Become a Flexitarian (A Weekday Vegetarian) I’m a sucker for a good quiz.  For some reason, for as long as I can remember, I just can’t resist the urge to be scored against the masses.

Regardless, I was referred to a doozy of a quiz last week.  Practically Green sent me a message suggesting I take their “How Green Are You” quiz.  So, naturally, I couldn’t resist.  The quiz, although long, had some really great questions about which green practices I have done – or do regularly.  It included the usual suspects (recycling, turning off the water when I brush my teeth, buying organic, etc); however, it also included some more creative options.

One of the questions was about being a weekday vegetarian.  I found this intriguing.  I always thought that being a vegetarian was pretty much an all-or-nothing commitment.  And I’ve never really been good at giving things up entirely.

Carl and I have known for a while that reducing our meat intake would help our health, our wallet and the world at large, but we’ve never really been able to figure out how.  When I mentioned this quiz suggestion to Carl, he agreed it was a viable option for our family.

Our Challenge

So, this week’s challenge will be to become flexitarians.  Our family will not eat meat Monday through Friday.  In our version of flexitarianism, we will still eat fish and eggs during the week.  There are only so many beans a family can consume!

We realize that this concept is a bit of a contradiction and that the absolute best thing to do for the world would be to give up meat entirely, but we’re just not ready for that.  Why wait until we’re ready to go cold turkey when we could be doing some good right now?

According to the U.N., the livestock industry produces 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases.  (Source: Time magazine)  And, according to Treehugger, the proclaimed source of the weekday vegetarian concept, adopting a flexitarian lifestyle reduces your contribution to those greenhouse gases by 70 percent, so this change is significant.  I personally think it’s brilliant.

Stay tuned to find out how we do becoming flexitarians and whether we find it sustainable for us.

And thanks to Practically Green for the excellent idea.

Updated June 24, 2011 by Andrea

Our Tale

I feel like we sort of cheated this week.  Maybe we were partial flexitarians already?  It turns out that we just aren’t really that attached to meat.  Here’s a summary of our week.  As always, please feel free to go to Our Findings now and skip the details.

Where’s The ‘Beef’?  I Mean ‘Beans’?

To start, we were concerned about getting enough protein, so we kicked off by doing some research on how much protein we need.  The Savvy Vegetarian has some great information on this. (They even have a Plant Food Protein Chart you can download to see just how many beans and nuts you need to eat each day.)

I hadn’t realized how much protein we get from the plant kingdom.  It’s really quite astounding.  After a little bit of research, we were satisfied that we weren’t putting our childrens’ growth at risk.  (Nor my husband’s still-present dreams of becoming a professional athlete.  Do they ever really let go?)

Also, since we are still eating fish throughout the week and meat on the weekend, we don’t really need to worry about iron or B12 deficiency.

Meal Planning

On a good week, Carl and I try to do a bit of a meal plan at the beginning of the week, so we can save ourselves a trip or two to the grocery store.  (Especially now that we mostly bike to the grocery store.  See our recent post Drive Responsibly: Reduce Your Carbon Emissions.)

It turns out that this was a pretty good week.  We sat down on Monday and made a list of our vegetarian standbys.  We came up with quite a few options.  Pasta with grilled veggies.  Omelette with asparagus on the side.  Salmon with roasted potatoes and veggies.  Bean tacos. Leek torte and salad.  Vegetable soup with fresh bread.  Flexitarianism was ripe with possibility.

But what about next week?  Our vegetarian standbys aren’t going to seem so great in a week or two.  We decided to ask our e-friends for some more ideas.

I am part of the Easy Organic Living group on BabyCenter, so I asked them for some ideas.  They came back with some really great stuff like breaded zucchini lasagna (yum), summer salads and veggie pizzas.  I think next week we may be ready to tackle quinoa.  I mean, why not?

Thinking Vegetarian

I think the real challenge for us was thinking vegetarian.  And that wasn’t even all that difficult.  It was just a matter of catching ourselves planning to include meat in our meal and then shifting our thinking ever so slightly.

For example, we had planned a bit of an early morning outing this Wednesday.  We decided to skip breakfast and head to Tim Hortons.  (That’s Canadian for Dunkin’ Donuts.)  I went inside to get our usual order – 2 large regular coffees and 2 breakfast sandwiches – with bacon – on cheddar bagels.  Healthy, I know, but we all have days like this.  As I said “bacon” out loud, I noticed this slightly off feeling in my stomach.  What was it that I was doing wrong?  (It was early.)  Oh right!  Bacon isn’t a vegetable.  The clerk must have thought I was nuts when I laughed out loud and then said: “I mean – just with egg”.

