On average, each American household wastes around $40 or 33 pounds of food each month. And a big part of the reason food gets wasted is because of indifference. We get into a routine with the same handful of meals that we put on rotation. We do it with meals, with snacks, and even with food that we buy in each week and never touch. So what’s the solution? One is fairly obvious; planning. By using a detailed meal plan you only buy in the food that you need and no more. It’s makes you buy loose food rather than pre-packaged things, which often leads to you buying higher quality and tastier foods.
But this doesn’t solve the cycle of tired and overused meals. For that you need to be brave, go out on a limb and try something new, and not just one thing – but multiple meals to shake up your routine. And if after a while you miss some of your old reliables, then phase some of them back in. The aim is to have a plethora of meals that you can swap and change each week so that none of them become tired.
If you’re nervous about introducing entirely new recipes, why not start by swapping out a vital ingredient; the meat. Using a different meat can transform a meal – the different texture and flavour lends a whole new take on a traditional meal.
How many families fight over who gets the legs when having a roast dinner? Obviously a very English meal, a roast dinner has taken hold of the US and many consider it to be a staple of their weekly meals. But we all have chicken somewhere on our meal plans. Chicken thighs have a smoother feel and a richer taste – thanks to being the ‘dark meat of the bird. You can easily replace chicken breasts in any meal with thighs. Plus, seeing as they aren’t the most common cut of the bird, it works out a bit better for the wallet.
Cod is officially endangered. And so everyone should be trying to find a better alternative anyway. So why not try Pollock or Bass? Both fish are great replacements for any white fish meals, and work amazingly deep fried or baked. Why not try baked sea bass with asparagus and couscous? Place your fish fillet, skin down, on top of a bed of asparagus on a sheet of foil and drizzle with oil, salt and pepper. Add some cherry tomatoes for a sweet edge. Prepare your couscous and serve however you want!
Although it’s a very traditional meat, rabbit isn’t very common. Game meat isn’t what you see on most dinner tables, but it can be delirious. You can buy rabbit meat online or through a local butchers – just check that they are reputable and have legally sourced the meat. Use rabbit in place of beef within a stew or a casserole. You can even go very traditional and make a rabbit pie, served with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.
Love spaghetti bolognaise? Why not swap out your beef for Turkey? Not only does it lend a lighter and sweeter taste to the meal, it is also good for you. Large quantities of red meat isn’t great for the body, so why not slip in a white meat substitute now and again? Turkey Mince also works well in chillies and burritos. You can use stronger herbs with your spices without overpowering the taste of the meat.
Much like rabbit, Quail isn’t a common meat and needs to be sourced legally. Quail are small birds, so if you’re thinking of serving them, you might need one bird per person. They are definitely a luxury meat, but are sweet and tender when prepared correctly. Quail eggs are a huge favourite, they are so sweet and work amazingly in a green or asparagus tip salad.
Once again a luxuries meat, pheasant does need to be imported 9 times out of 10, so be prepared to pay for the effort. Pheasant is richer and tougher than other poultry, and is fantastic in stews and pies.
If you want elk outside of the US and Canada, you will probably have to import. But, luckily, within the US you can buy it from a game merchant or specialist butchers. Elk, it might surprise you to know, works amazingly as a burger in place of beef. It is a very rich meat and can be combined with more vibrant or with more subtle herbs to bring out the complexity of it’s taste. Combine it with garlic, thyme and rosemary for a traditional and amazing flavour.
Not for everyone on a moral level, but a rich and tasty meat for those who want to try it. Veal works amazingly on its own as a steak with fries or veg. It can also take the place of a traditional beef steak in things like steak and ale pies. Because of the age of the deer, veal is incredibly tender and has a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth texture.
Why not try to introduce a meat-free meal into your weekly meal plan? It can be incredibly good for your health, but also to explore new foods and new flavours. Swap out your chicken in a basil coconut curry for white and sweet potatoes, at chickpeas and buck wheat and create an amazing infusion of flavours and textures. Or meat substitutes might be the way forward for you – quorn and tofu are up there with the best meat replacement products.
Not all of the new meals that you introduce might not be for you, but by trying them you refresh your pallet and will find some that you like, or even aspects of certain meals that you can combine to make a meal that you love.