A couple of years ago my husband and I decided to invest in a Community Supported Agriculture program from a local farm. Every week during the summer and every other week in the winter, we head to the farm and pick up our weekly farmshare. This means we come home with a lot of vegetables. I have about 30 pounds of root vegetables squirreled away in my kitchen right now!
This constant stream of produce has taught me to focus my meal planning around vegetables instead of meat and has resulted in quite a few positive changes in how we eat.
1. We Save a Lot of Money
Every week, I make a plan for how I'm going to use that week's produce. I know greens that wilt will go in salads earlier in the week, and the heartier items like kale and bell peppers can be saved for a midweek meal that will also provide us with a couple of lunches. Then when I go to the store with my extremely focused shopping list, I'm less likely to make impulse purchases.
Meal planning around vegetables has also taught me that I can buy less meat. Now a pound of sausage that used to be the focal point of a four-serving pasta dish is the seasoning for eight servings of a hearty kale and potato soup. This is great because not only do I save money, but I'm also able to afford ethically raised meat from sustainable farms.
2. We Eat Way More Vegetables than We Used To
I've learned how well potatoes, squash, and beans can be the star of a meal, whereas before I would have reached for a piece of chicken or a pork chop. This has also helped me avoid mid-week grocery runs because we've broken the habit of eating meat every time we eat dinner.
Planning around vegetables has also helped me reduce how much rice and pasta we eat. This winter, for example, I've been roasting diced white potatoes tossed with a little butter and an herb or spice that complements the main course instead of rice.
3. We Try New Recipes More Frequently
We have a very flexible farmshare, but we still see a lot of the same vegetables from week to week. This has pushed me outside of my comfort zone and helped me explore other ways to cook our favorites. I could only roast a sweet potato with olive oil and smoked paprika so many times before I began to reach for my cookbooks and cooking magazines more frequently. I used to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of recipes available, but my vegetable-focused meal plan helps me narrow down my choices — and I have more fun cooking!
4. We Waste a Lot Less Food
Now that our meals are planned around the vegetables we have available, a lot less food is left to wilt in the crisper drawers. Before, a trip to the grocery store would end with a cart full of produce, various accoutrements, and the best of intentions. But then life would happen — work would be particularly busy or an unexpected social plan would arise, and I tossed more food out than I care to admit. Knowing exactly how I will use all the produce in my fridge each week helps me avoid random temptations at the store, and I limit my meat purchases to only what's needed for the week's meal.
5. We Notice We Don't Feel Well When We Don't Eat at Home
One of the most significant differences we've noticed since switching to a vegetable-focused meal plan is how we feel when we don't eat at home. The lack of vegetables (and fiber!) in our diets when we eat mostly at restaurants was surprising. On our honeymoon in September, we realized how difficult it can be to find large portions of vegetables outside of salads. We found ourselves ordering extra vegetables or searching for vegetarian restaurants to get our fix.
Planning meals around vegetables instead of meat has absolutely changed the way we eat for the better. We have more energy for the busy lives we lead and more money to tuck into our savings account. We both feel less sluggish and have been achieving fitness goals faster than before. It's been a great way to reset our eating habits and find new ways to love vegetables.