Our Findings

For us, becoming flexitarians was not hard.  For us, being weekday vegetarians is totally sustainable.  In fact, we both feel great.  We’re not sure if it’s related to our diet or not, but it’s certainly not causing any negative effects on our health this week.

The Grub

We were both a little concerned that we wouldn’t feel full after so many vegetarian meals.  Let’s just say that getting enough was never an issue.  Our healthy appetites were more than satisfied.

We had fish only one night this week.  The other nights we had meals based around beans or eggs or whole grain pasta.  There was no midnight snacking or starving for breakfast the next morning.  At least, no more than usual.  I did have an odd craving to bake on Tuesday, but I’m blaming that on hormones.  (Just like I always do.)

The Money

I’m not sure how to approach this 100 percent scientifically.  We typically spend around $200 per week on groceries.  This week we spent $179.  I think it’s probably a little presumptive to say we saved $21 by not eating meat during the week.

Let’s look at it another way.  We probably saved one package of chicken thighs (roughly $7) and one cut of beef or pork (roughly $12) plus lunch meat (roughly $5).  However, we probably bought an extra can or 2 of tuna (roughly $1) and beans (roughly $2).  Wait a minute.  So, maybe we did save $21?

Honestly, I think all I’m willing to venture here is that we did save a little bit of money by not eating meat during the week, but I don’t think we’ll likely save $21 each week.  We’ll report back after we’ve been at this for a while to let you know if our bills go down.

The Goodness

So what next?  We’ve learned to never say “never”, but I’m going to venture out and say its unlikely we will go back to eating meat in the week again.  If everyone adopted this practice, we would reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by nearly 13 percent.  (That’s 70 percent of the 18 percent of greenhouse gases produced by the livestock industry.)  That’s significant.  And to be honest, this was so easy, we’d likely do it for the health benefits alone.

Next week, we’ll have to find a more challenging challenge, so we can feel like we’re earning our due.  And tomorrow morning, guilt-free bacon!



Interested in our other challenges?  Check out The Goodness Challenge.

Updated June 17, 2011 by Andrea

Our Tale

Finding (and doing) the right volunteer activity has been a hoot. Here’s the process. If you’d rather just skip ahead and see if it worked out, please feel free to go to Our Findings now.

Finding the Right Activity

When we first sat down to brainstorm about how we could “give the gift of time” earlier this week, 2 limitations became obvious.

First, not everyone wants our baggage. Our family is a package deal on the weekends. And let’s face it – everyone wants volunteers, but not everyone wants volunteers with 2 small kids. We realized we would have to poll our resources to find some good suggestions on kid-friendly activities.

Second, we left ourselves no lead time. Perhaps if we were the advance planning type of family, we would have looked into what activities were available in our area weeks ago and then planned something for this week. But alas, we are not the advance planning type. Our list of child-friendly volunteer activities would have to be whittled down to those that can be organized and started within a week.

So, here’s the list we made for starters.

#1 Make soup for the soup kitchen
#2 Deliver meals on wheels
#3 Pick up garbage around the neighborhood
#4 Visit hospital/ nursing home (Bring the dog?)

We ruled out #1 (make soup for the soup kitchen) as our 3 year old doesn’t have the attention span to cook for more then 5 minutes just yet. And her help would be limited regardless, so in reality Carl and I would be volunteering while our daughter watched television and the baby nestled in the backpack or napped. Not ideal.

We then ruled out #2 (deliver meals on wheels) since we thought it would be too bad for the environment. Don’t get me wrong – this is still a really good thing to do – I’m not sure if the goodness outweighs the carbon emissions or not. It’s just that we just finished a challenge on reducing our carbon emissions and we are committed. (If you’re interested, please check out Drive Responsibly: Reduce Your Carbon Emissions.)

We debated biking around meals on wheels, which would actually be a really great activity, but then, could we put the meals and the kids all in the bike trailer together? All signs pointed to a potential emergency room trip (burning, anyone?), so we opted out.

