dry minced onion
¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbl milled flax seeds
2 tbl ketchup
2 tsp granulated garlic
¼ cup of breadcrumbs or 1 slice of stale bread torn into small pieces
In a small bowl smash black beans with a fork until a chunky paste is formed. In a medium bowl mix remaining ingredient and add beans. Mix well. Form into loaves and bake in prepared pan at 350 for about 30 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve with ketchup, tomato sauce or salsa.