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How to Get Your Family to Eat Meatless Meals

Often, on Instagram Stories, I’ll share what we’re having for dinner that night. Occasionally, some of our meals will be meatless (breakfast for dinner, mac & cheese, etc.) When I post these types of meals, I’ll always get questions from people asking, “How do you get your family to eat meatless meals?”

When Jesse and I were first married, we committed to stay out of debt while he went through law school. We knew this was going to require a number of sacrifices on our part and we decided staying out of debt and starting our marriage with a strong financial foundation was worth the sacrifices.

One area I knew we could save a lot of money on was our grocery budget. I started looking for all the creative ways I could come up with to maximize the mileage of our money when it came to buying food.

Not only did I shop the sales, use coupons, and plan a menu, but we also decided to serve meat more a condiment. We had it sprinkled on pizza, sprinkled in casseroles, and sprinkled in soups. We usually only bought one bag of chicken to last two weeks and then we supplemented this with the occasional really good markdown/coupon special on pepperoni or ham. We rarely ever had beef because it just wasn’t in the budget.

In addition to serving meat as a condiment, we often had meatless meals. We made lasagna casserole and I just left out the meat. We had corn chowder without meat. We’d have pancakes and eggs or cheese pizza or bean soup or even rice and beans.

(Need some inspiration for meatless meals? Check out this post on 3 Ways to Rock Meatless Meals and check the comments on this post for lots more meatless meal ideas.)

I loved getting creative and using what we had on hand, what was on sale, and what I found marked down to put together filling and yummy meals. Sure, we didn’t eat anything remotely gourmet, but we always had plenty to eat and the sales and markdowns quite a bit of variety.

Plus, being very intentional and strategic in how I shopped and cooked ended up saving us thousands of dollars in our first few years of marriage alone — and was one way we were able to stay out of debt.

Maybe you are wanting to pay down debt, save more money, or get in a better place financially. It’s going to require sacrifices, creativity, and effort. But it can be so worth it!

Here’s my best advice for how to go about getting your family on board with those sacrifices — whether it’s eating meatless meals or other creative ideas for spending less:

1. Don’t Try to Change Your Spouse/Kids

The first step to getting on the same page is letting go of your desire to fix or change your spouse or your kids. Stop placing all of the blame on them or telling yourself that it’s all their fault that things are the way they are. Being a victim of your circumstances or playing the blame-game will never do anything to move the ball forward.

2. Be Willing to Make Your Own Sacrifices

Oftentimes, we want other people to change when we aren’t willing to make changes ourselves. What can you do to make a difference for your family’s finances? What are you willing to change, tweak, or give up?

3. Communicate About Where You Are

You can’t find a solution if you don’t first know where there’s a problem. Call a family meeting or approach your spouse and have a conversation.

Gently and graciously share what you are feeling and ask for their feedback. Talk about the problem without pointing fingers or putting it on anyone’s shoulders. Make sure that you focus on stating the problem, asking questions, and then listening with the intent to understand (instead of listening in order to defend yourself or rebut their statements).

4. Communicate About Where You Want to Go

After agreeing on the problem (spending too much money, not saving enough money, not sticking with the budget, not agreeing on budget categories, etc.), then it’s time to talk about where you’d love to be. Dream together about what it could look like to not have as much financial stress or to not live paycheck to paycheck. Where would you love to be if money weren’t an issue.

5. Come to a Compromise

Go first with what changes you were personally thinking of making to help get where you want to go. Then, propose some other ideas that maybe you could do as a family or a couple. Talk about how these changes might work and open up the floor for people to give their honest thoughts and opinions.

If possible, really do the math on what it might look like to make some of these changes. This can be so motivating — and it can also inspire you to come up with other ideas for ways to change.

Decide specifically what changes you are committing to make and put some accountability in place for these changes.

6. Talk About Your Goals Regularly

Remind each other often of your longterm goals and dreams. Pay attention to the progress you are making and how far you have come. Celebrate your success and check in regularly to see if you need to tweak or change anything.