So we’re left with 2 measly options? We thought we should cast a wider net. So, we reached out in our post comments, on facebook and on twitter. We asked for suggestions on child-friendly activities. No dice. No one replied.

We then decided it was on us to do a little research. We found a couple of really good sites with articles specifically on volunteering with children. Compassionate Kids has great suggestions on not only what to do, but how to approach the activity overall. Now we’re talking. Parents magazine had a “10 Ways Kids Can Help” article, which was very realistic. We revised our list based on our finds.

#1 Make soup for the soup kitchen (not enough kid involvement)
#2 Deliver meals on wheels (heavy carbon footprint)
#3 Pick up garbage around the neighborhood
#4 Visit hospital (can’t bring kids*)/ nursing home (Bring the dog?)
#5 Donate food to a pantry
#6 Walk to fight disease (none scheduled for this week)
#7 Put together activity boxes for a local hospital
#8 Care for animals

Much better. Pretty much any of these activities could work, so long as they could be coordinated within a few days.

*I called the hospital to see if we could visit with kids, but they don’t accept volunteers under 19 years of age for privacy reasons. (Apparently, they’ve had incidences where kids have told their friends about seeing another friend of theirs in the hospital and it didn’t go over well. Too bad, as I would think sick kids would love to play with other kids.)

Sign Me Up

We have options. That’s good. Now what?

As always when we don’t know what to do, we turned to Google. We googled “volunteer opportunities Saint John”. We found the Saint John Volunteer Center. We filled out a profile and downloaded the list of open opportunities. We told them which ones we thought most fitting. Now we just had to wait for them to call back and tell us what to do.

We didn’t hear for a day, so we called them. We had a brief discussion about our “baggage” (i.e. kids) and the very nice lady said she thought visiting nursing homes was likely our best bet. She thought that some of the older folks would love to see a young family in action and that the kids would bring joy and excitement into their lives. She gave us a list of nursing homes that were looking and, conveniently, one of them is about 1 km down the street.

I then called the nursing home in question and spoke with Dorothy, the lovely lady in charge of volunteer services. I told her that we wanted to help. I also told her that we couldn’t commit to more than once per month. She was SO EXCITED. I’m talking REALLY, REALLY EXCITED. Apparently, the home has a few patients that don’t have any family at all. A couple of them have had strokes and can’t speak well anymore. Dorothy thought that they would enjoy just watching the kids play. And when I (hesitantly, at first) mentioned the dog, she went through the roof. Apparently we are a very exciting family. Who knew? We left Dorothy our information so she could work with nursing to “pair us up” with the appropriate individual.

I left the conversation feeling very excited. Dorothy’s energy was contagious and it was very clear that she felt we could really make a difference in someone’s life. Plus, our kids spent plenty of time in a nursing home visiting Pop (their late great-grandfather), so I knew this could work for the kids too.

The Plan

Later that night, we decided that we would visit with our new nursing home buddy this week if we heard back from Dorothy in time. If we didn’t, we would pick up the garbage in the neighborhood. At the time, Carl had just gotten back from a walk to the mailbox and suggested that there was definitely a bit of a mess forming in the ditches.

So that was it. In the end, we resorted back to our initial list of 2 options regardless. Still, we emerged with a better understanding of possibilities for the future.

Our Findings

In the end, we didn’t have time to coordinate visiting with a nursing home, so we opted for garbage pick-up duty. Here’s how it went.

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About the Author

Just a small town mom trying to make the world a better place for my kids. One small change at a time.

6 Responses to Good All Around: Become A Flexitarian (A Weekday Vegetarian)

  1. Andrea says:

    Hi all. We’re looking for killer vegetarian meal ideas. Please reply if you have any recommendations. Thanks!

  2. Sarah says:

    LOVED THIS!! Thanks.

  3. Sarah says:

    P.S. I love and the new cookbook Plenty. We are planning a blog post from the MeatlessMondays people next Monday on!! P.S. are you on Twitter?

  4. Andrea says:

    Sarah, thanks! I checked out Food52 – I think we will try the absurdly addictive asparagus this week – without the pancetta of course!

    We are on twitter

    I’ll look for your Meatless Mondays post next week.

  5. Yaron Prywes says:

    Great article and love reading about your adventures. Warm regards to Carl,

    Yaron (old colleague from Columbia)

  6. Carl Carl says:

    Hi Yaron. Thanks for taking the time to check us out. Cheers!

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