With meat prices on the rise and medical professionals recommending going vegan in record numbers, many shoppers are on the lookout for affordable alternatives to meat at the grocery store. Here’s how to avoid the high-priced substitutes in favour of inexpensive, meaty-tasting options. (See also: Grocery Savings Strategies Anyone Can Use)
Often overlooked and traditionally tucked into the back corner of the pantry to be forgotten about, lentils are in fact an incredibly flexible meat alternative for those exploring a more plant-based diet. I particularly enjoy cooking with brown lentils, one of the more inexpensive varieties available. They hold their own in sloppy Joes, vegan meatloaves, vegetarian tacos and more. I rarely pay more than a dollar per pound for the dried variety at the regular grocery, and the organic version in the bulk section of my favoruite health food store consistently costs me less than two bucks for the same amount. Dirt. Cheap.
Looking for an inexpensive kabob ingredient for your next tailgate party or an affordable way to cut calories during the summer barbecue season? Consider mushrooms. I especially favour the baby portabellas, because they have such a deep meaty flavour. Great for pizza toppings, toasted sandwiches, grilled salad add-ins and more, they cost much less than a high-quality steak and cook in a fraction of the time.
I have to admit, I was a long time coming to the eggplant party. The changing point for me came when I moved to Italy for two years and was able to experience it prepared correctly on a regular basis. From then on, I was obsessed with collecting eggplant recipes. Breaded with a tomato sauce, roasted and pureed for dips, grilled as part of a vegan appetizer plate or curried in a sauce, I’m happy using it as one of my meat alternatives of choice on a regular basis.
Nuts are extremely flexible as a meat alternative. Spreadable butters can be used in basic sandwiches, blended for dipping sauces and even as a flavouring ingredient in baked goods. Roasted and seasoned nuts are perfect to tuck into a basket for a romantic picnic, incorporate into a holiday gift delivery or even as a hostess present. One of the ways we use nuts frequently at our house is in stir fry dishes. Dry roasted peanuts add a protein punch to veggie-fried rice, and cashews pair well with peppers, onions and garlic to serve over rice with tamari or hot sauce.
Meat alternatives don’t have to pricey, hard-to-find specialty products. It’s possible to explore a meat-free diet anywhere with access to a basic grocery store.
A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.