7. Make it Fun

As much as is possible, think of these creative money-saving practices as a game. For instance, when it comes to groceries, I love to see how well we can eat for how little. It’s fun for me to save money at the store, for me to put together meals based upon what we already have on hand, and for me to creatively re-make leftovers.

When you make things into an exciting challenge, you’ll enjoy the process a lot more — and it might not even feel like you are making sacrifices!

Do you eat meatless meals? If so, what are some of your favorite yummy meatless meal ideas?

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14 Comments

  • Melie says:

    1 – be strategic about which recipes to make meatless. Personally, meatless tacos taste like sadness to me, but I don’t miss meat in spaghetti. Your family may be the opposite.

    2 – this was touched on in the “serve meat as a condiment” suggestion, but look for ways to stretch or substitute some of the meat in your favorite recipes. Use 1/2 meat and 1/2 lentils in your favorite chili or lasagna recipe. Use riced cauliflower or finely chopped mushrooms to bulk up taco meat – just mix it in with the meat when it’s cooking and add some extra seasoning. There are lots of great ideas if you search for “stretch meat” on Google.

  • Diane says:

    I rarely put meat in chili and my family really enjoys it

    I make a bean and cheese nacho bake from Jessica Fisher’s Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze cookbook that we like.

    Enchilada casseroles, things like that, do fine without meat.

    We eat meat a couple of times a week. I think this a big reason our grocery budget is much lower than most families’, even families with fewer kids than we have. We buy the meat on a really good sale or even barter with a friend (I bake for her, she gives me meat).

  • Beth says:

    We’re pretty frugal with meat in that usually the “meat as a condiment” is the way we go. But I recently realized that we (my husband who is getting back into running and weightlifting and me who is pregnant) are probably not getting enough protein. For men especially I think it’s important to make sure they’re getting good protein if you want them to be full and have the right kind of building blocks for activity. For example, I can get away with putting less meat in a beans and rice kind of meal but spaghetti without meat isn’t going to cut it for him.
    Some of it may depend on body type too. My husband and two of my kids are large boned and have a bigger build when it comes to muscle mass (even without weight lifting.) My husband can really feel it if he doesn’t get enough protein. I’m very slender and while I need protein to help with blood sugar I feel like I just don’t need as much proportionately.
    I also read recently that if you’re trying to lose weight through exercise you should probably increase (or at least not decrease) your protein intake because otherwise you’ll lose muscle mass as well as fat.
    All that to say – if you’re cutting back on meat be careful that you’re not cutting back on protein (especially for men). Use plenty of beans and rice type meals and eggs.

    • Yes! I agree! One of my favorite sources of protein is eggs with cottage cheese — both that I can often get on great deals! (We also typically put eggs and cottage cheese in our spaghetti/lasagna casseroles to beef it up (pun fully intended!)

  • Penny says:

    Reducing the meat called for is a great step – we use baked beans in our sloppy joes for half the meat, for example. Or simply use slightly less meat in a casserole; it likely won’t even be noticed. I also serve the main dish to everyone; I plate up he first serving, and always include other stuff – milk, salad/veggie, fruit. Of course “seconds” are fine if they’re still hungry. We try to eat at a reasonable pace – to avoid over-stuffing ourselves. We use up leftovers, rather than waste. I let older kids look at cookbooks and give them a say (and a hand) in future dishes. We explore topics like grocery budgets, cost per serving, the Food Groups, etc as a family and collectively “own” the experience.

  • Fran says:

    I understand what you are saying, but 1lb of mushrooms is around 6 cups. That’s alot of mushrooms compared to a small amount of meat!

  • Anne M says:

    Bean dishes seem to work well for us. Enough taste, but much easier to fit into a Diabetes Type II diet (2 of our family members) than many other meatless items. An unusual family favorite is Ember Day Tart, which is basically an onion-cheese quiche, with currants added instead of meat.

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